TRUE FEAR OF GOD
BY: DANIEL YORDY
JUNE 28, 2009
This morning, as I sat down to write, I found this question in my inbox. As I answered it, I knew that this was what the Lord wanted me to share in this Christ Our Life letter.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. What does the word fear mean, are we to be afraid of God? How can people trust Him and come to Him in trust if they are afraid?”
There are two kinds of fear. There is accusing fear, and then there is regarding fear. Many will look at God with an accusing fear. They have defined Him as the bad guy, as the one responsible for all their misery, and the one who threatens to destroy them even though they ‘haven’t done anything bad.’ These ‘believe in God,’ yes, but it is a belief centered in self-pity. This so-called fear separates from God and is of the evil one.
Then there is the regarding fear, as a wise and just king does not tolerate those who hurt and steal from the innocent, so robbers and murderers are afraid of such a king. The good people who live under his protection, also fear this king, not because they are afraid he will harm them, but because they see that he is wise and just and will not allow hurt in his kingdom. If a timid soul thinks of stealing, he hesitates and draws back because he fears the king, and so he is kept from evil.
This regarding fear is the beginning of wisdom, it is not wisdom. It is the doorway that sets you on the path to wisdom. Christ our life is wisdom – Jesus is made unto us the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:30
For many years, I walked in the fear of God, and in a sense, I still do. By that, I do not mean that I walked afraid that He would ‘get’ me if I ‘did something bad.’ Not at all. I have always known His grace and mercy and have always sought it. Yet, that action itself is the fear of God, for why would I seek His mercy if I did not regard Him as just and true? And so, because I highly regarded God, I sought Him, and devoted my life to seeking Him. There were times, however, when I was tempted to go a different way, to reach for that which I wanted, even though I knew it was not God’s path for me. This happened more than once, dramatically. I chose against myself because God spoke to me that He would take my life rather than allow me to walk a path that was not His plan for me. This was not a debilitating fear, it was a certain knowledge of God’s call and election on my life, that His choice of me was so certain, and His jealous love over me was so fierce, that He would not share me with His enemy, but would take me to Himself instead. In those times, I was greatly humbled and emptied.
Those were big things, but how many times have I reached for little things and heard, after I had committed myself, the Lord say, “No!” I certainly have fussed and whined, but He never changes His mind. When He says “No” He never stops saying “No,” until I submit. And so I have humbled myself, and returned the thing I had purchased or surrendered the thing I had tried to hold onto or gone and made amends. I no longer put up a fuss when God says, “No.” And it still happens, even since I have been writing the Christ Our Life letter.
But what was once the fear of God for me has turned into the absolute certainty that I am in His hand, that He has chosen me, and that He will finish the work He has begun inside of me.
In some ways I am bold and certain, but in other ways I am a weak and timid man. On the construction job or in my classroom, I know what I am doing and I move in great command. But in human relations I feel like my hands are tied and my mouth stuffed with cloth. I always wanted to be married, since I was a boy. But when I was of age to marry, I was afraid to talk with any girl I had in mind. God spoke to me at age 19 that marriage was His will for me, but it was five years later before He spoke to me who my wife would be. Then it was nine more long years before I stood to watch her come down the aisle to stand by my side. For seven of those years I had waited simply for the ability to talk with her. And my desire to be married was in my heart every single day of those fourteen years of waiting.
In the sharing service before our wedding, I told the family of God with whom we lived that there was one thing I knew: “God does what He says He will do.”
So let’s combine these two certainties. The certainty that God’s jealousy over me is such that He will take my life rather than allow me to follow a path that would take me to destruction. And the certainty that God does what He says He will do. I am seized in the grip of His determination and ALL that He has said concerning me He will do. This is the fear of God.
But it is not wisdom, it is only the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is found in Christ as my life. Wisdom is this absolute certainty that everything I am He carries utterly inside of Himself and that everything He is, He is in me, in every part of my human person. Wisdom is the absolute certainty that He is my life and that I have no other life. Wisdom is the communion of fellowship that I enjoy with the person of Jesus who resides in every part of me, living right now as me in this world. Wisdom is the breast upon which I lean my head.
