The Fear of God (4)
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There isno fear of God before his eyes. Psalm 36.1
The wicked and the righteous
It is characteristic of wicked people that they 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). These are the wicked, so marked and identified by their repudiation of God and His ways.
All who neglect the Law of God will soon enough excuse themselves from so doing. That neglect and self-justification is the breeding-ground for disobedience to God’s Law, even on the part of those who claim to be sons and daughters of God and followers of Jesus Christ. It is characteristic of wicked people to hate God’s Law; it is characteristic of God’s people to love His Law and hate wickedness.
Those who love the Lord also fear Him, by a divine and spiritual mystery and power, holding those two affections in harmonious tension as the perfect spiritual soil from which righteousness and good works grow. And all who thus love and fear the Lord hate evil in all its forms (Ps. 97.10).
We seem to be getting off on something of a negative note in our effort to understand and make the best use of our affections. First, fear, and now, hate.
We don’t much like that word, “hate.” But it is a perfectly legitimate affection and should be cultivated by every sincere follower of Jesus Christ. We must make certain, however, that this powerful repelling 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, because we fear God and His discipline if we should (Heb. 12.3-11). 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.
But sin is like a cancer. One sin leads to another, as Aspah explained (Ps. 73.18) and sin, like truth, will out, sooner or later. We are not clever enough to be always on guard against the sin we have chosen to harbor in our souls. It will break to the surface in some word or deed when we’re not paying attention, and leave us looking foolish and ashamed. Indeed, we cannot even predict how our cherished peccadillo might spread to some other area of our lives, bringing its corruption to otherwise clean and wholesome activities.
Moreover, they who harbor sin rather than hate it 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 delight to seek the Lord in prayer less and less, knowing, as we do, that we’re harboring an attitude or practice displeasing to Him, and concerning which He knows full well.
We must positively 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 what God hates
If we love and fear the Lord, we will hate that which He Himself hates. And God hates sin. Period. As we take up the study of God’s Law, specific sins will be revealed 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 take them into or abide them 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 brings us into His pleasure.
You who love and fear the Lord, hate evil.
1. Hate, like fear, is an affection that repulses. Explain.
2. How can becoming familiar with the Law of God help us to hate sin?
3. If we do nothing actively to hate sin, do you think it’s likely we will hate it? Explain.
Next steps: Would you describe yourself as “hating sin”? Would your life be different in any ways if you truly hated sin? In what ways? Talk with a Christian friend about this aspect of the fear of God. How can you help one another to hate sin?
T. M. Moore
This is part 2 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click 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.