I know people who hate the phrase the fear of the Lord. They do not believe that God should be feared at all. They understand that salvation is a loving relationship and that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). These people then try to reinterpret sayings in the Old Testament that speak of the fear of the Lord to mean something other than the typical meaning of the word fear. Take Proverbs 1:7
Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This is an introductory statement for the book, and then Proverbs describes what the fear of the Lord is, and it is fear. Not to contradict 1 John at all, though, it should be noted that this fear the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.
In order to truly appreciate, love, and serve God for who God is, there needs to be a healthy dose of fear, at least in the beginning of our relationship with God. Jesus may be the absolute best for which we can hope in this world, perfect in love and sacrifice for us, but he is also the judge of the universe and all our lives are open before him. We cannot truly love until we understand the depth of Jesus’ love for us–a love that reached across the estrangement our sins have created.
If we love, we will obey (John 14:23-24). We obey because we will be unfaithful if we do not obey. If we are unfaithful, we are not in a right relationship with Jesus. If we are not in a right relationship with Jesus, we have no right to claim to be his friend or to be saved by him. If we are going to claim to be saved by Christ, we need to obey Christ in all his commands.
This is where fear is the beginning. Too many people think that “Jesus accepted me with all my sins when I first came to him, so I don’t need to change at all because he will still accept me now.” The problem with this idea is the same problem with many marriages today. Just because there was a wedding ceremony does not mean there is a successful marriage. Relationships require that we grow closer together and give more of ourselves to the other. To refuse to be transformed by God’s grace more and more completely in this life is to reject God’s grace in our lives. The only reason someone would do this is because they completely lacked the fear of the Lord.
Remember, God is not dumb. He saves us from our sins and the condemnation that would arise from them, but he saves us so that we can be remade, reborn into the image and likeness of Christ. If we continue to willfully sin after self-proclaiming that we have been saved, without ever struggling against those sins, we are not in a relationship with Christ. Instead, we are trying to take advantage of the love of Christ for our own personal gain.
Jesus is savior, and he is also judge. A right relationship with him begins with a healthy dose of fear of of the latter. That makes the realization of the former so much better.
Here is a clip from Evan Almighty. Start watching it and then wait for it!