The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1:7) means also that the beginning of wisdom is to hate sin, wickedness, and evil (Pr 8:13). God needs a new kind of spiritual hero, who not only hates sin’s dirt and filth, but its smell and stench.
Fathers, how would your senses feel toward a man that just raped your virgin daughter? Mothers, how would your senses feel toward one who just brutally murdered your only beloved son? If not for the love of God, could you forgive and embrace such a one? Well, our big brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God was raped and murdered by a thing we call “sin”. How can anyone who calls themselves by the name of that Holy One embrace or even be casual toward sin?
Sin is a rapist and a murderer. It will strip you of your dignity and spoil your decency. It will spotlight you in the nude and utterly embarrass you. Though pleasurable to the flesh for a season, when sin is finished with you, in the end it will kill you. We dare not be casual toward sin. We would not even dare approach such a one especially knowing that it cost the sacrifice of God’s only Son.
While the casual believer may wink at and make light of sin, sin bothers those who are of a loyal nature. Listen to these heroic God-fearing voices from the distant past:
“I preach and think it is more bitter to sin against Christ than to suffer the torments of hell.” Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.)
“If hell were on one side, and sin on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly sin against my God.” Anselm (11th century)
I realize these quotes may seem extreme to some, but they reveal the heart of some great servants of God and the fear of the Lord they possessed.
The closer one is to God, the farther he longs to be from sin and anything that would grieve the Spirit of the Lord. In the blazing light of His holiness even the shadow of sin is dark and ugly. Would to God that the Church’s estimation of sin would be comparable to the sacrifice provided by God to atone for it! Like a block of ice set over a burning fire, sin is zapped, crushed, and annihilated against the holy blood of God’s holy Son. If this is the picture of God’s declaration of sin’s defeat, how can we continue to flirt with it? Grace that produces a spirit of holiness will generate a new kind of power among God’s people (Rom 1:4). Unworthy is the grace that fails to make us holy.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God… (Heb 12:14-15) – NIV
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God… (Heb 12:14-15) – NLT
Holiness requires effort in cooperation with the grace of God. We can fall short or fail to receive the empowering grace of God. Yes, grace must be joined to a human response.
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5:3-4).
Holiness may be the missing element to Church growth that our popular seminars and church consultants have failed to teach us. Holiness is what gives the Church distinction, and it’s her distinction from the world that will maximize her impact. Unbelievers in the time of the early Church were afraid of her. The news of people falling dead in a church meeting as a result of God’s judgment (Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5) produced both dread and respect in the unbelievers (Acts 5:13). The heat of holiness was so intense that sin could not breathe and survive in the earliest beginnings of the New Testament Church. The judgment was severe because the glory was heavy. The greater the glory, the more severe is the judgment. God is not about to manifest His glory on a sin-filled church lest many die.
A holy hatred for all that is evil and sinful, awakens in the believer, according to his estimation of the cause, the consequences, and the cure for sin. The revelation of the grace and love of God displayed on the cross of Christ, which delivered us from both the cause and the consequences of our sin, from its penalty and its power, is what God has chosen to birth holiness in the Church.
We do not love Jesus because we hate sin. We hate sin because we love Jesus. It is the intensity of this love that will strengthen us in the hour of temptation, and keep us hungering for holiness and pursuing sanctification.
This is the fear of the Lord.