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The Biblical Fear of God

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom, but can fearing God be consistent with loving God? Should Christians fear God? Does fear become love over time?

Traditionally, fearing God was a good thing. Someone who feared God would do what's right. However, nowadays, the principle of fearing God is old fashioned. Even among believers, the message is often that Jesus is love, and love is all we need.

Many would suggest that it's impossible to love and fear the same God. They feel these emotions are irreconcilable. If someone loves God then they should not fear him, because these feelings are very different.

The scriptures profess a fear of God, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9.10 KJV bible). If we recognize that the Lord has the power of deliverance and destruction, then we should fear him.

"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 fountain of life that leads us out of the snares of death. It's the beginning of repentance when we begin to see that we're trapped in sin.

Unbelievers fear the world, and want to be accepted by it. However, Jesus tells us not to fear the world, but to fear the One who created the world. If someone knows that God is greater than the world, then they should fear him above it. The decisions of the world are meaningless compared with the decisions of God.

"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; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12.4-6 KJV bible).

We should fear God in a respectful way.

Love is a powerful emotion, but can we love someone we don't respect? Does a spoiled child truly love their parent? The spoiled child doesn't find strength or guidance in their parent. They demand more and are unsatisfied. Such relationships often fail because there is no respect.

We should fear God in a respectful way. We should be like one of his children who finds guidance in his decisions. The fear of God reveals to us how the world works. The fear of God is not an irrational fear, but one that guides us.

One could draw a comparison between the fear of God, and the fear of fire. Suppose you're in a plane crash, and lost in the wilderness. In order to survive you depend very much on fire to keep you warm, cook your food, and give you light. Yet, fire can also burn and destroy you, if you don't respect it.

It's the same with God. He has the power of both deliverance and destruction. By grace we learn to cooperate with him instead of struggle against him. We learn to change our ways and adapt to his nature because he is perfect, and we are not.

The problem is not that God is erratic and unpredictable, but rather we are. God is unchanging, but we change all the time. We are quirky, and our emotions are hollow. We vacillate and wander in our thoughts. We try to discipline and control ourselves, but we can't be like God.

It's the fear of God, and the knowledge that there are consequences for choices we make that preserves us. It's the fear of God that closes openings the Enemy can use to tempt us when we are weak, "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 for God, knowing that it will always work to our 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).

Can we have more love and less fear?

Its true that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom, but it's not the end of wisdom. When we grow spiritually our fear of God changes. When we learn self control, we become better at resisting temptations. Our relationship with God matures.

Over time we can become less like children who are afraid of getting in trouble and more like adults who know better. Feelings of fear are replaced with confidence and empathy. We can know the right path, and have strength to confront our strongholds of sin. Our fear of God matures into reverence.

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