Benefits of Fearing the Lord

As we talked about yesterday, the Lord is to be feared; however, fear should not leave us cowering to the point that we are not able to approach Him.  Hebrews 4.16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We should be able to approach God boldly, confidently, cheerfully, courageously, freely, and fearlessly with all assurance that He desires to hear our petitions. God wants to fellowship with us. However, we cannot approach Him like many children do their parents today—hateful, full of spite, and disrespect. He is God. We are to bow humbly before Him, showing great respect, fear, and awe because of who He is.  We should never demand anything from God.  We can share our pains, needs, wants, desires, fears, questions, and concerns, but we do this from a heart that realizes His plan is perfect, He sees the bigger picture, He knows what is best for us, and what will give Him the most glory.

The fear of the Lord prohibits us from approaching God in a selfish, entitled manner. In Psalm 8.3-4 (ESV) David says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  His fear of the Lord kept everything in perspective. He is God and Creator; we are the created.

For years I have read the Proverb of the day. These daily readings have shaped my understanding of the fear of the Lord.  Here are a few verses that help us understand the benefits of fearing the Lord.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” (Pr. 1:7).

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil…” (Pr. 8:13).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Pr. 9:10).

“The fear of the LORD prolongs life…” (Pr 10:27).

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Pr. 14:26-27).

“Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it” (Pr. 15.16).

“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Pr. 15:33).

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm” (Pr. 19:2).

Fear of the Lord brings knowledge, hatred of evil, wisdom, insight, prolongs life, confidence, is a fountain of life, is greater than treasure, and leads to a satisfied life. Things here may not always be easy; however, God is always faithful and one day will reward our faithfulness in fearing Him.

All Bible quotes taken from the English Standard Version

Whom Shall I Fear? GOD!

Yesterday I asked the question, “Whom Shall I Fear?” The answer is God.  Jesus warned us, do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10.28 NKJV).

Many try to limit the “fear of the Lord” as just having a reverent sense of awe toward God. I agree we should revere the Lord, humble ourselves before Him, and tremble in His presence.  However, this should not lessen our view of God as the omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent God of all creation. He declares what is righteous and holy. He has determined what is and is not acceptable. He commands and demands our obedience to that which He has declared holy.

When we lack a sense of fear toward God, we will find ways around His laws, commands, and ordinances. We will convince people truth is relative. We will give them the freedom to do what feels right and follow their own convictions, just so long as what they are doing makes them happy. By following this advice, we make ourselves god. We are wise, can decide right and wrong, and we can declare whatever we want to be right, just, and holy.

In twenty-first century America, we are way too sophisticated to worship wooden, clay, or stone idols. However, when we put ourselves in the place of God, we have enthroned a ruler who only pursues lust, envy, jealousy, and selfishness. We only seek that which fulfills our every desire. There is no longer room in our lives for a God whose commands leave us feeling guilty and inadequate.

Therefore, with broken and contrite hearts, we must avoid fashioning God into our image. We must remember we are sinners before a holy God. The following quote from a Charles Spurgeon sermon in December 1874 puts it this way:

Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty.

This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.” The God of Holy Scripture is love, but he is also possessed of justice and severity; he is merciful and gracious, but he is also stern and terrible towards evil; therefore unregenerate hearts say, “We cannot accept such a God as this,” and they call him cruel, and I know not what besides.

Sermon of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” December 6, 1874.

It is not for us to define God in a way that is more palatable. God has declared who He is, who we are, and how we are to live.  Let God’s Word lead you, and you will find the life of which you have always dreamed!

Whom Shall I Fear?

One of the worst memories I have of my school-years is of bullies. To this day, when I see a news report in which someone is being bullied a fire starts to build up within. Even as adults, we have to deal with those who try to intimidate us with fear.  They may threaten our job, family, health, or property. They demand we give them exactly what they want or pay for disobedience.

Bullying didn’t just start in the twenty-first century.  When we look back in history, we see that bullying today is nothing new under the sun. In the Old Testament, we can see how scare tactics were used against David; and yet, most of the time he responded in a godly manner. His trust in God allowed him to endure the trials of life. No matter what the threat or how difficult the circumstances, David’s trust in God led him to find peace which led to praise.

An example of this in Scripture is Psalm 27.1-6:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD” (Psalm 27:1-6 ESV).

A Killer Message!

