The fear of God can be a very confusing topic as modern Christianity has done its best to make its version of the gospel more appealing and user-friendly. We focus on the love of God, even at times to the exclusion of His sovereignty. God tells us in Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes learning the lesson of the fear of the Lord can be painful and costly. Such was the case in the New Testament church as it began to grow from infancy to maturity.
As we reach Acts 5 in our sermon series, we find a couple whose lack of fear of the Lord cost them their lives and their example caused great fear to grip the church and all those who heard what had happened. So, how do we know if we’re growing in a healthy fear of the Lord? Let’s look at some things that went wrong, and right, in Acts 5 as we learn how to grow in our fear of the Lord.
- Falsehood: How much value do you put on truth? Really? How do you know? Would an examination of your actions reveal the same value on truth that your words would say or would your deeds tell a different story? Ananias and Sapphira hatch a plot that seems to have no benefit other than to perhaps make themselves look better in the eyes of people. Upon questioning, Peter makes it clear that there was no requirement for them to sell their property, no requirement to give all, or any, of the proceeds once the property was sold. Their sin wasn’t in keeping back some of the proceeds, it was in giving an impression that was different from reality. A genuine fear of the Lord requires that we see falsehood as more than “little white lies”, but as the deadly sin that it is in God’s view.
- Exposure: I have often heard it said that if God dealt with sin in the church today as He did with Ananias and Sapphira, the church would be full of straight-living Christians. Unfortunately, while that’s a good thought, I think the church would be pretty empty as most of us would be dead! Sometimes it is the fear of exposure more than the fear of God that keeps us making right choices. While intellectually we probably don’t believe it, our actions often say quite loudly that we don’t really think God sees or knows our every action. When questioned separately, Sapphira had the opportunity to “come clean” and confess her sin, which was already known, yet chose to hold fast to the deadly deception. God gives us the opportunity to come clean and confess our sins to Him who is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This voluntary exposure gives us a clean slate before God so that when our deeds are exposed at the final judgement, the sin in our life need not be exposed before God because it has been washed clean in the blood of Jesus! The fear of the Lord ought to drive us to voluntary exposure where we confess our sins and receive forgiveness that only God can offer.
- Accusation: Living a godly life does not exempt you from accusation. As a matter of fact, satan is the master accuser and the more you seek to live a life pleasing to God, the more he will attack you with one accusation after another. Sometimes we live as if our fear of accusation against us is greater than our fear of the Lord. After the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, fear gripped the entire church yet the apostles continued to preach and teach publicly with great boldness. Even when jailed, and released by an angel of the Lord, they kept on doing what God had commanded them. How often is a simple accusation against us enough to keep us quiet? Are we confident of the message and command God has given us? A genuine fear of the Lord says that I must obey God rather than men even when the accusations hit hard.
- Rejoicing: Life is hard! Living life as a Christian can be hard as well! It seems that sometimes we forget that or we think that God ought to smooth everything out for us. Paul writes and tell us, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again, Rejoice!”. He does so because God knows we need that reminder because things get tough in life. The end of Acts 5 tells us that the apostles left the meeting of the Sanhedrin rejoicing. Must have been a nice peaceful meeting where everyone was getting along with each other, right? Oh, wait, there’s more! The previous verse tells us the apostles were flogged and ordered to speak no longer in the name of Jesus — not quite the action that we would think should bring about rejoicing. Yet here they were, rejoicing that they were counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus! A real fear of the Lord causes us to rejoice at every opportunity to be identified with Jesus — even when that opportunity is in suffering.
So, how is the act of FEAR being expressed both in and through your life? Are you putting off Falsehood, voluntarily Exposing yourself to God through confession, living life so that the Accusations against you have no place to stick, and are you Rejoicing that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life? I pray that the act of FEAR brings great knowledge and wisdom to you and to many others through you.