When I forget that I am a soldier…
- I weary over hardship, forgetting that the call to the cause is more important than my comfort.
- I grow complacent, forgetting that I fight an enemy that never rests.
- I am surprised at wounds, forgetting that combat is never safe and never easy.
- I look with condescension upon those who fall, forgetting that no soldier is invincible to the enemy when he lets his guard down.
When I forget that I am an athlete…
- I tire of hour upon hour of training, forgetting that ease and improvement are contrary to each other.
- I lose sight of the prize, forgetting that the treasure of Christ is abundantly worth running hard after.
When I forget that I am a pilgrim…
- I let my gaze wander from the path to the fair things around me, forgetting that all they can do is weigh me down.
- I sigh in discontent when fellow travelers are few, forgetting that narrow is the gate and narrow is the way.
When I forget that I am a farmer…
- I chafe over the lack of immediate results in ministry, forgetting that seeds take time to sprout and grow.
- I sow sparingly, forgetting that the bounty of harvest depends upon diligence in sowing.
- I curse the rain and the heat, forgetting that what causes my discomfort is necessary for the strength of the crop.
…Your lovingkindness is better than life…
“No Fear” was as cool as it got for much of my early teenage years. No Fear decals and bumper stickers emblazoned the rear windows of large, manly trucks. Scores of people would wear “No Fear” t-shirts. I thought cool people wore No Fear gear. In retrospect, “No Fear” has got to be one of the dumbest pop slogans in recent memory. People without fear get eaten by tigers after hopping over fences in zoos.
Fear is something that can be good or bad. It is good to fear things that can harm you. There is something wrong with a pedestrian who does not have the healthy fear of getting run over that motivates him to look both ways before crossing the street. It is bad to fear things that we ought not fear–things like the dark, small insects that cannot harm you, or mayonnaise. (I asked the youth group what are bad things to fear and that was their first response: mayonnaise. I’m tempted to say it is something that should be feared, but that’s another topic.)
Because fear can be either good or bad, it’s really important to define what we mean by “The fear of the Lord.” The Fear of the Lord is reverence and awe of God fueled by the reality that God is both a righteously angry judge and a tenderly loving Savior. The fear of the Lord is not only negative (fear of wrath), but also wonder at His incredible mercy and grace.
Proverbs is a book based around cause and effect. “If you do (x), you will get (y). Consequently, we need to look elsewhere in Scripture in order to see our motivations for fearing the Lord. First, we’ll look at 3 motivations to fear God, and then we’ll look at 5 results of fearing God.
3 Motivations for Fearing God
1. Fear God because He can destroy both body and soul in Hell (Matt 10:28)
Have you ever wondered why God tells us about heaven and hell? There are many reasons, but a large one is so that we can live with the judgment seat in mind. There exists, right now as you read this, a king on a throne. And every second people like you and me die and appear before Him. And he’s exceedingly angry at most of them. We cannot see this scene, so it’s very easy to forget. But it is absolutely real, and soon it will be you and me before that throne. In Matthew 10:28 God says, ‘Man can do you a lot of harm. They can hurt you and kill you in very painful ways. But I can do worse than that. So fear me.’
2. Fear God Because He is an All-Seeing Judge. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Every once in a while, a story will flash across CNN about another convicted murderer being proved innocent by new evidence. Why do juries sentence innocent men to death? They do so because they lack perfect information. God is a judge and jury that infallibly remembers every single thing you have ever done. He can recite for you every word you have spoken, every thought you have conceived, every action you have ever done. He can tell you what you had for breakfast on January 19,2002, which grocery store you purchased it from, who the truck driver was that delivered it to the store, the name of the farmer who raised the crops to receive the money to buy his breakfast the same morning. And God can tell you where that farmer bought His breakfast, and which truck driver delivered that food…
God’s omniscience should be a cause of great fear and great hope. God certainly remembers the evil that you do. But He also remembers the good you do in His name. And that comes attached with a promised reward. So fear God that you might not sin, but fear God that you might also be rewarded.
