What Is the Difference Between a Healthy Fear and an Unhealthy Fear of God?

A Little Lessons Series

There are some who deny the need to fear God, choosing to focus only on His love. And there are others who focus only on the fear of God and forget about his love. So what is the difference between a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear of God? Learn more!

Difference between a healthy and unhealthy fear of God

What Is the Difference Between a Healthy Fear and an Unhealthy Fear of God? (Part 1)

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

We’re going to talk today about the fear of the Lord. And that phrase, the fear of the Lord or the admonition fear God, that theme, that idea is found throughout all the Bible from cover to cover, Old and New Testaments, it’s inescapable. And so, when Christians and Christian leaders make light of the fear of God and even say outrageous things like, “We shouldn’t fear God because God is love and perfect love casts out all fear. And if we really understood God, we wouldn’t be fearful of him at all.” Well, those people are just twisting the word of God to their own ends and ignoring the greater context of the revelation of all of what the Bible has to say about God and how he’s revealed himself.

So we want to have a fear of God that’s healthy and not one that’s unhealthy. I’m going to talk about the difference in a few minutes. Now, scripture tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So that’s really where true wisdom starts is with fearing God. And you might say, “Well, wait a second. There’s lots of people who have a lot of wisdom it seems, but they’re not even Christians. They might be agnostics or atheists, and they’re so smart and maybe they do make decisions now that show that down the road, they made the right decision and it pays off for them in some way. Aren’t those people characterized by some degree of wisdom?” Well, yes, worldly temporal wisdom.

But remember that the Bible, it looks at things from God’s perspective, from an eternal perspective. And a person who doesn’t have any fear of God really hasn’t even begun to get any wisdom from God’s standpoint yet, because they’re not ready to die. They’re not ready to stand before God. They’re not ready to give an account of their lives. They’ve never repented of their sins and believed in Jesus and received him as their Lord and as the son of God. And so, that person is stupid. And they are, think about it. Everyone knows we’re all going to die. And someone has come to this earth claiming to be God who worked incredible miracles that were seen by thousands of eyewitnesses, which many of them were willing to die for their faith in the son of God. And these people just go merrily throughout their life, not even thinking about what lies after death and the God who created them.

So, just think about it. Think of the vastness and the complexity of the universe and of everything that has been made within the creation. I mean, certainly we ought to have an awe and a respect for the being who made all this. I mean, he’s made stars that are thousands, multiplied thousands of times larger than our massive sun in our little tiny solar system here. This is a guy who spoke the universe into existence. Don’t you think it would be a good idea, smart to have a little respect? People respect their bosses. People respect political leaders and civic leaders and business leaders and so forth. Where these people are nothing by comparison to God.

Okay. So the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Actually, there’s a verse, I think in Proverbs, that says, “That the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” So from God’s perspective, you might have a PhD in quantum physics, but from God’s perspective, you don’t know anything yet because you haven’t even gotten into the edge of any kind of a true relationship with God, which would begin with a healthy fear of him because he’s awesome, because he’s great, because he’s all knowing, all powerful, all omnipresent. This is like no one else. He’s like no one else.

Okay. So, knowledge and wisdom starts with a fear of God, which of course, a little knowledge of God makes you realize, “Well, he’s Holy. And he’s just and he repays people according to their deeds and we’re all going to die and we’re all going to stand before him.” So if that doesn’t cause a sinner to have a little anxiety, then he hasn’t even started on the path to knowledge and wisdom yet.

All right. Are you still with me? Okay, so when Christian leaders, for example, make light of the fear of God, and I’ve even heard sermons about this. They take a verse out of context. “Well, from first John, perfect love, casts out fear. And so if we really understood how much God loved us, we wouldn’t be fearful at all of him.”

Oh really? Is that what John was actually trying to say there? Oh my goodness. I don’t think that’s what he was trying to say, in light of the fact that Jesus commanded his followers to fear God. Right? And there’s so many scriptures, so much revelation in the Bible that talks about the fear of the Lord and the fear of God. Nobody should be making light of fearing God. Now, there is a difference between a healthy fear of God and an unhealthy fear of God. And a healthy fear of God would be based upon biblical truth, not just one verse of scripture where God seems to be a little bit extreme or one verse that could be variously interpreted. But looking at the whole scope of scripture as to whom God has revealed, as God has revealed himself.

