The questions: how do I build a stronger faith or a more robust fear of God; how do I overcome consuming lust are the questions being considered in this series of posts.

Our fourth directive for doing this was to develop and sustain a strong faith or a robust fear of God you must not only hear and study God’s Word, but you must also meditate on it. On this post, I want to continue and conclude this series by mentioning some additional guidelines for accomplishing this.

At this point, since we are continuing the theme of the previous post, you may find it helpful to review the contents of that previous blog.

If you want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God “Be still and reflect on the mighty works of God.

The connection between doing this and developing godly fear is clearly illustrated in Exodus 14:31. In the earlier part of message 14 God’s people are between a rock and a hard place. They have just been released from cruel slavery to the Egyptians and are making their way toward the land of
Canaan.

They have come to the Red Sea only to discover that the Egyptians have changed their minds about letting them go and are now pursuing them with the determination of making them return. On the one side they face the Red Sea and on the other the powerful armies of Egypt with their chariots and horsemen. In marvelous ways God protected and delivered them. “And the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of
Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and … went in after them into the midst of the sea. And it came about … that the Lord … brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. And he caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty, so the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them …’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state …; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea …; not even one of them remained. … Thus the Lord saved
Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians …” (Exodus 14:19-30).

God did a mighty thing for His people that day; something that no man or group of men could have done. Well, what impact did this mighty act have on the Israelites? Scripture says that “when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord …” (Exodus 14:31) Miriam puts their God fearing response in words as she composes a song which is found in Exodus 15. In the middle of that song, Miriam says, “Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) As Miriam and other Israelites reflected on God’s mighty acts their fear of God was increased. When we look at the context of the verse about being still and knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10), we find that it is surrounded by reminders of God’s great and mighty acts. In the context, the Psalmist talks about God providing a river whose streams make glad the city of
God. He mentions God being our refuge and strength, a very present help. He refers to His ability to melt the earth with His voice. He encourages us to, “Come, behold the works of the Lord”. He mentions God’s ability to bring desolation and make wars cease to the end of the earth. He informs us that God can overcome and destroy the mightiest of military weapons. He indicates that these weapons are no match for God. It’s easier for God to snap the mightiest weapons in two than it is for us to snap a toothpick in two. What is he saying but that we should be still and while being still we should think carefully about the mighty acts of God? Scripture says that “God made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of
Israel.” (Psalm 103:7).

From its beginning to its end, the Bible is filled with reminders of the great things God has done. This ought to cause us to ask, “Why does God do this? Why is He constantly reminding us of these mighty acts? Why are they recorded for us? Was God just filling space by doing this? Were these things recorded just for informational, historical purposes?” Obviously not! They were recorded for some very practical purposes, for motivational purposes. And without a doubt, one of chief motivational purposes for which these accounts are found in the Bible is to motivate us to a deeper and fuller fear of God.

So if you want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God, be still and reflect often on the mighty acts of God. Think much about the mighty acts of your God and you will have much fear; think little about the mighty acts of your God and you will have little fear; think not at all about the mighty acts and you will have no fear of God at all. (Deuteronomy 4:9; Joshua 4:20-24; I Samuel 12:24)

The questions: how do I build a stronger faith or a more robust fear of God; how do I overcome consuming lust are the questions being considered in this series of posts. We come now to factor number four which is you must not only hear and study God’s Word, you must also meditate on it.

