"The Fear Of The Lord"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2015 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Evening everyone. It's good to be with you again here in Brookeborough, and thank you for joining with us - it's good to see a few new faces from last evening, and we look forward to being in the presence of God tonight. I've a message from the Lord tonight, and I want you to turn with me to Psalm 89, the 89th Psalm, and then we're going to go to Leviticus chapter 10 - so if you want to get that out in your Bibles, those two portions of Scripture: Psalm 89 for a couple of verses, and then Leviticus chapter 10. It's a real privilege for me to be here with you in Brookeborough, and to fellowship with your pastors and enjoy fellowship with each one of you, and most importantly to be here in the presence of God. I believe God is doing things among you, and that encourages me, and we're looking for Him to do more this evening - Amen?
So I want to speak to you tonight on 'The Fear Of The Lord', and we're going to read here from Psalm 89 verses 6 and 7 - keeping the theme of our praise already: "For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him". Then over to Leviticus chapter 10, and we're just going to read the first three verses - you might be familiar with this story - Leviticus 10:1: "Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified''". Amen.
Let's pray together, and I want you to come to the Lord in your own heart and ask Him for His help tonight, and that He may speak to you - would you do that? That the Lord might come and speak to you, and touch you this evening with His message. Let's pray: Father, we want to acknowledge tonight that there is none in heaven to be compared to the Lord. There is none among the sons of the mighty that can be likened to the Lord. Lord, we come and we reverence Your name tonight. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we come and invoke everything that You are, and everything that You are revealed to be within Your holy word. We come in faith tonight, I speak to this mountain and say: Be removed, in Jesus' name. Every wall crumble at the sound of our shout of triumph, for the battle belongs to the Lord. Who shall stand in defiance of Him? Every force of darkness, you will submit to the sons and daughters of God. Our inheritance is in the Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. We are joint heirs with Him, and heirs of Almighty God. We stand in the victory of the cross, and we proclaim Satan's doom and the imminent destruction of his kingdom. We are more than conquerors through Christ, and we claim His victory over this meeting and every life here in Jesus' mighty name, Amen.
That's a prayer that God gave me earlier on today for this meeting, and I believe He has answered it. Leviticus chapter 10 then, I want to point your attention there: Nadab and Abihu - I don't know whether you know who they were - verse 1 tells us these were the sons of Aaron, and it says that they profaned the fire of God. Now they took censers (and these were just receptacles that incense was carried in and lit before God), but they took these censers, put fire in them, and there was something wrong with the mixture of the offering that they were bringing to God. It says that they 'offered profane fire before the LORD' - do you know what that word 'profane' means? It simply means 'to treat as common something that is sacred and holy', to treat as common something that is sacred and holy. In fact, Webster translates this word 'irreverence' - 'profane' or 'profanity' is to be irreverent.
Now, if you know your Old Testament, you will know that there were only six individuals who were able to go into the immediate presence of the Lord: Moses and Aaron, his brother, and Aaron's four sons. But of course, if you're a born-again believer, you will know that the New Testament new covenant truth is that we all, as children of God, blood-washed, can come the new and living way into the holiest - by the blood of Jesus we can have actual relationship, converse with the Almighty God because of what Jesus has done. That is a great change, isn't it? The difference between six individuals and everybody that is blood-washed - but I want you to note verse 3. This doesn't change, OK? 'Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified'''. Now immediately some people say: 'Ah, that's Old Testament. I mean you're in the book of Leviticus, you're in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah - are you going to bring us back to Judaism? We don't relate to God in this way!'. Hold on a minute: the Lord changes not. There are aspects of our understanding, through progressive revelation, we know that we've got a greater picture of God than ever because of the New Testament vantage point we have - but the Lord is to be feared among the congregation of His saints. Those who come near to Him must regard Him as holy, and He must be glorified.
Now, if you have had a background in religion - as some of you will have had - the fear of God was put into you. You understand what I mean when I say that. One of the greatest revelations that I have had in my own Christian life is the grace of God and what it truly is: that we don't come through any merits of our own, or any performance, you can't reach God on a performance-based level; it is only by grace through faith that we come to know Him. One of the greatest days in my life, and ever since, has been a progressive revelation of the Father heart of God - to know that God is a Father who we can address as 'Abba Father'. 'Abba' was Aramaic, derived from baby-speak 'Ab-ba, Im-ma', 'Mama, Dada', that's the equivalent in our language - and so there was this intimate Father-child relationship that Jesus has brought us into. To be freed from legalism is a wonderful thing - Amen? To know that, as 1 John chapter 4 verse 18 says, 'There is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear, for fear has got to do with judgement. Whoever fears has not been made perfect in love'. It's clear New Testament teaching, and this is a truth for our times if there ever was. If you go to the last book of the Old Testament - you don't need to turn to it right now - but Malachi 4:5-6, prophetically looking, I believe, to this day and age in which we live, says: 'Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse'.
