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Home Sermons The fear of the Lord - #1 - Text & Audio

The fear of the Lord - #1 - Text & Audio

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‘The fear of the Lord'

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Dave Bott

 Audio Talk

Introduction

 Good morning.

 The fear of the Lord…

I’m experiencing some kind of fear right now…

…but perhaps it’s not the fear of the Lord.

 

So please, would you pray with me before we get under way.

 

God our Father,

I confess that my vision of you is fuzzy at best,

not because you have revealed yourself in an unclear way,

but because I have one eye on you and one eye on this world.

And so I pray Father that you would bring yourself into focus this morning,

give us all such a clear vision of your glory,

that we will all leave here in absolute wonder at your beauty.

Overwhelm our hearts that we may throw off everything else that hinders

and the sin that so easily entangles,

and so give us strength to run with perseverance

the race that you have marked out before us.

Cause us to fix our eyes on Jesus,

the author and perfector of our faith.

In him we put all our hope.

And so in his name I pray, Amen.

Hasn’t God both encouraged and challenged us through Rob’s preaching in Nehemiah?

I was amazed last week when I realised just how timely this series on the fear of God has been orchestrated, not by us, but by God.

I chose this topic based on a book by Jerry Bridges ‘the joy of fearing God’ way back in February not knowing when or where or how this topic will fit in with our church. Thank you God.

Through Nehemiah’s eyes, our own eyes have been opened to the strategies of our unbelieving society, as we too experience the shame of standing up for God and his word, as everyone else around us, believe God to be outdated, irrelevant, intolerant and even dead.

What will give us the courage to take pride in Christ?

The fear of God.

Or take the internal divisions within Judah, that threatened to undermine everything else that the community of God was working towards.

We too can relate to Nehemiah’s agony over fractured relationships within God’s community.

Where will we get the strength to be vulnerable with one another so that Christ’s church may be unified?

The fear of God is where.

At a time in our church life, where shame is assaulting us from outside our walls, and strains in relationships within add to our heartbreak, and so all we want to do is shrink back, to disconnect…

disconnect from society…

disconnect from one another…

At this time, we need to pause, take a deep breath, and I chose this word carefully…

Indulge… Indulge in our God.

Some of us are running on fumes, we need to fill up, we need to feast on our great God.

And the fear of the Lord will help us do just that.

First let me tell you the story of Charles Simeon, a man who faced incredible trouble, both from within the church and from outside it.

A man I hope we can imitate as his fear of the Lord went deep and high.

Simeon went to Cambridge University, England, in the late 17 hundreds.

He was converted in his university years, seemingly out of nowhere, for there was no evangelical influence in his life, no person who taught him the gospel of grace, but he simply had a profound sense of his unworthiness to eat the Lord’s Supper as Easter Day approached.

After reading in a book about how the Jews knew what they were doing when the high priest laid his hand on the head of a goat, transferring the sins of Israel onto the head of the scapegoat, the Holy Spirit moved Simeon to understand that God had provided the head of His Son, on whom all his guilt could be transferred.

And without any human intervention, Charles Simeon was converted.

After graduating from university he became a lecturer there, and became the minister of trinity church, in Cambridge.

However the congregation rejected Simeon as their minister for they wanted their old assistant pastor Mr Hammond.

And so the congregation didn’t allow Simeon to preach at the evening service for the first 12 years of his ministry.

The congregation went so far as to lock the gates to the pews, so that anyone who wanted to come to hear Simeon preach had to stand or sit in the aisles.

And outside the church, he ministered in the University, where he was so utterly ostracised and slandered by all those on campus, staff and students alike, that Simeon wrote as an old man, looking back with great fondness of this one time where a staff member came and walked and talked beside him for 15minutes.

He was utterly alone in his witness on campus.

Simeon never married.

Furthermore, Simeon battled with a chronic illness for 13 years, which he said, after preaching, he felt more dead than alive. He could barely walk home to his dormitory.

 

Incredibly, miraculously even, this man pressed on, faithfully labouring for Christ’ sake.

 

Where did this man get his strength from? He was all alone.

 

Let me give you just a glimpse into this man’s fear of God.