A. Ask God the question, “How can I develop and sustain  a robust fear of God in my life?” and one of the answers He will give is, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). 1. You want to know me, you want to know about who I really am, what I am like? You want have an experiential knowledge of my greatness, my glory, my majesty? 2. Well then, you must be still, you must be willing to think, you must take charge of your mind, control your thoughts and actions. a. You must stop frenetically running around, keeping yourself so busy mentally or physically that you miss me. You must periodically, regularly, often make time to focus on me, to think about me. You must not let your mind think about whatever it wants to think. b. You must deliberately make yourself focus on who and what I am. If you are not willing to do this, you cannot know me in an in depth way and you will not fear me in a constructive, powerful way. To know me as I really am and to fear me as you ought, “You must be still and know that I am God.”B. Please don’t misunderstand what God means by being still. He’s not just telling us to sit around and relax and be passive. He’s telling us to be still for the purpose of knowing Him. What then should we think about while we’re being still that would help us to know God and fear God?  Here are several important things you should do while you are being still that will help you grow in your understanding and appreciation of God. 1.   Be still and reflect on your own sinfulness, your own nothingness, your own unworthiness, your own inadequacy. a. Many would tell us that we should make ourselves think about how great we are, about our own value, about how important we are. Scripture would tell us the opposite. b. Again and again, in Scripture God reminds us of how desperately wicked and undeserving we are apart from Him and His grace.        1). Read through 1 to 3 of Romans; read through Ephesians 2; read through Colossians 1 to 3; read I Timothy 1; read 2 Timothy 3 and note what these passages say about what you are by nature.       2) Reflect often on the verses we mentioned from Jeremiah 32 and 17 and Ezekiel 11 and 26 about the condition of our hearts and lives by nature. Memorize and  meditate on verses that remind you of who and what you are and what you deserve apart from Christ.       3) Review  verses such as Romans 7:14-23, I Corinthians 15:8; Ephesians 3:8;  I Timothy 1:15; Isaiah 64:6.  c. Most of the Bible was written to and for people who were already the professing people of God. 1) Why then does it include so many references to our sinfulness and depravity? Professing believers already know that they are sinners and can only be saved by grace. 2) So why repeat this fact again and again? Because God knows we are so prone to forget this fact. God knows it is good for us to remember what we were and, to some  extent, still is so that we will appreciate Him and our so great salvation even more. i. If you want to increase your faith or your fear of God quotient, make it a point to frequently reflect on your sins of omission and commission, sins of attitude, thought, word, actions and reactions, on what you do that you shouldn’t do, what you don’t do that you should do, on your internal and external sins. ii. Do a thorough Bible study using a good concordance on the biblical doctrine of sin looking up every reference to the different Bible words  used for sin. Write down your reflections and what you learn from this study in a fear of God notebook  and review your notes frequently. This  will be of great help to you in developing and sustaining a robust godly fear. iii. Read a Puritan book about sin such as Edward Reynolds’s The Sinfulness of Sin, or Thomas Goodwin’s Man’s Guiltiness Before God. iv. Read and study our book A Fight to the Death where we unpack what the Bible says about the seriousness of sin. d. So if you want to develop a strong fear of God,  be still and meditate on your sinfulness.  2. Then too, if you want to  develop a robust fear of God, be still and think much about God’s so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). a. As we have already noted in the first post on this subject, the apostle Peter believed that an understanding of and reflection on our so great redemption should motivate us to live all of our lives in the fear of God (I Peter 1:17-19). b. Paul’s life is a testimony to the motivating power that thoughts about redemption can have in developing and sustaining a God centered manner of life. 1) In Galatians 6:14 Paul tells us that he has only one thing to brag  about and that is the cross of Jesus Christ. He could have at this point listed a number of his accomplishments as things to brag about, but he didn’t. Why? Because he knew what he had been and still was – a sinner in need of the grace of Christ. He understood and appreciated God, His grace, the cross of Christ because he knew how desperately he needed grace and how freely God offered that grace through the cross of Christ. And this continual reflection became a motivating factor in his living a God centered, God fearing life. 2) When we turn to I Timothy 1:13-17 we see the same scenario played out again in Paul’s life. In verses 13 and 14 he describes what he was before God saved him – extremely sinful;  he then goes on in verse 15 to describe what he now is – “the chief of sinners”.  The impact that these reflections have on Paul is twofold: i. First, in verses 14 and 15 he is motivated to magnify the grace of God for the salvation that he now experiences through Christ Jesus . He’s been a Christian for many  years. He has been mightily used of God. He has founded many churches, been used of God in bringing many to faith in Christ. He has written many powerful letters included in our Bible containing many important theological truths and helpful principles. Yet, he is just as excited about God, God’s grace, Christ Jesus, salvation, ministry as he was when he first became a Christian. Why? Because he frequently took the time to be still and remember God’s so great salvation. ii. Second, the reflection on God’s so great salvation motivated Paul to give God praise and glory. “For this reason, in order that in me as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example of those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” ( I Timothy 1:16,17). Do you see what effect  Paul’s reflection on God’s so great salvation had on Him? It motivated Him to trust, love, obey and serve, hope in, stand in awe of and glorify and magnify God. iii. Many years ago, John Bunyan wrote this about the development of godly fear: “Godly fear flows from a sense of the love and kindness and mercy of God by Jesus Christ. There can be none of this fear, but rather wrath and despair, which produces a fear that is … devilish; … but godly fear flows from a sense of hope and mercy from God by Jesus Christ.” (John Bunyan, ibid, p.424)In similar fashion, John Brown in his comments on I Peter 1:17-19 writes, “Nothing is so well suited to put the fear of God … into the heart, as an enlightened view of the cross of Christ. There shine spotless holiness, inflexible justice, incomprehensible wisdom, omnipotent power, holy love. None of the excellencies darken or eclipse the other. But everyone of them rather gives luster to the rest.” (John Brown, Commentary of I Peter, ? )c.  To help you in your thoughts about God’s so great salvation, get out a concordance and do a thorough study on such subjects as the grace of God, the cross of Christ, justification, forgiveness and redemption. Select verses on these subjects from your studies and memorize them and meditate on them. Do a verse-by-verse study of Romans 3:24 through Romans 6:23. Writing down your reflections and what you learn from this study in a fear of God notebook  and reviewing your notes frequently will be of great help to you in developing and sustaining a robust godly fear. d. Read and meditate on books such as Jerry Bridges’ Transforming Grace, The Disciplines of Grace, Charles Spurgeon’s All of Grace, John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners¸ Thomas Goodwin’s The Object and Acts of Justifying Faith, James White’s The God Who Justifies, John MacArthur’s The Murder of Jesus,  and Michael Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. e. So if you want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God, be still and reflect often on your so great salvation. Think much about the greatness of your salvation and you will have much fear; think little about the greatness of your salvation and you will have little fear; think not at all about the greatness of your salvation and you will have no fear of God at all.  3. 3rd, if you want to develop – then learn to be still and think about God’s attributes. a. We’ve probably all heard the little statement “out of sight, out of mind”. Like it or not, that statement is often (usually) true. We tend to be influenced by the things that we keep in our sight whether literally (visually) or mentally. What we actually see tends to influence us the most. What we  mentally focus on is what will influence our feelings, our desires, our choices and our actions. Stop thinking about God or think of Him wrongly (i.e., unbiblically) and His influence in your life will be minimized if not eliminated.b. When Isaiah “saw the Lord  sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple”, he was powerfully affected. He saw his own sinfulness and nothingness and cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! … For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” He gladly volunteered for ministry and said, “Here am I. Send me!” He never even asked what God was going to send him to do or where God was going to send him or when he would have to go or what sacrifices he would have to make or how easy or difficult his ministry would be. He had seen the Lord and that provided all the motivation he needed.c. When John, the apostle saw the greatness and majesty of Christ, he fell down before him as a dead man and then gladly accepted the  ministry Christ gave him to do (Revelation 1:12-19). He saw the Lord and His inevitable, reflexive reaction to that sight was godly fear which included all the aspect of that fear described in the last message.d. When Moses saw the Lord as He really is, he “made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship” and he was motivated to do the things that constitute the essence of the fear of God mentioned in the last message of this book.e. When Job was reminded of the greatness, power, sovereignty, wisdom, majesty and uniqueness of God (Job messages 38-41), his response illustrates what it means to fear God. He said, “I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. Who is this (referring to himself) that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak. I will ask Thee and do Thou instruct me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes see Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.  (Job 42:1-6)  At this point in his life Job became still and became focused on the greatness and majesty of God. The  result? Trust, humility, confession, repentance, love, hope, awe, reverence, praise, adoration, submission – the fear of God.f. In his comments on the importance of a proper understanding of who and what God is in developing and sustaining a robust fear of God, John Bunyan writes: “God may well be called the fear of His people … because of the dread and terrible majesty that is in Him. ‘He is a mighty God, and terrible, and with God is terrible majesty.” (Daniel 7:28; 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5; 4:14; 9:32; Job 37:22).His people know Him, and have this dread upon them, by virtue whereof there is begot and maintained in them that godly awe and reverence which is agreeable to their profession of Him. ‘Let Him be your fear; let Him be your dread.’ Set Him before the eyes of your souls, and let His excellency make you afraid with godly fear (Isaiah 8:12,13).” (John Bunyan, ibid, p.424) g. To help you in your thoughts about God’s attributes, get out a concordance and do a thorough study on such subjects as the holiness of God, the goodness of God, the sovereignty of God, the power of God, the eternality of God, the immutability of God, the omnipresence of God, the wisdom and knowledge of God, the patience of God, the love of God, the wrath of God. Select verses on these subjects from your studies and memorize them and meditate on them. h. Reflect on passages such as Isaiah 40; Psalm 104-108, 135 and 136 and many other Psalms and portions of Scripture. Review these passages regularly. Writing down your reflections and what you learn from this study in a fear of God notebook  and reviewing your notes frequently will be of great help to you in developing and sustaining a robust godly fear.i. Read and meditate on books such as Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God, The Joy of Fearing God , J.I. Packer’s  Knowing God; Stephen Charnock’s masterful book The Existence and Attributes of God, A.W. Pink’s Attributes of God, John Macarthur’s God: Coming Face To Face With His Majesty or John Bunyan’s A Treatise on The Fear of God. Study the section of a good theology book such as Louis Berkhof’s systematic theology on the doctrine of God.j. So, if you want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God, be still and reflect often on the attributes of God. Think much about the greatness of your God and you will have much fear; think little about the greatness of your God and you will have little fear; think not at all about the greatness of God and you will have no fear of God at all.  (The subject of this post will be continued and concluded on the next blog.)

