Monday, May 12, 2008

"Fearing God"

The First Commandment:
You shall have no other gods before Me.

What does this mean?
You should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

As a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I find it slightly disturbing to discover yet another thing I should be fearful of: God. Isn't it a silly phrase, anyhow? I have been taught that Jesus loves me from song and Scripture. It seems silly to fear such a good and gracious God. Isn't God just a grandfatherly figure there to make sure that I get everything out of life that I need and possibly even the things that I want?

Indeed, it is not that easy! Despite what some are led to believe, God gets angry. It's not anger without action, either. If you are not sure, look up Numbers 16:1-35. Those who did evil in God's sight were punished, along with their families and young children, by death. This was for rebelling against God's chosen leader of the Israelite people. That certainly doesn't fit the image of a nice old grandfather! That image is a frightening and fearful soldier ready to wield the sword for the offenses I have caused!

There are some who would say that this is the God of the Old Testament and not of the New. However, there is no truth in that statement as God forsook His own beloved Son on the cross, putting on Him the wrath and punishment of our sin on Him. Don't be fooled by the trick that God somehow changed His attitude toward sin in the New Testament. It is still just as deadly now as it was back in Genesis 3.

On my own, I should fear God. God literally has the power to strike me down where I stand at any moment. Without Christ's atonement for my sins on the cross, God would be well within His rights to strike me down. My only salvation is to claim Christ the crucified, and not by my own merit, either. For in my own merit, I put myself apart from Christ and try to lean on my own reason and strength. This again places me in the path of God's wrath. Instead, Christ has clothed me in His blood in the waters of Holy Baptism (which happened twenty eight years ago on June 8). When God sees me, He sees Christ, and Christ has made atonement for my sins and the sins of the world.

So why fear? Should I be afraid of God? This side of the grave all men are afraid of God. After all, God specifically states that He is angry with all those who break His commandments and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However, through faith in Christ, that fear will never be realized as God is pleased with the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and since He sees us through Christ, He is pleased with us as well.

Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism in Part One: The First Commandment, [32] "Learn, therefore, from these words how angry God is with those who trust in anything but Him. And again, learn how good and gracious He is to those who trust and believe in Him alone with their whole heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5)"

As we are saint and sinner at the same time, we trust and love and fear at the same time. However, when the time comes to depart from this world and we plead Christ the Crucified before the Judge of the world, there will be no need to fear, for we were made perfect in the blood of the Lamb.