LEGACYouth: An Intro to Holy Fear

The fear of the Lord can be a tricky subject.

After all, the concept doesn't exactly strike the favorable first impression.







I mean, it's like saying, "Mufasa" over and over again...

Granted, it can be easy to write off an intimidating idea by way of a preliminary inkling.

But with the fear of the Lord, we're talkin' about a completely different animal (no pun intended).

Consider this: God's intent for fear is the exact opposite of man's idea of fear.

For while man attributes fear to insecurity and anxiety, God associates fear to a boldness rooted in knowing who He is. And when we drill down on what holy fear truly is, we find it to be an emphatic combination of the first commandment (i.e. reject all other gods, and serve the only true God with all your heart and soul) and the freedom we have in Christ.

Furthermore, when we take an aerial look at Scripture, we find holy fear not only a dramatic theme, but also a key trademark of the early church.

Take Acts 2 for instance:

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

"Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles." ~ Acts 2:43

Note the order of these two verses. First came the choice of devotion, then came the fear of the Lord, and finally, signs and wonders. This is a significant observation, since the mention of "fear" indicates how early Christians understood the necessity and value of righteous attitude merging with obedience, as opposed to a bunch of religious motions and consequential fear. Thus, holy fear, as demonstrated by 1st century believers, can be seen as the "middle man" between holy action and holy outcome...a bridge between what we're called to do and what God ultimately accomplishes. Pretty cool, eh?

But wait...there's more!

When we proceed further into Acts, we find Luke closing out key chapters in similar fashion:

"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." ~ Acts 4:31-33 (ESV)

"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers." ~ Acts 9:31 (ESV)

Coincidence? I think not! In fact, I believe Luke is intentionally applying a repetitive literary maneuver (i.e. lend a Peter, John and/or Paul update, then close up shop with an early church progress report) to drive home a major point...

...that point? Holy fear is the evidence of desiring God...and in turn, makes faith come alive!

With that said, we can come to understand holy fear more clearly when we examine the sum of its parts.

So in the spirit (no pun intended, again) of introduction, here are three of these parts as mentioned throughout the Bible...

 1) Fear of the Lord = reverence + awe + humility

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’” ~ Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)

"Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." ~ Psalm 33:8-11 (ESV)

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." ~ Ecclesiastes 5:7, 8:12, 12:13 (NIV)

2) Fear of the Lord is more than just respect; it's loving what God loves and hating what God hates...it's the sum of wisdom + understanding (see Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 2:4-6, Proverbs 9:10, Job 28:28, Isaiah 11:2).

Thus, a fear of the Lord is marked not only by a sincere respect of God, but a desire to obey His commands, submit to His discipline (see Hebrews 12:5-11) and worship in reverence and awe (i.e. to "honor").

3) Fear of the Lord means we allow our reverence of God to shape and impact how we live our lives.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)

Bottom line: There's great reward for those who fear the Lord. The Word even says God remembers those who honor Him and considers them "treasured possessions" (Malachi 3:16-17). How cool is that?

Thus, there's something to behold...something to embrace about holy fear when we think about our walk with God. And as we unpack this topic in the coming months, we'll discuss the different levels of hatred toward sin and love towards God's desires, what it means to be fearlessly submissive and how we can gain and sustain an awe of God.

To be continued...


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