What you will find in this post is the third part of an answer to a question raised by a reader about how to develop a stronger faith and overcome consuming lust. The third essential factor for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust takes us back to the basics again. Before i mention this third factor, I want to encourage you not to refuse to think seriously about it because in your judgment it is so basic. Remember the exhortation of Vince Lombardi on another front that we mentioned in the last blog: victories are won by paying attention to the basics and failure occurs because we fail to learn and practice the basics with abandonment. So here’s basic factor number three for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust:  to develop and sustain a stronger faith and a more robust fear of God you must consistently and submissively study God’s Word.

 

Sometime ago I wrote a book called The Twin Pillars of the Christian Life. One of these pillars was the pillar of fervent prayer that we mentioned in the previous post. The other factor that my book addresses is the pillar of Bible Study. These are the pillars of the Christian life on which a vibrant spiritual life must be built. Though very basic, we must understand that here can be no substitute for either these pillars.  Mark it down, don’t overlook it: if you want to develop a strong faith that will overcome sinful patterns and a robust fear of God that is necessary for progress in the Christian life, you will never develop and sustain these essential qualities apart from fervent prayer and the faithful study of His Word. Again as mentioned in the former post, the battles of the Christian life are won or lost because people either faithfully practice or don’t practice these two disciplines.

 

The crucial importance of faithful and submissive Bible study is suggested by numerous verses in which the fear of God is mentioned. I will quote a few of these verses and, as I do, I will emphasize (underline) certain words that will help us to get an answer to the ‘yes, but how’ question.

