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Heb 4:1 Fear God

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:49
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Hebrews 4:1–13 ESV
1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Heb 4:1 Fear God!
1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
I’m guessing that most of you have been in an airplane. Normally the first time someone flies it is on a commercial airline. However, my wife told me I’m not normal (in case you haven’t figured this out yet), the first time I flew was in a glider like the one in this picture.
It was one of my stupidest ideas ever because I don’t like heights. But when looking from the ground it seemed like it would be a very peaceful and gentle flight. I’m here to tell you that it is the complete opposite.
I knew it was a mistake the moment I went to sit in my seat on the glider. There are two seats, and I was upfront. But it wasn’t seating up front that was the problem. When I got into the glider, I couldn’t believe how fragile the whole contraption looked and felt. The walls were about 1/8 to ¼ inch thin plastic, while the top plastic cover was so thin, I was surprised it didn’t bend as I lightly touched it. I was beginning to have second thoughts, but I was too stubborn to admit my mistake.
As you can see in this picture gliders don’t have an engine. To get up in the air the glider is pulled with a towrope attached to an airplane. Those of you who have experienced being towed by a rope with wheels on the ground already picture how this is going to go.
This was perhaps the worst part of the flight. As the plane cuts through the air, the resulting turbulence sent our glider jerking 8 feet to right, followed immediately by a 10 feet drop then back up and to the side for the next 15 minutes. At that point my fear overcame any potential nausea.
Then at 2000 feet above the ground the yanking was over. That’s when I was really overwhelmed by fear. Here I was 2000 feet above ground, surrounded by paper thin plastic attached to these huge wings. These wings were bending as we flew, just like a little piece of paper. No different than one of Byron’s fleet of paper airplanes. And honestly not much better constructed either.
Out of fear I held on to the sides, which brought no security as the feel of such fragile material only heightened my panic.
At that point, the pilot thought I had passed out because I wasn’t screaming. I didn’t respond to him. I was so afraid that I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. After a few minutes I could finally grunt when he would ask if I was ok.
I was overtaken by fear, or paralyzed by fear. This often is the kind of feeling that we might think of when we hear the word fear.
However, fear is not completely bad, some fears keep us safe, like staying on solid ground rather than getting on a glider! In the same manner, the text we are studying today reminds us of another good fear, the fear of God.

