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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.)
My son, the other blogger on this site asked me to answer the question: How have you normally dealt with a person who just won’t stop talking? A conversation dominator in counseling? So here goes!
One answer to that question is the one I observed Bob Newhart giving on his television program when counseling a woman who said she was panic struck by the thought of being buried in a box. When this woman told him her problem he asked her if she was ready for the answer. She said she was and then asked if she should write his answer down. Newhart said that he didn’t think she’d need to do that because his answer would be only two words and he thought that most people could remember the two words without writing them down. Then he said, “Here are the two words: Stop it.” When she tried to bring up other problems he would either say, “We don’t go there” or “Stop it.”So my advice to the counselor who has a person who won’t stop talking is that he/she should say and keep saying, “Stop it” or “We don’t go there.”
Actually I’m just joking in what I just wrote. In reality, Newhart’s solution is only a part (the last part) of what I would do. There is much that I would do prior to using the Newhart technique. Before I lovingly and yet forthrightly told this person to “stop it” I would want to investigate this persons reason for wanting to dominate the conversation. Proverbs 18:13 warns us about answering a matter before we have really investigated what is going on. There may be many reasons why a person dominates the conversation in counseling and you can be fairly sure that if that person dominates the conversation in the counseling session they are also doing that outside the counseling session. This person’s behavior in counseling then becomes a counseling issue with which the counselor must deal.
Here are some of the most common reasons why a person may dominate conversations in or out of the counseling session:
1). Pride – Romans 12:3; 3 John 9, 10; Prov. 18:2;
2). Selfishness – lack of love for God and others – 2 Tim. 3:2;
3). Fear of silence, not wanting to appear dumb – Prov. 29:25;
5). Past training – parental influence, example, neglect;
6). Poor listening habits on the part of other people or on the part of the speaker;
7). Desire to control what is discussed thereby avoid talking about unpleasant issues – avoidance technique;
8). Desire to force other person into submission, convince, overpower;
9). Ignorance of the harm it does – Prov. 17:9;
10). Frustration, anger, desire to punish the other person;
11). Most important reason why some people overtalk = impure heart – Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45.
That brings us to the issue of how to help a person overcome the problem of talking too much or, in biblical terms, the problem of being a “babbling fool” (Proverbs 10:8, 19 in or out of the counseling session. Here are several suggestions:
1). Identify that the person has a problem in this area – mention your observation and give reasons for your observation.
2). Then ask them whether or not they recognize that they are doing this.
3). Then ask them to answer the question why they think they are doing this? Help them to identify the reason for their overtalk – why do you think you practice overtalk?
4). Have them read chapter 7 in Your Family God’s Way and take the inventory about the forms of overtalk at the end of the chapter and also have them complete the inventory about the reasons for overtalk at the end of the chapter.
5). Have them study and reflect on the Scriptures that deal with overtalk such as Proverbs 10:8,19; 17:9; 15:28; Ephesians 5:3,4.
6). Have them memorize such verses as Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 17:27, 28 and review these verses regularly.
7). For a period of time have them keep a daily journal in which at the end of the day they evaluate their communication efforts in terms of times they dominated and why they did it.
8). Remind them that overtalk that violates biblical principles is sin. .
9). Tell them that if they practice overtalk that violates biblical principles and if their reasons for overtalk are sinful, they must confess their sin to God, ask Him for forgiveness and help.
10). Instruct them to make themselves accountable to someone else who will remind them when you are guilty of overtalk.
11). Give them an assignment to memorize and regularly pray the prayer of the Psalmist – Psalm 19:14; Psalm 141:3
12). Have them memorize and regularly pray the prayer of Elizabeth Eliot.
“Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me wisdom to keep silent when silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.”
13). Explain and apply the truth of Matthew 12:34, 36, 37 and Proverbs 4:23; 27:19 to them.
“The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart…Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Ask them what they think these texts mean and how they apply to them. Make sure you tell them that these texts mean that our words are important; that they mean God listens to our speech and remembers what we say; they means if they are violating God’s will in this area by dominating conversations of life they should want to change. These texts mean that if we are violating His will to our attention we will be concerned about it and that if we are guilty of overtalk in any of the ways we’ve mentioned and for any of the reasons we’ve mentioned we’ll want to change because this kind of behavior is displeasing to God and because it will hinder our relationships with and our godly impact on other people.
These texts mean that if our behavior violates God’s Word the ultimate problem is not with our behavior; it is with our hearts. They mean that change must begin in the heart through recognizing the problem, confession, repentance, faith, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, getting their heart cleansed from sinful motives and filling their hearts with godly thoughts and desires and disciplining themselves to put off this unbiblical behavior and put on godly speech patterns through practice – Matthew 12:34; Proverbs 4:23; James 4:8; I Timothy 4:7.
