Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tent Cities III

 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.  But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.  We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  – 2 Corinthians 5:11-15

When Paul writes, “Therefore,” we must always look to what he wrote previously.  In this case, we should look to the tent cities.  We could read it this way, “Because we are living in a tent temporarily while waiting for our permanent home in the Kingdom of Heaven and knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

So what is the fear of the Lord?

the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
Psalm 19:9

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
     on those who hope in his steadfast love
Psalm 33:18

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
Psalm 128:1

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

I could go on and on about what the Bible says about the fear of the Lord.  Okay, so right off the bat, when we’re talking about the fear of God, we’re not talking about being afraid of Him.  God did not give us that kind of spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).  Psalm 24:14 says that the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him.  If we were in absolute terror and dread, of the Lord, how would we ever have friendship with Him?

The proper fear of the Lord is a deep reverence and awe of Him.  When I think of the fear of the Lord, I think of how God appeared to Moses as a burning bush.  I love being around fire, even though we have fire down to a science, there’s still something mysterious about it.  I have a healthy awe and reverence of the fire and I do not treat fire casually.  If I treat fire casually, it has the potential to be very destructive.  However; if I treat fire with respect, I can bask in the warm glow.

God is holy.  Yes, God is our friend and He loves us, but we should not approach Him too casually.  I think about Nadab and Abihu (Aaron’s sons) who approached God with unauthorized fire in Leviticus 10.  They were quickly consumed by fire because they approached God in a casual manner.
The fear of the Lord is not only a deep reverence of awe of Him but also the hatred of all that is evil (Proverbs 8:13).  Knowing that God is holy and to be revered and that we should hate evil, we should want to persuade others.

Paul said, “What we are is known to God.”  We, who have accepted Jesus’ death on the cross for our own sins, are known by God as His children and we are loved by Him.  It seems kind of odd that Paul would say, “I hope that it is known in your conscience.”  But have you ever heard someone say, “I know in my mind that God loves me, but I don’t feel it in my heart.”  That’s kind of what Paul is saying here.  We know that God loves us in our minds, but when we really feel God’s overwhelming love for us, it changes us.  When we are changed by God’s love, we are empowered to do good things.

One of the biggest battles is between outward appearance and the heart.  It’s easy to judge a person by their outward appearance, but difficult to tell their heart.  The Pharisees had an outward appearance of holiness, but in their hearts they were no better than whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27).  If we allow God to change our hearts, we will be beyond reproach from those who boast about their outward holiness.

Jesus died not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  In sin we all are considered dead.  However, once we die to sin, we gain life (what a paradox).  Jesus’ death for all does not mean that all will be saved, but only those who accept that Jesus died for our sake and who no longer live for themselves will be saved.  Jesus gave His life for us; His love should compel us to give our lives to Him because He purchased our lives with His blood.

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