We all know the verse that says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” There are quite a few verses that reference the fear of God and even a couple in the New Testament. Often times I hear people just erase the word or change the word “fear” to “reverence.” Obviously we should be reverent to God but “fear” has a different meaning. Fear means to be afraid of something dangerous. We tend to view God as a fuzzy lamb who loves warm hugs. And there are some descriptions of God like that. Yet God is also described as a lion, now that is worthy of fear. Lions can rip your face off. So which is it? Is He a lion or a lamb? You know what I’m going to say – both. But when you look at people, I tend to see 3 various viewpoints. 1) I’m afraid God is going to punish me all the time. 2) God’s my dude and He’ll forgive me no matter what 3) I don’t think about God in anything I do. So, people aren’t good at both fearing God and resting in His presence, love, and forgiveness.
Here are my thoughts. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. When you are first introduced to God, you should fear Him. He is an all-powerful being that is capable of doing whatever He wants. Your salvation should scare you (Phil 2:12). God is the one that does all the saving and you can do nothing to earn or deserve salvation. So you really have to trust God that He’s going to keep His promises. But if you are just hearing about Jesus for the first time, well then yeah, it’s kinda scary. There’s a heaven and a hell and the only reason we are not going to Hell is because Jesus says, “I got you.” That’s scary if you don’t really know who Jesus is yet. So there’s my point. At first, fear is the logical and proper response to God. It means you get what He’s capable of and the eternal implications of it. In time, with the study of God’s Word, you can begin to be set at ease with God. Your fear can begin to turn into peace and rest. As you learn more about God and read of His constant and continual faithfulness then it becomes reasonable to trust Him. Those that assume God’s forgiveness regardless of their sinful actions have only heard snipets of who God is and do not truly know Him. Most languages other than English have more than one word for “know.” Plenty of people have a general awareness of God. They “know” who Jesus is – the Christmas kid. But they don’t “know” who God is the way you know your family or a best friend (or even like your favorite dog growing up.) They don’t have a personal, deep knowledge of God that can only come through the deliberate reading of Scripture and consistent life of prayer. Then and only then can you truly know God, and only through that journey should the fear of God give way to seeing that ferocious lion as the fuzzy lamb He also is and get that big hug you were too afraid to ask for before. It’s a hug so big and fuzzy that you won’t know how you ever lived without it.
Dr. Allotta holds the Church Ministries chair at Trinity College of Florida and is also the senior pastor of Crossroads Church in New Port Richey. Dr. Allotta graduated from Trinity College in 2006 and went on to earn his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees through Liberty University. Read more from Dr. Allotta at joeallotta.com