Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Teach Me the Fear of the Lord

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy teach this message.

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth explains the right kind of fear.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The fear of the Lord is that conscious, constant sense of the presence of God, that God is in this place, that God is here, that God sees, that He knows, that He is with us in this moment.

Leslie Basham: On Thursday, October 31, 2019, this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Over last couple weeks Nancy’s in a series called “My Personal Petitions.” It’s an exploration of prayers she prays for herself. If you’ve missed any programs, be sure to go back and listen to them at ReviveOurHearts.com. Now, as we get back to the series, Nancy’s going to review what we've heard so far and help us to explore the next petition.

Nancy: Thank you, Dannah. Let me just remind you what we're praying during these days and how these have built on each other.

1) Lord, guard my heart. (I've prayed that so many times over the years because I need it so badly.)

2) Fill me with Your love.

3) Fill me with Your Spirit.

4) May I be clothed in humility.

5) Make me a servant.

6) Give me a grateful spirit.

7) Guard my tongue.

8) Give me wisdom and discernment. (Our last program.)

Today we're going to see in this ninth petition that the fear of the Lord is inseparably connected to wisdom. We've asked the Lord for wisdom in the last program, but we're going to see that we'll never have wisdom if we don't have the fear of the Lord.

Again, someday I hope to do a whole series on the fear of the Lord, but I'm just trying to wrap my puny little mind around this great, big, massive subject. So I'll give you just a little bit of that teaching today. Proverbs 9:10,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

This is the starting place for wisdom. This is the fountainhead for wisdom. You can get worldly knowledge and worldly wisdom apart from knowing and reverencing and knowing God. But you'll never have true wisdom without a reverential, covenantal relationship with God.

All other types of knowledge are ultimately useless if they aren't grounded in a knowledge of God and in a right relationship with Him. To fear God is to know Him, and to know Him is to fear Him. There's nothing more important than what we think about God and how we relate to Him.

So much so that at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes—that wonderful mysterious book about the craziness of life under the sun—the conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13 is:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. [So what is left to say? Here's what.] Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

We see in Deuteronomy 10:12 that the fear of the Lord is tied to obedience and to love and to service. Listen to this passage:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 

So we see already that the fear of the Lord has to do with a relationship. It has to do with drawing near to the Lord, not running away from Him. It has to do with a whole-hearted devotion to God—embracing Him, loving Him, serving Him, walking in His ways, fearing Him.

What does it mean to fear the Lord, and what might that look like in our lives? I just want to talk around that subject from some of my own personal meditation from over these last days. First of all, when we say the word "fear," our mind might first go to a response or an emotion that we might feel in a frightening or dangerous situation, right?

So, it's the middle of the night, you're sleeping, and there's this loud noise downstairs. And there's this fear that comes into your heart. We don't generally mean "the fear of the Lord" in that sense. Except, I will say this, that if you don't know Jesus, you should fear the Lord in that sense.

There should be a terror of falling into the hands of a holy God as an unholy, fallen, sinful person. If you don't know Christ, if you're not in Christ, then you should be terrified of meeting God. So I don't think we talk a lot about that sense of the fear of the Lord. But once you're in Christ, the fear of the Lord looks a bit different than that.

When we talk about fearing someone, sometimes we're talking about the whole area of respect—as you might respect or fear an important dignitary or a boss, someone that you respect. There's fear in that sense, but ultimately when we talk about the fear of the Lord, I think we're talking about that deep sense of reverence and awe that comes from realizing that we are in the presence of true greatness.

The fear of the Lord is that conscious, constant sense of the presence of God—that God is in this place, that God is here, that God sees, that He knows, that He is with us in this moment. This is the spirit of, say, Proverbs 15:3, that tells us, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."

So whatever I'm doing, whether in secret or it may be just me on my computer, but God is there. I may not be on the platform on in the public eye. No one else may be seeing or knowing what I'm doing, what I'm thinking, but the eyes of the Lord are there.

I remember the son of some dear friends of mine. On one occasion (long story, short) I ended up being the one to take this young man to college. I remember helping him take his stuff into his dorm room for his freshman year of college and seeing posters on the walls, sensing the spirit of the age in that room.

I remember going away and just praying, "Lord, would you give this young man an appropriate sense of the fear of the Lord—that You are there. I don't know who his roommates are. I don't know what they'll be like, what kind of influence they'll be—how they'll talk, what kinds of things they'll look at, what kinds of things they will glamorize." This young man has been raised in a godly home, and may he be in school there in the fear of the Lord, in a good sense—that reverence, that awe—that he would know God is here.

You see that in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether (vv. 1–4).

How does He know what I'm going to say before I say it? Because my words come from my heart, and He knows my heart.

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you (vv. 11–12).

Luke 8:17 says it this way, "For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light."

Women sometimes ask (and I'm treading a little bit on thin ice here, because I don't have time to unpack this), "There's something secret, hidden in my past—or in my present. Should I share that with my husband." Well, there are wise and careful ways that some of those things need to be shared.

