THE PURIFYING POWER OF FEAR
The fear of the Lord is sure, enduring forever. Psalm 19:9
“Now the main thing is to get the eyes of the people open. They need to see hell as the result of their sin, and that produces fear, the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom. Once they get this fear all will be comparatively easy; but if this fear does not lay hold of a man, his so-called conversion is a sham. True love wakens a man to reality; sham love soaps him down to hell, greases his trail, in fact, to hell. Very many are half asleep or deluded, and make up fancy doctrines of their own, which practically mean that an unholy man can get to heaven without being holy. But remember, Christ did not die to whitewash us, He died to re-create us, and none but His re-creations enter heaven.” C. T. Studd
Introduction: The world has been shocked again by the ruthless and heartless actions of one very troubled young man. Raised in a charismatic Christian home, surrounded by religious family and friends, actively involved in training for missions, counseled and medicated by professional therapists, and as evidenced by his own writings, a very articulate, albeit perverted thinker, this young man did the unthinkable. With deep bitterness and deliberate forethought, he planned and carried out his war upon Christians by coldly and indiscriminatingly, shooting them down as they approached worship on a Sunday morning in Colorado.
Here is his manifesto, posted on his own website, as he prepared to go to war with Christians:
“I’m coming for ….EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the #### teeth
and I WILL shoot to kill. ….God, I can’t wait till I can kill you
people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or
die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of
you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the
problems in the world.”
In the coming days there will be many investigations seeking to explain the horrible actions taken by this young man. Mental illness, depression, low self-esteem, hopelessness, brain disorder [He was on Prozac], abuse, etc., will be offered as attempts to come to grips with such a bizarre tragedy. I suspect that the investigations will uncover a long and complicated history of anger and rage within this troubled man.
In our news we are seeing more and more of these cold and calculated acts of horrific violence carried out upon innocent victims of all ages, race and gender. Most are at a loss as to the causes, and sensitivity should make us careful to not give simplistic or shallow reasons. But, I do believe, with the Scriptures as my authority, that the underlying origin of this flood of hostile, demonic behavior is an unprecedented and massive loss of the fear of God in our nation.
As you read the writings of Matthew Murray, it is evident that he had a complete absence of fear. He didn’t fear men. He didn’t fear death. And, most importantly, he didn’t fear God. An absence of fear, carried out to its natural conclusion, gives occasion to the rise of a culture punctuated by foolish thinking, tragic deaths, unrestrained passions, shocking evil and constant trouble. Here are some scriptures that point to the inevitability of such deterioration in a culture that has lost its fear of God:
Prov 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Prov 10:27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.
Prov 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Prov 16:6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.
Prov 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
Do you see how important and basic the fear of the Lord is? It is foundational to a healthy, happy and full life. It enables us to avoid foolishness, it prevents a short and tragic end to life, it protects us from the deadly snares of the devil, and it shields us from the destructiveness of sin. It does that by showing us the pathway to a long and fruitful life and by giving us an awareness of our need and our source of complete forgiveness in God. Where the fear of God is the foundation of our lives, we will find freedom, satisfaction and joy, not emptiness, bitterness and rage. Matthew Murray did not fear the Lord and he wasted his life and caused great grief and pain to countless lives.
Exposition: Ps 19:9 “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” The psalmist uses “the fear of the Lord” as a metaphor for God’s written Word. The reason he does that is because of the effect God’s law is designed to have upon mankind. It has the power to reveal a God who is so perfect and powerful that it causes sinful man to tremble in his presence. It does something that general revelation cannot do. All men have an awareness of God and a conscience that makes them morally responsible for their actions. But, in their rebellious condition, they continuously suppress that truth by their passion for wickedness [Romans 1:18]. Men who live without a fear of God think they are only responsible to themselves for their decisions. The result of such thinking is depicted in Romans 3:14-18: “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
In our study we have discovered that the “law of the Lord is perfect,” for it alone is completely sufficient to awaken a sense of God’s holiness and of our desperate condition before him. It revives the soul. It gives life to the one who is dead to the destructiveness of their sins [Ephesians 2:1], so that for the first time they see something of the infinite chasm that exist between God’s perfection and their pollution. It causes them to shake as they realize their terrible predicament. Isaiah 6 gives us the sense of this horrible epiphany: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” [Isa 6:5]
The word of God does one more thing. As C.T. Studd, pointed out, it warns us of hell. Too often we avoid the subject of God’s wrath and His judgment on sin. Popular Christian authors tell people how God was smiling on them when they were born and that he has a wonderful plan for their lives, thinking that they will gladly respond to such a warm and fuzzy God. They will. They do. But are they saved? Can anyone really be saved until they come face to face with a Holy God who always judges sin? Can anyone be saved until they face their own desperate sinful condition and repent? “But,” some say, “Jesus was so loving and compassionate.” Yes, he was, but Jesus is also the one who said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matthew 10:28]It is the fear of God that causes us to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. It is the fear of God that wakes us up to the seriousness of our life and our decisions.
The fear of the Lord is pure and clean. It reveals the holiness of God that is without any impurity. And, in that revelation we see our own pitiful attempts to be good enough as filthy rags in his sight. When our eyes are opened to see the “King, the Lord Almighty,” we tremble at the righteous law we spurned. So, we cry out for mercy and we receive grace. He touches our mouth and makes us clean. You see, the fear of the Lord is not bad. It is good. It not only brings wisdom, it brings delight. It not only saves us from, it saves us for. It is not just the end, it is a glorious beginning. That is why Isaiah wrote of the coming Christ: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. Isa 11:2-3
A fear of the Lord brings delight. It gives us a strong foundation upon which we can build a temple that glorifies God. Knowing that we have a Holy God who demands righteousness in his people reminds us that there is a standard that is unchanging. It comes not from the changing “values” of men but from the eternal “virtues” of God. In our strength we are unable and unwilling to pursue His righteousness. But by his mercy and grace, received through faith in Jesus Christ, we can grow in the fear of the Lord and in the enjoyment of his blessing. God has designed the Word to be the primary means whereby this fear of God grows in our hearts to become loving and sacrificial service to Him and mankind. “Submit to one another out of reverence [fear] for Christ. [Ephesians 5:21].
Ray Stedman tells of the time when, after a Billy Graham crusade meeting, he slipped into a seat on a bus beside a young man who had gone forward to give his life to Christ. Pastor Stedman spoke to him of what his new life in Christ would mean, and mentioned that he could now be free from the fear of death. The young man turned and looked at his older mentor and said,” I have never been afraid of death. But I’ll tell you what I am afraid of- I’m afraid I’ll waste my life.”
This young man had seen the holiness of God and it transformed his life. He feared wasting the life that God had given him. He would not seek to hate or kill but to love and serve. The fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. It set him free from all other fears that seek to dominate and intimidate us into mediocrity. There is only one thing that really matters to one who fears the Lord: that is pleasing Him.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of true and eternal wisdom and joy. So, the next time you pick up your Bible, ask the Lord to give you a deep and holy fear of the Lord. Pray with the psalmist: “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” [Ps 86:11]
Ask God to instill within you a deep and holy reverence for Him and His Word. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” [Isa 66:2] This is the pathway to God’s blessing. Bitterness and hate will be changed to gratitude and love. Your life will not end in tragedy but triumph.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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