Sunday, July 29, 2007

Got Fear?

I heard a sermon the other night that really caught my attention. It was about character, integrity and the fear of God. Part of the message is that as we fear God it will lead to integrity and good character. It was a very challenging message.

So that is the context. What stood out to me was the following passage from Proverbs 1:24-31:

Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
I have read that passage many times before. What came to mind when I heard it this time is the thought that if we mess around with God and His grace we might find ourselves at the end of our rope with no one including God to help.

Is it possible that we have taken the message of grace too far? We say things like, “God will always forgive.” We talk to people about the need for Christ in their life and then assure them that He will be waiting if they ever decide to follow Him. What if He isn’t?

In Romans 1:28 it talks of the person that God turns over to a reprobate mind. Here is what The People's New Testament says about this verse:
God gave them over to a reprobate mind. A thought is repeated here that has already been hinted, and is often taught in the Scriptures. The man who turns from the truth will be allowed to have his way, will fall deeper and deeper into error, and will reap all the evil consequences of loving darkness rather than light. Those who hate the truth are "given over" to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one rejected of God.
Are there two things in play? Can the sinner have his own way and God just lets him go and quits pursuing him? Is there a time where the sinner having rejected God’s wisdom and counsel finally calls out to God and God not only does not answer but also laughs at the horrible predicament the sinner is in? And if these are true, do we find it hard to accept that God could be so cruel and heartless? Or is God’s response grounded in His holiness which we don’t always share?

If this is true, what about the saint? Because we have received Christ, are we exempt? What if we mess around with God? What if we are stubborn and refuse His counsel? What if we hide sin in our heart; What if we indulge in a few small sins?

We should probably think about what it means to fear God. I have heard many explanations that try to soften it. We want to think of God as loving and kind, which he is, but maybe there is a simple message in the word fear. Maybe the above-cited section from Proverbs gives an indication. Maybe the message is, don’t mess with God and don’t presume too much.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
(2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)

I would love to hear what you think.

Philip

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