Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
- Philippians 2:1-4
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
- Psalm 111:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
- Proverb 9:10
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
- Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
- Philippians 2:3
For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“Philippians 2 is mean. I don’t know how else to sum it up except that it’s mean. This is what I mean by mean: Philippians 2 goes after the heart. There are parts of Philippians 1 that sort of lean on your heart and might even tug at your heart, but Philippians 2 violently goes after the heart of your faith. In the way of the Spirit, the passages here assault our pride and bind up our wounds with grace. Maybe you’ve heard that the preaching of the gospel afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. This is the dynamic in play in Philippians 2.
“The motivation of this meanness—and of course I don’t mean anger or malice, but more ferocity and ﬁerceness—is the exaltation of the almighty God. Somewhat belied by the hymn of humility Paul shares with us in the opening lines of this chapter is the desire to create passionate worshippers of the God who is a consuming ﬁre. The central idea of Philippians 2 is so abundant in the Scriptures that if you were to wring out the Bible, this is what you’d end up with: ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10).
“As we connect the conversions in the backstory of the Philippian church to the letter at hand, we ought to recall the sort of fear of God that drives sinners into His loving arms. Most people coming to Christ fear hell and punishment for their sins. That’s a completely rational fear to have once you know the facts. And it’s a good fear. But it’s not the best fear to have in that moment of conversion, mainly because it cannot sustain the Christian life. We are not called by a spirit of fear into a spirit of fear but by the Spirit of grace into a spirit of love and power.
“This fear we ought to have of God is not so much terror as it is awe.”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
I have heard people say that Jesus is their brother, that God is their Father, what is there to fear? I had one elderly member of an old Sunday school class that I taught who said when he died, he’d walk up to Jesus and shake His hand. What was to fear?
As Rev. Chandler puts it, it is more a matter of intense awe, but I still feel that when I first see God face to face, I will drop to the ground and Jesus will have to pull me to my feet. I think even with a new body, at that moment my legs will fail me.
But me need to consider that fear now. Have you ever gone to a quiet place and your mind wandered onto something that was not a good thing to wander toward? And you even lingered there for a few seconds or minutes? It hurt no one, except for yourself. For a little while, you did not think you could think of that other person in that way, or the dog you were angry at, or whatever it was. But for a few seconds, you were reminded that you were still a sinner, and that God was not done with you yet.
But if you had adequate fear, or awe, of the Lord, would you have rebuked Satan for giving you that idea and you would not have lingered in that sinful thought?
Someone said recently that we need to look back at our youth. Frankly, I think it was a half dozen bloggers, all looking at the past for various reasons, none being simple nostalgia.
When I did something that the teacher in elementary school told me not to do, my 5-11 year old brain told me that my mother already knew (due to the eyes in the back of her head) and God knew that I had done wrong. In those six years of my life, my fear of God, just because of my continuous thought that God was watching, kept me from thousands of acts of “innocent” mischief.
I did not cringe in fear. I did not avoid prayer due to the terror of talking to almighty God. But I feared Him because if no one else knew I had done that bad thing, God knew. There was no such thing as getting away with it.
There is a “law” that pervades the land that says, “It is not against the law if you do not get caught.” That law would not be the ruling law of nearly everyone if we had a healthy fear of God.
The problem is that we got away with “it” too many times. Our brain cancelled that fear and replaced it with a smug challenging heart, a heart saying “I bet I can get away with ‘it’ again.”
Yesterday, I drove my wife to dialysis. Two or three cars tried to shove me into the ditch and get around me. I was only driving five miles per hour above the speed limit, above the maximum allowed speed limit. I knew the police were not there. If the police were there, they would probably let me go ten miles per hour over the maximum allowed limit, but these two or three cars, passing in a no passing zone, did not just pass. They had to spin their tires in disgust at my slow driving. They had to honk. They had to roll down their window and yell obscenities.
I did not drive any faster for three reasons: First, God saw me whether the police did or not. Second, it was not yet daylight and I did not feel safe driving faster, especially with deer in rutting season. And third, if an on-coming car came along, even with dimmed lights, I would have difficulty seeing, and yes, my cataracts have been replaced with clean, clear lenses.
I quipped with my sister recently. I said that the number one argument against Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest is that the idiots on the road and continually prove they are idiots are still around. They should have all wrapped their car or motorcycle around a tree a long time ago.
Or is it that they simply do not believe in God and if they believe, their God is not anything to fear.
Let us return to that child-like faith, and fear God again. We will fear soon enough when we meet face to face.
Lord, guide me. Let us not waste time. Help us to be in awe of You every moment of every day. That alone will keep us closer to You and further from harm and all sorts of unpleasant mischief. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.