I believe we're in the last days, and the last of the last days, just before the coming of our Lord to this world again. But the work that the Holy Spirit is doing is a revelation, and it's quite new, of the Father heart of God - it has always been there, but we are discovering it. The children's hearts are being turned to the Father, and the Father to the children. Of course, we live in a fatherless generation - we don't have time to look at this this evening, but there is no doubt about that. Isn't it wonderful that we can know, through the grace of God - not religion, not any form of legalistic adherence - but we can know a Father in heaven through Jesus Christ, His Son, and the love of a Father and the acceptance and belonging that He gives. Now I celebrate that, OK? I want you to understand that. I come from a background where it was more legalistic than I would have really liked, and I have come into the knowledge of what it is to know God as my Abba.
Yet there is a danger here that, perhaps because of a bad experience of teaching on the fear of God - as I said, the fear of God was put in you - or some harsh religious experience that you had, that you can react in a dismissive way to any teaching on the fear of God. You actually, in effect, reject a truth that is equally as essential to progress in Christian discipleship and, indeed, intrinsic to revival. Isaiah 33 verse 6 says that 'The fear of the LORD is His treasure'. There is something priceless in understanding the fear of the Lord. With at least 300 references to the fear of the Lord in the Bible, we can't ignore it, can we? It's significant that some of these are within the New Testament as well as the Old.
Now, before we proceed tonight, what I want to do first of all is to deal with your fear of the fear of the Lord. If you've got that, we need to get rid of it. You may well have a misconception, or have been given a misrepresentation of the fear of the Lord - and we want to set that aside so that we can understand the truth. Let me tell you three things at least that the fear of the Lord is not. First of all, it is not natural fear. By the way, natural fear is a gift from God. That might surprise you, but it is - that's why you look both ways when you're crossing the road, that's why when you're putting a log on the fire you're careful that you don't get burnt. Natural fear protects us. The problem comes when fear ceases to be our servant, and ends up becoming our master and we obey it. But the fear of God is not natural fear, because you can't have a relationship with somebody that you're afraid of - yes? So when we talk about the fear of the Lord, we're not talking about being afraid of God - it's the fear of God. There is a difference.
Neither is the fear of God demonic fear, or tormenting fear. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is 2 Timothy 1 verse 7: 'God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind' - Amen? We have already recited 1 John 4:18: 'There is no fear in love, perfect love drives out fear'. Romans 8:15 also: 'You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father''. Galatians says that it's the very Spirit of the Son of God, Jesus, that rises up within us crying: 'Abba'. So it's not any demonic or tormenting fear, this fear of God.
Thirdly, it's not the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the fear of man is a snare, it's a trap, it's bringing bondage into any of our lives if we are fearful of others and their opinions. Can I say to you tonight that the sure cure and remedy for the fear of man is the fear of God. When you fear God, you don't fear what anybody else thinks. So it's not natural fear, it's not demonic tormenting fear, and it's not the fear of man - so what is the fear of God? Well, we're going to spend the rest of the evening on this - but very simply, let me give you at least three general definitions. First of all: the fear of God is sometimes - not always, but sometimes - an overpowering physical fear. Moses experienced this when he was confronted with the glory of the Lord - and several times that happened in his experience - but we read that he was afraid to look upon God. That is the fear of God. So sometimes it is overwhelming, and it can even affect you in a physical manner, your senses can be affected by the fear of the Lord. Secondly, the fear of the Lord is awe - that's a word we get 'awesome' from, so there is a sense of reverence when we fear the Lord. We are awestruck by the Almighty. A third thing the fear of the Lord is is submissiveness, or obedience. You see, what you fear is your god. I've already said that if natural fear becomes your master, you're in trouble - that means you're obeying fear, that's why some people don't even go over their front door.