1. Deut. 4:10 – “Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My Words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth…” (Deuteronomy 4:10); 

2. Deut. 6:1,2 – “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you … so that you and your son, and your grandson might fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6:1,2);3. Deut. 8:6 – “Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6);4. Deut. 13:4 – “You shall … fear Him, and …listen to His voice…” (Deuteronomy 13:45. Deut. 14:23 “… in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23); 6. Deut. 17:19 – “… and he shall read it (God’s Word) all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19);7. Deut. 31:12 “…and all
Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:21);
“Assemble  the people … in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12);

8. Psalm 34:11 – “Come you children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11); 

From these verses we may draw several conclusions about how to develop and sustain the fear of God in our lives.

Several times we notice in these verses that hearing and listening are associated with developing the fear of God. Romans 10:17 informs us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  In other words, if we want to have a strong faith we must put ourselves in a place where we will hear God’s Word being faithfully preached. Faith doesn’t float around in the air and mysteriously grab us. God uses His preached Word to strengthen our faith. People who want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God must faithfully,diligently and attentively hear God’s Word being preached. This  is one of theprimary instruments God uses in building this quality into our lives.

Still further these verses teach us that people who want to develop a stronger fear of God must make this a priority in their lives and they must do it regularly.

And, they must make sure that the preaching they are listening to is really an expository ministry. It is not some man’s ideas, it is not the theories of psychologists or philosophers or sociologists that promote the fear of God. It is the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. There can be no neglect, nor substitute for this. 

The second conclusion we may draw from these verses we just read is set of verses that the fear of God is that developing and sustaining the fear of God will involve the use of the mind. To become God-fearing people we must be students, we must put forth an effort to learn. Being a student obviously involves studying. If you don’t study, you have no right to think of yourself or present yourself as a student. Sitting around watching television or even sitting in a church auditorium or classroom doesn’t necessarily mean you are a student or that you are learning anything.

 

You may just be sitting there occupying space. You may not be learning or retaining or processing anything that is being said. No one can be considered a learner unless they retain, process and benefit from what is being said. And, again please note that growing in the fear of God is associated with being taught, studying and learning the Word of God.  

In our book, The Fear Factor, we define the fear of God in this way (and what we said about the fear of God can also be said about true faith): the fear of God is a reflex attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding of who and what God is.

1. The word “reflex”indicates that our attitudes and emotions automatically respond to something. When our hand touches an extremely hot surface, we don’t have to tell our hand, nor make our hand move away from that surface. Because of the nerve endings in our hand, our hand just automatically jerks away from the hot surface.

 

When I use the word “reflex” in association with the development of the fear of God or a stronger faith, I mean that when a certain thing happens we will naturally, automatically respond with the fear of God and have a stronger faith.

 

2. The word “reaction” in our definition conveys a similar idea. What we’re saying is that the fear of God (or a stronger faith) is more of a “reaction” than it is an action. It is something that happens rather than something we directly make happen. Only in an indirect way do we make the fear of God and a stronger faith happen.  The fear of God happens because something else has happened. And unless that something else happens we will never develop and sustain the fear of God.

 

The question then is: what is it that causes the fear of God or a stronger faith to develop? What must happen for the fear of God to happen? The rest of our definition answers these questions.

1. The fear of God happens as we gain and maintain an accurate understanding of who and what the God of the Bible is. In other words, it happens as we hear and listen to God and His Word; it happens as we continue to study and learn, as we continue to accurately think about and meditate on God and His Word.

2. This is the method God uses to make our fear of God quotient stronger. You simply can’t expect to have a strong fear of God quotient if you are unwilling to be a perpetual student of God’s Word.

 

Interestingly, Psalm 19:9 makes this connection between the diligent study of God’s Word and the development of the fear of God unmistakably clear by calling the Bible “the fear of the Lord”. Obviously, the Bible is called “the fear of the Lord” because it is a primary means by which God develops and sustains this quality in our lives.

 

In his book on the fear of God, John Bunyan writes, “The fear of God flows from … a sound impression that the Word of God makes on our souls; for without an impress of the Word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said that God gave Israel good laws, statutes and judgments that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord their God …For as to the extent that a man drinks good doctrine into his soul, so to that extent he fears God; if he drinks in much, he fears Him greatly; if he drinks in but little, He fears Him but little; if he drinks not at all, He fears Him not at all.” (John Bunyan, ibid, p. 424)

 

So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the study of God’s Word a regular and diligent discipline in your life.. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture, as noted in the earlier part of this blog, makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully study His Word.

 

This, then, is the third factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of diligent and submissive Bible study..

