Posts Tagged ‘fear and trembling’

I struggled with this one verse today. It’s going to be a slow trip to I Peter at this rate. Although I have come to peace with the idea of “fear” of God as awe and so forth, this verse is pulling me into new territory: downright fear of God who is not just my friend & Savior, but also sovereign.

I Peter 1:17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

I kept reading this verse over and over again trying to find a way out. I even checked some of the commentaries and a few blogs. It’s a challenge; it’s not warm and fuzzy with words like judgment and fear as pillars of the verse.

In the end, I found a wonderful blog post by Terry Hamblin (Mutations of Mortality) on this same verse. And I have to thank him for opening me up to accepting this verse at face value and allowing that to resonate in my soul. Amazingly enough, he quotes one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than me or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” asked Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And that’s the point. We must remember that God is God and not our “chum.” God is loving and we, as believers, enjoy the safety of his mercy and grace, but God is also just and cannot be mocked or toyed with.

As much as I like to talk about God within and the Kingdom of heaven within and all of that, I must also remember that there is part of God without, that bigger God Being that envelopes all that is. Power is too small a word.

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“Fear and trembling” is closer to “awe & trembling.” But when does this happen? Supposedly, when God is present within. Just think: in former times, mere angels brought humans to their knees; while we have gotten more and more nonchalant about the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:12b-13
. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

For awe and trembling to happen, we got to keep the veil off, the walls down, and the blinders open. It’s the opposite of a hardened heart [Mark 8:17]: it’s about wisdom, knowledge and understanding. And love.

The only times I can discern authentic “fear and trembling” are the times I encounter true God within. I may be overcome but these are the opportunities I have to respond to the Spirit’s leading, to enter the will of God and to act according to the Spirit’s direction in order to experience the results.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, in fact, infrequent. Theoretically, I want to seek the truth of it, this fear and trembling. And yet, my every day world does not lend itself to phantasms and inner miracles. I am so rooted in my three-dimensional world.

It all goes back to a misbelief: what I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, smell with my nose, touch with my hand, or taste with my mouth, is more substantial than the spirit realm, that spacious inner world like the interior of Perkins’s tent in the Harry Potter stories.

This is the secret place really, isn’t it?

It is so rare to find something or someone that instills an awe response. Instead, there are situations that make us afraid like natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, etc.) and we fear evil actions of people-types like terrorists or gang members or sociopaths. But the age of kings is over. Perhaps, for some people, the Pope continues to inspire, but this awe is predictably denomination-based. In order to meet the Queen of England, one must abide by a series of formalities and social codes, but it’s not like we are doing them out of awe, it’s just protocol. In some ways, movie stars and sports figures seem to garner the highest honors. I remember well those Beatles concerts: the screaming, the mania, the insanity, and yes, the awe. What does that say about our culture?

And yet, it’s pretty darn hard to come up with a little awe for God. Some say that nature, like mountains and oceans and forests, can strike an awe point. But only for so long, and then we go back to our cubbies, our back yards, and our TV sets.

Everyone is pleased as punch that we can show up for church now in jeans and t-shirts. Casual is in. Jesus is our friend, our brother, our pal. Oh yes, we love to sing the worship songs, in between sips of coffee and layered gum.

There is a warning here then, not so dissimilar to “Be Alert!” in Ephesians. If we are not experiencing “awe and trembling” by the interior presence of God’s Spirit, then who is in there?

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