A Worthy Fear
Psalm 33:8 – “Let all the earth fear the Lord – let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”
What does it mean to “fear God?” Are we commanded to actually live being constantly afraid of God for the sake of His power and authority? It’s not an uncommon response, nor is it invalid, however, it’s not accurate either. So how do we make sense of a command that comes to us in many places throughout Scripture?
First of all, a clear understanding of what the “fear of the Lord” means, and very simply, to fear God is to hold Him in His rightful place in our lives. Christians are to follow God’s commandments and live a life of submission that reveres God completely in His holy nature and being. This is a fear that loves and respects.
To understand how to carry this out, it must also be understood that certain things in our culture make this difficult. Living in an individualistic society that carries many ideas of who God is and how important He is can quickly water down one’s own perspective. Many cultural ideas can make the definition and person of God seem inconsistent. The commandments of the Lord are difficult and humans often like to treat them as optional. Anyone can come up with a rationalization for their actions, even if they’re wrong. The scary truth is that often if the rationalization is good enough, many people will accept it.
In Revelation, the angel to the church of Laodicea makes clear that this kind of compromised or “lukewarm” living is absolutely unacceptable. In Revelation 3, the angel states, “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Many people will complain that Christianity is a watered down faith these days. It is true that a bold, authentic faith is a difficult thing to uphold in our society. Social pressures make us afraid to stand up for what God says is right and doing so could result in all kinds of uncomfortable changes. What if I look silly in front of my friends? What if some of my friends cast me out? What if I get laughed at?
But we also must look at the alternatives: what if I don’t stand up for what’s right? What if I keep silent about a wrong that I know is being committed? What if I don’t guide my friend to the truth when I know they’re doing things that are hurting them?
The struggle is one that many Christians have heard time and time again. Yet it’s still one that prevails in our culture, as we are many times rendered too afraid to follow God’s commands because of the societal pressure.
To this, the apostle Paul says in Philippians, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.“
To fear God is to love God with your life. To love God with your life is to submit that life to God that he may be honored and glorified, and such is our calling.