Ashes: Fear // Faith

April 14th

Writer: John Arnold

Key Passages: Ecclesiastes 8:12-10:10, Deuteronomy 10:12, Psalm 118:4, 147:11, John 12:12-36, 1 John 4:18

Big Idea: What does it mean to fear God? Do we fear God because we are given a reward, or do we fear God because it is the right thing to do? Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the idea of “fearing God” appears seven times (3:14; 5:7, 7:18; 8:12, 13; 12:3). This is also a common phrase in wisdom literature (Proverbs 1:7), but in Ecclesiastes it is not seen as an action as much as it is seen as virtue. In every other circumstance, fear dictates the perimeters of our freedom, but the fear of God in wisdom literature sets us free. What gives our lives meaning: When we fear God above all else.

My conversion was dramatic; I was 26 years old and had been at a low place in my life. I grew up in a small town, attended church, and was a teenage church youth leader, but had not been born again to a new life in Christ. When I received Christ, everything I experienced in my new life in the Lord became new, really new.  I gave up my pool table, saxophone, sports car, my job, and my place to live, I even moved back home with my mother. This freaked out (can’t think of a better way to describe it), my boss, my mother, my friends, and my older sister.  But most importantly, I gave up and left a sinful lifestyle and discovered a wonderful way to live, in relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In depth bible studies and teachings were new and dynamic in my life.  I was especially impacted by a prominent teacher’s messages on, “The fear of the Lord” and the “Love of God”.  I was familiar with the message of God’s love, but the idea of having a fear of God was entirely new to me. The Bible references both concepts, but it was difficult for me, as a new believer, to reconcile them:  I Peter 1:17 “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear;” and I John 4: 18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”  As Christians we are to fear God, but not to have fear of punishment. I began to recognize there is an inherent spiritual understanding believers should have of the fear of God.

Fear of the Lord signifies reverence and awe, but also the word fear in the scripture has the primary meaning of fear, as commonly understood. One description offered of the fear of the Lord is from, Vine’ Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 85, “Especially holy fear, that mingled fear and love which, combined, constitute the piety of man toward God.” It is God who is at work in our lives and we need to fear Him rightly. This is stated in Philippians 2:12, 13, “Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

We have a loving Father, who by His very being, must be feared as only He deserves. He is holy, and in His love, He tells us we are to be holy. We need to obey, respect, reverence and fear the Creator of all, Ruler of all, Judge of all, Lord of all, our Holy God. This proper fear should change and motivate us to righteous living. Though our culture shuns the idea of fearing God, a proper fear of God is good, healthy, and righteous.  Throughout Psalms, Proverbs, and wisdom literature it is made clear that fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, gives wisdom, prolongs life, leads to His blessing, encourages and sustains faith.  For in His power, wisdom, and knowledge He watches over and enriches our lives.  Solomon affirms this in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” My interpretation is, life has the most meaning when lived in the fear of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians writes, we should walk by faith, not by sight, because we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. This will be a day of judgment for all mankind in which we all give an account of our lives to Him.  This truth affects how we are to live.  And we are particularly exhorted in scripture to recognize this reality of future judgment when experiencing trying times and God’s discipline. 

Additionally, the New Testament teaches that we should honor the sacrifice and death of Jesus, with an understanding that God Himself came and died for our sins. In Peter 1:17-19, the Apostle Peter instructs us to, “conduct ourselves in fear…for you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

It has been a number of years since my conversion, but I am further convinced that a proper fear of the Lord is freeing and completely good.  Ultimately, we fear God because of who He is and what He has done. This is attested to by the church in Acts 9: 31, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”

Readings: Ecclesiastes 8:12-10:10

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you understand the fear of God in your Christian life?
  • What scriptures are especially significant to you regarding the fear of the Lord from these following verses?  Proverbs 1:7, 2:1-6, 3:7, 10:27; Psalms 25:12-15, 34:11, 103:6-14; Ecclesiastes 3:4, 5:7, 7:18, 8:12, 12:3. 
  • How would you describe the idea of “fearing God” and why we should fear Him?
  • How do you reconcile God’s love and the importance of fearing Him?

Daily Readings:

4/15 Luke 22:1-38

4/16 Luke 22:39-62

4/17 Luke 22:63-23:25

4/18 Luke 23:26-43

4/19 Luke 23:44-56

4/20-21- Luke 24:1-35

Prayer Focus: As we have considered investing and inviting someone to church over the past several weeks, let’s pray for our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers that they would be open to an invitation to church.