The Fear of the Lord

Proverbs 1:7 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (knowledge)”. In almost all discussions in church classes about this verse it becomes clear that people have been taught that the word fear means “reverential respect.” I beg to disagree. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. If the people being addressed were believers, it might be appropriate to use the reverential respect meaning. For an unbeliever, a fear (terror) of a holy God who judges righteously would be the beginning of wisdom. If a person has no fear of ultimate judgment, why would they contemplate salvation? If hell is not a real option, a consequence of not allowing Jesus to be the Lord of one’s life, why worry about an afterlife? The Bible uses the word fear (with reference to God) over 300 times. In quite the majority of those uses, fear means “to be terrified.” The lack of fearing God (according to Romans 3:18) is one of mankind’s chief sins.

For believers, we are told in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear.” How many of us love perfectly? And if fear is just reverential respect, why would perfect love cast it out? William Eisenhower wrote an article for Christianity Today about fearing God. One sentence of his article stands out: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.” We are to fear God’s holiness. We get to experience His mercy and grace. I can go boldly into His presence and obtain mercy from Him, not punishment because of my relationship with His Son. I never presume upon it, though. There are times when He withholds complete mercy. Moses is not allowed into the Promised Land. Ananais and Sapphira are struck dead. So is Uzziah. Believers in Corinth also are put in the grave early. Some mercy is still granted – their soul’s security is still guaranteed. Grace is given in that they did not deserve to enter into His presence. I promise you, though, the early church and  the Israelites in the desert feared God with more than reverential respect.

It could be that in many churches our people have lost the fear of serving a holy God and that is why the church looks and feels just like the world. It could be the reason so many churches are powerless and have lost their witness. Without a wholesome fear of God, people will not repent of their sins, and repentance is necessary for the remission of sin. I fear God. I don’t serve Him out of fear, I do it out of gratitude for the salvation He has wrought in my heart, but I also fear Him. He is a God who expects holiness and who has high standards of conduct for His people. He also provides His Spirit to direct and guide and empower us to accomplish His will in His way. I believe that we need to teach that it is proper to fear a God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. It will wake up a lost and dying world and keep those awake from presumptuous sins.

Good Definitions of Repentance

Again, as part of our research in putting together our newest resource, The 180º Project, we have found some good thoughts concerning biblical repentance. Some of these we share below. While not all of these will make it into our final book, all of them are worthy of contemplation. If you run across any that you would like to share with us, please email them to us at taethne@outlook.com.  Please enjoy”

[Repentance] is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance, but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which result in (spiritual) fruit. — D.A. Carson

Repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as king in self’s place. — J.I. Packer

Remorse precedes true repentance. Changed behavior follows true repentance. But this necessary prelude and postlude of true repentance are not themselves the essence of repentance. True repentance is a denial that anything in us ever would or ever could satisfy God’s holiness or compel His pardon. We humbly concede that we can offer nothing for what He alone can give. Then we rest in His promise to forgive those who humbly seek Him… Repentance, therefore, is fundamentally a humble expression of a desire for a renewed relationship with God – a relationship that we confess can be secured only by His grace. — Bryan Chapell

Our Lord’s idea of repentance is as profound and comprehensive as His conception of righteousness. Of the three words that are used in the Greek Gospels to describe the process, one emphasizes the emotional element of regret, sorrow over the past evil course of life, metamelomaiMatt. 12:29-32; a second expresses reversal of the entire mental attitude, metanoeoMatt. 12:41, Luke 11:32; 15:7, 10; the third denotes a change in the direction of life, one goal being substituted for another, epistrephomaiMatt. 13:15 (and parallels); Luke 17;4, 22:32. Repentance is not limited to any single faculty of the mind: it engages the entire man, intellect, will and affections… Again, in the new life which follows repentance the absolute supremacy of God is the controlling principle. He who repents turns away from the service of mammon and self to the service of God. —Geerhardus Vos

It is one thing to love sin and to force ourselves to quit it; it is another thing to hate sin because love for God is so gripping that the sin no longer appeals. The latter is repentance; the former is reform. It is repentance that God requires. Repentance is “a change of mind.” To love and yet quit it is not the same as hating it and quitting it. Your supposed victory over a sin may be simple displacement. You may love one sin so much (such as your pride) that you will curtail another more embarrassing sin which you also love. This may look spiritual, but there is nothing of God in it. Natural men do it every day. —Jim Elliff

Thoughts on Repentance

As work continues on The 180º Project, research into the topic of repentance continues to yield many treasures. There has been a lot of things written on this topic over the centuries and we hope to coalesce this into a work that will benefit many leaders. One such treasure that we have found comes from Scott Hafemann, from his theological primer. If you find any such gems that you feel might help us in our research on biblical repentance, send them our way at taethne@outlook.com. Enjoy his:

Jesus’ gospel of forgiveness is not unrelated to the Bible’s demand for holiness. Obedience is not a “second step” added to our faith, so that “accepting Jesus as Savior” must be supplemented by “accepting Jesus as Lord.” We are not saved by grace and then sanctified (made holy) by our own works. Being a Christian is not a matter of adding our will to God’s, our efforts to His. Rather…”putting away sin,” which is faith in action, is the means to persevering, which we do by depending on Jesus from beginning to end. In other words, repenting from the disobedience of disbelief, and the life of persevering faith that this brings about, which entails obeying God, are all one expression of “looking to Jesus.” One cannot exist without the other… There is only one thing, not two, that we must do to be saved: trust God with the needs of our lives. This one thing in God’s provision (now supremely manifested in Christ) will show itself, from beginning to end, in our many acts of repentance and obedience.

