Twenty Fourth Sunday
The epistle lesson prescribed for today announces fundamental truth: "Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners but are citizens with the saints and members o: God's household; you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets wits Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole structure is closely fitted together and grows into a temple holy in the Lord; in him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit" Ephesians 2: 19 - 22.
Why is it that we live in a no-fear mentality in our culture? Perhaps it is because our generation knows little of the nature of our heavenly Father. We have lost a sense of the sublime holiness of God. This reverence has been exchanged for a "good buddy" system in imaging our God. Some of us are out of balance in our market-driven approach to Church health and growth. We often tailor our Church ministries to appeal to the selfish, self-centered desires of those we are striving to reach. In other words, we are not really serious about the fundamental purpose of the Body of Christ which is to save souls, to build saints, to grow into a holy temple of the Lord.
There is little mention of the very nature of a holy God in the modern Church. We have replaced him with the idea of a sort of contemporary "buddy" who is into back slapping and giving high fives. Job did not see God on this elementary and non-existent level. When confronted with the holiness of God, he said, "I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" Job 42: 6. When John saw God's holiness and glory on Patmos, God's revelation to us teaches he "...fell at his feet like a dead man" Revelation 1: 17. We have developed an ecclesiastical no-fear-of-God culture primarily because, in a dearth of doctrinal truth, we have lost our concept of the holiness and awesomeness of our Creator God.
We have lost our way and have such minuscule discernment that we actually compliment the Hollywood elite for silly television offerings which we read as wonderful godless people present us with once in the while primetime TV series. One which is called to mind from a while ago, is Touched by an Angel in which its `angels' are a far cry from the angels of truth we read about in God's revelation to us. They are nothing but silly caricatures which appeal to the simple-minded and are nothing more than a mix of New Age deceptions Any approach which denies the necessity and reality of the cross and promotes a feel-good, no-condemnation approach to human problems so sadly embraced by a world that is searching for spiritual truth which in such presentations, always eludes man. Should we be surprised that the Scripture warns of those who masquerade as "angels of light," twisting God's truth, hiding the veracity of the gospel message and offering false promises that blind the eyes of non-believers and believers alike?
The Lord did not come among us except to bring needed forgiveness, not to tell us we are all right and we simply have a self-esteem problem. He said the world hated him because He witnessed and testified that what the world does is evil. "The world is incapable of hating you, but it does hate me because of the evidence I bring against it, that what it does is evil" John 7: 7. While so many so-called churches in our society place doctrinal truth on the bottom of the shelf in favor of self-help, market-driven approaches, the Church then knows less and less of a holy God and never even thinks of "walking in fear of the Lord."
In the gospel narrative today, our Lord assures Jairus, "Do not be afraid; only have faith." So we see the natural consequence of faith is an absence of fear. It is not because we are so faith filled today that we have no fear, it is because faith is superficial and light.
The concept of "fear of the Lord" held a prominent place in the Old Testament and its worship. We recall how Noah "...moved with godly fear" and built the ark . "By faith, Noah warned about things not yet seen, revered God and built an ark that his household might be saved. He thereby condemned the world and inherited the justice which comes through faith" Hebrews 11: 7. Before dying on Mount Nebo, Moses challenged the Israelites with a serious question, "Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God" Deuteronomy 10: 12. Then, years after conquest of the promised land, his successor, Joshua, assembled the people and said, "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness" Joshua 24: 14. The necessary element of "walking in the fear of the Lord" plainly and evocatively winds its way throughout the experience of the Old Testament saints.
The very same emphasis finds its way fundamentally into the gospel message during the ministry of Christ as witnessed today. The Virgin Mary, herself, with Christ alive in her womb, reminds us of this in her most sweet song as she joyfully sings: "His mercy is on those who fear him" Luke 1: 50. When Zachary's speech returns to him after the birth of John the Baptist, it is said that "...fear came on all who dwelt around them" Luke 1: 65.
The attitude of fear, the holy reverence is prevalent among believers throughout the gospels. Fear of the Lord means that we are so sensitive of heart and soul in our relationship with our Creator God that we are always eager to avoiding anything that
would even remotely suggest we have offended him. Our intimacy with our Maker is so advanced and on such a high level that nothing can be misconstrued as detracting from God's glory, particularly in creating us to share in his love.
After the Lord healed the paralytic man, God's revelation to us in Scripture records that those who observed the sign and noteworthy miracle, "...were all amazed and they glorified God and were filled with fear" Luke 5: 26. In visiting the town of Naim and healing the widow's son, it is recorded that "...fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying `A great prophet has risen among us' and God visited his people" Luke 7: 16. When our Lord sent out the twelve, He said, `Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" Matthew 10: 28. And the women who came to the empty tomb after the Resurrection "...went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word" Matthew 28: 8.
Not only do we find the concept of "walking in fear of the Lord" woven through the Old Testament and the gospel message, it also appears on practically every page of the Acts of the Apostles, describing the life of the early Church. It was there at the birth of the Church. After Peter's remarkable proclamation on Pentecost, "...fear came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" Acts of the Apostles 2: 43. May this self-same spirit continue seriously to live among us in our time and in our day!