it’s not me, it’s Him

April 15, 2013 Life  No comments

More often than not I’m an internal processor, but sometimes it seems. that God won’t let me gain breakthrough until I begin to talk it out with someone, as if to really emphasize that the conclusion of my wondering isn’t just for me. A few Saturdays ago I was with a buddy of mine at a Starbucks pondering a question the Lord had put on my heart a few days earlier concerning the fear of the Lord. “Did Jesus ‘fear the Lord’ while He was on the earth?” While the answer to that question is yes according to Isaiah 11:2,3 and Hebrews 5:7 I didn’t actually arrive at that answer during that conversation. Rather I went along a fairly different train of thought. I was reminded of 1 John 4:18 “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Before I continue let me first make it clear that in this verse the first three times it says fear the greek is phobos meaning to be exceedingly afraid or in terror. The fourth time the Greek word is phobeo which, while still denoting a sense of being frightened, means to revere or be in awe of. So this verse says, in essence, that if you are terrified of something there is no love in that as perfect love casts out fear, but could it also mean if you are in awe of anything or revere anything then you have not yet been perfected in love? That’s what it seems to be saying. That was a difficult thing for me to write because it sounds so wrong to say, and yet those are the words that Paul used. However, both of those fears we are told, quite clearly, to have of the Lord in 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 14:7, 19:5; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:17, 3:15; the list goes on and on. (I feel it necessary to point out that neither of these types of fear is the fear Jesus is written to have had in Hebrews 5:7. So don’t worry, Jesus was “perfected in love.”)

I had a really hard time figuring out how in the world we’re to love God with all our heart soul and might and yet we’re also supposed to fear, phobos and phobeo, the Lord. He suddenly connected the dots in my mind in one of those wonderful “aha!” moments. First off, you don’t revere and aren’t in awe of something or someone that you understand, it would become normal and commonplace at that point. Only mystery and majesty can draw us to that place. Neither are you terrified by something that you understand completely. If you know every single move that a wild beast will make because you understand it so well you won’t be terrified of going near it, on the contrary you’ll be confident, though still cautious, because of your understanding of the animal. This is true of God as well; if we could understand Him with our little brains then He would not be worthy of our awe and reverence nor deserving of our terror. You only fear what you know little about. Good thing we can never even begin to understand all of who, and what, God is. So many of us think we know so much about God and we lose our deep reverence, and terror, of Him. He’s become a commonplace normal household item or name to be thrown around like Santa Claus, and He is far more worthy of our affections and reverence and fear. However, there’s more to the picture, for you only can love someone you know much about.

All this time I’ve been living under this assumption that I can love this infinite, magnificent, mysterious God. I cannot. I am utterly incapable of loving God. Not just in my body, because it is still corrupted, (Romans 7:23-25) but in my mind as well because it has not been made perfect in love, (Romans 12:2) only by the Spirit within can I love God and thus I am told to fear God. In Romans 7:18 Paul says that nothing good dwells in us, that is, in our flesh but in Galatians 2:20 says that it is no longer we who live but Christ who dwells in us and apart from Him no [truly] good thing can come from us. Therefore we are told to fear God, die to ourselves, and pick up our crosses daily and follow in the footsteps of Christ, for we cannot love the Lord on our own. Only by dying to ourselves, which is a process, or act or decision or whatever you would like to call it, greatly driven by fearing the Lord, can we, through the Spirit, love God. We need the Holy Spirit to allow any true love to flow from us towards God or other people, there’s no other way. Nothing good can come from me apart from Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Looking back I can’t understand how I didn’t see this part of the picture before, it seems so obvious to me now. Even now I wonder a bit if I’m the last person to have figured this out. There’s obviously a lot more to be said about the fear of the Lord, though I don’t claim to have absolute knowledge of what it means to fear the Lord, or any subject for that matter, and I never will. God is always teaching me more, though (it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to seek it out). Regardless, I hope that this has helped bring you to a place of brokenness in light of your own insufficiency and revealed deeper your complete dependence on Christ. There’s arguably no better place to be than in a place of brokenness, for it’s in this position that the light of God shines through the cracks in the hardened clay to light up the darkness around us and draw us and others to Him in worship and relationship.

-Jonny

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