Wednesday, November 17, 2010

With You There is Forgiveness

I was reading through some of the Psalms the other day, and I came across Psalm 130. I guess I've either never read this Psalm or God allowed me to gain something new from this reading. If you've read many of my previous blog posts, you know to some extent how I struggle when thinking about/understanding fearing God or the Holy fear of God as it relates to guilt, shame, fear of punishment, etc. I've been reading a lot lately about not being a lukewarm Christian and trying to do exactly what Jesus commands in the gospels. And I know so many, if not most areas of my life, I am quite guilty of being that lukewarm Christian. The motivation, though, to change my actions should be love, not fear of punishment for disobedience. But oftentimes, fear of hell will completely outweigh any feeble attempt at radically loving God that I could possibly have. Yet we are told that God is love, we are saved by grace, none of us is perfect- all falling short of the glory of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus continuously washes us clean from all sin. Where sin increases, grace increases all the more (but by no means is this reason to continue to sin, "we died to sin; how can we live it in any longer?"). And standing right next to words of grace and love and forgiveness are commands to fear God; fear God and keep his commands. Not that I have issue with this, but it is the motivation of obeying God, of keeping his commands that will determine how we live as effective or ineffective Christians."These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." I have to confess, I want to love God so radically that I will want to do some of the hard things he commands. Afterall, "Faith without deeds is dead." But I am slowly beginning to understand that it is God that will have to create this powerful radical love within me. It's not something I can discipline myself to do, because then it really comes back to just doing something else out of fear.
BUT, back to the verse I mentioned earlier, I always find that my mind gives fear the connotation of punishment, shame, guilt, etc. And I try so hard to understand the Holy fear of God, and how this can not just relate to, but be an attribute of a God that is love. I came across Psalm 130, and while I do not by any means claim to understand this verse or its meaning completely, I do feel like God is trying to help my heart understand, and not "fear" in the sense that I normally do.

3 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
   O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
   therefore you are feared. 

I just find it so interesting that the NIV translates verse 4 in this way. It almost seems to be saying because God offers forgiveness, he is to be feared and we can look upon him with reverence. I won't offer any great explanation or literary criticism or whatever Bible scholars call it (exegesis?) but I suppose that in my mind, the reason to fear God was always because he would punish.... And this seems to turn my understanding upside down. Fear God because he offers forgiveness? For me this offers so much hope and encouragement. I hope you will join me in thinking about and meditating on this verse, praying for a better understanding. Opinions and explanations are definitely most welcome here.


  1. I appreciate your openness and your desire to really know God. I know this is something you have struggled with for a long, long time. If I may, I would like to offer my thoughts on this. To me, and what I've learned in the past, the term "fear" here and in other passages in God's word, means to have respect for or to hold in reverence; not to action be afraid of. There are passages in the Bible that specifically say we are not to fear the Lord because he is our love and our protector. I think the word "fear" trips people up. God doesn't want us to be afraid of Him because that would completely contradict what He asks of us: to love Him, come to Him freely, LIVE freely in Him...and the like.

    What do you think?

  2. I agree completely, at least in my head. I think it's one of those situations where I know something to be true but it is terribly hard to "feel" it. Which, of course, is not what faith is about... it's believing something regardless of what you feel.
    I think also, it's about fearing punishment from God rather than being afraid of God himself... an effect of being in certain churches when I was younger, churches that emphasized if you do the following things, God will punish you... live your life following these rules or else (essentially). And I know now that it is not about following rules but about knowing God, his character, his heart, and living your life as a response to that love.
    Also, reading in books/hearing a lesson taught on the rich young ruler and similar stories has me feeling guilty again... it's that old mindset of following the rules in order to be saved. When it really shouldn't be about fearing punishment/hell, but about loving God and not wanting to ever be without Him.
    I do like your emphasis on LIVING freely in Him...