There is the fear of the Lord and there is fear of the devil.

(1) If I was to quote the part of 1 John 4:18 that says perfect love casts out fear, I imagine I would get a hearty “Amen!” from nearly all of you. But if fear is a bad thing, then what do you do with the 300-plus scriptures that speak of fearing the Lord in a positive way?

(2) For instance, Isaiah 11:1-2 says,

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”

(3) This is speaking of Jesus fearing His Father. He certainly didn’t dread His Father, nor was He terrified of His judgment. But He honored, revered, trusted, loved, and submitted to His Father. The early New Testament church walked in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31). That is the positive fear of the Lord that I want to talk to you about.

(4) Generally speaking, there are two types of fear. There is a negative fear that Satan uses to try to destroy people, and there is a positive fear that Our Father uses to try to direct the lives of people.

(5) If it was important for Jesus and the early believers to fear God, then it would be a good idea for us to learn what the fear of the Lord really is. Although I can’t possibly cover that in one short message I want to give a few examples and illustrations.

(6) Today we see a total disregard for authority. But the fear of the Lord includes respecting authority—from police officers and government officials to pastors and ministers. If people don’t like those in authority, they are being taught to “storm the castle” and overthrow those in power by any means. But that is not what the Word of God teaches, and it is contrary to the fear of the Lord.

(7) Romans 13:1-2 says this:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive themselves damnation.”

(8) That is a powerful passage, and it makes it very clear that God ordained governments and expects us to be subject to them. Government, even bad government, is superior to anarchy (no ruler/no government).

(9) If there is no ruler or government and people were given independence to do with as they chose, there would be total chaos.

(10) Sometimes some leaders or governments could be oppressive, maybe many injustices, but there is order that will help keep society relatively safe.

(11) Does this mean that communism or a dictatorship is a good form of government? No, but they still have a God-given power to govern, even if their government is not based on the principles of the Word of God.

(12) The same is true in the church:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12).

(13) God calls men and women into roles of leadership. Yet many Christians act like it’s open season on the leaders in the church. They feel free to criticize and speak evil of them behind their backs, spreading strife and discord among the brethren.

(14) James 3:16 says,

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
This is not the fear of the Lord, and it opens the door to sickness, disease, poverty, divorce, and more.

(15) This doesn’t mean that all pastors or ministers function exactly the way God wants them to. And it doesn’t mean that you have take in even the teach wrong just because they are in leadership. All leaders make mistakes, and there is always room for improvement. But they are still in a place of authority, and honoring them is honoring God.

(16) There is a right way and a wrong way to approach someone in authority with a concern. With your pastor, for example, you might go to him privately and say something like this: “I love you, Pastor, and recognize that God has placed you in authority in this church. However, in good conscience, I cannot support what you are teaching.” If you do that in love, without attacking him, perhaps he will listen to your concerns. If not, then simply leave quietly without criticizing him to others on your way out. That’s what the disciples did with the religious authority over them (Acts 4:1-33). That is a godly attitude, and it is operating in the fear of the Lord.

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