Monday, September 29, 2014
Why do we obey? (Continued)
We touched on this last time . . . some people (and we might be in the boat with them) obey Jesus' commands because of the fear of punishment. Maybe their grandma or parent told them about the fires of hell. Maybe they heard sermons about it. What does the fearful person look like? The person who simply wants to escape the fires of hell?
Now, before we go any further, let's pause briefly. I know there are some people who would point out that it's OK to be motivated by fear. They even show us verses that talk about it:
....fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:7
....work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works
in you. Philippians 2:12,13
But let's examine this more closely.
Did you know that in the Old Testament, there are ten nouns and eight verbs that can all be translated into the word "fear"? And it is in the New Testament that we find four different words that all translate to "fear." Oy. We need to figure this one out, right?
When you and I think of fear, we put it in the category of worry, anxiousness, dread, frightened feelings, etc. Everything from butterflies in our tummy to true horror and dismay. Just one word. Maybe the ancient world had a better idea -- lots of different words to convey different meanings! Anyway, this is all what we'd call the "spirit of fear" like in this verse:
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love,
and of a sound mind. II Timothy 1:7
The fear that is mentioned in the verses at the top of this post is a reverence for God. The spirit of fear can be harmful, but the fear of the Lord does us a world of good. We are not stricken by terror, we are brought to reverence and awe by the thought of our Father God and His blessings.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but
you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,
"Abba, Father!" Romans 8:15
So the "right kind" of fear, the kind that is spoken of in both Proverbs and Philippians, is a reverence for Him. It is a reverence that makes us take great care and thoughtfulness to make certain that we don't come up short in our following Jesus. This type of fear is a great guard to preserve us from evil. This reverence will cause us to think before we act. This is a reverence that will cause us to put Christ and our witness for Him before our own selfish desires, and it will keep us from making foolish mistakes. Not all the time, for we are creatures that forget. But the more we model this reverence, this fear of God, the fewer selfish mistakes we will make. Where do we get this? He gives us this ability. It is His grace that reminds us and that bends our wills; His grace works in us; He enables us to act according to His principles. Kinda takes the stress off, right? (Grin) We have the Creator of the universe that helps us!
Are we supposed to have a fear of the Lord, then? Yes, that fear is the reverence and awe of God; it is that we put God first, and far above all else in our lives!
But are we to have an unhealthy fear of God? No! We should not dread Him. We should not be terrorized by the thought of God. Why should we? He is a loving Father:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to
those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11
Those who will obey God because they fear punishment have a difficult time drawing near to God. They have a hard time with worship and praise, since it is difficult to embrace something that frightens you. They fear that God will reject their efforts to obey Him. That is far from the truth. And it's a lack of faith. He has promised that He will meet our needs. He has promised He will grant our requests. He is a loving Father . . . let's ask Him today to help us reverence Him; let's ask Him today for wisdom as we move about in this world -- show us, Lord, when we stray and sin. Show us the pathway that we need to walk, to follow you so closely that Satan has no opportunity with us. Show us how to walk with you so that others see Christ, and not us.
All of these are requests that will honor Him, and He will grant them. We need only to ask.