David Jeremiah - Deity: The Fear Of God
As we've been dealing with fear, we've begun each message with a short humorous opening. You know, sometimes it's easier to talk about our fears when we're able to laugh about them. Through those dramatic presentations and our study in God's Word, we've identified nine fears that we need to conquer through faith in order to grow in Christ and experience greater intimacy with God. Instead of discussing the fears that hinder our relationship with God, I want to talk about a fear that actually improves that relationship: the fear of God himself. The fear of God is mentioned in over 120 passages in the Old and New Testament. Maybe you've read them and you're wondering to yourself, "Am I missing out on something? I mean, I love God, I worship him, I pray to him, I trust him, I obey him, but I really don't know what it means to fear him". Well, today, I'm going to spend our time shedding light on that fear because it is clear from the Bible that it's important to God and so it should be important to us as well. In fact, God makes dozens of promises to those who fear him. I'll explore some of these promises as we consider "Deity: The Fear of God". It's the final message in our series, "What Are You Afraid Of? Facing down Your Fears with Faith".
What I'm about to tell you about today in many respects is a life-changing concept that if you get your arms around it, if you get this in your heart, it will change the way you do life. It will change the way you do your faith. And in the understanding of this fear, you will gain power over all of the other fears that come into your life. I am going to try to help you learn how to fear and I'm going to encourage you to fear. Because today I wanna talk with you about the fear of God. In fact, there are two ways the Bible tells us that we fear God. Two ways. First of all, we fear God with awesome dread. Awesome dread. You say, "Pastor Jeremiah, where does that come from"? Well, do you know that the first time the word "fear" appears in the Bible it appears in the book of Genesis chapter 3 and verse 10? After Adam and Eve sinned and God drew near, Adam hid himself from God's presence and he explained, Genesis 3:10: "God, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself".
And I wanna make this point that I am sure that what Adam felt at that moment was much more than awe and reverence for his God. He was stone cold afraid. Exactly as he should have been. God had warned him that if he were to eat of the forbidden tree he would die. He had done what he had been told not to do and now God was looking for him. Now, the reason I bring this up is because there are many Christians today who seem to think that because of the incarnation and the Lord Jesus Christ coming as the God-man we have eliminated the need for any fear of God. Those who adopt this mindset as the whole truth often describe Jesus as a gentle, compassionate, and loving person and he was and he is all of those things but he is more. He is the fearsome Jesus who took a whip and singlehandedly drove from the temple a mass of thieving merchants. You can be sure that these men felt fear. Awe and dread are natural responses of the imperfect to the perfect, of the marred to the beautiful, and of the contaminated to the pure. When Jesus walked into the temple that day, they were not afraid of him because he had a whip in his hand. They were afraid of him because the presence of Almighty God was in their midst. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 8:13: "The Lord of hosts, him you shall fear, him you shall hallow; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread".
Now, whatever you may want to think about the fear of God, let me just put it on the table right up front, there is a sense in which you and I need to cultivate a healthy fear of God. You say, "What does it mean to fear God"? It means awesome dread. But there's another way that we fear God and this is the way we are more comfortable with. This is what we might call astonished devotion. The Bible tells us that, as Christians, this is to also be a part of our lives. In fact, Philippians says: "My beloved brethren, work out your salvation with," what? "Fear and trembling". 1 Peter says: "Conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear". For active followers of Jesus Christ, this concept is the most meaningful for everyday living. We fear God by honoring him, by reverencing him, by cherishing him. We fear him because of his greatness and his majesty which reduce us to an overpowering sense that nothing we could ever confront in this world is like the God that we serve.
When we truly worship God we enter into the wonder of who he is. We hit the pinnacle of worship when we are brought into the presence of the God we serve and made to be aware of his majesty and his wonder and we're caught up in it because, for a moment or so, we're made aware that this God of the universe is the God that we know and the God that knows us. Could I just stop for a moment and say there used to be more of that than there is today, even among those who do not know God. It used to be in our culture that there was a kind of maybe distant but nonetheless respect for God. And a certain kind of respect for those who knew God. I don't know if you've noticed but that's not around anymore. We've lost that. Let me tell you a different way. We used to have great and high regard for someone if we would say about that person, "He is a God-fearing man". You say that about someone today and they'll look at you and say, "He's weird". A God-fearing man used to be someone we looked up to. We would say, "A God-fearing man, a God-fearing woman," and we would say, "We respect them".
