Fear of God: The Necessary Surrender

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“We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him” {italics and bold, mine} [James 9:31].

Recently, I posted on the fear of God. I discussed the idea that God is so holy He is unapproachable and yet we need to approach God in order to pray. But the fear of God can be a good thing, motivating us to pay attention to our behavior and motivating us to do good and avoid evil.

As you can clearly see from the scripture above, a prerequisite for getting God to hear your prayers is for you to fear God.

How can we get past the word fear?

Most of us cannot imagine fear being a good thing. I don’t know about you but my experiences with fear have resulted in very uncomfortable feelings. I associate it with a sense of dread, a lingering feeling that I am in danger and I could be harmed by someone or something. Some of my fear is irrational.   An example from my life is my fear of MRI machines.   They are too tight and I can’t go into one unless I am unconscious. Even thinking about being unconscious in an MRI makes me have the “willies.” What will happen in this machine? Nothing, except I will get a full-body x-ray.   My reaction is an irrational fear.

Psalms 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Psalms 36:1 “Concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.”

We must grapple with fear of God for as W. Bingham Hunter says “that without a sense of God’s awesome holiness, and the consequent ‘fear,’ we simply do not have biblical religion.”

Let’s define the Biblical notion of fear of God and we will all feel better: “theological fear is not primarily dread or repulsion for the fear object, but surrender to [God’s] authority” [Robert Morosco in Hunter, 21]. Fear of God is not irrational; not fearing God is irrational. In other words, when we deny God’s holiness, God’s power and God’s presence, we are irrational [and possibly we are being sinfully wicked].

In college, I studied the Age of Enlightenment.   This period which began in Europe in the 17th Century was a period of two hundred years when man emerged from the Dark Ages and began to think again, create again and feel some sense of control over life. Certainly it was good to have some time where humanity left behind the fog of societal collapse of the Roman Empire. However, man makes a mistake over and over when he does not recognize the finite nature of existence.   There really is no security in worshipping things of this world. “Those who do not fear God as the transcendent, holy and infinite Creator replace His power and authority with either themselves, others or material things” [Hunter, 22] Romans 1:25 “They [have] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is [to be] forever praised.”

We must never forget that God is our Ultimate Creator, our Ultimate Authority. What we make of our lives is His gift to us. What we possess in this life is His gift to us. What we feel in this life is His gift to us.

This leaves us in an eternal fight against egocentrism. It is so easy to feel powerful, insightful and in control.   But all that is illusion. In a blink of an eye, all that we cherish can be taken away and we are left with very little.

For the best proof of the need for the surrender to God’s authority one merely needs to read the Old Testament which is a record of Israel struggling over so many years to have a consistent submission to God’s authority. Over and over again, the Hebrews became so egocentric and were punished by God.   If only they had remembered how much God promised them in His covenantal relationship, life could have been so much easier. The Old Testament is one long story of God promising to help His people and the people promising to love God, only to fall away with worship of idols, intermingling with other cultures and breaking all of God’s commandments.   God punished them. They asked forgiveness. They were redeemed, only to fall away again.

Today, many Christians find themselves in the same situation as the Israelites. We don’t have the pure heart that we need to call out to the Holy One. We are distracted with our own life concerns and don’t realize how much we owe God. We think our day to day lives are all-important and we feel such pride in what we are able to accomplish.

We don’t see the need to submit to our Lord. We certainly don’t fear God’s retribution.

And then I hear Christians say “I wonder why my prayers go unanswered?”


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