The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Forgotten Fear: Where Have all the God Fearers Gone?


#1

There are hundreds of forms of fear. Some healthy others unhealthy. The Bible teaches that a healthy fear of God produces humility. It’s the fear of the consequences of turning away from God’s protection by breaking His moral law that brings delight. There’s nothing unusual about having such fear and being happy. Paul was sorrowful yet always rejoicing. People are complex. People who are awake are terrified of breaking the moral law. As the founder of A.A. Bill Wilson states:

For all its usual destructiveness, we have found that fear can be the starting point for better things. Fear can be a stepping stone to prudence and to a decent respect for others. It can point the path to justice, as well as to hate. And the more we have of respect and justice, the more we shall begin to find the love which can suffer much, and yet be freely given. So fear need not always be destructive, because the lessons of its consequences can lead us to positive values.

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; Tremble before Him, all the earth. ~~ Psalms 96:9

As the Irish Catholic priest, poet, and mystic (John O’Donohue) describes it in “Beauty”

While beauty usually quickens our senses, awakens our delight and invites wonder, there are occasions when the force of beauty is disturbing and even frightening. Beauty can arrive in such a clear and absolute sweep that it throws the heart sideways. It takes over completely and we are overwhelmed, unsure what to do or how to be in the presence of this radiance. The authority of such beauty unnerves us for awhile. This is of course an exceptional experience of beauty, yet it befalls everyone at some time. It could be the beauty of nature, music, painting, poetry or the unseen beauty of kindness, compassion, love or revelation. For a while we are caught up in the majestic otherness of beauty. It is an experience in which the sheer eternal force of the soul strains the mortal frame; the natural gravity of the body no longer grounds one. This causes unease and yet the unease is still somehow delightful. - John O’Donohue

The fear of God is an important theme in the Bible, yet many Christians today overlook it or treat it carelessly. Fearing God is the soul of godliness, and those who claim to love God should desire to understand what it means to fear Him. The Forgotten Fear revisits this important topic. Author Al Martin first establishes the theme of the fear of God in both the Old and New Testaments, and then he defines what fearing God means. Finally, he addresses the practical implications of fearing God, showing its expression in the lives of Abraham and Joseph and providing instruction for believers today to maintain their fear of God and even increase it.

Table of Contents:

  1. Predominance of the Fear of God in Biblical Thought
  2. Definition of the Fear of God
  3. Ingredients of the Fear of God
  4. Source of the Fear of God
  5. Relationship of the Fear of God to Our Conduct
  6. How to Maintain and Increase the Fear of God
  7. A Final Word to the Reader

#2

From my book “Humility of Heart” by the Catholic Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo:

We must acknowledge that one of the five reasons why we do not live in this necessary humility is that we do not fear the justice of God. Look at a criminal, how humbly he stands before the judge, with lowered eyes, pallid face and bowed head: he knows that he has been convicted of atrocious crimes; he knows that thereby he has merited capital punishment and may justly be condemned to the gallows; and hence he fears, and his fear keeps him humble, chasing from his brain all thoughts of ambition and vainglory. So also the soul, conscious of the numerous sins it has committed, aware that it has indeed deserved hell, and that from one moment to another it may be condemned to hell by Divine Justice, fears the wrath of God; and this fear causes the soul to remain humble before Him; and if it does not feel this humility, it can only be because the fear of God is wanting: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Ps. 35:1).


#3

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#4

Jonathan Edwards:

The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our Savior, in his comparing such a one to a little child. The flesh of a little child is very tender; so is the heart of one that is new born. This is represented in what we are told of Naaman’s cure of his leprosy, by his washing in Jordan; which was undoubtedly a type of the renewing of the soul, by washing in the laver of regeneration. We are told, 2 Kings 5:14, “That he went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child.” Not only is the flesh of a little child tender, but his mind is tender. A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon and bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be affected with sympathy, to weep with them that weep, and cannot well bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian, John 11:25, Rom. 12:15, 1 Cor. 12:26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, and has his heart melted, and falls a weeping: thus tender is the heart of a Christian, with regard to the evil of sin. A little child is easily affrighted at the appearance of outward evils, or anything that threatens its hurt: so is a Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and anything that threatens the hurt of the soul. A little child, when it meets enemies, or fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents for refuge: so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left alone, or far from home: so is a saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone, and to be at a distance from God: Prov. 28:14, “Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.” A little child is apt to be afraid of superiors, and to dread their anger, and tremble at their frowns and threatenings: so is a true saint with respect to God: Psal. 119:120, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments.” Isa. 66:2, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and trembleth at my word.” ver. 5, “Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word.” Ezra. 9:4, “Then were assembled unto me everyone that trembled at the words of the God of Israel.” Chap. 10:3; “According to the counsel of my Lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God.” A little child approaches superiors with awe: so do the saints approach God with holy awe and reverence: Job 13:2, “Shall not his excellency make you afraid? And his dread fall upon you?” Holy fear is so much the nature of true godliness, that it is called in Scripture by no other name more frequently, than the fear of God. Hence gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy, and boisterous; but rather to speak trembling: Hos. 13:1, “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died;” and to clothe with a kind of holy fear in all their behavior towards God and man; agreeably to Psal. 2:11, 1 Pet. 3:15, 2 Cor. 7:15, Eph. 6:5, 1 Pet. 3:2, Rom. 11:20.


#5