The Only Right Fear

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalm 33:8

One of Jesus’ most cryptic teachings is found in His words to the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52). Jesus didn’t say specifically what the “key of knowledge” was. But wouldn’t it be good to know?

The clue to the key may be found in Isaiah 33:6—a verse Jesus may have had in mind: “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.” Interestingly, one modern translation says, “The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure [of wisdom and knowledge]” (NIV). Could the fear of the Lord be the key to gaining wisdom and knowledge about God and living rightly with Him? Scripture seems to think so, as described in Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 2:5, 9:10,14:26-27, 19:23. In fact, we are to be “zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day” (Proverbs 23:17).

Honor, reverence, awe, submission, obedience—all these characterize the fear of the Lord. Fearing the Lord is the only right fear.

The fear of the Lord is not just the end of wisdom but its beginning.  Edmund P. Clowney

Psalm 33 • What is Worship?

Know His Voice

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. John 10:14

One year for vacation Bible school, Ken’s church decided to bring in live animals to illustrate the Scripture. When he arrived to help, Ken was asked to bring a sheep inside. He had to practically drag the wooly animal by a rope into the church gymnasium. But as the week went on, it became less reluctant to follow him. By the end of the week, Ken didn’t have to hold the rope anymore; he just called the sheep and it followed, knowing it could trust him.

In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, stating that His people, the sheep, will follow Him because they know His voice (John 10:4). But those same sheep will run from a stranger or thief (v. 5). Like sheep, we (God’s children) get to know the voice of our Shepherd through our relationship with Him. And as we do, we see His character and learn to trust Him.

As we grow to know and love God, we’ll be discerning of His voice and better able to run from the “the thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (v. 10)—from those who try to deceive and draw us away from Him. Unlike those false teachers, we can trust the voice of our Shepherd to lead us to safety.

By:  Julie Schwab

Reflect & Pray

What’s one thing you’ve learned about God’s character through reading Scripture? How did that impact you? What will help you to discern God’s voice?

Heavenly Father, thank You for being my loving Shepherd. Help me to recognize and follow Your voice only.

The Truth That Sets You Free

1 John 4:13-19

Did you know painful situations never mean that God doesn’t love you? To believe otherwise is to heed the voice of the Deceiver. Think about it: Did Jesus’ suffering indicate that the Father didn’t love the Son? Of course not.

There are hardships in life we can’t always explain, but they can never cancel out or diminish God’s love. Realizing divine love is unconditional brings us …

Joy. How wonderful to know that, whether you’re awake or asleep—no matter what you do or don’t do—the Lord’s love for you never changes.

Freedom. You don’t have to measure up to some standard in order to be accepted. Since God’s love isn’t based on your performance, you’re freed from trying to earn it—which isn’t possible anyway.

Security and assurance. You can always depend on the Father’s unfailing care, even when you have failed. He will never leave you, and His Spirit within each believer is evidence of His constant presence.

If you’ve ever watched the ocean, you know that its waves keep rolling onto the shore. Sometimes they crash with unbelievable force, and other times they’re gentle. Either way, they can’t be stopped! Likewise, there’s nothing you can do to stop almighty God from loving you.

Not Ashamed

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

Paul had steadfast faith. He was also a very faithful encourager for the saints to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Hebrews 10:23). In the text verse for today, he encourages Timothy to publicly express his faith in several tangible, but risky, ways.

Timothy is exhorted to not be ashamed of the Lord. The Bible’s message is both very different from and also very convicting of the world’s thinking. Thus, many outside of Christ react to His messenger with ridicule and personal intimidation. It is hard to stand against this tide, and the believer’s embarrassment may manifest itself in silence. It could have been dangerous in Timothy’s day to claim “I am a Christian,” as is still the case in some places around the world.

But Paul’s exhortation also includes not being ashamed of “the testimony of our Lord,” which is His Word. Every day in schools, on TV, or in other media, the Bible and those who believe it are ridiculed. These attacks can be so scornful and relentless that even many evangelicals find it difficult to not be ashamed.

