Putting the Lord in his proper place

By David Pool
Posted 2/8/24

In his book “Don’t Follow Your Heart,” Thaddeus Williams observes that the fastest growing religion in our nation is that of self-worship. 

“We all, regardless of …

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Putting the Lord in his proper place


In his book “Don’t Follow Your Heart,” Thaddeus Williams observes that the fastest growing religion in our nation is that of self-worship. 

“We all, regardless of our official religious identity, have a tendency, as natural as blinking or breathing, to place ourselves at the center of our own existence,” he writes.

From Barna Group research in 2016, it is clear that self as one’s authority has taken hold in our nation. For instance, 91% of Americans believe that the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself. Similarly, 84% hold that the highest goal in life is to enjoy it as much as possible. These and other related statistics betray the reality that self-worship in America runs deep.

Have you ever considered just how contrary and opposed these beliefs are to what we find in the Bible? The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is filled with the Lord’s instruction for how to attain “the good life.”

It has little to do with accumulating wealth or possessions and much to do with gaining “wisdom” and living accordingly.  In sum, the concept of wisdom in the Bible means to live skillfully. It points to only one source for wisdom: The fear of the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Proverbs 1:7. 

It is the theme, the framework for the entire book. 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” Proverbs 9:10 repeats.

The point is the individual person in themselves is not the source of wisdom or “the good life.” To the contrary, the more you live for yourself, the more unhappy you will be.

But what does it mean to fear the lord? Old Testament scholar Kenneth Aitken says that it has two sides that must be held together. First, the fear of God is a deep-seated reverence and awe in recognition of God’s holiness. Have you pondered recently how grand and glorious the almighty God truly is? Thinking about God’s transcendence brings an enormous corrective to our lives. Just look up at the stars on one of these cold winter nights when you take the trash out. Take some time to pause and ponder. Siri tells me that there are roughly 2 trillion galaxies in the universe, and a typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, though I’m sure no one really knows when we are talking about numbers of this scale. What kind of creative power was required to put those stars in place? This kind of thinking helps us to realize the smallness of our stature, stand in awe of the almighty, and revere his rightful place of worship in our lives.

Second, the fear of the lord entails faithfulness and loyalty to the lord himself, and that includes obedience to his will. In other words, the fear of the lord shows up in one’s lifestyle, habits, and values. This idea was impressed often on the Israelites in the Old Testament. 

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

Did you catch that? Moses said that fearing the lord is for your own good! It causes you to flourish! For the Christian, this is not a groveling, anxiety-ridden fear but a reverent, worshipful God-consciousness that culminates in the person of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:30. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:3.

You and I were not designed to center our lives and loves upon ourselves. Doing so only leads to misery. Far better, we were created to live in the fear of the lord and to center our lives and our focus on him. So, how can you express a healthy fear of the lord today?

(David Pool is the senior pastor at Grace Point.)