Whatever Happened to the Fear of the Lord?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Fear the LordEvery poll today tells us that the vast majority of people believe in God or some sort of Deity...over 80% in America. However, the real problem we face today is that people seem to have little fear, awe or reverence of the Lord that deeply changes their behavior. Instead, our belief in God has often just come down to acknowledging God's existence, but not much more. This gap between belief in God and a healthy fear of the Lord that really shapes how we live is the spiritual crisis of the day.

Now this shift and change in how we live out our spiritual lives has been largely centered in the growing loss of a reverential fear and awe of the Lord. It is a change that has been growing for a generation or so. It has been created by a society that has been shaped by growing prosperity, incredible technology and rapidly changing moral standards. As these changes have transformed our Nation, the idea of an "old fashioned, moral God" than can judge our behavior and punish our sin has become less popular. This newer view of the Lord has even led some in the professing Church to give the Lord a "makeover" to attract more potential converts to a more user-friendly deity. The reverence and fear of the Lord has been replaced with what a church or ministry has to offer religious consumers.  Any attempt to discuss God's holiness, judgments, our sin or moral accountability has fallen on hard times. And if a church ever mentions the existence of Hell and a final judgment, for many it is time to find a new church home.
And yet, the Bible says something that is at the heart of all real knowledge and wisdom for our lives that we desperately need in this hour. In Proverbs 1:7 we hear these words,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
The book of Proverbs begins with a clear admonition that all human knowledge and wisdom must begin with an awareness of the Lord's majesty and greatness. Without an awareness of these qualities we lose perspective about life and can end up becoming fools. The fear of the Lord is not a cowering fear of being punished, but a real awe and reverence that comes from understanding the real issues of our fragile humanity. The Lord holds everything in His hands and we have nothing in ours without Him. The Lord is forever, and we are but a moment in time without His love and grace. The Lord is awesome, and we are but dust.

This need for a reverential awe and fear of the Lord was picked up by the Lord Jesus Christ in His public ministry. Our Lord reminds us that God has ultimate power over our lives in this world and the world to come and we need to respond accordingly. Our Lord reinforces this fact in Matthew 10:28-31 when He says,
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
In this passage our Lord's purpose is not trying to make us fearful with the threat of judgment, but to give us a truthful perspective about the reality of our existence. Jesus brings us His great, personal love to us by telling us that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. We are special and deeply loved by the Lord. But at the same time the Lord reminds us that we need to have a sober awareness, awe and reverential fear of the Lord for our lives to blossom and fulfill His purposes. Life is not just about this temporary realm of our existence. True knowledge and wisdom come when we see life from an eternal perspective. We need to see the Lord as the giver of all things in this world and the next and live our lives accordingly.

If you were to carry our Lord Jesus' argument into some more reality it would go something like this. Every human being generally lives less than 100 years today. That means in about 100 years from now, virtually every person alive today will be dead. If you compare 100 years of life with eternity our earthly lives are mathematically and statistically nothing. It would be like comparing $1 with the National Debt...insignificant and not even worth noting. Most people don't like to think such thoughts, but they are true. It is a sobering reality that whatever happens to every person after this life will go on forever. That awesome thought should inspire some sort of "reality check" regarding the fear of the Lord as eternity draws closer each day.

And yet, as we look around us, the problem we are facing is that many people are living as though God doesn't exist. There is little awe and almost no reverential fear of the Lord to be found. Sadly, this can even be true in the professing Christian Church, where behavior by Christians seems to differ little from the culture. This loss of reverential awe or fear of the Lord is noticeable in many of the church services you could attend in America. Have you noticed? It is a rare church that will even preach a sermon on "The Fear of the Lord".  Many churches like to keep everyone comfortable and tend to avoid more weighty issues. If thorny and complex moral things ever come up, people try to change the subject or talk about a "god of love" that seems unconcerned about the moral chaos and spiritual mayhem that is engulfing us.

Now when a society, culture or even a church removes the fear of the Lord from life things just begin to spiritually and morally fall apart. People no longer feel they will be held accountable for their behavior. God no longer serves as a moral check and restraint on our conscience or behaviors. You see this exact spirit taking over areas of the City of Chicago, as murder and mayhem has taken control of entire neighborhoods. People end up doing whatever they want because the fear of the Lord has been removed from their lives. If and when officials or police call for a return to a respect for others because of a reverence for God and His laws, they are marginalized or shouted down in the media or at the ballot box. Many people don't like moralists, religious people or even the Church telling them what to do. As a matter of fact, in today's world some even want to elect politicians that will make sure God is totally removed from our society. However, you can't have a healthy fear of the Lord that restrains lawlessness when God is no longer even acknowledged in our government, schools and Public Square.

This exact issue, by the way, is the central issue that is being contested in the current battle over who sits on the Supreme Court. The current battle over whether or not to seat Judge Kavanaugh has nothing to do with anything other than people seeking a judge that helps remove the fear of the Lord from our lives, not reinforcing it through clear laws. Some people want easy abortions, open sexuality and moral license for everything they want to do. The idea that the fear of the Lord and God's laws should be mentioned as a way to give us perspective and challenge to our conscience and behavior is seen as a "bygone era." The fact that the Supreme Court building in Washington has Moses holding the Ten Commandments engraved on it needs to be forgotten. Sadly, for many of these people the fear of the Lord is the end of our freedoms not the source of them.

As we look at the loss of the fear of the Lord in our society, we can clearly see the prophetic season the Bible predicts falling upon us. As the Apostle Paul remind the Church in II Timothy 3:1-5,
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
The Apostle's words speak of a future world before the Lord's return that has removed a reverence, awe and fear of the Lord from their lives.  We are that society.  Without the fear of the Lord none of us has a clue about life or why we are here. Without the fear of the Lord we won't have a moral check on anything we do. Without the fear of the Lord we won't realize we have broken God's laws and need a Savior. Without the fear of the Lord we will never have the true knowledge and wisdom necessary to live an abundant life and bless others. If there was ever a time to come back to a healthy, Biblical fear of the Lord it is now. May it be so for our Lord Jesus' honor and the advancement of His everlasting Kingdom. Amen