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The Awesome Church

Quotes from Chapter 7

What things do you fear? Our fears are highly revealing. What you fear shows what you really love. Some of our fears are healthy, some are overblown, and some betray deeper sicknesses in our character.

What do your fears say about you and your priorities, about what you treasure? What do they say about where you are looking for security?

Which do you fear more: being sinful or being uncomfortable? God or man? Being a sinner or being exposed before others as a sinner?

What does it look like when a believer is filled with a right, healthy, filial fear of God? Not a cold, dead, outward, hypocritical show of reverential religion, but a heartfelt quaking at the goodness and greatness and glory of the Redeemer.

Deeper Communion with God

Look at several passages of Scripture with promises of the many benefits enjoyed by those who fear God rightly.

Happy is the person who fears the Lord,
taking great delight in his commands.

Psalm 112:1

But in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Acts 10:35

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his faithful love
toward those who fear him.

Psalm 103:11

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

Psalm 103:13

The Lord values those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his faithful love.

Psalm 147:11

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence
and his children have a refuge.

Proverbs 14:26

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
turning people away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 14:27

The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and rescues them.

Psalm 34:7

You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and shield.

Psalm 115:11

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry for help and saves them.

Psalm 145:19

How great is your goodness
that you have stored up for those who fear you
and accomplished in the sight of everyone
for those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 31:19

Child of God, thou that fearest God, here is mercy nigh thee, mercy enough, everlasting mercy upon thee. This is long-lived mercy. It will live longer than thy sin, it will live longer than temptation, it will live longer than thy sorrows, it will live longer than thy persecutors. It is mercy from everlasting to contrive thy salvation, and mercy to everlasting to weather it out with all thy adversaries. Now what can hell and death do to him that hath this mercy of God upon him? And this hath the man that feareth the Lord.

John Bunyan 1

Those who fear the Lord know his mercy, love, and compassion. The fear of the Lord is a heart-level indicator of the warm communion with God that God wants with his children. It is the mark of those who are being brought into the joy and life of Christ their Saviour and who therefore share his delight in the fear of the Lord.

Knowledge and Wisdom

The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord gives believers a knowledge no natural-born genius ever has. Without God, more knowledge has not meant more happiness and satisfaction; it has left modern man feeling adrift on a vast sea of fears.

The fear of the Lord brings a knowledge beyond the grasp of any great philosophers. In the fear of the Lord is found a true knowledge of God, as Creator and as Redeemer, as majestic and as merciful. The living God is so wonderful that he is not truly known where he is not worshiped and heartily adored.

We who love theology need to remember that there is no true knowledge of God where there is no right fear of him.

The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of knowledge of God. It is also the beginning of true knowledge of ourselves.

Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.

John Calvin 2

I do not have a true knowledge of myself if I do not fear God. Without that fear, my self-perception will be wildly distorted by my pride and by the messages of the sinful culture around me. It is when we are most thrilled with God and his redemption that we see ourselves for what we really are: creatures, sinners, forgiven, adopted.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2, 3

With the Word of God serving as a map to reality, the fear of God is a compass to steer believers aright.

Mere intelligence is not a safe guide to walking through life wisely. We need the fear of God to steer our abilities, and without it, all our abilities are a liability. It is only this wonderful fear of God that can steer us wisely through life. This—not IQ—is the beginning of wisdom.

He will bless those who fear the Lord—
small and great alike.

Psalm 115:13

The fear of the Lord makes believers both knowledgeable and wise. The fear of the Lord makes believers more knowledgeable than the greatest geniuses, and wiser than the wisest sages.

Becoming like God

Those who fear God come to know him in such a way that they actually become holy, faithful, loving, and merciful, like him.

Iniquity is atoned for by loyalty and faithfulness,
and one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 16:6

It consumes sinful desires and fuels holy ones. The word “desires” is key, for the fear of the Lord does not keep believers from sin in the sense that it makes us merely alter our behaviour for fear of punishment. Rather, it brings us to adore God and so loathe sin and long to be truly and thoroughly like him.

The Spirit we are given is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, who causes us to share Christ’s delight in the fear of the Lord.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2, 3

Unlike our sinful fears, the fear of God makes us happy.

So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Acts 9:31

To fear God is to know the Spirit’s consolation and Christ’s own happiness and satisfaction in God.

Along with making us happy, the fear of the Lord makes believers large-hearted, like God. The fear of the Lord is the precise opposite of hard-heartedness.

So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.
The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah was a man who greatly feared the Lord and took a hundred prophets and hid them, fifty men to a cave, and provided them with food and water when Jezebel slaughtered the Lord’s prophets.

1 Kings 18:2–4

Happy is the one who is always reverent,
but one who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

Proverbs 28:14

That softheartedness and large-heartedness toward others is actually the overflow of a prior love: our tenderheartedness and affection towards God. Those who fear God have a jealousy for God.

It is one of the most solemn truths in the Bible, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” We might have guessed it, for great love has always that dangerous neighbour jealousy not far off. They that love no have no hate, no jealousy, but where there is an intense, an infinite love, like that which glows in the bosom of God, there must be jealousy.

