Dare to Obey: Understanding the Fear of the Lord
I remember growing up and being given a dare to do something I knew was wrong, risky, or just plain foolish. The greater the dare, the greater the consequence. Dares are often associated with bad things we know we should not do when the odds of it being in our favor are clearly against us. But today I want to present you with another type of dare — the dare to obey God — because the odds are always in your favor, regardless of how wrong it may initially appear. The consequences of disobedience are something you cannot afford despite how difficult or risky it may be to step out in faith and obey God.
Obeying God is not always easy, pleasant, or fun. God’s will is not always going to be logical. In fact, it may not make sense to you at all. God has asked His people to do things that have required great sacrifice and pain. Many of the commands God gave His people seemed entirely unrelated to the issue at hand, which required a faith and tenacity that could not be developed in them any other way:
1.) He told Moses to speak to the rock to yield water, and a river flowed out.
2.) He commanded Abraham to leave his land and kindred for a land He would show him, and today Israel is a nation in the promised land.
3.) Christ instructed the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he regained his sight.
4.) He told Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, on the altar, and God stopped him by providing a ram for sacrifice.
5.) He commanded Christ to offer His life in a gruesome sacrificial death. Because of His obedience we all receive eternal salvation for believing on Him and trusting in His perfect work on our behalf.
These examples are among the hundreds in scripture. Obedience is not easy, and many times suffering accompanies it in various ways. Yet it is a dare we can’t afford to refuse. In that moment when we’re unable to connect the dots, God will often ask us to do something that seems entirely contrary or even unrelated to what would otherwise make sense – because He is able to see beyond our immediate and finite sphere and scope. God’s instructions are not always predictable or rational. Yet in those moments He teaches us His ways and His goodness, proving Himself faithful, and that He is higher and greater than anything we could fathom. He is the God of the impossible, creating things from the unseen, and calling those things which are not as though they already are. If it was all about common sense, rationale, and logic – we wouldn’t need God.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts, (Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV).
Christ is our perfect example of obedience. What enables us to obey God with such abandon? A passionate love for God and a healthy fear of the LORD. Because when we dare to obey him, we understand the consequence of disobedience to be something we absolutely cannot afford. Therefore, in this post I want to talk about four things God has given all of us that will enable you to walk in the fear of the LORD.
OBEDIENCE IS MOTIVATED BY TWO PRIMARY THINGS
WHICH CHRIST TAUGHT AND MODELED FOR US:
PASSIONATE LOVE FOR GOD & THE DESIRE TO PLEASE HIM
FEAR OF THE LORD & HIS JUST CONSEQUENCES FOR DISOBEDIENCE
In this post we’re going to talk about the Fear of the LORD, which is sadly missing in today’s church.
The Gravity of Disobedience
There are countless dares each of us encounter daily – many of which seem innocent, insignificant and even benign. We give them little to no thought. Yet they often prove to be very serious. Against our better judgment we often take them, because our own reasoning justifies our course of action despite the clear warning signs. In fact, we don’t need someone else to dare us at all. We have an archenemy that does this all the time, tempting and prompting us in situations and circumstances that become a daily ritual for the fallen human condition. Our own minds will even justify what we know to be wrong if given enough evidence.
We will all give an account for our deeds done while in the body. God will judge each one of us with justice, righteousness, and truth. He does not play favorites.
I’ve known the LORD for 23 years. It took me a long time before I came to the place in my life where I was absolutely terrified of disobeying God. That dare is one I no longer take. I simply cannot afford it. I have learned through many painful experiences to fully embrace the fear of the Lord in my life because I know He only wants my very best, and everything He does is motivated by love, justice, righteousness, and truth. Any initial pain on the front end, I already know will be trite compared to the misery of disobedience on the back end. I try very hard not to stray from that.
I’ve had a lot of hard knocks – not because I did not hear God on something, but because I trusted myself entirely too much. And when I came face to face with my own error, it became clear to me that I trusted myself even more than I trusted God. That was a difficult and painful reckoning. So I didn’t always listen to Him although I knew He was speaking to me. I disobeyed, being truly convinced I knew better. But I had to learn that wits and intelligence are not substitutes for God, and to never second-guess Him. In fact my wits and intelligence can be my greatest enemies at times. As an analytical person, I can out-think almost anything and justify it. Point and case: my own limited intelligence has failed me time and again. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I clearly heard God and made decisions contrary to His perfect will, only because I was fully persuaded by my own rationale and reasoning, which were faulty.
