The Fear of the Lord

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As a church we have been inconsistent with mentioning social issues happening around us. Our focus is to always keep Jesus central and work toward unity. This is has led us to be inconsistent at mentioning some things but not others, which causes confusion and hurt. For that I wanted to own that and apologize. I dont know have the solution right now, but my commitment to you is to work toward clarity on that reality.
With that being said, I realize the significance of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, and the realities in how it affects you, your work location, and our country as a whole. So because of that effect, I believe the Spirit of God is leading me to offer what is hopefully shepherding in this moment…
As we have shared over the last few weeks we have begun a series called Revive Us where we as a church go before God and beg for him to do his work in us and through us. Our messages are not set in advance like normal but instead each communicator is responsible to go before the Lord and beg him to give us a word from the Scriptures for us each week. This last week on Tuesday when we met I received the word fear.
Then after my message was done Friday rolls around and Roe v Wade decision was repealed. And many of us experienced it differently, you might have celebrated, not known what to think, wondered what effects this will have, or experienced fear. Probably a mixed bag of them. I have no desire to make false equivalence saying that my emotional experience and the things I’m afraid of are on the same playing field as you. Just to say that for many of us these various emotions rose up. For me I experienced a mixed bag, afraid of not knowing how to shepherd in this moment. Afraid of what this would do for each of you who desire to be a faithful Gospel Witness in your break rooms, afraid of the further divisions within our nation and local churches across the country. That’s me, Danny Conner.
Ever since watching the social dilemma I have been off social media since I discovered how unhelpful it is to my emotional and spiritual life. So I scrolled on the hub and read comments on some the articles that were posted, and I read post after post messages of women who were expressing deep fear over this ruling, and I know this is not an isolated fear reserved for WDW internal systems but many women across this nation. I can only imagine what some of your particular fears might be…. Fears of going into the workplace where people know you are a Christian and not knowing how to respond or how to be truly helpful in all this.
I think it is important and helpful that we acknowledge that in one another. Whether we agree with one another on the issue of abortion or any other, whether we believe the fear is valid or not, but that we can empathize with where each of us are at emotionally. Because when we do that we don’t limit another human being crafted in the image of God to an “other” but we say simply I see you. My hope is that whatever emotions you are experiencing that this would be a safe community for you to unpack them and be pointed ever nearer to Jesus, to grow in his mindset, shaped by his worldview, and transformed more and more into his image.
When we do this, when we demonstrate love for one another we are walking on holy ground. Because God cares greatly about the person you consider to be your enemy. Because he cares about every single one who bears his image. As believers we are called to hold the Scriptures as authoritative in our lives, over our wisdom or the wisdom of the world around us. In the Scriptures we discover that what is laid out is the reality that inside the womb of a mother, God is active in his role of creator, knitting a child together. That ever unborn child’s life has inherent value, dignity and worth. Just as ever human of every ethnicity, every generation, every social class, every disability, every worldview, belief system, self identification, and political stance. That if you are the type of animal species known as homosapien and you are still breathing your life has value. Not based on performance or what you can do to the economy but because God created you.
The church is not always consistent in its care for each subdivision of the human family. This is not because the organizational structure needs a remodel but because the church is filled with sinful imperfect humans like me and maybe you too, who are inconsistent, fearful, and hurting. Yet the church is meant to be a beacon of hope to the world. This is why for 2000 years at its best the church has advocated for the dignity of every human life. Including the unborn, mothers, the marginalized and the oppressed. Mosaic is also an imperfect church but standing on this history this is why we partner to care for the unborn and pregnant women through our two partnerships with Christian crisis pregnancy centers (Choices Women’s Clinic and Life's Choices Women's Clinic of Lake County) where the focus is not on convincing women who are pregnant of anything other than to support, care, inform, offering parenting courses, mentoring, healthcare assistance and more. But remember we are called to honor the dignity of every human life which is why we partner in spaces of human trafficking, poverty alleviation, and fostering and adopting. Also this is why we have resources for abortion recovery, counseling and more. Personally know that I’m also available whether you completely disagree with what I’ve said or you are struggling, I’d love to grab coffee and do some listening.
I do believe there is a space where each of us who believe that the unborn are image bearers can see the importance and potential of this decision and it’s potential to see more image bearers enter into this world, but we cannot forget the weight and responsibility that comes with it as well to care, and demonstrate love.
My goal is not to convince you of anything other than the vital needs that have always existed but now more than ever need the church to rise up and step into.
So would you take a minute to pray and ask God what is my role in this moment? Is God calling you to foster? Adopt? Babysit? And how can we continue to be Gospel witnesses at WDW? Let’s pray

1 | How have I experienced the tension?

