Please pray – God be with us. Father, take Your message that You would have me prepare and bless it with love and compassion. Place it in the hearts and minds of your children. Teach us Lord; give us the understanding we seek to better ourselves in Your eyes. Grant us knowledge to overcome our own desires and seek out Your favor. Father I pray You place the burden of the lost in our hearts and give us the conviction to reach them. In Jesus name, Amen.
As a matter of fact – WWJD….does this look familiar? It should, the earliest known instance of the full slogan “What Would Jesus Do” dates all the way back to 1886 from a series of serial sermons by an American minister from Topeka, Kansas by the name of Charles Sheldon. Each week, Sheldon would tell an entertaining story, posing the question, “What would Jesus do?” when characters came across a difficult moral decision or situation. To increase attendance at his Sunday night sermons, Sheldon would end each story on a cliffhanger ensuring the people there would come back the following week to learn what happened next. He was among the few white ministers of the day to not only allow, but openly invite, black people to become full members of his church, he also openly spoke out against the KKK to their faces and wasn’t shy about slamming anti-Semites whenever he encountered them. He further encouraged women in his congregation to become involved in politics to help in the fight for equal rights for women, including in the workplace. Again, he believed we were all equal in God’s eyes; if this way of thinking was good enough for God, it should be good enough for everyone. I really like this man’s character, it’s no wonder he was called to minister the Word.
Sheldon never saw a dime from all the businesses that sold this slogan throughout the years. Fascinating…A big hello and welcome! What an honor for me to be able to study the Word and present it to you all. I know it was mentioned in the last message that I would talk about robbers being in the house of God and I will, maybe. As the Holy Spirit has done so many times before and consistently does every time, He has decided to point me in another direction. We are at the threshold of another inspired message that God has been preparing me to write for several weeks. I’ve had to address my prideful nature and humble myself more than ever for me to receive this word. It’s my belief that I had to be prepared for this message for it to have the proper impact. It’s exciting to learn from the greatest Teacher ever. There has been a wonderful revelation and is helpful in my own walk with God. To get started, let me set this up. I’d like to share with you a little behind the scenes story of my early development process.
My sister Maria is about 3 years older, my brother Ray is 3 years younger and Bill Jr. is about 6 years younger than I am. You remember Bill from a previous message where he was instrumental in getting help to me during the heart attack. Raymond and Maria are committed to God and I’m not sure where Bill Jr is but God is working on him. I love all my siblings dearly. When I would visit with Ray we would often reminisce on how I would be the one mostly in trouble with dad and how Ray moved through childhood virtually unscathed and favored, that is, before Bill Jr entered the scene. Ray’s explanation for this phenomenon was he would watch me and then do the opposite. I know right, not fair but I’m happy that I paved the way to help him with his ease through childhood. His tactic was to see if I would get into trouble for whatever it was I would be doing and if not then he would do it also. If there were any repercussion then he knew to stay clear and this was his way of making it through our adolescent years.
Ray escaped more than half the spankings I received and to listen to dad, I apparently “asked for it”. In retrospect, it was a smart move on Ray’s part and in some cases it was the best approach to stay out of the grasp of discipline. He wasn’t always so lucky though, after all Ray is my ‘younger’ brother. There were times I could talk him into some really dumb stuff.
Our bond was forever forged and together we would get the fullness of our disobedience handed to us in the form of “tough love”. It seemed to be not be as bad when receiving this tough love with my brother right beside me pleading for the mercy on our little bottoms and our promises of true repentance. What does this have to do with the message? Hold onto your spiritual handles, we are about to examine a lesson I believe will help us grow by receiving this inspired revelation from our precious Lord.