3. Fear God because Christ shed His blood for you.(1 Peter 1:7-19)
The Cross is personal. The blood of Christ is not a mist which sprinkles all of humanity, but rather a fountain directed specifically by the Father to drench only those whom He has specifically called into a relationship with Him. Be amazed that God Himself died for you. And that kind of love and dive to save you should make you a little bit nervous about the Lord. That kind of love is crazy; it’s not something you can control or manipulate. Rather that kind of love is to be obeyed in fear and trembling.
5 Results of Fearing God
1. Fearing God makes you happy! (Proverbs 28:14)
“Blessed” and “happy” are synonyms in Hebrew. To be blessed means to be happy, and to be happy means to be blessed. Now go back and read that sentence and think about Stephen who was stoned to death by a zealous mob of Pharisees. Or maybe the believers in Hebrews 11 who were torn apart by wild beasts.
Happiness and circumstances are not connected in the Scriptures. Paul learned to be content in all circumstances–which means that the circumstances were immaterial to his happiness and contentment. Jeremiah Burroughs wrote in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,
A gracious heart…is contented not by having his on desires satisfied, but by melting his will and desires into God’s will. So that, in one sense, he cones to have his desires satisfied though he does not obtain the thing that he desired before; still he cones to be satisfied with this, because he makes his will to be at one with God’s will.
2. Fearing God means you’ll understand. (Proverbs 9:10)
This is a repeat from last week. The Bible simply is not generous in its estimation of your ability to figure life out. Since you a broken blend of righteousness and sinfulness, you need something else to measure everything else by. Without the ear f the Lord, you can never be truly wise or understanding because you’ve missed the point of your existence: glorifying God. Wisdom ultimately is a relationship not facts to memorize off a page.
3. Fearing God means you’ll live righteously. (Proverbs 8:13, 14:2)
If you are a Christian, you will turn away from evil. A Christian who lives in an unrepentant pattern of sin is not a Christian. Your hands prove what occupies your heart and mind.
4. Fearing God gives you a refuge. (Proverbs 14:26)
Fearing God and trusting God are inseparable. We do not fear and trust a vengeful God, but rather a God who loves His people. He is a trustworthy God, for He loves us as a father loves his children. Romans 8:28 has sadly been hijacked into becoming some kind of cliche. But this verse isn’t meant to be paired with a low-budget picture of a field of tulips on the front of some greeting card. It’s a tough-as-nails verse to hang onto when nothing else is going to cut it. At the end of the day when nothing else makes sense, we must trust and rest in God’s promises of His sovereignty and His goodness.
5. Fearing God means you won’t fear anything else. (Psalm 56:11, 118:6)
With a sovereign God who has promised that everything is in His control and for your good, what is there to fear? John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides. The first two missionaries to land on this island chain were clubbed to death and eaten on the beach within 15 minutes of landing. Paton sailed about twenty years after these two men to evangelize a still-unreached cannibalistic tribe in the chain. He was threatened with death almost every day, spent a night in the top of a tree while every islander combed the earth for him with their machetes, and had dozens of partners killed while he survived. Paton lived his motto: “I am invincible until Christ calls me home.”
If you fear God, not even death can touch you without His permission. And then it is not a messenger of darkness but rather a call from a Father to come home. It’s hard to be afraid when the worst man can do turns out to be the best possible thing for you.
This is the second post in a series on the book of Proverbs based on a message series entitled “Gracious Wreaths of Godly Wisdom.” Here are the links to previous posts:
How to Be a Fool (Part 1) – Proverbs 2:3-19
How to Be a Fool (Part 2) – Proverbs 2:3-19 (cont.)
Last Friday I was invited over for dinner by a family I knew from high school. After the meal we sat down and watched a DVD of the debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens held this year at Biola University. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these two men, let me give them a little introduction.
