Fearing God (4)
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes. Psalm 36.1
The wicked and the righteous
The Scriptures explain that wicked people do not fear God. As David continues to say in Psalm 36, the wicked delight in the very things God warns against, and for which He threatens judgment and wrath.
The wicked “flatters himself in his own eyes” concerning his sins, because he thinks he’s getting away with something deliciously evil and self-serving (v. 2).
His words and acts are devoid of peace, truth, wisdom, and goodness because he does not fear the Lord (v. 3).
He plots his life along a course of wickedness, setting himself in a way that is not good and that embraces all kinds of evil (v. 4). The wicked do not fear God (v. 1).
These are the wicked, so marked and identified by their repudiation of God and His ways. There is a warning in this for all who believe that fearing God is not essential to the life of faith.
The truly righteous person is just the opposite of this. Those who love the Lord also fear Him. By a divine and spiritual mystery and power, they who love and fear the Lord hold those two apparently opposing affections in harmonious tension as the very breeding ground of righteousness and good works.
And all who thus love and fear the Lord, hate evil in all its forms (Ps. 97.10).
We don’t much like that word, “hate”. But hate is a perfectly legitimate affection, and every sincere follower of Jesus Christ should cultivate hatred of sin.
We must make certain, however, that this powerful affection is properly focused. We are called to hate evil– anything which is contrary to God’s holiness, righteousness and goodness. And we must sincerely hate it – not just be averse to it – so that we cannot bear the very thought of transgressing against the God Who so graciously has saved us in Jesus Christ.
When we hate evil, we will not even so much as dabble in it. If we dabble in sin in any way – in any of our thoughts, words, or deeds – soon enough we will begin to think that, since no one else knows about it, and it’s not really hurting anyone, a little sin can’t be a bad thing. Thus we show that we don’t hate evil, and we are beginning to be like the wicked who think they can indulge themselves and get away with it.
But sin is like a wildfire, and it can quickly burn out of control. One sin leads to another, as Asaph explained (Ps. 73.18) and sin, like truth, will make itself present. We are not clever enough to be always on guard against the sin we have chosen to harbor in our souls; sooner or later, it will break to the surface in some word or deed. Indeed, we cannot even predict how our cherished peccadillo might spread to some other area of our lives, bringing its destructive power to otherwise clean and wholesome activities.
Moreover, they who harbor sin in any way will find that their prayers are impeded (Ps. 66.18; Is. 59.1, 2). Not only will God turn a deaf ear to our prayers, but we will resort to prayer less and less, knowing that we’re harboring an attitude or practice displeasing to Him, which He knows full well.
We must nurture a genuine loathing for all things sinful. Sin is what put Jesus on the cross. Sin caused Him infinite sorrow, suffering, and shame. Sin turned the Father’s eyes from His Son and left Him to suffer in utter and complete isolation. Should we not truly hate that which brought such incomparable misery to our beloved Savior, and which provokes the wrath of God against unrepentant sinners?
Hate is what God does
If we love and fear the Lord, we will hate that which He Himself hates. And God hates sin. Period (Ps. 5.4, 5). As we take up the study of God’s Law, specific sins will be made clear to us. We will understand and recognize them, in ourselves and others, and then we can begin to nurture such a disgust for sin that we will in no way allow them a place within our souls or lives (Rom. 7.7).
At the same time, as we begin to hate sin, we will find that we are gaining and practicing more of the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). To fear the Lord is to love what our heavenly Father loves, hate what He hates, and do what lines up with His pleasure. And that includes hating sin.
You who love and fear the Lord, hate evil.
1. How would you be able to tell when you hate sin?
2. They who do not fear the Lord, do not hate sin. What shall we say about those who dabble in sin, or harbor known sin in their lives, or do not treat sin as seriously as the Lord does? What should we do if we find some of that tendency in ourselves?
3. How can daily meditation in the Law of God help to makes us sensitive to the presence of sin and temptation?
Next steps – Conversation: Would you describe yourself as “hating sin”? Would your life be different in any ways if you truly hated all sin? In what ways? Talk with some Christian friends about this aspect of the fear of God. How can you help one another to hate sin?
T. M. Moore
What does it mean to know the Lord? How does knowing the Lord relate to fearing Him, and to enjoying full and abundant life in Him? Our book, To Know Him, addresses these and other questions concerning our relationship with God. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.