Tonight we are talking about fear.
As we began this series I have mentioned how I have been afraid of what God would do through this series. The heart of desperation. The willingness to say “Lord have your way”
That is scary!
Then last week, I just got out of meeting up with a friend and got the kind of text message that any parent dreads getting.
I will cut out the drama slightly by just saying everyone is now okay.
But Ali texts me saying “get home now!” “Abi fell”
I tried calling and texting but no response to find out more details.
Abi falls all the time, so its not like Abi just fumbled over her feet for the first time and Ali wanted me to come home to celebrate the occasion.
So I get in my car and drive as fast as safely possible to get home.
Abi is crying attached to a stretcher. And the ambulance immediately comes to me and says “Dad here is exactly what happened” “she is doing well.” “Taking her in to run tests out of an abundance of caution.
Everything ended up being okay.
But in that 11 minute drive home, I was preparing myself for anything. Talking with God. I felt utterly helpless and dependent.
What I felt was terror. Genuine fear.
A few days later I am sitting in our weekly staff prayer space and I am once again afraid because I don’t want to miss what the Spirit might be trying to tell me for this message.
That was when I felt his direction in one word. Fear.

2 | How have you experienced this tension?

We all experience fear differently. Maybe you experience fear and you punch it right in the face, you are the kind of person who jumps out of airplanes because it is scary.
Or maybe you experience fear and it can leave you incapacitated.
Zero judgment on however you experience fear. Or even whatever you are afraid of.
I recently read something that was super helpful to know about fear… we fear because we love.
Out of our love for people, we fear their deaths, rejection, safety, and more.
Out of our love for doing what we want when we want we fear commitment
Out of our love for security we fear financial hardship.
Out of our love for our lives and purpose we fear change or losing our job
The point is there are infinite amount of things we fear because in this world that is not secure, where the sands are ever shifting we have an infinite numbers of things that we also love.
So when the things we love can be lost or jeopardized. Our response is fear.
Much that we fear is legit. If you are being chased down by a bear, you should be afraid.
Much that we fear is unlikely to ever come to pass.
But as I was praying over this message I felt the Spirit of God leading me to fear.
Because culture is shifting on both the left and the right. And whichever side you might land on politically I would hope you could see with clarity that neither side is perfectly aligned with Jesus and His desires for this world.
And for those of us who follow Jesus, when you sense cultural movements are not in line with the Scriptures, there can be tension, difficulty…. Fear.
How do I love well in this space? How do I listen, care for, and respect people who have radically different thoughts and beliefs than me?

3 | What do the Scriptures say about this tension?