 

A friend of Simeon’s lived with him for a few months, and on one occasion he entered Simeon’s room, and found him so absorbed in the contemplation of the Son of God, so overpowered by the display of mercy to his soul, that for a long time he was incapable of pronouncing a single word, until he exclaimed

 

‘glory’ … ‘glory’.

 

May we experience a taste of Simeon’s fear of God this morning.

 

Well in order to fear the Lord, to indulge in him, we first need to learn what the fear of the Lord is and also what the fear of the Lord is not.

 

  • Option 1. Does fearing God mean that we are meant to live terrified of his punishment?

 

For the believer, no.

 

A passage that many of you may well think of straight away is 1 John 4:18 , which says:

 

‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’

 

Clearly then, the word ‘fear’ can carry a range of meanings, for the bible to both command us to fear and command us not fear.

 

Where here in 1 John, it is describing what I will be calling ‘guilt-fear’, that dread we’ve all experienced when we learn that what we’ve done has been found out… Or could be found out.

 

In year 11 at school, I once threw an M&M chocolate at my PE teacher, hitting him square between the eyes. After his shock, he looked directly at me.

 

Guilt-fear.

 

And what did I do without a moment’s thought?

 

I pointed the finger at my best friend sitting next to me.

 

My gut response when I am found out or am being blamed, is to redirect the guilt, and if possible redirect the guilt back onto the person accusing me.

 

But this avoidance of guilt fear has a nasty consequence.

 

It places distance between me and those I love.

 

For either I avoid being in situations where I will be exposed or else I defend myself at any cost.

 

This is not the attitude and behaviour of someone perfected in God’s love.

 

Somehow we need to be made secure enough to own our failings and yet be completely free from any dread of being punished.

 

Having said this though, there is one exception that I can find in Scripture, where a believer ought to be utterly terrified of God’s eternal punishment.

 

This is seen in Hebrews 10 , where the Christians were seriously considering throwing in the towel of their faith in Christ, on account of the external persecution they were experiencing from the Jews.

 

When tempted to shrink back to the point of giving up on Christ, in that circumstance, to fear the Lord is to know that there is nothing to go back to, but only a fearful expectation of condemnation.

 

Not that a true believer could ever be condemned or could ever truly abandon their faith, but sometimes believers need to be reminded of the alternative to faith in Christ.

 

This contemplation of the eternal punishment of God is lovingly inflicted by God in order to keep the believer trusting in Christ.

 

Fearing God must mean something more fundamental than being afraid of his punishment.

 

Where the regular experience of this fear is something other than being afraid of his punishment.

 

  • This leads us to option 2.

Does fearing God mean that we are meant to live as if in the presence of our King?

 

I believe yes.

 

First, let me clarify what I mean.

 

‘Live’ - Scripture consistently connects fearing God with our behaviour, seeking good, and avoiding evil.

 

Fearing God is not just only an emotional experience, but also takes charge of our attitude and our perspective on reality, and so motivates everything we do.

 

Why do I use the words ‘as if’… in the presence of our King – because God is present no matter where we are.

 

I say ‘as if’ because at the moment we cannot see God with our eyes, but we live by faith.

 

‘in the presence of our King.’ – when you are in someone’s presence you are conscious of them, of their body language, their expression, you can hear their words clearly, you are in a position of getting to know them.

 

It is knowing our King accurately that will give us the perspective, the motivation, the direction and the faith to live obediently.

 

To say it another way: to fear God is to revere our King, by faith, and so live to please Him.

 

I will be referring to this true fear as ‘faith-fear’.

 

I was tempted not to use the word ‘revere’ today because, frankly, I hardly know what it means.

 

But instead of softening my view of God, I need to work hard to understand him as he has revealed himself in Scripture.


To revere someone, is to so highly respect them, that you venerate them, you are in absolute awe of who they are and what they can do.

 

If you’ve seen the movie twister, then imagine a tornado tearing every house apart as it rips through your suburb.

 

At that moment you are absolutely terrified of its power.

 

You know that you are completely at the tornado’s mercy.

 

As it picks up and throws another car, you are overcome with dread. But to your relief the tornado dies down.

 

After you are safe, you begin to reflect on the sheer power of the tornado, at this time you have a real experience of awe.

 

But then your mind begins to attribute the power and movement of the tornado, to God Himself, knowing that he created it, he directed it and He made it die down, sparing your life.

