In part 1, we saw how God-given faith is the right antidote to fear. In part 2, we saw how God's perfect love drives out fear. And in part 3, Proverbs showed us the relationship between wisdom and fear.
Finally, let us take seriously Jesus' words in Matthew 10:28 - "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Scripture reveals that humans are creatures created to fear. But like every other part of our spiritual constitution, we twist the design into perversion. God's design is for you to live in the joyful fear of the Lord as the only escape from the terrifying fear of man. So let's dive in.
Proverbs repeatedly states "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Pro. 9:10) Acts 9:31 shows that "walking in the fear of the Lord" is a mark of the Spirit-filled church. And 1 Peter 1:17 charges us to "conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of exile." Whatever this fear is, it certainly isn't optional.
What is this fear? The following definitions are favorites of mine:
- A profound sense of awe towward God is undoubtedly the dominant element in the attitude or set of emotions the Bible calls "the fear of God."
- The fear of God in which godliness consists is the fear which constrains [compels] adoration and love. It is the fear which consists in awe, reverence, honor and worship, and all of these on the highest level of exercise. It is the reflex in our consciousness of the transcendent majesty and holiness of God.
- ...that undefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure and joy which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us.
Consider Psalm 147:11 - "...the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." Fearing God and delighting in God are not two different activities but two sides of the same coin. In fact, those who develop true reverence for God will always be those who delight in Him the most. Even better, it should be argued that fearing God and knowing Him are really synonyms. There is no true knowledge of God without a proper fear of Him. Fear is Job putting his hand over his mouth and bowing humbly when he finally realizes the greatness of God.
When we look to the author of our salvation, Scripture shows us our best example. Even Jesus taught us how to fear the Lord. In Isaiah's great prophecy of the "shoot from the stump of Jesse", it is said of Jesus that "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him...the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." (Isa. 11:1-3) Jesus shows us that true humanity consists in delighting to fear the Lord by knowing, worshiping and obeying Him.
To be even more specific, the best place to cultivate fear is the cross of Jesus Christ. It is at the cross where God's holiness and love, his wrath and mercy, his kindness and transcendence, are all seen in perfect harmony. The Scottish pastor John Brown wrote,
Nothing is so well fitted to put the fear of God, which will preserve men from offending him, into the heart, as an enlightened view of the cross of Christ. There shine spotless holiness, inflexible justice, incomprehensible wisdom, omnipotent power, holy love. None of these excellencies darken or eclipse the other, but every one of them rather gives a luster to the rest. They mingle their beams, and shine with united eternal splendour: the just Judge, the merciful Father, the wise Governor. Nowhere does justice appear so awful, mercy so amiable, or wisdom so profound.
If you struggle with fear, then your struggle is really to find and keep the right fear. What we need is not a complete freedom from fear, but a transplant operation. We need the Spirit of God to make the joyful fear of God so overwhelming that everything else falls back into proper place. So let's meditate on His greatness and majesty, on His holiness and wrath, on the cross of our Savior and call our hearts to continual adoration of such a great God.