Jan 04, 2019
In “The Gift of Fear,” I pondered whether believers today are losing the fear of God. In this article, let’s see what it means to live with a healthy fear of God: approaching Him with respect, reverent wonder, and awe.
When our souls encounter the majesty and glory of God, there can be only one response: “Wow!”
We are freed from the penalty of sin and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light! Every day holds an invitation to explore the indescribable, incredible majesty of God.
Rather than looking at God as a capricious sheriff, the fear of the Lord anticipates seeing something new and wonderful. The writer of Lamentations expressed it this way: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
The apostle Peter takes the “wow” a step further in his second letter. He tells us that we are to diligently add to our faith such qualities as knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness (2 Peter 1:5-7). The biblical concept of godliness has at its root the fear of God.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes godliness as “character and conduct determined by the principle of love and fear of God in the heart.” It used to be called piety, which Webster (1828) defined as a “compound (combination) of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love.”
In other words, godliness expresses reverence with holy living and affection/devotion. It is the response of the soul to the majesty and glory (“wow”) of God.
The godliness and reverent wonder that Peter refers to seeks not only to know Him but to please Him. It begets an attitude of grateful love and constant devotion. This response honors, respects, and responds to the will of God (John 17:4, NASB).
When we are gripped by reverent wonder, we will be humbled; unable to defend our sinfulness or justify our self-centeredness. When the eyes of our soul see God revealed in his power, greatness, love, compassion, and creative genius, we can only stand in awe and humbly ask the same questions Paul asked when he saw the “wow” of Lord on the road to Damascus: “Who are you Lord, and what do you want me to do?”
The fear of the Lord is critical to our journey of discipleship. Fortunately, if we want to gaze in reverent wonder at the nature of God, we have only to look at Jesus. Here’s how the writer of Hebrews put it: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
If you’re in need of rediscovering “wow,” let me encourage you to take extended time to reflect on Christ in all the defining moments in His Story especially His ascension, coronation and final revelation (see my blog "Now Playing: His Story”).
Here are a few other ideas I have found helpful to increase awareness of the fear of the Lord:
Reflect on God’s fingerprints in His design of the cosmos at both the micro and macro levels.
Reflect on the touch of God in the defining moments of my life story.
Study the lives of biblical characters as they experienced God’s patience, discipline, judgment, and wrath as well as forgiveness, noting how the laws of the harvest (e.g., we reap what we sow) played out in their lives.
As we gaze in reverent wonder at God, we will see more and more of His character and His majesty. And that can lead to only one response: “Wow!”
Ron Bennett, senior staff with The Navigators, has led discipleship ministries in many settings in the United States. He and his wife, Mary, are currently serving with Navigators Encore in Raymore, Missouri. While on the national leadership team of Navigator Church Ministries he wrote Intentional Disciplemaking and coauthored The Adventure of Discipling Others and Beginning the Walk (NavPress). This article is adapted from “Living the Wow” in Ron Bennett’s blog The Adventure of Discipleship, October 25, 2018.