Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom, and a natural consequence of accepting God's righteous nature. As Christians, we should have a respectful fear of the might and power of God.
People sometimes talk about the fear of God, as if you should fear him. Traditionally, fearing God was perceived as a good thing, leading to decency of character. However, nowadays, it seems as if the concept of fearing God is often overlooked, and de-emphasized. Even among conservative Christians, the attitude is often that Jesus is love, and love is all we really need to be pleasing to God.
Many would even argue that it is impossible to simultaneously love and fear the same God. They feel these emotions are irreconcilable. Yet, the writers of the scripture consistently assert their love, along with their respectful fear of the Lord.
The fear of God is an important part of being a Christian, that is often expounded upon in scripture. The fear of God is not some great mystery, but comes as a natural consequence of knowing him. When someone becomes aware that they are accountable to one greater than themselves, they develop a kind of fear toward the one to whom they are accountable.
"And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [Gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12.4-6 KJV bible). Unbelievers fear the world, and want to be accepted and loved by it. However, Jesus tells us not to fear the world, but that we should fear God instead, because he is all powerful.
This is why Solomon writes that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9.10 KJV bible). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, because it is a consequence of one growing closer to God, and contrasting his righteous and perfect nature with one's own corruption.
Solomon also says that the fear of God is a fountain of life, "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" (Proverbs 10.27 KJV bible). The fear of God is a powerful force, leading one out of the snares of death, and acting as a continual fountain of life for those seeking his mercy.
There are different kinds of fear, and as Christians, we should fear God with a particular kind of fear. We should fear God, not in an irrational and unpredictable way, such that is incompatible with love. Rather, we should fear him in a respectful way, as a child of his in Christ.
One could draw a comparison between the fear of God, and the fear of fire. Suppose you're in a plane crash, and end up being lost in the wilderness. In order to survive you would depend very much on fire to keep you warm, cook your food, and give you light. Yet, fire can also burn, and destroy, if one does not respect it.
It's the same with God. In having a reverence for his power, glory, and strength, one learns to cooperate with him for survival, as opposed to destruction. So the fear of God is not a fear based on ignorance of his ways, but rather a fear based on an understanding and acceptance of his consistent nature.
The reason that Christians should fear God is not because he is erratic or unpredictable, but rather because we are. God is unchanging, "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3.6 KJV bible). However, man is imperfect and quirky. Man's attitudes and emotions are hollow and vacillating, and even the most steadfast and mature Christian is going to wander from the Spirit at times.
It's the fear of God, and the knowledge that there are consequences to the choices you make, that preserves the work of Christ in you. It's the fear of God that closes those openings that the devil uses to tempt you when you're weak in the flesh, "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (Proverbs 16.6 KJV bible).
Knowing this, we must arm ourselves with a respectful fear and reverence of God, knowing that it will always work to our justfication and survival, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2nd Corinthians 7.1 KJV bible).
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