Fear God

Christ Covenant Church
Marq Toombs
Text – Deuteronomy 10:12-13
Go with the FLOW: Fear God

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“For he who loves God without faith reflects on himself,
while the person who loves God in faith reflects on God.”
Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

May the grace and peace of the Lord our God be with you all.

Today we begin a new mini-series from the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a fancy way of saying “second law”. It is not second meaning another, but second meaning again. It is a collection of sermons that Moses preached on the plains of Moab right before the people went into the promise land and right before he died. In his book The Bible Jesus Read, Philip Yancey says that Deuteronomy is Moses’ second chance to pass along historical memory, to purge himself of grievances and pain, to bequeath to them the hope and grit they would desperately need in his absence. He is like a parent trying to teach an unruly bunch of children how to behave as adults. (p 76)

We are calling our new series Go with the FLOW. This is not the sort of thing a parent usually tells his children, but this is what God spoke to Moses and Israel.

Now, that phrase ‘Go with the FLOW’ is an idiom that means different things to different people. Sometimes this is taken as a compliment; sometimes it is taken as a criticism. For example, some say it means:

Cope with adversity; accept one’s lot. Move along with the prevailing forces, accept the prevailing trend. Do what other people are doing or to agree with other people because it is the easiest thing to do. Act as others are acting, conform to common behavior patterns with an attitude of calm acceptance. Take things as they come.

One new age guru puts it like this: “Going with the flow isn’t about being passive or lazy. It’s not about just letting things happen to you. It’s not aimless wandering. It’s a co-creative act. ‘The flow’ is the ocean of cosmic intelligence. It’s the substance that carries the whole shebang. The flow is life energy itself. Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe. When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.”

But what do we mean when we say Go with the FLOW?

To answer that I need to tell you a story. The idea for this series grew out of an experience I had with my two youngest kids a few years ago. One morning we were sitting at the table doing a devotional from the Book of Deuteronomy. As you know, it’s a big book. I didn’t want them to get bored or bogged down in it, so I told them that we were going to focus on one main question: What does the Lord require of you? And for the next few mornings that’s what we did. This mini-series grew out of that experience.

What does the Lord require of you?

If your were to take the time, you might come up with a long list of things that God commands and expects you to do. Go to church, get baptized, go on mission, get rid of idols, whatever. But if you turn your attention to God’s word in Deuteronomy, you find that God reveals exactly what he requires of us.

He requires you to fear, love, obey, and worship God.

Note: His list is much shorter that your list. He simply requires you to go with the FLOW. That’s what it means to keep in step with the Spirit and to walk in all his ways.

Those who go against the FLOW are covenant breakers. They resist the Spirit and fight against the Lord. Like rebels without a cause, they go their own way, do their own thing, and struggle to survive. But we are God’s covenant people; we are baptized Christians, and God requires us to go with the FLOW. So, we must fear God, love God, obey God, and worship God.

That’s what the Lord requires of you.

For the next few weeks we are going to learn how to do what God requires — how to go with the FLOW.

Our sermon text for today is Deuteronomy 10:12-13. If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The word of God reads:

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you besides this: to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”

The word of the Lord. May God add his blessing to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his living and active word. And all the church says: Amen!

Today we will focus on the first requirement to fear God. It’s not every day that we see the words ‘require’ and ‘fear’ paired together in such a positive way. But here they are in black and white. So what do they mean?

The word for “require” is simply “ask.” When coupled with the phrase “of you” ask becomes a nice way of saying requires or demands. The reason this is so important is because it shows us that God is speaking to us the way a father speaks to his children, not the way a Master speaks to his servants.

So why does he say, “fear the Lord your God?”

+ CONTRAST

There are two different ways to understand and apply the word fear. Think of the difference between feeling afraid and feeling awe.

A master commands his servants to do something and the servants do it because they do not want to be punished. But a father asks his children to do something and they do it because they want to please their father.

A servant is driven one kind of (servile) fear, a child is driven by another kind of (filial) fear.

A servant labors hard because he stands afraid of his master. He doesn’t want to get into trouble. A child labors hard because he stands in awe of his father. He wants to make his daddy proud.

Do you see the difference?

Now, let’s take it up a notch. The master-servant relationship is a picture of legalism. The father-child relationship is a picture of the gospel.

Legalism says, obey to make yourself look good; obey just to earn favor and stay out of trouble. The gospel says, obey to make your father look good; obey just because grace teaches you to do the right thing.