I now fully trust the Lord. I fear Him. And I constantly seek God for His wisdom. No one has to persuade me to fear the Lord. Although I’m an intelligent woman and very capable of making my own decisions, I try to always check with God first. This kind of living develops a deep, stable, and yielded (dependent) relationship with God. Life becomes one of surrender to Him.
God wants you living a blessed life that is fully safe and secure in Him. And the fear of the Lord is the only way you get it. It doesn’t come any other way, by any other means, and it doesn’t happen by accident. That life is one deliberately lived.
So lets talk about how to make that life happen.
I want to dare you to obey God and learn to embrace the fear of the LORD. God has given us a system of checks and balances that works perfectly, if only we will abide by it.
Obeying the Spirit of God
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, (Galatians 5:17-18 and 24-25, KJV).
The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth. He will never lead you in disobedience to God’s Word. On the contrary, He will ALWAYS lead you in perfect obedience to God’s Word.
We are clearly told that the Spirit of God is at war with our flesh. They are in constant opposition. Therefore, we must choose whom we serve on a daily basis. That equates to taking up our cross daily and following Christ. The cross was an instrument of pain, suffering and death. Christ surrendered His life to the cross His Father gave Him. We are to do the same. Every day our cross could look different from the day before, and every day we should be willing to lay down our lives so that we can live for God fully. That is a life of sacrifice lived before others on their behalf. It’s a life of service.
We are taught to walk in the Spirit and according to God’s word. Jesus teaches us that God’s word is spirit and life. With that said, let it be known that many believers do not have the written word of God. Their Christian lives rely entirely upon their ability to walk in the Spirit of Christ. For this reason they are given to prayer, fellowship, and fasting in ways that we do not understand or rely upon, precisely because we have His Word, churches, and pastors who can tend the flock of God. That is why Paul taught his churches to walk in the Spirit. Not everyone is so fortunate to own a bible or to have the word preached to them. The new testament church was filled with believers such as these, who had nothing more than the apostles letters and occasional visitations. Their growth and maturity in Christ was solely reliant upon their ability to seek God, know God, and walk in God through an intimate relationship that was directed by the Spirit of Christ within them. The intimacy with Christ this cultivated was unlike that which we see today in the Western Church. The word of God as it is known to us, was not available to early believers. Those sacred texts were in the synagogues, and only the priests could read them. We are truly blessed indeed. What we now know to be the inspired word of God was not available to the early church. In fact, it was being penned by the apostles. When we read their letters to the churches today, which is our New Testament, we can now understand their tone, context, and content taught so passionately.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, (Romans 8:9 & 12-14, KJV).
We may not always have the written word. But we will always have the Spirit, which resides within every true believer. Jesus taught us that the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and He will teach us all truth, leading and guiding us in all truth. He is our Helper, our Comforter, our Guide, and He is the One who empowers us to live a holy life unto God. It is by the Spirit that we experience the process of sanctification and are set free. It is by the Spirit that we are empowered to declare God’s word and witness to others. It is by the Spirit that all the manifest gifts are displayed, and it is by the Spirit that we bear eternal fruit for God and His kingdom – namely that of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (see Galatians 5:22-23).
We are empowered to live the Christian life by the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He dwells within every believer, empowering them to live a fruitful Christian life.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing, (John 15:5, KJV).
Obeying Your Conscience
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin, (James 4:17, KJV).
The Bible has much to say about the conscience and the role it plays in the lives of believers and non-believers alike (see Romans 2:15). Everyone has one. We are told that the conscience serves as the law to those who do not believe. To those who do believe, our conscience provides a witness in the Spirit of God (see Romans 9:1). We are taught in the scriptures that we have an obligation to our conscience in the Holy Spirit. A tender conscience toward God enables us to serve Him.
The bad new is: you can sin against, grieve, and even sear your own conscience, which we are told will shipwreck our faith (see 1 Timothy 1:19). I believe we are living in a generation of individuals who have all but seared their conscience. These are evil times. People will not heed that inner witness. Instead, they live by their flesh and every carnal desire upon a whim.
A tender conscience toward God and man is something every individual should prize and carefully nurture. Your conscience is your very best friend. Scripture talks about the value of our conscience, the role it plays, and its purpose. It can be clear, or it can be guilty. It serves as our inner witness to what is good, true, and right versus what is evil, false, or wrong.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, (Hebrews 10:22, KJV).
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned, (1 Timothy 1:5, KJV).
When we live with a clear conscience, we are at peace. Living with a clear conscience produces a life of rest.
The purpose of our conscience is to give clear knowledge between right and wrong. The conscience is intrinsic in nature. It focuses on our thoughts, actions and words. It serves as a guide to our will. It deals explicitly with the inner soul of man and is responsible to the Holy Spirit.
