AUTHOR’S NOTE: When the word “church” is used, I’m referring to the church as a whole rather than “all” churches. There are many good churches doing great things. I applaud them for their faithfulness.
The present condition of the church leaves one to wonder if the lack of reverent fear of the Lord is contributing to her spiritually dead condition. This lack diminishes the need to obey God. Christ speaks to the early church and to future believers of the consequences of lukewarm living in the book of Revelation, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:15-17). A healthy respect for God (fear) is what our culture, and the church, desperately need: “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him…” (Psalm 147:11).
Sadly, there is a growing number of leaders within the church who have left the fear of the Lord. They believe that we should avoid mentioning fear because it makes people feel uncomfortable. Many of the pulpits fail to stand as beacons pointing people to Christ and the fear of the Lord, but instead, act as politically correct platforms that challenge nothing and offend no one. In the same way that a beacon ensures safe navigation through dark waters, the church is to cast the light of God’s Word out into a dark and dying world.
In his book on systematic theology, Wayne Grudem comments, “We must realize that not all churches will respond well to influences that would bring them to greater purity. Sometimes, in spite of a few faithful Christians within a church, its dominant direction will be set by others who are determined to lead it on another course. Unless God graciously intervenes to bring reformation, some of these churches will become cults, and others will just die and close their doors. But more commonly these churches will simply drift into liberal Protestantism.”
Unanchored from the fear of the Lord, we drift slowly, often unnoticed until, from a distance, we see how far we have gone. With that said, how can we cultivate a healthy respect and fear of the Lord?
1. Recognize that it is a command and act accordingly: “Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14). A first step toward returning to the fear of the Lord is to fully comprehend that the responsibility falls squarely upon us, individually and collectively. Psalm 33:8-9 declares, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” When God says we ought to do something it implies that we can do it, and, many times, it implies that we must do it.
Do you truly fear Him? If there is not a healthy respect and reverence for the Creator of heaven and earth, then the words of Daniel 5:23 may be a call to you, “You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.” Jesus’ words are also sobering, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
2. The fear of the Lord must be preached. In the dawn of American history, scholars and historians frequently traveled abroad to better understand America’s rise to power. Even though it is not found in his works, the quote is often credited to Alexis De Tocqueville. Whomever the author, it is clear that he believed that much of America’s success was attributed to the pulpits being aflame with righteousness and the fear of the Lord: “I looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated. I looked for it in her harbors and on her shorelines, in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and in her gold mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there. It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great” (Paraphrase).
According to Scripture, “great” and “good” are by-products of a nation who fears the Lord. In Psalm 33:12 it states, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” It is clearly understood that the phrase “God is the Lord” refers to a nation who respects, obeys, honors, and fears Him.
I’m not praising America. On the contrary, I’m illustrating the fact that we must lovingly proclaim the fear of the Lord again in our churches if we are to bring restoration to our personal lives, our families, and our nation.
Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, the spiritual climate is similar to ours—2 Chronicles 36:15-16 records, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”
Our nation, and more sadly, a large portion of the church, appears to be mocking God, His messengers, and despising His Word. He warns us because of His great love and compassion. He asks nothing in return except that we repent of our sin, turn to Him, and live in obedience to His Word. We cannot continue to confuse His patience with His approval.