Then after working though all of these issues in counseling if they still continue the practice of dominating the conversation in counseling you may use the Newhart technique and say with emphasis, “Stop it” and “We don’t go there” because it is displeasing to God and will hinder your effectiveness and fruitfulness for Him in this world.
The title of this blog represents the progression on fruit bearing found in John chapter 15. In verse 5 of this chapter Jesus compares Himself to the vine and us as professing Christians to the branches. Then in verse 2 he says that “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He (God) takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” There you have mention of no fruit, fruit and more fruit. In verse 16 Christ continues this emphasis on fruit by stating a number of important truths about the Christian life, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” One, he tells us that He is the one who initiates our relationship with Him – He chose ut. Two, He tells us that as those who are chosen by Him He expects us to bear fruit and to continue to bear fruit that is solid and genuine – it remains. Verse 8 enlarges on our Lord’s fruit bearing lesson by stating, “By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” ( John 15:8)
Fruit bearing, according to John 15:8, serves two purposes: one it glorifies God and two it demonstrates that we are really disciples of Christ. In other words, it fulfills the main purpose for which we have been created and redeemed: it glorifies God; it puts the glory of God on display. And more than that, verse 8 asserts that it also manifest the fact that we are really Christians. It does not make us Christians; that is all of God’s grace. But it does demonstrate the reality of our profession of faith.
So the questions are: do you want to really fulfill the purpose for which God made you and redeeemed you? Do you want your life to be a theater in which the glory of God is clearly and vividly displayed? Do you want to fulfill the purpose for which He saved you? Do you want to prove to be Christ’s disciple? Well then Jesus says you can do all these things by bearing fruit, more fruit, much fruit.
But you may ask, what is the fruit I am to bear that will accomplish these purposes? An answer comes from a message I heard yesterday which was preached by my good friend Pastor Lance Quinn at The Bible Church of Little Rock. Lance used an acrostic to define the fruit that fulfills the fruit bearing lessons of Jesus in John 15. I simply give you his outline. In the message , he said that the fruit God wants us to bear is:
F = Fear of God – Psalm 128:1 -3;Ecclesiastes 12:13;
R = Righteousness – Psalm 92:12 – 15;
U = Understanding of God, His Word, His purposes, etc. – Proverbs 3:13; 4:5; 5:1; 8:14; 16:22;
I = Integrity = Psalm 15:1,2; 25:21; 41:12; Proverbs 10:9; 19:1; Job 2:3; 27:5
Trust in God = Jeremiah 17:5 – 8; Nehemiah 1:11; John 15:4.
There is, of course, much more to this fruit bearing for which Jesus chose us than we’ve noticed in this blog or even in Lance’s whole message, but this is a start. I challenge you to go further by using your concordance and checking it out for yourself by looking up the many references that talk about the source of our fruit bearing, the nature of the fruit we’re to bear, the requirements for fruit bearing and the results of our fruit bearing and the awful warning to those who make a profession of faith but bear no fruit in their lives.
Recently in a message I preached I mentioned that, according to the Bible, a healthy dose of “the fear of God” has tremendous practical consequences. After the service a man who reads our blogs asked me to enumerate some of the practical consequences of the fear of God on a future post. So I decided to do it a series of statements that begin with the words “If you fear God you…” and then attach Bible verses that support these statements.
