An excellent example of fearlessness that comes from “Fearing God Only”: Dr. R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries preaches on the fearless Polycarp, who refused to recant and profess “Caesar is Lord.”
Good question. Many Christians (and I mean “real” ones) cringe at the command to “Fear God.” It seems to go against that late twentieth and early twenty-first century notion that “Jesus is my best friend!” Fearing God was something done in the OLD Testament, but with the advent of the New Covenant, “fear” is out and “love” is in. What ends up inevitably getting overlooked when reading the NEW Testament are some pretty sobering verses and passages (in the NASB):
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
“And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.” – Luke 1:50
“We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” – John 9:31
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” – Acts 9:31
So much for pitting the God of the OLD Testament against the God of the NEW.
The bottom line? We need to both fear and preach the fear of God more in a day and age where we have oxymora (plural for oxymoron – just discovered this!) like “gay Christians” and the XXX Church. Such contradictions must leave that great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 12:1 shaking their heads in disbelief.
We also need to be fearless when it comes to our fellow man. I watched a gruesome video today that showed the Muslim beheading of two Christians. What impressed me beyond the utter evil of Islam was how both men went silently to their deaths. And it wasn’t like their murderers used a sword and lopped their heads off with a single slash. No, those barbarians used a relatively short knife to literally saw the head off… without a peep from their victims. If it were me, I think I would have been preaching the gospel to my captors up until I could speak no more. You never know what effect those last words might have on an onlooker. Then there was Stephen who asked God to forgive those who were stoning him right before he died in Acts 7.
There were also the fearless men highlighted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Baliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer. Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.”
When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, “Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.” Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul!” received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.
Well! dead they are, and the reward of this world they have already. What reward remaineth for them in heaven, the day of the Lord’s glory, when he cometh with His saints, shall declare.
Oh God, may I fear only You daily, not to mention at the end of my life if You so choose to use me, like you did Bishop Dr. Ridley and Bishop Latimer, to “… by God’s grace, light up such a candle in” Brazil, Uganda, Mozambique, the United States, etc. “as I trust, will never be put out.”
Fear God Only.