II Corinthians 10:5

"Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

September 28, 2008

"For This Is Man's All."

Last weekend, my family and I had the opportunity of attending a much-anticipated church retreat at Storybook Lodge. Besides it being one of the most physically demanding (tackle football, Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, softball, kayaking...you get the picture) and sleep-depriving times of the year, it was also a very thought provoking time, as we strove to grow deeper in Christ. Here is just one thing I took away from this year’s retreat.

“'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”
In my previous article, I touched upon the subject of fear, but would like to expound on it now.
When singing Amazing Grace up at Storybook, the second verse stuck out to me when it says “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;” Now at first it seems like this verse is a little bit contradictory- it is good (by grace) that we fear, but also good (by grace) that we are relieved from fear?! But praise God, because He cleared up this confusion for me.

The Bible clearly tells us to fear God. 1 Peter 2:17 says to “fear God.” Proverbs 3:7 urges us to fear the Lord in order that we may depart from evil. Psalms 111:10 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”
Also, Matthew 10:28 tells us “And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Obviously then, God is to be the only One worthy of our fear. In a way, fear is like faith; it is only as good as the object it is placed in. Just as faith in works for salvation is wrong, so is fear in something other than the Lord.

I believe fear to be something like “respectful dread; awe; reverence.”
Because God clearly tells us to fear Him, whom we fear is very important. Why? Consider the following excerpt by Bill Jack in the book No Retreats No Reserves No Regrets:

“Entire civilizations have built their cultures around fear. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the crocodile. Why? They feared it. The crocodile would crawl up out of the Nile and eat their cattle and their children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the crocodile, they made it into a god. Fear drove their culture. By the time of the demise of the Egyptian civilization, because they rejected the one true God, their religion recognized over 3,000 different gods. On the headrests they used as pillows, the Egyptians had carved inscriptions to protect them from nightmares. These people lay down at night in fear of offending one of a myriad of gods. They were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.

The Mayans, too, had many gods. They made a god out of the jaguar. Why? They feared it. The jaguar would crawl out of the jungle and eat their cattle and children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the jaguar, they worshipped it. Their fears drove them to conquer and to enslave neighboring peoples. Because they believed the sun-god would not rise every day unless appeased by human sacrifice, each morning four priests would drag a captive victim to the top of a pyramid, stretch him out on an altar while a fifth priest would cut out and hold up to the sun the victim’s still-beating heart. It is reported that on one high, holy day, 20,000 victims were sacrificed. These people rose in fear every morning of offending one of a myriad of gods they feared. They, too, were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.

Now we moderns make fun of the Egyptians and the Mayans, but we are not that far removed from them. If we fear not having enough money, we make material things our gods. If we fear not having enough friends, we make people into our gods. In other words, what one fears is what one worships. What is it that scares you spitless? Losing your hair? Losing your youth? Losing your job? Whatever it is that you fear the most is what you will worship.”

Because we worship whom we fear, it becomes obvious why God wants our undivided fear. In order to keep God at the center of our lives, and to be in this world, but not of it, it is clear that fearing God is a very important part of being able to do this.

So, going back to the song, it is by God’s amazing grace that He saved us and has taught and continues to teach us to fear Him. Likewise, it is by His grace that He delivered us from the former fears (the things that we used to worship), and delivered us unto Himself.

Daniel Wanschura


christina hall said...

Dan, thank you for including such compelling historical examples in your article! It is so evident that we are a slave to the being or thing that we fear. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Why is Paul a "bondservant" (Greek means "slave" as well) for the sake of Christ? Because God, in illuminating grace, manifested to Paul the fearful glory and captivating beauty of Christ. Paul witnessed God, feared Him, and consequently served Him. Knowledge = fear = obedience. But I think there is something else going on here besides fear. The equation knowledge = fear = obedience is indeed a true one, and is demonstrated throughout the Bible (the Hebrew midwives feared God and disobeyed Pharaoh, Job feared God and shunned evil). But there is another, higher equation threaded throughout the Bible: knowledge = love = obedience. God knows as well as we do that fear is a great motivator, but love is a greater one. Jesus chose to say "if you love [not fear] me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

