I really cannot believe I am going to write on this topic. I have been challenging our church with it … but not here on ToledoFAVs. Stop me before I get started … maybe my laptop will die before I take the plunge.
I keep reminding myself that my target audience is the church … Jesus followers … but I also know others will read.
This is one of those times I don’t think the family will embrace what I write, let alone anyone walking a different spiritual path. I can hope David Yonke will delete it and tell me to try again … but he is kind of a nice guy … well maybe.
Soooo what topic do I want to tackle now? Well, I don’t want to tackle it … probably not qualified to tackle it … but here goes.
I want to touch on … come on, Bill, you can do it. The … take a deep breath now. I want to talk about … the fear of the Lord.
There it is in print … or at least on my computer screen. I can already see some of you scrambling for your computers to let me know how far off base I am right now. The fear of the Lord? Come on, Bill, that is so Old Testament!
So let me begin with this verse from the Book of Acts, Chapter 9. Verse 31 reads like this, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
New Testament … early church … and growing. Strange isn’t it? Seems like there was an expectation for the church to be connected pretty tightly to God and what he wanted. We are all looking for the next church growth model. Is this it? Or was it just the first one?
I came to Christ back in the 70s during the Jesus Movement in a small, country church where my future father-in-law preached three times a week and his favorite topic was hell and the fire waiting there. Almost every sermon. So I know what an unhealthy fear of the Lord is like.
I was in a denomination where you could lose your salvation — easily I think — so we were getting saved again almost every week. With the relationship I had with my own father I suspected God was angry God, especially with me. I knew he would not hit me, but I assumed he was angry and prepared to yell at me and let me know what I failure I was in his eyes. This is not the fear of the Lord I am thinking of.
Proverbs 1, verse 7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”
Just the start, but what should that look like? Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6 say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight.”
Now if ever a couple of verses poked at the American way of individualism and the “doing it our way” mode of operation, this may be it. At least a good start. I know that someone looking from an outside perspective will think this seems really strange, but if we say we follow Jesus — who is God — then can we begin any other place? Trust in the Lord … and not so much in our own brilliance. In all things acknowledge Him … not in some ways or on some days. He asks for a lot, it seems like.
In the gospels Jesus talks about how he would build his church. At times I feel like in America we kind of look up, surprised, and say, “Oh … you have a church too?”
Then, if we think of ourselves more evangelical and conservative, we have this tendency to look at culture and scream at it and reprimand them for not respecting or fearing God. But God does not do this. He is looking at those who say “I follow Jesus” and wondering where our fear or reverence or awe of the Lord is. Where is our “acknowledging him in all our ways?” Where is our trust? Where is our dependance?
I hear from all types of followers about how we follow the red letters, we believe in the whole Bible, or we are a New Testament church, that we are after the lost and the unchurched…. Whatever your niche may be, we still have one area to work on, I think: Looking more like Jesus. Do you agree?
Isaiah 11, verses 2 and 3, say this and these are prophetic words concerning Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and 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.”
My thought has always been, if it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for me.
Author/pastor Eugene Peterson, in his book “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” describes the fear of the Lord like this:
“It is the stock biblical phrase for the way of life that is lived responsively and appropriately before who God is, who he is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Peterson goes on to explain that in Hebrew, these words constitute a “bound phrase”: “Its function as a single word cannot be understood by taking it apart and then adding up the meanings of the parts…. Fear-of-the-Lord designates a way of living that cannot be dissected into two parts, any more than a baby can be dissected into what comes from sperm and what comes from egg.”
I am sure this is not going to win me many friends but as I watch the church pitch around on the waves of culture looking like we have no clue where we are going or even why we are going there, I wonder why don’t we go back to a stock biblical phrase for a way of life lived responsively and appropriately before who God is?
As I think on whether I am going to send this to David or not, I am reminded how Jesus said something like this in the Gospel of John. ”I only say what I hear the Father saying and I only do what I see the Father doing.” (My paraphrase.) Today I hear more of something like this, “I only say what I think they will like. … I only do what they tell me to do.” Ouch! “They” can be your biggest givers or our board members, or it can be culture screaming how you are not relevant. Does not really matter that much who “they” are as who are we listening to? Think I will go take a nap….