2002-07-15 - Christian Fear
Ecclesiastes 12:13,14 The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
For several years now a bird has nested in a certain spot near where I live. Every year she has three baby birds and while they are in the nest I visit them frequently and talk to them. My self-image is solid enough to admit that I talk to them. I chirp, tweet and do all sorts of embarrassing things to try to grab their attention. Momma bird is never real happy about this, but the babies are stuck there and can't fly away.
Over the years, by observation, I have begun to figure out the nights when the birds are about to leave the nest and again this year I was able to watch them abandon the nest. At first they don't fly far from the nest and then in a few hours they are gone for good. When they leave the nest I try to approach them and catch them. They always simply fly to higher ground. The first two this year followed the same pattern. However, the third bird did not flee when I approached it, and as I got closer it simply stayed put. I touched it and it still stayed there. So I started petting it and it stayed the whole time. I grew board after about 10 minutes and left it alone.
The amazing thing about this bird was that it did not seem to fear me. It should have, but for some reason it did not. Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians act like this little ignorant bird. Sometimes I wonder if we are so assured that things are all well with us that we fail to fear when we should. Granted, there is security for all who are in Christ, but it is often common today to focus so much on the love and mercy of Christ that we run the risk of being presumptuous. There is one sort of fear that every Christian, not only should have, but does have, and that is the fear of offending the Lord. Those who have been made alive in Christ and had their stony hearts made flesh know the Lord's holiness. They rightfully fear displeasing Him.
"The fear of the Lord if the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever," Psalm 111:10. (See also Proverbs 1:7) There is such a thing as holy fear, or holy anxiety. If we examine our hearts and really search them out it will bring us to our knees in humility and supplications that can only cry out to God for His mercy. A Christian cannot live without having a heart that knows the fear of offending God as He is set before us in His holiness. "The fear of the Lord leads to life," Proverbs 19:23.
If you have read these devotionals for any time you will know that I try to focus on the love and mercy that is ours in Jesus Christ. So it might seem strange that I would focus today on our need to fear offending Him. So let me anticipate some of your responses by saying that I am trying to strike a balance here. It is not outside the possibility that we can become so focused on Christ's mercy, grace and love that we forget that He is also holy. Forgiveness in Christ is not a "free pass" or a "sin if you must license." Quite the contrary it is a somber call to holiness.
In talking today about fear I am not denying the power of forgiveness in Christ's atonement. I am not limiting the wonder of salvation and mercy in Christ. In fact, I hope I am giving it it's proper place in our lives. It is because of the mercy we have received in Christ that our sins have gone from red like crimson to like wool (Isaiah 1:18). It is because of our being saved in Christ's mercy that we need to fear falling, not only into sin, but also into a religion or faith that is simply routine, without life or power. It is because of Christ's mercy that we must fear singing without real joy or praise, praying without faith or fervency, reading the Bible like any other book and failing to feed on its truths. It is because of the wonder of Christ's love that we must fear living our lives without experiencing the full realities of the gospel changing our hearts. There is a proper place for Christian fear and let us fear not having it.
Soli Deo Gloria,