This week, we’re taking a bit of a break to exercise only our mind and spirit. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to working out next week. At that time, God willing, we’ll use the substance of this week’s article and add a physical workout that illustrates many of the truths we’ll cover today.
Why am I providing an article after several weeks of example videos?
I believe the substance and accuracy of theological study in God’s Word is so central to a strong faith in Jesus that I want to take it more slowly for greater clarity of thought and application. So we will be alternating an article a godly response of emotion one week, a video on the same the next week, and a follow-on article on a godless response on the same topic: theologies of four emotions in twelve weeks. Today’s focus is godly fear.
As promised at the end of last week’s video, Exercising Mindfulness is Christ: Anxiety versus Integrity, we’re beginning a mini-series on a Scriptural theology of emotion. “Why?”, you might ask. “Aren’t the hard facts of God’s character, commands, promises, and actions in His Word much more important than our emotions?” And those are fair and excellent questions that deserve answers.
The simplest answer is that all theology of the Bible (who God is and how we are to respond to Him in Christ) is founded on and centered around deep emotion: love for God and each other, on which the entire Word of God hangs (Matthew 22:36-40). And love is at least three things: an exclusive loyalty to someone or something, selfless action for them, and passion or emotion about them. All three are essential, but it is our passion that most glorifies the other and brings us the greatest joy. Loyalty and selfless action without passion is like a shell of a marriage. The spouses are not cheating on each other and are doing all the outward things together that we associate with marriage, but their hearts are not in it. Such relationships are neither glorious nor enjoyable. In fact, notice how the Lord Jesus addresses most of the churches in Revelation 2-3 regarding their passion.
He rebukes the church of Ephesus not for their lack of loyalty or action but for their lack of passion (compare Revelation 2:4 with their emotional love for Christ and Paul from Acts 19:1 to 20:38). The Lord commends Smyrna for being faithful under suffering, and He encourages them not to fear physical death but implicitly calls them to long for His crown of life (2:10). He also commends Pergamum for being similarly steadfast under persecution but also calls for repentance of those who follow the “sin of Balaam”: a desire/passion for personal gain over glorifying God (Numbers 22:16-17, 2 Peter 2:15, and Jude 11). The Lord rebuked Thyatira for tolerating ungodly sexual passions among them (2:20-23). He describes Sardis as outwardly alive but inwardly dead (3:1). Philadelphia is weak but patiently enduring and loved (3:8-10). And His warning to the last of the seven, Laodicea, is for being lukewarm. It had lost its zeal or passion (Revelation 3:14-22). We can hear the commended zeal or condemned lack of emotional love in each.
As I visually explain in the video, Emotions: our physical experience of our spirit (scroll down that page to see the video), our emotions physically reflect whoever or whatever our spirit truly loves. If we are not passionate about someone or something, we may not deeply love them and our heart will not likely remain faithful to them. That’s one of the many reasons we need the Holy Spirit to re-create our hearts to be passionate for the Lord Jesus (Deuteronomy 30:6, Ezekiel 36:26, John 3:3-8, etc.). Emotions do not create our beliefs. Our emotions result from what we already value as “good” (whether it’s actually good or not) and belief as “true” (whether it’s actually true or not). And specific emotions cue us for relational proximity: to draw closer or to distance ourselves as we perceive our potential relationship with them as a blessing, threat, loss or injustice. For a visual example of these dynamics, you can see my video on Emotional intelligence: an introduction to our “Treasure Chest” (again, scroll down that page to see the video).
Notice, for example the emotion of fear in Psalm 1 and 2. Although these are two separate Psalms, they seem to form a rough literary chiasm. “Chiasm” refers to appearance of the Greek letter “Chi” (our X) because the literary passage in question pictures repeated themes that focus toward its center. Psalm 1 and 2 also serve as an introduction to the emotional roller coaster of all the Psalms because of their single emphasis in two parts of the chiasm: warning us against rebellion and calling us to faith and obedience to His Word and His Son. Note, too, that the emotion of fear, implicit and explicit, are depicted by physical ways (actions) and postures.