 

John Bunyan was absolutely convinced that a diligent study of God’s Word played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the fear of God in our souls. He could hardly have made that point more clearly. According to Bunyan, drink much of the Word of God and you will have much of the fear of God, drink little and you will have little, drink not at all and you will have none is his conviction. And, according to the Scripture, he was right! This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor

(God willing, we will move on to another extremely important factor in the near future. I have just been dismissed from the hospital after a minor hart problem. So it may be a little while before I actually post the next factor, but Lord willing it will come. )

 

 

 

In this post, I’m continuing to respond to one of the questions a person who reads our blogs raised in the comment section to one of our blogs. One of the questions he asked was “how do you overcome unbelief and doubt” and the answer I’m giving this series is really related to the question how do you develop a more robust fear of God? But what I’m writing about in terms of how to develop a robust fear of God is the same answer I would give to the question “how do I develop a stronger faith and overcome unbelief”? (And as I previously mentioned, the answer I’ll give in this series of blogs is also the answer to another question raised by a responder about how to overcome consuming lust.) Now here’s an absolutely essential second factor for developing and sustaining a robust fear of God or developing and maintaining a strong faith: to develop and sustain the fear of god you must be devoted to fervent and persistent prayer. “You have not because you ask not” or because you ask for purely selfish reasons is the word of God that explains why the faith of many of us is weak (James 4:2, 3).

Several years ago when Vince Lombardi was a well known coach of one of the best and winningest American professional football teams he stood one day at the beginning of the season before his seasoned, very experienced football players and brought a stirring message to them. He was attempting to motivate them to become a strong, dedicated, skilled and winning football team. There they sat before him as a group of massive human beings eagerly waiting for instructions from their experienced and knowledgeable coach; there they sat wondering what pearls of wisdom about how to be a winning team would come from his lips. And what did he say? He said something similar to what he had often said and would often say in the future. It’s reported that he said something like this, “Gentlemen, if you want to be a good, strong, winning football team you must concentrate on the basics. The game of football is not really that complicated. When you boil it all down, the game of football consists of blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching and doing all these basics with abandonment. Let’s get back to the basics. That’s how you win football games by learning and doing the basics well. Teams lose football games because they neglect the basics.”

Well, the message that Vince Lombardi brought to his football team is the message I’d like to bring to Christians who want to build a strong faith in God and a robust fear of God. My message is, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to get back to the basics. It’s time for us to learn and practice and do the basics of Christianity well and with abandonment. Instead of looking for new techniques and gimmicks for developing super duper Christian lives, for building a strong faith and increasing in the fear of God, let’s get back to learning and practicing Christianity 101. That’s how to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And failure to practice the basics well is why many Christians are losing the battles in their spiritual lives.”

In Psalm 86:11 the Psalmist is an example for all of us who want to be more God-fearing in our approach to life. Here we find him praying, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” David who wrote this Psalm teaches us several things about becoming a more God-fearing or a person with a strong faith. One, he makes it clear that you have to begin with the heart. The fear of God (or strong faith) is developed in the heart before it is ever experienced anywhere else. If we have a powerful fear of God it will emerge from the heart. If we lack the fear of God, something is wrong in our hearts. Two, David realized that for a person to have a robust fear of God his heart had to be united. David knew that his heart was the mission control center of his life; he realized that if his heart was not united nothing else would come out right in his life. He was aware that a double hearted or triple hearted or quadruple hearted person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). He knew that his heart was the reservoir from which all of the issues of life flowed (Proverbs 4:23). He realized that frequently our hearts are divided in terms of their focus. He knew that sometimes our hearts begin to drift or become distracted from what is really important.

Sometimes we lose our focus, and like Martha, we become focused on many things rather than the one thing that is needful (Luke 10:38-42). Sometimes our hearts get out of control and run off in many different directions. Sometimes we forget that the fear of God should be a priority issue with us. David knew that he couldn’t control his heart on His own. He knew this was too big a task for Him. He knew that if his heart was to be united, God had to give him strength to do it. This petition was both an expression of his desire and also an expression of weakness. He realized he desperately needed the help of God if he were to have a united heart controlled by the fear of God.

In essence, David has learned the lesson about prayer that Jesus was teaching in the model prayer He gives us in Matthew 6:9-13. In this prayer Jesus used different words than the ones David did, but the meaning is the same. He said that when we pray we should begin by praying that God’s name (which represents who and what He is) would be hallowed. And what is it to hallow God’s name? It is to set it apart as holy, unique, worthy of reverence and holy respect. By indicating that this is the first petition we should pray, Jesus was teaching us that reverence for God should be a primary focus of our lives and prayers. And, the fact that he taught us to pray that God’s name would be hallowed indicates that we can’t do this without the help of God.

Developing and sustaining a healthy, robust fear of God should be a primary emphasis in our prayer lives. We will never be able to give God the respect and reverence that is His due apart from His help. You show me a person who isn’t praying the way David prayed in Psalm 86:11 and the way Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9 and I’ll show you a person in whose life the fear of God or his faith in God is very small or non-existent.

So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the acquisition of such a matter of fervent and persevering prayer. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully ask Him for these gifts (James 4:2; 5:17; Matthew 7:7 – 11; Luke 11:13).

This, then, is the second factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of devoted prayer. This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor. I close this blog with a paraphrase of a statement made by John Piper. He wrote, “Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power and no prayer, no power.” Well, I say, “Much of the right kind of prayer, much faith; little prayer, little faith and no prayer, no faith.” (God willing, we will move on to other factors in the near future.)

In this post, I’m kind of responding to one of the questions Scott raised in the comment section to one of our blogs. I say “kind of responding” because one of the questions he asked was “how do you overcome unbelief and doubt” and the answer I’m going to give in the next few blogs is really related to the question how do you develop a more robust fear of God?

