Monday, September 12, 2011

Fear and Trembling Part One

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12.

What does it mean to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? I would suggest that it has the thought of reverence and a deep concern for His holiness to be seen in my life. Fearing the Lord in this way ought to affect every area of my life. And I would like to suggest at least three:1) the way we do corporate worship, and 2) the way we raise our children, and 3) the way we do evangelism and to display the glory of Christ.

Sometimes we get the wrong view of who the Lord Jesus Christ is and who God is. We often are occupied with His love and grace that we do it at the expense of His holiness and righteousness. In Revelation 19:15b John describes the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns at His second coming: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” Notice the four parts of this terrible picture of God’s judgment on those who do not repent.

• First, God is “almighty.” We are dealing here not with a mere world ruler, but with the almighty! “Almighty” means that God has all the power in the universe.
• Second, this almighty God will pour out his wrath. He is not only a God of love, but of holiness and justice and wrath.
• Third, his wrath is full of fury. John speaks of “the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” The wrath is not cool opposition. It is furiously angry opposition.
• And fourth, and perhaps most terrible, Jesus Himself is pictured as treading the winepress of this fury. That means that those who rebelled and did not repent are like grapes under the feet of the fury of Christ, and are crushed until their blood runs like wine from the press.

Godly Trembling
If we truly believe in this reality, it ought to produce a proper fear and trembling in the life of a Christian that transforms everything. Listen to several passages of Scripture that show this godly trembling. From the Old Testament we hear Psalm 114:7, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” Psalm 119:120, “My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.” Isaiah 66:2b, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

From the New Testament, we hear most clearly Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” If we know the LORD—really know Him—for who he is in the greatness of his holiness and justice and wrath and grace, you will tremble in his presence. And this is not something you will grow out of. In fact, the immature must grow into it.

The Two Meanings of “Fear Not”
Many of us would say, “But doesn’t the Bible teach us not to fear? Aren’t there many commands like, ‘Fear not, for I am with you.’ They mean two things. They mean, Don’t fear man, fear God. And, second, they mean, Don’t fear God as your enemy, fear him as one who once was your enemy and still is infinite in power and holiness. Here’s the support for these two ways of not fearing.

First, Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” In other words, Don’t fear man, fear God. Tremble at the prospect of distrusting God, not displeasing man. Listen to the way Isaiah put it, “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts . . . Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:12-14). Don’t fear displeasing man, fear distrusting God, and he will become your sanctuary from the wrath of man. (See Exodus 20:20.) So the first meaning of “Fear not” is don’t fear man, fear God.

The second meaning is: If you are his child, fear God not as your enemy, but fear him as one who was once was your enemy and still is infinite in power and holiness. Consider Psalm 130:3-4, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” There is forgiveness that you may be feared. Once our iniquities fell before us like a terrible chasm. Who can stand! we cried. Then we were snatched by grace—sovereign grace alone—and now we are free. We are forgiven. And we tremble, not because God is our enemy, but because He was, and oh, how terrible it would have been if he had not saved us.

The Christian life—the forgiven, heaven-bound, eternally secure, Spirit-indwelt Christian life—there is a proper fear and trembling that transforms everything. So let us take a look at a few areas of our life that fear the Lord transforms.

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