Next, Paul adds himself to Timothy’s list when he says “nor of me his prisoner.” Fellow believers faithfully and accurately proclaiming God’s Word—especially those in a firestorm of resistance—need other believers to support them, not back away in embarrassment. Paul is actually urging Timothy to move beyond not being ashamed and to actively “get in the fight” with him as he says, “Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel.” Paul knew that Timothy would feel a deep and lasting shame if he withdrew out of fear to the “safety of silence,” watching others boldly proclaim the gospel in a world that can be very hostile to the message. RJG

Read or Get Out of the Ministry

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. —Proverbs 1:5

When a very young minister, I asked the famous holiness preacher, Joseph H. Smith, whether he would recommend that I read widely in the secular field. He replied, “Young man, a bee can find nectar in the weed as well as in the flower.” I took his advice (or, to be frank, I sought confirmation of my own instincts rather than advice) and I am not sorry that I did. John Wesley told the young ministers of the Wesleyan Societies to read or get out of the ministry, and he himself read science and history with a book propped against his saddle pommel as he rode from one engagement to another. Andy Dolbow, the American Indian preacher of considerable note, was a man of little education, but I once heard him exhort his hearers to improve their minds for the honor of God. “When you are chopping wood,” he explained, “and you have a dull ax you must work all the harder to cut the log. A sharp ax makes easy work. So sharpen your ax all you can.”    SIZ033

In the busyness of life, Lord, help me to always guard time to sharpen my ax. Amen.

Faith Leads to Obedience

If ye love me, keep my commandments. —John 14:15

Another thing which clearly hinders believers from enjoying the power of the Holy Spirit…is the habit of instructing seekers to “take it by faith” when they become concerned with their need of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Now, it is a fact written all over the New Testament that the benefits of atonement are to be received by faith. This is basic in redemptive theology, and any departure from it is fatal to true Christian experience. Paul teaches emphatically that the Spirit is received through faith, and rebukes anyone who would teach otherwise. So it would seem, on the surface of it, to be sound procedure to instruct a seeker to “take it by faith.”…

The trouble seems to be with our conception of faith. Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ….Many persons, convinced of their need of power, but unwilling to go through the painful struggle of death to the old life, turn with relief to this “take it by faith” doctrine as a way out of their difficulty. PTP055-057

[T]o live in the Spirit is to live with Godhearing Him, and knowing Him, and loving Him, and delighting to do His will. JAS134

The Ultimate Bottom Line

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

The “bottom” line in the world of commerce is the last line of a financial statement showing net profit or loss. It is the deciding or crucial factor, the ultimate result. Could it be that Easter is the ultimate bottom line of man’s search to find meaning in life?

There are those who simply consider Easter to be a continuation of what mankind has witnessed through time—a celebration of the coming of spring. To them, Easter heralds the return and renewal of life in nature.

The Salvationist, called to balance an evangelical ministry with social concerns, lives in a pragmatic world. He lives among the people, feels their hurts. Philosophic thought has to take second place to getting the job done.

He tries to fulfill Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, be aware of the needs of mankind, doing it in the name of the Christ who rose again on that first Easter morning. The substance of what we do hinges on the actuality of that great moment when Jesus came forth from the dead.

We need to know, these twenty centuries later, whether the promises of that first Easter morning are still in effect. We need to know if that great resurrection day can still supply the dynamic for men to live above themselves in our troubled world. Does the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, working through us, still meet the needs, aspirations, hopes and plans of modern man?

Two millennia later the witness remains the same. Salvationists can say that the Risen Christ motivates our ministry around the world.

Now, these near seventy generations later, the personal as well as the institutional relationship of the resurrection is a glorious reality. It is a joy to witness to the indwelling presence of Christ in the human heart.

The bottom line of the Christian life is that Christ lives in us. The hope of glory is Christ living in and through us. It does not mean that we are free from weakness, nor that we are doing all that we should. But it does mean that we have His presence, His Spirit and His guidance. We exclaim and exult with Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord is risen today, Hallelujah!”

The might, majesty and magnificence of His resurrection leads us to kneel before our risen Lord and thank Him for His resurrection power in our lives. His triumphant resurrection is the bottom line. It is the deciding factor. It is the ultimate result.

Andrew S. Miller, The War Cry