Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Fearing His Love"

"Fearing His Love"     
    Is it possible to love God without fearing Him?  The Bible plainly answers.

    "Fear God" (I Peter 2:17).
    "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

   Clearly, loving the Lord means that we obey the command to fear Him.  Many years ago, the subject arose as I communicated with a young man concerning our walk with the Lord.  "Fear God?" he expressed quizzically.  "Oh, that's Old Testament!  I believe in the New Testament and its message of love and grace."  I responded that I most surely concurred with his determination to rejoice in the peace of God's deliverance from "the wrath to come" whereby we no longer fear Divine judgment (I Thessalonians 1:10).  However, I reminded the young man that the New Testament also plainly calls us to "fear God."  He seemed to have an answer for this also, one that I've often heard over the years from pulpits and other sources.  "Oh, the word fear in the New Testament doesn't mean being afraid.  It means reverential awe."  This is actually not the case, at least in the primary meaning of "phobeo," the Greek root word from which "fear" is translated.  The word means to "put to fright by terrifying, or be gripped by alarm."  We get our word "phobia" from it (as my Spellcheck just informed me!).  I shared this definition with the young man.  He didn't seem to believe me, which I understood because reconciling love and fear presents a difficult concept to our hearts and minds.  

   I proceeded to explain that I recognize the challenge we all face regarding the matter.  "However," I said, "we must not compromise God's truth by fudging or parsing the meaning of words.  Nor must we impart our own inclinations to the Word of God rather than submitting ourselves to its plainly stated Truth.  If we misdefine 'phobeo,' we open the door to doing the same with every other word of Scripture."  The young man glanced at me with a somewhat dejected look of resignation.  "I see what you're saying" he said.  "But I just don't get it.  "How can you love someone you're afraid of?"  

   That is the question, isn't it?  Why does the God who so loves us nevertheless command that we fear Him?  The answer lies in the Biblical meaning not only of fear, but of love.  Scripture plainly declares that our Heavenly Father's devotion to us means that He always acts in accordance with our  best interests.  When we require tendermercies and lovingkindness, He applies such grace in a manner that encourages, comforts, and soothes our needy hearts.  He shows "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7).  However, when we require His chastening, or when He must lead us along painful pathways for the fulfillment of His purposes and our callings, He does not hesitate in allowing or even administering His love in ways that do not seem like love.  "Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore" declared the David who so well knew the devoted lovingkindness of God (Psalm 38:2).  The same love that caresses, as it were, also chastens as it ministers to our best interests more than to our comfort and pleasures.

   In essence, to rightly know God means that we not only rejoice in His love.  We also fear it, and thereby fear Him.  The concept may be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary to embrace if we are to obey the Word of God and rightly perceive our Lord.  In our present lives, His love will often feel like piercing arrows and a heavy hand.  Failure to fear such Divine devotion to our best interests sets us up for failure to properly respond when the love of God pierces and presses.  Delivered from the wrath to come?  Yes, and let us rejoice with "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Peter 1:8).  But we are also delivered to the chastening that corrects, and the challenges that conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus.  This is the love of God as accompanied by the fear of God in all who rightly perceive His necessary way of administering both the pleasant and the painful according to His glory and our best interests.

"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him, or whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
(Hebrews 12:5-11)

Weekly Memory Verse 
     The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
(John 10:10)

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