We read a very interesting statement in Genesis 31 twice - verse 42 and verse 52 - it says, speaking of God, that His name is 'the Fear of Isaac'. Have you ever read that verse? It's a capital 'F' there, it's a title of God: 'He is the Fear of Isaac'. Now, what does that mean? Well, He was making Himself known here with a designation that indicated that this servant of the Lord was fearful of the Almighty. Why? Because God the LORD was his God, and he served him. You see, you serve what you fear. Now I'm not here to speak on the subject of fear in general, I'm going to do that in the next session at The Stables in December if you want to come along there - we will be looking at 'Freedom From Fear'. But the point I am making is this: if you fear God, you will serve Him alone - but if your fear is misplaced, you're serving another god, and He will have no other gods before Him.
Going back to what I mentioned about the Father heart of God, there might seem to be a contradiction in some of your minds right now. You're thinking to yourself: 'Well, does that mean I can become too familiar with God? I want to get as close and intimate with God as I possibly can, but what you're saying is striking me as if there are should be some kind of distance between me and the LORD'. You've heard the expression 'Familiarity breeds contempt', haven't you? Is it true? Well, I don't believe it is true. It's not strictly true when we come to God, because we want familiarity, don't we? We want intimacy. But this is the warning that I believe the Spirit of God wants me to bring tonight: we must never allow there to be bred within us a crudeness or a disrespectful attitude to the Lord. To know God as Father, as 'Abba' in the truest sense, will not only bring the deepest intimacy, but ought to also bring wonder and awe. In fact, in any healthy relationship there ought to be first intimacy, but also respect. You take a marriage, for instance, the deepest human union there can be: there ought to be respect and honour given between the spouses, isn't that right? It's an awful thing when you see a husband or a wife disrespect one another. It's the same in a parent-child relationship - any child, no matter what age for that matter, ought to be able to crawl up on Daddy's knee and throw their arms around his neck; but equally there ought to be times when he is given his place as father and head of the home. How much more God?
It was our Lord Jesus who taught us to pray 'Our Father', 'Abba, Father'; but remember: it's 'Our Abba Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Thy name' - that's the fear of God. There was none nearer the Father than Jesus, the Only Begotten Son. You know what it says about Him in Isaiah 11 and verse 2, prophetically it says that: 'The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD' would rest upon Him, Jesus. C.S. Lewis says in his writing, 'The Problem Of Pain', 'We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, 'What does it matter so long as they are contented?'' - isn't that true? We want God, at times, to indulge us. He is our 'Abba, Father'; but the fact of the matter is we, at times, need discipline, we need chastening, we need restrictions. You're aware, aren't you, that fathers are better than grandfathers? Apologies if you're a grandfather here tonight - but you do know that? You see, grandfathers, they can spoil us in those moments when we have an hour, or a couple of hours, or one evening with them; but it's the daddies that are there are all the time, that do the menial tasks of good and bad. Sometimes we get a skewed view of the Father heart of God, and we forget that He must be reverenced.
The fear of God doesn't diminish our appreciation of the Father heart, in fact it ought to enhance it. If you have got a Dad, in an earthly sense, whom you respect, you'll never want to disappoint him, will you? Just the thought of his look of disapproval would be enough to stop you in your tracks when tempted to disobey. Can I direct you to an interesting verse of Scripture, turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 1 please. First Peter chapter 1 - New Testament, by the way - verse 17: 'And if you call on the Father' - that's what we're talking about. Old Testament saints didn't have that privilege. He was the Father of the nation and so on, but no one ever called Him personal Abba Father. So this is a New Testament experience: 'If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot'. So here you have the intimacy of the Father heart of God, but you've also got this fear and reverence, realising that this Father sent His Son, who give His lifeblood in order that we should be redeemed.
Really I am asking a question: have we, as individuals and in the church in general, lost our respect, and wonder, and holy dread of God? Have we? Let me look for a moment or two at what the fear of God is like, the fear of the Lord. I don't know if you're familiar with the writings of John Piper, but he describes the fear of God as if we were caught in a terrible storm while exploring an Arctic glacier. The storm is so strong that you fear you're going to blow right over the side of the cliffs. So you can imagine putting yourself in that scenario, what it would be like: your heart would be pounding; sweat would be breaking; your life, most likely, would be flashing across your eyes. Then you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide and find shelter. Even though you're safe, you watch the storm go past with a kind of trembling pleasure. This is what John Piper says: 'At first there was the fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called 'fear' vanished from your heart. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such power. The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. Oh, the thrill of being here in the centre of the awful power of God, yet protected by God Himself!'. That's the fear of God.
