I'm continuing a discussion that started yesterday concerning what it means to “fear God”. I described it as respect, awe or profound reverence for God. But I explained that that has different meanings depending on what you know or believe about God. If you believe that God is basically nice and is going to stay out of your business and just sort of love you and pour blessings on you, then your respect or reverence for God will mean one thing. But if you really believe that God hates evil and is intent on judging those who persist in evil, then you will look at it differently.
Yesterday I described how the fear of God applies to those who have not trusted him and believed in his promise of forgiveness and salvation. To those in that camp, God's justice has threatened wrath.
But there is another group of people who have admitted their failure to live up to God's standards and have trusted in his promise to save them and grant them forgiveness. Who are these people? Are they like the teacher's pet? Didn't you hate it in school when there were people who seemed to be able to get away with anything because the teacher seemed to like them better? Is God that way? The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons. If that is so, why are some people let off the hook even though everyone obviously falls short of the perfect life that God requires?
Jesus Christ, God's son, a co-equal part of God, became a human being. He lived a perfect life and then even though he lived such a life, he died. Death and separation from God is the penalty for sin. But he had not sinned. The great news of the Christian faith is that God is willing to count Jesus' perfect fulfillment of the law as though it were your perfect obedience. And he is willing to count Jesus' death as the death and separation from God that you owe because of your sinfulness and disobedience. Anyone who believes that and accepts God's offer is forgiven of every sin he has ever done. He is declared righteous once and for all by God and God promises never to bring up the issue of sin in any future judgment. This offer is made freely to anyone who would like to receive it. There is no favoritism with God.
So, for those who have accepted this offer, what does the fear of God mean? First, I think there is fear, awe, reverence for God because of the wrath we know we deserve but have escaped. Psalm 130:4 “But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” When we see that God's wrath was upon us, but in his mercy he has forgiven us, it produces a certain kind of fear as seen in this verse.
Secondly it produces the kind of fear that induces obedience. It's not a fear of judgment, but a fear and respect for the fact that God hates sin. In so doing, why would I, a person who had been under judgment but is now under forgiveness, why would I want to keep doing those things that the one who rescued me hates? Why would I scoff at the forgiveness he has given and practically spit in his face and dare him to do something to me?
2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
Deuteronomy 8:6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
Finally I think it produces a kind of awe and respect that promotes true worship. God is the one who made me, who gave me breath. He provides the food, water, air, strength and all other things I need on a daily basis. He allows me, a criminal against his reign, to live and have freedom. This kind of being deserves every ounce of my worship and praise and adoration. Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Revelation 19:5 “And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
So, what does the “fear of God” mean to you?