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The Fear of The Lord, part 2
Shortly after Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus and getting saved, he begins to preach, doing it so effectively that the Jews plot to kill him. He is then sent away to Tarsus. Acts 9:31 “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.” When I read this verse I was just taken up with how good that sounds. The church was enjoying peace, it was being built up, and in the fear of the Lord it continued to increase.
I’ve titled this study "The Fear of God" because this issue has been on my heart for some time now. I think the church is suffering from ineffectiveness in America because we only have a half-view of God today. There is a newer book out entitled, God Behaving Badly. It’s all about the popular misperceptions of the God of the Old Testament. On the surface it would seem that He is quite different than the message of love Jesus preached in the New Testament. However, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is, in fact, the same God. So, if all you study is the God of the Old Testament you only have a half-view of Him. One segment of the book deals with Abraham’s nephew Lot. There was a time when Lot was living in Sodom and Gomorrah when two angels came to give him a warning that God was about to destroy those cities because of their sin (see Genesis 19). If you remember the account, the men of the city came to Lot’s house demanding that he send out the angels so they could have sex with them. Lot then came up with the ingenious idea of sending his two virgin daughters out for the men to rape instead. (Some people have derived from that account that God is against women. They ask, "How could God allow that to happen?" Well, if we look deeper into this account, we find that as Lot was on his front porch talking to the angry mob, trying to appease them, the angels reached out and pulled him back into his house and then they struck the men outside blind so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. In other words, God did not allow that to happen. He actually came to the rescue of Lot’s daughters. Just because Lot suggested that the men take his daughters does not mean he was speaking for God!) Lot was not necessarily a godly man. Remember he chose the green pasture land when Abraham gave him the choice of where he wanted to live, leaving his Uncle with the less desirable land. Lot and his family are consistently held up as negative examples. He was slow to leave a town laden with sin. His wife disobeyed by rubber-necking to see the carnage and was ultimately assaulted for that, finally his daughters intoxicated him and seduced him so they could be impregnated. There was nothing about what Lot did in this instance that God approved of; however, if a person does not see the whole picture then he only has a half-view of who God is. There are a thousand other examples in the Old Testament about who God is, but we need a full revelation of who He is to fully understand. The same is true if all you study is the New Testament, which brings us to the current dilemma the church in America has. It’s possible to have a half-view of Jesus also. Our present and popular focus on the love of God has virtually eliminated the fact that Jesus is also holy. The term "the fear of God" is almost always filled with negative connotations because we have such difficulty with contradictory notions. Doug Small says, “God is never understood without an embrace of His radical extremes: He can be known, but He can’t be fully known; He forgives, yet He judges; He is gracious, yet He is exacting in His edicts; He is holy and must deal with sin and the sinner, yet He loves the sinner; He is merciful, yet He is a God of wrath. If we dismiss one side of the continuum we end up with half-a-god.” In the last few decades we have dismissed the anger of God and we want to deny that he judges, subsequently we have made Him soft and cuddly, all about love. And if all Jesus is to you is love, then you have a half-view of who He is.
Fifty years ago, Joachim Jeremias, a New Testament scholar, set forth the idea of ‘abba’ as ‘daddy,’ sighting verses like Mark 14:36… “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You Will.” Jeremias equated the word "Abba" with ‘child-babble,’ not necessarily in a negative sense but in an enduring sense.
Just think of what's happening in this particular verse: Jesus is about to go to the cross. He is praying so hard that He begins to sweat drops of blood. To think that in this setting He say, “Hey Daddy, can you take this cup from me?”
Almost immediately after Jeremias proposed this concept, he was challenged. James Barr published an article entitled “Abba Isn’t ‘Daddy’” which appeared in the Journal of Theological Studies. Jeremias retreated from his claim that “abba” connoted “daddy,” but he continued to assert that infants did in fact make such a sound, and that we proudly claim the infant’s ‘dada’ as a term of intimacy; so he claimed “abba” is an endearing term for God.
While this may be true, it has brought with it an unrelenting, one-sided, understanding of God which is now contributing to the lack of spiritual health in the Church: we must consider our relationship with God as intimate, close, and warm, but not without deep respect! He is more than just Daddy.
Medication (because laughter is the best medicine) Trying to come to the aid of his Father, who was stopped by an officer for speeding, the lil' tyke piped up: "Yeah? Well, if we were speeding, so were you!" God Bless,
Pastor Brad Verse of the week: 1 Corinthians 15:58 Today's Bible reading(s): Isaiah 59 - 63