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.)