Rebuilding the Foundations
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All Scripture passages in this post are from the NKJV.
1 Peter 1:17 should take the breath away from all of us.
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay [here] in fear.A judgment is coming. It is according to each one's work. Thus, we should fear.
My books, and those I have published for others, consistently maintain 4-star and better ratings despite the occasional 1- and 2-star ratings from people angry about my kicking over sacred cows.
Fear what? Fear whom?
Philippians 2:12 is a lot like 1 Peter 1:17.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ...This verse adds trembling to our fear as we seek to work out our salvation. That really does not allow "fear" (Gr. phobo) to mean "revere" or "respect." We're trembling.
Why? Because of whom? Because of what?
The answer seems obvious because the whole church was walking in "the fear of the Lord" in Acts 9:31, but I want to argue that for Christians who are seeking to obey Jesus, our fear and trembling are misplaced if they are directed toward God.
We are directly commanded to come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy (Heb. 4:16). We are offered bold and confident access to God in Ephesians 3:12. How does one reconcile boldness and confidence with fear??
I want to suggest that the fear and trembling in Philippians 2:12 and 1 Peter 1:17 is fear of ourselves. I don't want to change the wording of Scripture, but I am willing to argue that "to fear the Lord" is to be afraid that we will live in the flesh and reap corruption on the last day rather than eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9). God is not the One who will cause us to fall away and become wicked. He is the one giving us everything we need so that we do not (2 Peter 1:3-4).
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be on high alert because our enemy, the devil, is like a lion that wants to devour us. Earlier in the letter, Peter says, "Beloved, I beg [you] as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (2:11).
How does one overcome the flesh? For that matter, how does one overcome that roaring lion, the devil? It is by the Spirit that we put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). It is by the Word of God (1 Jn. 1:14), the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony that we overcome the devil (Rev. 12:9-11). It is by faith that we quench the fiery arrows of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16).
Where do all these things come from? From whom did we receive the Holy Spirit? Who sent the Word of God to save us? The Lamb was whose beloved Son? How do we have a testimony? or faith?
All those things come from God! Let me say that again, ALL THOSE THINGS COME FROM GOD! (Yes, caps mean shouting on the internet, and this is worth SHOUTING about!)
The Word came to earth as Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20), not make us afraid of him. It is by blood of the Lamb, the Son sent by our Father on our behalf, that we have bold and confident access to him (Eph. 3:12). How can being afraid of him help us in any way?
As the song says ...
I run to the Father; I fall into grace; I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend So I'll run to the Father again and again and again and again (Cody Carnes)
The Bible warns us not to shrink back because it leads to perdition (Heb. 10:39). I've always read this as shrinking back from obedience, but I know my obedience comes from the favor (grace) of God (Rom. 6:14). Thus, I must beware that I do not shrink back from God out of misplaced fear!
Instead, let's run again and again and again to the only One who can provide mercy and favor to help us overcome our enemy, the devil, and the flesh which wages war against the soul.