Walking in the Fear of the Lord
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Devotional for Day 19
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. —Acts 9:31 (ESV)
When I lived in China, I heard a delightful story about a fox and a tiger. The fox goes to the tiger and says, “You think you’re so tough, but I’m not afraid of you. If you follow me around for a while, you’ll see just how everyone in the forest is afraid of me.” So the two go for a walk together, the fox strutting his stuff in front, with the mighty tiger just a step behind. And, wouldn’t you know it, everywhere they go, the other animals turn in terror and run away! Hence, the idiom: hú jiǎ hǔ wēi—fox borrows tiger’s impressive strength. (The near-identical pronunciation of “fox” and “tiger” in Chinese make this an elegant little pun.)
We and the fox have some things in common. Though we might not be terribly impressive in our own strength, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is with us as we go in His name, and He is not to be trifled with. The difference, of course, is that we don’t trick Jesus into accompanying us so we can exploit His power; rather, it was all His idea from the beginning, that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). This is the story of the Book of Acts, and it must remain the Church’s story until we’ve brought the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Fearing the Lord is about knowing His power, and recognizing that He is the boss around here. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira sought to gain favor in the church through deception, and the Lord struck them dead on the spot. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (v. 11). But while the people kept a safe distance from the assembly of apostles, they held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord (v. 13f).
In Acts 7–9, Saul has been ravaging the church, dragging men and women out of the house churches and hauling them off to prison (8:3), breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (9:1). But the Lord came in power, and we all know the story of how He appeared and overpowered Saul on the Damascus road. Again, when the testimony of Saul’s conversion made its way through the churches, they proceeded in the fear of the Lord (v. 31) who had vanquished His enemy and made him a grateful bondservant.
Notice how this fear of the Lord—this acute awareness of His awesome power—is actually a source of great comfort. The church had peace and was being built up. And proceeding in the fear of the Lord and in the paraklēsis of the Holy Spirit… This Greek word, paraklēsis, takes its basic meaning from the notion of calling someone [klēsis] to come alongside [para] and help. Jesus is our paraklētos, the advocate at our side in the Father’s court (1 John 2:1). And in John 14:16, Jesus says he will ask the Father, and the Father will send another paraklētos, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever. This Helper will teach and guide us in the truth, bear witness about Jesus, and bring conviction to the world around us concerning the realities of sin, righteousness, and judgment (cf. John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7ff). So, when Luke talks about the fear of the Lord and the paraklēsis of the Holy Spirit, implied is the whole range of the Spirit’s activity as He works in, and upon, and through, and alongside, the people Jesus has redeemed.
We in the American church need a renewed appreciation for the awesome power of the Lord. So long as we recognize both God’s absolute goodness and His power to do as He wills, we will be free from all anxiety; we will trust Him to fulfill all His good promises to us (cf. my devotional published here on March 24). But without due reverence for His Holy Majesty, who will consume with fire all that sin has corrupted, we are out of step with the Holy Spirit, and we fail to demonstrate the gospel in the world.
What would happen if we stopped doing things in our own strength, but sought the Lord and His strength? If we put to death what is earthly in us, pursued love, and earnestly desired the gifts of the Spirit? Might we then be able, by the same grace the Lord gave to that bitter enemy, Saul, to go and proclaim the gospel, not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that we might lead others to a faith that doesn’t rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:4f)?
Lord, we declare with all the company of heaven that you are holy, that you are worthy of blessing, honor, glory, and power forever. Lord, bend us until we submit fully to your perfect will, and then grant us unshakeable confidence and zeal to go with You where You send us as witnesses to our great Savior. And as we go, confirm our testimony with signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Lux