The year 2012 was one of the best years of my life. It was the year I fully embraced the fear of the Lord as the key to world evangelization. I am very thankful for all that happened that year, even for the cancer that I had to fight, and thankfully now have overcome by the grace of God and the prayers of many who prayed for me.
Later, when I told my doctor that the whole experience was a wonderful time for me, he looked at me and said, “Are you crazy”? I admitted that probably I was a little strange, according to the world’s thinking, he then admitted that probably all of us are a little crazy. It just depends on who you’re crazy for—for Jesus, or for the fame and wealth of the world.
The time of sickness brought my extremely busy and overly active life to a complete halt. So I had time to ask the basic questions of life. “Do I love Jesus more now than when I did when I first committed my life to him just before entering university? Or am I just busy working for the Lord?” “Am I 100% committed to Jesus Christ, with all of my mind, emotions, will and strength?” “Is there anything I am committed to more than God?”
I prayed to God for a holistic healing—not just for my body, but also for my mind and heart, and all my relationships. That’s when I discovered what an amazing treasure God has given us in the “fear of the Lord.”
It is fitting that the Old Testament ends on the note of the fear of the Lord, for we cannot expect to experience the glory of the New Testament—that is, the manifestation of the full love of God—without becoming a holy people. The prophet Malachi speaks of the company of those who “fear the Lord.” He describes them as those who esteem His name by walking in holiness. The Lord invites them into His “secret chamber,” to have conversations together and to enjoy intimacy with Him as His “treasured possession.” (Malachi 3:16-18)
This evening we will begin our “New Korea Servant Seminar” in Restenas and Stockholm, Sweden. We will remember, as we gather to listen to what God is saying about His plans for North Korea and the entire Korean Peninsula, that most of the world stands in fear of North Korea. Even though we know there is nothing to fear, we cannot seem to erase the fear. The only way to remove this fear, as well as all our fears, is by having a larger fear, the Fear of the Lord. “Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear Him,” says the psalmist. (Psalm 25:14) This fear is a gift from the Lord, as the hymn writer reminds us in Amazing Grace, “ . . . ‘twas grace that taught my heart to fear (fear of the Lord), and grace my fears (worldly fears) relieved . . .”
Just what is this fear, the “fear of the Lord?”
1. It begins with the Word of God. One name for God’s Word is “The Fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 19:9) God’s Word is pure, containing no guile, no hint of falsehood. God’s Word is perfect, personified in Jesus; our souls are revived. His Word is right! If there is a question, there is indeed a right answer, the Word of God; this fills us with joy. The Word of God is pure, enlightening our hearts with great understanding. The Word—the Fear of the Lord—is clean, enduring forever. Once God speaks, we can hold on to the Word and trust Him to be faithful to all He promises. God’s word is true, leading us into righteousness and justice.
2. Standing before that Word—which is pure, clean, true, right, sure. trustworthy, and perfect—we allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in our lives to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. At times the Word comes to us as fire, burning away our filth and self-centeredness; at other times God’s Word comes as a hammer, breaking us so that our innermost roots of pride and sinful lusts are revealed and brought to the forgiving and healing light of God’s grace; His Word always leads us into truth, the truth about God, about ourselves and the world. “If you abide in My Word,” says Jesus, “you shall know the truth; and the truth will set you free!” (John 8:31-32) God feeds us by His Word, nurturing the deep hunger within our souls and filling us with deep joy and satisfaction in Christ alone. God’s Word brings light that enables us to see the world as God’s creation, and He continues to create within us a new desire to walk away from sin and evil, to no longer compromise with Satan or the anti-God world. We are transformed, slowly but without question, into the image of Christ, who said of Satan, “He has nothing to do with Me; he has no claim on Me.” (John 14:30) Being transformed daily in God’s Word, we begin to hate what God hates—sin and evil—and love what God loves—the world. We become equipped to walk in the ways of God to glorify Him in the world.
3. But the fear of the Lord does not end here. It is not simply turning away from sin and evil. It is also turning to God with a deep sense of awe and wonder, filled with expectation that He is going to work through me, and through the whole Body of Christ, to complete His work of salvation for the world.
Read through the Book of Acts, and you will meet men and women who have no fear of the world or of those who seek to persecute and kill them. You will meet Peter and John, who walked in such boldness in the face of those who could have imprisoned or killed them, that the Jewish leaders were puzzled and confused; they could only recognize that these simple men had been with Jesus! (Acts 4:13) You will meet people who prayed with boldness even while they were being persecuted, that God would continue to use them to proclaim His Gospel, heal the sick, and free people from demonic control.
We live in troubled times, but the Lord is the stability of our times; He has a treasure for us, a treasure that contains abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is that treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)
This treasure is available to all who ask. Proverbs 2:4-5 gives us the invitation: “If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
Today our greatest need, the one essential thing the whole Church of Jesus Christ needs, is to have the fear of the Lord. It not only an individual search; we must search for this treasure corporately, as the Body of Christ. This is why the prophet Malachi speaks of the “company of those who fear the Lord”. We must help one another walk in the fear of the Lord. You must help me, and I must help you. This may be the greatest thing we can do for one another in these last days of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.
“Those who feared the Lord spoke with one another,” said the prophet. “The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before the Lord of those who feared the Lord and embraced His name.” (Malachi 3:16)
Then the Lord began to pour out His promises, and He continues to do so today. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord. Intimacy with the Lord! Living in this fearful world without any fears, no longer fearing Satan, the anti-God world, or evil men. All fears are removed when the Great Fear is present. Why is this so? Because the fear of the Lord is really the love of the Lord! There is no fear in love. And this is how we are able to live in the world and work joyfully in places like North Korea.
There is a distinctiveness about people who fear the Lord. It is the distinction between those who serve God and those who do not serve God. The world takes notice. My friends, the world knows, when you speak or act, whether or not you are living in the fear of the Lord.
I pray for this gift for every church throughout the world, for every mission society—YWAM, Campus Crusade, Wycliffe, for every denominational or non-denominational mission organization—that we will discover together the treasure of the fear of the Lord.
Then, together, we will see the glory of the Lord revealed in the world today—the fullness of God’s love made manifest among the nations, all to His glory.