Loving and Reverencing God
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Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments! Oh, how abundant is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You.—Psalm 112:1; 31:191
The Bible speaks a fair bit about fearing God. When the Bible speaks of fearing God, there are two different concepts being referred to—being afraid of God and His wrath, and honoring Him and having reverence for Him. One of the concepts of fearing God portrayed in the Bible is terror, dread, or fear, in reference to being afraid of God, and is used mainly when speaking of people who have sinned and are going to face God’s judgment. Some examples of this concept are:
People shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to terrify the earth.2
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.3
This concept of the fear of God is different fromthe positive sense of reverencing God; that is, having awe, reverence, honor, and respect for Him. Synonyms for these words are wonder, admiration, amazement, astonishment, esteem, veneration, worship, devotion, high opinion, deference, regard. Fearing God in this way brings blessing and goodness to our lives.
As saved Christians, we need not have the dread of punishment for our sins, for Jesus has already taken that punishment on Himself through His death on the cross. We have been forgiven for our sins and delivered from the “wages of sin” through the gift of God of salvation and eternal life with God.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be any consequences for our sins in this life; nor does it mean that God will countenance willful sin and disobedience of His moral laws. The Bible does speak of chastisement or being disciplined. Chastisement in Scripture is generally spoken of as training or causing one to learn, the molding of the character by reproof or admonition, which is quite different from punishment for our sins. The Lord may chastise us in some way for our sins for the purpose of teaching us or molding us, which is an act of His love. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”4
As believers, the right reaction to all God is and has done is having the fear of the Lord—in the sense of veneration and devotion, of reverence and deference, of worship and devotion, as well as awe and wonder. When we think of His creating the universe, from all of the stars to subatomic particles, we can only marvel at His power and glory. When we realize that as human beings we sin and therefore deserve His punishment, but that because of His love He made our salvation and reconciliation possible, then the correct response is praise and worship, honor, love, obedience, and reverence. It’s all part of acknowledging that He is God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Those of us who love the Lord don’t need to have the type of fear that causes us to be afraid of God and His wrath. We are part of His family, having been given this right through our faith in Jesus. Our sins are forgiven, so we won’t face the punishment of God. We are redeemed. Our relationship with the Lord is one of love, of gratitude, of praise and worship. As such, we are rightly to fear the Lord by giving Him our love, obeying His Word, and living in a manner that glorifies Him, for He is infinitely worthy.—Peter Amsterdam
Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.—Revelation 4:11
The whole duty of man
What’s our main job? What does the Bible say is the whole duty of man? “Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”5 Since Jesus came along, God has boiled it down to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself.”6 It was there in the “fear God,” but the Lord made it a more personal loving relationship between Him and you and me, and instead of fear God, He said love the Lord. And instead of just “keep the commandments,” He said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”7
Of course, first of all we have to love God in order to have love for our neighbor. You can’t love the lost or the foreigners or the unsaved or your enemies or anybody else unless you’ve got the supernatural, miraculous, miracle-working power of the love of God in your heart. “We love Him because He first loved us.”8 We love others because He first loved them and us. Only that can give you enough love for others to be willing to forsake yourself and to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature—people you’ve never seen before, and you don’t know their language or their religion and their different kinds and races and colors and peculiarities. That takes the love of God. So you’ve got to start with that; nothing short of that will do it.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His crucifixion, He asked Peter, “Peter, lovest thou Me?” Peter answered, “Sure, Lord, I love You.” So Jesus replied, “Then feed My sheep.” And again, “Peter, lovest thou Me?” “Lord, You know I love You.” “Okay, prove it, Peter. Feed My sheep.” Peter must have really gotten a little bit upset on that last one because he said, “Lord, You know I love You.” Third time! “How come You’re asking me, Lord? You shouldn’t have to even ask me. You know I love You.” “Okay, Peter, you say you love Me, but now get out there and prove it and lead and feed My sheep.”9
You have to love the Lord to love your neighbor, so maybe that’s the first thing you ought to ask yourself: “Do I love the Lord enough? Do I love You enough, Lord, that I’m really sticking close to You, the Shepherd, in Your will, right at Your heels, on the right path, just the way You know is best to go? Am I following right in Your path, right in Your footsteps?”
If you stay close to the Shepherd, He has promised to lead you into green pastures and beside the still waters, to restore your soul. He takes care of you. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil. He’ll even prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies, and anoint your head with oil. Even His rod and staff will comfort you with a few whacks now and then if you get out of line. It doesn’t sound very comfortable, but sometimes the rod is a comfort.10
If you stick close to the Shepherd, you’re bound to be well fed, well cared for, and well protected. But what do shepherds have sheep for? Increase. Bearing fruit! “Herein is God glorified, that ye bear much fruit.”11 So how are we going to bear fruit? First of all, we love God. The question is, how much do we love God? Are we obeying Him? Are we following Him closely? Are we loving our neighbor enough to bear much fruit?
Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves: “Do I love the Lord enough? Am I close enough to the Lord? Am I following Him, obeying Him, following right in His footsteps, right on His heels, right by His side and not straying off on the fringes someplace or clear out in the woods?”
We need to get our priorities straight. We need to sit down and count the cost, even count the figures. That’s why I like to keep statistics and keep books, so I’ll know where we’re at. Any merchant that doesn’t take an inventory every once in a while to see where he’s at is apt to go out of business. He could be losing and going bankrupt and not even know it. You need to keep books—financially and with yourself and with God—and keep stats on the progress and the results and the fruit to see if you’re ahead or behind or where you’re at.
And lastly, and most important of all, let’s not forget that “one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall never be taken away from her.”12 She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to the Lord. That’s the only thing that’s really necessary: listening to the Lord, sitting at His feet and hearing Him and hearing His Word.
Help us to remember, Lord, that Your Word, comes first, that Your love comes first, and Your love is manifested in Your Word, Your loving Word on which our lives and work for You stand. This is our whole duty and our whole obligation and our whole job: to love You and to love others, to love Your Word and love others with Your Word.—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor September 2015. Read by Jason Lawrence.
2 Isaiah 2:19 ESV.
3 Matthew 10:28 ESV.
4 Hebrews 12:6 ESV.
5 Ecclesiastes 12:13.
6 Matthew 22:37–39.
7 Matthew 22:40.
8 1 John 4:19.
9 John 21:15–17.
10 Psalm 23.
11 John 15:8.
12 Luke 10:42.