I once heard someone say that pastors were some of the most insecure people in the world. Perhaps this is related to the many pressures they experience. They are exposed to lots of disappointment, bear heavy burdens for their people, experience betrayal, slander, and misrepresentation. Longtime friends may brush them aside in a moment. Plus, people are looking for them to perform. They want to be pleased and inspired and as a result, pastors can easily become man fearers, but when we fear God, the success syndrome and the impulse to please people dies. We are set free. We need pastors like this today – men, who neither fear man or pain, but God alone.
No one ever feared God completely, but, how much of the fear of God do you have? Growing in the fear of God is the objective of every true Christian. Are you growing in the fear of God, or the fear of man?
Children love stories… They always want you to tell them a story about when you were young, or any story for that matter. In this fear of God devotional, Joel Beeke recommends that parents tell the stories of those in the Bible who had a fear of God. They are wonderful resources for children… Moses, Isaiah, Joseph, Deborah, Peter, Paul, Dorcas, Tabitha… How do we help a rising generation understand what the fear of God looks like in a person’s life? Help them know the great characters of the Bible.
Why did God take my child? Why did I get cancer? The fear of God helps us get through when we have questions we cannot answer. When we know that God is almighty, we can trust in Him. This is why we should study scripture, not just to study scripture, but to study in order to KNOW HIM. Because, if I know God’s character, I don’t need to know all the answers to why things have happened.
Al Martin urges to grow our fear by growing our awareness of forgiveness:
Therefore if you would have the fear of God sustained in your heart, feed your soul on God’s forgiveness. Don’t allow yourself to go back under the terrors of the law that will drive you from Him. Allow yourself to bask in the mystery of His forgiveness and stand amazed at such a display of grace – that it not only took hold of you when you were wallowing in your filth, but also bears so patiently with you in all of your wanderings and your stumblings. Stand amazed before such a display of forgiveness, and the fear of God will flourish in your heart.
– Al Martin – The Forgotten Fear, 152-53
Paul Thompson speaks of how the fear of God frees us from ourselves. It keeps us from the bondage of continuous personal self driven innovation. God’s wisdom and authority teach us that it is good to put sin to death, to turn from our own ways, and to fear Him instead of acting as free agents inventing our own lives. Putting sin to death by the fear of God makes for a happier person. This is how the fear of God liberates.
At 5:00 today, we will enter into the world of the early church, praying that we would be instructed and changed as we rediscover the early church of Jesus Christ, looking for how we might the transformed.
Acts is one of the most exciting books of the Bible for it is full of action and ideas and conflict. The central concern of the book of Acts is expressed in the promise the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples at the very beginning of the book, “you shall receive power.” Acts teaches us plainly that our mission is not only local but global. They were witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and the outermost part of the earth. However, we need to understand that this witness was not unopposed.
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Kevin Swanson asks, “Is God the great marshmallow grandpa in the sky, or the great tyrannical ogre in the sky?” Who is God? How should we think of Him? How does fear figure into our understanding of God?
Various attributes of God are listed in Ex 34:6-7:
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
In Matt 11:28-30, Jesus explained Himself:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
God shows us mercy by being kind unto us:
Psalm 117:2 “For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”
In Psalm 141:5 David shows how discipline and rebuke are marks of kindness:
“Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.”
The apostle Paul tells the Ephesian church of His tenderheartedness and how they ought to imitate Him:
Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
One of the tragedies of the modern church is that she has nearly set aside the practices of biblical church discipline. Jason Dohm speaks of how church discipline increases the fear of God in a congregation. When one member is disciplined, all examine themselves and see how they themselves have sinned in the same way. It is here that the fear of God is a cleansing force in the whole congregation.
In order to explain the power of the gospel, the good news, Isaiah desires to take us through remarkable scenes of life. In some places in Isaiah, he takes us over land and sea to explain it. Now in this passage, he takes us to preaching and a wedding. This whole story begins with a person preaching. But who is listening? It is the poor, brokenhearted captives, and bound who are listening and the preaching has marvelous effects. This passage shows how preaching leads to a wedding. The Bible begins with a wedding, and it ends with a wedding, and in Isaiah 61 it is clear that the preaching of Christ is all about a wedding.
Everything flows from our understanding of God. Clarence Simmons, calls this our “crowning problem,” and he contends that we have to start with who God really is, if we ever hope to have a proper fear of God. For there can be no appropriate fear of God without a true knowledge of God. In order to reap the blessings from the fear of God, you must know the true God, not the god of your own invention. Yes, God is a “friend,” but that’s not all He is. Clarence recommends that we read Chapel Library’s offerings by AW Pink on the Attributes of God and the “Sovereignty of God.”
The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is the hallmark doctrine of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. It is the pivotal principle around which all matters of faith and practice must revolve. Given this fact, our great desire at the NCFIC is that the people of God would be satisfied with Scripture alone and that we would foster a love for God’s Word by giving it the prominent place in our homes and in the meeting of the church through expository preaching.