Let me say this: When you look at Luke 8:17, you realize that in the final analysis, it's all coming to light. So the question is, "When do you want it to be exposed? Do you want to be the one, with the grace of God, to bring it to light? Or do you want God to be forced to pull off the shade and expose it?"

I'm not saying by that that every secret thing in your life, you should immediately go dump on your husband. If you're not sure, find a wise mature believer and ask them to help you walk through that. But, to realize that every hidden thing—everything we think is hidden—will be made manifest. Everything that we think is a secret will in time be made known and will come to light.

To live in that recognition, that it's His light that will expose all that darkness—that's the fear of the Lord. It's thinking of what Jesus said to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3: "I know your works." He sees. He knows. He sees it all. He knows it all. To live in that constant conscious realization is to live and walk in the fear of the Lord.

Having this sense of the presence of God, that you live and breathe and walk and move in His presence, affects everything in your life. Everything! It affects how we worship. How often do we go through the motions of "worship" at church, with our hearts not having any sense of the fear of the Lord, the presence of the Lord. We're playing church.

I've done it a thousand or more times, and so have you probably. When we walk in the fear of the Lord, we'll have true worship—in spirit and in truth.

When you have the fear of the Lord it affects who you are and what you do and how you do it in the workplace. It affects how you keep house, how you cook meals, how you view menial, mundane, repetitive everyday tasks that are often part of our lives and our families.

It affects how you serve others. If you're doing it in the fear of the Lord, then those things become worship. They become acts of devotion to the Lord that we live out in our homes. Then you're not just, in this this thankless unglamorous job, eking out your way, just surviving—just basically keeping your head above water. To do these tasks of life in the presence of the Lord makes your home, your kitchen, your bathroom, your bedroom, your office—it makes every place—a sanctuary, a holy place, because God is there.

It affects your recreation—to do it in the fear of the Lord. You ask, "If you live in the fear of the Lord, does that mean you never have fun, you never go on vacation, you never go visit a park?" No, you do all those things in His presence: coram Deo as they say in the Latin, "in the face of God; in the presence of God."

Young people, it affects how you date and what you do while you're dating and who you date. You're doing it in the presence of the Lord. It affects your marriage, it affects your relationship with your mate, it affects your physical intimacy, your conversation with each other, if you're living in the fear of the Lord.

Walking in the fear of the Lord affects how you parent. My sweet husband, Robert Wolgemuth, has written a terrific book for dads. (It's not just for dads—it could be good for moms, too.) It's titled She Calls Me Daddy. It's a book on parenting daughters. As we were discussing that book, Robert said to me, "You know, in a book like that, everybody wants the early chapters to be on how to manage our children's conduct. In this book I put conduct as the last chapter."

Do you know why? Because he tells parents that the key to parenting daughters (and he's got two young adult daughters who love the Lord, are walking with Christ, a joy to see) is raising your children to realize they live in the presence of God.

He says, if they get that, then that will determine their conduct. That will impact their conduct. They'll make right choices, by God's grace, when they realize that they are living in the presence of the Lord. You live in the presence of the Lord and the other things are a by-product. It all takes care of itself, in a sense.

So the fear of the Lord: what difference does that make in my life? What difference will it make in your life, to have that constant, conscious awareness that you live in the presence of God? Let me mention several things, and you could add to this list. 

As I've been meditating on this over the past couple of days, here are some things that have come to my mind: First, the fear of the Lord will keep us from sin. When we sin, it's because we're not living in His presence, in His fear. The fear of the Lord will give me a dread of offending God and a longing to please Him.

I used to have a friend—a man who was on staff on this ministry. Jack and Joyce were an older couple; he is now with the Lord. And I remember when Jack and Joyce would be at my house sometimes. They'd be over for dinner or whatever. They'd leave, and I can just see him leaving my house, going down the driveway to his car. Then he'd turn around and look at me and say, "Don't sin, Nancy. Don't sin." I love it. This was years ago. Well, what will help me "don't sin," not sin? It's living in the fear of the Lord, right?

The fear of the Lord will keep us from being casual or indifferent or trite about our sin. It will keep us from joking about sinful things. It will give us a holy reverence and awe for that which is holy and for spiritual matters. We can't be casual or indifferent or trite about the Lord, either, if we're walking in the fear of the Lord.

So, as we walk in this fear, we won't be cowering in fear—if we are His children—but we will be eager not to displease Him in any way. I was one of these kids—I'm quintessential first-born here—I always loved to please authorities. I wanted to please my parents, wanted them to be happy.

Now, I didn't always have the best motives for that, but I wanted to do anything I could to make sure my parents were pleased. As we become children of God, He puts in our hearts that desire, that longing, to please Him . . . not because we're terrified of Him, but because we love Him, and we know what it is to be loved by Him. The fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning because it will make us eager not to displease our heavenly Father in any way.

It will keep us from sinning by causing us to hate what God hates. Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate."

