Chapter 14 – The Necessary Fear of God
I urge you to pay special attention to this chapter, even if the topic seems unappealing to you. Some having read previous chapters that spoke of my long struggle with an addiction to pornography may ask how I finally broke free of it. As you read this chapter, you will understand, and you may find these truths to be equally liberating for you.
The topic of the fear of God has fallen out of vogue in this late hour at the end of the age. Many churches have sought to fashion God into an image that is more appealing to sinful men and women. They therefore focus upon the kindness, love and mercy of God while ignoring His equally important traits of justice, righteousness and holiness. It is never wise to neglect any aspect of truth, particularly as it relates to the character and actions of Yahweh in His dealings with mankind.
Fear has come to take on a very negative connotation, and in most cases this view is right. The fear of man, or of Satan, or of circumstances and events brings bondage and torment. Yet there is one type of fear that brings freedom. Though fear is decried in many places in the Bible, this particular fear is never reproved, but it is praised instead. This is the fear of God.
The apostle Paul had a complete view of God in mind when he wrote the following words:
Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
The entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, reveal that God is kind, but He will not allow His children to walk in rebellion and stubbornness without judging them. In writing to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul warns them to not think lightly of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience, so as to take advantage of it in an unrighteous way.
Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
God is never satisfied for men and women to make a mere confession of Him in their lives. He wants more than the honor of our lips, He demands the obedience of our lives. The Scripture above states that He will be impartial in His judgment. It matters not that you are one of His children, you will be judged according to your actions.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Whenever we read the words “Do not be deceived,” we can be assured that many saints are walking in deception in the matter being addressed. God wants us to know the truth, He has set parables throughout the creation to help us understand truth. One such parable is seen in agriculture in the process of sowing and reaping. The principle revealed in the natural realm is that you always reap what you have sown. If you have sown corn seed into the ground, you will reap from the ground corn. If you came back at the end of the season expecting potatoes you would be deceived. If you want to reap potatoes, you better be planting potatoes.
This seems so basic as to be almost comical. We might wonder what type of person would be so foolish as to expect to reap an altogether different type of crop from which he or she planted. We would laugh at them if they told us they planted tomatoes, but were really hoping at the end of the season that there would be watermelon in their place.
How then is it that myriads of Christians are living careless lives where they are engaged in sinful and selfish pursuits, and they are expecting to enter into the joy of the Lord when they die? How is it that so many can be walking in sin while they are expecting to receive the reward of the righteous? If they answer, “It is because I am prayed up, and I always ask forgiveness for my sin,” and by this alone they are expecting to reap eternal life, they are deceived. Such unreasonable expectations are exactly what the apostle is seeking to refute when he says, “Do not be deceived….”
I Corinthians 6:9-10
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
And again we are told:
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them…
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
God’s word testifies over and over that He will judge us according to our actions, not our confession. The apostle John also sounds forth this same message.
I John 3:7-8
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
Who will God judge to be righteous? Those who walk in righteousness! Those whose words and actions are in accordance with the will of God! The many Biblical warnings against deception occur most frequently in regard to this one pervasive lie. Men and women falsely believe that their confession alone is all that is needed to be accounted as righteous in God’s sight. Yet God says such a mindset seeks to mock His justice.
Consider the example of two men who live in the same town who both pursue the same fleshly passions and desires. Man number one goes to church and the other doesn’t. Man number one prayed a sinner’s prayer and the other has not. Man number one asks God to forgive him every time he sins, and the other doesn’t. Yet they both live the same lifestyle. They both regularly view pornography, or get drunk, or take illegal drugs. Both live carnal lives as they seek to fulfill the desires of their flesh. It would be a mockery of God’s justice for the first man who claimed to be a Christian to ask God to judge him differently than the other man. Yet many Christians have such an expectation.
This type of mentality is so prevalent among Christians today that some who read this might be saying, “Hey, I don’t believe you are right. Isn’t the man who confessed his sins justified before God and considered righteous?” It is just such a message of confession that has become separated from actions that has led to so much deception in the church today. Consider the following parable of Christ, which seeks to make this matter as plain and easily understandable as possible.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
This principle is as true for those who are now in the age of the church as it was for those who were under the age of the Law. The basic principle of sowing and reaping has never changed. Consider the words of Christ to the seven churches in Asia whom He addressed in the book of Revelation. Christ was speaking to Christian churches. He was sending a message to those who called Him “Lord.” He was speaking to those who claimed salvation through His blood. Yet over and over He began His addresses to these churches by declaring, “I know your deeds.” (Revelation 2:2, 2:19, 3:1, 3:8, 3:15) It was by their deeds that He accounted them either righteous or unrighteous. It was due to their deeds that He either pronounced judgment or reward. Christ did not begin each address by saying, “I know your confession.” God demands that our belief be proven by acts of obedience.
You may ask why I am speaking about this in a book that is about overcoming addiction. The reason is that when we have no fear that continuing in disobedience will bring severe consequences, we are much more apt to be careless in our resolve to overcome the sin in our life. The scriptures provide the following insight:
II Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Holiness is perfected in the fear of God. If we have been deceived into thinking that we can continue in sin after having become partakers of the grace and forgiveness of God then we will be prone to continue sinning. Yet the Scriptures are very clear that this is not God’s will, and those who do such things will incur judgment.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
These words should cause us to tremble if we are not walking as overcomers after having come to the knowledge of Christ’s atonement and having become partakers of His Holy Spirit. The Christian who continues in sin will be judged more severely than the person who has never come to Christ. The reason is that those who are given more abundant grace have more expected from them. In the Gospel of Luke we find another parable given by Christ.