At first glance, what I’m going to say about how to develop a robust fear of God may not appear to relate his question, but, in my judgment, my answer does very much relate. It is my conviction that the answer to the question “how do I develop a robust fear of God” is the same as the answer to the question “how do I get rid of my doubts and develop a strong faith”?

(Actually, the answer I’ll give in this series of blogs is also the answer to another question raised by a responder about how to overcome consuming lust.)

If Scott or anyone else is saying, “I really do want to develop or increase and sustain a more healthy, wholesome, robust fear of God (i.e., a strong faith in God). I really do want to be a truly God fearing person, i.e., a strong believer. Will you please tell me how I can become and remain that kind of person? I want it, I need it, but how do I get it?” my next few blogs should be very helpful. In these posts I want to point Scott and all of us who claim to be Christians to some biblical directives for doing the very thing the previous quote from Scott indicates he desires to have happen. If the fear of God (or a strong faith) is as important for us as Christians as the Bible clearly indicates it is, we might expect that God would give us information about how to develop it. And, indeed He has! In these posts we’re going to see that God has much to say about this aspect of developing, increasing and sustaining the fear of God in our lives.

I begin in this post with factor number 1 which is: to develop and sustain the fear of God you must have a change of heart. (Hang with me: this is only the first installment. There is more to come, but we must begin with factor number 1 because it is foundational to all the other factors.)

To understand how to develop and sustain a healthy, robust fear of God it’s important for us to note that we don’t just naturally fear God. With all that the Bible says about the majesty and glory of God we might be tempted to think that men would automatically fear God or have a strong faith in God.

Understanding who God is, what He has done and still does and the benefits that come to people who fear Him, we may be inclined to ask the same questions that Jeremiah and the people in Revelation asked: “Who would not fear Thee, O King of the Nations?” (Jeremiah 10:7); “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?” (Revelation 15:4) It seems irrational, absurd, unbelievable that people would not automatically fear and reverence someone who is as great and majestic as God is, someone who has the power and ability that God has, someone who has done and still does what God has done and continues to do.

In reality, when you consider the greatness of God, there is nothing more reasonable than the fear of God. To not fear Him is the height of absurdity. Yet the Scripture declares and our experience illustrates the fact that men don’t naturally fear God. In God’s description of what characterizes the whole of the human race (Romans 3:9 – both Jews and Greeks are under sin) since the time of Adam, He says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). In this verse Paul is probably quoting an Old Testament text that says essentially the same thing: “There is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). “There is no fear of God in this place” was the way that Abraham described the society in which he lived. The situation has not changed. The society in which we live in the twenty first century is still devoid of the fear of God. Unregenerate, unredeemed men don’t by nature fear God. Instead of fearing God, men automatically fear man (Proverbs 29:25; Romans 1:23, 25). By nature, men are more concerned with the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43).

If that is true, the question that naturally arises is: what must happen for men who don’t naturally fear or trust God to begin to do this? Thankfully, the Scriptures give a very clear answer to this question. God provides an answer through the inspired prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32. In that message, God says this about the people whom He says He will make His people and for whom He will become their God (Jeremiah 32:38), “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me always … I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me” (Jeremiah 32:39, 40). For people to fear God, God has to supernaturally put that fear in their hearts. Earlier in Jeremiah, God has described the hearts of men before He gives them a new heart as being deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Before God gives to men a new heart they oppose the God of the Bible, they resist and rebel against this God (Romans 1:18-25; 8:5-8; Mark 7:21-23; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 1:5; Genesis 6:5). Sometimes this heart resistance and rebellion is covert and sometimes overt, sometimes violent (easily recognized) and sometimes more subtle and even disguised.

Nonetheless, the hearts (a word that is used metaphorically to describe our inner man, our soul, the non-physical part of us as human beings, the core of our being, the mission control center of our lives) of all men resist God and don’t fear God in the way described in the last message of this book.

