As a pre-teen and young teen, I frowned upon the idea of sharing the gospel with fear as a driving motivator for conversion. I heard of instances in which people had been driven to pray the sinner’s prayer by their fear of hell. That approach to sharing the gospel sat wrong with me, and I judged the people who used any such method of sharing the Good News.
A few years later, I find myself considering again the relationship between fear and the gospel. Where once I was quick to judge, I now wonder what truth there is to it.
The fear of the Lord is a good thing. In this post, I shared my heart on that, including some scriptures that speak on the matter.
As I consider it more and more, the fear of the Lord is a key distinguishing factor between the saved and the lost. A lack of the fear of the Lord, is what causes people to live their own way. A lack of the fear of the Lord is what causes people to disregard the His good laws and show contempt for their Maker. A lack of the fear of the Lord is what causes people to forget that the Lord is their Judge, that the day of judgment is near, and that the consequences of sin are very grave.
I asked a dear friend to share with me about her take on the fear of the Lord. Let me try to articulate her thoughts as I received them.
The overwhelming majority of the time, fear is perceived as a bad thing. But often, fear keeps us safe. We know the potential of fire to seriously harm us, so we don’t jump in it. A healthy respect for fire preserves us.
My friend’s words ring true. The fear of the Lord isn’t about reverence or respect for the sake of it. Just as our fear of fire is well grounded in it’s real power to harm us, so is our fear of the Lord. If He is an idea of man, invented to adapt according to personal preferences and so suit our fancy, we ought not to fear Him. What can an idea like that do to harm us?
On the contrary, God is real, powerful, and holds every right to punish us for our sin.
For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
What does this have to do with sharing the gospel? A lot! I think at some point early in the process of sharing the gospel, we need to help the person to address the question of whether or not they fear the Lord. If they don’t, they have no reason to act. However, if they do fear the Lord, the same sense that causes them to be careful around fire will propel them to seek the salvation of their soul.
Love and peace and hope are great things to celebrate, and they will all follow in due time. But at the very beginning of the journey, I believe, is fear.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.