What is The Fear of the Lord?
Since last September, we have been exploring the seven-fold Spirit of God that equips us with the Mind of Christ.
This phenomenal gift was not just given to Jesus Christ or a few chosen men in the Bible, but is bestowed upon each of us the moment we believe and accept Christ into our hearts.
Isaiah 11:1-2 tells us that the Mind of Christ begins with the Spirit of the Lord (at the core of our being), who desires to impart to us, not only God's supernatural Thoughts (His Wisdom); but also understanding of those Thoughts; counsel as to which of those Thoughts are appropriate for our own situation; supernatural strength to implement those Thoughts in our lives; personal experiential knowledge of seeing those Thoughts manifested in our life actions; and lastly, the ability to walk in the Fear of the Lord (and not the fear of man), by fleeing anything that would quench His Spirit in us.
The culmination of the Mind of Christ in us is the ability to walk in the Fear of the Lord and not in the fear of man. Fear of God means essentially two things:
1) It means to stand in reverential awe of who God is; and,
2) It means to hate sin.
Well, we can't reverentially stand in awe of who God is, until we really "know" Him (and have that intimate relationship). And we can't know God unless we "hate sin" (flee anything that quenches His Life in us).
So, "knowing God" intimately, which we talked about last month, and "walking in the Fear of Him" go hand in hand.
Fear of God does not mean fearfulness of God or being afraid of Him, but walking, speaking and acting in such an intimate relationship with Him that we are in continual awe of what He is doing in our lives. And because of that, we are constantly watching for and fleeing anything that would hinder or quench that intimacy.
In other words, Fear of God is caring more about what God thinks than about what man thinks.
An Example: "She Wanted Out"
Here's a beautiful example of someone walking in the Fear of the Lord: John's wife wanted to divorce him because she was tired of being married and simply "wanted out."
John did not want the divorce, but his wife proceeded anyway and eventually got custody (amazingly) of their eight-year-old daughter, their only child.
Six years went by and just as John was getting his life back in order, his ex-wife decided to sue him for more child support. She didn't need the money; her motive was simply to destroy him emotionally and financially.
Two days after he was served papers to appear in court, he received a letter from his daughter, who had just turned 14. The letter, he said, was "the most horrible, bitter, resentful and unforgiving letter anyone could receive. In that letter he was called everything, but human."
At first he was shocked, then angry, then absolutely devastated. He said the only thing that saved him was knowing how to take his hurts and fears to the Lord and knowing that He would heal them.
He said all he could see was "the cross" and the Scripture that says, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." This became his prayer.
After constantly praying and seeking God, John decided to write his daughter a response. Naturally, he wanted to "justify" his own position (his wife was the one who sought the divorce, not him, etc.). But the Lord wouldn't let him do that.
Instead, he wrote a four-page letter to his daughter about how to take all your hurts to God and how to forgive those that have hurt you. He wrote that "forgiveness is the only thing that will set you free to love."
He asked his daughter's forgiveness for all the things she had named in her letter. He continually re-affirmed his love for her and shared "even if you want to write things that hurt me, it's okay, because I will love you anyway."
A few days later, he received a hand-written postcard from his daughter saying, "I don't understand it all or why, but I love you, Daddy, and I do forgive you."
When the court date arrived, both lawyers commented how much the daughter truly loved her dad. She had evidently held his arm and hugged him the whole time they were in court.
The court ruled in John's favor. The ex-wife was so bitter and resentful as a result, that John said he had only compassion for her.
Recently, John wrote me another letter, "You know what's neat, Nancy, is our being free to love. The choice to take the hurts captive and give them to God is ours, but then Jesus gives us the Love we need to respond.
"In other words, I give Jesus the junk, He then gives me His Love. What an incredible exchange! Nan, it seems to me so few people understand this...."
The Genuine and Mature Christian
Someone walking in the Fear of the Lord is someone who is walking in God's Truth and Love.
This is the "genuine" Christian whose words and deeds match. There's no hypocrisy here, no masks. These people are free to be themselves and yet reflect Christ in all they do.
One lady said to me last week, "Nancy, why are our churches so filled with hypocrites?"
I answered her by saying, "It's not so much that we set out to be phonies. We all really want to reflect Christ and be good witnesses of Him. The problem is, simply, many of us just don't know how. We know in our heads what we are supposed to do (and we say it with our words), but we just don't know how to implement it in our everyday lives (in our actions)."
And, of course, we are convinced that no one else has this problem-we're the only ones. So, we hide our true thoughts and feelings even more and raise our facades and masks a little higher. We can't let others see that it's really not working for us.
The real problem is, once again, ignorance. We can't be transformed unless we understand how to renew our minds. And we can't renew our minds unless we understand what they are and how to put on the Mind of Christ. So, ignorance is the real reason many of us have become hypocrites-saying one thing, but doing another.
