…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight…
Proverbs 9:10 ESV
The days leading up to Christmas 2019 and New Years 2020 – while physically quiet in my life – were anything except spiritually quiet in my soul. God brought me, as only He can bring a person, to some amazing realizations over the course of those days.
I’m not just talking about the occasional aha moment when you have a brief enlightenment, smile and then return to life as usual. I’m talking about the kind of realizations that still have your jaw dropped and eyes wide open three weeks after they’re given to you.
The kind that are so worth sharing you can’t keep them quiet, even if it takes three blog posts to explain everything. Which is what I’d like to do in Lessons Learned. The mini-series will cover this and the two weeks to follow on His Own Heart. Normally I’m not one to use His Own Heart Ministries to talk about “me” experiences, but you’ve just got to hear this.
The first thing you’ll need to know is that in Lessons Learned, we’ll be working backwards; in other words, starting with the conclusion today and then filling in the background as we move along through the series.
In a nutshell, the details that will unfold in the weeks to come brought me to a refreshed understanding of what it means to stand in awed fear of Jesus Christ as the One and Only Savior of mankind. Of you. Of me.
That refreshed understanding, as it turns out, reminded me of how desperately society needs to reclaim its reverence for this Christ who chose our salvation over His own life. That choice is something you and I – now more than ever – need to take seriously.
The preceding paragraph brings to mind a sunny summer afternoon when Bible school had dismissed for the day. We were seven years old – inseparable playmates – when Grandmother saw our two pouty expressions from the porch.
“What if,” she wondered conversationally, “Jesus came back right now and found those looks on your faces?” Whatever the reason for the little-girl tiff, it ended abruptly. We didn’t fear God’s wrath so much att that age as we feared disappointing Him.
Admittedly, the memory brings a sheepish grin these decades later, but it also draws a stark contrast between the culture of Western Christianity then and the culture that’s evolved since.
As recently as the 1970s and 80s, a healthy dose of Christian fear – healthybeing the arguably operative word here – was recognized as necessary for the soil of good spiritual growth. So as reluctant as I am to pose the question, it has to be posed. How do we balance the scriptural equation for Christianity and spiritual growth if we subtract that element of healthy fear of God?
We don’t. That’s what I’ve suspected for some time, and after these past few weeks I concluded it to the very depths of my bones.
Many Christians avoid the issue of fear – healthy or otherwise – like it’s a plague. We avoid it in our church buildings, in our homes, along our sidewalks. Concerned with exuding warm, fuzzy vibes of peace and love to others, we just skate right around the biblical fact that Godly fear instills a life-altering desire for growth—not in perfection—but in reflection of Christ-like holiness. Sadly, such avoidance carries a high cost. For starters, Scripture suffers as its warnings about fear become some seriously misinterpreted mush. As a result, Christian lifestyles suffer.
And here’s the proof of it: neither God’s inspired Word nor its original recorders—even for the New Testament Church—shared our avoidance of fear. You can take that to the proverbial bank. They dealt with the matter of fear head-on, teaching the reality of God’s righteousness and judgment to believers and unbelievers alike. God provides one of many examples of this when He speaks through John to His Church in Revelation:
- Remember [Ephesus]from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:5 ESV).
- [Pergamum] . . . If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth (2:16).
- I gave [Thyatira]time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality . . . I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works (2:21-22).
- Remember,[Sardis],what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you (3:3)
- I will spit you out of my mouth, [Sardis]. . . So be zealous and repent (3:16, 19). (Brackets mine.)
Notice the absence of warm fuzziness in these passages, then notice that John doesn’t undermine Christ’s Words by glossing over their reality, severity or call for pro-active application. Causing his audience emotional discomfort doesn’t concern John. He’s far more interested in “waking up and shaking up” listeners as a means of stirring them to their own repentance, pursuit of holiness, and faith in the grace of God.
A lot of today’s theologians and Christian leaders have turned down the heat of that message; downplayed the serious nature of God’s holiness, justice, judgment. Some even teach that, contextually, fear connotes only respect for God and never suggests that we should literally fear God. This is a grave injustice to the point of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Is it any wonder, then, that 2020 finds us in a culture of chaos when the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10)?
– Copyright 2020, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.