According to the Bible, if you fear God you:
- Walk in His ways, love and serve Him with all of your heart – Deuteronomy 10:12;
- Hate evil, pride, arrogance and the perverted mouth – Proverbs 8:13; Exodus 20:20;
- Are a truly humble person because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 8:13; 15:33;
- Are being honored by the Lord – Proverbs 15:33; Psalm 15:4;
- Obey His commandments – Ecclesiastes 12:13; Psalm 128:1;
- Are being blessed by the Lord – Psalm 128:1; 4;
- Receive wisdom from the Lord – Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 15:33; Psalm 11:10;
- Are in a frame of mind to receive God’s instructions through Scripture in the choices you should make – Psalm 25:12;
- Experience God’s goodness – Psalm 31:19;
- Are a special object of God’s protection – Psalm 31:20;
- Are truly gracious and generous in a godly way – Psalm 112:4, 15;
- Are a confident, courageous person because of your relationship with God – Psalm 112:6 – 8; Proverbs 14:26; Job 4:6; Psalm 112:7
- Trust God and are not afraid when evil tidings come because of your relationship with God – Psalm 112:7;
- Are a person who keeps your word, who makes promises and keeps them even if it is to your own disadvantage because of your relationship with God – Psalm 15:4;
- Experience true godly contentment because of your relationship with God – Psalm 112:5, 6, 8, 9; Psalm 34:9;
- Are a godly husband and father (that is, if you are a married man with children) – Psalm 128:1, 4;
- Are a godly wife and mother (that is, if you are a married woman with children) – Proverbs 31:30;
- Receive the benefit of peaceful sleep because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 19:23;
- Are free from an envious spirit because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 23:17;
- Have a solid hope for the future because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 23:17, 18;
- Respect God ordained authorities because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 24:21;
- Avoid intimate associations with people who are disrespectful to God ordained authorities; to people who “are given to change” – Proverbs 24:21, 22;
- Are a place of refuge for other family members because of your relationship with God – Proverbs 14:26;
- Are a source of blessing to other family members because of your relationship with God – Psalm 128:1 – 4; 112:2;
- Are characterized by integrity and faithfulness because of your relationship with God – Job 2:3; 4:6;
- Are truly considerate and kind to other people – Psalm 112:4, 5;
- Persevere in doing what is right because of your relationship with God – Psalm 112:3, 5; 2 Corinthians 7:1;
- Practice constructive speech in their dealings with people because of your relationship with God – Malachi 3:16; Proverbs 31:30, 26;
- Work hard, but are not so committed to work that you will not have time for enjoyment because of your relationship with God – Psalm 128:3
- Accept responsibility for your own family and yet are not overly responsible – Psalm 128:3;
- Take responsibility for parenting, but not smother and inhibit their children’s personal development – Psalm 128:3;
- Delight in worshipping God – Revelation 14:7;
- Are free from the fear of man because of your relationship with God – Matthew 10:28; Deuteronomy 1:17; Isaiah 41:10;
- Exercise whatever authority you have in a righteous, God honoring manner without being domineering or authoritarian – 2 Samuel 23:3; Nehemiah 5:15
- Are willing to submit to the Lord and make sacrifices for Him – 2 Kings 17:36;
- Are a person who praises God – Psalm 22:23, 25; 40:3
- Know God in an intimate way – Psalm 25:14;
- Stand in awe of God – Psalm 33:8;
- Think much about God’s lovingkindness – Psalm 33:18;
- Want to encourage others to know God and fear and love and trust Him – Psalm 40:3;
- Receive a godly inheritance of s[iritual graces and blessings from the Lord – Psalm 61:5;
- Want to tell others of the great things has done for you – Psalm 66:16;
- Desire to be with those who fear God – Psalm 119:63;
- Do not want to offend God and you will not take His judgments lightly – Psalm 119:120;
- Have your desires fulfilled; your prayers answered – Psalm 145:19;
- Recognize your own intellectual limitations and be humble about what you know – Proverbs 3:7
- Recognize that being right with God is more valuable than all of the riches the world may provide – Proverbs 15:16;
- Are zealous in your efforts to try to persuade people to come to Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:11;
- Want to confess your sin and be cleansed of anything in your life that may be displeasing to God; if you are serious about pursuing holiness – 2 Corinthians 7:1, 11;
- Are willing to submit yourself and gladly be in subjection to other believers – Ephesians 5:21;
- Honor other people and have a deep love for other Christians – I Peter 2:17;
- Want to glorify God – Revelation 14:7; 15:4;
- Believe God and His Word – Exodus 14:31;
- Desire with all your heart to magnify the Name of Jesus Christ – Acts 19:17; Philippians 1:20;
- Receive and respond to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ – Acts 13:16, 2;
- Love to hear and share the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – Acts 13:16 – 43.
Well, after much Bible study and consideration, that’s my list of the practical consequences that a healthy, vibrant, robust fear of God will produce in our lives. And keeping these truths in mind, it’s easy to see why the writer of Ecclesiastes stated that the conclusion of the whole matter and the whole duty of man in terms of his relationship with God can be summed up in the words “Fear God” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be more important or necessary or beneficial than developing and sustaining this robust fear of God in our lives. (For more about the nature and development of the fear of God we encourage you to read chapters 12 – 14 of our book The Fear Factor and The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges.)
“Get Real” is a phrase that we sometimes hear when someone perceives that we are being unrealistic about something. Usually this statement is made when people think we’re asking or expecting too much or when they judge that we are exaggerating.
