So the church ………enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. (Acts 9:31)
This verse leapt off the page a couple of days ago during my personal quiet time. I found it gripping, something I knew I was meant to ponder, to chew on a bit. Take a look at the descriptions of the church:
- Enjoyed peace
- Was built up
- Continued to increase
How? Somehow through some amazing blend of the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. ‘Fear’ and ‘Comfort’ are not usually two experiences that occur simultaneously and we certainly do not think of such a combination as bringing peace. Unless it is the Lord!
When I think of the word “church” I most often think of individual people, not so much organized groups. We know that to be Biblically true and I guess my personal bias, with my strange calling as a missionary/counselor is that as the individual believer grows into holy wholeness, so will the corporate Body. Make sense?
I think we see here a similar idea as I wrote about in the posting entitled I AM with you. It seems that we often find two ‘seemingly’ opposing expressions of the Lord. Those that tend toward hyper-legalism often present an image of the Lord is All Powerful, which of course He is, but with their presentation we are often left with a guilt-motived frightfulness that causes us to draw back rather than drawing near, and leaves us feeling a bit shameful and distant from One who is so holy.
On the other side of the spectrum is a presentation of the Lord that is so casual, so self-serving (should I say so western :)?) that there is almost an unhealthy familiarity, somehow stripping the Lion of Judah of potency.
I find it difficult to capture in words what the “fear of the Lord” means to me. But here is an attempt:
This is the true and Living God of all creation with whom we relate…
He is wrapped in unfathomable mystery, yet He does reveal Himself to us…
He is incomprehensible – yet knowable (on His terms)…
He alone holds the power of life and death….
Our hearts should carry an awe-filled holy tremble at the thought of Him of His majesty…
In His kindness He sent Jesus to carry and express His heart for us..
To imagine life apart from Him, apart from His incredible love, apart from His incredible mercy and grace, apart from His closeness and intimacy, and apart from His love whispers – is the most frightening thought I could ever image….
The “comfort” of the Holy Spirit brings into my personal reality the truth that this Awesome God wants us! He is for us, not against us. He wrapped Himself in the flesh of man and came to rescue us. He never leaves nor forsakes us His children, His bride. The current circumstances of life are not greater than His love for us, His commitment to us.
These two deep abiding experiences of God; that we can have both a holy reverence (fear) beyond words and an abiding comfort, brings a maturity that can change the heart of man and ultimately the very world itself.