Moses revealed the fear of the Lord as motivation for a holy lifestyle. God desires to use His strength and authority to empower us to overcome sin, not to punish us because we have sinned. As we pursue a righteous life we can be confident that God is working for us not against us.
“Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Ex 20:17-20)
When we are afraid of God we respond to God’s holiness and the revelation of our sinfulness by worshiping, serving, and living from shame, hiding ourselves or drawing back from a close relationship with God, and excusing ourselves while accusing others for our actions out of fear of punishment. (Gen 3:7-10)
When we have the fear of the Lord we respond to God’s holiness and the revelation of our sinfulness with personal and corporate confession, receiving forgiveness and cleansing, and loving voluntary service to the Lord from a heart of gratitude. Because God is holy, He is worthy of our effort to live holy. (Is 6:5-8)
THE GARDEN OF THE HEART
Biblical virtues must be cultivated in our hearts over time. The Bible likens our hearts to a garden. The same as in the days of scripture, you would plow your ground, plant seed, water it, and wait for the day it would mature and bear the desired fruit. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity.
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”” (Matt 13:23)
To cultivate truth, we must humble our hearts like freshly plowed ground. Often our hearts can become hardened by shame, disappointment, and pride. We must give the Holy Spirit time and be attentive to the conviction and truth that He is speaking over our lives. Humility expressed through confession, repentance, teachability, and obedience makes us receptive to God’s Word like plowed ground receives seed.
Truth is implanted in our hearts in seed form. I have seen many become discouraged that these seeds of truth do not bear fruit instantly as they desire immediate breakthrough. We can be confident that God enjoys us in the process of maturing growth. We partner with God to implant the Word in our hearts through reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible.
The Holy Spirit is committed to leading us into truth by instructing our hearts. We can partner with Him and His purposes for our lives through a lifestyle of prayer, obedience, and faith that God will give us grace to obey His commands and to receive His promises.
During seasons of change, business, discouragement, and spiritual attack we must be diligent to keep our hearts humble. Lies about God, our identity, and our calling occasionally sprout up and must be removed as we declare God’s word, remember our testimony, and stir up the gifts God has given us to serve others.
God delights in us in the days of budding virtues before we have born any fruit. He is not waiting for us to do great things in His name before He enjoys us. We will be more faithful to cultivate virtues in our heart when we see God smiling over our small progress.
CULTIVATING A HEART THAT FEARS THE LORD
Just as a farmer will plan what seed he plants, we must intentionally cultivate the fear of the Lord. The choices we make each day (What we do, where we go, who we will engage with, how we will respond to our emotions and environment…etc) determine what is cultivated in our hearts.
whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8)
Choose: Living in the fear of the Lord is a two-part choice. First, we choose the fear of the Lord by faithfully cultivating it in our hearts through humility, reading God’s Word, and obeying the conviction of the Spirit. Second, we choose the fear of the Lord in the presence of the temptation to do what is contrary to God’s will (sin).
We must set our hearts to obey in the early days when the zeal for righteousness is still growing. Often we choose obedience out of love or devotion before we choose it out of preference.
They…did not choose the fear of the Lord…they shall eat the fruit of their way, (Pr 1:29-31)
Seek: Solomon instructed us to make the pursuit of the fear of the Lord in our lives a priority. We should pursue the fear of the Lord like the world pursues wealth.
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Pr 2:4-5)
Seeking includes receiving, listening, and asking(Pr 2:1-3). v1) Receive God’s word as valuable. We must value God’s word above every other opinion and preference. v2) Listen to spiritual wisdom with a sincere heart. When we receive clear biblical wisdom we must listen with intent to apply it to our lives. v3) Earnestly Ask for insight. We ask the Lord for insight as well as pastors, elders, and mentors who live a godly life.
Receive: Receiving the fear of the Lord is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. When we have done our part to cultivate a heart that fears the Lord, the Holy Spirit empowers our hearts with supernatural grace to choose obedience even in the face of insurmountable temptation.
Jesus is the example of how mankind can live fully submitted to the will of God. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him. There was no striving between the Spirit and the flesh. Jesus walked in total victory over the passions of the flesh and the fear of man (cultural pressures) because of His reverence for the Heavenly Father.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. (Is 11:1-3)
When we submit ourselves to living in the will of God with our whole hearts the Spirit rests on us. With our minds fully set on obedience, the struggle of how we will live and what we will do is overcome by the peace of the presence of God.
The Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out as striving becomes thriving in the delight of the fear of the Lord. As the Holy Spirit causes budding virtues to bear fruit in our mind, will, emotions, and relationships (Gal 5), we find ourselves joyfully pursuing righteousness in the fear of the Lord!