The average Canadian refers to things as being “positive” or “negative.”
Christians, myself included, swim in the ways and words of Canadians all day long. One feature of Canadian thought is that many things are either positive or negative. This is so omnipresent, that you also effortlessly drift into referring to things as positive and negative. One thing which Canadians clearly agree on is that “fear” is something negative. It is important to move away from fear into something positive. This is something that everyone today just knows to be true.
It is important to realize that “positive” and “negative” are not biblical categories. The more you use these terms, the harder it will be to think with a gospel-shaped, biblical worldview. You and I need to resist using the categories “positive” and “negative” as much as possible.
This leads me to my call to you. Shaped by our culture, modern Christians too easily fall into either ignoring the biblical teaching to grow in the fear of God, or when the topic comes up, dismiss the fear of God as something done away with by the Gospel – sort of like sacrificing bulls and goats was done away with. There is even a very handy proof text to settle the matter, 1 John 4:18: “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.”
To many, this means that real Christians don’t want to grow in the fear of God. End of discussion.
Shaped by our culture, modern Christians too easily fall into either ignoring the biblical teaching to grow in the fear of God.
Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the fear of God, or its synonym, the fear of the Lord, as being a good thing, something the wise desire and fools do not.
In what follows I will give you 12 great Bible texts from the Old and New Testament for you to contemplate – to meditate upon. These texts are just a small fraction of what the Bible teaches. Twelve is a good biblical number, enough to show the variety of teaching on the fear of God, but not too many for contemplation. Remember that the art of understanding the Bible as Christ intended for you, is to listen to all of what the Bible says upon a subject. Each text is to be understood in a way that does not lead you to “cancel” or dismiss other biblical texts. Hold all of the texts together as you go deeper.
The first of the 12 texts is the one from First John that I quoted above. I will give several other New Testament texts to show that the fear of God is something the New Testament sees as a good thing for the Christian and the church to grow deeper into. One final comment. Please pray that you will grow in the fear of God. Please pray for me as well. Gripped by the gospel, I desire to grow in the fear of God.
Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” There is no contradiction between the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. They fit together.
2 Corinthians 7:1: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” There is no contradiction between God’s good promises and the fear of God.
Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”
1 Peter 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.”
Psalm 86:11: “Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness: give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.”. Who does not want an undivided heart? The healing of your heart and the fear of the Lord goes together.
Prov. 23:17-18: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” The Lord desires that you will put to death your envy of sinners, and become more zealous for the fear of the Lord – that is where true hope lies.
Prov. 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Psalm 103: 11-13, 17: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far as He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him…. But from everlasting to everlasting the lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children.” NIV Knowing the everlasting love of God, and the fear of God, grow together.
Psalm 33:18: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love….” To hope in His steadfast love works in harmony with the fear of the Lord.
Psalm 25:14: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.” The fear of the Lord is connected to your growth in intimacy with Him.
Psalm 145:19: “He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” The end of your longings and yearnings is connected to the fear of the Lord.
Psalm 147:11: “…the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” To fear the Lord is at one with hoping in His unfailing love – and as you grow in this you should know that the Lord’s delight in you grows.