The mature Christian is simply one who understands how to put off the junk in his own thinking and how to put on Christ. He still has hurts and he still stumbles, but he knows what to do about it. The more we can allow God to show us our sin and get rid of it for us, the more transparent and real we can become. And the more transparent we are, the more others will be able to identify with us and want what we have. Not Perfect or Sinless
Walking in the Fear of God does not mean that somehow we are perfect or sinless-far from it! Remember, our self-life doesn't improve with age. We can be Christians for 40 years and our "self-life" will still be just as ugly as it was the first day we believed.
We can't tame our self-life; we must kill it. We must constantly set it aside, yield and give it over to God-remember 2 Corinthians 4:11-12.
What does improve with age, however, is the ability to recognize that "self" and to make the appropriate faith choices to give it over to God.
This, to me, is all maturity really is-knowing how, moment by moment, to put off our self and put on Christ. That's all transformation is: taking off the one and putting on the other!
When we walk in the Fear of God, we still will have to deal with our hurts, our wounds, our negative thoughts, etc., and sometimes even more than before, because we have become so much more "finely tuned" to the real motives behind our thoughts and actions.
It seems to me, the closer I get to Jesus, the more sin and self I see in me. Now, it's not that the sin wasn't there before, it certainly was. It's just that I am able to see it so much more clearly now than I ever did before.
The good news is, however, that I'm able to catch that sin more quickly and make the appropriate faith choices to relinquish it to God.
An Example: A Book of Remembrance
One of the most beautiful examples of someone who knew God intimately and truly walked in Fear of Him was a precious, 28- year-old friend of mine named Diana Bantlow.
This beautiful sister was only two years old in the Lord when she was diagnosed with leukemia and given six months to live.
But no matter how much pain she was in, or what she thought or felt, Diana continually chose not only to make the appropriate "faith choices" (to do God's Will and not her own), but also to give God her life so He could perform His perfect Will through it.
Diana was invited to teach a Bible study those last six months of her life. She prayed about it, talked to her husband, and felt strongly that God wanted her out sharing exactly what He was doing in her life.
Many times she would come to teach the Bible Study after her chemotherapy sessions. To ease her pain we would prop pillows up behind her so she could sit more comfortably. She would then begin to tell us about God's Love and about His faithfulness and His trustworthiness. She had an intimacy with God that none of us had ever seen.
The Bible Study grew to about 50 people, because we all saw in Diana a oneness with God that each of us desired with all of our hearts. I had been a believer, at that point, for about 15 years, and yet, I had never met anyone like Diana. Every one of us wanted what Diana had with Jesus!
More than any other Christian I have ever known, Diana represented one who truly walked in the Fear of God, because she didn't allow anything (sickness, physical pain, negative thoughts, fear, doubts, her own desires or her circumstances) to quench or block God's Life in her.
Now, you know she must have experienced things like fear and doubt. She was human, just as we are. But her love and fear of God, and the knowledge that He loved her, kept her making those "faith choices," giving over what she didn't understand, and instead, trusting God in everything.
She knew in her heart that God wouldn't allow anything into her life that wasn't for her best or that He wouldn't use for His ultimate purposes.
Malachi 3:16 says that there is a "book of remembrance" written for those that Fear God. I know my precious friend Diana will be at the top of that list.
Diana's story proves to me that "maturity in Christ" has nothing at all to do with the number of years that we have been a believer, but simply how yielded we are to God.
As it came closer to Christmas, Diana (who was then confined permanently to the hospital) told everyone that God was going to allow her to go "home" for Christmas.
Now, she believed He meant her physical home. But on Christmas Day 1974, God took His precious child "HOME" - not to her physical, earthly home as she thought, but to the one He had "prepared for her" from the beginning of time.
As I have shared Diana's story over the last 20 years through The Way of Agape and Be Ye Transformed, people would often come up to me and share how they had known Diana personally or how they had heard of her. What an incredible impression she made on all of our lives!
In particular, two nurses came up after one seminar and shared that they had attended Diana in the hospital the last few weeks of her life. They shared how they both had come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior because of Diana's witness.
They said when they would go into Diana's room to administer her pain medication, she would softly say, "No thank you, my Father is taking care of me and may He bless you." They shared this is so uncharacteristic of terminally ill cancer patients.
These two nurses told me that they saw in Diana a love and a peace and joy "that passed all human understanding." They said they yearned to have what Diana had.
Both came to the Lord as a result of seeing Christ's Life through Diana, even though she was dying.1
Joy, Peace and Love do not come from the absence of trials, but simply from the presence of Jesus.
The Transformed Life
Fear of the Lord is the culmination of the Mind of Christ in us. It's walking in God's Love and Truth, continually in awe of what He is doing in our lives and fleeing anything that would quench His Spirit in us.
This is the transformed Life that God desires for every one of us. It's the climax of our relationship with Him and the goal and purpose of our lives as Christians.
"Therefore, my brethren, be not conformed to this world: but Be Ye Transformed [how?], by the renewing of your mind, [so] that ye may prove [like Diana did] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
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