The wrong kind of fear of God will eat your lunch. It is the true playground bully, who robs every believer that he can of the peace and joy of knowing we are being watched over by an ever-loving God. This demon-inspired fear makes Christians afraid of what God might do, or of what He might allow, or of what He might ask of them. Consequently, they try to stay within the moral boundaries (because of their fear of punishment), but they rarely draw close to Him in complete surrender and submission (because of their distorted fears about God).
The right kind of fear of God is one of our two most powerful motivations for surrendering to the Lord’s leadership, the other being the right kind of love of God. Godly fear is actually something Jesus said He wanted us to have (see Matthew 10:28). The essence of this fear is a healthy understanding that we are not the ones in charge—God is—and He rewards everyone “according to their deeds.” No one can escape the law of consequences, not even Christians.
Fortunately, if we are Christians, we can repent and escape the punishment, but we still will not escape the consequences. This motivates us to watch over our choices very carefully, because we will reap what we sow for good or ill. Once I caught on to this, I realized that I was in the driver’s seat. Simply by seeking to steer my life according to Jesus’ directions, I could reap a ton of blessings and avoid the agony of painful consequences. What an incentive for pressing in to trust and obey Him! The Lord does indeed add undeserved blessings into the mix, but the vast majority of blessings that show up in anyone’s life are because they made right choices. It’s like Fox News—you decide! (see Deuteronomy 30:19).
Any text of scripture, taken out of context, has the potential of being powerfully mis-leading, especially where the fear of God is concerned. Out of my own timid experience in my early years as a Christian, I learned to call some of the most intimidating ones, “texts of terror.” For instance, I love this scripture from Hebrews, but as you read it, really listen to what it is saying about us and our God. See if you can hear the potential it has for arousing the wrong kind of fear of God:
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
This sounds scary doesn’t it? God can see your every thought and feeling, and you have to give an account to Him about it. No one gets away with anything! This is easy to gloss over by thinking we are doing better at being righteous than we really are, so let me put it this way: How would you like to have a large video screen playing above your head showing to everyone you meet what you are thinking and feeling? Nothing hidden. Everything laid bare. How would you like to give your inner state—all your moods and feelings—to your best friends for them to spend the day feeling right along with you? Yet, God sees all and feels all!
We hide these things from everyone else and are very grateful that we are not “laid bare” to their eyes. What we may not see is how this same dynamic keeps us hiding our deeper life from God. Adam and Eve saw it and immediately took shelter behind a bush! The “good news” of the gospel is intended by the Lord to draw Adam’s frightened children out of all our hiding places. Adam hid from God because he was afraid God was going to punish him for sinning and because he was deeply ashamed the sinful person he had become.
Under the New (and “better”) Covenant this situation is totally reversed for those who believe the good news. It is actually a relief and reassurance to know that nothing is hidden from our God: He has seen the absolute worst things about us and still loves us. The Father loves us even to the point of sacrificing His Son. Jesus loves us even to the point of dying for us. The Holy Spirit loves us even to the point of living inside us to help us from within. That’s a confidence builder!
Have you ever wondered why we stray from the close presence of the Lord and from walking with Him on His path of peace? Sure we get tricked out—tempted by lesser things. But the real reason, the deeper reason, has to do with having distorted ideas about God clogging our spiritual arteries. If we could only see Him for who He really is—see the loving, glad-hearted Father that Jesus came to reveal—we would be pressing into His presence in every waking moment like moths mashed up against the light case.
So come on! Don’t be afraid of getting “buck naked” before our God. The Light of Christ is shining on our Father’s loving and joyful countenance.
Let’s press in to His presence for all we are worth!