Originally, I thought I’d include Elizabeth Prata’s essay, Why fearing the Lord is a good thing; cultivate it, in this week’s Saturday Sampler. Surprisingly, the Sampler has already gained a fair amount of popularity, so putting it there may have attracted more of my readers to her post. But as I typed a comment on her website, I realized how much I wanted to offer my own thoughts on this topic.
When I became a Christian, the Lord brought me to Himself because I saw the gravity of my sin.Putting it bluntly, I knew I was going to hell, and that knowledge scared me. Understanding my eternal destiny apart from Christ prepared me for the joyful news that Jesus took the punishment for my sin when He died on the cross! Knowing my desperate situation gave me love for the Savior Who shed His blood in order to save me from the Father’s wrath.
Oh, don’t talk about God’s wrath, you say. You remind me, quite correctly, that false converts and those who actually know they’re not Christians read this blog. You warn me that the mention of God’s wrath and judgment could alienate those people, perhaps causing them to reject the Gospel. After all, people want to hear that God loves them, and has a wonderful plan for their lives. Surely I can slip in a mention of sin subtly, without frightening anyone unnecessarily!
I remember a conversation years ago with a friend who maintained that he had been won to Christ, not by fire-and-brimstone preaching, but by assurances of God’s love. Therefore, he reasoned, Christians should minimize talk of fearing God. Perfect love casts out fear.
(Ah, the beauty of quoting Scripture out of context!)
Yet God even made seasoned apostles tremble. When the glorified Christ appeared to the apostle John on Patmos, it was hardly a warm fuzzy experience!
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ~~Revelation 1:12-17 (ESV)
I’ll let Elizabeth’s essay elaborate on how the fear of the Lord should affect genuine believers, and instead will point out that John’s fearful reaction to the same Jesus he once treated with intimacy (John 13:25) only shows how much more unbelievers should tremble at the thought of His presence. This Christ, having the keys of Death and Hades, certainly commands trembling from those who violate His Word and treat him as an object of mockery.
But such holy fear, rather than paralyzing the sinner, graciously calls that sinner to trust in Christ’s work on the cross. No one, no matter how altruistic or philanthropic he or she may be, has any hope of atoning for his or her sins, but the Lord lovingly accepted the wrath of God as if He deserved it. Fearing God lets the sinner see how wonderful Christ’s sacrifice truly is.
In the words of John Newton:
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!