When I heard that phrase in the past, I always associated it with Adam and Eve hiding in the garden afraid of what God was going to do to them for their misdeed. As a result, I have applied it to my life in the exact same way. Now the ridiculousness of this is beyond what I could ever convey in a blog post simply because it's so absurd. Why? Because the idea of hiding from God is not only cray cray but Biblically impossible. Not convinced? Read Psalm 139. Whatever we think we have kept hidden from God because we think we did it without His knowledge, He is already fully aware of it because His presence is always with us. So, if we think we are sneaking that extra bit of chocolate, there is at least One who already knows.
Back to fear.
It's taken a good bit of Bible reading all over the place to realize that fear of the Lord is not the kind of fear a puppy displays when a massive storm is hitting. This is way different, way better, and something we really should be embracing. A lot.
Fear of the Lord has more to do with realizing His bigness, attempting to wrap our mind around His sovereignty, and, as much as we are able, understanding the depth of His faithful love and abundant grace. Why? Because if we can even start to get that it should make us shake in our boots because that kind of love is too much for us to ever comprehend. It is meant to make us tremble because we begin to see just a glimpse of how holy He is and how undeserving we truly are.
This is why Paul's words in Phillipians are so incredible. He writes: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Okay, so the theological definition of salvation is this: deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ. And that can trip us up. Or at least it did me. Why? Because if Jesus died and rose and I've accepted His forgiveness on my behalf, what is there to work out? But then, something else somehow came crystal clear. I can only say it was a divine moment where God showed me something about salvation.
Salvation can be broken up into three R's. Rescue. Redemption. Restoration.
Jesus saved me from myself and my sin.
Jesus redeemed me and redeems my horrible mistakes.
Jesus restores me to a right relationship with God because I am in Him (in Christ).
So why is that still worked out if Jesus even said on the cross, "It is finished"? Because we still falter and flail in our sinful flesh, we need to go to God in confession that we can boldly do because of Christ's work on our behalf, and then in His presence we truly get His great, faithful love which doesn't leave us because we are in Christ and therefore have forgiveness. And seriously, fear and trembling? Probably more like plates shifting in a massive earthquake if we get how incredible it really is that He restores us so we can keep moving forward instead of sitting in an ash heap feeling completely unworthy and useless.
But here's the best part. That perfect love that casts out fear? This is it. Love that says no matter what we've done I'm not leaving you. Love that says no matter how hard you try to push me away I'm still going to pursue you. Love that says even though you think you've ruined everything, in my hands, I can make it into something you can't even imagine. His love doesn't punish, it redirects. And sometimes that redirection hurts because we have made the path harder by our choices and now our new starting place is hard. But this love should make us run to Him to confess and ask for help so that we can continue to work it all out, one moment at a time, until we see Him face to face.
I am thoroughly convinced that our view of fearing the Lord has been tainted by Satan's whispers. He's the one with the vested interest in making us try to avoid God at all costs. Because if he can drive that wedge and make the gap wider and deeper than we think can be bridged, his work is done, and he's laughing at us the entire time because he convinced us to believe what he knows full well isn't true. Chew on that for awhile.
Personally, as awkward as it feels because I'm not very good at it because I haven't really made it a practice, I need to start confessing to God a lot more. As I said before, saying I'm sorry to the one we offended is not the same because it is truly only against God that we sin. (you can read that post here) And the best part is, in doing so, I'll continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling which is a good thing. Because even though I am not able to get how incredible He is while I'm drawing His breath, I can intentionally seek more glimpses of it and let Him build my faith and confidence in the process.