“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved.”
We are very familiar with the above words from the song “Amazing Grace” and sing them often. They relate to us that grace has two effects. One is to teach us to fear, and the other is to relieve our fears. His grace relieves fears of the known and the unknown, fears for today and for tomorrow, fears for others as well as for ourselves. Before we received His Grace, we were also fearful of God Himself, living in fear of His judgment. This was a type of fear which drove us away from God. The grace that teaches our hearts to fear replaces this cringing fear of God with a reverential awe for our Lord. I John 4:18 relates to us that “perfect love drives out fear”. The Living Bible version states it this way, “We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly. His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us.” Grace received in Christ eliminates this fear (cringing fear) and replaces it with a fear (reverential awe) which is characterized not by a fear of what He may do to us, but a fear of what we might do to Him. What might we do to Him? We may by our actions tarnish His image as seen by others, rob Him of His Glory, and prevent His work in and through us. Our lives can cause discredit to His Name when we act inconsistently with who we are in Christ. We can also, by failure to follow Him, diminish the visibility of the light that would glorify Him. (Matt 5:16)
The grace that teaches our hearts to fear should produce in us a fear of having an imperfect relationship with Him. II Corinthians 7:1 states “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” What are the promises referred to in this verse? Here are some of them. II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. It is through His grace that by appropriating our new life in Christ, and by allowing His Spirit to change us into His image that we demonstrate the fear of God in our lives.
The grace that teaches our hearts to fear should also produce in us a fear of imperfect representation. II Corinthians 5:11 states, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (NIV) The connecting verses in this passage explain this further. II Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us,” II Corinthians 5:19 …”and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation,” and again in II Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us, we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” If we fear God, we are involved with the lives of others. This can be demonstrated in various ways; by prayer for them, serving them, and sharing the Gospel and our lives with them.
The fear of God (awe, reverence) that we enjoy in His presence should result in His presence being seen in us (relationship) and through us (representation). The relationship is foundational for representation just as character is the foundation of conduct. Being precedes doing. Relationship is the root. Representation is the fruit.
It is truly Amazing Grace that has produced His fear in us and through us. It is a fear which causes us to come continually to the Lord in dependence upon His Spirit to glorify Him through our lives. It is a fear demonstrated daily in our words and actions. It is a fear as visible in the marketplace as it is in the pew. This is the fear that reflects His character in us and through us.
May His Grace so teach our hearts to fear.
In Christ, Richard Spann