Can Being Scared of God Stop Us From Sinning?

Can the terror of the Lord really lead to holiness?

The vast majority of preaching I have heard on the fear of the Lord is a legalistic mishmash of confused ideas that bring condemnation, frustration and failure.

If you have been around church for anytime, you will have heard the sermons designed to get a response and scare people into not sinning. Calls for holiness and an end to uncleanness come from the pulpit, unless the Lord be angry and turn away from you. Perhaps the speakers mean well but they are misguided to say the least; after all if it didn’t work for God Himself it is unlikely that we will succeed.

The terror of the Lord

A little while after bringing Israel out from Egypt God tells Moses to have the people prepare themselves for a visitation. Who is coming to see them? None other than Yahweh Himself! The Almighty Creator God was going to visit His people, and when He did it was terrifying in the extreme.

Picture the scene

There is fire, smoke, thundering, the earth is shaking, there is a trumpet blasting that just keeps getting louder, the people are understandably beside themselves with terror. God has come down; surely this will stop their disobedience and sinful ways, won’t it? All this happened in Exodus 19, but believe it or not, by Chapter 32 the people of Israel are fornicating and worshipping a golden calf. What is going on? If the terror of God Himself cannot produce a fear of the Lord that will deny sin, what can?

Forgiveness is the key

Psalm 130:4 says “But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared”. The true fear of the Lord grows from a revelation of His forgiveness and not His terror or wrath. The reason I think, is because even when we know we are wrong there is nothing we can do to free ourselves; without Christ we are sinners by nature. Birds fly, snakes bite and sinners sin regardless of what you do to them.

Grace and more grace

The reality is that God rescues from our sins as an act of His grace and not our performance. Once He has us as His own, His grace teaches us how to start denying the ungodliness (including our wrong motives) that pollutes our lives. (Titus 2:11-12)

The Gospel really is the GOOD NEWS!

Salvation through Jesus is not a list of do’s and don’ts that we must abide by if we want to inherit the Kingdom. Jesus has brought us the very life of God and we are in union with Him. What is more, even though our bodies are decaying and we are living in a broken world, we have still received the Spirit of God. His presence is evidence that we will one day be resurrected as Jesus was. Every good thing we have is an act of God’s amazing grace, and as the understanding of the forgiveness that is ours in Christ grows, it is then that we will truly start to fear the Lord. In other words, to find the power to deny the lusts and ungodliness that assail us, we need to turn our focus from them to  the forgiveness that is ours in Christ.

Go well my friends 🙂


About Mark Neale

Husband to Sandra, dad, grandpa, Christian educator, and a John Maxwell Team Member.
This entry was posted in The Grace of God and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Can Being Scared of God Stop Us From Sinning?

  1. Tyna says:

    Very wise thoughts again!Thank you,brother.I think u should write a book,I agree that only love may change a person’s heart,Jesus taught us to love!People spend so much time to criticize and condemn and so little just to show compassion or express agape-love!Alas!

    • gotbygrace says:

      Thanks Tyna! It seems that everything about our salvation goes against our normal way of thinking. It is love and not fear that sets people free, unfortyunately when we forget that we become the sin police instead of bearers of Good news.

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