Why should I fear a God who has loved me so much that He has sent His only Son to die for me? This must be the question we ask ourselves as we explore godly fear.
I know God has wonderful plans for me. I know that He will welcome me back into His arms when I come home to Him. I know that God has sought me to come to know Him. Yet, I also know that I should live my life in godly fear.
There are several reasons for fear. You can fear someone because he is powerful and has promised to harm you. That isn't the case with God.
You can fear someone because of the power he has over you and you don't know what he will do. That isn't the case with God.
You can fear someone because he has the power to harm someone you love. While God does have the power, there is no reason to believe that He will act with malice toward anyone you love.
Godly fear is not so much a fear of Him who loves us with an everlasting love but a fear of disappointing Him. If I realize what He has done for me, realize His love for me, then my fear is one of being aware that as I have fallen short of His glory, I can walk away from that glory again.
It is not a fear of the failure of living a perfect life. No one lives a perfect life. It is the fear of being far apart from Him. It is an awareness of our capacity to do so. It is a fear that would result in His pain. It is a fear that I will forget who He is.
I am not worried about whether or not I am going to heaven. I am concerned that I will enter heaven to a list of regrets and disappointments. I would much rather hear, "Come in, my good and faithful servant," rather than, "Well, you just made it."
I know that I can walk away from God at any time. I can even continue to be a pastor and walk away from God. Too many pastors have lived in sinful relationships while continuing to preach. Many of them preached messages while living in such sin better than I can preach when trying to live a godly life. Yet, my fear is to be apart from the God I love. My fear is that I will live a meaningless life. Going to church is a special hell for those who are walking apart from the Lord.
Therefore, I write this blog every day. I don't do it for those people who read it. (Though I am glad to hear from people who have been helped by it.) I do so because it prompts me to get into God's word each day and listen to Him. I do so with fear that I could forget the Lord today. I could stay away from His word and His presence. I could hurt the God I love.
Godly fear is somewhere between reverence and terror. It is much more than people feel when they enter the sanctuary. They get quiet but they may not have the intensity of fear I know godly fear has. It is less that being terrified. God should only terrify the lost. They should know what will happen without Jesus. I find it interesting that the NIV will translate it "reverent fear" in 1 Peter 1:17. That's commentary, not translation. The word is phobos. It just means fear.
So, live your life with godly fear.
1 Peter 1:17-19 (ESV)
17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.