For a person to truly fear God, some important internal changes must take place, changes that only God can make. This change is variously described in Scripture. Jeremiah indicates that for this change from a lack of fear of God to a fear of God to occur, God must perform heart surgery. He must give that person a new heart. He must change that person on the inside, at the very core of his being. In the book of Ezekiel, God describes this same indispensable operation in two passages: First, He does it in Ezekiel 11: 19, 20: “I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes and keep my ordinances to do them.” Then He does it again in message 26:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes”. In both of these Ezekiel passages, God makes it clear that the problem with people in terms of their attitude toward and relationship with Him is a heart problem. They have a heart of stone and need a heart of flesh. What they need is a new heart, a new spirit; a heart of flesh. Their heart of stone (a heart that was impervious to God and His Word, a heart that was uncaring about God, a heart that was committed to an antiGod focus in life, a heart that was insensitive and inflexible, a heart that lacked the fear of God) needed to be replaced with a heart of flesh (a heart that was soft and impressionable and responsive, a heart that was sensitive, a heart that was tender and compliant to God and His Word). Ezekiel 26 refers to filthiness and idolatry. Where was the primary location of that filthiness and idolatry? The references to needing a new heart and a new spirit indicate that the change and cleansing that was needed was internal. Ezekiel message 14 mentions that the problem with people is heart idolatry (Ezekiel 14:1-9) and message 11:21 mentions that their hearts are going after detestable things and abominations (i.e., that which is an abomination to the Lord). The problem of man, then and now, is a heart problem. So the cleansing that Ezekiel 26 says men need is a cleansing that is not merely external, but primarily internal.
As with all of us, these people needed to be cleaned up on the inside; because that’s where the real problem was. For them to become God centered, God fearing, they needed to be cleaned up on the inside, they needed to receive a new heart, a new disposition, a new spirit, a new internal control center. No one fears God in the Biblical way until this has occurred. In his comments on this passage Matthew Henry has rightly said, “We cannot sanctify God’s name unless he sanctify our hearts, nor live to His glory, but by grace alone.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Volume IV, Revell, New York, 962) Turning to the New Testament, we find the same truth about our need for an inner change before we can be rightly related to God and become God fearing people emphasized in many places. I Corinthians 6:9-10 describes what the Corinthians were like before they became Christians. They lived lives of debauchery and immorality, there was no fear of God before their eyes – they lived for themselves, they lived to please people, they did what they wanted to do, they had no regard for the God of the Bible, they had the hearts of stone of which Ezekiel was speaking. But Paul says something happened to them that changed them; he says, “Such were some of you” indicating that they were no longer living that way. What had happened to change their orientation to life? Verse 11 explains what made the change – they had been washed (cleaned up on the inside), they had been justified (declared righteous) through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. And more than that, the change had occurred because they had been set apart by the Holy Spirit. They heard the Word of God and, as they did, the Spirit of God convicted them of their sin, brought them to repentance over their sin and to faith in Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit using God’s Word and through the atoning work of Jesus Christ they had been cleansed on the inside and the inside cleansing then manifested itself in their changed attitude toward themselves, toward sin, toward life and especially toward God. In the words of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God gave them a new heart, a new spirit, a new disposition that enabled them to do what they could not have done previously. He replaced their old inner control center which was under the control of sin with a new inner control center under the control of God. Or in the words of Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians, Christ had come to them through the Gospel and by the Spirit and had made them new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As a result, they could bring glory to God and live a God fearing life (I Corinthians 6:19, 20; 10:31).

How can we develop the fear of God or a stronger faith in God? How can we overcome unbelief and doubt? The first requirement for developing and sustaining a God – fearing manner of life is being cleaned up on the inside, receiving forgiveness through the sacrificial death of Christ (I John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21); being declared righteous by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ (Romans 3:24, 25) by faith in Christ alone. When that happens, a person becomes a new creature in Christ, receives a new heart and spirit which God provides for all who come to Him through Christ and becomes indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who enables Him to live a God centered and God honoring life (Romans 8:9-13; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:17-19). As Peter puts it in I Peter 1, because a person is redeemed by Christ he should and can live his entire life on this earth as a God fearing person. Experiencing redemption from the penalty and power of our sin sets us free to live our lives in the fear of the Lord. (I Peter 1:17-19). This kind of a life is only possible for those who have been redeemed, but it is possible for all who are redeemed. John Bunyan explains, “This fear flows from a new heart. This fear is not in man by nature; the fear of devils they may have, as also an ungodly fear of God, but this fear is not in any, but where there dwelleth a new heart, another fruit and effect of this everlasting covenant, and of this distinguishing love of God. …So then, until a man receive a heart from God, a heart from heaven, a new heart, he has not this fear of God in him. … This fear of God must not be, cannot be found in old hearts; old hearts are not bottles out of which this fear proceeds, but it is from an honest and good heart, from a new one, from such an one that is also the effect of the everlasting covenant, and the love of God to men. He therefore that has not received at the hands of God a new heart, cannot fear the Lord.” (John Bunyan, The Complete Works of John Bunyan, Volume II, The National Foundation for Christian Education, Marshallton, Delaware, p.423.) This, then, is the first factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts you must examine yourself to make sure you really have had a supernatural change of heart.

This is only one of many factors, but since it is a foundational factor to everything else I will say in future blogs I wanted to begin here in that here is where God starts. (God willing, we will move on to other factors in the near future.)

I’m not sure what Dad is up to.

I know that he is busy preaching, teaching and writing but he obviously hasn’t been able to post anything on the blog in a long time.  If anyone is interested I’m still writing over at Africabound

I thought though if Dad still reads this blog and has the time (which is a big if) he might answer one or two of the following questions left by Scott on a previous blog-entry:

“1.) How do you overcome unbelief and doubt?2.)How do you overcome lust when it seems the only thing that you can think about?

3.) I don’t know how to listen to the Holy Spirit and I don’t know if it’s Him or me?

I struggle a lot with anxiety over these issues and I have a hard time just believing God at His Word.”

I think there are two really, really basic mistakes you don’t want to make if you are an expository preacher. Yet the crazy thing is, I’m convinced these are two of the most common mistakes preachers make.

The first mistake is not to carefully exposit the passage you are preaching.

Exposit is not too hard a word to understand. When it comes to preaching we can say it means to expose people to the meaning of the text.

Not merely the words of the text, not merely the grammar of the text, not merely the setting of the text, the meaning of the text. (As the author intended it…) When we say we’re expository preachers that’s a big part of what we’re saying we’re trying to do.

