Do you fear God? One of the distinct qualities of the Holy Bible is that it is the inspired Word of God, so whenever we find something in it that doesn’t sit quite right with us, rather than trying to change it to fit what we would like it to say, we must change our own beliefs and assumptions to align them with the revealed Word of God.
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;” (I Peter 1:17)
Some have taught that this verse doesn’t really mean we should fear God, but that we should honor and reverence Him. Certainly we should respect God, but that is not what Peter is divinely teaching us here. Here he is specifically instructing us to fear God. Yet this idea tends to rub us the wrong way–perhaps because we don’t really like the idea that we should be afraid of anything or anyone. Yet while we may not like it, the right kind of fear can keep us from much harm.
I wanted my little children to fear touching a hot stove or sharp knife. If we had lived on a major thoroughfare when they were little, I would definitely have wanted them to fear disobeying me and not run out into traffic, because while at young age they might not yet have understood how fast those large semis are coming and that they probably would not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting them, they could already have understood that disobeying me is wrong and that I will be unhappy–and this would have saved their lives.
In the same way God is telling us to fear disobeying His commands. You see, each of us have a different concept of authority. If our earthly father was harsh, we may grow up thinking God is harsh. If he was erratic and unpredictable, we might think God is. Conversely, if our earthly father never made us do what he told us to do, we might make the mistake of believing we don’t really have to obey what our Heavenly Father says. Only if our earthly father resembled God’s character enough would we have a proper understanding of how to properly relate to Him. But since far too many earthly fathers fail to correctly model our Heavenly Father to their children, God has graciously told us in His Word the relationship we are to have with Him.
Today’s verse tells us that the Father judges according to each one’s work without partiality–without favoritism–and that because of this, we should conduct ourselves in fear during the “time of our stay here.” You see, we really are not here in these human bodies forever–“All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away.” (I Peter 1:24)
And what happens after we die? “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) That is why we should conduct ourselves during the time of our stay here in fear.
And why should we think about the judgment? Because Jesus said:
““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name [appeared to be very active for Jesus’ kingdom]?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness [who disobey God]!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Those who do not evidence the fruit of repentance–the genuine obedience to God one who has repented has–practice lawlessness: they do their own thing, they do not fear any punishment or repercussion from God. Those who HAVE repented–who have turned from a sinful life and genuinely belong to Jesus–will “conduct themselves throughout the time of their stay here in fear”–they will recognize the vastly grave consequence–their eternity–that is at stake, and will avoid sin at all cost.
They will do, as the verses immediately preceding today’s verses exhort them to:
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV)
God does, of course, love us–the sacrifice Jesus has made for us cannot be described by any other word–and the more we know Him the more we, too, will love Him back. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (I John 4:17-18) Yet we must remember Jesus’ words “…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” (John 14:23-24 NIV)
Help me fear You–assign the utmost gravity to the conduct of my life this side of eternity. Not because I fear that You will “whack me” if I get out of line, but because I understand You love me and want me to be with you forever! Amen!