Charles Spurgeon 3

Such righteous jealousy should not be confused with selfish envy: it is a love that will not let go of the beloved or make do with substitutes. As God the Father is jealous for his beloved Son, and as Christ is jealous for his bride, the church, so too those who fear God find in themselves a loving jealousy for God. They become jealous in the same way that he is jealous. Adoring him, they cannot abide his glory being diminished or stolen by idols or by people.

From this sensitive appreciation of God in all his glory grows another Christlike quality: humility. Trembling in wonder at God keeps one from trusting in oneself. It is the key to true humility, which is not about trying to think less of yourself or trying to think of yourself less but about marveling more at him.

This fear levels and unites us as a church. In light of God’s merciful magnificence, we find ourselves leveled before him as mere creatures and sinners. Because this fear is such a loving adoration, it also binds together all who are leveled before God. Fear gathers us together in the warm and humble fellowship of a shared love.

Joyful, loving, humble, and jealous for God, the right fear of God makes the difference between hollow, devilish religiosity and beautiful, Christlike believers.

Finding Strength

The carnal person fears man, not God; the strong Christian fears God, not man; the weak Christian fears man too much, and God too little.

John Flavel 4

We call the fear of man people-pleasing, peer pressure, codependency. Some classic signs of it are the overcommitment that comes from an inability to say no, self-esteem issues, and an excessive sensitivity to the comments, views, and behaviour of others.

Western culture has come to view low self-esteem as the root of our every emotional problem, holding us back in life. The normal prescription for building your self-worth on the opinion of others is to love yourself more; love yourself so much that it will hardly matter what others think. In other words, treat the disease of narcissism with more narcissism. Seeking to bolster our self-esteem by making us more self-referential and more self-conscious is only making us more vulnerable and thin-skinned.

According to Scripture, that turn inward on ourselves is precisely our problem, not the solution. More self-love, self-confidence, or trust in man will never ease our fears: relief from anxious fears is for those who fear and trust the Lord.

This is what the Lord says:
Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind.
He makes human flesh his strength,
and his heart turns from the Lord.
He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;
he cannot see when good comes
but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness,
in a salt land where no one lives.
The person who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.
He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5–8

Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

We ought to think how marvellous and terrible is our God in his counsels, lest by chance what is attempted for settling strife grows rather into an intolerable deluge of evils, if we begin by condemning the Word of God. … Therefore we must fear God.

Martin Luther 5

But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

1 Peter 3:14, 15

As the fear of the Lord grows, it outgrows, eclipses, consumes, and destroys all rival fears.

Do not call everything a conspiracy
these people say is a conspiracy.
Do not fear what they fear;
do not be terrified.
You are to regard only the Lord of Armies as holy.
Only he should be feared;
only he should be held in awe.

Isaiah 8:12, 13

Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them.

Numbers 14:9

“So don’t worry, asking, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Matthew 6:31–33

The Lord is might light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
whom should I dread?
When evildoers come against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
Though an army deploys against me,
my heart will not be afraid;
though a war breaks out against me,
I will still be confident.

I have asked one thing from the Lord;
it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord
and seeking him in his temple.
For he will conceal me in his shelter
in the day of adversity;
he will hide me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
Then my head will be high
above my enemies around me;
I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy.
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Lord, hear my voice when I call;
be gracious to me and answer me.
My heart says this about you:
“Seek his face.”
Lord, I will seek your face.
Do not hide your face from me;
do not turn your servant away in anger.
You have been my helper;
do not leave me or abandon me,
God of my salvation.
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord cares for me.

Because of my adversaries,
show me your way, Lord,
and lead me on a level path.
Do not give me over to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing violence.

I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart be courageous.
Wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27

When describing the Lord as his stronghold, refuge, and joy, David focuses on the beauty of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the only fear that imparts strength. The strength this fear gives is a humble strength. Those who fear God are simultaneously humbled and strengthened before his beauty and magnificence.

The fear of the Lord makes believers like Christ, simultaneously lamblike and lionlike.

“Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the high and mighty prince Henry, King of Great Britain and France. If thou sayest one single word that displeases his Majesty he will take thy head off; therefore, mind what thou art at.”

“Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the Lord God Almighty, who is able to cast both body and soul into hell, and so tell the king the truth outright.”

The fear of the Lord gave him strong confidence.

“Fear him, ye saints, and ye will then
Have nothing else to fear.”

Charles Spurgeon 6

The Battle of Fears in the Christian Life

Since fear is a matter of the heart, reorienting our fears is no easy, quick matter. Reorienting our fears and affections is a daily battle we must join, as both a duty and a joy.

Consider, as the throne endures no rivals, so that fear which is a homage and tribute which we should pay only to the Sovereign Creator of the world, should not be given to the creature. He that doth immoderately fear the creature, dethrones God and deifies man. It is no less than sacrilege to alienate the affections from God; and it is no less than idolatry, to place our affections inordinately upon the creature.

