Thursday, June 11, 2009

Should a Christian Fear God?

I heard someone say in the not too distant past that the New Testament Christian ought not to fear God because He is our “Abba Father.” To be sure, I concur with all my heart to this statement. The reality that the NT declares that God is the “Abba Father” is, in fact, found in the NT (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; cp. Mark 14:36).

But where does the fear of God fit in? Should the Christian fear God? Is it right for him to ever tremble before God? Be afraid before God? Stand in awe of God? Revere God? I recently preached from Psalm 25 and in the psalm, David asks for the one who fears the LORD for this (i.e., the one who fears the LORD) is the one whom Yahweh will lead. I asserted that it is appropriate and proper for the NT believer to bathe, marvel, enjoy, and revel in the reality of an intimate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. This ought certainly to be the case. And, we could go so far as to say that the Christian need not fear or tremble before God in the sense of worrying about falling under God’s wrath. Scripture often affirms that, for the believer, God’s wrath has been turned away (Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:9; and 5:9-10).

Nevertheless, I still find a plethora of references—even in the NT!—speaking to the issue of the believer in God fearing God (2 Cor 7:1; 1 Pet 2:17; cp. Ecc 5:7; 12:13). Though the fear in the NT is not a trembling sourced in bewilderment wondering if the Sovereign King is going to eternally Judge the individual for sin. Rather, the fear in the NT—though, I’m still convinced, it DOES contain a notion of holy terror and holy trembling—mostly denotes a sense of awe or reverence toward a great Sovereign King.

Consider this reality. How do you find your conduct when you’re in the presence of the Sovereign King of the universe? Do you stroll into church on Sunday mornings as if it were just another day? Do you open and read your Bible as if it is the duty you must fulfill simply to check it off the list? Do you pray with wandering thoughts waiting for that long-winded person to finish praying so you can get home and attend to your duties?

I think we have, all too often, neglected to consider the presence of Him Whom we claim to worship. May we approach the throne of grace with boldness and access (Rom 5:1-2) yet these wonderful truths that we now have ought not to crowd out a holy awe and reverence for the royal and Sovereign King in Whose presence we find ourselves.

Consider the author of Hebrews, who notes this same reality, as he speaks to the believers: Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (de,oj, fear, awe).


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