Do you fear God? That’s not an easy question to answer for most Christians. If you’ve spent any time reading the Bible you know that it is full of passages that tells us we should “fear God.” But you’ve also read about God’s love, kindness, mercy, and grace. So why should believers fear the One who has forgiven our sins, indwells us with His Spirit, and daily pours His grace into our lives? And what should godly fear look like in our lives?
Today through Thursday we will explore the answers to those questions. We will define “godly fear” and see how that attitude should affect our relationship with God. Here are a few of the misguided understandings of godly fear I’ve seen:
- Some Christians don’t believe we should fear God. Because the word “fear” has a negative connotation for many of us, we focus primarily on the truth that God is loving, merciful, and gracious. We take 1 John 4:18 out of context and argue against the need to fear God by quoting “perfect love drives out fear.” (In context, this passage is talking about the fear of God’s judgment.)
- Others of us agree that God should be feared, but we have a watered-down understanding of what “fear” means. We rely on that old explanation I heard numerous times as a girl: “To fear God means that we should respect Him and be in awe of Him.” While that is partly true, in our contemporary society our “respect” and “awe” is usually far less than God expects or deserves.
- Then there are others who have kept their distance from God because of His “fearsome” characteristics. They recognize His holiness, righteousness, and justice and are afraid to draw near. Some don’t understand His grace and others refuse to repent and receive it.
I began to study what it means to fear God about ten years ago. I was teaching new believers who had been told that “God is love.” When they began to read the Bible they saw passage after passage depicting the fear of God as a positive attitude believers should have. They asked me what it meant. I gave them the answer I had always been given, but the Holy Spirit kept whispering to me that there was more to it than that! My 9-week Bible study “Before His Throne: Discovering the Wonder of Intimacy with a Holy God,” was the result of my study.
I know we haven’t really answered any questions today. I simply wanted to set the stage! But here are a few truths about godly fear to whet your appetite for the rest of the week:
- When we fear God we don’t have to fear anything else!
- Proper godly fear will draw us closer to God, not push us away.
- When we fear God, we will find joy and intimacy in our relationship with Him.
Tomorrow we will look at some Bible passages that teach us that the fear of God is not only the right attitude towards Him, but is also a positive, life-changing attitude. Wednesday, we will see why God deserves our fear. Thursday, we will discover a few of the blessings of a “fearful” life.
What are some of the things you’ve heard about what it means to “fear God?” Does your church teach that you should “fear God?”