People ask me all the time, "What's gone wrong with our nation"? And I tell 'em, "We've lost our fear of God. We've lost our sense of reverence for the God whose principles were the foundation of this country". You say, "Dr. Jeremiah, why should we fear God"? Let me give you three reasons. First of all, we should fear God because of who he is. Psalm 89 says this: "For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him". Jeremiah 10:6-7: "Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might), who should not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, in all of their kingdoms, there is none like You". We should fear God because of who he is. There is none like him. We should fear God, secondly, because of what he has done.
Once again, the Psalmist helps us with this: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast". Think of it. What has he done? He spoke and the world came into existence. In order to help us get a picture of it, the Psalmist says: "He gathers up the waters in a heap. He holds them in his hands". The God that we serve, the God before whom we stand in awe and fear and wonder, is the God who created the world in which we lived and, yes, we believe he created it and he didn't need any help to do it. He created it out of nothing in the exact time periods the Scripture says he created it. He spoke it into being. He is the Almighty God and we should worship him because of what he has done. Because of who he is, because of what he has done, and thirdly, because of what he is doing. All of God's great work is not in the past. He is at work even today. We should fear him because of what he is doing.
Psalm 66:5 says, in the present: "Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men". Let me ask you what is he doing today that should inspire such awe and fear in us? We could make such a list but I wanna focus on one thing. If you wonder why we should be in fear of God because of what he is doing let me just say one word: forgiveness. Psalm 130, verses 3 and 4, read like this: "If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You," now watch this, "that You may be feared," that we may hold you in awe. These verses remind us that "if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". And some of us were forgiven of our sin when we were born again so many years ago that we have forgotten and we no longer allow ourselves to wonder in this truth that a holy God who was 100% righteous with no flaw in him could accept us through the simple process of his forgiveness. And I am forgiven. I am a sinner like all of you but I am a forgiven sinner.
Only two kinds of sinners: those who are forgiven and those who are not, and forgiveness has been made available to all of us if we will just accept it and it comes right from the heart of Almighty God. It is the great work he is doing today. And when we hear of people whose lives have been changed and we listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it and how God brought them through a process and now they are Christians and their whole life has been changed and they're in a whole new direction from where they once were, this life-transforming thing is called forgiveness and it's the work God is doing among us today. It's the great work of God, your forgiveness and mine. Before I go on to the last part of this message, I wanna answer a question that sometimes people ask and that is, "How can I love God and fear him at the same time"? Because the Scripture seems to say that we cannot do that. 1 John 4:18 says: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love".
The Bible tells us that we're to fear God and we're to love God and they're not in conflict at all. This verse reminds us that when we truly know the fear of God we will understand the love of God and when we truly know the love of God we will understand the fear of God. They are not mutually exclusive, only in our own minds. Now, when I told you at the front of this message that this doctrine was kind of overwhelming to me, here's where I'm going with that. I just was not aware of how many places in the Bible we are given promises if we will fear God. I mean, I can only give you a few and there are many. These are things the Bible says will be ours if we learn how to fear God and hold him in esteem, as we are called to do. First of all, is the promise of provision. Here's the verse: Psalm 34:9-10: "Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing".
The Bible says if you fear God he provides for you. Number two, the promise of protection: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine". When you fear God he protects you. The promise of purity. Psalm 103, verses 12-13: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him". 2 Corinthians 7:1: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God". According to these verses, godly fear is a necessary ingredient to sanctification. The fear of God is not only the key to our knowledge of God, it is essential to our maturity as believers. If we do not have a healthy awe and fear of God, we cannot grow, we can never be mature. We will always be like little children. But when we understand who he is, it inspires in us a desire to know him more and to love him better and to grow in our relationship with him. The promise of provision and protection and purity.