William Lane Craig is a noted Christian apologist and research professor at Talbot Seminary. He has written numerous books and contributed to a five views book I read last semester on apologetic method. He is an evidentalist, believing that the most effective way to argue for the truth of Christianity is from evidence outside of Scripture. Theologically, he identifies himself as not believing in Calvinism, but rather falls into the “Wesleyan camp.” When it comes to origins, Craig is an old-earth creationist, who is not uncomfortable with the idea of theistic evolution.
Christopher Hitchens is a noted “neo-atheist.” According to him, there really isn’t any difference between a “neo-atheist” and your traditional “atheist” other than neo-atheists are quite vocal about their disbelief in God. Hitchens is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Richard Dawkins (author: The God Delusions) and is the noted author of the book God is Not Good.
I, probably like most people who have seen this debate, went into it trying to be objective, analyzing the arguments based on merit not my agreement with them. I know also that I, along with everyone else who has seen this debate, am not unbiased and therefore shouldn’t pretend to be so. In my opinion, Craig won the debate hands-down. He certainly wasn’t perfect and had many arguments that fell flat. But he was able to offer a cohesive world-view that made sense, while Hitchens offered nothing but chaos.
Here’s my specific impressions about the debate:
1) Hitchens thesis mirrors the title of his book: God is not good. Foundational to his argument was evil and suffering in the world and the eventual demise of the universe. Rape, murder, genocide, a sun that will burn out, constellations that are on a collision course with Earth–these are the arguments Hitchens brings against the existence of God. He claims such chaos speaks to random chance or an absolutely incompetent designer. He prefers the first of the two options. Frankly, if the picture Hitchens paints of God is right, than atheism is the better course of belief…because such a God could never pull his act together enough to offer any kind of salvation.
There is one glaring hole in Hitchens argument. And it’s completely understandable why he cannot see it. Sin. Hitchens has no category for the cataclysmic event which was the Fall. He cannot understand how heinous and loathsome sin against a holy God is. The creation which he sees as being violent and cruel is indeed violent and cruel. And it is so because of rebellion against God. Paul speaks of creation as groaning, waiting for release from the curse. Adam’s choice to bite the fruit and disbelieve God shattered the tranquility of God’s entire physical creation. While Hitchens sees the evil which exists, he cannot understand that he is part of the reason for the disaster of our universe.
2) I completely disagree with Craig about old-earth creationism and theistic evolution. The Bible makes no allowances for anything other than literal seven-day creationism. However, even given Craig’s unnecessary concession about evolution, he still was able to pose a question about origins that Hitchens was unable to answer: Where did it all come from? Something cannot come from nothing. Nothing literally means nothing. I found it interesting how Craig made evolution a major part of his argument and still was able to squash the traditional evolutionary stronghold.
3) Douglas Wilson became a punching bag for both sides. Presuppositional apologetics was smirked at by both Hitchens and Craig. Wilson became the embodiment of this form of apologetics in both of their minds. Craig afforded much more respect to his opponent than to his collegue and ally.
4) The patience of God is great. Hitchens spent much of the debate impugning the character of God, calling Him to task for allowing suffering. And yet Hitchens is but an insignificant grasshopper before the Lord, entirely lacking in wisdom and righteousness. It’s hard not to get angry at Hitchens for lashing out at God. At times the neo-atheist movement seems to be little more than a bunch of five year olds throwing a tantrum because they couldn’t have their candy before dinner instead of after for the sake of ruining their appetites. It really is shocking to see someone use their God-given breath to openly curse Him and challenge Him for running the universe poorly.
5) Not even a convinced atheist like Hitchens is beyond the grace of God. The Word penetrates hearts. And no heart can ever be too hard for the Lord to crack. Pray for Hitchens, that God might mercifully call him to Himself. The patience and mercy of God is amazing, and any one of us would be up on that stage name-calling our creator as well if it weren’t for the incomprehensible kindness and mercy of the Father.