Now do you see the difference?

Legalism says, fear God by guilt through fear of wrath. The gospel says, fear God by grace through faith for his glory and for your good.

Tim Keller explains, “To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love. It means that, because of his bright holiness and magnificent love, you find him ‘fearfully beautiful.’ That is why the more we experience God’s grace and forgiveness, the more we experience a trembling awe and wonder before the greatness of all that he is and has done for us. Fearing him means bowing before him out of amazement at his glory and beauty.” (Meaning of Marriage)

So fear the Lord your God. Not to get out of trouble in the future, but because he already got you out of trouble in the past — and will keep you out of trouble in the future.

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you — for you were the fewest of all peoples — but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of the devil. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

God chose you. God loves you. God saved you.

We often point out the “all y’all” form to show when a text is written to a community and not just individuals. Well, this text is written in the second person singular. That means it was written to you, and you, and you — not all y’all.

God chose you. God loves you. God saved you.

You matter to God.

Does God matter to you?

Moses lays on you and me a personal responsibility to fear the Lord our God as individual persons. As individuals in a family, and as individuals in community with other individuals.

What does the Lord require of you? He requires you to fear the Lord your God.

As RC Sproul says, “The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God. That’s often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and cavalier with God, as if we had a casual relationship with the Father.” (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-it-mean-fear-god/)

God asks every individual person in the community to fear the Lord his God. This is a covenant obligation; this is what grace requires of you.

Lest anyone think that I am promoting a soft-form of legalism just because I am preaching that God requires us to fear him, let me remind you that Paul said, “Christ is the end-goal of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:4) As we saw last week, “the righteous shall live by faith in Jesus Christ.” He loved us enough to obey all God’s law on our behalf; and he loved us enough to die in our place us for God’s sake.

When I say he loved us, I mean he loved law-breaking sinners, not law-abiding saints.

So, if hearing that God requires you to fear him with your heart and soul makes you feel legalistic, then you might have a deep problem. As one pastor explains, “the unbelieving heart sees everything as law—either intolerable demand or as a sign post toward the shining path of self-improvement. The believing heart sees Christ in, through, and underneath everything. And not Christ the Judge either, but rather Christ the Savior. We are talking about Jesus, who saves His people from their sins.” http://dougwils.com/s8-expository/surveying-the-text-deuteronomy.html

In view of all that God has done for you in the person and work of Christ, is fearing him, walking before his face in reverence and awe, and building a life in holy fear, really too much to ask of you? No, not at all.

Not if you trust in Jesus Christ alone.

What does fearing God look like in real life?

+ CONTEXT

In context of Deuteronomy, fearing the Lord your God looks like loving the sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. If you don’t know what a sojourner is, just think immigrant, alien, foreigner, and stranger. Someone who doesn’t fit in; someone who is on the margins. Fearing God looks like loving that person because you were that person before Christ redeemed you.

Fearing the Lord your God looks like breaking your idols and serving the Lord your God and holding fast to him. That phrase holding fast unto him is the same phrase used to describe what happens when a man leaves his father and mother and takes a wife (Gen 2). He holds fast to her; he cleaves unto her in such a way that only death can separate him from her. Likewise, fearing God looks like coming to him empty handed and cleaving unto him in covenantal union all the days of your life. And not even death can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Fearing the Lord your God looks like making oaths and swearing by his name, not taking his name in vain by swearing. For starters, we need to do away with the OMG’s and GD’s and other G’s. God is our praise, not our curse.

Fearing the Lord your God looks like worshiping God in reverence and awe. He is your God, who has done for you all these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen by faith. (10:19-21)

Fearing the Lord your God looks like giving your tithes to the Lord and sharing your gifts with his people. This is an act of worship and an act of mission. (14:23-27)

Fearing the Lord your God looks like reading his holy word all the days of your life — and doing what it says. (17:19)

Fearing the Lord your God looks like gathering all the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, so that they all may hear God’s word and learn to fear the LORD your God and be careful to do all the words of this law. (31:12-13)

In a nutshell, fearing God is looks like living, moving, and existing before the face of God with a devout sense of God-consciousness and a deliberate sense of God-centeredness.