Well, in this post I want to “get real” with you. Someone asked me to share something from my own life which at first I was hesitant to do, not because I was ashamed or embarrassed about what I was being asked to share, but because I really didn’t know how profitable it would be to anyone else for me to talk about myself or I questioned whether anyone would really be interested in knowing about my life. However, as I reflected on Scriptural precedent, I realized that there were many times whether the apostle Paul talked about something out of his own life and certainly there were many times where the Psalmist opened up about what was going on in his life. And these men were inspired by God to do it. These men “got real” and since whatever is found in Scripture is for our teaching, reproof, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), that’s why they must have done it. They must have thought that sharing personal matters out of their own lives could be used for the spiritual benefit of others. Somehow they believed that “getting real” about what was going on in their lives could bring glory to God and good to other people (I Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Psalm 115:1).
Now, I’m not suggesting that my attempt at “getting real” is inspired by the Holy Spirit as theirs was. It’s not! Actually it’s motivated by a request from someone who knows me quite well who thought that my experience in the past could fulfill the very purposes for which these biblical people “got real”. And I figure if I have biblical precedent and if somehow my early experience in the ministry could be of some use to others, perhaps I should do what this person was suggesting.
So here goes. In particular, I was asked to “get real” about some aspect of my Christian ministry forty eight years ago. The specific aspect of my life on which I want to reflect is related to the issue about which we wrote a book called The Fear Factor. I want to “get real” about the problem mentioned in Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.” If you had asked me at the beginning of my Christian ministry, do you have a “fear of man” problem, I would have probably said, “Not really, I’m trusting in the Lord so I don’t fear people. After all, I’m a Calvinist who believes in the Sovereignty of God. Why then should I fear people?” And if I had answered in that way I would have meant what I said and to some degree it would have been true. However, having grown in my understanding of what it means to fear man and how the fear of man manifests itself, I know now that I was to some extent caught in the snare that Proverbs 29:25 is referring to.
And how did this fear of man manifest itself in practical ways? Let me enumerates some of the ways. I do this because I’m convinced that this fear of man is such a subtle thing that many people don’t recognize they are doing it even though they are. Also, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that even though I’m seventy years of age and have been in Christian ministry for forty eight years I have completely escaped from its snares. By God’s grace and to His glory, I think I have grown, but I still have some growing to do. I explain how the fear of man manifested itself in me to my shame then and even now. Anyway, having made that explanation, here are some of the ways in which the fear of man manifested itself in me.
- A desire to impress people with my knowledge of Scripture and theology, my skills, abilities and education, my credentials and being somewhat disappointed when they were not as impressed as I had hoped they would be.
- A desire to control situations and make them come out the way I wanted them to because when I was in control I was comfortable and felt successful. I cloaked that under the guise of a desire for God’s glory.
- A sense of uneasiness in social situations because I really was not good at small talk or developing conversations.
- A sense of uneasiness when someone disagreed with me, reproved me, criticized me, tried to correct me and suggest that there might be a better way of doing something or understanding an issue.
- An excessive sense of responsibility, being overly conscientious in my studies and in my preparation.
- Not being able to lighten up and enjoy leisure time or vacations or just hanging out with people, manifesting a seemingly austere manner that intimidated people.
- A sense that nothing I did was done well enough, but should have been done better with the thought being that if I had done it better people would have been impacted more.
- Judging my efforts on the basis of people’s response to them, too much concern for the approval and applause of people.
- Being uncomfortable and intimidated when in the presence of people who knew more than I did or were much more fruitful than I was.
Well, this “getting real” business is getting downright painful. I wonder, is that the fear of man creeping up again? Anyway, I think that is enough “true confessions” for right now. Again, I want you to know that I share these things not to have a let it all hang out session, but rather to enlarge on what fearing man involves and how subtle it can be. You see, I could rationalize all of these things and put a spiritual twist on most of the things I was doing. I could use euphemisms or I could blameshift to put the responsibility on others or on my upbringing. I could explain and excuse all these behaviors in various ways, but if I do that I would not be real or accurate. God is at work in me (Philippians 2:13; Philippians 1:6) and, by His grace, I have made some progress, but in the words of Paul I haven’t yet attained perfection, but I’m pressing on to lay hold of that for which God laid hold of me when He brought me to Christ. And, while not excusing or minimizing my sin, I thank God for the cross and for the promise of I John 1:7 & 9 and 2:1 &2.
So my concluding encouragement to all of you who may be reading this post is, “Get real” with God. Identify ways that you may be overtly or subtly being affected by the fear of man. Repent, confess, go to the cross for forgiveness and get up with a renewed determination to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:10 -14).