Let us Pray
Father, I surrender to you this morning. Use me to speak to us. Teach us Father, encourage us, rebuke us, correct us and guide us in your way. In Jesus Name, Amen
Our theme this morning is ‘Living in the Fear of the Lord’. The scripture readings we heard earlier will guide our lesson this morning.
Let us start off with some definitions so that we are clear on what exactly it is we are talking about this morning.
- What is fear? “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat”
- What does it mean to have the fear of the Lord? “ ‘Fear of the Lord’ generally refers to a specific sense of respect, awe, and submission to deity, while ‘Fear of God’ suggests apprehension of Divine Punishment”
To live in the fear of the Lord therefore implies living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ; walking in obedience to His Word. Just like the old hymn reminds us trusting and obeying moment by moment day by day. It means that every area of our lives, including what we use our data bundles on the phone for is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our money, our time, the friends we hang out with, our talks (public and private) our actions are pleasing unto the Lord.
Now that we have a glimpse of what it means to ‘live in the fear of the Lord’ let us turn to our scripture readings and see what the Lord would teach us this morning on the theme.
I see four lessons for us one from each reading.
- How to ‘live in the fear of the Lord’
- Who is the Lord
Two things that keep/can keep us from living in the fear of the Lord
- Living in the fear of ourselves
- Living in the fear of men/others
How to ‘live in the fear of the Lord’
Our first lesson is derived from the Psalm. The Psalm appointed for today is a beautiful Psalm. It is an expression of desire, the heart’s desire of the Psalmist to have his prayer heard by the Lord and to also receive help from the Lord. This Psalm gives us a glimpse into the ‘how to’ of living in the fear of the Lord.
- 1 A Psalm of David. I call upon thee, O LORD; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice, when I call to thee! 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!
We see in vv.1-2 the Psalmist begins with a cry unto the LORD. He makes a request to the LORD asking that his prayers might be heard. Living in the fear of the Lord is set on knowing from whence our help comes from. It is set on the acknowledgement of our own helplessness and then followed by our proactiveness to call upon the LORD, who can daily help us to live in fear of Him. Living in the fear of the LORD begins with prayer, daily moment by moment prayer. Expressing our desire to please the LORD to Him and asking for His help
- 3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips!
The mouth, the lips are one of the areas where we easily slip from living in the fear of the LORD. It is an area of submission to the Lordship of Christ that is not easy to attain as told in James 3:3-10
3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies.
4 Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.
5 So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind,
8 but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.
10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (Jam 3:3-10 RSV)
The tongue is a dangerous member of our body. If left to its own it has been known to destroy individuals, families, communities and even nations. No wonder the Psalmist cries out to the Lord and asks that He set a guard over his mouth and keep watch over the door of his lips. Let that be our daily and moment by moment prayer also, as we strive to live in the fear of the Lord that He guards our mouths and watches our lips. So that only that which pleases and glorifies the Lord comes from it.
Only God can tame our tongues for us. And because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh we must watch carefully what it is we put in our hearts. It is written:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word. With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments! I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psa 119:9-11 RSV)
Let us fill our hearts with God’s Word, let us hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him with our speech and even actions – so that we may live in the fear of the Lord.
- 4 Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their dainties!
From v.4 to the end of the Psalm the issue of the wicked is addressed. The prayer the Psalmist makes is that his heart might not be inclined to evil, to busy himself with wicked deeds and company with men who work iniquity. This verse right here is loaded.
Let us inspect ourselves for a moment:
How have our hearts been inclined to evil? How have we busied ourselves with wicked deeds? How have we kept the company of men who love iniquity? Each one of us knows the answers to these questions in a most personal way. We are already experiencing election fever even though elections are almost an year away. Such seasons really reveal what is in the hearts of men and women including those called by God’s name – issues to do with evil, wicked deeds and iniquity. May the Lord help us to live in the fear of Him even during this season.
Who is the Lord?
The prophet Isaiah gives us our second lesson of the day as regards our theme ‘Living in the fear of the Lord’. Our reading from the book of Isaiah gives us a peek on who the Lord is by telling us what He does for His chosen people.
- For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isa 49:13 RSV)
- Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. (Isa 49:16 RSV)
- Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame. (Isa 49:23 RSV)
The setting of the reading in Isaiah records God calling and bringing back his people into the land from exile. The people of God had gone into exile because of disobeying the commands of God. Yet we see how God presents Himself to such a people: as a comforter, as compassionate, one who has graven then on the palms of His hands, the one who will not put them to shame.
This is the same Lord that we are to live in fear of – live in submission to day to day. His mercy and love towards us is not conditional to our obedience or faithfulness, No!, He continues to extend mercy and love to us despite our disobedience just like He did with the children of Israel.
