The Fear of the Lord; December 23, 2020

Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It is somehow very appropriate to have this passage in the Christmas season, when we are all focused on sweetness and light and angels and stars and the Baby in the manger. We have no proper appreciation for the grace of God unless we understand what we actually deserve. This isn’t an isolated Scripture, but many people and even whole churches steadfastly ignore or outright deny this reality. It isn’t just an “Old Testament God” thing, either. Peter pointed out that “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:17-19) God’s grace is indeed absolutely amazing, but He forgives, He doesn’t excuse, and sins have consequences. Repentance is seldom preached on, and hardly ever at Christmas, but it is still absolutely essential. We indeed want God to be like Santa, with a Ho, ho, ho and a bag full of goodies and an admonition to “Be good little boys and girls,” with no hint of the requirement of repentance and faithfulness. That, sadly, is a lie from the father of lies, and it puts us in deadly peril. Congregational preacher Jonathan Edwards prepared the American colonies for the War of Independence, triggering the spiritual revival that is called The Great Awakening by preaching on this passage. The record is that he read his sermon in an unemotional voice, but the Holy Spirit took the words he spoke and struck people’s hearts, to the point that some people were literally clinging to the posts that supported the balcony that ran around three sides of the auditorium, in terror of falling into hell. As has been the case with other revivals, there was a precipitous decline in what could be called “public sin,” and people were molded into the sort of population that could birth and abide by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, two documents that continue to amaze by their wisdom and completeness. America is manifestly in need of such a revival today, but it will never get there without a just fear of the Lord.

I grew up with the assurance that God loved me, which is a very good thing, but my fear of the Lord was insufficient, which is not a good thing. God has been incredibly gracious to me, and part of that grace has been in showing me, in nondestructive ways, how much I needed it. If I had been God, I would have squashed me a long time ago! I have no high horse from which to tell others to repent, but I can certainly speak of repentance from experience. Just yesterday someone came by and I was given exactly that opportunity. I was able to have a very frank conversation with him and how God had delivered me from “besetting sin.” (Hebrews 12:1) Whether he will indeed repent and receive God’s forgiveness is between him and the Holy Spirit, but I held nothing back. I need to be consistent in proclaiming both the love and the holiness of God. It is because of those two things that God’s grace is absolutely essential.

Father, I realize I could go on and on about this. Help me not just talk about it but put it into practice consistently and faithfully. May many hear Your words through me, repent and believe for their salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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