WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Losing the fear of the Lord is hindering the multiplication of believers and churches, O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources, said in a chapel message at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Hawkins, calling Christians to reclaim an accurate view of the holiness of God, drew from the example of the early church found in Acts 9:31: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
“We read that the church had peace, were being edified, were walking in the fear of the Lord and they were multiplied,” Hawkins said. “They were engaging their culture so much that they turned their world upside down.”
Contemporary Christians have “lost something in the modern era. We are not walking in the fear of the Lord,” Hawkins said, speculating on why the early church was being multiplied in ways the modern church has not seen.
Hawkins, a former pastor, said the church no longer is engaging the culture but instead is allowing the culture to infiltrate the church with a “no fear” mentality.
“Why is the church living in a no-fear culture? Why is it you can sit in a church for months, years, a decade and never hear of the fear of the Lord?” Hawkins asked at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus Aug. 21. “Could it be that we have lost a sense of the holiness of God?”
Walking through passage after passage about the fear of the Lord, Hawkins said the concept constantly is taught throughout the Scriptures.
“The fear of the Lord is all throughout the Gospels,” Hawkins said. “How could we have missed this? How, when it’s found all throughout the Old Testament and the writings of the apostles, how is it we have forgotten it?”
Hawkins said when he first began to understand the concept of fearing the Lord, he learned that it represented fear in a different way than he might have previously thought.
“We had a pastor who taught us about the fear of God,” Hawkins said. “He taught us that the fear of the Lord was not that His hand of retribution would be put on us, but the fear that God would take His hand off of us.”
Hawkins said this was the fear that caused him to worry about watching what he should not watch, saying what he should not say or going where he should not go. “It’s that fear that God will depart from you.”
Quoting from Psalm 111:10 and Psalm 25:14, Hawkins said, “‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ ‘The secrets of the Lord are in those who fear him.'”
Hawkins said until the fear of the Lord was paramount in the lives of modern believers, churches would continue not to multiply.
“How do you let it become a controlling factor in your life?” Hawkins asked. He said it begins by recognizing what God has done and what people do in relation to that.
“After all the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you, calling you out of darkness and into marvelous light, the fear of the Lord means to fear doing things that would displease or dishonor the Lord,” he said. “May it one day be said that the churches of this land would be encouraged by the Holy Spirit, growing in numbers and living in the fear of the Lord.”
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.