 

At that moment of reflection, then you know your place before God, then filled with awe, you revere him.

 

Okay, I’ve spent enough time defining what I believe to be the fear of the Lord.

 

Let’s now make sure that Scripture actually teaches that fearing God is:

‘To live as if in the presence of our King.’

At first it may seem that Scripture is teaching us to ‘guilt-fear’ God, to be afraid of punishment, but let me show you that it actually teaches ‘faith-fear’ – revering God.

 

Consider first Ecclesiastes.

 

The writer of Ecclesiastes surveys all of life in the search of meaning, of substance, of satisfaction.

 

A search that we are all participating in.

 

The researcher concludes his findings with this instruction:

 

‘Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 

Why? He gives the reason.

 

‘For (because) God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.’

 

This connection between fearing God and faith in the day of judgement is also made by Jesus, Paul, Peter and John in the New Testament.

 

We will look more closely at some of these texts next week.

 

So, a right and godly fear of the Lord has the day of judgement in view.

 

A person who fears God anticipates standing before the judge of all the earth, anticipating that almighty gavel coming down and pronouncing a verdict that will last for all eternity.

 

But for the author of Ecclesiastes this is good news. Because notice what this means.

 

If the day of judgement is your point of reference in life, then your life does have meaning, there is substance, the way we live our life does matter, because God says it matters, so much so, that he will assess every deed before his court.

 

But when we hear this, our conscience condemns us, ‘I’m dead’, ‘I am done for’ – ‘I’ve done way too much wrong’.

 

This heavy truth of our accountability before God seems to only fuel our guilt-fear, our fear of punishment.

 

How is this meant to give me courage when facing social shame tactics or intimidation?

 

How is this meant to comfort me and motivate me to pursue peace with a brother or sister who I feel has harmed me?

 

Hang in there for the moment, let’s keep digging and I guarantee that living life consciously in the presence of God will provide us with all that we need.

 

Alright, so far we know that to fear the Lord, as God would have us fear him, we must consider carefully that each one of us will one day give an account of our lives to God.

 

Our next question is: can we anticipate the verdict of the judgement?

 

Because if we can, and it is in our favour, then we don’t need to be afraid of punishment.

 

Can we anticipate not only the judgement and the judge, but also the final verdict?

 

Yes.

 

Jesus, the judge himself, promised in John 5:24

 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged (condemned) but has crossed over from death to life.”

 

has eternal life’ ‘has crossed over’

 

For the person with faith, the final verdict has already been made – innocent, righteous in Christ!

 

 

Well if that’s true, then how do I get out of living under a constant sense of guilt-fear?

 

How can I enjoy praying rather than guilting myself into it?...

 

How can I be truly loving towards God’s people, rather than using acts of kindness to create a profile of myself that people will connect with, without seeing my faults?...

 

How can we live secure in the presence of our God, without any fear of punishment, but full of confidence and faith, resulting in faithfulness?...

 

What ingredient do I constantly forget? ….

 

The grace of God. : )

 

The ingredient that frees us from the paralysis of guilt, in order to serve the living God gladly, is our King’s grace.

 

To see this transformation at work, let’s turn now to our primary text, Isaiah 6 , focusing on verses 1 to 8.

Let me read it again.

 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; 

and the train of his robe filled the temple. 

Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:

With two wings they covered their faces,

with two they covered their feet, 

and with two they were flying. 

And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

 

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

 

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! 

For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, 

and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand,

which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 

With it he touched my mouth and said,

“See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

The holiness of God is praised three times to emphasise the perfection, the completeness of God’s holiness.

 

The term ‘holy’ can mean both moral purity and also separateness, distinctiveness.

 

God is completely holy, completely separate, high above anyone or anything else.

 

Separate from evil. Separate from creatureliness.

 

God is in a league of his own.

 

Later in chapter 40, Isaiah uses a series of images to describe the holiness of God by showing that there is absolutely nothing and no one that you can compare God to.

 

Let me illustrate this with a selection of verses from chapter 40.

 

Can everyone please make a cup out of one hand…. And then consider this:

 

‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand

 

Now spread your fingers out as if measuring something.

Your hand breadth is probably somewhere between 15 and 25 centrimetres.

Consider this.

 

If our sun in the sky, if its diameter is represented as just 1 millimetre, then the distance from the sun to Mercury is 4cm away. Venus, 8cm away. Earth, 10cm away.