I don’t know about you but what I want is wisdom. How do I handle the ever changing circumstances of my life? How do I process the things I fear wisely? How do I discern what is real and what is just the deceptions of the enemy?
But often times I want wisdom on my own terms. So I research, figure things out, and work as hard as I can to figure it all out.
Isn’t this the story of humanity? What did Adam and Eve desire in the Garden… the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
They wanted it on their own terms.
Do you ever do that?
But notice their response to their research trip to the tree….
Read Genesis 3:8-10
Genesis 3:8–10 ESV
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Their response was fear.
This is the first moment of fear in the history of humanity. Before that we get no sense in the story of man fearing anything. But now he is afraid, and notice the first thing he is afraid of is God.
Wisdom on their own terms led them to separation from God and being afraid of Him.
Here is why this is a bit odd…
Read Proverbs 1:7
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
According to this verse, shouldn’t Adam and Eve been so wise in this moment! They are afraid of God. Check.
Then why when you read this does it feel like you are reading the story of the emperor who realized he had no clothes on?
It turns out in the Bible we find much on the subject of fear. You might have seen an insta post about how the Bible says 365 “do not be afraid” which is awesome!
But 490 times it says to “fear the Lord”
Is the Bible contradicting itself?
There is a story in the book of Exodus that I want us to hang out in tonight…
What has just happened in the story is Moses is instituting the vows between God and His people the Israelites.
This is the wedding ceremony.
The scene is epic. A cloud descends on Mount Sinai. Thunder is clapping. It is going crazy. Moses goes up to God and comes back with the vows, the terms of the covenant, which are known by us as the 10 Commandments.
Remember God’s entire plan with humanity is about Him restoring the relationship between Him and us.
But let’s read a bit more at the wedding ceremony between God and His people.
Read Exodus 20:18-21
Exodus 20:18–21 ESV
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
I recently performed a wedding ceremony for two of my friends and it was in this beautiful lush garden, it was so good! The situation of this wedding ceremony is a bit more intense to be sure.
But notice the posture of God’s covenant people with Him. They were afraid and they stood far off.
What does that hyperlink your imagination to?
Genesis 3… When Adam and Eve hid from God. They were afraid of Him and wanted to keep their distance.
Have you ever had that posture with God?
I think about every single time I have been living in disobedience, desiring my ways and my desires over God’s… I hide.
How do you know you are hiding from God?
You know you are hiding in the dark, when you are afraid of the light.
If you are afraid of being found out, discovered, truly seen.
You aren’t the first, that was our ancient ancestors in the Garden.
But it does reveal the wrong fear.
Tonight we are going to focus on two types of fear, wrong fear and right fear (lacking creativity)
The wrong fear is one that leads us to relational separation from God and others. It is the kind that is focused on our circumstances. It is the kind that holds onto control. It is the kind that prioritizes our human wisdom over God’s.
It is the kind that says
Read Exodus 20:19
Exodus 20:19 ESV
and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
They were failing the test just like Adam and Eve.
They were staying far off. They were choosing what made sense to them in their wisdom over God’s desire to draw near.
Imagine Mark leaning in for the kiss and Hope ducking her head
That is the kind of picture that this is meant to give us….
Avoidance of genuine intimacy.
Then we get to verse 20…
Read Exodus 20:20
Exodus 20:20 ESV
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”
This is one of 365 times we read in the Bible to not fear… and also one of the 490 times we are told about the fear of God.
We have already defined wrong fear… fear that leads to seperation, destruction of intimacy, and distrust of God…
What about this other type of fear?
Right fear or wise fear is fear that leads to intimacy.
Often times, I have heard when you hear the phrase the fear of the Lord just think respect, awe, or reverence…. For sure, we should think of all of these when it comes to God. But none of those capture the heartfelt emotion involved in the concept.
Unfortunately the other way it is described is from the perspective of someone who wants god to be really angry at all the same people they are and that he is ready to dish out punishment. In effect, the focus is not on the fear of the Lord at all… its the fear of punishment they desire.
Not that God doesn’t care deeply and is great enough to exact justice according to his desires and his definition. But this also misses the heartfelt emotion involved in the concept.
I recently read a book called Rejoice and Tremble: The Suprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord by Michael Reeves, that was really helpful and so I am going to be riffing off of some of this thoughts from here…
The first thing is to note that the Hebrew root used for this phrase fear of the lord, actually does relate to our understanding of fear, the mental visual we are supposed to get is one where our knees are knocking and trembling. There is a level, where yes God is the Creator of every atom in your body and the universe. He is powerful, holy, and sufficient on His own. God doesn’t need you or any of us to continue on. As Brady pointed out last week, we need God to sustain our next breath.
The visual you are meant to receive is basically fear from inside out knees knocking and all…
If that all is true, then there is a level where we should have an authentic fear.
But it’s not the fear that should cause us to pull away from Him but instead draw us near to Him.
CS Lewis was great at articulating the character of God in various ways. In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe he helps us get a picture of this healthy fear of God… As Susan talked to Mr. Beaver about Asian who is meant to draw our imaginations to God.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
You see the Fear of the Lord is actually supposed to captivate us by Him.
It captivates our faith and our emotions…
William Gouge explained true godly fear “arises from faith in the mercy and goodness of God: for when the heart of man hath once felt a sweet taste of God’s goodness, and found that in his favor only all happiness consists the, it is stricken with such an inward awe and reverence.”
The fear of God is meant to help us truly believe at the core of our beings in both the greatness and goodness of God.
Also, just to speak to any of thoughts that the fear of the Lord is focused on wrath or is simply meant to be experienced because we are sinful humans…
In the Old Testament  the Fear of the Lord is often attached not to passages of God’s wrath but most often attached to His care, provision, and deep affection for His people.
Read Psalm 25:14
Psalm 25:14 ESV
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
The last thing to mention is that the FEAR of the Lord is NOT a reality because we are sinful, but humanity has historically lacked it that we are sinful.
Adam and Eve lacked the fear of the Lord when they approached the wrong tree.
Counter that with how Moses explains the result of the nation of Israel living in the Fear of the Lord…
Read Exodus 20:20
Exodus 20:20 ESV
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”
He wants them to live with the fear of the Lord so as they are drawn near to Him in intimacy, joy, and fear they would be transformed away from their wrong fears and not sin.
The most beautiful reality I have discovered about the Fear of the Lord is that JESUS has it!!!
Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah something very interesting…
Read Isaiah 11:1-3
Isaiah 11:1–3 ESV
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
It is describing Jesus, and yet He has the FEAR of the Lord.
This is so radically different than some fear of God’s punishment.
That is my hope for each of us… because the truth is that the Fear of the Lord is not meant to draw us away from God. It is meant to have us fall on our knees toward Him.
You might not naturally put fear and joy in the same camp, but the Bible does. Often.
Isn’t this the image we get of the resurrection when the two women left the empty tomb and it says in Matthew 28:8, they left the tomb “with fear and great joy.”
Charles Spurgeon described the connection between fear of the Lord and joy this way… adore and worship the living God “with a joyful, tender fear, which both lays us low, lifts us very high, for never do we seem to be nearer to heaven’s golden throne than when our spirit gives itself up to worship him whom it does not see, but in whose realized presence it trembles with sacred delight.”
Read Exodus 20:21
Exodus 20:21 ESV
The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
The people ultimately failed the test, and they continued to fail the test. To pull away from God. To worship other gods. To go after what made sense to them. To go with what the culture said. To define good and bad on their terms. They were often afraid of God, but rarely lived with the Fear of God.

