Monday, February 11, 2008

How Can We Love God If We Are To Fear Him?

By Chan VanRens @

What does the bible mean when it talks about the fear of the Lord? It has become common place for people to say that there is no reason to fear God at all. We are just supposed to love God and revere him. When this sort of attitude is taken people begin to look at God, not as the holy, all powerful, sovereign Lord of all creation, but more like a really big version of themselves, who is more likely to be permissive and accepting of anything one does rather than demand holiness of life and obedience to His laws. They often start to revere a God that is basically a really big version of themselves. Their likes become God's likes. Whatever they are pleased to do God is pleased with. They create in their minds a God that need not be feared.

God however says; "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good" (Duet 10:13-14). You may think to yourself, "how can I love God when I fear him?" I must tell you, you cannot love God rightly unless you do indeed fear him. The two things are not antithetical to each other. Fear of God engenders love to God.

God is pure and holy. "For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man" (Psalm5:4-6). He is terrible in his power and glory. "God is clothed with awesome (terrible) majesty" (Job 37:22). There is much about the Lord to fear. When we see our own sinfulness in the light of God's holiness should this not cause us to fear God? If our hearts are right before God it must.

But you may still be saying;
"how can I love a God who is so terrible? How does this knowledge of God engender love toward God?" It is this knowledge of God that is the very spring from which love towards God flows. God is merciful and slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. "Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!" (Psalm 25:7). In God's mercy and love he sent his only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer the wrath of God and to be a propitiation for the sins of those who believe in Him. In this knowledge we who have been forgiven of our sins are bound to love God and to fear him.

We marvel at God's mercy in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). Yet we are still very much aware of remaining sin in us and we fear God because we know how much he hates sin. But our fear of God is not like the fear of the ungodly. They have no hope. Their fear is a terror. There is nothing for the ungodly but indignation, wrath and judgment unless they will repent.

By contrast godly fear is free from the fear of condemnation for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). And that is the sense in which the Apostle John speaks of fear being cast out. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18). That is the sort of fear that Christians do not have. We who have been forgiven of our sins do not have the terror of impending judgment. That is gone. What is left is a godly and righteous fear. Christians love and fear God because he is so holy and terrible, and yet so merciful. Love to God drives true Christians to strive to please him in all they do by keeping his commands and being careful not to displease him. Knowing the fear of the Lord we know the terrors that he will inflict upon the wicked for their sins and yet, for the Christian such terror has been removed and replaced by forgiveness and peace. Our greatest fear is that we will sully the name of Christ by our disobedience. So it is by the fear of God that we depart from evil.

Even if the rest of the world does not fear God, his church must.
"Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints" (Psalm 34:9). There is no such thing as a Christian who does not fear God. It is God who causes his church to fear him for God has said "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me" (Jer. 32:40).

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