A proper fear of God is appropriate, and even necessary, for Christians’ spiritual strength. Yet in our current culture, and even in parts of Christian culture, there is no fear of God. Let’s pray that an apt fear of God pervades the American church.
Acts 9:31 paints a beautifully balanced picture of a healthy and flourishing church.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
This summary verse gives us both the inputs and the outputs of that lively church.
First, the outputs. The believers enjoyed harmonious fellowship, they matured in their faith, and their numbers dramatically increased. That’s the portrait of what we pray for, isn’t it? And yet the church in America seems so divergent from this profile. We see lots of division in the church, little spiritual maturity, and declining statistics. May God help us.
What led to such an ideal spiritual reality at this point in the book of Acts? That’s the second aspect of Acts 9:31, the inputs. These early Christians conducted themselves under two guiding lights – the fear of God and the comfort of the Spirit. If we want to experience the outputs of Acts 9:31, we need to adopt the same inputs.
We need to embrace both the fear of God and the comfort of the Spirit, just like a child needs the complementary love and guidance of a father and a mother. Unfortunately, it seems that many American Christians, and even vocational Christian ministers, want to embrace the comfort of the Spirit and forsake the fear of God, like a child being forced to choose between mother or father in a messy divorce.
Some Christians have been misled to believe that “there is no fear in love” means that we should never fear God (1 John 4:18). However, that passage in 1 John 4:17-18 clearly refers to eternal judgment in particular. Praise God that we need not dread judgment day. However, we still must “bring holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? How many church leaders today would rebuke this couple who gave a large amount of money to the church "just because they told a little lie?” To us, Ananias and Sapphira’s deceit was not a big deal. But God expects and requires our obedience in the small things.
When a proper fear of God is missing, then all kinds of lawlessness, disunity, and damage take place. We need to recover God’s perspective on sin and obedience, and re-establish the fear of God. Not only will wisdom follow, but so will a vibrant church.
Father, teach us by Your word and Your Spirit what You are like. Forgive us for contriving our own version of truth instead of conforming our every thought to the counsel of Your Scriptures. Restore both the fear of God and the comfort of the Spirit to Your people in this nation, so that we might experience Your blessings and that the world may come to know You as well. In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.
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