This blog post was written by one of our teaching team residents, Cole Simpson.
We all Fear Something
Everyone, at least at some level, is afraid.
And rather than ignore, deny, or tell us to just stop fearing, Peter redirects it. Two times specifically, he tells us to fear God. First, in chapter 1 Peter is talking to fellow believers about what they should and should not do and gives them an interesting command, “Conduct yourselves with fear in your time of exile” (1 Peter 1:17). And in chapter 2 where he says simply, “Fear God” (1 Peter 2:17).
These examples in 1 Peter aren’t unique instances throughout Scripture. The Bible actually calls us to fear God over 300 times. But in light of God’s love, mercy, grace and overall character, this command can seem confusing or even contradictory to the good news of what God has done for us.
So what does it mean to fear God?
I had a friend growing up who I’ll call Mike. Mike was a tough kid -- the toughest kid I’ve ever met. He wasn’t afraid of anything. Multiple times I saw him get into arguments with people twice his size and every time the larger kid cowered. No matter how much bigger or stronger, nobody fought or messed with Mike.
This always baffled me until one day I was with him and his dad walked up to talk to us. His dad was small; nothing particularly impressive or intimidating about his stature. But suddenly everything about Mike changed. The toughest kid I knew got very quiet. He wouldn’t look his father in the eyes. His only words were a quick “yes sir” or “no sir”. And Mike didn’t go back to normal until his father walked away.
As time went on I noticed this more and more. Until finally, a light bulb went off. Mike was comfortable fighting absolutely anyone because he had been fighting his entire life. My concerns were confirmed when the truth came out that his dad had been beating him most of his life. He wasn’t afraid of anything because he experienced hell everyday at home. What else was there to fear?
This is the kind of picture that came to mind when I read the words “Fear the Lord” in the Scriptures. Like many of us, this command was distressing for me because I didn’t want to follow God if I had to view Him like Mike’s dad.
I had another friend growing up who I’ll call Clara. Clara was the type of girl that everybody gravitated towards. She just had the ability to make anyone and everyone feel welcomed. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from; Clara wanted to listen to your story.
When Clara got into high school there was a guy that was interested in her. When he asked her out however, she told him he needed to ask her dad. While this would scare off many, he was seriously into her so he asked her dad. Clara’s dad said yes they could on one condition.
Their first date would be dinner with their family.
When most of my friends were fooling around, hooking up, and dating whomever they wanted with next to no parental involvement, this sounded sort of ludicrous to me. But what came next was downright craziness. For the entire first year of their relationship, they only went on dates at Clara’s house!
I remember asking Clara why she put up with it? Why she wasn’t angry? Why she didn’t think her parents were being ridiculous? She smiled and said:
“Nobody loves me more than my parents, so if they think this is what I need to do, then I trust them”.
It was one of the most beautiful statements I’ve ever heard.
Clara’s view of her parents encapsulates a huge part of how the Bible describes our fear of God. In realizing how much God loves us, how could we trust anything above him? Clara had a humility about herself and a rigorous trust in her parents. A healthy trust. A healthy respect. And a fear.
A healthy fear.
Fearing the Lord means we rigorously trust Him. We humbly submit ourselves to Him with a healthy respect and fear. It means, God gets the biggest voice in our life.
The Freedom of Fearing the Lord
The reality is that fearing the Lord gives us a freedom that we can never attain apart from it.
Fear of the Lord kills insecurity. The God of the universe, who created the stars in the heavens also formed me individually (Psalms 139:13-18). We can rest in the fact that God, our Father, loves us more than anyone else ever could (Romans 8:37-39).
We no longer have to fear man because we know that God is the only voice that matters and in Christ His thoughts towards us are, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) No one else’s judgment compares to the judgment of our loving, and fearful Father.
We are freed to love those around us fully. No longer are we enslaved to using the people around us to fill our needs of approval, power, control, or comfort. Instead of continuing to run to unsatisfying idols (Jeremiah 2:13) we can run to God, the true fountain of life (John 4:13-14), and be satisfied.
Fear of God means politics and politicians aren’t ultimate. So if my candidate loses or the worst candidate ever wins, I can remain confident that God will hold the universe together (Romans 13:1).
The almighty, holy, God of the universe came to the earth and died on a cross while we were still dead, so that me and you, unrighteous sinners who deserve hell, could know him (Romans 5:8, Luke 12:5). How could we not fear him?