I have been preaching God’s Word for over twenty years. I have preached all over the United States, Brazil, and London. I’ve preached messages that were meant to challenge, change, and convict those listening. Sometimes I have been soft-spoken, while other times I just cleared a spot and pitched a fit (that’s preacher talk for “I got loud!”). I try not to plan how I am going to preach, but I spend a great deal of time on what I am going to say. I want to make sure the message God has laid on my heart is what comes out of my mouth.  There is nothing worse than spending several hours preparing and then laying an egg on Sunday. My greatest desire is to be obedient to the task.

In Acts 6.8-7:60, we can read a killer sermon by Stephen, one of the first deacons.  I say “killer sermon” because after he had finished preaching, those listening took him outside and stoned him to death. They didn’t kill him because he was an inexperienced preacher, was too boring, didn’t use enough illustrations, or spoke too long. Nope, they killed him because he was right! Everything Stephen said was 100% correct, and they didn’t like it–so they literally killed the messenger!

This Sunday as we take a closer look at Stephen’s message, we will examine what he said, what caused such a reaction, and how this applies to us today.

I hope to see you at 10:45 a.m. this Sunday morning at Living Oaks Baptist Church.

Unconditional Love

This was written by Robertson McQuilkin six years after stepping down as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary to care for his wife, Muriel, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Seventeen summers ago, Muriel and I began our journey into the twilight. It’s midnight now, at least for her, and sometimes I wonder when dawn will break. Even the dread of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t supposed to attack so early and torment so long. Yet, in her silent world, Muriel is so content, so lovable. If Jesus took her home, how I would miss her gentle, sweet presence. Yes, there are times when I get irritated, but not often. It doesn’t make much sense to get angry. And besides, perhaps the Lord has been answering the prayer of my youth to mellow my spirit.

Once, though, I completely lost it. In the days when Muriel could still stand and walk and we had not resorted to diapers, sometimes there were “accidents.” I was on my knees beside her, trying to clean up the mess as she stood, confused, by the toilet. It would have been easier if she weren’t so insistent on helping. I got more and more frustrated. Suddenly, to make her stand still, I slapped her calf–as if that would do any good. It wasn’t a hard slap, but she was startled. I was, too. Never in our forty-four years of marriage had I ever so much as touched her in anger or in rebuke of any kind. Never, wasn’t even tempted, in fact. But, now, when she needed me most…

Sobbing, I pled with her to forgive me–no matter that she didn’t understand words any better than she could speak them. So I turned to the Lord to tell Him how sorry I was. It took me days to get over it. Maybe God bottled those tears to quench the fires that might ignite again someday.

Recently, a student wife asked me, “Don’t you ever get tired?”

“Tired? Every night. That’s why I go to bed.”

“No, I mean tired of…” and she tilted her head toward Muriel, who sat silently in her wheelchair, her vacant eyes saying, “No one at home just now.” I responded to Cindi’s question, “Why no, I don’t get tired. I love to care for her. She’s my precious…”

Love is said to evaporate if the relationship is not mutual, if it’s not physical, if the other person does not communicate, or if one party doesn’t carry his or her share of the load. When I hear the litany of essentials for a happy marriage, I count off what my beloved can no longer contribute, and then I contemplate how truly mysterious love is.

What some people find so hard to understand is that loving Muriel isn’t hard. They wonder about my former loves–like my work. “Don’t you miss being president?” a student asked as we sat in our little garden. I told him I’d never thought about it, but, on reflection, no. As exhilarating as my work had been, I enjoyed learning to cook and keep house. No, I’d never looked back.

But that night I did reflect on his question and turned it to the Lord. “Father, I like this assignment, and I have no regrets. But if a coach puts a man on the bench, he must not want him in the game. You needn’t tell me, of course, but I’d like to know–why didn’t you keep me in the game?

I didn’t sleep well that night and awoke contemplating the puzzle. Muriel was still mobile at that time, so we set out on our morning walk around the block. She wasn’t too sure on her feet, so we went slowly and held hands as we always do. This day I heard footsteps behind me and looked back to see the familiar form of a local derelict behind us. He staggered past us, then turned and looked us up and down. “Tha’s good. I likes ’it,” he said. Tha’s real good. I likes it.” He turned and headed back down the street, mumbling to himself over and over, “Tha’s good. I likes it.”

When Muriel and I reached our little garden and sat down, his words came back to me. Then the realization hit me; the Lord had spoken through an inebriated old derelict. “It is you who is whispering to my spirit, ‘I likes it, tha’s good.’” I said aloud. “I may be on the bench, but if you like it and say it’s good, that’s all that counts…”

I think my life is happier than the lives of 95 percent of the people on planet Earth.