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by by Dr. John S. Waldrip,
Pastor of Calvary Road Baptist Church, Monrovia, California
A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Monday, January 7, 2002
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Please turn in your Bible to Romans 3:18. The Bible says:
"There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18).
I am continually struck in my conversations with sinners by the fact that they do not fear God. But I remember in my own childhood, growing up in a home that was not a God-fearing home, that I most certainly did fear God. I remember when I began to fear God in some way.
We didn't go to church very often at all. When we infrequently went to church during my childhood, I had no sense that God was present in anything that was being done in the churches we visited, or that anyone had any particularly reverent attitude toward God or the things of God.
But I do remember laughing and joking around with a good friend of mine one afternoon. He would make some nasty comment and look up with fake horror and say, "I repent! I repent!" Then we would both laugh. A minute or so later I would do the same thing, pretend to be scared, and look up and say, "I repent! I repent!" Then we would laugh again. We did that all one afternoon.
I was probably 11 or 12 years old at the time, and when I went home that afternoon I thought about what we'd done. My actions disturbed me. My friend and I had mocked God. We had laughed and joked about fearing God. But afterwards I knew that what we'd done was wrong, that there was nothing funny or amusing about fearing God. And I decided I would never do anything like that again.
Little did I realize at the time what that first little step toward fearing God would mean in God's dealings with me, that it would eventually lead to my conversion.
I want to see you converted some day. Since I know that fearing God is vital to your heart being prepared for conversion, I want to speak to you about fearing God.
My friend, understand that it is God's will that you fear Him. Understand, as well, that it is necessary for you to fear God. But it's important that your fear of God be an instructed fear, a tutored fear, an informed and proper fear, because there is a kind of fear toward Him that God does not want and disapproves of.
If you are terrified by a wild beast you will flee by running away from the beast. But fearing God in that way is entirely wrong. Remember Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes after they ate the forbidden fruit and realized their nakedness? They exhibited the wrong kind of fear, which resulted in them fleeing from God.
The right kind of fear has the opposite effect. It will cause you to want to flee to God. But you can't come to God, as a sinner, because God is a consuming fire and He forbids it. The proper fear of God, however, will motivate you to seek His Son, Jesus. You can come to Jesus, because He urges you to come. That's the kind of fear of God you need to have.
There's another thing you need to understand about this fear of God. In a sense, a sinner must simply choose to fear God. This brings me to our text for tonight. Ecclesiastes 12:13. Please stand and read that verse:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man"
"Fear God." That's a command. That's a directive. That's an order. But you don't think it is possible to "fear God" because you are somewhat unfamiliar with how the human mind and emotions work with such things as this.
Proverbs 16:3 tells us, "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." This means if you will do right toward God, you'll start thinking right toward God. Decide to fear God, obey this directive, and you'll start feeling fearful toward God. Most people do not fear God because they never arrive at the right decision, which is to choose to fear God.
But you are certainly not persuaded about the importance and necessity of fearing God. So, my sermon tonight will deal with the reasons why you should fear God. I will present to you seven reasons why you should fear God.
I. First, fear God because fearing God acknowledges His nature.
People who do not fear God only betray their ignorance of God. They only show their utter lack of awareness of God's person, of God's nature, of God's attributes. In Genesis 31 we are given insight into the convictions of three men with regard to God's nature, and whether or not He should be feared.
In Genesis 31:42 we read that Jacob, in conversation with his uncle Laban, referred to God as "the fear of Isaac," his own father. That description alone shows us the attitudes toward God of both Isaac and his son Jacob.
Because those two men had experienced encounters with God, because they had seen Him work in their own lives, had appreciated His majesty and might, they feared Him. Those who do not fear God are only those who have had no dealings with Him.
Few men who have walked on the earth have been privileged with the intimacy with God that Moses enjoyed during his lifetime. And remember, Moses was the human author of the book of Genesis. So, in Genesis 31:53, when Moses is describing the actions of Jacob, and himself refers to God as the fear of Jacob's father Isaac, it reflects his own appreciation of the nature of God.