 

There are hundreds of billions of stars like our sun just in our milky way galaxy alone.

 

If you were to measure the distance from our sun to our nearest star neighbour – Alpha Centuri – on the scale we are using, it would be 30….kilometres away.

 

Now consider this:

 

Who with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?

 

Let me move a bit quicker now.

 

Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,

Or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

 

Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;

They are regarded as dust on the scales…

 

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy to live in.

He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

 

To whom will you compare me?

Or who is my equal? Says the Holy One.

 

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

 

Why do you complain, Jacob?

Why do you say, Israel, (people of my covenant)

“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

The Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

 

God is totally in a league of his own. He is holy.

 

The whole Earth is full of His glory – which is the display of his holiness, the display of Himself.

 

One of the things I was worried about writing this sermon, is of throwing great words around, like Gods’ ‘sovereign power’, ‘majesty’, ‘authority’, ‘faithfulness’, because to be honest, these words are easy to say.

 

What is hard is believing these words when you assess your life and your struggling to point to a single piece of evidence that God has got your life in his hands.

 

At the end of last year when I was basically losing my job as a Scripture teacher at Kotara, man it was hard to believe that God was in control.

 

He was taking something I loved dearly away from me. I felt anyway.

 

So like Isaiah, when the greatness of God is clearly in my mind’s eye, I feel utterly ashamed of my slowness to believe, and this is brought to the surface in times of testing.

 

“I’m dead” says Isaiah before the King.

 

And my conscience echoes these words.

 

So what I want to know is what transforms Isaiah from cowering in terror to then be confident to live for this Holy King?

 

The seraphim flew with a live coal in his hand, taken from the alter and touched his lips:

“See, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

 

Now the Holy Spirit touches our conscience with the precious blood of Christ, and says to us:

 

“See! Look! Believe me! Your guilt is taken away and your sin has been atoned for.”

 

‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ Romans 8:1 assures us.

 

My favourite psalm, 103 says it like this:

 

‘He (God) does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’

 

“See… Your guilt is taken away.”

 

But in moments when we have eyes to see our guilt before God… then praise God!

 

Because it is those who have no fear of God, who flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

 

Fearing God will reveal our guilt and unworthiness before him.

 

But because we do not need to be afraid punishment, we are free to openly admit and confess our sin, to God and to one another.

 

So let’s not be too quick to avoid these moments or seasons of conviction, because if you’re seeing your guilt then your eyes are being made ready to see more of the most excellent, the most praise worthy, the most delightful display of God’s holiness: His grace.

 

And what is the result of experiencing more and more of God’s grace?

 

Fear.

 

Not guilt-fear, but faith-fear.

 

What does faith-fear look like?

 

Consider Isaiah.

He was sent to God’s people with a message of judgement.

 

From a human perspective, God sent him in to fail.

 

God told him that the people would not repent, but in fact they would become hardened to listening to God’s word.

 

The faithfulness of Isaiah ended in his murder.

 

So why did Isaiah do it?

 

He did it for His King.

 

He did it because He trusted that His King knew what He was doing.

 

He did it to out of gratitude for His King’s mercy toward him.

 

He did it because he loved His King, and he wanted to remain in His King’s love.

 

So when we are faced with an opportunity to obey our King and we know that to do what our King would have us do, that it will not end well for us.

 

Why go through with it?

 

Because our King is great,

 

because we trust that our King will give us all we need to be faithful

 

because we are compelled by our King’s love and mercy toward us

 

and because we look forward to that great day of judgement when our King will say to us:

 

“Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

 

You are my Son, you are my Daughter, in whom I delight, with you I am well pleased.”

 

 

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

 

To fear the Lord is to live as if in the very near presence of our Holy King.

 

At the moment we live by faith, but that great Day of judgement is coming when we will experience all of God’s goodness with our very eyes.

 

What is true of God on that great day is also true today.

 

He is in charge.

 

He does not tolerate evil.

 

And He delights in those who revere, trust, and live for him.

 

 

Our King is our hope

 

We have some costly things to do in order to keep building up God’s community here at Grace.

 

 

But let’s remember that

those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 

So whether we succeed or fail, either way, let’s live as if in the very presence of our King.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 October 2015 14:39  

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