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O.S. Hawkins: More emphasis in preaching on fear of the Lord

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Something in the life of the first-century church and even the church of a quarter century ago is missing in today’s ministry, according to O.S. Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“When was the last time you heard a message from the pulpit on the importance of walking in the fear of the Lord?” Hawkins asked students and others at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
He said he believes the key to rediscovering power, moral purity and the ability to overcome evil desires is found in Acts 9:31: “Then the church … enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit; it grew in number, living in the fear of the Lord.”
Hawkins cited the recent moral failures of pastors in his Oct. 14 message at Southwestern. Using the illustration of an earthquake, Hawkins said that moral failures don’t just happen but are the result of fault lines in character below the surface of person that merge and converge and build up pressure until one day they erupt into a moral earthquake.
“We are ministers in what you might say has become a no-fear culture. … That’s why children blow their classmates away in elementary school,” he said, adding this culture is infiltrating the church, emerging as an attitude that exhibits little restraint of evil.
The answer to regaining a fear of the Lord, Hawkins said, begins by understanding why today’s culture has no fear.
“I believe we are living in a no-fear culture because we have lost a sense of the nature of a holy God,” he said. “We have replaced this concept, this consciousness of a God who is ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ with a concept of a backslapping, high-five kind of a good buddy.”
Hawkins lamented the lack of preaching on the holiness of God by saying, “We have taken the doctrinal truth of the holiness of God and placed it on the bottom shelf; while self-helps and market-driven approaches have taken over the top shelves.”
A second step, Hawkins said, is understanding the fear of the Lord is not a fear of retribution but an awe with reverence and respect of the holy God that prevents Christians from doing anything that might dishonor or displease God.
Recounting his experiences as a young preacher, Hawkins said, “It wasn’t that I was afraid God would put his hand on me. My greatest fear was that God might take his hand off me.” This kind of fear should rest with every man or woman called of God, he said.
A third step to walking in the fear of the Lord in a no-fear culture comes from recapturing the seriousness of sin, Hawkins said, citing this generation’s toleration of sin even in the church.
He said walking in the fear of the Lord means returning to the Word of God. Quoting Deuteronomy 31:10-13, Hawkins spoke of Moses instructing the Israelites to read the Law so that they could learn to fear the Lord.
“The major reason I’m convinced that in the churches today walking in the fear of the Lord is a forgotten concept is that the exposition of the Word of God is not a high priority in the pulpit,” he said.
Using Job, Isaiah, Peter and John as examples, Hawkins said, “With every man and woman in the Bible who was greatly used of God, there is a common thread woven from Genesis to Revelation — they lived in the fear of the Lord.”
Challenging students to walk in the fear of the Lord, Hawkins said that after all Jesus has done and sacrificed, “the thing that ought to fear you the most is that you might do anything or say anything that might bring dishonor to him, that might displease him.”
Like dew that does not rise or fall but just appears when conditions are right, church growth will occur when conditions are made right, Hawkins said.
“When his people are walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the power of God will build a church faster than all the market-driven techniques the world has ever known — when conditions are right,” he said.
Hawkins concluded by referring to Solomon’s close of Ecclesiastes: “Now then hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”

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  • Derick Wilson