Growing up my siblings and I were normal children for the most part. We did good things and we did some “not so good” things, but we made it through our childhood with a good perception of the rules and what obedience meant through the fear that we had to learn by way of spankings, noses in the corner, pushups and a few other creative punishments as well. However, because of the nourishing love and compassion of our mom we were well balanced. Although dad was a tough disciplinarian, a teacher of rules and how to abide by them, we feared him. I seemed to be able to push the limit with him most of the times. I could make him so angry he could spit turtles but one thing was for sure, even though he didn’t openly say it, we knew he loved us. Much later in life and after raising children of my own, I realized how much patience was needed when dealing with the rebellious attitudes and sometimes even disrespectful off spring. I was happy the day I found the verse in
Proverbs 29:15 the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to his self brings shame to his mother.
I had God’s approval to discipline. I would invoked the “spare the rod spoil the child” clause in the parent guide section of the Bible when it was necessary and so did dad. I would fear my dad because of his dominance and demand for respect and this was intentional and consistent. This “intentional fear” was his advantage to maintain control of some otherwise over-exuberant children. You see, growing up was hard for me, I wasn’t always on my best behavior. Some years after my birth father had died in a car accident, mom remarried a very young man with no experience in raising children but his love for mom was undeniable. He not only married mom but he married a family of three little kids and it was “on the job training” from the moment he said “I do” until the last of us was out of the house.
Becoming mature in my thinking, I understood this dynamic because I too married into a family of children fathered by another man when I was very young. I’m sure we all have a story but I’ve said all this to get us here, if you haven’t already gotten ahead of me, (I hope you have).
As a child of God; and those who are saved by the blood of Christ are His children, we are to fear the Lord, He is consistent with this command. Why? Simply put, to understand the origin of our obedience.
Hebrew 12:7-11, 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline— then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
We fear God for the same reasons it was good to fear our parent. For us to walk in righteousness and not fall to sin. We have to realize that when we are disobedient to God we are turning away from Him. We should be fearful when we turn from Him and unfortunately, there is a shortage of the fear of God in the church too. With a closer look into the truth of “fear the Lord” we will know for certain what it means and why it is crucial in our Christian lives.
To do this, let’s start by understanding what the fear of the Lord is not so we can better understand what it is.
- Fear of the Lord is NOT – a natural fear, feeling of being afraid; an emotional fear.
- Fear of the Lord is NOT – a demonic fear, a deep seated fear, the fear of evil spirits, possession, etc.
- Fear of the Lord is NOT – a fear of man, the fear of being ridiculed, humiliated or hurt physically.
These are all legitimate fears to some degree but they are not the type of fear we are instructed to learn. Yes, learn, and we’ll cover this in a minute…
The fear of God is so important that the phrase “fear the Lord” appears 27 times in the Bible. There are 144 references to fearing God in the Bible with 19 of those appearing in the New Testament.
So what is “fear the Lord”? It is in the form of reverence, in wonder and in awe. Understanding who He is and the power He has should be enough to inspire fear in us to a reverential, awestruck, open-mouth wonderment type of fear. The Greek noun translation for fear “phobos” can mean “reverential fear” of God, “not a mere ‘fear’ of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Fear, Fearful, Fearfulness”). This is the type of positive, productive fear Luke describes in the early New Testament Church,
Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
One resource includes this helpful quote; “The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer” (Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, 1997, note on Psalm 128:1).
What we are to fear is our God and His magnificence and our short comings to please Him. The fear of falling short of our own expectations in our relationship with Him. We should be fearful of being disobedient to what has been asked of us to do for the Kingdom. The lack of attending fellowship and learning to disciple, for not tithing or not assisting with maintaining the house of God. Not helping in the search for those who are lost and bringing them home. It’s clear throughout scripture if we do not fear our God, giving into our sinful nature will be evident in our walk with Him. This is a fear of displeasing God as David did after which he cried out, “God restore the joy of my salvation”. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to turn away from this wisdom will bring retribution.
We sometimes think God is some old man sitting up in heaven and has no interest if there are some of His children that have become complacent and routine. To think He won’t do anything about it is dangerous thinking. We’ll learn why soon. This fear doesn’t come to us naturally, no more than it did initially when my dad would warn me several times before he would take action and I then would learn (the hard way) of the consequences of my disobedience. Even as a hard disciplinarian, Dad not once stopped providing for me or kept me clothed and in a home with vacations and all the toys any kid would want and he never stopped loving me (in his own way); I felt safe because he had my back when being attacked. I learned that this was someone I needed to respect, to love and to fear. The Bible tells us we are to learn this fear and that it is good for us that we do. We should be “trained” (Hebrew 12:11) in understanding the benefits of obedience.
