The fear of the Lord can be a motivation for holiness. When King Jehoshaphat led the reforms of Judah he instructed his judges to, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment . . . . let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking bribes . . . you shall act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 19:6-7, 9). The fear of the Lord was an awesome reminder of the holiness and perfect justness of the One whom they served. It was an impetus for revival in the nation. How many politicians and judges would change their ways if they took to heart that they serve the Lord? (cf. Romans 13). How many pastors, religious leaders and Christians would act differently if they really took to heart that they serve Holy God? Got fear, fear of the LORD? Oh I wish we did! I pray we will!
The account of Ananias and Sapphira’s sin and the Spirit’s response concludes with the words,
Acts 5:11 – “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”
This event in the early church produced “great fear” (5:5, 11). Got fear? These people did. The people were in reverent awe of what God had done to expose Satan’s work. No doubt it inspired the rest of the flock to be sincere in their offerings.
What were they afraid of? It was not only the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira that raised chills up the spines of those early believers and those who heard of these events. No, it was also the fact that the Spirit enabled Peter to expose the sinful strategy of the unholy couple and the sin that was in their hearts. Think of it, Peter exposed an area that people normally feel comfortable hiding. The Spirit saw into and exposed the deep recesses of the sinful heart. There was nowhere to hide. But they were merely seeing manifested a reality and truth people often ignore, the Spirit can see into our hearts.
I wonder if the freedom with which people live hypocritically and deceitfully does not betray and expose a darker truth, that they in reality have little true faith in God or even believe there is a God. At the very least it conveys that people have a mistaken notion of God and His grace since their free sin and deception is done with the belief that “God will forgive me.” God nowhere endorses sin. Instead God says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10.
There are many places in the Bible where it states God looks into the heart of people (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9;29:17; 2 Chronicles 6:30; Psalm 7:9; 139:1-2, 23-24; Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 11:20; 20:12; John 2:24-25; Romans 8:27; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 2:23). Do we really believe there is a God who searches the hearts of people? Do we believe that the God who searches the heart of people can and does discipline and give them the righteous consequence of what is in those hearts? Do we sin so freely and in such great abundance because we trust the grace of God or because we presume upon it? Are we really struggling against sin? Is sin in our lives and heart something we resist in the Spirit or permit in the flesh? John said the person who consistently sins and lives a lifestyle of sin is not a child of God at all but a child of the devil (1 John 3:4-9).
God does not only eves drop on our hearts. He looks into our hearts with a purpose, “to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Once we realize that, it can bring fear to our cheating hearts. The people who saw what happened to Ananias and Sapphira were convicted by the Holy Spirit to consider the reality of their sinful ways. Like Isaiah who became acutely aware of his own sinfulness in the presence of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 6), these people were in awe and shaken to the foundation of their being by the reality that God could see into their hearts (on this occasion through the spiritual gift of discernment in Peter). They were in fearful awe of the consequence they saw in this influential couple. Maybe they thought if that happened to them, what might happen to me? What the Spirit did in the case of Ananias and Sapphira led to soul and heart searching amongst the people of God and even those who had yet to receive Jesus as their Savior.
What does God see when He looks into your heart? Many in church today say, “Oh, if only we had the power of the early church!” If we did, I wonder how many would fall down, literally slain in the spirit, and have to be carried out! Are we really truly guarding our hearts, or are we presuming on the grace of God. Paul said in his inspired discussion of God’s grace, “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1). And with him we must cry, “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:2) And yet, a disregard for the seriousness of sin and casual indulgence in it is the mind and heart attitude of many in the church today.
But there is another aspect of the fear. Let me illustrate. I love my wife very much. I would never want to do anything to hurt or cause her sorrow. My love for her produces a healthy fear to not do anything that would harm her. My love produces holy fear. And our love for God should produce a similar holy fear toward our God. We should fear doing anything that would cause Him sorrow, regret, or pain. We need to reacquire a holy fear of sinning against God.
But doesn’t perfect love cast out fear? (1 John 4:18). Yes that is true. We need not fear God’s judgment when we enter by grace through faith in Christ an abiding loving eternally saving relationship with Him. But perfect or mature Christian love would never endorse sinful living. God knows our hearts and wants them clean. We too often allow Satan to step into the foyer of our heart and tune us into lascivious and lustful words and images. Instead we should resist him in the Spirit with all our might. It’s as though on the outside we present a good show of resisting Satan and his temptations, but on the inside, in our hearts and minds, we crave, lust and indulge his tempting tidbits of lust, pornography and immorality. We should guard against such attempts to infiltrate our hearts and the church. But we should also thank God for His patience and grace and be watchful that we do not allow Satan to infiltrate our hearts as he did with this hypocritical couple. Confess the sins of your heart and be cleansed by God! (1 John 1:7, 9). Got fear, fear of the LORD? I do. Do you?