The fear of the Lord is a powerful spiritual principle, a weapon for good, yet it is often misunderstood. Understood properly, it is freeing and life-giving, life-affirming; however, understood negatively, it can keep a son or daughter of God at arms length, not fully trusting Abba.
Consider the following verses:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. [Proverbs 9:10]
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow His precepts have good understanding.
To Him belongs eternal praise. [Psalm 111:10]
There are a constellation of verses that mirror this same concept. It is emphasized often in Scripture, and for good reason. Yet, consider these verses:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him or her. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. 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. [1 John 4:16-18]
Here is the apparent contradiction: if the one fearing is not fully accessing divine love, then why are we instructed to fear the Lord? If perfect love casts out fear, then how does Scripture tell us that the fear of the Lord is the key to spiritual wisdom and greatness?
The answer is in the nature of fear. The fears referenced here are two different things.
The fear of the Lord is a numinous awe, a reverence related to worship. It is a daily thing. The best definition of the fear of the Lord is this: living in continual awareness of the presence of God. It is living daily in the knowledge that the Spirit of God is with us, in us – looking over our shoulder, guarded by the Angel of the Lord.
There is a negative fear, a crippling anxiety that keeps us from being all we were meant to be – that is not the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord – living daily in His presence of love – frees us from those other hurtful fears. Bathed in Love, we are clean from the anxiety of the world. We are freed from the factors of punishment – whether this be without or within.
- True fear of the Lord frees us to real life, abundant life.
- False fear cripples us and keeps us from true life.
The key is the love and continual awareness of God. Live today in His presence, as if every action and thought is guarded by Him – see what a difference it makes in the fears of the world!