(By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
It would be natural to ask the question, "Should I be afraid of God?" Well that all depends on what you mean by "fear," and who you mean by "God." If you are talking about the God of the Bible, then you are asking about the one true God. In that case, "Yes." There is a proper way to understand "the fear of the Lord." In fact, it is an essential quality of anyone who truly knows God.
Think about a family. Parents who dearly love their children also discipline their children appropriately for their good. In those families, children know they are loved. They also have the "fear" of discipline should they choose to push the limits and disobey. That is not a bad fear. It actually is a very necessary part of family life.
The Bible says "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Psalm 111:10) To fear the Lord is to hold Him in the highest regard, with the greatest amount of respect and reverence. To fear the Lord is to fear His wrath against sin, which is mighty and just.
Those who die outside of God's family will be severely punished for their sins in the next life, while those who are in His family through faith in Christ receive His loving discipline at times here on earth. "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11,12)
So try asking yourself this simple question. "Do I have a greater fear of speeding in my car past a police officer than I have of sinning against the One who created me and to whom I am accountable?" Seriously. Think about it.
When God's people were "doing their own thing" in the Old Testament, they were told, "Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?" (Jeremiah 5:22) Deliberate sin takes place when the fear of God is missing. Not only that, but deliberate sin takes a person even further away from the fear of the Lord. That is a deadly place where callous hearts engage in sin and hardly even notice their transgression, let alone tremble before God over their behavior.
Jesus talked about the fear of God. He said, "I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him." (Luke 12:4,5)
Do you know where man first lost the fear of God? It happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lost their reverence for God's commands. As a result, they lost their way and they temporarily lost the fear of God.
Have you ever had the fear of the Lord in your heart? Have you ever been afraid of breaking His commands? If not, you are missing out on something you critically need to experience. Without this fear, you will tend to go through life thinking it's no big deal to disobey God. You will be far more concerned about disobeying a police officer than disobeying your Creator.
The Bible gives us many examples of people who lacked the fear of the Lord. We are told in Proverbs 1:29 about those who "hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord." What an incredible connection. Ultimate knowledge is linked here to the fear of the Lord. Do you realize what this means? Anyone without this godly fear is someone who tends to hate spiritual knowledge, at least when it involves true spiritual knowledge.
Folks like this don't hate knowledge in many other realms of life, but they do tend to hate the message of repentance in the Bible. One reason is due to the fact that Christianity involves a person admitting he or she is a sinner before God. That message goes against our pride, and all of us by nature don't like admitting our sin one bit. Only the Holy Spirit can convict us of our sin (see John 16:8) and give us the discernment to embrace the truth and "get in the flow" of God's plan of salvation.
What would you say about a child who has no concern over whether or not he obeys his parents? Assuming he is in his right mind, we would say that such a child does not truly love his parents. What about in the spiritual realm? We know from Scripture that those who don't fear the Lord are not in their right mind spiritually. So does that excuse them from loving God? Not at all. It certainly explains why they don't love God, but their Creator will hold them accountable for their sins.
"But they are not in their right mind," you say. "How can they be held accountable for their sin and their lack of love for God?" Very simply because the Lord of the universe says that "men are without excuse." God's "eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made." (Romans 1:20)
All of this points to the urgent need for you and I to run into the arms of the Savior and humbly ask for His mercy and forgiveness. He will gladly give it to us. He loves us. He died for our sins on the cross. He will not turn us away. That is, if we come to Him while we are still here on earth. If we delay, and if we harden our heart, then it may very well end up being too late to confess our sin and our need for His love. If we wait and procrastinate, we could end up leaving this world without His forgiveness. That is the worst possible scenario. That leaves a person without any recourse and without another opportunity to repent and believe.
Think of it this way. Picture those children who have grown up and rejected the love of their parents. Once the parents or the child dies, there is no longer an opportunity to "make things right." The same sort of thing happens between people and God. In fact, tens of thousands of people all over the world will die today having lived without the fear of the Lord or the love of God in their hearts. Yesterday there was still time for them to repent. Today it is too late. If they did not repent, they will never again have the opportunity to do so. God's Word lays it out this way: "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
Many people do humble themselves before the Lord and receive the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus. At that moment, God begins to pour His love into them. Believers immediately begin to love God with His love, and to love others with His love. That's just the way it works. "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) "God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us." (Romans 5:5)
So can someone fear God and love Him at the same time? Absolutely. In fact, you will experience both a holy fear of God and a tender love for God if you truly belong to His family. If you don't know Christ, then you won't experience these godly characteristics. Only the Holy Spirit can produce them within us. It certainly isn't anything we produce or come up with ourselves. But boy are we blessed to be recipients of His grace, love and mercy. There is no better way to live, and definitely no better way to die.
So how is your soul doing today? Are you ready for an infusion of God's grace, or do you still think that things are going to work out just fine for you without Jesus and His forgiveness in your life?