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That Cleanses & the Fear That Cowers
Ps. 19:9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.
Mt. 25:25 “So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”
One of the stumbling blocks over which we oft trip before the world is in our attempts to defend the idea of the “fear of the Lord” in an age of lawlessness. The triad concepts of fear, accountability and judgment relative to God are what Jesus would call “rocks of offense” to men steeped in humanism. This is sadly as true for the mainstream culture-sensitive church as it is for the world. Of this trio, today I just want to comment mainly on fear, that is, the fear of the Lord.
The problem in naturally explaining the fear of the Lord is that there are two kinds of fear, one harmfully negative, and one purely beneficial, yet scripture uses only one word for both. (In Greek, that word is “phobeo,” from whence we get our common term “phobia.”)
In the every day mind, fear is overwhelmingly associated with harmful negative emotion. So it is difficult to apprehend that any kind of fear could be good and thus associated with God. Because today’s church is at a loss for discerning and rightly dividing the two kinds of fear, it doesn’t preach anymore on the fear of the Lord, or otherwise it feels compelled to water it down to where one would never know it was anything significantly consequential. (Even some translations try to appease the impact of the word by translating it less harshly as “honor,” “respect” or “reverence.”)
Paul says that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. This is no less true regarding “fear” as applied to the Lord. Spiritual things laid before the carnal mind are improperly perceived and remain fodder for offense and appearances of “contradiction.” We’ve talked about this before. For example here, consider these “contradictory” passages regarding fear and love.
I Jn. 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Dt. 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…?
Well, which is it? Is there fear in love or not??
See, that’s just the way it is. And God doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. He did not make it easy for us to believe carnally in Him. And He has bequeathed to us who have believed Him the unpleasant stigma involved with defending His terms before an unbelieving world. (Though as we shall see by the end of this article, man is not an innocent party in this confusion, but actually secretly knows more about the fear of the Lord than he will admit to.)
But even if the world won’t get it, for those of us who believe, He leaves wisdom and revelation in the path so that we will get it. And that is what today’s article is for.
The Lord has given us an anchor word for helping us grasp what distinguishes the fear of the Lord from the fear that cowers in torment, and which can enable us in at least some small measure to explain it to others. That word is “clean.”
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.
The fear of the Lord is a fear that cleanses the inner soul. This is its hallmark distinguishing feature from any other fear. It is a fear that brings an awesome light to the soul such that the man who trembles before it is released from his inner filthy darkness. The power of the Lord to positively terrify us is His power to cleanse us. This is a benevolent fear. It is such a fear that takes us out of ourselves.
Consider those whose robes are “washed white in the blood of the Lamb.” Consider all the references and exhortations to our being made “spotless” and “without blemish” and “pure.” We don’t see it on first glance, but these expressions of cleansing are the very work of the fear of the Lord in the heart and soul and mind—enduring forever. Cleansing is the result of encounter and embrace of the fear of the Lord.
- Fear in Love
This cleansing action is at once also the heart of God’s love for us. God’s love wants to make us clean! And why not? How could love want to do anything less? What love is it that would leave people in their filth of heart, mind, body and word? The love of God comes to cleanse us, and to do nothing less.
But so what is the agent of such loving cleansing? It is the fear of the Lord. By this we see a fear that is consonant with the love of God, as Deuteronomy tells us.
As we have so oft said already, God’s love is to a standard. What is that standard? It is spiritual, moral and physical cleanliness. So we see now why there is harmony between love and fear in God. The key is cleansing.
The Fear that Cowers
By contrast, the fear that cowers in torment is a standard unto nothing but itself. It is fear that illumines inner filth as its own object to behold, and unto no further purpose. This fear is entirely and ultimately self-referenced.
- Different Frequencies of Fear
Understanding the concept of fear in terms of light can help us in discerning the two fears, or better put, the two dimensions of fear.
Light is one in itself, yet it is a spectrum of differing wavelength frequencies. The same is true of fear.
The fear of God illumines the full-orbed light of Christ to the heart unto cleansing. But tormenting fear yields a light of a very limited, partial frequency. Under tormenting fear, the soul is illumined only to its own raw darkness absent God.
Tormenting fear shines a “black light”—the “creepy” limited spectrum ultraviolet light seen in haunted scenes—just enough light to make out terrifying shadows and the shapes of ghosts. It is the light seen in hell’s flames amidst its unspeakable darkness. But it is not the full light of God’s beautifully terrifying brilliance bringing the heart unto cleansing and release outside its own filth and darkness.
- Antithetical to Love
Tormenting fear leaves us where we are, to grovel inside the pit of who we are in our innate emptiness. And it enshrouds the powers of darkness within us. Consequently, this fear has nothing to do with love. It is antithetical to it. Where loving fear cleanses from darkness, tormenting fear seals us into a closed inner loop that only magnifies and reflects our own darkness back to us. The effect of this fear is cowering.