Isn't it wonderful that you've got a safe place in the cleft of the rock, in Jesus Christ? We are sheltered, we are secure in Father's arms through Jesus - and yet not all the fear goes. In that safe place, if we truly construe the awesomeness of the Almighty, we will tremble. I have thought of it as a kind of spiritual adrenaline rush that happens when you're in the manifest presence of God. Have you ever had that? When God comes near, and there is a kind of shrinking that comes over you beneath His awesome eye, and it's an even greater intensity than joy, the greatest joy that this world could give. Are any of you familiar with the poetry of F.W. Faber? You want to look it up on the Internet. One of my favourite poets. Listen to how he describes the fear of God in his poem 'The Fear of God' - listen, it's only a couple of verses:
'But fear is love, and love is fear,
And in and out they move;
But fear is an intenser joy
Than mere unfrightened love.
I feel Thee most a Father, when
I fancy Thee most near:
And Thou comest not so near in love
As Thou comest, Lord! in fear.
They love Thee little, if at all,
Who do not fear Thee much;
If love is Thine attraction, Lord!
Fear is Thy very touch'.
'Fear is an intenser joy', he says, 'Than mere unfrightened love. Thou comest not so nigh in love, as Thou comest, Lord, in fear. If love is Thine attraction, Lord! Fear is Thy very touch'. Have you ever been touched with the fear of God?
Let's look at what are the blessings that come from the fear of God. When we consider the promises that accompany the fear of God, we ignore the fear of God at our peril. Let me share a couple, and this is far from exhaustive but certainly these are some of my favourites. First of all: God promises revelation of His secrets when we fear Him. Now, you can look up these verses if you're quick enough, we've got a lot to get through - but in Psalm 25 verse 14, you might want to jot down the reference, it says: 'The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him'. Who do you share your secrets with? Be careful, even in the church - especially in the church! Well, God shares His secrets with His confidants. It's not everybody, it's not every Christian, it's those whom He can trust - we might say it's His friends. Not every Christian is a friend of God, we don't have time to go into that tonight - are you a friend of God? Abraham was called 'the friend of God'. Do you remember in Genesis chapter 22, God instructed Abraham to take the son of His promise - and you have to know the backstory to all this, that the man is 100 years of age and God is giving him a son. He has tried to fulfil the promise in the flesh, and for years I'm sure he has struggled with unbelief, but he is the father of faith - and God gives him a son. But now God says: 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, and sacrifice him to Me'. He goes up Mount Moriah, and there he is about to plunge the dagger into the breast of the young lad, and in verse 12 of Genesis 22 we read that God said: 'Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me'.
Now, how did God know that he feared Him? Obedience! Abraham obeyed God. Would I have done that? I don't think so. But what I want you to see is verse 13: 'Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son'. Now, right away, because of obedience in the fear of the Lord, God is giving Abraham a revelation of some secret in His heart that the world has not known yet. What's that? God would provide a Lamb! That's what we're celebrating as New Testament Christians - but Abraham gets a glimpse of it, this secret of the Lord is shared with him - why? Because he feared the Lord enough to obey Him.
If you read on in Abraham's biography, you find that Abraham was also party to another secret of God; and that was, God came to him and said: 'I'm going to destroy the city of Sodom'. You remember Abraham started to intercede for the righteous that there might be in Sodom - and there weren't too many righteous, but he was thinking of who? His nephew, Lot. It's very interesting that the New Testament calls Lot 'a righteous man' - have you ever scratched your head over that one? We might interpret that that he was 'a saved man' - OK? And yet Lot was not party to the intelligence that Abraham had, why? Because he didn't fear the LORD. The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him. Do you fear Him?
The second promise from fearing the Lord is supernatural protection. Psalm 34 and verse 7: 'The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them'. We live in a society - and the last couple of weeks have plummeted us into greater depths regarding this - where men and women's hearts are failing them for fear. We, as the children of God, have got unique protection - but a lot of Christians believe that this is just a given, it is granted to every child of God that He looks after us and protects us. Now there is a general sense in which that is true, but if you really want to know angelic guardianship in your life, you should fear the Lord. He not only gives you a guardian angel when you fear the Lord, He encamps, He sends His hosts, an encampment of celestial beings around you! That's a wonderful thing, but it's for those who fear the Lord.
A third promise is longer life - who's up for that? Proverbs 10 and verse 27: 'The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened'. Now, I'm not promising you, and I don't think Scripture is, that you will have a long life. What it's saying is: you will live a lot longer if you fear the Lord, than if you don't. Fourth: life and satisfaction - sounds good, doesn't it? Proverbs 19:23, listen to this one: 'The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it', who has the fear of the LORD, 'will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil'. To abide, that means to dwell, to live in a state, a perpetual existence of satisfaction - isn't that wonderful? That's a promise for those who fear the LORD. Where are you looking for your satisfaction? So many Christians, professing Christians, are looking for satisfaction in sensuality, in sexuality, in materialism, in academia, in business, in family life - and they are disappointed, some are depressed; because you can't find it there, you only find it in fearing the Lord.
Fifth: help with holiness comes through the fear of the Lord. Now this is a big one. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 14: 'Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'. Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you''. That's basic holiness, isn't it? What a promise there is here: 'I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty'. The Father heart of God is a given by grace to every child of God, but listen: if you want to really experience it in its fullest expression, you've got to stop committing adultery with the world. You've got to separate yourself from worldliness and idolatry. There is a promise here that, when you do that, God will be a Father to you, and you will be a son and a daughter, says the LORD Almighty. Now this is the first I want you to notice, verse 1 of chapter 7: 'Therefore, having these promises, beloved', what's that? That if you separate from the world, God will draw near to you in His Fatherhood. 'Having those promises - what an incentive!', Paul says, 'Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh', that's what we're familiar with, if you want to know the works of the flesh, look at Galatians chapter 5, various sins that manifest themselves in fleshliness. You know those things, but maybe you're not so familiar with this: 'Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit'. Do you know what the filthiness of the spirit is? Spiritual idolatry. When, in our hearts, we are serving something else other than serving the fear of the Lord. We are contaminated, we are compromised. There can be all sorts of other defilement in the spirit that I will not go into, but this is what I want you to note - this phrase now at the end of verse 7: 'Perfecting holiness in the fear of God'. Help with holiness!
Who would like help with holiness? It's hard, isn't it? In the world in which we live, it is very, very hard because of the deluge of immorality that is all around us, readily available at the touch of a button. But Paul says: 'Look, you need to be separated from those danger traps of the enemy, separated from sin and the world, but you need to fear the Lord'. You see some Christians might try to ostracise themselves, put themselves at a distance from dangerous things - and traditionally this is the way Christians have operated. You know, 'Don't drink, don't smoke, don't go to those bad places, don't say bad words, don't gamble, don't cheat' - but, you see, you need more than that! You need more than separation from the world. We saw last evening that you need more than purity and cleansing through the blood, you need the power of the Holy Spirit: 'It's not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD' - but you also need the fear of the Lord if you want to be holy. Perfection in holiness comes through fearing the Lord.
I wonder has that been the missing part of the equation for you? A mark of the wicked, Romans 3 says, is that there is no fear of God before their eyes. If you want the nearness of the Father, you must perfect holiness in the fear of God. Let me put it like this: the next time you and I contemplate sinning and giving into temptation in whatever your besetting sin might be, if you were to picture the living God looking over your shoulder, do you think it would make a difference? The psalmist said: 'I have set the LORD always before me, therefore I shall not be moved'. If we had a consciousness of the fear of the Lord, that the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the earth - and it's not out of being scared of God, or afraid of God, but understanding that our Loving Heavenly Father that sent His Son to bleed and to die for us, who has a Father's heart, and indeed a heart that beats greater love than that of a mother, and He watches over us every day and extends grace upon grace to us. If He marked iniquity who of us would stand - but if we knew that that loving, compassionate, long-suffering, merciful God was always with us every moment; would we want to disrespect Him, would we want to dishonour Him, would we want to disappoint Him? Proverbs 3:7 says: 'Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil'. Here is a key to overcoming temptation, and I think we have neglected it: the fear of the Lord.
So there is revelation of God's secrets if you fear the Lord; there is supernatural protection; there is longer life; there is life and satisfaction; and there is help with holiness. Here's what I want to leave with you tonight, bringing all this teaching on the fear of the Lord to a climax: the fear of the Lord is the key to attracting God's presence. 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name' - that's how the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray. That first of all there is that intimate relationship that we have that Jesus has brought us into, with God as our Abba Father, that life in the Spirit, that's where we've got to start - but we need to reverence the Lord, we need to honour Him and respect Him in order to attract His presence, to hallow Him. How well do we do that? I believe this is key to church growth. I would encourage you to look at the fear of the Lord in the book of the Acts. Let me read one verse to you, Acts 9 and verse 31, listen: 'Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied'. Isn't that interesting? Would you like a church here at peace? I don't know if there is war here or not - but you would be unique in the churches in our world, let alone in the province of Ulster, if there weren’t a few problems here or there, if there wasn't a bit of strife. But this church, the early church, had peace. They were edified - do you know what that means? They were being built up in their holy faith, they were building each other up. They were walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit - are you comforted by the Holy Spirit? The word 'comfort' also means 'encourage, to come alongside and lift up', it means 'to strengthen', it's the concept of getting a blood transfusion bringing life - that's what the church needs! That's maybe what you need here tonight! Well, how did it come? Through the church walking in the fear of the Lord. Then the parting shot of that verse is 'and they were multiplied' - church growth! We saw last night that it is by the Spirit, but the Spirit has His way in His Temple whenever we fear the Lord.
You can have all the church growth manuals you like, but if there is no fear of the Lord it will only be numbers. Now listen, this is my message - and I have to say that whatever you think of these messages these nights, these are the ones that God led me to, I believe with all my heart. I, as God's messenger, have to bring to you what He wants, not what you want, or what you think, or not even what I think. I believe what the Lord wants you to hear is: you need to pray back the fear of the Lord into your life. OK? You might well need a revelation of the Father heart of God in grace, like I have gotten, and many in this room may have received. Maybe you have come from that religious, harsh, legalistic background, and you have feared God in a wrong sense - like a schoolmaster, or some kind of cosmic policeman - and you need to be delivered from that wrong concept of God, you need to see Him as the loving, gracious heavenly Father who sent His Son. But nevertheless, we also need this reverence, this awe, this respect and honour if we're going to attract the presence of God.
Listen, you not only need to pray it back into your life, you need to pray it back into the church. Now, I don't know enough about you to be rude - I don't think so anyway - but do you have the fear of the Lord in your church? Not only do we need to pray it back into our lives and our churches, we need to pray the fear of the Lord back into our communities - because the essence of true revival is when the fear of God grips a community, you do know that? It's not when a whole clatter of people get saved - thank God for that, but that can happen in evangelism. But when the fear of God comes upon a community, you know that God is doing something that is more than just some kind of evangelistic zeal or local awakening - this is revival, this is community transformation. Like Duncan Campbell described in the Hebridian revival, put succinctly: God was everywhere - that's it, that's the fear of God, an awareness of God in His greatness and His grace everywhere. That is intrinsic to revival. Listen to something else Duncan Campbell said: 'I have known men out on the fields, others at their weaving looms, so overcome by this sense of God that they were found prostrate on the ground. Hear the words of one who felt the hand of God upon him: 'The grass beneath my feet and the rocks around me seem to cry, 'flee to Christ for refuge'' - that's what happens when the fear of God comes on a community. Duncan Campbell says: 'This supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit led many to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ before they even came near to any meeting connected with the movement. I have no hesitation in saying that this awareness of God is the crying need of the church today. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'; but this cannot be worked up by any human effort, it must come down' - that's why we've got to ask God for it, that's why we've got to pray it through and into our lives again, and into our churches. We've got to start praying the fear of God upon the community - would you do that in your prayer meetings? I think that's what God has asked me to bring to you: would you pray into Brookeborough, into Fermanagh, would you start praying the fear of God? People will become aware of the reality of God.
But is there anything we can do other than pray? Well, yes there is, there is always more than prayer, you know. So I want to finish by sharing with you how to cultivate the fear of the Lord in your life. Psalm 34 verses 11-12 tell us that the fear of the Lord has to be taught. Psalm 34, listen to 11 and 12: 'Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?' - of course, it's the one who fears the Lord. But the Lord has to teach us this - and note, please, if you are to be taught it, you must choose the fear of the Lord. Do you see it? 'The one who desires life', it's not just going to come automatically to you, it's not just going to be downloaded without any activity of your volition - you've got to desire, have a passion and a hunger for God's fear.
Now, here are four things I'm going to leave you with to do. First of all, to cultivate fear of the Lord you need to fill your mind and your heart with thoughts of God: you need to become God-conscious. Fill your mind and heart with thoughts of God. A.W. Tozer, in his book 'Knowledge Of The Holy', said: 'The greatness of God rouses fear within us'. As you contemplate and meditate upon His greatness, the fear of God will descend upon you like the dew upon the freshly mown grass. Indeed, A.W. Tozer goes on to say: 'The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him'. Listen to this statement: 'To fear and not be afraid, that is the paradox of faith' - that's it! To fear Him, and yet not be afraid of Him. Now, can I ask you how you possibly could fill your mind and heart with thoughts of God when you don't read your Bible? That's you, I'm talking to you, you don't read your Bible. Don't hide behind the person in front of you: you don't read your Bible! There are certain programs on the television that you will not miss, that are maybe taping now, but you never read your Bible. I'm not being legalistic, OK? There is a concept: 'Read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow' - and that's where it finishes, it's just a religious rite and ritual. That will get you nowhere, but I want to say to you: you will never have a revelation of the greatness of God in your life if you set aside the written revelation that God has given.
The second way to cultivate the fear of the Lord is to practice reverencing Him. Do you do that in private? We've talked about reading the Bible, but what about your prayer life? How is that? Well, we all struggle there - I mean, who of us could say: 'Och, I'm satisfied with my prayer life'? I couldn't. But what is your prayer life like? Let me encourage you to do an exercise that I believe will vitally enhance your prayer experience, and that is what Jesus taught: first of all get a heart-connection with God as your Father, Abba; and then begin to respect, and reverence, and honour Him. You know, sometimes in a reaction against hypocrisy and pretension in certain religious circles, we in certain 'free evangelical' circles, we debunk the idea of kneeling or prostrating ourselves - but I think some of us need to get back to that. I'll tell you this much: do you see if the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form was to come through those back doors in all His glory, splendour, and majesty; I don't think there would be one of us that wouldn't be on our face. Yet, we testify that He is here - who are you kidding? Seriously, who are you kidding? Is He here? I believe He is here, but I don't believe He is here in the manifest presence that He would like to be here. I have a friend who was at a meeting not so long ago, and it was said during that meeting about two or three being gathered together, and there was a verse of Scripture read about the presence of Jesus with His disciples. The preacher said: 'That is the same presence that is here right now', and my preacher friend was looking around him at all the people half asleep, bored to tears, thinking about what they were going to do for their dinner afterwards and all the rest. He thought to himself: 'There is no way that Jesus Christ is here'. We know the omnipresence of God, we know all that - we can tick those theological boxes, God is everywhere - but God is not everywhere manifest in the presence in which He wants to dwell in the midst of His people, the Shekinah glory. That's what He wants! We enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise - but listen: if you want to get into the Holy of Holies, and you want to get face-to-face with the Living God as the friends of God did, you need to learn the fear of the Lord in private. It's harder in private, you know. You can stand up in prayer and come off with wonderful phrases in public, but it's harder in private when nobody is looking.
But what about in public? What about in church? Now, I'm not talking about pretence - OK? I'm not talking about this stuffed-shirt type of reverence - but how do we do reverence in the fear of the Lord in our churches? I'm only throwing this out here: what would it look like? What would the difference be between it and it not being there? We need to answer the question: what with the difference be between the false pretentious reverence and the true? Now that is to tease out, but it's worth thinking of - because if we're going to get the fear of the Lord back into our churches, we need to recognise what it is and what it isn't.
Thirdly: if you're going to cultivate the fear of the Lord, you need to tremble at His word. Isaiah 66 verse 2 reads: 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word'. When was the last time I trembled at the word of God? 'Who trembles at the word...'. Fourthly, and this comes really out of the third, trembling at the word: we need to obey Him - that's a sign that we're trembling at His word, we need to obey Him. John Bevere puts it like this: 'Obey Him instantly' - do we do that? Or do we do we say: 'Oh, I need to pray about this for about six months to make sure this is the Lord, and I need to fast for a wee while to just make sure this is the Lord; I need to talk to about 20 people, and the pastor, and some other pastors from other countries'. They go on the Internet, or go on a blog, or go on some of these - I don't know what you call them now - where they talk to one another, chat rooms or whatever, Christian chat rooms, and find out what they think about it. If you know it's the voice of the Lord, and I know it, obey instantly - that shows the fear of the Lord. John Bevere says: 'Obey Him instantly, even when it doesn’t make sense' - has that ever happened? I've got to tell you, maybe most of the time the Lord speaks to me it doesn't seem to make sense, when I'm really sure He's speaking to me. 'Even when it doesn't make sense', he goes on, 'even when it hurts, and even if we don't see the benefit - obey Him to completion'.
