1 John 3:23,24 “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

     What does God expect of us?  What are we to do with our lives?  How do we live a life pleasing to God?  These are all good questions that Christians need to ask.  The answers to these questions aren’t found in self-help books or the frantic doing of good works or even in the counting soul’s saved through the sinner’s prayer.  Thankfully God’s Word tells us plainly what He expects of us!

     A wise man once looked at life and summed up the question in this way; “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  We don’t like the word ‘fear’ in these modern times because we live lives mostly insulated from the full force of nature and consequences.

     We forget fear can be positive.  I have a healthy fear of electricity.  I respect it’s power and don’t test it with a wet finger. I have a healthy fear of the ocean not being a strong swimmer.  Fear tells us when we are nearing our limits.  Often, a fearless life  is a stupid and brutal life; “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:14-18)

     We are too often bound up with unhealthy fears about incidentals to life rather than those matters central to it. We confuse unhealthy fears and anxieties with those that provide early warning and guidance in dangerous situations; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you.” (Proverbs 9:10,11)

     Jesus tells us what the most important commandments are; “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  Simply put we are to love God first, love our neighbor as ourselves and fear the consequences of not doing this on a daily basis!

     As to the fear of the Lord, many religious people have made Christlike idols to worship that don’t require any sort of reverent fear.  Just like the early Israelites our tendency is to avoid dealing with God directly; “Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.'” (Exodus 20:19,20)  The fear of the Lord is replaced by a counterfeit fear of the leader before us.  And when we sin we can simply avoid this human leader and avoid accountability.

     It’s always way easier to sin if you don’t have an intimacy with God. There’s nothing like empty, idolatrous religion to facilitate all kinds of hatred and injustice.  Jesus told us the reception those would get from Him at the day of judgement; “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

     The hellish recipe of modern times consists of three simple ingredients – no fear of God, idolatry and lawlessness.  Lawlessness is characterized by living with no accountability.  If you don’t believe in God you have no fear and so can live for yourself. You are free to be as selfish as you desire. “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you . . . ” (1 Peter 4:3,4)

     If you worship an idol, maybe something that looks like Christ without the truth of His Word, you have no need to fear because there are no real requirements on you even if your idolatrous religion places many rules on the backs of others.  We all have to be so careful not to fall into Pharisaical judgement and pride;  “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men . . . ” (Matthew 23:4,5) If we do fall into worldly religion we are free to be as self-righteous as we desire and bask in the world’s approval!

     In this time of Advent we would all do well to reflect upon His return.  Are you ready?  Being ready isn’t that complicated but it sure is important; “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

     There’s only one way to true freedom; “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” (John 8:31,32)

     Praise the Lord!