I have been duped; maybe you have been fooled. For many years I have been taught that the “fear” of the Lord is not what we would associate with terror or being scared. We have heard the “softer, gentler” version from the pulpit as not to offend. We have listened and accepted our teachers’ idea of “fear” meaning a “profound respect”…not so much a scared to death fear, but a placement in our hearts of God being above us…something like, “God is God, and I am not”.
As I was reading in Acts this morning, I noticed in chapter 2, verse 43, that as the first church began to grow that part of their rapid growth was due to signs and wonders. These signs and wonders in the context of the chapter are as follows:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Then FEAR came upon every soul, and many WONDERS and SIGNS were done through the apostles. Acts 2:42-43
In this context, can we not see that the prerequisite to the manifestations of God’s glory was indeed fear? Also notice this verse in Acts 5. The context of this verse is where Ananias and Sapphira “cheated” in their offering and lied to the assembly (essentially lied to God) about giving all that they had. As most of us know, they died on the spot when their heart was exposed:
So great FEAR came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
O.K. Now that is fear! The people looked on as a person’s heart was exposed and then struck down. Wow, that’s harsh. So I decided to look up the Greek word for fear in Acts 2 and compare it to the word for fear in Acts 5. Because let’s face it, I know I desire revival in my country and know that a major part of revival is signs and wonders (the manifestation of the glory of God). I see clearly that before the manifestations of the glory there must be true repentance. That was the case then, that was the case in all revivals (or great moves of the Spirit), that was the case in the Great Awakening in America, that was the case in the Second Great Awakening, and that must be the case if we want and pray for another revival in America. So I had to see what this fear means, for without the fear of the Lord….there can really be no true repentance.
The word “fear” in both cases in transliterated Greek is phobos (Strong’s 5401) which means TERROR, DREAD, THAT WHICH STRIKES TERROR. Why has the preacher skipped this part? Why do we shy away from the reality that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge”? The previous quote is Proverbs 1:7 and the transliterated Hebrew word for fear (Strong’s 03374) is Yir’-ah and means the same as the Greek word phobos…literally terror and dread. So, to even begin to have wisdom or to even entertain the idea of revival, we must fear (be terrified, be full of dread) the loving God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
Not too long ago, I had a taste of this fear. It was not poetic, it was not joyous, but it was profound…and it scared the crap out of me! I stood trembling under this spirit of true fear. I told my wife and some friends that it was like a horrific car crash: it wasn’t like I was in the car driving and then being obliterated; it was like witnessing the car crash just inches from the impact. If you have ever witnessed an accident up-close and personal, then you know what I mean. If you haven’t then I can give you another example. Remember the horror of 9/11? Remember how helpless you felt, how you could only watch and be carried away in the dread of it? It was like that. Knowing that people were being burned alive, knowing and watching people plummet to their death, and knowing that the cruel hand of terrorists was behind all of the death and destruction. Helpless, frozen in terror, frozen in time, it all felt so very surreal. That is what the Lord allowed me to experience in the spirit. By the way, just in case you are wondering, God did NOT cause this horrific event…I’m just drawing on your experience.
Now I ask you, do you remember how our communities responded? How people banned together? How prayer vigils broke out all over town, and how people flew the American flag off their vehicles and in their lawns? Whether it was a BMW sports car, a soccer-mom minivan, or a rusted out pick-up truck…we all flew our flags! After great tragedy, we all had an acute and powerful sense of unity. This is how revival will feel. After great tragedy, we stop caring about another’s denomination, we don’t have time to discuss theological, traditional, or doctrinal differences, and we honestly don’t have the interest in drawing lines and building walls between ourselves. We simply hold hands in unity!
One thing in our country that causes me great sorrow: nobody seems to fear God anymore. Our society has basically given God “the finger”. Nobody it seems respects the Almighty as the Almighty; we would rather paint a narrow version of a benevolent God. I know the Lord is love, the Lord is light, and the Lord is Spirit; but He is also the God of judgement and demands that His people fear Him! It is what most learned teachers call “Divine Tension”…it is what it is…and I cannot rewrite the Bible or paint a different picture for us.
We know that we live under grace in what most refer to as the “Church Age”, we know that it is the “goodness of God that brings a man to repentance”, we know that Christ Himself said in John that He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, we know that God loves us so very much that He made the sacrifice of His Son for us, and we know that it is love that ultimately saves our souls. However, to reject that love and God’s offering is of terrifying consequences. Hey, I know this isn’t “sexy”, I know this post will inevitably be my “least popular”, I know that no one wants to contemplate judgement, but if not me…then who? Who will stand up for truth? Even our loving Savior told us to “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Notice the wording in Matthew, “is able”…whew! Dear God, we know You are able, but have mercy upon us!
One day, sooner than later, the Church Age will pass. One day, judgement will follow. How important is it to understand the terror and dread that awaits? Is it important to focus on love or fear? The answer ironically to both is…yes. It was the fear of judgement that brought Nineveh into repentance, it was the fear of judgement when Jonathon Edwards delivered the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”, it was fear that descended on Jerusalem at the inception of the church, and it will be fear that ushers in the next revival. Don’t shoot the messenger!
So how does this reality in Scripture play out in your church? When was the last time we had a reality check in this matter? How long will we tolerate apathy in the church? How long can we tolerate America’s rebellion against God? What should we do, or say, or how should we act, in the light of what is to come? How many warnings and symptoms must we point to so as to bring us into a true repentance? Is it too late?
Look, I’m not trying to accomplish anything here other than remind my Christian brothers and sisters that Christ’s sacrifice was for a reason. I want to help bring into perspective the reality of what has played out over the history of time. Nobody wants to stand up and say, “Hey, wake up you adulterous church and repent of your sins!”…I know I don’t want to. How many people would join a church that preached God’s wrath? How popular would you be at your Bible Study if you ranted about God’s judgement? How long will we be O.K. picking and choosing parts of the Bible that appeal to us instead of painting our Creator in the light already provided? We want revival, but are we willing to accept God’s terms for that revival?
So I challenge the people of God: Do you know the fear of the Lord? If you don’t, then I suggest taking a little time and facing the reality of what it means to be a Christian. Are you a fan of Jesus or are you a true follower? Have you accepted the “terms of the covenant”? The problem here is that this is NOT the “fine print”…it is scrolled across the top of the covenant in bold, bloody letters! The blood of Christ was shed and His body beaten beyond recognition so that the Father could dip His pen in the blood and write a new covenant…we can’t appreciate and embrace grace without first appreciating and embracing judgement.
We do not live under judgement at this present time; we live under grace. But when the Church Age has passed, we are going to be held accountable as to what we have done with this grace. We must be vigilant to present the Gospel in black and white…no more grey! We have the Scriptures as a guide, and should not pervert the gospel one iota. We must present the gospel in love, for that is a great commission. But if we truly love someone, then we should not lead them astray or give them a false sense of security or a pleasant picture of God only. There are some deep and sometimes confusing mysteries in the Bible, the gospel is NOT one of them!
Hope I didn’t ruin your day. I hope that God will speak to your spirit and remind you that He is still God and He will never change. The next time you take Communion, think about how profound His sacrifice really was…
Be bold my brothers and sisters, clothed in righteousness, and bathed in love,