Hello everyone!

I’ve been working on a long essay titled “The Joy of Fearing the Lord”. It’s my take on what it means for us to fear God and how it is a journey filled with hope and joy. It’s a vastly different viewpoint than the one I’ve grown up with.

Currently, I’m starting the last edit. Afterwards, I will post it on Kindle Self-Publishing. Below is a sample chapter from the essay.

Enjoy!

 


Chapter 1 – The “Balance” Paradigm

I have a fascination with comic books and comic book mythology. One popular character that caught my attention is Marvel’s The Hulk. He is mild-mannered scientist, Bruce Banner, who does his best to live in peace with all those around him while simultaneously trying to cure himself of the destructive nature that lives within. In his TV iteration, he is best known for the catch phrase, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” You see, when Dr. Banner is enraged or threatened, a transformation occurs. He becomes The Hulk: the living embodiment of anger whose power increases in proportion to his rage. As long as you stay on Bruce Banner’s good side, you are safe and sound. However, if you stir his anger, you will incur his wrath and punishment.

This fantastical comic character is a fitting analogy to the way many people (both Christian and non-Christian alike) represent God. Yes, there are volumes spoken about the Lord’s love and grace. There have been countless sermons based on 1 John 4:8, which tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, ESV). We have been assured from the pulpit that because God is love, every desire, intention, and action that flows from God is filled with love. God defines love, and love defines God.

Within the very same breath, however, we are given a stern sermonic warning concerning his wrath and anger. God hates sin, and doles out divine punishment in response to our perpetuation of it. He will pour forth tragedies and disasters on both a personal and national level in condemnation. The Lord may be patient for a little while, but we must never be naive in thinking that he ignores sin or allows it. He perceives every intent and motive, and to not punish even one aberrant thought is a contradiction to his justice and holiness.

The message given to many congregations is that God is peaceful Bruce Banner, but he is also The Hulk. There is always the threat of anger, wrath, and punishment. This is the paradoxical truth many churches hold up as the reason we are to fear the Lord. This is the theological paradigm of those who advocate “ Balance.” As much as God’s love and grace are extolled, we must also extol his wrath and punishment.

I am not rejecting the necessity of balance. I find no fault in the caution of balance as an expression of wisdom. I believe that Scripture affirms the call for balance when it says that we need to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). What I am in disagreement with and fully reject is the system of preaching, teaching, and discipleship that portrays our relationship with God as the balancing of grace/love with wrath/punishment. I truly believe that “Balance” (please note the capital B) is nothing more than the application of exegesis devoid from the proper understanding of the work of Christ on the cross and the promotion of a theology that haphazardly disregards the New Testament reality in light of the resurrection and the full power of the Trinity, which includes Holy Spirit’s work. What I’ve continually seen as a result of this “Balance” teaching is the fruit of shame, guilt, and rejection: either of God, of the self, or both. These are the many results from this message.

“Balance” teaches us that when we sin (and that’s WHEN we sin, not IF we sin) we should have an expectation of divine retribution. It may or may not be immediate, but God will hold our sin against us and turn his face away from us. We are banished from his presence, as Adam and Eve were. Situations and circumstances in our lives will most likely turn for the worse so that we can clearly see the effects of condemnation.

To rectify our sinful behaviors, we are taught to properly repent. We first need to let some time pass so that the Lord’s ire can subside. Then, with a contrite attitude marked by guilt and shame, we must pray for forgiveness. This must be done with complete sincerity because God can perceive our true thoughts. If we pass this level of repentance, God will open the door and allow us back into his presence. We can expect some level of peace and goodness because we are now in the right place with him. If we don’t feel things shift between us and God, though, we are encouraged to do good works of service, continue our prayers, and told to examine our hearts to see if we feel guilty enough.

This all too common experience manifested itself in a relationship with God where I believed that His presence and goodness were never guaranteed. It would even color my reading of the Bible. This paradoxical teaching became the lens in which I comprehended God’s truth. I would meditate on passages like,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Even though this biblical text is blatantly assuring me that I would never become separate from God’s love, my emotional experience, formed by the paradoxical message of “Balance”, led me to reject this as too good to be true. As deranged as it may seem, I would add the caveat of “except for when I sin” to this and every other Scripture that supported God’s good intentions for me.

Again, I am strongly convinced, through my own experience and the experiences of many others, that the fruit of “Balance” is nothing less than legalism, rejection of faith, or spiritual paranoia. “Balance” plants the seed of the lie that God is aloof, uncaring, manipulative, and cruel. It breeds an uncertainty of God’s desire for us. Above all, “Balance” creates the sense of distance between us and our heavenly Father.

If this has been your experience with the fear of the Lord, I want to encourage you to continue reading. I hope to show, through an examination of the Bible, that fearing the Lord is a life journey filled with goodness and joy. It is better than we could ever hope for. As David writes in Psalm 25, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him” (Psalm 25:4a). Our friendly Father is inviting all of us to receive a revelation of how awesome it is to fear Him.


Hope this is an encouragement, and please stay tuned for the finished essay!

Published by Young Song