Consider, this immoderate fear of the creature is the root of apostacy. Such a man will rather save his life than his soul, such a person carries his faith about him at the mercy of every one that threatens to kill him: for this is a maxim, he that is a coward will be an apostate. That man doth not fear God, that dares not die for him; that man that hath not got above the love of life, and above the fear of death, will never be a martyr, he will never hold out for God; therefore such a person is in the very next degree to an apostate.

William Bates 7

We were made to place this most intense affection upon God, and we are out of kilter with reality if we set it elsewhere. When this adoring homage is paid to anyone or anything else, God is robbed of his right and we are robbed of our happiness.

Our sinful fears cannot be nursed or left to fester: we must fight fear with fear.

That fight is not only a duty but also a joy. Left to our sinful fears of God, we will shrink from God in guilt and not enjoy all his goodness. Left to our fear of man, we will wilt before every criticism, unable to enjoy real fellowship. Just as a right and happy fear of God is fostered by the truth, sinful fears grow in a bed of Satan’s lies.

Satan’s lies would rob believers of their filial fear and leave them with a grovelling dread of God and a competitiveness instead of any real fellowship between us. We must counter with the truth that drives out anxiety. Into the battlefield of our troubled hearts we send the promises of God. For the word that brings a right fear of God (Ps. 19:7–9) brings freedom (James 1:25). Safe in Christ, we testify to ourselves afresh that the Almighty is our compassionate Redeemer and loving Father, and that he is able, willing, and near to us as we call on him.

The instruction of the Lord is perfect,
renewing one’s life;
the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,
making the inexperienced wise.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
making the heart glad;
the command of the Lord is radiant,
making the eyes light up.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are reliable
and altogether righteous.

Psalm 19:7–9

But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:25

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all his acts.
The Lord is near all who call out to him,
all who call out to him with integrity.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry for help and saves them.

Psalm 145:17–19

In the face of our culture of anxiety, having this right fear of God will beautifully adorn and attest to the reality of the gospel we proclaim. This fear—which is pleasurable and not disagreeable—is precisely what can liberate us from the anxieties now flooding our increasingly post-Christian Western culture.

Sharing God’s Fearsomeness

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Led by the Spirit into conformity with Christ, the church begins to exhibit to the world fearsome divine qualities of holiness, blessedness, happiness, wholeness, and beauty. Thus the church shines like the moon in the darkness, eliciting both wonder and dread. In the fear of God, believers become—like their God—blessedly and beautifully fearsome.

  1. John Bunyan, “A Treatise on the Fear of God,” in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offer, 3 vols. (Glasgow: W.G. Blackie & Son, 1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 1:470.
  2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011), 1.1.3.
  3. C.H. Spurgeon, “Godly Fear and Its Goodly Consequence,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, 63 vols. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855–1917), 22:233.
  4. John Flavel, “A Practical Treatise on Fear,” in The Whole Works of John Flavel, vol. 3 (London: W. Baynes and Son, 1820), 241.
  5. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 32, Career of the Reformer II, 111–12.
  6. Spurgeon, “Godly Fear and Its Goodly Consequence,” 237.
  7. William Bates, “On the Fear of God,” in The Whole Works of the Rev. W. Bates, vol. 3 (London: James Black, 1815), 223.


  1. What things do you fear?
  2. What do your fears say about you and your priorities, about what you treasure? What do they say about where you are looking for security?
  3. Which do you fear more: being sinful or being uncomfortable? God or man? Being a sinner or being exposed before others as a sinner?
  4. What does it look like when a believer is filled with a right, healthy, filial fear of God?
  5. What does the one who fears the Lord have as per John Bunyan?
  6. Those who fear the Lord know his _____.
  7. Without God, what does more knowledge do?
  8. What is the warning the author gives to those who love theology on page 135?
  9. The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of knowledge of God, but also of what?
  10. Why is this the case (the answer to question 9)?
  11. What are we, Christians, really? (Page 136)
  12. What does the author call the Word of God and the fear of God on page 136?
  13. Without the fear of God, what is meer intelligence and our abilities (page 137)?
  14. Does having a high IQ mean you are truly wise?
  15. What happens to those who fear God?
  16. What do 1 Kings 18:2–4 and Proverbs 28:14 teach or show us about the fear of the Lord?
  17. Those who fear God have a jealousy for God. Explain this jealousy. Is jealousy always bad?
  18. Fearing God leads to humility. What is true humility?
  19. What else does this fear do for the church (page 140)?
  20. What are some examples of what we call the fear of man today or what it looks like?
  21. What does our Western culture say is the root of our every emotional problem and what does it prescribe as the solution?
  22. What does Scripture say about this solution?
  23. What is the solution?
  24. How can the fear of the Lord free us from our anxieties and our fear of man?
  25. What does David focus on in Psalm 27 when describing the Lord as his stronghold, refuge, and joy?
  26. The fear of the Lord is the only fear that gives what?
  27. What does William Bates call it to fear others in place of God?
  28. How do we fight sinful fear?
  29. What fosters right fear and what fosters sinful fears?
  30. Led by the Spirit into conformity with Christ, the church begins to exhibit fearsome divine qualities of _____.
  31. To recap, list out different things this chapter taught that those who fear the Lord have.

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.


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