Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fear not men but let God be your fear

The title is a quote from one of Samuel Rutherford's letters written to one of his parishioners in the mid 1600's. I don't know about you but I certainly still need to be reminded of this truth today in 2008. I've been reminded of it today in a couple of ways.

First, our pastor Peter Grainger continued our series in the book of Acts today with a sermon entitled "The First Megachurch". His third point dealt with the account of Ananias and Sapphira and the "great fear" of God that swept through the early church as a result of these events (Acts 5:11). Peter quoted from Richard Longnecker's commentary on Acts:
…while we may be thankful that judgement upon deceit in the church is not now so swift and drastic, the incident stands as an indelible warning regarding the heinousness in God’s sight of deception in spiritual and personal matters.
You can listen to the whole sermon here. As Peter was preaching, it occurred to me how often I don't fear God as I should, but instead spend far too much energy focussing on sinful fears based on material worries and anxieties about family or what others think of me. In his excellent book Running Scared, Ed Welch shows us that the antidote to the fears that cripple us is a proper fear of God:
If you really want to fight fear, learn to fear Someone who captures your attention in such a way that your other fears suddenly seem pedestrian and unimportant...Can you hear the echo of the Sermon on the Mount? After Jesus reasoned with us about our worries and anxieties, he gave us the premier anti-anxiety treatment: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt 6:33). You treat worries by pursuing what is even more important. Fear still reveals our allegiances, this time in a positive way. 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.
So by earnestly seeking to live in reverent fear of God, I counter the sinful fears that so often clog up my life and distract me from serving him as I should. Or to put it another way, when my life is full of worry and fear, it probably means that I am not fearing God as I should.
He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge (Proverbs 14:26)

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