The “Ungodly” fear of God

In Proverbs we are told that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom! This is very true.

Having a godly fear of Him who created you, will spur you towards holiness, right decisions and yes, wisdom!

Even when we sin, a holy fear of God’s wrath will draw us to the Saviour who forgives and Who has become our righteousness.

It was the fear of God that moved David to repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. It was the fear of God that moved the population of Nineveh to turn back to God. The fear of God is healthy!

And yet, there is an unhealthy (or an ungodly) way of fearing God. We see it in the story of Adam and Eve… “ I heard you coming and I was afraid…so I hid”.

We also read the parable of the wicked servant who was afraid of his master, so he hid the money underground…and did not invest it!

Let us not mistake the godly fear of God, from the ungodly counterfeit. May the fear of God draw us to Him and His Son for communion. Rather than keep us with the pigs in rebellion.

Afterthought: In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians he describes two kinds of sorrow. Godly sorrow which leads to repentance and ungodly sorrow.

Genesis 19: We are a lot like Lot

Excuse the pun! As part of my Bible reading plan this year, I recently came across the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s a story that is largely overlooked, in favour of the controversial debate on homosexuality. But in the midst of the debate, is a person whose story reverberates with resemblances of the Christian in his faith.

  1. We read that Lot is sinful. Despite, Abraham’s prayers for God to spare the city if only 10 righteous people were found there, it is undeniable that even Lot (in all his “heterosexual” ways!) is very much sinful. If you were left in any doubt after reciting Romans 3:23 (all have sinned and fallen short), take a look at how Lot handles the riot on his doorstep (v8). It really is not pretty! We are like Lot in this way, that even as Christians we remain sinful. Just because we give our lives to Christ, does not end the inclinations of our heart. We must still wrestle and put to death the tendencies of sin within our self. Romans 7.
  2. We read that Lot was rescued by God, on the basis of someone else’s faith. A chapter previously, Abraham is pleading with God to spare the city and rescue Lot. Abraham is playing the role of intercessor. At the end of Genesis 19, we read that “so when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe..” (v29). Notice Lot isn’t saved because he was a holy man, he was saved because God remembered Abraham. In the same way, we are not rescued from the destruction of hell, because we are righteous…but rather because of the faith and righteousness of Jesus. Romans 8.
  3. We read that Lot attempted to persuade others to flee the coming wrath and destruction. He pleaded with his son’s in law (or soon to be son’s in law) to leave. But it says they ‘laughed at him’. How often do we experience this as Christians, when we tell others about the good news. Many people laugh, disbelieve. Romans 9.
  4. We read that after the rescue of Lot and his family, he continues to make foolish and harmful decisions. Giving himself to drink and promiscuity, to the point that his own daughters take advantage of him. This is no ideal man, no ideal husband and father. In fact, a man like this would likely be arrested. In the same way, many Christians – even Church leaders – are riddled with the residue of the sinful flesh. This is not to excuse them, or myself, but rather to urge us back to Him who is our righteousness. To push us back to worship. To encourage us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him who rescued us. Romans 12.

At a crossroads

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16

Whether we are in a mid-life crises, or choosing what to buy in our weekly food shop. I think many Christians would benefit from the advice of this verse.

How often do we stop, look and ask for directions from God. How often do we consider the decisions we make, whether they are financial, time-related, work, relationship, family related. Do we stand still? Do we look at the possibilities? Do we ask God for direction?

If we don’t is it surprising that we don’t experience rest for our souls?

Stand at the crossroads. This means stop walking. Stop going on without thinking. Stop and stand. How often in the Bible, God commands His people to stand firm. In fact in one place He says, don’t fight, this battle is not yours, simply stand firm. Elsewhere, God tells us to don the armour of spiritual warfare and stand firm. When the breath of God enters the army of dry bones, what do they do? Advance? No, they ‘stood on their feet’. Stand.

And look. So often we are oblivious to the many options presented to us. But after, even a short while of observation, we can see many roads and directions ahead of us. We must be careful not to be overwhelmed by ‘decision fatigue’. But at the same time, we may end up fatigued by staying on the incorrect path. Look.

Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is. Do we do this? Do we invite God to direct us in the small decisions as well as the big ones? I challenge you today, to try asking God whenever a decision presents itself, however small. You may hear nothing, you may be directed in an unusual way. But take the time to ask. What time shall I wake up tomorrow? Which route shall I take to work? What should be my first words to colleagues? Shall I have lunch or shall I fast? Does God want me to call anyone on my commute home? How shall I spend my evening? Is there a part of the Bible I need to re-read tonight? Etc etc. Ask.

