Tag Archives: fear of God

Unafraid

Meditations on the Psalms

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.(Psalm 3:6 ESV)

Jesus faced both great acclaim and heated opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Those who hated Him included the Deceiver, who did everything possible to frustrate, obstruct and stop His ministry, and the religious leaders of the nation. These religious leaders hated Jesus because He challenged their authority and position of leadership over the people. In addition, the Roman’s hated anyone, not particularly Jesus, who might incite the people under their dominion to rebel against Rome and the emperor.

Those who opposed Jesus were not just politically or religiously motivated. There were many who simply did not care about Him. Or, they cared about His words and ideas for a moment but when He confronted their covetous attitude toward what they considered their stuff, they would turn their backs upon Him and walk away. They cared more for their place in the world than their place in eternity.

God tells us to not be afraidof those who oppose Him because Jesus was not afraid of them. Afraid means to dread, fear, stand in awe, as well as to have reverence and to honor. To setthemselves against means to station, to take a stand, to lay waste, fix their mind in opposition to whatever Jesus represents or commands be done. Those who are hostile toward the authority of the King of kings, either actively fight against Him or passively ignore Him. In either case, their actions, or inactions, destroy the foundation of the relationship they have with God.

We have already seen those who mutiny against God will come to a physical and spiritual end. Their defiant words and works are judged and they are sentenced, then separated from God, the Giver of life. His judgment is a completed action from eternity, yet still works out in space-time history. For God it is done. For those living in the world it will be done but is not yet completed. Jesus was not afraid to stand before the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, because He foreknew the outcome. He willingly endured the torture of crucifixion because He knew the final and absolute results brought the greatest glory to God.

During Jesus’ ministry, He chose and trained twelve disciples. These disciples, whom He also called apostles, were given responsibility to exercise authority in His name. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1 ESV; see also Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-16). As Jesus trained them He was forthright in telling them what they would face and endure. Their and our temptations and trials are myriad and used to test. God does not test anyone to discover what they know. He tests so we can discover what we do not know, especially about Him. Throughout our training we are His and there is no reason to fear.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31 ESV; see Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus’ disciples, throughout history, whomever they are and whenever they live, stand before those in worldly authority and give testimony about Him. Instead of removing us from the world He leaves us to declare, through words and actions, the evidence of His grace in the gospel. He also leaves us in the world to train and fit us for eternity. Being a Christian in the world brings trails and persecutions. The thinking of our hearts is on full display before the world and before God as we face the same opposition Jesus endured.

Fear is both debilitating and freeing. When we fear we can see that which is in the thinking of our heart. Fearing the world tells us we do not trust God and want that which the world offers more than what God gives. When we fear God, by honoring Him as Creator, placing Him first, then nothing we encounter in this world can potentially or actually remove us from His presence.

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Serve the Lord

Meditations on the Psalms

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11 ESV)

People were created to serve God. Adam and Eve were servants given dominion over a world God created for them. They were given the image of God, a guarantee of an intimate relationship with Him. As physical beings, their purpose was to have dominion over the Earth to achieve His purposes and decrees.

Serve means to work or labor for another. Within the essence of each person is the natural compulsion to serve God. This does not mean they were slaves. God gave Adam a single prohibition, do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16-17). Otherwise, the Earth was theirs to do with, to go, to dream and create, to fill and subdue as they could.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

Fear means terror or a warning while rejoice means to exult or be glad. When referring to a person’s relationship with God, fear means reverence, piety and respect. He is God and His eternal being deserves the devotion of those He created. We are to rejoice with trembling, which is to take great pleasure in our relationship with Him with the greatest, conscious awareness of His holiness and our service of devotion.

Such is the level of repentance God demands from those who have mutinied. He demands they turn away from their sin and turn toward Him, with the respect and wisdom that comes from intimately knowing Him, acknowledging His authority, and serving Him with all strength and understanding. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV; see Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 30:6; see also Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27). God, speaking through Jesus who gave the words to Moses, tells people their nature is to love God and each other. Sin has taken this truth and bent its precision out of shape, making it something other than what God clearly stated.

Jesus was a servant, who demonstrated His essential character by washing the disciple’s feet before His passion.

Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)

Though Jesus’ purpose for coming was to die for our sins, He also left us an example. He did not come to just be an example of how to live and love God.  Jesus states that He has given us an example to follow. Peter echoes Jesus words in his first epistle. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 ESV).

Those who are kings and rulers in the world are God’s representatives, given authority by God. They carry a greater responsibility before God and much is required from them. For them to teach and train the people for whom they are responsible to rebel against God is to invite God’s judgment and wrath. God compassionately commands they turn form their wickedness toward His righteousness and, beginning in the thinking of their hearts, to respect and revere Him. They are designed to serve God and fulfill His purpose, not to rebel against God and find destruction.

“Rest in Peace”

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.  And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. [Luke 12:4-9 ESV]

If there is anything consistent in the makeup of man it is the reality of sin and consequent physical death. In our rebellion we excuse and ignore sin. We cannot ignore or avoid death. We can refuse to acknowledge God all of our physical lives until we come before Him.

Jesus told His disciples of His impending death at the hands of His enemies in Jerusalem.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’”[Matthew 16:21-22 ESV]

I think Peter spoke for the group. He pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him, suggesting Jesus was not going to die as He described. While we could debate Peter’s motivations his refusal to accept the impending death of a loved one is more prominent. He could not imagine the man before him, robust, quick witted, strong, facing death. Jesus bested the Pharisees. He would continue to best them. There is no way Jesus would be murdered by anyone.

Jesus rebuked the liar who inspired Peter to believe the lie. “Get behind me Satan” [Matthew 16:23 ESV]. Wishful thinking is just that. It has no foundation in truth and therefore no substance.

Christians are probably more afraid of the process of dying than of actual death. If we knew when we were going to die would we not get our house in order? Would we tremble and quake because we do not know Him or face death with peace because we do know Him. Moses was told he would not enter the Promised Land so he prepared the people to follow God after his death. Then was gathered to his people atop a mountain overlooking the land he could not enter. There is no indication he feared dying.

Often it is not the one dying who is afraid but those around facing the reality of losing a loved who are the most distressed. Leaving loved ones, through death, might bring resignation and acceptance of one’s circumstance. Trapped by the world, those staying want to build a false peace to placate their emotional upheaval.

“Rest in peace” is an accepted euphemism stuffed with wishful thinking. Where there is no peace with God there can be no peace in death. Where there is no fear of God there is no desire to be right before Him. Death becomes a purposefully ignored unknown filled with superstitious possibilities based upon fantasy.

Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem where He would face a violent death at the hands of professional executioners. He knew this and He was at peace. He asked God to take away the cup, but submitted Himself to His Father, for He knew the peace He had could not be taken, even by death. How we face death, our own and the death of a loved one, is a test. Do we know we have peace with God? Do we know the person dying has peace with God? Do we live for God?

Death could not hold Jesus. He was raised from the dead. Those who are His need have no fear of death. Those who are not His should absolutely fear death.