Crossing the Line: Is God to Be Feared?
“You will never deny yourself if you don’t think Christ is worth it.”
Words hastily penned on a torn scrap of paper. I don’t know where I heard or saw them. I just knew I wanted to remember them, to move in the direction of believing in my heart Christ is worth it. To that end, I want to share another excerpt from my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His.
I believe the Lord is drawing a line in the sand right now, and we must choose whether we are entirely for Him or entirely against Him. With every natural disaster, personal disappointment, loss, frightening news report, financial threat to our security, and threat to our health, we must choose: will I believe, trust, and follow the Lord or not? We will either cross the line and determine to love Him and obey His word no matter the cost, or we won’t. There is no in between, and I am convinced that it is on the other side of the line that we become holy as He is holy. The journey across that line begins with the fear of the Lord and a love for Jesus that compels us to do what He says.
As a whole, the American church, and certainly America as a nation, has lost the fear of the Lord. A large majority of preachers have forsaken the fear of God for the fear of man and a message of love, joy, forgiveness, tolerance, and peace. Without the fear of the Lord, evil prevails, and that is what we are experiencing right now. Proverbs 6:27-28 warns, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” Messing with the wrath of God is playing with fire. If we continue in habitual sin, we will get burned. Regardless of how loud others shout a message of tolerance, as if sin is simply neutral, the word of God stands true: “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:13-14). We will either fear the Lord and His commandment, or we will despise Him and His word. Proverbs 14:2 tells us, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.” There is no in between.
The answer, then, is to renew our fear of Him. Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 both tell us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It is our greatest means for gaining the understanding we need to avoid sin and choose the way of life. If we look at the word fear in Hebrew, it is both a reverence or awe of the Lord and terror of Him. He alone must be the object of our worship, adoration, and amazement, and we must have a healthy fear of His wrath when we sin against Him. God is holy and just. He cannot tolerate sin, and Proverbs 16:6 clearly states it is “by fear of the Lord that one departs from evil” and preserves his soul (Prov. 16:17). When you fear the Lord, “your days will be multiplied and years of life will be added to you” (Prov. 9:10-11); you will have strong confidence, and your children will have a place of refuge (Prov. 14:26-27). Riches, honor, and life also come by way of humility and the fear of the Lord (Prov. 22:4).
So how do we fear the Lord? Proverbs 8:13 gives us the answer: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” When we fear the Lord, we will hate what He hates and depart from it. We will not tolerate it. We will not even let it be named among us.
In my walk with the Lord, He has peeled me like an onion. He deals with me in layers. Each time He peels away a layer of disobedience or a layer of lies I’ve believed or a layer of worldliness, there’s another layer ready to be peeled away. The same has been true of how He has revealed His truth to me. He has dealt with the “big, obvious stuff,” and then He has continued to give me a deeper understanding of His word, along with a greater responsibility to continue to purify my thoughts and actions. Gently, lovingly, and firmly, He has led me to a few key verses that have opened my eyes to understand in a new way what it means to be holy as He is holy. One of those verses is 2 Corinthians 7:1, which says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (NIV).
I remember the moment the Holy Spirit revealed the heart of this scripture as it applies to my life. One of the things that stood out was the fact that we are told to purify ourselves. Previously, I thought only the Lord alone could purify me, but this verse makes it clear that I have a part in purifying myself through the choices I make. The word contaminate stood out and really convicted me. To contaminate is to defile, pollute, or stain something. We are not to allow anything into our thoughts, bodies, or spirits that would defile, pollute, stain, or make them filthy before the Lord. That is our part in cleansing or purifying ourselves.
Starting in my teens, I battled bulimia. In the beginning, and for a good eight years, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually a prisoner in my own body. In college, I reached the point where I knew I was on an irreversible path of destruction. I realized the physical danger I was inflicting on myself, and I stopped physically engaging in the behavior of the disorder. But I remained entrapped in the spiritual and mental bondage of it. The Lord has been faithful to deliver me, slowly and tenderly peeling back the layers of this onion. In my mid-thirties, I lived in freedom like never before, but there were still times when I would fall back into the debilitating cycle of focusing solely on my body for my value and worth. In these times, I became obsessed in my thoughts with what I ate, how much I exercised, whether or not I felt or looked fat, etc. It affected every area of my life and my relationships because I was consumed with the things of this world as it related to my body and how I looked.
During this time, the Lord showed me through 2 Corinthians 7:1 that when there is anything I know to be a trigger, I cannot allow it to contaminate my body and spirit. If straying from habits that keep me close to the Lord, stress, other sin in my life, certain foods, certain circumstances, or certain activities cause me to stumble back into this battle, it is my responsibility to purify myself of those things. As the Holy Spirit reveals and convicts us of the things that contaminate us, we become holy as God is holy when we purify ourselves of those things – when we deliberately choose to no longer allow them in our lives – out of reverence for God. The word reverence in this verse refers to the fear of God. The original Greek meaning of this use of fear is terror or dread.
God is a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin. We will be motivated to perfect holiness in our lives when we are terrified of God’s holy wrath. If we don’t fear Him, what motive do we have?
Actually, there is another motive. Read more Thursday.
Lord, renew our fear of You! By the power of Your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to live our lives fully on the other side of the line. Teach us what it means in our personal lives to be holy as You are holy, and give us wisdom to purify ourselves daily as we become wholly Yours today.
. Blue Letter Bible. "Paul's Epistle - 2 Corinthians 7 - (NIV - New International Version)." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. Accessed July 14, 2011, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=2Cr&c=7&t=NIV.