Fear God

This section of Scripture has one main theme, to enter God’s rest, this theme takes almost the whole of chapter 4, from v 1- 13. My initial plan was to cover all these verses in one sermon, then I changed to cover only ten verses, but as I started working on it, I felt the prompting of the Spirit that we need to take the time to take an in depth look at this commandment in v1, let us fear.
What you might notice is that not every translation translates this as let us fear. Some say let us be careful, or let us beware. However, in the original language, there is no doubt that the word here is fear.
The author of Hebrews starts the warning in chapter 3 after quoting psalm 95 which he continues referring to here in chapter 4. Previously God had just commanded us to watch out for our hearts and for us to encourage one another.
Now there is a switch in theme to the idea of entering God’s rest. When we study the next few verses we will look in-depth at this theme of God’s rest, for now, we can say that entering God’s rest is to enter heaven, to be in His presence for eternity.
The commandment “let us fear” is followed by “lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” This phrase is saying that we should fear the possibility of not entering God’s rest. In other words, we could say that if we don’t fear we will not enter God’s rest.
You might say… wait a minute you just told me about this paralyzing fear experience you had, clearly fear is not a good thing. However, we see in Scripture the word fear used in two senses: a positive and a negative sense.
The negative sense is what we might first associate with the word fear. A dictionary of psychology and counseling describes fear as: “Normal fear addresses a realistic danger, phobia a relatively persistent and irrational fear.
Fear ranges from uneasiness to abject insecurity, with threats to one’s physical and/or psychological self. Intense fear constricts perception, thinking, and motor processes. The frightened person simultaneously wants to investigate and escape from the threat; this conflict may cause one to freeze or panic.”
When there is fear without any hope there is desperation. Sadly, this is the situation for many in Russia as the draft was instituted. Men are fearful of going to war. After Putin announced the draft the most searched question online in Russia was how to break your arm. Out of desperation in one week there were 17 attacks on recruitment centers. It is estimated that in five days 261.000 men fled the country, and another 110.000 more fled in the second week.
Without Christ our world is hopeless. We are living in crucial times, and we have the hope for a desperate world. We live in a confused world where the most basic understandings are messed up, it is a lost world where people can’t distinguish between their right and left hand. And yet we have the hope and the key to understanding reality. We need to be bold and share Christ, for the world is not afraid to promote darkness. For example, a recent commercial during a football game was about a cartoon called the little demon, where the main characters are Satan and the Antichrist.
The world is boldly proclaiming the devil. If the world is so bold, why are we afraid of what people might think of us? As we proclaim hope and life. We should boldly share the truth and comfort found in God the Father and in Christ our Savior. When you are given an opportunity to share Christ and you feel the pressure to not share, just think at that moment that what you share with that person might have an impact on them, which can lead them to be saved from eternal hell. But in the least shine brightly on the darkness surrounding them.
This world is going to get worse, 2 Tim 3:13 says “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” However, with this progression to worse, people are going to be more and more open to spiritual conversations, because deep in their hearts they know that there is a God, to which we all will have to give an account. People are desperate and they are searching for hope, full of fear for their future.
The negative sense of fear is what paralyzes us or causes panic. This negative sense of fear I’ll call paralyzing fear. This paralyzing fear is what I experienced when I was in that glider, I was so afraid that I froze and couldn’t talk or move for a little while. Others in fear might scream or cry out.
We see this paralyzing fear described in Scripture when the disciples found themselves in a boat in the middle of the night during a storm. Through this Jesus came walking on the water, and the disciples were full of fear, it says in Matt 14:26 “But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.” We don’t picture this too often, but when it says they cried out in fear, it means they were screaming filled with this paralyzing fear.
When the author of Hebrews commands us in Heb 4:1 let us fear, he doesn’t mean for us to have this paralyzing fear. Because in Scripture the most common way that fear is referred to is in a positive sense, to fear God.
Custis said the following about fearing God.
“While fearing God in the OT can sometimes refer to a terror or dread of God, most often it refers to awe or reverence toward God. To “fear Yahweh” means to serve and be faithful to him. It includes an aspect of worship, as the people of Israel are commanded to “fear Yahweh” and not fear other gods. The concept of fearing God is also closely linked with obedience to the law. To fear God is to have a proper response to his holiness.
When God commands us to fear. It means to have a reverent fear of God. That is: to be obedient, to be loyal to God, to worship Him, to revere God as Holy. It is to see God for who He truly Is and show the proper respect that He deserves as the King of the Universe.
The prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in Isaiah 6, where he saw God on His throne and the angels crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Then Isaiah’s response is full of reverent fear of God, where Isaiah recognizes God’s holiness and his own sinfulness.
Furthermore, we see that the fear of God is a key concept in the book of Proverbs, where the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.
In the Psalms, we also see fear associated with trust in God, friendship with God, protection, and blessing. Listen to these Psalms.
Psalm 40:3 Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 115:11. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
Psalm 25: 14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
Psalm 31:19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you
Psalm 85:9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
Psalm 145:19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
So, we see that fearing God is our proper response to who God is. It is ok and not disrespectful for us to honestly ask the question:

Why should we fear God?

Many in our world think that the idea of fearing God is at best a silly idea because they don’t know God or have a wrong understanding of who God is. Many people think of God as this very loving old man with a long beard, very similar to the idea of Santa Claus, that sees you as a good boy who is not perfect, but at Christmas, you get your present anyway. You have to be extremely bad to be on the naughty list, and really there are only a handful of people in the whole world that are on the naughty list of Santa.
Greg Gilbert gives a good description of how many people see God, “he’s kind, friendly, slightly dazed and needy but very loving grandfather who has wishes but no demands, can be safely ignored if you don’t have time for him, and is very, very, very understanding of the fact that human beings make mistakes – much more understanding, in fact, than the rest of us are”
If God is what many people make of Him, there is no reason to fear or revere Him. However, that is not the true God of the Bible, rather this is a man-made god, or rather how Satan has blinded the eyes of unbelievers to the truth of who God is.
Scripture makes it very clear that is not who God is. God is the creator of all things, He is on His throne ruling the Universe, telling the end from the beginning. He is a holy and completely righteous God. He is not going to let the guilty go unpunished.
Jesus said in Matt 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
For a made-up character like Santa Claus, there is barely anyone on the naughty list, and often the same for made-up gods. However, the true God of the Bible is completely righteous and holy.
God says in Rom 3:10-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Then in v23, it summarizes our state as “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Everyone is on the naughty list, we don’t just deserve not to get a present at Christmas, but what all humans deserve is to be sent to hell, to eternal punishment.
By ourselves we are damned, dead in our trespasses and sins, completely separated from God and without hope, unable to do anything about it. It took God to act to send His son to live and die in our place, so that now by faith we are justified. God is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Rom 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If you are not covered by the blood of Jesus, there should be a great fear of God, because of the judgment that we all deserve. However, if we are united by faith in Jesus there is no need to fear this judgment because Christ took the punishment that we deserve.
So, what does it mean to fear God?

