I have a friend who is afraid of crowds. So, he tries to avoid them. I am afraid of heights, so I limit my time on our roof. My son may still be afraid of the dark, so he avoids it by using a light.
That is not what we mean when we say, "Fear God." But, in reality, many people hear that. They fear God by avoiding him.
Some try to avoid him by not going to church. Many try to avoid him by not thinking about Him. Often, people even avoid thinking about other things that remind them of God.
The list of avoided topics varies, but how about these for starters:
Meaning of life
Our true self
"I just don't want to think about it."
"I don't want to talk about it."
We avoid them and in turn avoid God because we are afraid of God, afraid of the unknown.
God's desire is to be known. He has revealed Himself through creation and nature. He has revealed Himself to individuals throughout history. He has revealed Himself through the Bible. He has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. He continues to reveal Himself through his church (when we let Him by being obedient).
He is hard to avoid. Whether we go to the top of a mountain or the bottom of the ocean, there He is. Whether we go where it is pitch dark or find some uncharted island, there He is.
And, we are told to fear this unavoidable God.
What Does it Mean to Fear God?
I heard this explained over breakfast this morning, in a way that made sense.
If we reject God entirely, God promises to reject us. So this should cause fear, but by trying to avoid thinking about God, we tend to not feel that fear until we are face to face with God Himself after death.
If we accept God, God loves and accepts us. So, what is left for us to fear?
His regaining of our focus and attention.
God loves us. He promises not to leave us to die apart from His love and grace. When we get stuck in habitual sin, it is like a fish who has jumped out of the water and is lying on the shore of the ocean unable to breathe. Struggling to survive. He will not leave us there. He promises to rescue us from ourselves, from sin and from death.
He picks us up and throws us back into the ocean of his grace.
Many times it hurts. Our sin can cause irreparable damage to our relationships, to our view of God or of ourselves. If God exposes our sin, it can cause further damage.
Is it because he wants to hurt us?
It is because He is always loving.
The most loving thing He can do in that instance is to rescue us from our sin. If that hurts, then the pain is worth it for the freedom that comes as a result.
Fear God because he has the love to want to rescue us, the power to rescue us, and will rescue us. His discipline and correction will come in order to save us from being separated from his love and grace. Nothing can separate us from His love and grace. Separation is not an option.
Sometimes it comes in the form of physical death. We are eternally freed from our addictions and sin.
Sometimes it comes in the form of physical sickness, disease or injury. Sometimes it comes in the form of broken relationships. Sometimes it comes in the collapse of systems, governments and nations.
He will do whatever it takes to rescue us from sin and death.
Whatever it takes.
Whatever it takes.
Fear God. He loves you enough to do whatever it takes. Fear God and do what He says, obey Him. Avoid sin. Don't avoid God.
"Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." - Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes