A God to Fear

Why are we so quick to stuff God into our little “god boxes”? Explain Him, minimize Him, dismiss Him… Too often we act like we have God all figured out. What if we are wrong? What if we are terrifyingly wrong?

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I’m sitting here feeling inadequate to even write this. But, I am SO passionate about Christians, believers in Jesus, really meeting God, really experiencing who He is, that I have to say something.

In youth group last Wednesday we watched a short video with Francis Chan. The topic was fearing God. I used to hate that phrase… Growing up in my Christian cult, we had a fear of God, but it wasn’t a healthy one. I felt afraid of god because if I didn’t perform correctly or follow the right steps, then god would punish me. The god I learned about seemed distant, angry, and scary.

In the video, Francis Chan was more concerned with the way the church has downplayed the idea of fear into mere reverence, respect, or awe. And it’s true. The church doesn’t talk much about a God who is frighteningly MORE than we can ever imagine.

I could be wrong, but it seems like Christianity often gets stuck in one of two extremes. Either zealous Christians get obsessed with Old Testament theology or progressive Christians want to dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant and just talk about loving Jesus.

Truth out of balance or out of context is no longer truth. We can’t just pick and choose which part of the Bible we want to believe. We will never get a clear picture of who this God is who created and saved us if we don’t take the entire Bible into account, even the parts that make us uncomfortable.

We must believe in and accept the holy, all-powerful, and often frightening God revealed to us in the Old Testament if we are going to fully appreciate the wonder of Jesus, the God-man, in the New Testament.

Too often we treat God like we would the CEO of a company or the president of a country. They have a more powerful position than we do, and so we give them a little more respect. God has a little respect in our minds, but we aren’t scared of Him.

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The real God is not like us, you guys. We were just made a little bit like Him. Listen to this:

“With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?…Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:18, 21-26

The Bible gives us plenty of examples of people having visions of God and just falling on their faces in fear. What makes us think that we are any different?

Maybe I’m crazy, but I like this kind of God. I long for this kind of God. I want Him to be bigger and holier and more powerful and just MORE than I can ever imagine. I want to be terrified. I want to fall on my face before Him. I want to know that I am nothing and He is everything. I want this healthy fear to help control the way I live, and the way I read His word and pursue Him, and the way I share His message of hope with others. Not in a bad controlling way like I used to live in, but in a positive way.

If God is really real, like REAL, and really as great and awesome and…yeah, my words are failing me…then that changes everything. That changes how I live. Not because I’m afraid of what He’ll do to me, but because of WHO He is!

Because… This very real God isn’t just huge and scary; He is also SO good, and SO loving, and SO gracious, more than we can ever imagine. And He wants me. He wants you. He wants a relationship with us. As often as the Bible talks about fearing God, it also says “don’t be afraid”. It’s like we get to this point where we realize just who He is, and we are rightfully terrified, but then He just smiles and opens His arms. He is that big and scary (not in a mean way just in a powerful one), but we don’t have to be afraid, because God is for us. He is on our side.

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It is okay to believe in a God you don’t understand and can’t explain. We aren’t supposed to be able to… After all, we were made in God’s image; He wasn’t made in ours. Let that sink in.

So, what do we do? We let God out of our “god box”; He never fit in there anyway. We read the whole Bible and stop thinking we are smart enough to decide which parts are true or not. We realize that we are the creation and He is the Creator. We ask God to show us who He really is…so that we will fear Him. And we bask in the wonder that we can call this Amazing Being our Daddy and our Friend!!

At least that’s where we start… What do you think? Do you fear God? How does that phrase make you feel? What would a healthy fear of God look like in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

8 thoughts on “A God to Fear

  1. I don’t fear Him, not in terms of ‘terror’ fear. I hold Him in reverent awe, but that’s not the same thing. Unfortunately, the ‘Fear’ word as used in the KJV has been carried forward from the archaic meaning (reverent awe) unchanged into out modern meaning of terror. And nobody seems to have noticed….

    And without dissing him – I think he’s a very genuine guy – I don’t like a lot of Francis Chan’s teaching. We had that series in our housegroup last year, led by a guy heavily into legalism, and in that context, Passtor Chan’s words were used for bondage; sadly that series can be twisted that way. I left the housegroups soon afterwards when the chap tried to drag me back into legalism. (We went out for a coffee and he’d smuggled his Bible in with him, in a little satchel would you believe! And then proceeded to Scripture-bomb me…I wasn’t having any of it!) Anyway that’s irrelevant! But when Pastor Chan did that video on the ‘rope analogy’, that was the last straw because of the Hell teaching. I seriously don’t think that most Evangelicals have really thought through what kind of a god (small ‘g’ intended) we would have to believe in in order to believe in eternal conscious torment. If we *really* believed that people – billions of them; a number we can’t imagine – would fry forever on a divine barbecue, we are either conscience-seared, or we should go insane at the idea. Pastor Chan is, on the surface, pained by the idea of Hell, but underneath I wonder if he really believes it, for those reasons. My take on Pastor Chan’s rope analogy is here: http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/2016/03/01/pastor-chans-rope/

    Why is this relevant to the original post? Well, a) because a fear of Hell and a fear of God can produce a vicious circle of our vvision of God is based on fear. And b) because I think that we should always take others’ opinions (including mine!) with the proverbial pinch of salt, and hold loosely any doctrines they have. We definitely need to form our own, Spirit-informed opinions! But I do like your take on it – “As often as the Bible talks about fearing God, it also says “don’t be afraid” – actually the Bible says ‘Do not be afraid’ *more* than fearing God. And when you said, “He is that big and scary (not in a mean way just in a powerful one), but we don’t have to be afraid, because God is for us. He is on our side” then my heart rejoiced. I know some of your journey from legalism and this will shape your (good) vision of God. Keep it up, Christy! 🙂

    • Thanks for all your thoughts, Tony. I can see how the series could be twisted legalistically. However, it has also made me reevaluate how I think about certain basic parts of Christianity. Legalistic people can make anything into legalism unfortunately!

      We disagree on hell, but that’s okay. 🙂 I appreciate you pushing me to think and evaluate. And as always, I appreciate your encouragement!

      • Yeah, it’s great that we are learning these days to disagree amicably. So often, doctrinal disagreements turn into a slugfest! 🙂

  2. I think it’s because people care more about being right than they care about other people…and they know more about theology than they personally know Jesus. Having someone disagree doesn’t have to be threatening. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow, and either change our beliefs or continue to hold them. Thanks for being willing to respectfully disagree! 🙂

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