–Saint Francis de Sales
(picture: 'The Last Judgement', Michelangelo)
In today’s 21st century consumer culture the “fear of God” seems antiquated and irrelevant to many, even in the Church. This is largely because it has been deeply misunderstood and perhaps delivered from a wrong heart. However, we will only grow as a body of believers when we both love God more intimately and fear Him more reverently. “Fear and love are best in conjunction,” writes Thomas Watson. “Love is the sails to speed the soul’s motion; and fear is the ballast to keep it steady in religion.” Watson also notes that fear “keeps the heart serene” and “free from presumption”.
The fear of God is not fear as the world knows it. It is entirely different in nature to unsanctified, demonically-inspired fear. True fear of the Lord is for our good. First of all it silences every other fear. Oswald Chambers writes, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.” Second, it doesn’t drive us away from God, but draws us to Him. The fear of the Lord is a holy fear, a holy reverence, because God is an Almighty and awesome God.
When I worked in the media, there were certain film directors I worked for in London that I “feared”. I revered them and I cared what they thought of me. I behaved in ways I hoped would please them. This is the fear of man. It causes us to make idols and dramatically limits our freedom and integrity to be ourselves.
In the gospel of John it says that Jesus did not “entrust Himself” to man, nor “man’s testimony ... for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25). Instead, we read, “the fear of the Lord is His treasure” (Isaiah 33:6) and “His delight” (Isaiah 11:3). The fear of God frees us from the slavery of the fear of man.
Furthermore, the fear of God brings life and satisfaction (Proverbs 19:23). It brings victory against temptation (Proverbs 16:6). It leads to freedom and joyful obedience (Jeremiah 32:39-40). The fear of the Lord is a good gift from a good Father. Solomon summed up the essence of life with these words:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
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