FORWARD!” That’s what many of us will do with our clocks this month,
but the advent of warmer weather and more sunshine also puts a spring in
our step, and maybe even a song in our heart. In our teachings we have
often elaborated upon the fact that our glorious Sun represents God’s
glorious Son, Jesus Christ, in His celestial message. When I see even a
small ray of sunshine coming in a window, etc., I usually say, “Hello.”
Next month, “Easter” falls on April Fool’s Day, so right away I have a bead on where to go with that FOD. Then Pentecost comes in May, and I am totally inspired to write that FOD about the virtually unknown and yet critically indispensable truth that speaking in tongues is a Christian’s only absolute proof that he is forever saved from sin and death. That is, for sure, one of the most important truths you and I have ever been taught. Stay tuned.
When I sat down to write this March FOD, I kind of drew a blank at first. But some things that came up at our quarterly Elders Webex last month have prompted me to focus on these topics.
The first thing we talked about was the need for more God-fearing men and women, a term you don’t hear too often in Christian circles these days. That prompted each of us to consider where we fall on that spectrum: how God-fearing am I, really? My mind went back to a rather unique teaching I did in 1991 titled Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Fear But Were Afraid to Ask. Because there are many misconceptions about fear being taught to Christians, let me summarize a few basic points from that teaching.
Erroneous ideas about fear include the following: Man’s basic enemy is fear. Fear is sin. Fear is always devilish. Believing is a law; on the negative side fear is believing, but it is believing in reverse, and produces bad results. What one fears will surely come to pass. All those statements are nonsense, biblically speaking. I believe man’s basic enemy is Satan, and that Satan tries to use fear to stop us from obeying God. But when we understand fear from God’s Word it is much harder for him to do so. He knows that, and that’s why he tries to twist the biblical truth regarding fear. From the above quotes, and many others I’ve heard, he has pretty well succeeded.
These kinds of errors in regard to fear have caused untold heartache and emotional distress for countless Christians who sincerely desire to do God’s will. Why? Because the world is a terrifying place; it’s scary. There’s a lot to fear, and everyone has fear. The key is to learn how to distinguish the right kind of fear from the wrong kind of fear and learn how to turn to the tables on the wrong kind of fear by letting it be a signal that prompts us to look to the Lord and trust him. You need not be afraid of fear.
The Bible has a LOT to say about fear, using approximately 35 different Hebrew words and five different Greek words a total of more than 700 times for English words like “fear,” “awe,” “terror,” “ be afraid,” etc.
Allow me to share a very general connotative definition of fear. It is a feeling of fight or flight generally accompanied by physiological change. For example, you notice you’ve stepped on the tail of a rattlesnake. Something happens in your body, right? This feeling (emotion) is one of awe or insecurity or inferiority toward a particular object, in this case, el snake. That feeling prompts you to act to establish a relationship between you and the snake that you think is beneficial to you, like killing it, or at least running away like Moses did. Fear can also prompt you not to act in order to avoid what you think will be harmful to you, i.e., don’t go near the snake. Fear is not to be confused with cowardice.
I believe the Bible sets forth four categories of fear. #1. First and foremost, the fear of God. During the Old Testament, the fear of God had a little different connotation to Israel than it does to us today, primarily because Jesus Christ had not yet come to unequivocally reveal God as a loving, wonderful Father and to reveal the Devil as the source of all evil. For us, the fear of God is more of an overwhelming reverence of His goodness, grace, and love. We don’t want to disobey God, not because he’s going to punish us if we do, but because we love Him so much that it “terrifies” us to sin against Him, let Him down, and hurt His heart. And we do fear the consequences of disobeying Him, that is, opening the door to the Enemy to afflict us. Thus, the fear of God greatly benefits you. As we will see, this fear #1 is rational, #2 is irrational, #3 rational, #4 irrational.
#2. You may have heard the acronym F-E-A-R: False Evidence Appearing Real. The false evidence is not false evidence in the senses realm. For example, your boss is threatening to fire you unless you go along with a dishonest company policy. But God’s Word tells you that His power will supersede the senses realm and make a way for you in that situation. So it is false evidence in that the Adversary is trying to get you to disobey God by believing the boss’ threat rather than believing God’s Word. From a biblical perspective, this fear is irrational. Like #1, it is a learned fear, but it is learned from the world, not the Word.
Succumbing to such false evidence appearing real leads to a trust in oneself, or other men, or a false god. This results in disobedience to the Word of God, which produces harm, not benefit. So you can see these first two types of fear are totally juxtaposed.
#3. Like #1, it is a rational fear, what the Bible calls in Proverbs 3 “sudden fear”—think rattlesnake. It has to do with our survival, and is an innate, instinctive kind of feeling usually accompanied by physiological changes. This is common to everyone, which is why Proverbs 3:25 says, “Be not afraid of sudden fear.”
#4. Like #2, it is irrational and would be a phobia, or an excessive, groundless fear. In other words, it would be #3 taken to an extreme—you pass out every time you see a snakeskin belt.
NOW HEAR THIS: What we see from these four categories is that the object of your fear and the action you take regarding it are what determines whether that fear is beneficial or harmful to you.
It is as if God programmed mankind so that after the Fall we would have an inherent instinct of self-preservation. Each of us was born with sin, guilt, inferiority, and insecurity rooted in our sin nature, but we can choose to respond to these feelings according to the Word of God, which provides our only genuine security, comfort, and righteousness.
Hand-in-hand with a God-fearing attitude comes a desire for holiness, as per the following verse:
2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
As I say in a teaching from 1997 titled Perfecting Holiness In The Fear Of God, holiness is not a destination, but a lifelong journey. The finished work of Jesus Christ is the starting point for each Christian’s odyssey, and it is also the reason why each of us can become like our Lord, despite the sin nature that dwells in us. “Holiness” means conformity in thought, word, and deed to the character of God, our Father, and it is available for us to achieve this character to a great degree,
Along with a God-fearing attitude and a quest for holiness comes a sense of urgency. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back for us, but we do not know when. That means today could be our last opportunity to shine as a light in this dark world and touch someone’s heart with God’s truth and love. You could say, “We need to make ‘Hey (there!)’ while the Son shines.” Of course, if you did, you’d be weird. Here are some other points brought up at our Elders meeting.
- What spiritual legacy (“anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor”) will you leave for others to follow in your steps?
- Don’t let God’s Truth die with you.
- Finish Strong.
- The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray for more laborers. God wants people who are on fire with desire.
- Pray and watch for doors of utterance. Like Sampson with the Philistines, seek an occasion to stand for God.
- Those who hunger for Truth are not wearing signs to that effect; we are searching for buried treasure.
- Overcome fear and get on a roll—who knows what will happen?
- Amidst persecution, they went everywhere preaching the Word.