I think the greatest need within the “church” world is a “recapturing” of or awakening to the “fear of the Lord.” There are so many things I could point to that actually grieves my heart and I believe grieves the Holy Spirit and reveals our desperate need for this reality.
For example, I just finished reading a book by Edwin Orr called: “Awakenings in Southern Asia.” In the first chapters especially, he does an amazing job of demonstrating and connecting prayer and revivals with missions. Anytime there have been “awakenings” within the church world, there has been a corresponding impact missionally and globally. So many missionaries and mission organizations have come out of revivals, or existing one’s have been reinvigorated by the praying, giving and going of those “revived.” I believe the lack of passion for world missions is one of many indications of our need for revival. I hear so much talk on “we have our own problems here at home…so all our resources should be directed here.” This reveals a lack of vision in regard to the great commission (Acts 1:8) and a lack of God’s heart…for the whole world (John 3:16). This doesn’t have to be an either/or…it is to be a both/and.
Passion for missions (fulfilling the great commission which is an issue of obedience to Jesus) comes out of passion for God. In Isaiah chapter six Isaiah has an encounter with and vision of God. It produced in him a fear of God resulting in conviction of sin, which led to confession of sin, which resulted in cleansing of sin and then hearing the call of God to “go” on his behalf to accomplish his will. Any true encounter with God results in a desire to serve God, no matter the calling, details, challenges, difficulties, consequences or outcome.
The actual “sense” or “awareness” of the holiness of God cannot be taught. It is something that can only be experienced. I was eleven or twelve years old when I first “encountered” or became “aware” of the presence of God. At the time I didn’t know the phrase “fear of the Lord” or what the word “holy” meant. I didn’t even know what it meant to be “born-again.” But when I became aware of the presence of a holy God I fell to my knee’s trembling and very aware I was in “trouble” and so I said “Jesus I need you and want to give my life to serve you.” At that moment my heart was changed and cleansed. I remember a sense of peace and joy and God’s love washing over me. A hunger and desire for God was also awakened in me. A sense of “awe” consumed me and captivated me. This is what we all need more of today.
I believe that in many cases “fun” has been replacing and confused with true biblical fellowship and discipleship and has become something that is equal to or even a greater priority than walking in a fear of the Lord.
I actually find that I am quickly bored by most church services and functions. My question is this: if you have tasted even a drop of the goodness of God what could possibly be more invigorating, stimulating, awe-inspiring, captivating, beautiful, glorious, joy-filled, life-giving, peace-imparting and satisfying than His presence? Does not Psalm 16:11 say: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your hand right.”
I find I am never filled with more joy, peace, contentment and “come to life”…then when I am aware of the presence of God and walking in a fear of the Lord. The pursuit of Him (not trying to make this “fun”) should be our only priority and ambition, trusting all other aspects of our lives will work out from there (Psalm 27:4, Matthew 6:33-34). I believe we think too small, are too easily entertainment by lesser things and distracted by the things of this world (Mark 4:18). I think we are missing out actually on the fullness of joy we could have together.
Perhaps our concept of God is too small and such that we think he is “boring” when nothing could be further from the truth! Psalm 89:7-8 for example says: “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” If the seraphim/living creatures never get tired of the same refrain over and over again through all eternity of: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8) what makes us think we would ever be bored in the presence of God and gazing upon his beauty?
A few of us were just talking the other day about someone who is afraid of dying even though they are a believer. The reason? They are afraid of singing for all eternity. I know others with this same “fear.” If heaven is going to be one endless “worship service” (which is not accurate to begin with!) then some people dread that more than they seem to dread hell itself! I mean…if heaven will be like some of our shallow, entertainment-driven, performance-based church services…then yes I agree that would be horrible. But it won’t be! We will be utterly and completely caught up in the wonder and awe and beauty and worship of God himself!
Let me define a little bit what the “fear of the Lord” is. The fear of the Lord is a reverence, respect and awe of God. It involves a “trembling” and humbling of ourselves in his presence. It is an acknowledgment that He is Lord, king, Sovereign, ruler, “God.” It is understanding he is holy. It is a sense of accountability before him. It is a sense of being intentional about seeking him and living in a way that pleases him and is in accordance with his word and will. It is an act of submission in saying “you are God and I am not.” The fear of the Lord means we hate and do not participate in sin and evil (Proverbs 8:13). It means we commit our lives for his glory not our desires.
The fear of the Lord does not rob of “life” and “joy” rather it is the very key to a full life and true joy! Consider these verses in regard to what the fear of the Lord results in:
Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Proverbs 14:26: “He who fears the Lord has a secure confidence, and for his children it will be a refuge.”
Proverbs 14:27: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”
Proverbs 22:4: “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.”
Psalm 112:1: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.”
Psalm 25:14: “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”
Psalm 33:18: “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”
Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
Psalm 34:9: “Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.”
Psalm 145: “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”
Isaiah 33:6: “He will be a sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
Luke 1:50: “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”
Those are amazing realities and “benefits!” And that is just a sample of what scripture says about the fear of the Lord.
I contend that the single greatest need we have today is the true “knowledge of the Lord.” Not just hearing about him as a spectator in a pew; or fan on Facebook or merely reading about him even in the bible…but knowing him personally, intimately, deeply, reverently. He is the Living God! Everything we are truly looking for and our hearts desire is found in relationship and fellowship with Him.
Let us pray for God to captivate and capture our hearts again. Let us pray that we are gripped with a fear of Him. Let us pray he revives us with the wonder and beauty of who he is. Let us pray his holiness convicts us of our sin, resulting in confession of sin and cleansing of our hearts and lives of sin. Let us pray for an awakening of professing believers that results in a passion for missions and sharing the good news about our great God with others that they too may come to know His glorious person!
Philippians 3:7-9: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”