Were these men wrong for fearing God? Or did they have insight that most men do not have? My friends, even the sailors of the boat the prophet Jonah was on had enough of an appreciation of God's majesty and might, knowing that God was awesome and omnipotent, that we are told, "Then were the men exceedingly afraid" of God (Jonah 1:10).
If you consider God's immensity, if you consider God's power, if you consider God's majesty and glory, if you consider God's holiness, if you consider these and other attributes of God, then you will see the sensibility and the intelligence of fearing Him.
II. Second, fear God because fearing God
is the gateway to spiritual truth.
Proverbs 1:7 declares to us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of [understanding or] knowledge." So, Solomon is pointing out to us that until you know to fear God you don't know much that's really worth knowing. Oh, you may be good in math. You may be an expert in physics or literature. But if you don't know enough to fear God, you don't know anything that will serve you well in eternity.
Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 both declare to us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." If wisdom is knowing the appropriate use of truth, then God's Word points out that until you fear God, what you know about the implementation of truth really isn't worth anything. It won't help you much.
So, you see, with regard to gaining insight into spiritual truths, spiritual realities, eternal verities, the starting point is to fear God. And does this not make perfect sense, since God is the First Cause, since God is most important, since God is central to all existence and meaning?
How very absurd, then, are those religions of the East and these religions of the so-called New Age. My friend, if it doesn't begin with God it's so much foolishness. And the fear of God is the beginning of understanding and of wisdom. You know nothing and you are a fool if you haven't the sense to fear God.
My friend, there are things you will never know until you fear God. Psalm 25:14 says, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him."
III. Third, fear God because fearing God
prevents stupid and provocative sins.
When David transported the Ark of the Covenant on a cart, they were disobeying God's instructions for moving the Ark. They did not fear God, and therefore did not make the effort to obey Him. But once Uzzah touched the Ark and God killed him, David became very afraid that day, wondering how he would move the ark (cf. I Chronicles 13:12). Fear kept David from sinning stupidly in that way again.
Remember the midwives during the days of Moses? They were ordered by Pharaoh to kill the Jewish boys being born, but they refused because they feared God (cf. Exodus, chapter 1). Their fear of God kept them from the sin of murder.
There are things I have contemplated doing that I did not do…because I fear God. And the same is true of anyone who fears God, even if he is not saved. Had Nadab and Abihu feared God, they would not have offered strange fire and been killed by God. Had King Saul feared God, he would have obeyed God, and the kingdom would not have been taken from him. Had King Uzziah feared God, he would not have provoked God and suffered a life of leprosy.
You should fear God because there are some sins, some really stupid and provocative sins, that you will commit unless you fear God - and only the fear of God will keep you from certain sins.
IV. Fourth, fear God because duty demands that you fear God.
What is "duty?" "Duty" is a binding moral obligation. It's simply the right thing to do, and to not do your duty is just plain wrong. It's just right to honor your mother. It's just right to honor your father. It's just right to honor the king.
Duty is what used to distinguish the British Empire from all other countries in the world. The Empire had a core of people who were committed to doing their duty, to doing what the right thing a man ought to do for his country was.
There was a time when the United States Military Academy placed great value on duty. The motto of the Military Academy at West Point is "Duty, Honor, Country." So, the concept of duty is unarguably important to everyone except barbarians.
The concept of duty is important to God as well. That's why, in our text, wise old Solomon urges the fear of God as the whole duty of man. If honoring your mom is an important and valuable duty, if honoring your father is an important and valuable duty, if honoring the flag and honoring the king is an important and valuable duty, then how important is that duty upon which all other duties are founded - the fear of God?
What folly it is to be patriotic but not fear God. What an insult to God it is to salute the flag but to refuse to honor Him! What's so wrong with sinners that they feel compelled to fulfill so many obligations, to properly recognize so many duties, while refusing the duty to fear God?
