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What does it mean to fear God?

Updated: Jan 28

In the new song I just released, the last line of the chorus says, "If I fear you, I won't be afraid."

When we think of fear, we typically think of unhealthy fear. We think of anxiety, panic, and stress. But God has not given us the spirit of this kind of fear. This fear undermines God’s sovereignty. However, there is a fear that is good and healthy; a kind of fear that leads to worship.

Picture yourself standing on the roof of a skyscraper. The views from the top are breathtaking as you watch the sun setting over the city. The closer you get to the edge of the roof, the more aware you become of the danger of falling. There is an acute awareness of the distance between your feet and the edge of the roof. The gusts of wind cause you to take a few steps back as a precaution. Though you want to stand tall to get a better view, you can’t help but crouch down to keep your feet from tingling in fear. Although the altitude brings an awe-inspiring perspective, it also causes a heightened sense of focus—a fear. Neither the stunning views nor the present danger would elicit anything less than a sober mind and wide-open eyes. There is nothing foolish about fearing the edge of the roof. On the contrary—it would be unwise not to fear it. This kind of fear is wisdom. This kind of fear demands our full attention. This is how we must fear the Lord.

Every year our family takes a trip to the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, which just happens to be minutes down the road from us in Asheboro, NC. Like most zoos, you can expect to see all types of animals, reptiles, and birds. But some animals are much more interesting to watch than others. As would be expected, our kids take the most interest in the animals that could eat them. They want to see the animals with sharp teeth and long claws. The snakes and spiders are interesting, and the elephants and monkeys are fun to watch, but nothing compares to standing a few feet away from a lion or a tiger. Why is this? I think it is because these are the animals that we fear the most. Fearing a lion is not a bad thing. It would be unwise not to fear a lion. Our whole family will stand and watch the lions longer than they will at any other animal exhibit, especially when the lions are most active (which seems to be rare sometimes). We fix our eyes on their awe-inspiring strength. We don’t stand at the lion exhibit and look at the plants or the flowers surrounding it. We are locked in with the lions. If the rails and trenches were not between the lions and us, there is zero chance that we would still be standing there. This kind of fear points to the way we should fear God. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe:

“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh," said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion" "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver… "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

God is to be feared above all gods. He is not safe, but he is good. When we fear God, we will fix our eyes on him; just as we do to the lions at the zoo. When we fix our eyes on him, we will behold his greatness and his strength. His majesty and power will capture our gaze. And as we examine his love, it will bring us to our knees. When we fear God, it will lead to worship. When we fear him above man, then we will keep our eyes on him instead of on ourselves. Though we should fear God, we should no longer fear his wrath if we are hidden in Christ. God is not waiting to kick us when we fall. On the contrary, he longs to pick us up when we do.

Fearing God leads us to examine him, and when we examine him, we see that his greatness and his goodness are better than everything else (Psalm 63:3). The vision of the greatness and goodness of God through Jesus is our single greatest daily need. Renewing our minds about who God is and what he's done for us is what fuels our worship and produces fruitfulness. 

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”—Psalm 34:3 (ESV)

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