Should We Fear God?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

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Photo by Bill Rudge

During a Sunday morning service I attended, the congregation was told that the most devastating fear in a Christian’s life is the fear of God. The pastor went on to assert that a fear-based approach to spirituality does not promote a healthy and vital faith.

I agree that if we only approach our faith with a fear of God, it will hinder our relationship with Him. If we view our Heavenly Father as an authoritative parent waiting for us to make a mistake so He can punish us, our perception of God will be affected. This type of “cowering fear” can cultivate a faith motivated out of mere duty or obligation to follow God through our own merits and works, as we attempt to appease Him.

However, does this mean we should not have a fear of God? For an adequate answer, we must recognize what it really means to fear God. Fearing God does not mean we fear His wrath and judgment. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are no longer under God’s condemnation. Paul clearly states in Romans:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, the punishment for our sins has been paid (Romans 5:8, 9; 6:23; 1 John 2:1, 2). As a result, our positional status before God changes as we move from being estranged (Romans 5:10) to being adopted into His family as one of His children:

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).

While we will still experience God’s discipline (Proverbs 3:11, 12; Hebrews 12:5, 6) and a loss of rewards for unfaithfulness in this life (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12), as believers we do not have to fear His coming wrath and judgment:

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:17, 18).

Rather, it is this fear of a wrathful God that haunts everyone who rejects His plan of salvation and walks in rebellion to His will. As we find in the books of Luke and Revelation:

I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4, 5).

They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:16, 17).

Since we need not fear His wrath and judgment, what then does this mean for believers? It means we are to have a respect and reverence for who He is – the Creator and Sustainer of life! It means we recognize His sovereign authority over our lives; that He is holy and righteous in both His nature and in what He does. As the author of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

Reverence and Respect

Besides having the privilege to address God as our Father because of what Jesus Christ has done, we are to hallow God’s name when we pray. This means we should approach God with reverence and respect. In ancient times a name expressed the individual’s essential being. In other words, to know the name of a person was to know that person’s total character and nature. (Holman Bible Dictionary)

Thus, by approaching God with reverence for His name, we are in reality expressing a respect for His very being. As David proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9). Every time we look at creation we should respond like David with a sense of awe and marvel that we have the privilege to draw near to the One who created it.

But many people approach God without this sense of reverence. They pray to God like He is just one of their buddies, or even worse, they dictate their requests to Him and expect Him to respond to their beck and call.

A Dangerous Path

The lack of a proper fear of God is leading our world down a path of violence, immorality, sorcery, thefts and lies. Our country has gone down that slippery slope because it has abandoned the truth of the scriptures and has no reverence for the Creator. Our nation has forgotten that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Paul emphasizes this point in describing man’s spiritual condition without Christ: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18; see also Psalm 36:1; Proverbs 1:29; Jeremiah 2:19).

Even the lifestyles of many who profess faith in God indicate they do not have a holy fear or respect for God and His Word. They attempt to condone and justify sin under the notion that God loves and accepts us no matter what we do.

While we all fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23), we should never excuse sinful behavior because God is loving and gracious (Romans 6:1-4). We are called as Christians to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16). A proper fear (awe) of Him helps to keep us from walking down an evil path:

By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil (Proverbs 16:6).

The Apostle Paul emphasized this point in his letter to the Corinthian believers:
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Going back to the question, “Should we have a fear of God?” Yes. And God’s Word consistently teaches this truth (see Psalm 34:9; 86:11; 89:7; 128:1; Proverbs 1:7; 14:27; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Acts 9:31; 10:35; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:17). God takes pleasure in those who fear [reverence and respect] Him (Psalm 147:11; see also Luke 1:50).

Therefore, let us always approach God in prayer and live each day with a reverential and holy fear of our loving Lord and Savior:

And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great” (Revelation 19:5).
Never forget. Our worthiness to be in His presence has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22).

Solomon, concludes Ecclesiastes with the following message

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 

14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).

Jesus stated in Luke 12:4, 5

4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.

Those who reject the Gospel should consider the following warning given by Jesus:

5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:5).

On the Right Side

by Bill Rudge

Do not think God is sleeping, silent or soft on the sin that is infecting our world. Increasing rebellion and immorality (often expressed as freedom and enlightenment) has not gone unnoticed by the Creator. Throughout history, God has periodically sent judgments to bring individuals and nations to repentance. When they refuse to repent, His judgments intensify.