I was reminded of this truth last summer when I read Ed Welch’s book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. In God’s providence, that little book helped me get through a very difficult time. Here’s what he says about fearing God:

The fear of the Lord results from knowing that I always live coram deo— I live before the face of the Holy God. His holiness leaves me amazed at both the magnitude of his forgiveness and the seriousness of my own sins. Because he is holy I want to obey him wholeheartedly. [As God word says,] “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Ex. 20: 20). The great blessing in the fear of the Lord is that it gives us a heart to flee from sin and run toward obedience. (Welch, Edward T. (2007-10-31). Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (p. 197). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.)

The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. Not because you might get caught by your parents, or your spouse, or your boss. That’s the fear of man. The fear of God is the Holy Spirit; he is the one who says, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21) The Spirit dwells with you to keep you from sinning and to make you righteous and holy so that you will be conformed to the image of Christ.

+ CHRIST

Now, speaking of Christ, he did everything God required in the law; he did everything his Father asked him to do. Not to avoid punishment or to achieve God’s favor, but to accomplish his mission to seek and save the lost, the sojourners, the lawbreakers, and sinners.

Jesus came into the world to go with the FLOW. He feared the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul, and body.

The prophet Isaiah said,

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, (Isaiah 11:1-3)

Did you catch that?

The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him and he delighted in the fear of the Lord.

The word ‘delighted’ comes from a verbal form of the word for spirit, wind, or breath (ruach). It means breathe in and enjoy. The fear of the Lord was not a toxic fume that made him choke and gasp, rather it was a sweet breath of life in his nostrils. The fear of the Lord was the fresh air he breathed in so deeply, gladly, humbly, and reverently. [Note: the phrase in Hebrew = וַהֲרִיחֹו בְּיִרְאַת יְהוָה ]

That is why he loved the immigrant, outcast, misfit, and stranger. That is why he worshiped the Lord his God and served him only. That is why he held fast to his Father all the days of his life. That is why he lived by every word that came from the mouth of God.

And that is why his prayers were heard.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death.” He did not fear the devil or man; he did not suffering or death. Rather, he feared the “dislocation, separation, condemnation, isolation, desolation” that came along with death. He feared being forsaken by his Father. That is why he cried, “Father, let this cup pass from me. Not my will, but your will be done.”

That’s what fearing God looked like for Jesus. “And he was heard because of his reverence.”

The fear of God that sent him to die on the cross is the same fear of God that breathed into nostrils the breath of life and raised him from the dead. And that is how “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Although Jesus was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And that is how you and I learn obedience as well.

We must learn to delight in the fear of the Lord our God, and we must learn to despise the fear of man — and the fear of the devil.

Moses said, “Fear the Lord you God with all your heart and soul.”

Isaiah said, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 8:12-14 ESV)

And Jesus said, “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.” (Matthew 10:28)

Jesus obeyed the Law and the Prophets, and he practiced what he preached, in order that we might live and do the same; so that we might fear God not man.

+ COUNSEL

I love what Ed Welch says about the difference between the fear of God and the fear of man:

Whatever is most important is the thing that rules us. Fear reveals our allegiances. If we have a mature fear of the Lord, it means that we value and revere him above all else. That’s how we fight fear with fear. Do you worry about money? What you love and value is showing. You are living in the future, where what you love is in jeopardy. Come back to the present and ask the simple questions, What does it mean to follow Christ today? How can I be obedient now? Do the opinions of other people control you? What you love and value is showing. You love reputation, love, respect, adoration. Ask yourself, Why am I so concerned about myself? Then consider what God asks of you. [Welch, Edward T. (2007-10-31). Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (pp. 198-199). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.]

What he requires is that you go with the FLOW: fear the Lord your God, love him, obey him, and worship him with all your heart and soul.

The challenge is to do what God requires.

Well, this is the end of the sermon; all that to say this: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Why? “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl 12:13-14)

Whether that comforts you or convicts you, I want you to know that Jesus is the source of eternal salvation.

But not to just anyone and everyone.

Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. So let’s obey him: “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)

It’s a struggle, but you learn obedience by struggling.

So make every effort to work out whatever God works in — even as you learn to delight in the holy fear of the Lord.

May the fear of the Lord be the breath of life in your nostrils.

Let us pray.

Lord, work in us that fear of you, which is the beginning of wisdom, which is instruction in wisdom, and which is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Unite our hearts to fear your name, that we may keep your commandments, which is the whole duty of man. Put the fear of God in our hearts, that we may not turn from you. Let us be devoted to your fear; and let us continue in the fear of the LORD everyday and all the day. Amen (Matthew Henry)

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