February 2007 - Vol. 5


Fear of the Lord

“Ignoring God and shunning his judgments is the great sin of our age”

by Bruce Yocum

Where are the Missing Children, a painting by Michael O'Brien

The spiritual condition of the Western world
The abortion debate is one of those issues that pulls back, for those still capable of seeing, the veil that is cast over the spiritual condition of the Western world. For centuries, the beliefs and values of Christianity served, at least to some degree, to guide Western society in its morals and to restrain men and women from committing atrocities common to the state of fallen human beings.

In this past century as Christianity has been cast aside by many, we have seen the most destructive and brutal wars ever fought; the horrors of totalitarianism (Auschwitz and the gulag as only the most obvious of the results); the rise of racism (as, for example, scientifically practiced by Nazism); the rejection of Christian sexual ethics and the subsequent epidemic of venereal diseases (ironically, in the only era of history that has had the medical knowledge to prevent or cure venereal disease); mass abortion; and public advocacy of euthanasia and suicide.

These developments are not surprising to a Christian who has been instructed in God’s law and is familiar with the simple teachings of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“For though they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools....Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves....And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness...” (Rom. 1:21-22, 24, 28-29).
The key here lies in the words “they did not honor him as God” and “they did not see fit to acknowledge God.” Those who cast off the restraints of acknowledging and honoring God and are, then, left with the “freedom” of their own choice about what is right and what is wrong, choose destruction. Man, when left without God, is given up, not to his own dignified version of morality, but to the immense indignity of slavery to sin.

Issues critical for understanding God's action in this age
There are two issues I want to examine here. These issues are critical for our understanding of this spiritual age, and God’s action in this age. These themes are the fear of the Lord and judgment. They are necessary for a proper understanding of God, of the work of Jesus as Savior, and of the Christian life.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Wisdom in Scripture is not abstract and academic knowledge; it is practical knowledge of how to live successfully. This verse tells us that the beginning, the foundation, of understanding how to live is the fear of the Lord. The verse continues: “Those who are trained by it understand.” Fear of the Lord helps us to see the realities of human life more clearly.

Fear of the Lord is often criticized as an outmoded spirituality left over from the Old Testament. However, Jesus himself teaches it: “I will tell you whom to fear; fear him who can throw both body and soul into hell; yes I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5). Fear of the Lord is nothing more than an understanding of who God is, and a response to him based on who he is. His power, lordship, and authority demand from us a response of obedience to his commands. Disregarding the commandments of God shows the opposite of fear of the Lord; it shows contempt.

Those who promote abortion and protect those who commit it have no fear of the Lord. They have cast off the restraint on their behavior that fear of the Lord is meant to impose.

This is where the issue of judgment comes in. Many men and women today no longer believe God judges, and therefore they consider themselves free to do as they will: “He thinks in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face; he will not see what I do’” (Ps. 10:11). In other words, they believe there is no one besides themselves to determine what is right and wrong, what they should and should not do. They are the judges.

One of the fundamental theological issues today is the reality of original sin; the practical importance of this issue is revealed in such matters as abortion. If man indeed is fallen, if sin has worked its way into man so that he cannot be free of it without a redeemer, then, when man becomes the judge, the judgments that he gives will be corrupt. A deep, deep corruption is revealed in the militant advocacy of abortion, and in the revolutionary view of the place and purpose of human sexuality that marches hand in hand with it.

Unless men and women are brought back to God
What future can lay in store for a society whose choices and judgments are made “free” of the fear of God? What further steps will we take on the path of corruption? Abortion is not just a present evil darkening our lives; it is the dark shadow of a future yet more sordid — unless men and women are brought back to God.

As Christians, we should make use of whatever means we can in our pluralistic society — political lobbying, voting, the media — to combat abortion and to support pro-life efforts. But our opposition to abortion must be accompanied by the proclamation of the gospel if we are to see light in the midst of this darkness. Men and women must be brought to knowledge of the God who made them, and to an acknowledgment that God’s judgments are right and true.

[Bruce Yocum is President of Christ the King Association and a member of the International Executive Council of The Sword of the Spirit. This article was originally published in New Covenant Magazine, July Issue, 1991.]

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