God, who is long-suffering and not wanting anyone to perish (1 Peter 4), is now storing up His wrath for a day of vengeance and judgment (Revelation 16:19). This day of reckoning will bring even the bravest and most defiant and arrogant of men and women to their knees – either in repentance or judgment.

Don’t be impressed or influenced by today’s society – the day is quickly approaching when the cup of His wrath will reach its fill. Don’t be afraid of the violent and ruthless, for they will be the ones cowering in fear before their just and righteous Creator. The LORD is once again about to enter this world with undeniable power and might. Be certain that you are on the right side – the LORD’s – and living the way you should – honoring Him and abiding by His Word.

As The Grass Fades (Psalm 103)

by Bill Rudge

Everyone, sooner or later, comes to realize that youth and vigor fade like the waning summer days of September.

photo by Tabitha Smith

The most attractive people in the world will, in a few short years, lose much of their beauty. Their “perfect” bodies and good looks will give way to sags and wrinkles. Just visit a nursing home and compare the residents to their youthful pictures.

A Sports Festival I attended included men and women at their peak of perfection: massive muscles from steroids, chiseled bodies from intense training, youthful appearance, vivacious…. But looking beyond the glamorous surface, while witnessing and giving out my Reaching Your Maximum Potential and Who Is This Jesus? books, I noticed visible flaws from aging, sun damaged skin, over training and overdosing. Many who just a few years earlier were at their pinnacle, now limped while walking due to bad knees, hips or backs; had faces engraved with wrinkles, sculpted bodies with extended bellies and hernias, tattoos that looked grotesque from shrinking muscles and shriveling skin; varicose veins – the result of over exertion and straining; surgical scars on shoulders and knees from injuries caused by lifting excessive amounts of weight….

Eternal Significance

A lifetime of training in athletics, academics or the arts can be wiped out in a moment of time – an unexpected injury, debilitating accident or dread disease. The Book of Ecclesiastes says to enjoy each day to its fullest, but focus on the important priorities because life is but a passing vapor. A self-written obituary by 69-year-old Emily Phillips noted: “I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”

David said it this way:

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15,16).

Life goes by too quickly to disregard or even defy the Lord for a few years of fleeting indulgence. Chasing after worldly pleasures and possessions is – as Solomon learned 3,000 years ago through personal experience – futility and foolishness.

Why spend a lifetime developing skills and talents yet neglect that which has never-ending significance? Enjoy the temporary but focus on the eternal. Endeavor to develop attributes and qualities whose benefits last forever.

You have a lifetime (however long or short that may be) to determine your eternal destiny; an eternity to enjoy the rewards, or suffer the consequences for the choices you made in this lifetime. You have the final word in this life; God has it in the next life.

Wisdom from Solomon

It would be expedient to heed the wisdom of Solomon: His search in riches and pleasure inspired him to conclude the book of Ecclesiastes with the following admonition:

However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. But remember that days of darkness will be many. Rejoice while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before you grow old and no longer enjoy living – before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear [Reverence] God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Adapted from Ecclesiastes 11:8,9 and 12:13-14.)

Change of Perspective

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, our outlook changes. Enjoyment of the passions of this life fade like the flexibility and suppleness of aging joints. It is good that God uses the degeneration and deterioration of our physical bodies to divert our focus from the pleasures of this physical domain to that of our approaching destiny.

I often tell people that time is the great equalizer: It has a way of catching up with us and changing our perspective – as do our circumstances. If you have not yet discovered, you soon will, that what matters most in your younger years, matters little when you are older, and what matters little when you are young matters most when you get older. The things of this earth grow strangely dim as Eternity looms on the horizon.

Some of what was a fun time for me as a teenager is now foolishness. Some of what I considered boring and weak back then, I recognize as wise and strong today. Some of what I thought was a waste of time and irrelevant is now a priority and passion. Much of what I rushed toward then, I avoid today. What I fled from before, I embrace today. My perspective has dramatically changed since coming to know Jesus Christ. It is diametrically opposed to what it was as a teenager before accepting Christ. With years, comes experience, and through experience, comes a new viewpoint.

Some people turn away from the sins of their youth because they have come to know the Lord, experience the joy of being forgiven and the peace of walking with God. Others do so because they are forced by circumstances or advancing age to no longer indulge in them.

