Many spiritual truths are like opposites kept in balance. It is easy at times for Christians to take their favoured truth out of balance with other truth. For example, there is a tension between the Fear of God and being in Relationship with God.
If Fear of God is taken too far then God is not a loving Father but a judge to be feared. Yet if Relationship is taken too far people can presume to get away with just about anything, without respect for God’s standards.
We see similar tension between opposites with faith and works, authority and submission, accepting our lot and claiming more from God.
Your challenge in life is to keep truth in balance. You will do that by accepting the whole counsel of God, not sticking only to your favourite themes. You will also do that by being open to the Holy Spirit and allowing God to keep leading you, as a shepherd leads his sheep. Remain teachable, and keep reading the Bible and growing in your understanding.
Beware those teachings that shut you down spiritually, such as with fear. Beware elitist teachings that suggest you come into a superior place compared to other Christians. Keep in fellowship with God and with the wider church community, especially those who live their faith in ways that reflect spiritual power in their lives.
Let’s take a moment to look at the contrast between the Fear of God and God’s Grace.
There are abundant examples in God’s Word of people who were quite severely punished for not being careful to follow God’s instructions. Moses, the meekest man that ever lived, and God’s great miracle-working leader of the Children of Israel, was judged for disobedience.
In the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites God told Moses to get water from a rock by speaking to the rock. Previously God had told Moses to get water by striking a rock. This time the idea was similar but the instruction was different.
“Take your rod and gather the assembly together, with your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their sight; and it will yield its water, and you will bring to them water out of the rock: so you will give drink to the congregation and their animals.” Numbers 20:8
However Moses struck the rock, twice. For that he was judged by God and denied the right to enter the Promised Land.
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe me, to honour me in the sight of the children of Israel, you will not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Numbers 20:12
That shows how much we are to pay attention to what God is saying and be careful to obey and honour Him.
Another example is that of Ananias and Sapphira who gave money to the church but kept a portion for themselves. Their sin was in lying to the church. For that they both dropped dead.
“Peter asked, How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Here come the men who buried your husband and they will bury you too. She instantly fell at his feet and died.” Acts 5:9,10
The Fear of God was well and truly prompted by that event.
“Great fear came on all the church and on all who heard these things.” Acts 5:11
Before you become too impressed with those who promote the idea of us doing whatever we want, remember Moses and what happened in the early church. God is not to be trifled with, but to be honoured and obeyed. We are to live in fearful respect for God.
Yet we are also to relate to God as Father. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father in Heaven”. God said we are to be like our Father in heaven.
“Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Jesus displayed the character of the Father through the account of the Prodigal Son. The Father waited and watched for the son’s return and ran to the son and reinstated him into the family.
“Bring the best robe and dress him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Kill the fatted calf. Let us celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found! So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24
If God was only a God of judgement that son would never be welcomed back into the family. However, God’s holiness and justice are balanced by Mercy and Love.
God is Judge, but He is also Father.
God gives us ‘grace’. We are saved by ‘grace’, despite the punishment we have earned.
“By grace you have been saved through faith” Ephesians 2:8
God’s grace frees us from the penalties we deserve. We have a wonderful freedom, as God’s children, to come freely into God’s presence.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Yet for all the freedom we have by relationship with God as our Father, we are still to live in the Fear of God. We are not to use the new freedoms we have as freedom to do what is evil or self-serving.
“You, brothers, have been called to liberty; only don’t use this freedom to serve your human desires, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
By faith in Christ we are freed from our sins and brought into wonderful relationship with God as our Father. That is transformational and amazing. With that we are freed in great measure from our failings and weaknesses and the punishment we deserve. However, we are still to live in the Fear of God, honouring Him and submitting to Him, recognising His will and His way and walking in the paths of righteousness.
We are not freed to do as we please and expect God to give us plenty of rope.
Over time you will feel God’s correction and rebuke and your sense of the Fear of God will be awakened. At other times you will feel God’s amazing love and the healing acceptance He has toward you. Your life falls between the Fear of God and enjoying God’s grace.
So, may you respect the full counsel of God’s Word and may you learn to live powerfully by Faith, in the Fear of God.