Psalms 34:11-13, 11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days 13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
The Lord tells us there are conditions:
First – We begin with watching our mouths. The words we speak, are they of love and compassion, pure and truthful or of arrogance and pride? (Psalms 34:13).
Secondly – We have to choose to fear the Lord. God will not impose on our freewill so is the cost of disobedience worth a separation from Him? Proverbs 1:28-29, 28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me; 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. Clearly God left it up to us to choose and to understand the consequences of our disobedience and His retribution is eventual.
Third – Do not put trust in ourselves. Rid ourselves of arrogance and pride and put our trust in Him. Proverbs 28:26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Fourth – We cannot associate with evil. Be diligent and committed to the Gospel. Proverbs 16:17 Good people stay away from evil. By watching what they do, they protect their lives. Turn away from sin and those who would lead us into sin. Ray is the perfect example of this.
Finally – Fear is wisdom. Psalms 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding…These are the conditions and He promises to unlock the secrets of the covenant if we follow these instructions. But, He will not commit Himself to teaching those secrets to those who do not fear Him. I would not be able to teach the scriptures without the fear of the Lord. Psalms 25:12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
Please hear me on this, we need to be aware of the “type” of fear we are talking about here. It is a fear we choose to put upon ourselves to do all that we are commissioned to do as I outlined earlier and if we are not doing this then we are turning from our place of refuge. We are not in His favor and this by our Christian nature should instill fear in our hearts. What exactly is a covenant? It’s an agreement; contract and a commitment. It’s a guarantee, a pledge and a promise. A covenant is a bond, and an understanding. The covenant is the theme of the scriptures. It’s all His promises to us and a detailed outline of how to follow Him. The reward is not only salvation but also, sharing in the secrets of His Kingdom with blessings through knowledge.
Psalms 25: 14 The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them.
You would think the story of my trials during childhood is an example of how to be obedient in order to stay out of trouble. And doing so will keep us focused on that point but the lesson here is not of my disobedience and the punishments I received. The lesson is found with my brother Ray. The revelation that God made clear to me was how my brother walked through his childhood with a much higher understanding of obedience and discipline than I did and as a result he was “blessed” much more than I was. Even though I was receiving this principle in a less than favorable manner, Ray understood how to foresee the messages that was afforded him through my actions. He took this information and apply it to walk a more peaceful childhood.
So here’s the point; God’s Word, the Bible, is a guide for our lives, and it reminds us that when we disobey God, we sadden him. He desires the best for us, and sometimes we take the easy way out and turn away from Him. Throughout the Bible, God gives us example after example of what not to do and what we should be doing. God is very clear on the principles of obedience. Here is a statement I found and thought it to be relevant. “As I walk with the Lord, He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He sits in judgment of our sins, but forgives us nevertheless”. To sum it up for us, the ultimate example of fear and perfect love working together is Jesus Christ. He warned us at every turn to fear God, not men—and he confirmed that in everything about his life and death. For us to walk through this life “unscathed” (or blessed), we simply look at the example of Jesus (and His disciples) before us and do just as my brother Ray knew to do.
The Word of God is a guide to His heart, it’s a life guide, a parent guide, a marriage guide, a business and even a financial guide (and more). We are to walk with Him in righteousness and in “favor”. God’s favor is to give us more grace, more than we already have received.
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resist the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Yes He said, “More grace”, more than what we have already been given by the Love of Christ! I’ll close with this. Earlier, I mentioned recently being humbled and I’d like to share this with you just as it occurred.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
The Holy Spirit impressed upon me to understand its meaning and how to apply it in my life. The definition of “meek” is; modesty, not arrogant or prideful; humble in spirit or in manner.
