Last week I addressed how love characterizes holiness. The fear of God also characterizes it. This is one of the most misunderstood phrases by people both inside and outside the church. I have heard celebrities say, “Why would I serve a God that I have to fear?” To that question, I pose another, “Why would you want to serve a God you don’t fear?” Today I want to divide why some have such a problem, and tomorrow look precisely at what it is according to Scripture.
Just as with holiness, we have allowed others to convince us that fear is always negative – not so. In both the Old and New Testaments, the “fear of the Lord” does mean to terrify and set at flight; it also means to revere. So how does this apply practically to our lives?
I believe that the answer lies in our level of intimacy with God. When you stop to reflect, the one who is afraid to enter the presence of the universe’s Merciful Judge is the one who doesn’t know Him personally. Those who have scoffed and mocked Him their entire lives, but also those who have lived quiet lives believing that a relationship with Him is unnecessary. For those individuals, their fear manifests in terror and a desire to flee His presence.
However, for those who know Him intimately, we walk confidently before the throne because we understand it is a throne of grace. We have accepted His gift of salvation and walked in reverential fear of Him, knowing that the same God who bestows mercy and grace on us could just as easily annihilate us but chooses not to do so. Instead, in His love, He reaches down to redeem.
You see, the more intimate you are with a person, the less likely you are to risk whatever would put the relationship in jeopardy. I revere my covenant relationship with my husband, Walter, and because I do so, I would never want to do anything that would cause him pain or prompt him to turn away from me. The same is true in my relationship with the Lord. I love Him to such an extent that I do not desire to bring anything into His presence that would necessitate Him forsaking me.
Intimacy with God is blocked by sin. Sin is an indicator that we do not fear God in any way – neither good nor bad – in a particular aspect of our lives. Sin in the life of a believer says, “I don’t love You enough to remain holy,” but it also says, “I don’t fear Your judgment of sin enough to avoid it.” It’s not that God no longer loves us; it’s that God is holy and must bring all that does not align with His character and its created purpose into judgment. That’s the part we don’t like. We want the love of God without the judgment of God.
But notice, Jesus walked in fear of the Lord. Isaiah tells us He walked in the “Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Is. 11:2), yet from the cross, Christ cried out, “Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Why have you left Me behind in what You are doing? I am alone, abandoned, forsaken. While Christ hung on the cross, sacrificing His life, God’s love for Him was not diminished. Jesus stated in John 10:17 that, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life.” So, even though Jesus was loved by God, sin, our sin, to be exact, kept Him outside of it while He hung on the cross. At the cross, Jesus experienced the total depravity of man and his separation from God’s love. Holiness and the fear of the Lord are protectors of our intimacy with God. They stand as sentinels to our hearts and minds so that we can walk in a healthy reverence for the Lord, avoiding the terror that causes us to flee.
Father, I haven’t understood the implications and consequences of failing to fear You. I want to walk in holiness and the fear of You so that our intimacy is safeguarded from the schemes of the enemy. I love You so much; I never want to be involved with or admit into my life anything that would come between You and me. Give me, O God, an undivided heart that I may fear You, in Jesus’ Name, amen!
 Colin Smith, “7 Words from the Cross,” Unlocking the Bible, May 1st, 2011. Accessed May 25th, 2021. The Day God Turned His Face Away | Unlocking the Bible