4 | How can the Gospel bring resolution to this tension in your life?

I wish I could stand and make fun of them for it, but all too often that is me.
I default to fear what I can’t control, rejection, disappointing ali, living a life without meaning.
I default to fearing some things that make sense, but in reality I fear things that draw me to figure it out on my own, not greater dependence on the Spirit.
I default to fear that leads to anxiety. I put my faith in the wrong fear all to often.
What about you?
What do you fear?
Is it control? Is it health related? Is it relational? What do you fear?
I imagine it probably makes a lot of sense.
Because you love things.
And we live in a vastly imperfect world, where the things we fear just might come to pass.
If that is you tonight I want to encourage you with something Renaut shared with me this week when I was prepping this message….
“The Chapter you are in is dangerous, but the book you are in is safe”
It is likely what you are afraid of is valid. So the last thing I want to do is downplay those realities…
This is not about fear suppression.
White Bear vs Red Volkswagen
In Exodus, Moses doesn’t just tell the people to suppress their fear, don’t think about the white bear. He gives them a red Volkswagen…
What if we allowed our affections to be stirred by the Spirit of God to love Him more than any of the circumstances in our world? That we would abide deeply with Him, and that our hearts and minds would be renewed day by day by His way.
To be so captivated by Him with a fear that draws us close.
To be so captivated by Him that we are filled with genuine joy regardless of our circumstances.
If you are like me this is probably not content you have heard before. There is a lot of unhelpful teaching on this subject.
But my hope is that we would not hear this and run away in terror, but you would see that the one who created the stars is the one who controls your every breath and is the same one who wants to wrap you in His loving arms.

5 | What would the world see if the church embraced this resolution?

Imagine if this became our reality as the church? That we were not swayed by our circumstances, sinful patterns, or wrong fears not because we were told to just stop it, but because we are rooted in who God is and what He has done.
That we would approach Jesus with trembling and overflowing joy!
If you are not a believer, I would imagine you have 101 questions on this subject. Stuff that you would disagree with or whatever else. Know that I and this entire community desires to be a safe place to wrestle, ask questions, express doubts and fears.
3 minutes of personal confession
Historically the church has engaged in a space of corporate confession together. Not just to read a statement, but to collectively go before God united as brothers and sisters to lay down all the brokenness at his feet and remember we do not walk this journey alone.
Read out loud a prayer of corporate confession:
We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name.
We are more ready to resent than to forgive,
more ready to manipulate than to serve,
more ready to fear than to love,
more ready to keep our distance than to welcome,
more ready to compete than to help.
At the root of this behavior is mistrust.
We do not love one another as we should,
because we do not believe that you love us as you do.
Forgive us our cold unbelief.
And make more vivid to us the meaning and depth of your love at the cross.
Show us what it cost you to give up your Son
that we might become your sons and daughters.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our righteousness.
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