What Does “Fear of God” Mean?

Scanner Fear 3

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In Scripture, there are dozens – more like hundreds – of verses on “fearing” God.

When my husband and I were recently discussing this topic of “fearing” God, he was saying, “People should fear God.”  My response was, “If the only response this fear produces is to run from God rather than submit to God, it is pointless.  It’s a sinful fear that produces nothing good.  If though people fear God correctly, they will repent and turn to God.  That is the only kind of fear that is good.  In other words, not all fears of God are good.” (BTW, we both agree on this.)

Let me explain in more detail…

Is all “fear of God” correct or good?

What does it mean to “fear God”?

In the beginning of time, we see when Adam and Eve first “feared” God and what was the cause and result of that fear.

Genesis 3:6-10

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Here we see one type of “fear” of God.  This is what I would call “sinful fear.”  This kind of fear causes us to recognize the power of God, but instead of yielding to it, we run from it.

When confronted with the righteousness and power of God, we have a response to make.  We either repent and submit ourselves to God, or we reject Him/rebel and run from Him.

There are many verses that talk about the right type of “fear” of God.  Perhaps, this is better described as such overwhelming respect/awe that we are humbled and surrender our own wills to Him.

Deuteronomy 10:12

The Essence of the Law

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

Psalm 89:7

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
And to be held in reverence by all those around Him

The wrong kind of fear trembles at the power of God, still clings to its own self-preservation and will, and runs from or opposes the will of God.

The following verses describe the wrong kind of fear that the world has:

Philippians 2:10

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

The world will “bow” before God but not in reverence/submission.  (At the confrontation of His Power, there is no physical strength left to stand in His Presence.)

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, unbelieving,[a] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Psalm 67:7

God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

The world will “fear” God but not to submit to Him.

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The demons “fear” God.  They fear His power but not in the “right” sense — that which leads them to submit or to repent.

To simplify this, godly “fear” leads us to repentance.  Sinful “fear” causes us to run, hide, rebel, just like we saw Adam and Eve do.

I believe that sinful fear is inter-connected with pride.  Rather than repenting, we run from God, which means we are relying on ourselves.

I believe that self-reliance is the definition of pride.  It is independence from God, which is sin.  See my earlier blog post: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-simplicty-about-sin.

God had shown me earlier that rebellion comes from distrust.  God then posed the question to me: “From where does distrust come?”

Distrust can come from wounds, but it can also come from learning to rely on ourselves (self-reliance) which is pride.

This is the key thought:

Self-reliance is the flesh’s sinful response to lies about God as a result of the hurts we have experienced. 

We all experience wounds in this world — some to a greater extent than others.  It is how we respond to those wounds that changes everything!

There is one more aspect in regards to the “fear of God” that we need to discuss.  It’s the concept of consequences.

In the past, what I thought was “fearing God” was really more about fearing the consequences of my sins.

When I was walking more in fear of my consequences, I would confess quite regularly, but my motivations were fear-based.  I was “obeying” to the extent that I wanted to avoid the consequences and was terrified of them.

When I wrongfully fear my consequences, what am I in essence believing?

I am believing that I have gone too far or made too big of a mistake for God to redeem them.

The truth is so long a I am truly repentant and have submitted my new set of circumstances to God, He can redeem even them.

The fear of consequences motivates the more “fleshly-minded” Christian.  The “spiritual” or God-filled man is motivated by relationship — his/her relationship with God.

When I fear my consequences more than I fear God, my consequences themselves can become a “god” in my life.  They can become “larger” than God in my heart.  This becomes obvious when the fear of my consequences leads me to fear them more than believing God is in control of them.

When I truly repent and submit myself to God, He can redeem even the most horrific consequences and use them to bring good.  (See Rom. 8:28.)

Nothing is beyond the reach of God.

God is not mastered by anyone or anything.  Satan nor us can “put one over” on God.

He is Sovereign!

 

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