Photo By Kalen Emsley
The church in my experience over the last 13 years as a believer is suffering seriously from its lack of fearing the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (ESV). However, it has been my experience that most of us in church, including myself, have very little understanding of what it means to fear the Lord. Most people naively believe that it means we should be afraid of God in the sense that we should actually be terrified and nervous before Him, and I suppose in a sense that is true, but that is not actually getting to the heart of the matter. To fear the Lord is to revere Him. It means to give the Lord our utmost respect, reverence, honor and His position as Lord over and in our lives. To me the idea of fearing the Lord is really about God being positioned as our number one priority above anything or anyone else.
The fear of the Lord, I believe is also represented in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2 ESV) It is no coincidence that God has instructed and demanded of us to put Him first. From the first commandment all other commandments flow. If we refuse to put God first in our lives then we are incapable of pleasing Him; and are certainly headed for destruction. Jesus solidifies this even further when asked by one of the Pharisees what is the “greatest commandment in the Law?”
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 ESV
Contemporary Christianity and Christian culture is far too lax in regards to upholding Christ and giving Him the authority and positioning He so rightly deserves. I am well aware that as Christians we are in a constant state of regeneration and sanctification, but these processes are inhibited when we do not fully honor God in the manner in which He requires and demands. If we do in fact hold to the belief that as Christians we have been purchased by the atonement of Christ on the cross than we must prioritize our fear of the Lord. It should be the single most important factor in our walk and relationship with Him. The mere fact that we even have a relationship with God is completely underserved and is solely responsible to the Lord.
In our lack of fear of Him our churches have become “soft” our worship mediocre or worse, and our reverence almost non existent. We have fallen into the trap of trying to please people, with good intentions no doubt, but modeling church after things in the world is a serious and grave mistake!
I do not believe we should be trying to make unbelievers feel comfortable or trying to make them feel welcome by enticing them with lights, loud music, sophisticated coffee bars, espresso machines and the like. When an unbeliever enters church they should feel as if they do not belong, like they have stepped into a foreign county, distant planet etc. They should feel extremely uncomfortable as the presence of God should cause them to fear and tremble. The should essentially have two options, either they fall on their face in repentance, which is a work of the Holy Spirit or they run away in fear. I know this may sound extreme, but I am quite serious. How else should a sinner feel in the presence of a Holy God? Should he feel warm fuzzy and welcomed or should he feel like if he makes one wrong move he will be vaporized?
We have completely neglected speaking about the many attributes of God. We love to speak about His love, tenderness, patience, grace and mercy, but what about His wrath? Has the wrath of God now been satisfied since the New Testament and we no longer have to worry about it? Absolutely not! In fact the more and more I spend time reading scripture the more and more I am exposed to how often the Bible speaks of God’s wrath and judgement. Christ himself spoke more about Hell than He ever did about Heaven. Why? If our Lord and savior spent more time speaking to people in His short time on Earth about Hell and the coming judgment than should we not also spend more time speaking about it? We do not like to speak about it because it makes us uncomfortable… However, that is the whole point! God’s wrath should make us extremely uncomfortable and lead us to repentance!
We, with good intentions, want to see people being saved, but we neglect to tell them what they are being saved from! I am afraid than many professions of faith in our churches today are shallow, motivated by emotional response and are unaware of the commitment they are actually making. When an unregenerate person asks the Lord to save them, we need to be crying out in utter desperation. Not simply raising our hands, repeating a few words and going on living our lives as we always have.
The true test of repentance and salvation are by judging the fruits of those who claim are saved. We can say all we want, put on our masks every Sunday morning, but what has your life produced since you made a profession of faith?
I am afraid we are overly concerned with quantity rather than quality. Please do not misunderstand my intentions for saying all of this as I want as many people to enter into the Kingdom of God as possible, but God is after His elect, not the entire human race.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
This is one of the most sobering passages and teachings of our Lord. Many of us who profess to be Christians and even perform supernatural miracles in His name will be condemned to Hell. Christ says to these people that He never knew them! God is ultimately after a relationship with us. Christ came to restore our relationship with the Holy Trinity. Our lives our intended to be lived knowing our Creator intimately; not knowing about Him but knowing of Him. We should know our Lord more so than our spouse, our children, family and friends etc. We should know Him more than ourselves, as in knowing Him we know and understand the other relationships God has placed into our lives. We cannot possibly begin to understand who we are without first knowing the one whom created us.
I must confess that I am in constant struggle with putting God rightfully first in my life. It is an on going battle, as there are so many things in this world that are trying to take His place. We must always, constantly and consistently submit to His authority. Our lives will be so much better off if we will simply submit to Him. Fear of the Lord is not intended to make our lives here and now better, although that is one of the consequences of it. It is not intended to be some sort of “self help” methodology. Fear of the Lord does not equal “your best life now.” Fear of the Lord is an act of obedience that stems outwardly from our inward love and affection for Him.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 ESV
If we truly love God we will keep His commandments and obey Him. This is not done out of some “religious” expectation, but out of and outpouring and overflowing of our Love for Him. If we truly Love Him than the fear of the Lord comes naturally. If fearing the Lord does not come easy, than we must prayerfully seek and ask the Lord to work on our hearts. “He must increase, but I must decrease” said John the Baptist (John 3:30 ESV).
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus I repent of putting other people and things before you. I ask that you would forgive me for not giving you the honor and respect you so rightly deserve. I repent of being selfish, self-centered and proud. Humble me now Lord and draw near to me as I am in desperate need of healing. May my heart burn for you and you alone, no one and nothing else. Help me to prioritize your rightful place and Lordship over and in my life. May I have no other gods before you. I ask you Holy Spirit to search me and reveal to me areas in which I have gone astray and need to bring back under the covering of the Lordship of Christ. Where there is doubt and unbelief, fill me with faith and trust in you. Where there is pride, self-reliance, arrogance and lack of disciple, fill it with more of you. Where there is apathy, fill it with desire for you. Father give me a heart that is after your own heart. Where my heart has become calloused please soften it again. I pray Lord that my desires would be your desires. Help me to see the world in which you do, your people, my brothers and sisters the way you do. Give me a heart for the lost and unregenerate. I humbly submit to you today and forever. You are my God, Lord and savior now and into eternity. I love you. Amen.