My friend, you ought to fear God because it's right. You ought to fear God because it's the proper thing to do. You ought to fear God because it's your duty to fear God.
V. Fifth, fear God because you are commanded to fear God.
You are commanded to fear God in our text. Solomon was writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He communicated in a perfect way the will of God on this subject: "Fear God." That this command has been issued shows that you are responsible to obey. Fear God because He commands you to obey Him, or die trying.
And this fear of God is not limited only to those who are unconverted. I Peter 2:17 is very clear on this matter. Peter wrote:
"Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (I Peter 2:17).
This was written to Christians. God wants everyone to fear Him. It's His right. It's what is due Him. To fear God is proper, and it's what He commands and demands from His creatures.
VI. Sixth, fear God because God's punishment evokes fear.
You may not fear God because He is God. You may not fear God so that you will have insight into profound spiritual truths. You may not fear God to keep from committing stupid sins that will provoke God. Duty may not move you to fear Him, nor His command sway you. But have you considered what He's going to do to you?
Remember the maniac of Gadara, the demon-possessed man who had many, many demons in him? When Jesus asked the name of the demon who spoke through the man, he said, "My name is legion: for we are many" (cf. Luke 8:30). Those demons feared no mere man, but they were terrified of the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what the demon said when Jesus approached:
"What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not" (Luke 8:28).
The demons were afraid because they know the Lake of Fire awaits them.
How about you? Do you know what awaits you? Do you have any idea what's going to happen to you someday? You will die and then go to Hell, and that causes many to fear Hell. But that's a misplaced fear. There is nothing to fear of Hell. What's to fear is the one who will cast you into Hell.
Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. I read from Matthew 10:28:
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Fearing other men is also a misplaced fear. All a human being can do is kill your body. But who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell? God. So, fear God.
You don't fear God? You're not concerned about the fires of Hell? Burning flesh and perpetual darkness don't rattle you at all? I'm not suggesting that you fear Hell. I am pointing out the necessity of fearing the one who will cast you into Hell if you don't get saved. So, you'd better fear God, because:
VII. Finally, fearing God is preparation for saving grace.
Let me read several verses to you and then explain to you the implications.
"The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7).
"Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul" (Psalm 66:16).
"Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him" (Psalm 85:9).
"Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord" (Psalm 115:11).
"Let those that fear thee turn unto me" (Psalm 119:79).
"He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them" (Psalm 145:19).
If you do not fear God, you will not flee to Jesus for salvation. If you do not fear God, you will not seek safe refuge in Jesus. In short, fear of God is what the Puritans called an evangelical grace. It's a grace that leads a sinner to Christ.
These verses that I've just read establish several facts for your consideration:
1. Deliverance comes to those who fear God.
2. Gospel preaching is primarily for those who fear God. Until you fear God you will reject the gospel.
3. If you fear God, you are never very far away from being converted.
You need to fear God, my friend. You need to decide to fear God. If you do not decide to fear God it is almost certain that you will never be converted, because God frightens but few sinners. Most sinners have to decide to fear God or they will never fear God.
But you have to fear God rightly, for there is a kind of fear that produces wrong actions, such as when Adam and Eve hid from God. So, be instructed, be challenged, to fear God and flee to Christ. Fear now. Flee now.
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THE OUTLINE OF
by Dr. John S. Waldrip
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
I. Fear God because fearing God acknowledges His nature,
Genesis 31:42, 53; Jonah 1:10.
II. Fear God because fearing God is the gateway to spiritual
truth, Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 25:14.
III. Fear God because fearing God prevents stupid and provocative
sins, I Chronicles 13:12; Exodus 1.
IV. Fear God because duty demands that you fear God.
V. Fear God because you are commanded to fear God, I Peter 2:17.
VI. Fear God because God's punishment evokes fear, Luke 8:28;
VII. Fear God because fearing God is preparation for saving grace,
Psalm 34:7; Psalm 66:16; Psalm 85:9; Psalm 115:11;
Psalm 119:79; Psalm 145:19.