Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 1997
If I were to pick the Christian author who has been the greatest spiritual mentor to me over the years, it would undoubtedly be Jerry Bridges, long-time Navigators staff member and author of many books on the Christian life. Bridges’ books are biblical, theological sound, and deep, yet imminently practical. I glean so much for my life from reading them. Every chapter is chock full of Scripture verses and Bible stories illustrating the author’s points. In addition, Bridges often gives examples from his own life that truly minister to me.
The subject of this book, the fear of God, is all over the Scripture, but sadly often neglected in contemporary preaching. To help us understand the fear of God Bridges cites the following definition by theologian John Murray: “The fear of God in which godliness consists is the fear which constrains (compels or powerfully produces) adoration and love. It is the fear which consists in awe, reverence, honor, and worship, and all of these on the highest level of exercise. It is the reflex in our consciousness of the transcendent majesty and holiness of God.”
The Joy of Fearing God is recommended by various notable Christian authors such as Randy Alcorn, R.C. Sproul, and Paul David Tripp. Alcorn writes, “The Joy of Fearing God, like the author, is a timeless classic. Years ago I led a group study of this unique book, and we all found it deeply refreshing and rewarding in our walks with Christ. I have the highest regard for Jerry Bridges, and I am delighted to see one of his greatest books available to a new generation of readers!”
I too highly recommend this fine book for your personal reading, as well as for discussion in your small group. The group Donna and I are in at our church has used it with much profit. We are continuing to learn that there is indeed great JOY in fearing God.
To help you appreciate this fine book I’ve included some quotes below.
Join me in our journey to discover that there’s joy in the fear of God; that the title of the book is not an oxymoron, but a glorious truth. … Strange as it may seem, there is JOY in fearing God. The Bible says God delights in those who fear Him, and holds out to them the promise of blessing. Surely then, this is a subject that deserves our attention.
The fear of God is the animating and invigorating principle of a godly life. It is the well spring of all godly desires and aspirations. Do you desire to be a godly person? Then you must understand and grow in the fear of God.
In all of our meditation on God’s greatness and grandeur, we should remember that when we have strained our faculties to the utmost, we are still an immeasurable distance from the reality of who He is. He is truly an infinite awesome God whom we should fear.
My desire is to help you develop such a view of God’s love that you can’t help but fear Him. I want you to experience the joy of fearing God and to grow in that joy more and more as you increase in the knowledge of His love. My desire is that both you and I will be so overwhelmed by Christ’s love that it will indeed compel us to live not for ourselves but for Him.
When He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), He was bearing the wrath that was justly due to us. This is the meaning of the atonement. Only as we come to grips with the fact that we truly were objects of God’s wrath do we begin to appreciate this good news of the gospel.
We should be growing each year in our awareness of the depths of his love for us in Christ … as we become more aware of the reality of our own sin even as believers. As increasing understanding of God’s holiness, of our own sin, and of the value of Christ’s death will always mark a person who’s growing as a Christian. … This is when we really start to enjoy fearing God: when we realize in the depth of our being that we justly deserve the wrath of God, then we see that wrath poured out on Jesus instead of on ourselves. We’re both awed at His wrath and astonished at His love.
If you want the fear of God to be a dominant aspect of your day-to-day mindset, you must work at it.
I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of living our Christian lives each day in the atmosphere of the gospel. The gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is also for us, because we are still sinners – saved sinners to be sure, but still sinners in need of the daily assurance of God’s forgiveness through Christ.
The initial kindling of the spark is solely the work of God; the flaring up of that spark into a flame is a combined effort: We ourselves work with the Holy Spirit, as enabled by His power.
If we’re self-opinionated about what the Bible teaches, we’ll be neither dependent (on God) nor teachable. Even those of us who want to be dependent and teachable can too often give lip service to those qualities while actually approaching Bible study in the strength of our own intellect.
Adam and Eve did not obey, and authority has been a problem for us ever since, both in resisting it and abusing it. As people who want to fear God we must therefore learn what it means both to submit to authority and to exercise it properly in all our various relationships to authority structures. … Clearly the issue of God’s authority over His creatures is one of the most basic principles of Scripture. It underlies everything else.
Obedience to God is very much our responsibility — but a responsibility that must be carried out in utter dependence on the Holy Spirit. We work as He enables us to work. We cannot make one inch of progress in obeying God apart from His working in us to enable us.
In all our affairs of life and our interactions with other people we should always be conscious of His all-pervasive presence, His all-seeing eye and all-hearing ear. This is where integrity actually begins — living all of life in the conscious awareness of God’s constant presence. And this should be a fundamental characteristic of the person who fears God.
A person who fears God … lives all of life in conscious dependence on God. … This attitude of absolute dependence on God is not one to be temporarily assumed, as in a time of crisis, but is to be sustained through all the routine activities of life, both spiritual and temporal. We need to cultivate a spirit of dependence on God just as much in driving to church as in teaching a Sunday school class once we get there.
What is your aim in life? … What is your true aim? If we’re to glorify God in the way we live, we must make God’s glory our primary aim. All other goals in life, both temporal and spiritual must be secondary. … Nothing in life is too ordinary or insignificant to be excluded. … Life is largely a mosaic of little things: routine events, everyday duties, and ordinary conversations. How we conduct ourselves in these circumstances determines largely whether we glorify God in our lives.
The truth is … we cannot glorify God — either by our lives or by worship — unless we are enjoying Him. How could you praise someone whom you don’t enjoy? How could you genuinely seek to honor someone by your conduct merely out of a sense of obligation? As we probe these questions, we can see that glorifying God and enjoying Him are really two sides of the same coin.