“Fear God.” This command is given over 100 times in Scripture. It is referenced 20 times in the book of Proverbs alone. To fear God means that we live our entire lives in reverence to, or in a sense, with our knees bowed before Him. So if you were to drill it down a bit further, here are three ways we can live out the command to fear God.
To fear God means we express our complete dependency upon Him.
You and I are not designed to live in a self-reliant or self-sufficient way. Our sinful hearts lead us to want to live in such a way, but we are designed to depend on, and rely on our Creator God.
Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
God has all the answers — God is all-wise; God knows everything. He understands all mysteries, sees the answer to all complexities of life. He sees below the surface of everything. He sees what is up ahead. Therefore, we fear God by depending upon Him for wisdom. He is the source of infinite wisdom, so we rely on Him, and not us. We demonstrate our dependence upon Him when we open our Bibles to hear from God and His Word.
If you’re a parent, we must express before our children that we are depending upon and trusting in God. We model that trust through not just our words, but far more through our actions. When crisis hits, do our children see and hear us pray? When it is blue skies and sunny, do our children hear us pray and confess our dependence upon God? As parents, talk honestly before your kids that maybe you’re tempted to trust in your own wisdom or ways, but you’re going to trust in God’s instead. And then talk about how that trust will lead to a particular action on your part.
Another way we practically fear God is to pursue holiness.
We pursue holiness because our God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Proverbs lays out for us a few things about holiness. It says to fear God means I will hate evil (Proverbs 8:13 and 14:16). It also says that to fear God means, I will not only hate evil, but avoid it. (Proverbs 16:6). It tells us that to fear God leads to a life of integrity (Proverbs 14:2).
I know in my life, sadly I have had seasons of doing the exact opposite of those verses. Of loving what is evil, and pursuing it, and living a life that was hypocritical. Maybe you have too, or maybe that is your current situation. I can tell you from both Biblical truth and my testimony that God’s grace is greater than sin, and that pursuing holiness, rather than sin, leads to freedom, delight, joy, and rest.
If you’re a parent, we need to set the example for the next generation. As parents, we need to walk the walk, and talk the talk, and when there is a disconnect (and there inevitability will be) in our hearts and worlds, we need to confess that to our children. They probably already see the disconnect so you’re just verbalizing what they are seeing. And in those moments, we need to talk about how God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and how our identity in Christ compels us to grow in pursuing a life of holiness and loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Another way we practically fear God is to live in awe of God.
When the kids were younger, Heather would often use creation to remind us that God is awe-inspiring. “Wow, look at that sunset. God is amazing. He did that.” Or when we stood next to a mountain, or the ocean, or a field, or incredible forests, or we saw the creativity of clouds, and the stars that fill up the darkness of a sky, she would remind us, “Wow, look at what God did!”
All of life, not just in our observation of creation, but all of life, is intended to roll up to or lead us to worship Him. And sometimes the longer we walk with God, the more likely we are to lose our wonder. This is what the Israelites in the Old Testament were notorious for. Over the course of time, they would forget what God had done through miracles such as delivering them from slavery or parting the Red Sea.
When we lose our awe of God, then our faith in Him simply becomes religious routine or obligation. So for example, a church service simply becomes another thing on our busy schedules and one more thing we have to go to and try and squeeze in. Rather than a God-given, weekly opportunity where we set aside all the distractions so that we can worship Him, and hear from His Word, and be with fellow Christians, and serve and give alongside the Body of Christ.
Paul Tripp in His book Dangerous Calling talks about this. He says this…“Artists talk of the dynamic of visual lethargy, which means that the more you see something, the less you actually see it. On the drive to work the first day, you are conscious of all the sights and sounds. You notice the beautiful grove of ancient trees and that cool modern duplex on the corner. But by the 20th trip, you’ve quiet noticing, and you’re wishing the traffic would move faster so that you could get to work, for Pete’s sake! Something has happened to you that seems inevitable but is not good. You have quit seeing, and in your failure, you have quit being moved and thankful. The beauty that once attracted you is still there to see, but you don’t see it, and you cannot celebrate what you fail to see.”
The Lord desires that the longer we walk with Him, the more in awe of Him we would grow. So is there an idol that has stepped in front of your view of God? Is there a distraction that has become so central to your heart, that it has crowded out the One who first loved you? We can’t stop being moved and thankful for who God is, all He has done, and all He has promised to do in the future. The beauty of the Good News is just as beautiful as it was when you got saved. God’s love for you now is just as wide, long, high and deep (Ephesians 3:18) as it was when you got saved. Psalm 145 would be a great psalm to reflect on this week, helping lead you to elevate your awe of our God.
So this week, ask the Lord to help you grow in your daily reverence and awe of Him. Confess your tendency to live in awe of lesser things, and ask Him to continue to transform your heart and life more and more into the image of His Son.