How to cultivate the fear of the Lord: fill your mind and heart with thoughts of God; practice reverencing Him; tremble at His word; obey Him - and finally I want you to turn to Proverbs chapter 2 verse 1. Now this shows us that the fear of the Lord is conditional, OK? There are certain requirements that you have to fulfil if you want to have the fear of the Lord in your life, in your church, and in our community. Verse 1: 'My son, if you receive my words' - now that's not the same as reading God's word. Receiving it is receiving with meekness the engrafted word of truth, which is accepting God's word, what He says - 'and you treasure my commands within you', do you know what that means? You value, you esteem God's word, you respect and reverence it. 'So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment', now what's that? That's asking in prayer: 'Lord, give me the fear of the Lord, give our church, give our community the fear of the Lord' - crying out. 'And lift up your voice for understanding', you cry on God for this, 'If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures' - what does that mean? If you prioritise the fear of the Lord in your life, the way maybe you do your business, or your family, or the things that are in the top ten of your value system - Jesus said: 'Seek first the kingdom of God'. If you seek her as silver, prioritise her above all else, search for her as hidden treasures - for this is the treasure of the Lord, the fear of God - 'Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God'. But look at the beginning of verse 1: 'My son', or daughter, 'if...'. If!
So, do you fear the Lord? Will you fear the Lord? For He is to be feared among the assembly of His saints, He is to be held in honour by all His people. Let's pray. Now let's take a moment, we are in the presence of God - however you discern Him here is, in a sense, irrelevant. There is nowhere, the Bible says, that we can flee from His presence or His Spirit. It doesn't matter what obstacles might be in your life, or even in this room right now: God is with us, and I know He's with me, I know He's with me. He has told me He's with me. He has told me this very day that He is with me and upon me, and He's in this message. I don't know what you were expecting, but this is the message of the Lord. This is the message of the Lord. Have you the fear of the Lord before your eyes?
Is there anyone tonight and God really has spoken to you, and you would like to acknowledge it, humble yourself - that's a sign that the fear of the Lord is working upon you, when you can humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. The good news is: He will exalt you when you humble yourself. Is there anyone, just where you are, and you would just raise your hand to indicate that God has spoken to you? God bless you. God bless. God bless. People whose hearts the Lord has touched tonight.
Are there folk here who would raise their hand to say that they will try - I don't like to say 'covenant' or 'promise', because you might get into bondage and break it, and then get a load of guilt and all the rest - but who will say that they would, before God tonight, say that they would try to pray the fear of the Lord into their own life, into their church, and into their community? Would you raise your hand? Now, if you're like me, you might need to take a note of that - alright? But take a note of it, and do it! Imagine if every Christian in County Fermanagh was to pray the fear of the Lord into their community - what do you think would happen?
Now, for those people who put their hand up because God had spoken to them first of all - you deal with the Lord now. If there is sin to be repented of, you repent. If there is a brother or sister to be forgiven, you forgive them. If there is restitution to take place - that means going and putting things right - you do it. Stop playing around, and be real with God, and be real with the fear of the Lord. Do you know Nadab and Abihu were struck down because they offered profane fire before the Lord? Don't you treat this sacred moment, don't treat it commonly. This is not church now, OK? This is God's presence, God's message. Ananias and Sapphira were New Testament, but they treated common what was sacred, and God struck them down. Everybody is running around saying 'Let's have a revival like the early church' - well, do you want that? Because that's what happens when God's immediate presence is so near: you don't just enjoy it and reverence it, if you profane it you get struck! So deal with your sin before God tonight: He is gracious - He's not as grumpy as I am! He is gracious, He's long-suffering, He's tender. Come and bring your sins to Him, and you will be forgiven, you will be pardoned, you will be cleansed. But listen: make a resolve in your life - 'By those who come near Me, says the LORD, I must be regarded as holy' - I must be regarded as holy! Church: His heart is hurting, His heart is hurting by the way we talk about Him, by the way we approach Him, by the way we do business with Him, by the way we use Him. We need to repent, and we need to reverence Him again.
Oh Heavenly Father, I repent of my sins, I repent of the ways in which I disregard Your honour. I repent of how I so easily can slide backward, because I lose sight of Your glory. Lord, if we got a glimpse of Your transfigured glory, Lord Jesus, of Your glory as John the apostle saw on the Isle of Patmos, we would never sin again, we would never sin again. We would be so much in ecstasy, for at Your right hand there is pleasure for evermore. We would never turn to broken cisterns again, the weak and beggarly elements of this world! So we say: O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, give us a glimpse, give us a vision, give us a revelation of how You really are in all Your glory, splendour and holiness - come to us, Lord, we pray, come to us. Come to us like never before; come, Lord, and reveal Your heart, reveal Your holiness, reveal Your glory. Lord, come and cultivate within us the fear of God. Bring the fear of God back to the church. Bring the fear of God into our communities. Thank You for being with us tonight, thank You for moving in people's lives. May the birds of the air not snatch away the seed. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Brookeborough Elim Church in Enniskillen, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "The Fear Of The Lord" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]