Godly fear avoids the threat of increasingly close company with the wicked (Psalm 1:1) and the postures of walking, then standing, then settling down to sit among the wicked, content to stay there. Instead, our implied posture is to be “walking, standing, and sitting” in God’s Word (verse 2) and “kissing” the Son (Psalm 2:12). Such a kiss to a ruling Son would have been given in a trembling posture of kneeling to kiss the Ruler’s hand with their own head bowed, symbolizing complete submission. In other words, “My life is yours, even to cut off my head if you choose.” (Exodus 18:7, 1 Samuel 20:41, 1 Kings 19:18, etc.)
And don’t miss that such love for the Son is to “Serve the Lord with fear and to rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11). Godly faith and obedience involves biblical fear. The person of faith rightly avoids anything that threatens their following the Son by faith in Him and rightly draws near to the Son. But they do the latter in trembling joy.
I’ve heard some use the analogy of being in the presence of someone famous whom we greatly admire. We want to be closer to them, yet we’re also shaking. We can’t believe they’re actually here with us! Our heart pounds hoping this moment will last forever, and we pray that everything will be just perfect! That analogy breaks down, however, because some of that kind of fear is that we will mess it up.
Because of the Son’s death on the cross to die in the place of His sinful people, Jesus’ sacrifice paid the full price of our rebellion. He has secured the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for us. We should still rightly shake with delight in His presence, for He is still the King of kings, Savior of our souls, Creator of the universe, and Re-Creator of our whole being. But the fear of those who put their faith in Him draw closer, not away. We seek to serve Him even more. Our fear motivates us to respect and worship Him above all else.
Next week, God willing, we’ll use some physical exercises to workout some of these powerful truths by bodily postures of godly fear.
If this is your first time in this series “Workout Wednesdays”, I encourage you to view the introductory video, “How to use Physical Exercise for Small Group Bible study and Fellowship: 1 Goal, 2 Tools, and 3 Questions in 4 Venues“. If you find that video helpful and might want to start your own small group for Bible study and fellowship through exercise, I also encourage you to check out “12 Tips to Set-up for W.A.I.T. Training”.
As you might imagine, you could use “W.A.I.T. Training” in many ways: an aquatic exercise group, a series of spin classes using the dozens of Christian music videos on “Music Mondays“, a yoga-like group that fills our minds with Scripture by mediating on the 24 images of spiritual fitness (instead of emptying our minds like some eastern religions and worldly philosophies), a traditional class discussion using the free book, “W.A.I.T. Training”, and more.
The program is designed for broad use through through a variety of supports: training videos, devotional thoughts, Christian music videos, 8×10 color posters, free t-shirt designs, and more can be used for your personal devotions or small group Bible studies. The downloadable PDF below suggests Scriptures on all 24 principles of W.A.I.T. Training by truths, commands, and promises (TPCs in the PDF below).
For more posts from series, “Workout Wednesdays”, you click here or subscribe to tools4trenches.net/
Unless otherwise indicated, Jeff Dillard is the author of all posts in this blog, the goal of which is your greater joy in Christ through leadership and counseling. Jeff and his wife, Lauren, have been married since 1995. By God’s grace, they have four wonderful children and two grandchildren. Jeff was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America and commissioned as an Army Chaplain in 1998. He has Master’s degrees in Divinity, History, and Counseling. Since 1998, he’s had the privilege of equipping and encouraging others’ faith and service to the Lord Jesus by leading congregations and counseling in multicultural settings across the United States. Seven of those years have been in Germany, Korea, and Iraq. For leisure, Jeff enjoys simple time with his family, exercise, playing guitar and trumpet, and trying foreign foods with friends.
Please note that the contents of tools4trenches do not necessarily reflect specific beliefs or practices of organizations in which Jeff works or worships.