That’s sometimes difficult to do but the idea itself is not that complicated. If I stood up to teach on the boy who cried wolf and I said my goal was to help people understand what it means, I would be lying if I said the point was about how to herd sheep. I’d be foolish if I spent all this time on wolves and the different kinds of wolves and what you should do if you see a wolf because that’s not the point of the text. I mean if I am going to do that I should at the very least not say that I’m expositing the story because I’ll give people the impression that I’m actually trying to help understand the story when in reality I’m just interested in using the story to say what I wanted to say in the first place.

The second mistake though is just as common and that is not to preach the passage you are expositing.

Now I’m getting on a little shakier ground. But hear me out. Again you just can go back to the word itself.

Preaching at the very least is communication. It’s more than that I’m sure, but it is that. It is taking a truth that you’ve learned from studying the text and finding a way to communicate it to other people so that they can understand that truth and change in the way God wants them to as a result.

I guess what I’m saying there are people who when they are preaching, you just wonder whether or not they have any concern about the text. They are not expositors. There are other people though who when they are expositing, you wonder whether or not they have any concern about communicating. Are they preachers?

Is it possible to be a preacher and not be passionate about effectively communicating the truth of God’s Word? To get more specific, is it possible to be passionate about effectively communicating the truth of God’s Word without a concern for God’s Word or a concern for the people you are communicating the truth to?

A little information on what one of Charles Spurgeon’s biographers called “The Greatest Sermon Spurgeon ever preached…”

I recently received an email from Doug Nichols, International Director of Action International Ministries. As I read what Doug wrote, I was reminded of numerous times when I have seen women, older people and handicapped people treated in the inconsiderate and selfish way that the women of whom Doug writes were treated. Some of what is occurring may be due to ignorance or lack of thoughtfulness, but I think as Brother Nichols suggests, the problem usually goes much deeper than that – it reveals a heart problem wherein self interest and an endemic bent to seek our own comfort and pleasure reigns supreme.  

And, unfortunately, the problem Brother Nichols describes is prevalent among professing Christians as well as among those who make no profression of faith. We might expect unbelievers to be selfish and disrespectful and inconsiderate, but such should not be the case with those who are called to be followers of the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Such should not be the case of those who are called to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than “themselves'” (Philippians 2:3). Rather, it should be a characteristic of all of us who call Christ Lord that we “do not merely look out for ‘our’ own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).   

What Doug wrote resonated with me for the reason I have already mentioned, but even more importantly, because it has broader and deeper implications in terms of why Christians fail to fulfill many of the commands of Christ about evangelism, missions and ministry to the poor and disadvantaged people of our world.

Now here is the portion of Doug’s email that stimulated me to write this blog. I encourage you to think about what he wrote and consider how it may apply to you and to your church.

“NO SEATS!  This morning on the airport bus from a Chicago suburb to O’Hare
the bus was more than full.  On the over one hour trip I stood as well as
three women.  There were many young men sitting as well as children with
parents.  No one offered his/her seat to the women.  This attitude of  “my
comfort and me first” might also be in the church.  We teach by our actions
that our personal and family concerns are most important and do not think of
others around us, so why do we think our family and friends will have
compassion for the needs of the gospel to the orphan, widows, street
children, and the poor of the world.”  “So, as those who have been chosen of
God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness …” (Colossians
3:12, NASB).

On a number of occasions I have been in meetings where there were more people in attendance than the main auditorium would hold. On those occasions, Christians were exhorted to be willing to sometimes give up their seats in the main meeting room and go to another room where they would watch and listen to the service as it was relayed to them electronically. This, of course, was suggested so that everyone would at least have some opportunity to be seated in the main auditorium.  Interestingly, I have watched as people ignored the exhortations and pleas of  the leaders of the conference and selfishly refused to yield to the interests of others. The idea seemed to be conveyed by a vast majority of the attendees was that “I do not and will not esteem others to be more important than myself. I am here to seek my own things and not the things of others. I will not sacrifice my own comfort or pleasure for the sake of others.” 

 Some may consider this kind of behavior to be trivial and unimportant and be tempted to say, “Why are you making such a big deal out of such a little thing?”  My answer to this question is that I suspect that if we behave in this way on little issues such as this, we probably will behave in selfish and inconsiderate ways in other areas of life and ministry as well. How we handle the “no seat” issues of life may very well explain why we are remiss in really sacrificing time and comfort and finances and energy for the cause of Christ in world missions and mercy ministries.

What do you think?

I love this comment about George Whitefield.

“No one who saw him could ever doubt that he enjoyed his religion.  Tried as he was in many ways through his ministry – slandered by some, despised by others, misrepresented by false brethren, opposed everywhere by the ignorant clergy of the time, worried by incessant controversy- his elasticity never failed him.  He was eminently a rejoicing Christian, whose very demeanor recommended his Master’s service.

A venerable lady of New York after his death when speaking of the influences by which the Spirit won her heart to God use these remarkable words – ‘Mr Whitefield was so cheerful that it tempted me to become a Christian.”

I wonder if people met us if they would think the same.  I wonder if they came into our worship services they would think the same.

As a side note, it’s interesting the author of this quote about Whitefield connects his cheerfulness with two other qualities… (TO READ THE REST CLICK HERE)

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