Therefore take heart, if you have faltered in one way or another – not walked in obedience to God’s commands – He is calling you back up to live in the fear of the Lord. Not out of your own strength but in complete dependence on Him. And He assures you that He will comfort you, He will have compassion on you, He has engraved you on the palms of His hands, and if you wait upon Him you will not be put to shame.
Praise the Lord!
Living in the fear of ourselves
The third lesson for today is one of the things that can and indeed does keep us from the fear of the Lord – living in the fear of ourselves. The epistle of Timothy gives us a quick look into the life of a young man who was living in internal fear. Timothy was born of a Greek father and had not been circumcised like a Jew (at 8 days old); latter as an adult Paul circumcised him for the sole purpose of facilitating his acceptance by the Jews. He clearly had feelings of unworthiness despite the Lord calling him into ministry.
In the reading today we see Paul admonishing Timothy in vv.6-7
… I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Apparently Timothy has pulled back and is not living in the fear of the Lord but in the fear of self; his inadequacies and lack of qualifications for service. He has become a timid person. Praise God for people like Paul who after noting the situation calls Timothy out of his timidity and reminds him that the Spirit of power, love and self-control has been given unto him.
We cannot live in the fear of the Lord and at the same time live in the fear of ourselves. We cannot serve two masters; we either serve self or the Lord. As Paul reminded Timothy, this morning the Lord is reminding us that He has given us the Spirit of power, of love and of self-control/ some Bibles read a sound mind. Therefore let us purpose not to continue living in fear of self but live in the fear of the Lord.
Paul after rebuking timidity in Timothy concludes by reminding Him how not to go back to living in fear of self but to live in the fear of the Lord. Paul tells Timothy in vv.13-14 to:
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; 14 guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
We have earlier seen the central role of God’s Word in enabling us to live in the fear of the Lord and once again, this most important truth is reiterated here by Paul. God’s Word is the roadmap to our living in the fear of the Lord; and the Holy Spirit who indwells us as believers empowers us to walk in obedience to God’s Word.
Living in the fear of man/ others
The fourth and last lesson in our theme of ‘Living in the fear of the Lord’ this morning is deducted from the Lukan Gospel reading. If there is one thing that men universally fear it must be death. There is a mystery that shrouds death, an uneasiness. It is no wonder then that our Lord Jesus Christ when addressing the issue of living in the fear of man He conjoins it with death. He said in vv.4-5 of our Gospel reading:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!
If you remember the definitions we gave at the beginning, then you will connect that the LORD is calling us to both fear Him and live in the fear of the Lord in this passage. During the days when Jesus walked on earth Rome was the super power. They did not take kindly to revolts or anyone who opposed their rule. You can all recall the kind of death Jesus was subjected to together with two common thieves; it gives you an idea of how Rome dealt with those who fell outside the desires of their law.
Well Jesus here calls the people into soberness by bringing to their attention the limitation of the power of a man over another. He tell them, men can only kill the body; but God who is to be feared (the idea is reverence) can kill the body and then send the soul to hell!
Brothers and sisters, does this put a perspective on things for us this morning? I pray that it does. Because if there is a rather potent opposition in our lives to us walking and living in the fear of the Lord it is the fear of men. From terrorist, to bosses, to the government, to the police and closer home to our peers.
We live in fear of men. What do they think about me? My dressing? My make-up? My speech/ my pronounciations, did I shrub? My phone, the one one I have vis a vi the one I should have? My shoes? My house? My car/or lack thereof? My job/ or lack thereof?
The fear of man is self consuming, it leaves no space for living in the fear of the Lord.
That is why this morning the Lord is calling us back to Himself, back to the ONLY true LORD of our lives back to living in the fear of the Lord. He is calling us to trust and obey His written Word, to lean not on our own understanding but wholly depend on Him, to listen and obey to the Holy Spirit, His deposit in us who is our guide into all truth our counselor.
And when we do, we will find that all else fades away; the fear of ourselves (our doubts, feelings of inadequacies), the fear of others (our desire to belong and to be accepted despite the cost).
The Lord is calling us back to total submission to Himself, to live our lives for Him alone, to dance to the tune and to the audience of one –He is calling us to live in the fear of the Lord moment by moment day by day.
Let us pray:
Father in heaven, thank you for your Word. Thank you that you are a compassionate Father always drawing us to yourself. You know us ooh so well. You know how we have fallen to the fear of ourselves and of men. Forgive us Father. Help us even from this moment to come back to you and chose moment by moment, day by day through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to live in the fear of the Lord.
In Jesus Name we pray Amen
NB: This sermon was first preached at ACK St. Francis Karen Youth Service on 19th October 2016