PUTTING ‘HOLY’ IN FRONT OF GOD
My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. Psalm 119:120
In the missionary journal of Henry Martyn, this entry was found. “In prayer, in the evening I had such new and terrific views of God’s judgment upon sinners in Hell, that my flesh trembled for fear of them … I flew trembling to Jesus Christ as if the flames were taking hold of me! Oh! Christ will indeed save me or else I perish.” Not many writers, not many teachers, not many of God’s children speak this way today. There is a lazy respect for God’s holiness. As hymns have given way, almost entirely, to new worship songs (I love them as well), the heavy doctrines which have defined our Christian faith, even in song, have taken a back seat.
Many will argue that the fear of the Lord is an Old Testament theme. But it is the New Testament that says things like, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God.” The most terrifying pictures of God’s judgment are not in the Old Testament but in Revelation, in the future.
Life often brings us full circle. I grew up in a legalistic Baptist church in New England. A relationship with God was never discussed. Christian faith was all about beliefs and the study of the Word. The fallout from that, personally, was huge. When trials came, I didn’t have a relationship with God to fall back on. I made decisions on how to cope as if I were a pagan. Slowly, I came alive to Christ through the influences of some writers like Max Lucado, Philip Yancey, and Brennan Manning. My heart warmed when I sang Draw Me Close To You. A new kind of church became a place to feel the warmth of the Spirit and view scripture as God’s revelation to His children’s hearts. How I needed that.
But now, many years later, I have come full circle and I desire balance. When looking for a church and for meaningful fellowship, I look for people with a passion and warmth, for a people who love to worship, for a people who know and embrace their Christian heritage, and above all, a people who love and tremble at the Word of God. They are not turned off by a study of the doctrines. Their drive toward knowledge is based on their love for God. Such a church will not approach God casually. Their view of sin leads them to embrace repentance as a lifestyle. Their awareness of coming judgment for all unbelievers leads them to weeping and intense evangelistic efforts.
When God’s presence moved over Mt. Sinai and thunder and lightening shook the camp of the Israelites, they trembled. (Exodus 20:18-20) The people begged Moses to speak to them, instead of God. They feared God as someone so powerful that they would not live if He spoke. Moses said to the people “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”
A healthy fear of God is not one that fails to believe that God loves me. It encompasses a knowledge of His love but, simultaneously, a knowledge also of His holiness. I want to hear His voice more than anything, but I also know that when I do, I will tremble.
I want to be like your Jesus, Father. It’s because I love Him and it’s also because I fear Your name. Amen