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Fearing and loving God

'Fearing God', in the biblical sense, is not human, natural, psychological fear in the normal sense, but an attempt to capture in words the kind of attitude of profound awe and respect we are to have toward God. It is a deep, serious, arresting sense of wonder and amazement of who God is and what he is like, realizing how totally mind-blowingly awesome and totally different he is from us or anything we know, how he is beyond human comprehension..
  • Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. (Psalm 25:12)
  • The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. (Psalm 25:12-14)
  • Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day. (Prov. 23.7)
  • The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil. (Prov. 19:23)
  • Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
  • The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
  • In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. (Prov. 14:26; cf. also Psalm 112:7-8)
  • The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)
  • My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments. (Psalm 119:120)
  • He does great things which we cannot comprehend. (Job 37:5)
  • In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)
  • Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? (Rev. 15:4)
  • The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. (Psalm 147:11; cf. Luke 1:50; Acts 10:35)
  • O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. (Psalm 34.9)
  • Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86.11)
Such an attitude of fear is necessary for proper Christian devotion and living. It is also necessary for experiencing God's presence and his love, and for loving others. In fact, love and fear of God go together. We cannot have one without the other. They are like two sides of the same coin. Notice how fear is juxtaposed with spiritual love or joy in the Psalms:

  • Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11)
  • If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)
  • For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. (Psalm 103.11)
  • Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.(Psalm 103.13)
  • But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children. (Psalm 103.17)
  • But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, (Psalm 33.18)
  • Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever." (Psalm 118.4)
We cannot love God without fear; otherwise, we fall into a sort of cheap grace or superficial religiousness, as is common today in modern churches. And of course, fear without love would be unhealthy, irrational, unbalanced, or legalistic. Fear of God leads to love of God, and experiencing God's love produces a greater sense of wonder before God.

To live without cultivating and experiencing a proper fear of God in one's devotional life is a waste of time. It leads to superficial religious experience. It leads to a lack of proper spiritual reflection, even folly and foolishness. Without fear, any spiritual understanding or enlightenment we have can lead to pride, and to falling into greater spiritual darkness.

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