Obeying Your Instinct
The gift of instinct is different because it operates on your behalf by alerting you to what is dangerous or virtuous; good or evil; truth or error. It is purely extrinsic. It deals with those things outside of us, which could either cause us harm or bring us benefit. This is not a discernment of spirits. The discernment of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit and operates differently. The gift of the Spirit is not based upon instinct and is available only to the believer. Instinct is something every human being has been given by God. Its purpose is to preserve and protect our very lives.
How many times have you disobeyed your instinct and wished you had listened? If you answered one too many times, you’re not alone. Your instinct is your built in alarm system which God has graciously given you. God wants you alive and well. Fear God enough to listen to it. It never lies.
The purpose of your instinct is extrinsic. It alerts you to what is evil versus good, true versus false, and right versus wrong. Part of fearing God is to obey your instinct. Your instinct literally has the ability to save your very life.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction, (Proverbs 1:7, KJV).
What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant, (Psalm 25:12-14, KJV).
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, (James 1:5, KJV).
This one is not built in. You have to seek it diligently, and it only comes from God. Wisdom is one of the seven Spirits of God by which Christ Jesus was anointed (see Isaiah 11:2). In fact, Christ has been made our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). The word of wisdom is also a gift of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:8). So, with these in mind, let’s discover what wisdom truly is and how we can seek it, embrace it, and make it a part of our daily lives:
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress an anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil, (Proverbs 1:20-33, KJV, emphasis mine).
So we must choose the fear of the LORD if we are going to embrace wisdom and all her attributes. Although every human being has the gifts of conscience and instinct, not everyone has the Spirit of God, nor do they have the gift of wisdom. We must ask for it and seek God for it. Unlike your own intelligence and rationale, Wisdom is completely fool-proof. She promises life, safety and security.
We see wisdom making herself readily available. Speaking of pursuit, she’s the pursuant. She’s not hiding out. She’s offering herself freely to all who pass by. She gives herself freely to all those who would simply turn at her voice. But to those who refuse her, we are told they did not choose the fear of the LORD. Therefore, fearing God begins with listening to and seeking wisdom so that we may know Him and His ways, and do His will. Let’s take another look:
Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of the high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death, (Proverbs 8:1-14 and 34-36, KJV, emphasis mine).
This woman is loud. You can’t miss her. She is crying out in the chief concourse. She’s begging you to listen. The good news is that wisdom is not obscure or hidden from us. We see clearly in this passage that God gives wisdom liberally, even as James declares. The benefits of wisdom are life, prosperity, peace, righteousness, and durable riches. Note: Durable riches are not to be mistaken for monetary wealth. Durable riches are those things only God can give that bestow true life such as lasting peace, honor, and the favor of God. Durable riches are those that endure eternally. They are not subject to the moth and rust which destroy, as Christ teaches. The greatest wealth you will ever have are those things money cannot buy.
So we need to obey wisdom. Don’t turn away from her! Don’t refuse her! When you hear her speaking and crying out, hearken diligently! Listen, learn, and obey. God is revealing the way of righteousness, peace, and life everlasting. He wants you to take the higher road.
The Fear of the LORD begins with wisdom. Wisdom teaches us to hate evil, and to love the LORD. She reveals secrets and gives life and honor. Wisdom is the knowledge of God!
Take the Dare
In summation, I want you to take the dare today. Dare to obey. Recognize the gifts He’s given you and utilize them. Seek His face. Ask Him for the wisdom you need. He promises to give to all who ask.
The Fear of the LORD, as I hope you can see, is not about being afraid of God. It’s not about living in constant fear of punishment. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil. Therefore, it is to love good. It is a love for all that is good coupled with a passionate pursuit of His perfect will. It is a passion for what’s right; for what is holy; for what is life. It is a desire to please Him motivated by love for Him. When we seek Him and His goodness, He promises us life. That is the fear of the LORD that persuades us to obey Him. That’s when disobedience no longer becomes an option. It’s not in your favor. Again, when we refuse wisdom, we love death. You can’t afford that. None of us can.
God gave each one of us a built in security system. And when you belong to Christ you have the Spirit of God and the opportunity to seek Him for His Wisdom, which He promises liberally to all who ask. He withholds nothing. This system of checks and balances promises you life, peace, righteousness, safety, and security in Him.
1.) Obey the Spirit of God
2.) Obey your conscience
3.) Obey your instinct
4.) Obey Wisdom
Dare to obey. The odds are always in your favor.
Cheers & Shalom,