The beginning of a new year often brings reflection and resolutions, and rightly so. Worthy, Christ-centered goals can be helpful as we reflect on last year and resolve to do things differently this year. As you make your list, I want to challenge you to include the fear of the Lord.
To fear the Lord means to know the Holy God, and to respond to Him in love, trust, obedience, and joy. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov. 9:10). To live wisely in the midst of the whirlwinds thrown at us, or the mundane moments of life, we need to understand that we live in the presence of the holy God. This becomes most apparent as we read and study Scripture. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start. It is filled with counsel we need to live our daily lives, but it’s not a book of moral maxims we have to achieve on our own. In Christ we have everything we need to live a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
To fear the Lord means we are so enamored with the holiness and love of God that we flee sin.Whether others persuade us to sin, or offer us material pleasures to tempt us to sin, or whether our lust for acceptance drives us to sin, temptation will come this year. We must run toward Christ, the One who “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Those who fear the Lord are in union with Christ, and His people, the Church. When we identify with the people of God through baptism, sit underneath the preaching of the Word, partake of the Lord’s Supper and fellowship together on a regular basis, we will be encouraged to fear the Lord. Community is God’s idea, and it’s in community that we are best able to know the love of God and respond to Him in love, trust, obedience, and joy.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom calls to us, not in a whisper but in a whirlwind, not in calmness, but in commotion (Proverbs 1:20-33). She’s like a mother banging pots and pans in the kitchen, trying to get her children’s attention. She wants simple scoffers to turn from sin to her stretched out hand that will lead them to eternal life. I want to be more like Lady Wisdom, making a clamorous noise for Christ. Instead, I’m often too scared to speak boldly to those who scoff at the mention of Christ. And yet, in the midst of many scoffers, Christ shed His blood to accomplish the salvation of God’s people. We need to pray that the Lord will give us opportunities and boldness this year to share the hope of Christ with those who don’t know Him.
Wisdom does not just call to us; we are also to call out for her (Proverbs 2:1-15). When we cry out for wisdom, the Lord gives it to us. As we abide in Christ, we will find over time that wisdom and knowledge replace foolishness and ignorance. Impulsiveness will give way to discretion, confusion to understanding, perverted speech to gracious words, ways of darkness to paths of uprightness, perverseness of evil to perseverance of the saints. Not perfectly of course, not on this side of glory, but we will grow in sanctification until Christ comes again and perfects us.
If you’re reading this today and you fear man more than God, flee to sin instead of away from it, and forsake wisdom instead of follow her, I want to encourage you. It is not too late to turn to Christ in repentance and faith. The One who walked in paths of righteousness for God’s people and bore God’s wrath in His people’s place, is the only One who can save sinners from paths of unrighteousness. It doesn’t matter how far down the road of sin you’ve been, if you turn to Christ in repentant faith, His arms are open wide for you, and so are the arms of His people. Together we will learn to fear the Lord. And together we need to teach the next generation to do the same. The world, the devil and our own flesh never stop enticing us to fear man, love sin, and follow worldly wisdom. We must learn to savor our Savior more than we savor the sin by which we’re so easily ensnared, and we need God’s grace to do this. Thankfully we have it. Christ offers us His Spirit to uphold us and make us strong.
So, as you finish writing your New Year’s resolutions, add one more--fear the Lord. Together, by God’s grace, we will walk wisely in 2019.