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
Those who have known the great gift of salvation through the precious blood of the Son of God shed on their behalf, and who have become partakers of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, have much expected of them. God has given them all things necessary to lead a godly life. For them to trample on the blood as if it is a common thing by continuing carelessly in sin is an abomination in the sight of God. To treat the gift of the Holy Spirit with contempt, when He would make known to them the path of righteousness and provide all power for a holy life is equally contemptuous.
When it is understood that God will not allow such flagrant disregard for His will to go unpunished, men and women are incited to put aside sin and pursue the will of God for their life. In my time with a rescue mission I have met numerous men who confess to be Christians, yet who are still enslaved to their evil desires, and they have shown great carelessness in their attitudes. It is evident that they do not fear God. Some of these men have spoken to me of having had prophetic words spoken over them concerning a specific call of God on their lives, yet they are doing nothing to ready themselves for usefulness. The apostle Paul told Timothy the following:
II Timothy 2:19-22
“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
I believe that the prophetic words spoken over some of these men were truly from God. Yahweh has a high calling that He would bring them into. Yet if they do not cleanse themselves from wickedness they will be disqualified and their position and reward given to another. Many have already suffered such a judgment. For this reason, even among the children of God, there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on the day of judgment. Those who could have had so much will see how foolish they were as they squandered the high calling of God and wasted the precious opportunities Yahweh afforded them.
I know from experience the great value of coming to understand the fear of God. After struggling with pornography for many years it was the fear of God that served as a key to bring me victory. I knew I had a high call upon my life. It had been prophesied, and the Spirit had made it known to me for many years. I had begun to enter into some small measure of service to God, but I was still dabbling with pornography. One day the Spirit spoke to me and said, “If you do not rule over what your eyes look upon then you will be disqualified from that which I have planned for you.”
I cannot tell you the anguish that gripped me as I considered what it meant to forfeit the good things God had ordained for my life. I was gripped with a great desire to not disqualify myself, and it was due to this fear of God that I was able from that moment forward to put away pornography and never pick it up again. I have been tested many times since that date. Even while at the mission there have been numerous times when I came across some pornographic magazine hidden away by one of the men in residence. Many times I was in a secluded place with no observers around when I discovered it. Yet every time I was immediately mindful of God’s warning, and I would not even open the cover of the magazine, but I would take it to a trash can and immediately throw it out.
Even the greatest among Yahweh’s servants can benefit from the fear of God in their life. Consider the words of the apostle Paul after he had been serving as an apostle for many years.
I Corinthians 9:27
I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
The apostle Paul understood that he could act in such a way as to become disqualified from the apostolic calling on his life. It was this fear of disqualification that led him to discipline his body and rule over it.
There have been numerous instances in my life where the fear of God has been a great boon in motivating me to press on to victory over some stronghold in my flesh. One such instance was related to a stronghold of covetousness that had been present through all my adult life. In disobedience to the will of God I went into debt in order to purchase things that I longed for. Time after time God corrected me in this, but I would return to the same error.
Since my youth I have loved the word of God, and I have yearned to understand the mysteries of His word. I have often prayed for spiritual understanding, and I have found the study of God’s word to be the joy of my life. One day when I was well into adulthood, and was still walking in covetousness and disobedience, having incurred more debt, the Spirit spoke to me through the following Scripture.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
The Spirit spoke very plainly to me. He proclaimed to me that if I could not be faithful in the usage of money, which is an unrighteous thing, then God would not be able to entrust to me the true riches that flow from His hand. I understood these true riches to be the knowledge and understanding of the Kingdom of God and the mysteries of His person. I intensely desired to receive these very precious things from God. I understood that if I did not begin to walk faithfully in what was to God a little thing, the stewardship of money, then I could not receive the greater things.
With this word from the Spirit of Christ I was finally able to press on to victory over this stronghold in my life. It has been many years now since I have had any debt at all, and I am careful to seek the will of God in all my spending. I have learned the contentment of having little of the world’s goods, and I have been blessed to receive that which is immensely more valuable, the knowledge of God.
If you would have victory over addictive desires that have long plagued you, then you must feed the spirit, and you must embrace the truth concerning Yahweh’s justice and holiness. The wisdom of Solomon declared the following:
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom…
The fear of God is in no way contrary to His merciful nature. If we are walking in obedience to Him then we have no reason to fear anything. He desires that we should always walk in the comfort of His love. Yet as a loving Father, He knows it is not love to allow us to continue in behavior that is destructive and will lead to immeasurable loss. Therefore He balances His comfort with His fear. They walk hand in hand.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
Yahweh always seeks the welfare of His children. Even His judgments are beneficial, for He knows the stubbornness and rebellion that is bound up in the heart of man. If He must chastise us severely, He will do so for the sake of love. Let us not foolishly resist His grace, nor trample on His kindness and mercy. A day of great sorrow and immense regret will attend all who do, for God will not be mocked. We will reap precisely what we have sown.