It is far better to make the changes while you have the choice and the ability to do so, than to wait until you are one day forced to. However, whatever it takes, I hope you have amended your attitude and behavior from that which is contrary to God’s nature and His purpose for creating you, to that which honors Him. True repentance means that you would not repeat sinful behavior if you were back in those circumstances or had the opportunity once again.

Nourish Your Spirit

It is inevitable that your physical body will wear out; muscles will shrink and bones will weaken. Your body will eventually cease to function and will return to the dust from which God created it – but your spirit will live forever.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly [physical body] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [the eternal spirit] we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

In light of this certainty, my suggestion is to spend more time nourishing your spirit through Bible study and prayer and less time pampering the flesh. You should be convinced by this point in your life that sinful behavior, really does result in the consequences warned about in the pages of Scripture. Hopefully, you have gained enough wisdom over the years to have learned what is pleasing to the Lord and acquired enough respect and reverence for God to avoid that which dishonors Him. David goes on to write in Psalm 103:

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear [reverence] Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts (Psalm 103:17,18).

David confidently proclaimed in the closing verse of his most famous psalm:

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).

What Really Matters?

When all is said and done, what really matters? Ponder the following questions then make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

• Where will I spend eternity?
• Am I ready to meet my Creator?
• Did I honor Jesus Christ with my life (and ministry)?
• Was I a wise steward of the gifts and resources God entrusted to me?
• Did my life bear fruit by leading others to Christ?
• Was His will and purpose fulfilled through me?

May the longing of our hearts and the focus of our lives be to know and to exalt our Creator. May we inherit all God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. May we rejoice because of the assurance that at Christ’s return believers’ bodies will be transformed into immortal, glorified bodies to rule and reign over a world returned to its original paradise.

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).

Two Men – Two Destinies

by Bill Rudge

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist – but the intricate prophecies in Scripture and the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ far surpass any human knowledge or ability. The psalmist stated, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The human conscience and the Creation point with definitive clarity to a magnificent Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me” (Isaiah 43:10). Moses wrote, “There is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life and there is no one who can deliver from My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

If Stephen Hawking was right about God, then he and Billy Graham lost nothing. However, if Billy was right, then he won everything and Stephen lost everything. In other words, Stephen Hawking had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Billy Graham had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that when we stand before God we will have no defense for rejecting Him.  He states in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Jeremiah the prophet precisely stated, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God will move heaven and earth to make known His way of salvation to anyone who seeks Him with a sincere and humble heart. Each of us has both the freedom and opportunity in this life to determine our eternal destiny.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11, 12).

Instead of discounting a creator and replacing Him with a faulty system of evolution that ultimately leads to a dead end, you can come to know the Creator in a real and personal way. Once you do, your endless hours of studying theories that continually change and dissipate can end and you can look at this amazing Creator’s creation through eyes of gratitude, hope and assurance.

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

The LORD Is My….

by Bill Rudge

In this chaotic world that we live in, it is comforting to know that the LORD is my….

Creator who designed me.

Savior who died for me.

God and King whom I serve.

Rock on which I stand.

Strength in times of weakness.

Protection in times of danger.

Defender in times of battle.

Fortress in times of trouble.

Light in times of darkness.

Peace in times of distress.

Comforter in times of pain.

Provider in times of need.

Companion in times of isolation.

Multiplier when funds are low.

Healer in times of sickness.

Helper in times of difficulty.

Hope in times of despair.

Your First Second in Eternity

By Bill Rudge

One second is all it takes to transform disbelief into belief, indifference into astonishment and mockery into reverence. In just one second, life-long thoughts, attitudes and emotions will be forever altered. In one second, all false hypotheses will vanish. In one second, the ingenuity and magnificence of the Creator will be unveiled. In that one second, you will know the reality of the One you embraced, ignored or abhorred.

Now is the time to come to know your Creator. If you meet Him as Savior, that first second will commence great joy. However, if you stand before the Lord of Heaven and Earth as Judge, you will surely tremble in terror.

That initial second will alter everything forever. It will either be the beginning of an eternity in His presence with fullness of joy and pleasures evermore, or the genesis of falling into the hands of the living God and realizing you are eternally isolated from all He has prepared for those who love Him.

Be assured, that one second will come. It will definitely happen. How you prepare for your first second in eternity will make all the difference. Do not wait another second, accept His free gift of salvation now. I promise that when you stand before Him you will be overjoyed and forever grateful that you did.