Retrieving the Gift of Fear

Fear, where would we be without it? Of course it can cause problems when it gets bigger than reality: fear of crossing bridges, fear of open spaces, etc. We call those kinds of fears phobias. However, without reasonable fears our lives would quickly become disasters and likely reach an untimely and uncomfortable termination.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. A major objective of contemporary evangelicals resides in the elimination of fear. Obviously, if fear is of the phobia type eliminating it is a good thing. However, eradicating legitimate fears can be bad. As in the physical world, some spiritual fear can save us a lot of grief and pain.

The foundational spiritual fear is the fear of the Lord. Contemporary evangelicals have made a cottage industry out of explaining away this fear: relabeling it, denying it, etc. I have addressed this issue previously. One of the numerous verses making it clear that the fear of the Lord refers to plain old garden-variety terror is Luke 12:5: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

I also addressed the strawman argument that God does not want us to spend our lives petrified of Him. Of course not. But how hard is it to figure out that you don’t have to fear hot stoves when you are skiing the Alps but only when you are in the kitchen? Likewise, we need only fear God when our behaviors suggest that we are getting close to the burner.

This perspective prompts us to wonder what sort of spiritual hot stoves we should fear touching.

One such hot stove is hell. Unsaved people are no longer concerned with hell because Christians no longer talk about it. In fact, many contemporary evangelical leaders scoff at the old days when we did, asserting that today we have matured beyond that.

As a hospice chaplain I was amazed by the fact that most individuals giving no indication of being believers would stare death in the face with no concern regarding hell. Their loved ones likewise did not seem to have this concern for them either. This loss of fear leaves these people in a place of eternal danger.

The loss of the fear of hell is also a problem within the church. Everyone has been so convinced that praying the prayer when they were five years old will get them into heaven regardless of the lifestyle beyond that. They have never been confronted with various verses in Scripture that could cause them concern. Consider the following:

  • Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV)
  • Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV)
  • For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5-6 NKJV)
  • But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NKJV)
  • But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:15 NKJV)

It is notable that two of these passages warn against deception regarding the eternal dangers of such behaviors. Yet this is precisely what is often promoted today. God accepts you unconditionally, you don’t have to perform to please Him, all your sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. Or in summary, you need not fear hell regardless of your lifestyle.

Doctors prescribe opium to people facing death. Many contemporary evangelical pastors do the same.

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