Our heart’s desire is to see a new generation of expository preachers and expository fathers. Both are desperately needed today, and both have their particular requirements and responsibilities — and their roles require some of the same skills in biblical exposition.
One thing is certain: the quality of the teaching of both pastors and fathers will have a profound reciprocal effect. If fathers are faithful expositors, the church will benefit, for the family is the nursery of the church; and if the pastors are faithful expositors, the family will benefit, for the church is the family of God and the pillar and support of the truth. In this way, both church and home are transformed by holy Scripture as it is loved and communicated by both church shepherds and family shepherds. This is how fathers teaching in their homes and pastors teaching in the churches are interdependent.
In order for there to be lasting reformation of the church, three things must happen as we make this a priority:
First, Scripture must take center stage in church life, and church leaders must become fiercely thorough in expositing God’s Word in their teaching.
Second, fathers must become Bible expositors, taking on the mantle of prophet, priest, and king as they deliver the whole counsel of God to their families as heads of their households.
Third, churches need to be planted that restore Bible’s rich doctrines restore to centerstage and set aside the modern secular encumbrances that are plaguing the church today due to ignorance of God’s Word.
Expository Preaching: The Need of the Hour
Expository preaching has been central to great moves of God throughout the centuries and is as critical to us today as ever. Steve Lawson explains the need this way:
The greatest seasons of church history — those eras of widespread reformation and great awakening — have been those epochs in which God-fearing men took the inspired Word and unashamedly preached it in the power of the Holy Spirit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. Thus, only a reformed pulpit will ultimately lead to a reformed church. In this hour, pastors must see their pulpits again marked by sequential exposition, doctrinal clarity, and a sense of gravity regarding eternal matters. This in my estimation is the need of the hour.
The Divine Genius of John Calvin’s Geneva
The church in Geneva during the sixteenth century offers us one of the most striking examples of the impact of expository preaching on a culture and civilization. Four powerful things happened in Geneva during this eventful time that shook the world and beautified the church. First, fifteen families with an unusual passion for the recovery of the Word of Christ moved to Geneva, Switzerland and started a little congregation. These church planters included the families of John Foxe (author of Foxes Book of Martyrs), Samuel Rutherford, (author of Lex Rex), John Knox, John Calvin and several other devoted Bible scholars. Second, these families held fiercely to the practice of expository preaching as John Calvin faithfully handled all of Scripture. Third, during a two year super-abounding labor of love, these men translated the entire Bible into English (The Geneva Bible) and put hundreds of thousands of copies of this faithful translation into the hands of the common man. Fourth, these men used the patterns and commands of Scripture to reform every area of life. As a result, people moved to Geneva in droves to be a part of this mighty work of God.
In the midst of this move of reformation, the reformers in Geneva resurrected the biblical doctrine of the family. They particularly focused on reforming fatherhood, charging fathers to take their role as household leader seriously — to become heralds of the whole counsel of God in their homes in the way that Deuteronomy 6 explains.
Generational Reformation: Expository Fathers Must Do Their Part
We need a biblical reformation like the one that took place in Geneva in the sixteenth century. We need men — particularly fathers — to faithfully exposit the Word of God to their family and church congregations as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 prescribes: when they sit in their house, when they walk by the way; when they lie down and when they rise up.
In order for biblical reformation to be sustained for generations, expository fathers must take the lead in discipling their families. Richard Baxter explained how that family reformation serves as the foundation for lasting general reformation with these words:
You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure a family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…” (2 Timothy 3:15). Paul wrote this of Timothy who had been faithfully taught God’s Word by his mother and grandmother. Theirs was a generational legacy of biblically-based discipleship.
Wives and mothers play a key role in family discipleship, but it is fathers who are held responsible and must take the lead. As men, may what Paul wrote of Timothy be true in our family flocks even as we heed this charge: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).
A low view of God makes a man a stranger to the true God and therefore a stranger to godly fear. But if a man seeks for God in the scriptures, he will learn the fear of the Lord. David said, “come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 34:11), and “Establish your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing you” (Ps 119:38). If you have a low view of God and little fear of God, it is because you have little exposure to the Word of God. Do you want to grow in godly fear? Run to the Holy Scriptures.
Rulers who fear God give the people what is beneficial to them, not necessarily what they want. Often, what they want will only weaken and corrupt them. In this sense, the best civil leaders are men who fear God. But most civil rulers do not fear God. They are like Jeroboam who was a man-pleasing, man-fearer. Because their popularity rests on the favors of people, civil leaders give the people what they want by elevating their ungodly passions. They do this because they fear man, but do not fear God. In this sense many maladies in our society spring from the lack of the fear of God.
An angry father is a father who has lost a sense of the fear of God. But when children see a father who has bowed the knee to His God in holy fear, they find a new kind of father. It is the fear of God that subdues a father’s unrighteous anger. In that state of the fear of God, he becomes a father who is freed to love his children.