Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What does it mean to fear God? .......... Parables 532

November 5, 1996

With it, Halloween brings scary stories, reruns of Friday the 13th movies and unusual store windows dressed in black and orange, or even bones and dripping green goo.

Part of the popularity of this holiday is that people like to be frightened, at least just a little. A high from pumping adrenalin is one thing but excessive, mind-numbing fear is not so welcome. It is too hard on the body, never mind the emotions.

Yet fear is important. It keeps us out of lions’ cages and from walking in front of buses. It is also necessary before we can know God. Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Does this Bible verse mean we are supposed to be afraid of God? Some think not. They say this fear is more like “reverence” or “awe.” In other words, we are to have a similar feeling for God as we would have for a beautiful sunset or a giant tree.

A closer look at this word in its original language and in the context in which the Bible uses it, agrees that most times, fear means reverence. However, it sometimes means fear is just that: being afraid of God. For instance, Jesus offers this warning in Luke 12: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”

Jesus is giving a warning. Anyone who is afraid of people who can kill them ought to realize that what people can do is really not the most important issue. Death eventually comes to everyone anyway, but what happens after death is more serious. Are we going to fear people (who may want to destroy us) or God, who has far more power?

Some people take God lightly. They are more afraid of what people think of them than God’s opinion. As Paul says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3). The Bible is not critical of people who want to please people, but it does condemn fearing what others can do to us to the point that this fear controls how we live. This is the wrong kind of fear.

Other fears can control us too. The book of Hebrews says Jesus died for our sin to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Fear of death enslaves people in many ways but even death is no longer an enemy to those who believe in Christ. He conquers this fear because He conquered death.

Rather than fear anything besides God, we can “call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially.” What He thinks about us is far more important than the opinions of people.

We can also “live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” The word “strangers” refers to the fact that God makes those who trust Christ citizens of heaven. We no longer feel completely at home here, but when we have an attitude of reverence toward God, wrong kinds of fear do not govern our lives. We are at peace, frightened by no one.

Halloween is a reminder to me that everything in life that looks scary or frightens me is not what it first appears. All I need to do is shine the light of God’s truth on it and remember the genuineness of His love and power. Then I can easily see the scarey thing is really only a charade, just another mask attempting to hide His reality.

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