I don't hear a lot of talk today—and I don't sense a lot of the attitude of—hating sin, dreading it, staying as far away from it as we possibly can, that being our heart's desire. But when you live in the presence of God, you're living in the presence of holiness, and you don't want anything that would come between your soul and the Savior. You don't want anything that would taint your heart, that would be dishonoring to Him. You long to please Him. So, the fear of the Lord will keep us from sin; it will cause us to hate evil.

Secondly, the fear of the Lord brings protection. Proverbs 14:26 tells us, "In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." Think about that. I think of all the things my life has been protected from because of parents who walk in the fear of the Lord. And let me say, conversely, if you don't—as a parent or a grandparent fear the Lord—you're leaving your children vulnerable and unprotected.

That doesn't mean (don't hear me saying) that if you walk with God, your children automatically will do the same. And it doesn't mean if you don't walk in the fear of the Lord, your children have no chance. This is not a one-to-one equation. But I'll say this, there's a lot greater chance of your children experiencing God's divine protection in their lives, and Him being a refuge to their hearts, if they have grown up in a home where your heart was to fear and honor and reverence the Lord.

The fear of the Lord, number three, will set us free from the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the fear of man brings a snare. When we live in the fear of the Lord we live to please God rather than man, and we can be free from the bondage, the snare, of always being subject to what other people think about us. We live in the grace and the freedom of, "I live to please the Lord, and if He's pleased, nothing else really matters." It sets me free.

Walking in that fear of the Lord will get God's attention, it will cause Him to draw near. Isaiah 66:2 tells us, "This is the one to whom I will look," God says, "he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." It causes God to draw near.

The fear of the Lord affects our worship and makes it acceptable to God. Hebrews 12:28 and 29: "Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Oh, that we would have more of that sense in our so-called worship services. We can have so little sense of the presence of the Lord.

I'll tell you what I want to know when I'm looking for a church. I have my own preferences about style of music and style of preaching and style of service; I know what I like, I know what I'm not so crazy about, but here's the one thing I want to know when I'm looking for a church in a community, is there a sense of the presence of God in that place?

And if there is, I can live with a lot of stylistic things that wouldn't be my favorite. The presence of the Lord affects our worship.

It causes us to live with an awareness of future judgment. We will be called to account for every deed, every word, every attitude, for our use of time. It reminds us that we're never alone—we're always living accountable lives. So I read from Ecclesiastes 12 earlier in this session, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (vv. 13–14).

Oh that eighteen year olds could think about this in the course of their choices: where they're going to school, what they're going to study, how they're going to use their free time, what they do for recreation, what they do when they're dating, how they handle their relationships. You want them to know that the choices they're making today will have consequences for the rest of their life. Well, what about telling ourselves this? How we need to be reminded that God will bring every deed into the searching, searing spotlight of His holiness.

You know, there's a wonderful verse in the New Testament, Acts 9:31: "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, [the church] multiplied."

I was thinking about this last night and it occurred to me, you don't usually think of the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit as being two things you'd put in the same sentence, right? But they do go together. "The fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit . . ." When you get both of those together, there's a multiplying of the Word of God, through His people.

I want to close by just reminding us that the fear of the Lord brings great joy. Now, that doesn't seem to make sense. It seems counter-intuitive. But it was said of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:3,"And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." Psalm 112:1 assures us, "Blessed is the man [or woman] who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments."

So don't let the world convince you that to live in the fear of the Lord is a stuffy, miserable, confining, restrictive way to live. The greatest joy, the greatest freedom, will be found as we walk in the beautiful, sweet, delightful fear of the Lord.

So Lord, I pray—and we join our hearts together in praying—that You would help us to practice that constant, conscious awareness of Your presence. Help us to live our lives in light of the final judgment, and as those who will give account to You. Teach us the delights, the blessings, of walking and living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been helping us pray for a greater sense of the fear of the Lord. Today’s program is part of a series called “My Personal Petitions.” We’ve been exploring ten ways to regularly pray for ourselves. If you missed any episode, I hope you’ll hear the rest of the series by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. You can stream or download the free audio, or watch the same teaching even on video. You can do it on your own, or you may want to invite a small group to watch with you. The archives at ReviveOurHearts.com are a valuable resource of teaching for women. And those archives, the website, the radio program, and podcast are possible thanks to the support of our listeners.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, you’ll be helping spread us this message to others and you'll make sure you hear it each weekday. When you send your gift, we want to thank you by sending you the 2020 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is: My Personal Petitions. That means each month you’ll be reminded of one of these prayers from Nancy, including the one we studied today, “Teach me the fear of the Lord.” It's our gift when you support ministry with a gift of any size—and we are even going to throw in a beautifully designed bookmark to remind you to pray these transformational prayers.

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“Walk by faith, not by sight.” Have you heard this biblical command? What does living by faith look like on a typical day? We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you’ll be with us again for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you learn the fear of the Lord. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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