That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. Ecclesiastes. 12:13
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:8-12
Pastor Ben opened his Sermon series on "The End of Fear" with Joshua 1:9, where it says, "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." This verse is huge for Joshua and the people of Israel if they are to actually go forward and do what needs to be done to enter and possess the promised land. Joshua and the people of Israel must be strong and courageous in order to get the job done, but to be strong and courageous they must no longer be afraid or discouraged like the previous generation. The key to this shift is their true belief in the reality of these words: "the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Many years after the whole story of Joshua and how they did trust in God's abiding presence and went forward to enter and possess the promised land in full strength and courage and without fear and discouragement, King Solomon, who wrote the Ecclesiastes verse above, was on the scene as king of the mighty nation of Israel in the promised land. King Solomon says that everything boils down to fearing God and obeying his commands. He says that this is the whole story and his final conclusion as he concludes Ecclesiastes, a book on wisdom.
Our series is all about putting an end to fear and yet Solomon says that fearing God is essential. Many years after Solomon, the visitation of Jesus Christ on earth took place, and now here we are today, many years after that. With the New Testament, we have a lot more detail available to us for understanding fully what the "fear of the Lord" is all about for us today. Perhaps we can venture to say that for us today what follows is the whole story and our final conclusion.
The “fear of the Lord” initially involves actual fear and is the result of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to repentance. We become convicted of the reality that, even though God created us to rule over us for the carrying out of His purposes and good pleasure, we are in rebellion against God having gone our own way and done our own thing. Getting to this point of conviction makes us genuinely afraid of the eternal consequences of remaining in rebellion against God and resisting His rule over us. However, getting to this spot makes us ready for the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who through His sacrifice for our sin and rebellion brings us face to face with God’s grace and love that rescues us from the eternal consequences of our waywardness and puts on the divine track of being ones who truly live fully for Him.
When we are convicted of our rebellion and its eternal consequences, embrace God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in Christ, and begin the journey of living fully for God, a shift takes place in regard to the meaning of the “fear of the Lord.” The word “fear” is like a coin with two sides. There is the “afraid” side and there is the “reverence” side. As those who have been restored to God and His sovereign rule in our lives we become ones who now live in the absence of the afraid side of fear. The “fear of the Lord” now moves us to the reverence side of fear and in response to God’s love and all that He is, we bow ourselves before Him in total reverence and surrender as we give to Him the center place of our lives.
How wonderful, awesome, and loving God is. He loves us enough and is great enough to take us through the tough work of “initial believing” that brings about His rescuing us from our rebellion and eternal loss. He then takes us through the hard work of " foundational believing” that brings us to the place of fully reverencing God and surrendering to Him so that with Him at the center of our being we set out on the journey of living life fully for Him. And this is where “day by day believing” takes over as He becomes more real to us everyday while we live out a cooperative love relationship with Him. Then throughout all our days He accomplishes His purposes and good pleasure in our lives because we are ones who “believe” in Him fully.
Those who are ones who put their faith in God fully, are ones who truly know the “fear of the Lord.” As such we come to God freely and abide in him fully. Because we are close to Him and have hearts that are surrendered and filled with reverence for Him, God is able to do great and might things in our lives. This is because we are one with Him and want only what the wonderful, awesome, and sovereign Lord of our lives wants. Such is the life of those who fit the description of being ones who truly know the "fear of the Lord" and are living fully for him.
Lord, help us to go forward in full strength and courage and without fear and discouragement. Take us across the Jordan Rivers of our lives into the promised land of living fully for you. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out the "afraid" kind of fear and establishes us in the "respect and reverence" kind of fear in our relationship with you. Lord, we love you and worship you fully.
Posted on Tue, June 23, 2015
by Alan Porter