Finally, we need to – walk in it. So often, it is easy to hear God’s word and direction and to ignore it. No this promise is tied, undeniably, not just to stopping, looking, asking but also to obeying. The promise of rest for our souls is based in part on our obedience to God’s direction. Just like the wise man who built his house on the rock, is like the man who not only hears Jesus’ words, but also ‘puts them into practice’. Walk in it.

Blessings

3 Descriptions

In the story of Noah, we are given three distinct descriptions:

  1. He was a righteous man
  2. He was a blameless man
  3. He walked with God

Righteous – we know from Hebrews 11:6-7 that it was Noah’s faith that made him righteous. Blameless – we know from James 2:21-24 that true, saving faith is evident in the way that a person lives and therefore Noah was blameless.

Finally, Noah, like Enoch, walked with God. He continually and habitually maintained a relationship with God.

  • Righteous by Faith
  • Blameless by Conduct
  • Walked with God by Relationship

We also know from later reading that Noah developed a drinking problem and had failings as a father. This is a reminder that without God’s grace we will never be righteous, blameless or maintain a relationship with God.

I want to lean into God for provision of increased faith, power for self-control in my conduct, and the ability to grasp the height, depth, breadth and length of Him who loved me first.

To plead with the desperate father: Lord, I believe, help me with my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

To ask like the son for a loaf of bread: Holy Spirit dwell in me, that the fruit of self-control would be manifest (Matthew 7:9)

To enter into the disciples’ experience and walk ‘in the dust of the Rabbi’ -t hat we might receive the Lord’s reply to Phillip in John 14:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?… “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

God doesn’t use a broad brush

God sees that the human race is inclined towards sin. He searches every heart, looking for anyone who is willing to receive His mercy, to receive Him.

Then he finds Noah.

He determines to destroy the human race completely because they all have turned away from Him. But He saves Noah, because He has examined every heart and found but one man who walks with faith.

The story of Noah, isn’t the only occasion where God’s grace is demonstrated by the abandonment of the convenient broad brush of judgement. Does He not also save Lot from Sodom’s destruction? Does He not pass over the Israelite first born because of the faithful obedience of the parents? Does He not look upon Jesus crucified between two sinners?

Just as God avoids the broad brush of judgement, may we too seek to be merciful. To look for the best in each person (1 Cor 13:7 AMP). Do we assume all the people who hold different opinions to us, be they political, cultural, ethical, theological, are evil? Or do we see past the stereotype, and consider the individual heart.

It is generous of God to weigh us as individuals, may I extend that generosity to others. And not just to individuals within groups, but to the person in the individual circumstance.

Broad brushes are imprecise and harmful to fine art, and we humans are indeed fine art.

Receiving Romans 8

I am Righteous.
I am not condemned any longer.
I have been given life.
I have been set free from sin and death.
The righteous requirement of the law has been fully met in me because: I live according to the Spirit.

I have my mind set on what the Spirit desires.
I have my mind governed by the Spirit.
My mind is life and peace.
My mind is a friend of God and is no longer hostile to Him.
My mind is able to submit to God’s law – and it does.

I please God!

The Spirit of God lives in me!
I have Him!
I belong to Christ!
Christ is in me!

Even though my body is subject to death – I have received life because of righteousness.
My body will be raised because His Spirit is in me.
I put to death the misdeeds of the body.
I will live!

I am lead by the Spirit.
I am a Child of God.
I am not a slave to fear.
I am adopted to son ship.
I cry “Abba Father!”

I am an heir of God.
I am a co-heir with Christ.
The Spirit, The Holy Spirit himself, testifies as much!
I share in His sufferings.
I will share in His glory – it will be revealed in me!

I have the first fruits of the Spirit.
And I groan inwardly as I eagerly wait
This is the hope I have, and it saves me.
I hope and wait patiently.

I am helped in my weaknesses by the Spirit.
He intercedes for me!
He searches my heart.
He intercedes for me according to God’s will.

God is working for my good.
I love Him!

I have been called according to His purpose.
God foreknew me.
He predestined me to be conformed to the image of Christ.
He called me.
He justified me.
He will glorify me.

God is for me!
Who can stand against me?
He will give me all things!
Who will bring any charge against me?
He has justified me.
Who will condemn me?
No one!

Nothing will separate me from the love of God!
I am a super-conqueror through Him loved me and gave Himself for me.

Amen