What does it mean to fear God?

We have seen that if we are united by faith with Christ there is no fear of judgment, but we can boldly approach the throne of grace. However, as we approach God’s throne we need to come humbly, recognizing that God is completely Holy and that we are not, our only confidence and boldness is on the cross of Christ. When we have this attitude, we will have respect and reverence for God, for who He is, and for being the creator and judge of all.
Furthermore, we have seen that fearing God means to be obedient to Him, to serve Him, worship Him, and to be loyal and faithful to Him. But how do we fear God in our daily lives? Piper makes this comment when talking about the fear of the Lord in Isaiah 8, he says:
“If you reverence God, you will consider the prospect of displeasing him as a more fearful prospect than displeasing man.
That’s what it means to let the Lord be your fear. The prospect of offending or displeasing God will be a more dreadful or a more fearful prospect to you than worrying about what men can do to you.” The degree of Isaiah’s reverence for God was the same as the degree of his desire not to displease God.”
This is so important, let me repeat it:
“That’s what it means to let the Lord be your fear. The prospect of offending or displeasing God will be a more dreadful or a more fearful prospect to you than worrying about what men can do to you.” The degree of Isaiah’s reverence for God was the same as the degree of his desire not to displease God.”
So how does this works in our daily lives?
If we are given the opportunity to share Christ with someone and we feel the pressure of staying quiet because of what others might think. We need to stop and tell ourselves to fear God not man, what God thinks of us is far more important than what this person might think of us. Furthermore, we are taking someone else’s opportunity to understand a right fear of God away.
It means that in our daily lives when we are faced with temptations and we are lured to think of the momentary pleasures and the benefits for ourselves, we need to instead preach to ourselves to fear God. We need to consider the prospect of offending or displeasing God as more dreadful or a more fearful prospect than to give in to our sinful desires, or to let a desire for something good rule our hearts.
It means that in our daily lives as we are bombarded with the pressures of this materialist world, where we are told that what we buy is what makes us happy or defines us. That’s when we need to preach to ourselves to fear God, to remember that nothing material can make us happy, but they are trying to pull our hearts away from God.
It means that in our daily lives when we are paralyzed by fear we turn to God and fear Him. You might wonder what happened after I was paralyzed by fear in that glider. Well as I was there stuck, frozen in the air. I looked up and saw the skies. That led me to think of God who created the heavens and the earth, and how vast His creation is, then I looked down and saw for miles and miles different cities and buildings. That led me to consider how God is orchestrating the life of each person on the earth, including me in this glider. My fear for my life was gone because it was replaced by the fear of God, and I recognized that my life was always in His hands, so I could relax a little bit and trust Him.
When my paralyzing fear was replaced with a fear of God, it changed me from not being able to move or speak to having a great time with God and exalting Him and His creation, while still resting on a fragile and thin man-made contraption. The situation or truth didn’t change - my perspective and focus did. That was all it took. And I thoroughly enjoyed my first flight, despite the harrowing beginning.
Today, we studied what it means to fear God, but how does this fear of God connect to the passage in Heb 4 that we are studying? Or more specifically, why is the fear of God essential or necessary to entering God’s rest?
Why does fearing God is essential to enter God’s rest?
The bottom line is If we do not fear God, we don’t really know Him. If we know God we will recognize that He is completely Holy and righteous. We will have knee knocking paralyzing fear of being in His Holy presence as a sinful human. However, we can approach Him humbly and at the same time confident because of the blood of Christ.
In the OT we see often when God manifested himself to His people, they often fell on their faces full of fear. When the high priest will enter the holy place there was a rope tied to his waist, in case he will died, they could get him out. Uzzah touched the ark and died. When God came down on the mountain, all the whole camp was afraid and trembling and they said “Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
That is not just the OT, in the NT when Jesus was transfigured the disciples fell on their faces and they were terrified. Ananias and Saphira dropped dead because they lied to the Holy Spirit. In Corinth believers were dying and getting sick because they were taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
We will revere God for who He is, the creator, sustainer of all, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, the coming King, and the savior.
If we know Him, we will fear Him and we will be obedient to Him, to His word. We would want to serve and worship Him. It is our delight to be loyal and faithful to Him. We will recognize daily that the prospect of displeasing God is a far more fearful prospect than displeasing man.
If we know God we will have a reverent fear of God, and we will enter His rest for eternity.
Therefore, let us approach God confidently, yet with great fear of our Holy God. The King of Ages immortal invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever Amen.
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