Do We Lack The Fear of God?
Last year, I saw a video of a pastor and some of his fraternity brothers dancing to the song “Atomic Dog” by George Clinton shortly after a worship service. The video, which went viral for a few days on Facebook before being removed, showed people who did not seem to take worship seriously.
The comments on the video ranged from calling them “false lights” to accusing those who disagreed of “majoring in minor things instead of majoring in major things.” It is of utmost importance to consider whether or not God approves of the way we worship Him. The question that has been running through my mind is: Do we lack the Fear of God? I began reading “Fear of God” by John Bunyan and wanted to share his answer to the question at hand.
Bunyan’s Words To The Church in 2018
John Bunyan has a pertinent word for the Church in 2018 when he says, “…the whole of our service to God…ought to be done by us with reverence and godly fear.” Bunyan’s point here is that everything we do in corporate worship should be done with a reverent awe of God and a fear and trembling (Ps. 5:7).
This includes the songs we sing, our heart attitudes as we sing them, our choices of behavior during corporate worship, and a whole host of other aspects which would be too dense to cover in a short blog post. Whether it’s dancing to the Atomic Dog, heartlessly and mindlessly trudging through the hymns, or exuberantly praising God from the depth of our inner beings, our worship should not be absent of the fear of God.
- We are worshipping a God whose name and presence is fearful.
Just as a person would not foolishly or haphazardly enter the White House or the presence of a high ranking official, we must not be foolish and thoughtless in how we enter God’s presence for worship. Bunyan says, “God is so great and dreadful in himself and name (that) his worship must therefore be a fearful thing.” God is no mere mortal.
He is the Creator of the universe (Genesis 1), He upholds the universe (Hebrews 1), and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). In Ecclesiastes 5:1 we are called to guard our steps when we go to the house of God (which is not the building itself, but the gathering of God’s people for worship).
- God is present to watch us as we worship him.
The phrase “God is watching” is often used to scare children into obedience when their parents are not looking. This, however, is an immensely fearful reality when it comes to corporate worship. God not only sees our outward actions in worship but also our inward heart attitudes. He knows if you are more concerned about lunch, the NBA finals, or the the fact that you don’t like this particular song. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:7-9 is a great warning for us today as we gather to worship God each week:
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Bunyan reminds us that in Revelation 1:13, Jesus stood “in the midst of the lampstands” with hair white like wool, eyes flaming like fire, feet like burnished bronze, and a voice like the roar of many waters. Jesus is in our midst and He deserves our reverent fear during corporate worship!
- God is jealous of his worship and service.
Oprah Winfrey is well known for rejecting the notion of a jealous God, and if we are honest, there are probably many more people who detest this wonderful attribute of God. Here, Bunyan points us to the second commandment:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:4-6)
Any good spouse carries a sense of jealousy (intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry1) for their spouse due to the nature of love, commitment, and the desire for faithfulness. God’s jealousy for worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) is an even stronger desire to see His people remain faithful to Him in their worship. As you worship, refuse to give yourself to the rivals of God. Don’t tolerate the world, flesh, and devil as they seek to draw you away from worshipping our Holy God.
- God has executed harsh judgment on those who failed to reverently worship Him.
The Bible is replete with examples of God’s response to corrupt and irreverent worship. Fearfully consider these examples of God’s judgment when people had not worshipped him properly:
- Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering up “strange” or “unauthorized” fire to God instead of the incense called for in the law of God. (Leviticus 10:1-3)
- Eli’s (the priest) sons were slain by Philistines as a result of their corrupt dealings with the Lord’s offerings. (1 Samuel 2)
- Uzzah was killed immediately upon touching the ark of the covenant because God’s presence dwelt directly in the ark, and He didn’t allow men to touch the ark in their sinfulness. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)
- Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit about the selling price of the possessions that they offered to the Church community. (Acts 5)
- Some in the church of Corinth became ill or even died for taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
We should “rejoice with trembling” anytime we enter the presence of God and aren’t slain for our sinfulness (Ps. 2:11).
Will you consider how you are worshipping the rich and wise God whose judgements are unsearchable and whose ways are inscrutable? Will you fearfully and reverently worship the God of whom it has been said, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)?
You simply don’t have the option to ignore these vital questions, but thankfully, through Christ alone, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence because He has redeemed those have placed their full trust in Him. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you, your local church, and the global Church to truly reverent and fearful worship of God this upcoming Lord’s Day and all that follow.