Living In The Fear Of God

Summer is one of my favorite seasons (right behind Fall and Spring and definitely in front of Winter).  But there is one thing about summer I do not love…those crazy, unpredictable thunderstorms, especially if they happen to arrive while I’m driving around in my car!
What I do appreciate about the storms, however, is that they remind me of the power of the God I serve.  A few days ago Todd was outside in the yard and I was in the kitchen.  The sky was a little cloudy, but nothing severe.  Out of nowhere, there came a crack of thunder and lightning together that literally shook the house, and sounded like it was right on top of us.  The thought ran across my mind, “I hope I’m not going to look outside and see Todd lying on the ground!”  Needless to say, he ran in the house.  It was a fearful thing!
This reminded me of what we have lost in our nation – a fear of God.  When you recognize the power of something, you act accordingly.  We don’t play around with power lines, or natural gas lines, or smoke a cigarette while we’re filling up our car.  Common sense tells us that we should have a healthy respect for something that can dramatically change our life in a split second.
When I was growing up, there was still a sense of respect for God by everyone I knew, whether or not they were a Christ-follower.  There was a consensus of morality, and of value for life.  Society was just beginning to throw caution to the wind, and embrace hedonism.  Yes, hedonism.  Hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good; a devotion to pleasure as a way of life.
The problem with hedonism is that it is innately selfish.  My pleasure and happiness is to be won at all cost, regardless of what it costs you.  And without a fear of God, there are no rules.  By throwing away all the rules and redefining what is true and right, we have lost our minds, and in the process, our nation.
I discovered a verse in scripture in my Bible study today that I believe speaks to this issue.
2 Chronicles 19:7 – Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.
Here’s the challenge:   Let the fear of the Lord be upon you.
There are many reasons to fear the Lord.  But let’s be honest.  There’s one big clear reason.  He is God.  He has the power to give life and to take it away.  He could literally destroy this world in the blink of an eye.  He has the right and the authority to do whatever His will determines.  He is Creator, and we are the created being.
Living in the fear of the Lord could change a nation.
While I am praying for our nation to repent and turn to God, and I believe God could send His Spirit on our land and bring change and conviction in mighty waves, I also recognize that revival must start in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).
How do we, as Christ-followers, practically live in a way that demonstrates the fear of the Lord?  2 Chronicles 19:7 gives us three specific areas to consider.
2 Chronicles 19:7 – Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousnessor partiality or the taking of a bribe.
#1 – Unrighteousness
Unrighteousnessis sin.  If I want to live in the fear of God, I will keep away from any known sinful actions or behaviors.  If God has declared something to be sin, then I will avoid it.
Scripture gives us some examples of unrighteous behavior:
Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing (Galatians 5:19-21)
Anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, lying (Colossians 3:8-9)
#2 – Partiality
Partiality is treating people differently because of a personal bias or belief.  If I want to live in the fear of God, I will treat all individuals with respect and honor, loving others and serving them because they are people made in the image of God and are of great value, as He gave His life to have a relationship with them.
Acts 10:34-35 – Opening his mouth, Peter said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
James 2:1-9 – My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?  If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
#3 – Bribery
That’s a strange one, right?  Unless we are a politician, we don’t think of ourselves being in the position to take a bribe.  But at its core, to take a bribe is to allow myself to be influenced in return for some kind of personal gain. To be bribed is to compromise who I am and what I believe, in order to get something for myself.  If I want to live in the fear of God, I will not compromise my faith in order to gain a temporary return, either physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.  I will stand firm in the truth of Scripture, no matter the cost to me personally.
Bribes are not always tangible gifts.  A bribe could be a tradeoff in self-esteem, pride, worldly success.  It is being willing to give something of myself in return for something I want or need.  A bribe could be an innocent way to motivate myself:  I will eat healthy all week, in exchange for ice cream on Friday.  I have bribed myself with ice cream.  But the bribe spoken of in scripture is most likely something for which we are willing to exchange our faith; it is compromising in order to meet a personal felt-need (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional).
Premarital sex: A young girl accepts the bribe of attention, in return for her purity.
Drugs:  A young man accepts the bribe of popularity, in return for his physical and mental health.
Adultery: A wife accepts the bribe of affection, in return for her morality.
Cheating: A businessman accepts the bribe of financial success, in return for his ethics.
How about some less “obvious” bribes?
Sports: A family accepts the bribe of achievement, in return for their commitment to the church.
Entertainment: A young adult accepts the bribe of peer approval, in return for their conscience.
Debt:  A couple accepts the bribe of status, in return for their financial well-being.
Exodus 23:8 – You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.
Proverbs 29:4 – The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.
Ecclesiastes 7:7 – For oppression makes a wise man mad, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
***
As individuals, and as a nation, we need to renew our fear of God.  God is not telling us that we should hide from Him, fearful that He is going to crush us or destroy us, even though the wicked will be destroyed in the end.  But He offers us redemption.  He offers us grace.  He offers us forgiveness.   As believers, we are hidden in Christ, who has taken the wrath of God on Himself, so that we do not have to fear judgment.  But experiencing the grace and love of God does not mean that we do not fear Him.
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis, in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Are you living with a healthy fear and respect of God?  Here’s how you know.
Do you tolerate sin, taking it lightly, forgetting the cost of your redemption?
Do you treat people with partiality, accepting or rejecting others based on your own bias?
Do you compromise who you are and what you believe in order to meet your own needs?
Ask God to reveal those hidden things in your heart.  Ask Him to expose any thought or idea that you hold that reflects you do not truly fear Him as God.  Ask Him to forgive you, and turn away from those things.
Keep away from sin.
Walk away from hate.
Stand true to your convictions.
And live in the fear of God.

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