Let’s take a verse like Romans 8:29. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son . . .”
Those who do not fear God at all do not regard such a statement, but hold it as pure rubbish.
Those who fear God in a twisted, whiny way will say, “He loves me, He loves me not.” “Maybe I’m damned and maybe I’m chosen for heaven, who knows.” And out of that twisted religious fear of God comes one of the most ridiculous theological debates in all history, “Did God decide beforehand who would go to heaven and who would go to hell?”
But to those who fear God in truth, this verse can say only one thing. “From the very beginning, God determined that I would be just like Jesus. He has seized me in the grip of His determination, and it is impossible that I would be anything but fully like Jesus.”
But I am willing to go further with that than most believers. Most believers say, “Yes, someday, in the sweet by and by, we’ll be conformed to the image of Jesus.” No. That is not enough for me. The word God speaks into this earth and into this age must be fulfilled in this earth and in this age.
God will do it in me now, in my life here in this world. Yes, there is a further measure of grace that I have set my faith upon. A measure of grace not yet given, though I am convinced that the time of that grace is right now. And I hold in my heart with all certainty, the faith that He will do it in me here. I want to see God win in me right here on this earth. I have no desire to see Him triumph in heaven. There is no glory in that because how could it be otherwise? But to see Him triumph in me, right here in this world of darkness and unbelief. To see His power come into union with my weakness. That is glory indeed.
Faith comes out of the true fear of God. I hold to Him absolutely because I regard nothing and no none else. The fear of God produces faith. But faith is bold. When someone is “afraid” of God so that they do not believe that He has chosen them, they have not found the fear of God, but are living in a pitiful bondage to demon spirits of fear. These must be taken gently by the hand and led into the kindness and love of God for them.
But one who fears God does not ask the question, “Did God chose me or not?” No. There is no option for one who fears God. I choose to believe, with all boldness and certainty, that I am seized in God’s determination. I do not need to have God tell me if He has chosen me or not. Absolutely not. Because the alternative, to be left dangling in uncertainty, is not an option for me.
I do not need to have Jesus tell me that I will stand by His side as He comes in His glory. Because the alternative, that I would miss out, that I would sit there and watch those who BELIEVED IN HIM embraced in the glory of His presence while I sit there, weeping, knowing, knowing, knowing, that absolutely nothing prevented me from being there with them, I just didn’t think it was important.
Such an alternative I cannot consider. It is unthinkable.
And so I believe, with all my heart that He will do in me all that is required.
Yet I am weak. And if my own discipline is what is required, then I cannot be with Him in that day. Oh, I’ll “be in heaven,” but that’s not what’s important to me.
Somehow, I got put on somebody’s mailing list who wants to insist that God demands obedience and that we better get with it and obey what the word says. Luckily, I could unsubscribe without tangling with them. You know, Jesus was nowhere inside their writing.
“Grab yourself by the bootstraps and make yourself do what God says, because that is what God demands, and He will judge you with wrath if you don’t line up with His commands.”
I lived under that definition of the fear of God for many years – as a theological idea, not as the way I lived.
But even that eventually brings some to wisdom. That kind of fear of God is not wisdom, but it can lead to wisdom for those who are honest with themselves. Those who come to the place where they admit to themselves that if God requires obedience, then they are without hope, yet where else do we turn? And so we come to Jesus and we say, “Jesus, I cannot fulfill what God requires. You are my life. Be what God wants inside of me.”
And that is wisdom.
God says, “You are dead.”
Those who teach a false “fear of God,” a fear that can, nonetheless, bring some to wisdom when they have failed utterly, will insist that what God meant when He said, “You are dead.” was that we must die. “Obviously, we are not dead to sin, therefore, everyday; we must die to this fallen human nature. We will not succeed, but we must pretend that is what we are doing.”
But those who truly fear God believe what He says. Okay. I am dead. That’s over with. Christ is my life. There is nothing else. He has taken upon Himself my human frame and He is living as me in this world.
I believe in Jesus!
TRUE FEAR OF GOD [Daniel Yordy] 6-28-09 1