Fearing the Lord is not a very common (or socially correct) phrase. After all, we’re not supposed to fear a loving and forgiving God right? But it is used over one hundred times in the Bible and therefore essential that we understand it. We are also dealing with parenting principles that are taught in the book of Proverbs and one of those principles is that when a parent fears the Lord their children will benefit.
“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”
Proverbs 14:26 NIV
So what is fearing the Lord? Is it like Adam and Eve who hid from the presence of God because they were afraid when they heard him coming? Or is it merely having a healthy respect for God?
There is no discounting the “fear factor” when a sinful rebellious man meets a holy and righteous God. That is an encounter that will not go well for that man.
“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Hebrews 10:31 NIV
A holy God cannot tolerate sin because it is an affront to his sovereignty and therefore will be obliterated. We currently exist in a temporary state when sin is allowed to exist for our sake, so that we can turn from our rebellion and receive forgiveness and be redeemed. If we have not repented and trusted in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice we have much to fear in an encounter with God. But if we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ and are welcome as sons of God then that aspect of fear of judgement is over. We are loved and accepted! So let me start with what fearing the Lord is not.
It is not fearing for our salvation. As one who as authentically trusted in Christ for your salvation you do not need to fear Hell. There is no fear in his perfect love and he is able to keep all who trust in him until the day we are called to be with him forever.
Fearing God is not obsolete. There is a real emotional response to the holiness of God that is not diminished by our understanding of his love. God may be our father but he is still our Creator and he is truly AWESOME! The response of everyone who meets him is to fall on their faces before him in worship. Sometimes I wonder if our present cultural interpretation of worship has forsaken this aspect of God and replaced it with warm, fuzzy feelings. An encounter with our God is not only like a snuggle on the lap of our dear grandmother but also an overwhelming encounter that produces deep emotions. (“our God is a consuming fire” Hebrews 12:29 NIV)
But Scripture still tells us that we are to fear God, even after we’ve been redeemed.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.”
2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV
Fear in the New Testament is primarily about not wanting to be ashamed when he returns to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It is a healthy reverence for the fact we have been entrusted with precious gifts (not the least is the gospel) and we will be accountable for what we do with them. And this is a very important understanding; According to Scripture there will be no condemnation to those who have trusted in Christ (Rom. 8:1) but there will be commendation for our faithful obedience to his commands. (Philippians 3:14)
“There will be no condemnation but there will be comendation”
As a parent when we have this kind of fear it informs all our decisions and molds our priorities. We build a life whose foundation is not on the here and now but on eternal principles. This becomes a “secure fortress” for our children because they can trust that you will do what is right and find security in the fact that you will always seek God’s righteous path.
I have seen so many families rocked by inconsistent parenting. The message the children received in their early years was that their parents were committed to them no matter what but when they grew older they saw other priorities take over and the children taking a back seat to such things as career, acquisitions, and other relationships. The most horrible of all is when divorce comes to a family and one parent abandons their children because of a jealous spouse. Instead of their parent being a strong refuge they are rejected, abandoned and left in the cold.
But how does fearing God produce a refuge for a child? When we as parents put aside our constantly shifting priorities and desires and cling fast to the timeless truth of God’s Word we become firm and secure. Our child does not need to wonder if we will be trust worthy because God is trustworthy and their parent is following God. Our decisions will be consistent with God’s love and our priorities will be in alignment with his eternal truth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our children could pick up the Bible and find in it the content of our parenting? Then all they would need to do is ask the question “What does the Bible say?” and they would know how we will act in any situation. Yes, you and I are imperfect parents but we need to set our sights on truly noble goals.
Let’s be that secure fortress for our children so that even in the fiercest storms of life they can run to us as a strong tower of godly wisdom and comfort. This means we must truly fear God and be passionately committed to obeying him in every aspect of our life. This happens by making knowing of God and the study of his Word our number one priority. And always remember this is God's desire and his work within us through the Holy Spirit. We are incapable of being the parents we should be … but God is able! Submit humbly to him and let him direct your steps.
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