Benefits of Fearing the Lord

As we talked about Tuesday, 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!

Sunday 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).

Remember, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety” (NLT).  Regardless of how difficult the trials or how intimidating the bully, always remember that God is in control, we can trust Him, and that He will win in the end!

Small Group Etiquette

I think Small Group Bible studies are one of the best ways for Christians to grow in Christ. It is an opportunity to listen, share, and learn from others who may be further along in their Christian walk. However, if Small Groups are going be productive for everyone in attendance, then there are a few simple rules that should be followed. If not, then discussion can disintegrate into prideful arguments which do more damage than good.

Randall Chase gives some helpful advice to ensure that Christ is glorified by all during biblical discussions.

Chase writes:

Point One: Remember true relationship building is going to have the greatest lasting impact. This means that it’s not about how well you argue a point if the person that you’re speaking to doesn’t respect you as an individual enough to receive what you’re saying. While you may get the point across, chances are he will not develop a lasting, life-altering outcome. The old saying “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” holds true even in the world of apologetics. This is the case too in the event of large debates, where two speakers are standing in front of an audience. The two speakers must have enough respect for one another to remain calm and collected, otherwise it simply becomes an argument. Not much is usually gained through simple argument. 

Point Two: Don’t speak beyond your knowledge base. Nothing kills an argument or discussion quicker than when you throw out a piece of information that you simply looked up online or pulled from a blog and you can’t verify it. And NEVER make something up. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.” This not only builds your credibility as a researcher but it also opens the door for follow-up conversations. Just remember that true research requires honest research. The following quote speaks volumes:

One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff… A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition. —Dr. Timothy McGrew

Point Three: Always be willing to learn. There is a great need for learning and growing in the field of apologetics, before you ever get to the point that you can share what you have learned with others. You need to grow in your personal understanding of the truth claims in Scripture. Partly because at this point most aren’t on the level of public debating, but rather we’re just beginning to understand what it means to teach and how to organize an apologetics program. Everyone has to start somewhere, from C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, and even Thomas Aquinas. They all began learning and growing at some point in their relationship with God. Likewise, they all started attaining to be more educated and learned in apologetics. The goal isn’t to be a better arguer, but rather the goal is to first grow more in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then with this we can share the truth.

We see clearly that Jesus calls us to Love him with our entire mind. When He was talking to an Expert in the Law in Luke, one can see that there is just as much importance placed on Loving God with his Heart, as there is with loving Him with his Mind.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:25-29

If your ultimate goal is simply to learn how to debate well and win an argument there’s other classes for that. This class should be the edifying and building up of fellow believers with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit within our life, and eventually to share the truth of the gospel with those around us. Each person has a different reason for desiring to grow apologetically. My personal desire was to be able to build up and edify in the mission field. Now understand: mission fields are not always some far off overseas place but they may be your neighborhood, school, or place of business. Start in your own backyard this is where God calls us first; it is our Jerusalem as in referencing to Acts 1:8.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Point Four: Listen first, respond second. Understand that when you do learn about your faith and the faith of others that you are maintaining a solid grasp on truth. This type of training isn’t done so you can dominate the debate. Remember the key is compassion. When you speak to someone of a different faith or lack thereof, you must make sure they see first your compassion and then they are more likely to hear you. You must also learn the art of listening—this is one of the greatest lost art forms. So often if you watch debates with others or listen to conversations, people are so focused on getting their point out there that they neglect to listen and respond to the others concerns. This will immediately put you a leg up if you are willing to listen before you respond and then respond appropriately to the concerns laid out before you.

Sometimes its just takes a person verbalizing a concern or hurt they have to begin a healing process for them, or to help them to understand the truth. Along with this know that when you do present something that is different from what they have thought and believed it may come as a shock to them. Oftentimes when I am speaking on the subject of the historicity of Christ, I am met with disdain and repugnance; once I am able to clearly elucidate the truth of the historical claims to Christ I am met with positive questions rather than smart retorts. Remember above all else you are representing Christ in all things, therefore do not get sucked into the trap of the quips and snide comebacks. These will shut the open mind of the genuine seeker quicker than anything. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

You can change the mind quickly, but changing the heart takes time.

“The Keeper of the Springs” by Chuck Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:13–14

The late Peter Marshall, an eloquent speaker and for several years  the chaplain of the United States Senate, used to love to tell the story of “The Keeper of the Spring,”¹ a quiet forest dweller who lived high  above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps.

The old gentle man had been hired many years earlier by a young town  council to clear away the debris from Continue reading