This brings us to the parable of the talents and the wicked servant of Matthew 25. Notice the man’s answer to the Lord when called to give account for the Lord’s investment in him. He answers, “I was afraid, and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” The man was afraid before the Lord, but he did not possess the fear of the Lord. Do we understand that critical difference?
See how the man was in the very Presence of God, but absorbed nothing but black light before Him. The Presence of the Lord does not necessarily yield the fear of the Lord. (And if anyone cares to examine those churches today uniquely identified by the “presence of the Lord,” he will still find that many if not most under that Presence do not fear the Lord. A sorrowful affair to behold, indeed. Their cowering will yet appear soon enough.)
Discerning the Fearful Effects of the Light
The brilliance of the Lord terrifies either unto salvation or unto condemnation. It terrifies unto cleansing, or unto cowering. The Lord terrifies all whose hearts are exposed before His light. And among men there are no exceptions. ALL are or will be terrified in the Presence of the Lord. But the effect will not be the same for all. Those cleansed by their fear will rejoice in salvation. Those reinforced to cower in their self-centered emptiness will be condemned.
Fear either leads us to God or keeps us protective of self. The difference is in the spectrum of the light received in the heart, the object of focus illumined to us, and the result brought to us. Fear yields either only black light, or else the full spectrum of God’s glory. It either focuses us on our selves, or upon Him. And it either leaves us in our filth, or it cleanses us from our filth.
Fear operates with the power of light, that is, of a laser. A laser can burn and destroy. Or it can be used to cleanse and heal. It operates with the power of heat. It can warm the body. And it can burn the body. So fear is of one essence, but to which effect?
The fear of the Lord is a healthy fear. The fear of emotional torment is unhealthy. It causes one to feed on one’s own self. It is light that turns on itself to become darkness. Even as Jesus said, if the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness. So it is where the fear of God’s glory is reduced to the black light of tormenting fear.
All these illustrations enable us to rightly discern and divide between the fear of the Lord and the fear of torment. Cleansing is the ultimate issue that divides the two. The fear of the Lord cleanses. No other fear does. And that is all we need to know.
At the Judgment
The purpose of the judgment will be to finally reveal by which light men have lived in the face of their Creator. Those who embraced the full spectrum of God’s fearful light unto cleansing will stand in confidence at the Judgment. They will not cower in tormenting fear. This is what it means when John exhorts us to come into the place where we will have confidence at the judgment and not be “ashamed” before Him.
On the other hand, all those who have absorbed only the black light spectrum of God’s light will cower in fear before Him, just like the man in the parable. God’s certified enemies, including all the hosts of darkness, will cower in utter non-redemptive terror before Him.
We see by this what a travesty on the truth is wrought by all who confound the Word to believe and teach that “there is no fear of the Lord in love.” The truth is that those who deny the fear of the Lord do so because they secretly clutch internal self-referenced darknesses which they do not want exposed and of which they will be afraid at the judgment.
By denying any kind of fear associated with God, men feel alleviated from concern of any such future exposure at any judgment. (Much teaching on “non-judgmental” unconditional love, forgiveness and mercy is built on denial based in the preserving of this internal cowering fear.)
How do I know this? I know this to be true because the Holy Spirit has been given us for two thousand years to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. If God said He was sent to so convict of these things, then it means that He has been doing so, whether men give evidence of it or not and no matter what the church says to fig leaf it all over.
The indiscriminate preaching of the message “there is no fear in relationship with God” has been conducted against the presence of a Spirit whose number one mission has been to instill the fear of the Lord in men through the conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment.
In light of this, the Lord would say to us, “Do not be fooled by the appearance of human indifference and the pleasant sound of their teachings. My conviction has been ever near all mankind. Their denial of my fear is merely the evidence of their rejection of my conviction. Nothing more. It will all be brought out into the light.”
Those who have taught the minimizing of the fear of the Lord saying “there is no fear in God” will be found cowering like the man who in the end had to admit before the Lord, “I was afraid of you.”
Praying for the Manifest Surfacing of the Fear of the Lord
To conclude, it should now be no mystery that the overwhelming idea of fear held in our world is the fear of torment. It is really the only fear that men natively know—cowering self-referenced darkness and self-preservation.
Yet just because cowering fear is the only fear natural man is able or willing to recognize does not mean it is the only spectrum to fear there is, or that the Lord has not been ever present otherwise throughout the earth to convict men of the fear of the Lord. Man’s protests against an idea of the fear of the Lord, though easy to rationalize, are not entirely innocent.
In all cases, whether of genuine ignorance or secret willful denial and resistance of the Spirit, the challenge is for men to be awakened and their hearts to be opened unto the full spectrum of the terrifying light of God that cleanses unto wholeness.
For this we ought to continue to pray amidst the cosmic battle between Light and darkness.
Love in the fear of God to all the saints,
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created January 13, 2016