One afternoon, driving through town in my company truck, I was attempting to merge out of a turning lane and into a throughway before I reached the traffic light. Traffic was heavy so I had to look for an opening. Once I found one I made my move and I admit, I was a little aggressive getting in but I was running out of road. The man in a new truck I squeezed in front of decide to let me know he had a perfectly formed middle finger. Initially, I let it go and by the way, this was right after I had a great morning with song and praise in my truck. I kept looking back in my rear view mirror and I could see he was clearly upset with me. We came to another traffic light and he pulled beside me in a turning lane to write down my phone number that is plain to see on the sign on my door. As I expected he called and asked if I was the one in the truck and I said yes. He began to tell me what for and how blankidy, blankidy and blankidy, blankidy I was and what the blankidy blank was I thinking and so on. You get the picture. When he stopped talking, I asked him very calmly if he was done and he said, “Yes, I guess I am”. I told him if you would like to pull over somewhere I would be happy to talk about it. His response was if he didn’t have kids with him he would. I then said ok, then have a blessed day, and hung up. Now I have to tell you, there was a day that I would have done all I could to get this guy to pull over and for us to have a curse war and then dare him to get physical with me, however, this is a ridiculous thought in my mind now or was it? Now here is where God gets involved.
I could sense myself beginning to sadden my Lord for what I was thinking and then a fear came over me that if I reacted the wrong way He wouldn’t be happy with me. I didn’t want that. So while focusing on my Lord, there was an overwhelming feeling to send this man a text message and since I had his phone number, I said, “Ok Lord, I’ll do it if you say so.” I text this man that if his children were in the truck with him “he should be ashamed of using such foul language around them”. After I sent this message I prayed that God would intervene and touch his heart and let him know that I am not his enemy. He responded to the text with, “they are just words” and that my driving like a “mule” hurts people. At this point I could hear the Spirit speaking to me,
Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
When this verse came to mind, I knew God was in control and got excited to be under His guidance. Following His lead, I responded with, “Words are much more hurtful than someone trying to get into line at a traffic light. I will pray God will bless you anyway in spite of your foul language”. He responded, “Whatever”. It wasn’t over, I could hear the Spirit telling me to say something nice to him and with the emotional roller coaster I had been on for what he said and how he attacked my pride I told him, “By the way, nice truck”. It was the best I could come up with. I knew when I sent this text he would answer but I wasn’t prepared for this response even though I prayed that Jesus would speak to his heart. He soon replied with, “thanks, have a good day. I’m sorry for the foul language”. What? “Praise God!” I shouted and had the biggest smile on my face. I texted back saying, “Don’t sweat it. You have a blessed day also my friend.” His final response was, “Thanks.” The Lord told me he wanted the last word and to let him have it; I agreed.
What a Teacher our God is. He took a situation and allowed me to learn from it. My prayer is that a seed was planted in this young man and may it ripple throughout the ages. We don’t know what this will do for him or the ones he comes in contact with, but God does. “The meek shall inherit the earth”. Learning the meaning of this verse was profound and fulfilling at the same time. I was blessed by it tremendously. By adopting my brother’s philosophy we can find the examples that have been recorded for us that will help us stay on the narrow pathway as we walk towards everlasting glory. We will be awarded more grace when we are in His favor. So, in summary, to fear God is walking in the awareness of how awesome and powerful God is, and not daring to sin against Him (Exodus 20:20). This includes awareness of His ability to punish us (Matthew 10:28). He desires us to be favored and fulfilled in every area of our lives, forever.
Please pray with me, Father God, thank you so very much for your grace and mercy. Thank you for allowing me to serve you Lord. Let this message work in our hearts and help us apply the lessons we learn into our daily walk with You. Thank you for all that You have done and are doing. Father, I humbly ask for your favor; that you look on us as your children who hunger for your Word. Keep this hunger in us to search for your guidance. Grant us the knowledge of how to better serve You. Father help us understand that our fear is seated in our hearts to not fail You and to not turn away from You. Thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus. I pray we always remember what He did for us and why He did. I pray, in the Blessed name of Jesus, Amen.