Many serious problems in our society, including divorce, AIDS, addictions, and crime would be radically reduced if more people understood the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:9 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I have heard preachers say, “This scripture doesn’t mean we should fear the Lord. It means we should have a  reverence and awe of God. He doesn’t want us to actually fear him.”

I disagree with that watered down interpretation of this vital spiritual truth. Those who fear the Lord do not walk around afraid of an arbitrary God, but they understand there are serious consequences if we disobey God’s commands. Many people have a naive attitude that a loving God would not make them suffer consequences for their actions.

People who think they know God, but do not fear Him, lack wisdom. They give in to temptation, and then assume that everything will be fine because God forgives sin. Yes, God forgives sin, but He also disciplines those he loves (i.e., Hebrews 12:5-11). There is a distinction between forgiveness, which can be immediate, and cleansing which takes time (i.e., I John 1:9). Any time you make a big mess you can be forgiven, but the mess must still be cleaned up.

King David was a man loved by God; however, in a time of temptation, he committed adultery and murder. The prophet Nathan told David, “The sword will never depart from your house” (II Samuel 12:10). When David repented, his sin was forgiven, but his sin opened the door to the forces of hell. His children experienced premature death, rape and murder. David was driven from his kingdom by his son Absalom, who was subsequently killed by Joab.

Many people have wrecked their families and ministries because they do not fear God. Most of the time I’m faithful because of my love for the Lord, the church, and my wife, Kristina; however, the fear of God is the bottom line of protection for me in times of temptation. The apostle Paul was the greatest teacher of grace, but he also said, “I buffet my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Cor. 9:27).

I have heard people say, “God wants me to be happy, and I’m not happy in this marriage. God is forgiving, and I know he will forgive me if I get a divorce.” God wants us to be happy. That’s why he tells us to fear him. The fear of God protects us when we are weak because it helps us to keep his Word when we are tempted. Happiness comes when we experience the blessings of healthy marriages, clear consciences, and fruitful lives. Happiness will also come on the day that Jesus is revealed. On that day, everything we have suffered will make sense in the light of Christ’s presence and glory.

Wisdom gives us the capacity to make the best decision when we face challenges. The fear of the Lord does not solve every challenge we face, but it’s a good beginning. Our Father in heaven has all the wisdom we need, and He delights in giving it to those who love Him.

Sunday Preview

October 5, 2012

       I hope you had a chance to watch the presidential debates Wednesday night. I think it is a healthy process for candidates to face each other and debate the issues that challenge our nation. I found it fascinating that after the debate, I heard both liberal and conservative news commentators on Fox, CNN, MSNBC and ABC all come to the same conclusion about who had the best presentation, preparation and passion, even though they don’t all agree with his policies. It was refreshing to hear those honest assessments of the debate, especially because I often hear accusations that commentators are biased and slant the news to support their presuppositions. I’m not endorsing a candidate, and I don’t think all the wisdom on the issues abides in one candidate or party. At this critical time in our history we need to pray for God to give us righteous and wise leaders. We also need to participate in the political process by voting, and then support whoever wins with our prayers.
        My sermon this Sunday is called, “Healthy Church Boundaries” from I Timothy 5. Churches, families and governments are each institutions established by God with different roles and responsibilities. Each institution needs to stay within the boundaries of their mission, otherwise they create dysfunction rather than bring blessing. In I Timothy 5, the Apostle Paul helps Timothy understand the distinction between the responsibility of the family and the responsibility of the church in caring for people in need. We want each of our members to fulfill their responsibilities to their families, the church, and the government in a healthy way. The Word of God can give us light so we can be wise and fruitful in these critical areas of life.