Dear Friends,

“Is He safe?” Lucy asked Mrs. Beaver (referring to Aslan the Lion,
the Christ figure in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis). “Safe?”
said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t
safe. But He is good. He is the King I tell you.”

“Come my children and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the
Lord.” (Psalm 34:11) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) “Fear
the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7b) “Oh that they
had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments
always, that it may be well with them and their sons forever.” (Deuteronomy
5:29) “Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself,
He won’t call me into account?” “There is no fear of God before
his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate
his sin.” (Psalm 36:1b-2)

The “fear of the Lord” is a major teaching throughout the Scriptures
and not just in the Old Testament as some people think. As we see from Acts
9:31 in the New Testament, when the church was strong and growing, it was described
as “living in the fear of the Lord.” Paul, who knew the Lord’s
love so intimately (Ephesians 3:16-19) and was compelled by Christ’s love
to be His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:14-20), also said, “For we must
all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what
is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since,
then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2
Corinthians 5:10-11) Paul, who lived in the fear of the Lord, inspires us to
steward all the gifts God has given us, our time, money, spiritual gifts, for
the glory of God and live each day in light of “That Day.” Jesus
lived and walked in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah foretells of the Messiah Whom
the Holy Spirit would anoint with the “fear of the Lord” and “shall
make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3,
KJV) or “He is made to breathe in the fear of Jehovah” (v.3, Interlinear
Bible). This describes the spiritual sensitivity, wisdom and obedience of Jesus
Who said, “I always do things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)

The fear of the Lord is not a popular message for the individualistic, anti-authority
spirit we have in the world and in the church today. From the hippie movement
to the psychology of Dr. Spock and the like, many don’t believe that “Foolishness
(or perversity) is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will
remove it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) And even those of us who say
we love the Lord and desire to please and obey Him out of love, must confess
that our love for Him is imperfect and often doesn’t motivate us enough
to either turn away from sin (sins of commission) or obey His positive commandments
such as the Great Commission (sins of omission). Thus, we need to rightly understand
the fear of the Lord to inspire and motivate us to stay on the narrow road that
leads to life.

Exodus 20:20 is a good Scripture to help us rightly understand the fear of
the Lord. “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid (i.e., of
God). God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to
keep you from sinning.” In essence, Moses said do not fear God wrongly
but do fear Him rightly. This is when the Lord descended on Mount Sinai to give
the Ten Commandments and the mountain trembled and there was thunder and lightning
and smoke and fire and loud trumpet blasts. (To grasp this more fully read Exodus
19 and 20.) The point is that we are not to fear God by ascribing to Him unbiblical,
distorted attributes that are derived from our experience with fallen, sinful
and imperfect authority figures like ourselves, our parents, our coaches, bosses,
political leaders, etc. We do need to acknowledge the hurt from these relationships
to the Lord and, in the compassion of Jesus for us on the cross, say, “Father
forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Otherwise,
our denial of the hurt or the unforgiveness of those who hurt us will continue
to distort the true character of God as Father through our unhealed emotions
or the sin of bitterness. (See Matthew 18:21-35; Hebrews 12:14-15) God, as Father
and the ultimate authority figure, is perfect both in love and mercy, and in
holiness and righteousness. His love for us is a holy love, not a sentimental
love that spoils us and tries to curry our affection. He knows that true happiness
only comes from living holy lives and He fathers us with love and discipline
relentlessly toward that end. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s
discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines
those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship
as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined
by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline),
then you are (“bastards”, KJV) not true sons (Unfortunately,
far too many children are not being loved or disciplined in love today. My comments.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected
them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and
live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but
God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it
produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained
by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)

Yet, the challenge with living in the fear of the Lord is the challenge of
living by faith rather than sight for we ultimately have to have an eternal
perspective to realize the full blessing of living in obedience to the Lord.
For on this side of heaven, both from Scripture, and even in our lives and the
lives of others we know, we don’t see a one-to-one relationship between
obedience and blessings or disobedience and punishment. Like the psalmist Asaph
we can lament that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer and that his
righteousness was all in vain. “Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then
I saw their final destiny.” (See Psalm 73) Asaph then realized that though
perfect judgment doesn’t come in this life it will come on judgment day.
Then, there will be a one-to-one relationship between obedience and rewards
and disobedience and punishment. For unbelievers- there are degrees of punishment
in hell; (Luke 12:47-48; Matthew 11:21-24) and gain or loss of rewards for believers
in heaven (there are degrees of rewards based on works – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Solomon understood the problem of delayed consequences and instant gratification.
“When the sentence of a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of
the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

So we need to develop an eternal perspective like the heroes of the faith in
Hebrews 11. Some of them certainly experienced some temporal victories for the
Lord and some temporal blessings for obedience but “These were all commended
for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” (v.39)
What are God’s promises for living in the fear of the Lord, for living
in obedience by faith? What are the eternal rewards and blessings? What does
it mean to “suffer loss” of rewards as a believer in Christ for
disobedience and lack of faith? (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) As Ken Boa says in his
book That I May Know God: “I believe in our present state we
are limited in our capacity to grasp the real nature of heavenly rewards (1
Corinthians 2:9). But we can be well assured that they will be worth any temporal
sacrifice to gain.” Ultimately, we have to put our trust in the character
of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Who will “give to everyone according
to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12) And, as Paul says, the only “work”
that will stand the fire of God’s judgment is that which is done in love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am only
a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can
fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move
mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor,
and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love
is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no
record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never
fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of
these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8; 13) As we see from the diagram on the
last page, the great sin of omission is lovelessness (“the love of many
will grow cold”, Matthew 24:12). And the litmus test for my love for God
is always my love for the relationships God has given me- family, friends, business
relationships, strangers, “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40),
enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). “If anyone says ‘I love God’, yet
hates his brother, he is a liar. (1 John 4:20) As Dr. James Houston says: “I
always see my sin most clearly in my relationships.” It’s a convicting
but spiritually wise exercise to regularly examine the quality of our love for
God as we examine our love for those in our lives according to 1 Corinthians
13 – the only definition of love that matters.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but as I’ve learned,
I need it all the way to the end. It can keep me from veering to the left toward
sins of commission and veering to the right toward sins of omission, especially
the sin of “cold love”. And as Eugene Peterson says in his book
by that title, It’s A Long Road of Obedience in the Same Direction.
It’s a day to day walk as expressed in the King James version: “walking
in the fear of the Lord.” (Acts 9:31) Our ultimate goal is to see the
joy of Jesus for our faith and obedience to Him in loving those He places in
our lives; to lead them to Him and to disciple them to love God and reach out
to others. May we live each day in light of that desire to hear Him say: “Well
done, good and faithful slave. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew
25:21 NAS)

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You
need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive
what he has promised. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will
come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith.” (Hebrews

Lord, increase our faith to love,

Len and Kristen

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