 

Scott Hafemann

The God of Promise and the Life of Faith. Crossway Books, 2001, p. 191-192.

Disturbing Trends

Here at Ta Ethne we are very bothered by recent trends in our country. In the past week alone, we have had rulings in different states that undermine basic biblical and moral values. Sadly, these decisions are being applauded. One such ruling is that by Massachusetts on allowing students at school to pick whatever gender they want to be identified as and catering to their every whim. You can read more here: http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/students-who-refuse-to-affirm-transgender-classmates-face-punishment.html
Another is the ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court who refused to allow prosecution of a mother who abused cocaine while pregnant and gave birth to an addicted child. Here at Ta Ethne, we have adopted such a child, one born in California hooked on so many drugs at birth a tox screen only turned up 3 NOT in her system. Such a ruling is absurdity at its highest point.
Even more upsetting, the fact that the current presidential administration is even considering helping overturn a California law describing marriage as between a man and a woman is beyond comprehension.
Our country is so far post-Christian that I believe God is going to judge her soon. The Church fell asleep decades ago and now has compromised to the point that the majority of her members are lost. Her influence has waned to the point where most Americans think of both the Church and her God as completely irrelevant. They are not atheists in the sense that they do not believe in a God, they simply have never even considered seriously whether there is or isn’t one.
The time has come for the remaining disciples of Jesus Christ to stand up, speak up and seek to overcome darkness with the light of truth. When we begin to fear God and His holiness more than the ridicule and persecution of unbelievers we might start to have an impact on our society. When we stop coddling fence straddlers and confront people with the need for repentance and holy living we might have a church Jesus is not ashamed to call His own. That is Ta Ethne’s stance — what’s yours?

Thoughts on Repentance

Many times repentance is illustrated by having a person walk in one direction and then turn around and walk in the opposite direction. The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines “repent” as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude that involves a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes, thoughts and habits that conflict with a Godly lifestyle and biblical commands, and an intentional turning toward doing that which the Bible says pleases God.
As I reflect upon this, I find that many people do not do a 180 degree turn-around so much as they stop at 90 degrees. By this I mean that they stop doing what is wrong but do not replace it with what is right. One only needs to read the words of John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul to see how incomplete that is. The one who steals is to steal no longer but also to work and earn what he needs. Even more, he is to earn enough so that he has excess in order that he can give to those without so that they no longer are tempted to steal. One is to stop talking with a filthy mouth and bless and edify people instead. We are commanded to not only forgive our enemies but to pray that God blesses them, while blessing them ourselves.
In order to tell is a person is truly repentant, John the Baptist gives the definitive proof – do good works (produce fruit) in keeping with that repentance. Talk is cheap. One can pray seeking forgiveness for one’s wrongdoing but never obtain it because they have no intention of repenting. Repentance is often the forgotten aspect of salvation, in that we are not forgiven by God unless we come to Him with a repentant heart.
I.C. Herendeen says is well, when he states, ” For salvation, “repentance unto life” is just as necessary as is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. No sinner was ever pardoned while he remained impenitent, while he remained in rebellion against God and His authority, and without submitting himself whole-heartedly to His Lordship. This involves the realization in his heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of “the sinfulness of sin” (Rom 7:13), of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of God and of defying His authority. Repentance is a “holy horror and hatred of sin, a deep sorrow for it, a contrite acknowledgment of it before God, and a complete hear forsaking of it.To exhort sinners to be saved by “Accepting Christ as their Saviour” without pressing upon them the imperative necessity of repentance is dishonest, and is to falsify God’s terms of salvation, for “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 17:3) is the Divine dictum. The sinner must either repent or perish, there is no other alternative. And since “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) all therefore need to “repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) else they will be “punished with everlasting destruction” (2Thess. 1:9). To delay repentance then is most perilous.”
I end these thoughts with the words of Charles Hodge, a great man of God. He says, “The sure test of the quality of any supposed change of heart will be found in its permanent effects. Whatever, therefore, may have been our inward experience, whatever joy or sorrow we may have felt, unless we bring forth fruits meet for repentance, our experience will profit us nothing. Repentance is incomplete unless it leads to confession and restitution in cases of injury; unless it causes us to forsake not merely outward sins, which others notice, but those which lie concealed in the heart; unless it makes us choose the service of God and live not for ourselves but for Him. There is no duty, which is either more obvious in itself, or more frequently asserted in the Word of God, than that of repentance.”
Let us take heed of the words of John the Baptist and truly repent of sin in our life.