Here's one some of you will like: the promise of prosperity. Psalm 128:1 through 4. Once again, watch for the "fear" word. "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you will be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord". This teaches us that you can have a God-fearing family. I grew up in a God-fearing family and you know what? I learned how to have a God-fearing family. So my family is a God-fearing family and I'm watching my kids and they're building God-fearing families.
The Bible tells us that when you fear the Lord, he prospers you and it's not just financial things but he prospers you in the well being that we all seek for our lives. Here's the next one and this one I put at the top of the list but I don't wanna do this just for myself. This is the promise of prolonged days. "The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened". The Bible says and this is a principle, a general principle like we find in the Psalms and in the Proverbs, in the long run, over the long haul, if you fear the Lord, well, what happens if you fear the Lord? Well, you don't ruin your body with alcohol and drugs and promiscuity and all of that and so you're just gonna live longer. It also says that God blesses those who fear him. This is pretty exciting stuff. Provision, protection, purity, prosperity, prolonged days.
And here's a word some of you have never heard before but I'm gonna give it to you anyway 'cause it starts with a "P". Perpetuity. Do you know what that means? That means the continuation of something into the generations that go forward. Remember I told you that if you have a God-fearing family you will create God-fearing families going forward? It's right out of the Scripture. Listen to this, Deuteronomy 5:29: "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever"! Psalm 103:17: "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children". Men and women, when we fear God we create an environment in which our children grow up so that when they go out of our home to start their own home, they create families that fear God who then create other families that fear God. We can do this if we follow the Word of God and the key is our attitude toward God himself when we fear him.
Now, these are only samplings that are in the Bible. If you wanna have some fun this weekend go to your concordance and look up the fear of the Lord or the fear of God and write out every verse that you find. You will be so blessed you won't know what to do with yourself. And the question then comes as to how do we learn to fear the Lord? Is fearing the Lord something that you were born with or do you learn it? Well, let me suggest to you from the Scriptures that I have found, this is something we can learn. In fact, it was taught in the Bible. When we begin to understand the blessings that can be ours by fearing God, we will want to begin doing it and it is possible to learn how to fear God. The Bible tells us we can do that.
And here are some verses that will help you understand what I mean. King David wrote in his Psalms: "Come, you children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord". Psalm 86:11 says: "Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name". And Solomon, after he had finished writing the book of Ecclesiastes and had experimented with all the wisdom of the world that he could find and kept coming up with the phrase, "And it's all vanity and it's all vanity and it's not meaningful," and remember, Solomon was writing the book as if there were no God, trying to find out meaning in life without God in the picture. He gets all the way to the end of it and he comes up with this summary. Listen to this, you guys: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all".
The last words that a man speaks before his death are often considered highly significant. With that in mind, consider the last words of David, the king. 2 Samuel 23, verse 3: "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God". And the final words of Joshua: "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord"! Did you ever dream the Bible had this much to say about fearing God? Maybe it's the thing we've lost. Maybe we haven't understood that if God wants to bless us, we have to learn how to fear God and hold him in reverence and read his Word so that we can come to know him better. Yes, it is possible to love God and fear God. It is possible to know God in this incredible way, the God who is awesome and the God who loves us so much that he gave his Son to be our Savior.
You know what, I'm so amazed because I came out of this study realizing my God is much greater than I even thought. He's so wonderful, he's so marvelous, this God we serve. It is the terror of God and our protection in the midst of it that brings such joy and wonder to our hearts. We have a fearful God but he's the same God who has wrapped his arms around us in the middle of life and loved us to himself. It is the very wonder of who he is that causes us to be overwhelmed that for such a one as me he would give himself as he has. And therefore, I can fear him and I can love him and, by loving him, I learn to fear him. And by fearing him, I learn to love him. And the Bible says that love and fear go together and here's what I want you to know. If you get this fear right, it will begin to obliterate all of the other fears of your life for if you know him and you know he knows you, what is there to be afraid of? What is there to be afraid of? Hallelujah.