We fear God because He is holy and we are unholy, because He is lovely and we are unlovely. In other words, we fear what Goodness will do to Wickedness. We know that Goodness has the right to destroy Wickedness just as Light destroys Darkness - that God has the right to desroty us in hell forever. But as believers, we know more than that. We know that in overwhelming, mind-boggling love, God sent his Son in order that He might raise us out of our wickedness and into His goodness, out our death and into His life, out of our darkness and into His glorious light! (Eph 2:4-6, Eph 5:8-14) We can now come boldly before God's throne (Heb 4:16) because we are justified (Rom 5:1) and under no condemnation (Rom 8:1). 1 John 14:18 says "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

Therefore we fear God because of who He is, and we love God because of who He is. It is good that we forever have a "respectful dread, awe, [and] reverence" for the God who has power to "destory both body and soul in hell," and it is also good that we love "Him who first loved us." But let us remember that is the KNOWLEDGE of God that will foster both fear and love in us.

Oh for grace to KNOW Him more!

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5)

"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him" (Ps 103:17)

christina hall said...

P.S. Thanks to all of you who tolerate my involved responses (I just get so excited about the topics). As I type these posts, I'm not thinking that I tell you things you don't already know. I selfishly write more for my own benefit than for yours. =o) Dan and Meagan - thanks again for starting this blog! I love you guys!

Anonymous said...

Amen, to all three of you. :)

love ya,
Mrs. Sands

Canada said...

not necessarily in that order, eh?

Isaac Alzen said...

This is totally unrelated to the current post (sorry!), but I found something interesting on the previous topic of McCain.

This is from the October 2008 version of Christianity Today:

The Senator has "faith of few words: McCain does not claim to be 'born again' or to have been baptized. He says he is 'just a Christian' who attends a Baptist church in Pheonix."

Later in the article it says:

"It wasn't long before McCain's relations with national evangelical leaders soured. In 1989, McCain supported his mentor Tower, who had retired from the senate, in a bitter confirmation battle for Secretary of Defense under President George H. W. Bush. Tower ran into allegations of drunkenness and womanizing. McCain was furious over how the Christian Right, led by Moral Majority cofounder Paul Weyrich, savaged Tower, causing the nomination to fail. McCain thought these accusers were hypocritical. 'The sins Tower was accused of were hardly Washington novelties,' McCain would later write."

I understand that this is just one article and does not paint a complete picture. He could have changed. But stories like this one and others cast serious doubt in my mind about the authenticity of McCain's faith. When I have observed McCain, he seems very hesitant to speak about his faith. He has some very compelling stories in regards to his encounters with Christians in Vietnam, but other than those, he rarely ever touches on his relationship with Christ. It seems to make him uncomfortable, like he would rather discuss something else. From what I have seen, he will only talk about matters of his religion when he is promped to do so.

One of his mottos is "Country First." I understand where this is coming from, but as a Christian I need to put Christ and not country first. Granted, there are very few (if any) presidential candidates who would make their motto "God First." However, I believe our country needs someone who would serve Jesus first and then serve our country through Christ. This is what many of our founding fathers like George Washington did.

All this being said, I still don't know who is the best candidate to vote for. Ideally you would like someone who would publicly look to Christ for help in every decision he makes, and who would include Christ as the focal point of many of his speeches. It is very rare to find a nominee who is that bold, because they are afraid of being offensive or intolerant (Postmodernism and Humanism have greatly influenced our culture!!). I haven't heard of anyone this forthright with their faith in the upcoming election.

All I'm trying to say is that I have some doubts about the validity of the faith of McCain. By no means can I be sure or can I judge once and for all whether he is a true follower of Christ. Only God can do that. Pray that God would guide our candidates and reveal Himself to them so that whoever is elected can effectively lead our nation through Christ!!

Sorry that this is completely off topic! It is something that I was contemplating and I just wanted to share it.

By the way, I heard that during the DNC they held a worship service laden with syncretism. They had believers of many different religions (Christians, Muslims, etc.) worshiping the "same God." A woman preached a sermon in which she said that anyone who renounces religions contradictory to their own worships a God resembling an "ogre."

This is scary because there are clear warnings in the Bible against syncretism. Pray for our country!

christina hall said...

Scriptures popping out at me over the past few days...

Psalm 5:7
"But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you."

Psalm 19:9
"The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever"

Psalm 25:12-14
"Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant."

Psalm 31:19
"Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!"

Can you guess which book of the Bible I'm reading through? =o)