This is God’s heart for His people:
“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Dt. 5:29)
“You are the foundation on which we stand today. You always save us and give true wisdom and knowledge. Nothing means more to us than obeying you” (Is. 33:6 – CEV).
A heart to truly obey Him is what the Lord has always looked for in His people. This heart is cultivated through our love for the Lord and holy fear. This fear is birthed in God’s people primarily through a knowledge of His judgments. Notice in the early days of the Church the effect the judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira had on the people.
“Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things“ (Acts 5:5).
“Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women… “ (Acts 5:10-14).
We often forget these portions of Scripture and how this component of the fear of the Lord greatly impacted and contributed to the glory, power, and growth of the early Church.
“Yet none of the rest dared join them (the disciples), but the people esteemed them highly” (v. 13).
The Message Bible says it this way:
“But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both.”
POLARIZATION: ONE EFFECT OF GOD’S JUDGMENTS AND THE FEAR OF THE LORD
The judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira caused sinners to be leery of joining themselves to the apostles and the Church while at the same time gaining public respect and influence. This divided or polarized those who were not interested in genuine repentance and living whole-heartedly for the Lord from the multitudes that were being genuinely converted and being added to the Church. The dividing line was very distinct. In many places today it is difficult to tell the difference between the Christian and non-Christian, but not in the early Church. God wants to restore this polarization in the Church today.
The great fear that came on the entire Church and those who heard of these events is a necessary component for the overall health of the Church, and it is also a precursor to actual revival and spiritual awakening in the nations. What many Christians don’t understand is that these kind of judgments in the Church are a manifestation of God’s mercy to the masses, because when the Church is judged and cleansed that is when we have the greatest impact on the world. Conversely, when there is lack of judgment in the Church it means a widespread judgment to the masses, and mercy reserved for only a small righteous remnant.
Imagine the impact of this judgment, not only upon that present early apostolic generation but upon their children and grandchildren and the ensuing generations who witnessed these things and/or heard them. When Ananias’s and Sapphira’s dead bodies were carried out by the young men it was a dreadful object lesson of the fear of the Lord to future generations. I’m sure this event was noised abroad for years to come. This was in fact a judgment against counterfeit Christianity that greatly impacted the Church and the world. As I said, it was an act of mercy to the world in preserving the mighty influence and power of the Church from moral compromise and tainted motives enveloped in personal selfish ambition through Ananias and Sapphira. Notice the ultimate result that the fear of the Lord had on the early Church. The Church had rest and peace, was strengthened, and encouraged, and also grew numerically.
“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31).
Can you see how as the polarization in the early Church increased, so did the power and impact increase simultaneously? One of the definitions of polarization is a division into two opposites. Polarization happens when people are divided into contesting groups. Polarization is a concept that comes from science, and it involves light, radiation, or magnetism moving in specific directions. Outside of this scientific concept, polarization usually refers to how people think, especially when two views emerge that drive people apart, kind of like two opposing magnets. As an example, when Democrats and Republicans fight, it can cause polarization. A Civil War is also a serious form of polarization. Polarization involves people moving in two directions —becoming almost as separate as the North and South Pole.
In this postmodern day of Church growth which tends to focus more on peripheral and demographic elements, these verses lead us to the inward character of believers and how it relates to both spiritual and numerical growth.
When we fail to include the judgments of God and the fear of the Lord in our doctrine and teaching we are building with flimsy materials of wood, hay, and stubble that will not stand up under the trials, pressures, and hardships of life. A house built with such materials will not survive the storm. The fear of the Lord, which is nurtured through the eternal judgments of God, is a great contributor and foundational to a healthy growing church. A house won’t stand the storm unless it is built on a solid foundation.
AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
The condition of mankind on the earth today is similar to what it was during the days of Noah.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:5-6).
Hmmm…how terrible and wicked was mankind that it grieved the Lord He had made man!
I had a thought this morning of what it must have been like in those days – how the people laughed and mocked Noah when he began building the ark, as he was trying to tell them and warn them of what was coming, but they didn’t care and they were unconcerned and wouldn’t listen. They even laughed and mocked when the door of the ark was closed supernaturally by God Himself, and they may have even laughed and mocked when the raindrops started to fall. But they weren’t laughing when the raindrops did not stop falling, and the waters began to rise, and there was no place left to go. When they finally realized what was happening it was too late to change their mind. Are we seeing a similar scenario today?
We need judges (prophets and ministers) who will warn us.
To be continued…