And again, the scripture feels God is Holy, just, a God of judgment, a God of righteousness, a God of wrath. No doubt about that. And I think a lot of the church just sweeps that under the carpet. But for those people that have lifted up that carpet and are only looking at what was under the carpet, they need to be looking at those scriptures that talk about God is slow to anger, and how long suffering He is, and how merciful He is, and how gracious He is and how forgiving He is, to those who are contrite of heart and who ask for his forgiveness. I mean, He’s amazingly good.

And that’s really the cure for anyone who has an unhealthy fear of God, which an unhealthy fear of God is based on an imperfect or a insufficient knowledge of who God really is.

So, we don’t fear God like we fear a snake or a scorpion. Well, a snake or scorpion have no comparison to God. A snake just bites you if it feels threatened. Well, God’s not that way at all. He doesn’t bite people when he feels threatened. He’s not threatened by anybody, at all. So God is understandable to that degree. His anger is aroused by persistence in sin and stubbornness and pride to repent. And that’s when God’s anger notches up and where His judgment is likely to fall and people should naturally be fearful of that.

Okay. We’re out of time for this Little Lesson. So I’m going to do a part two on our next Little Lesson. Thanks so much for joining me on this one. Until next time, may the Lord bless you.

What Is the Difference Between a Healthy Fear and an Unhealthy Fear of God? (Part 2)

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

We’re going to continue from our last Little Lesson when we start talking about the fear of the Lord, biblical theme and concept, an important concept. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of knowledge. As we talked about in our last Little Lesson, if you don’t fear God, you don’t have any knowledge of any worth really, and you don’t have any wisdom of any worth. Now you may have worldly knowledge. You may have worldly wisdom and it might do you well, serve you well until you die. But after that, your degree in quantum physics or your investment portfolio that shows that you made all the right choices and wait, it won’t be worth anything when you die.

And so that’s why God, from an eternal internal perspective, says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The wise person thinks about death and thinks about standing before God and making sure that they are ready to stand before God. And I’m not telling anyone who’s read the Bible anything new here.

Now I want to continue from last time talking about healthy and unhealthy fear of God, because we certainly run into Christians who no doubt display the evidence of an unhealthy fear of God, and another way of saying it, it’s an unbalanced fear of God, because it’s based upon an unbalanced view of scripture. I love the Bible, but I love the whole Bible. And in my daily devotions, I read from what is called the One Year Bible, because I read through the Bible in my daily devotions in a year’s time. Every day you read from the Old Testament, usually about two chapters, maybe a little more. You usually read about one chapter from the New Testament, and then one of the Psalms and one or two Proverbs.

And so you’re getting this perspective. And something that’s very interesting, the contrast you see, when you read the Old Testament and then you read the New Testament and you go, “Wow. I’m glad I read the New Testament today because if I just read the Old Testament, I’d have a certain viewpoint that could be leading me to not be balanced in my perspective and my understanding of who God is.

And so folks who focus exclusively on one part of the Bible are making a mistake. And why do I say that? Simply because God gave us the whole Bible, and that’s how he’s revealed himself, through the whole Bible. And there’s a lot of mystery. Don’t get me wrong. There are many things that I do not understand about God and many stories in the Bible that reveal something that he thinks or something that he does. And I don’t understand it, but who am I?

My point, however, is is that people who have an unhealthy fear of God often focus on the aspects of God’s character, of his judgment, his justice, his holiness, his wrath, and so forth. And they’re unbalanced in their understanding of God, where what they’re lacking is understanding God as he’s revealed himself as merciful, long suffering and so on and so forth.

For example, there’s that very scary story in the New Testament of Ananias and Sapphira who were making a donation to help the poor, sold a piece of property like everybody else, but they lied about it and kept some of the proceeds back for themselves, which actually they could have done, but they were lying about it, leading people to think that they were giving it all. And both of them fell dead in a kind of a public church gathering there. Well, that’s a scary story. And obviously God made an example of those two people. And the Bible talks about how all who heard these things, it filled them with fear. Oh my goodness.

But God doesn’t do that to everybody. In fact, your chances of that happening to you are pretty rare from my observation. How many people do you know who have fallen dead as someone prophesied over them about a lie they told? I’ve been a Christian for 40 years. I don’t know of anyone that’s ever happened to. Now don’t get me wrong. There’s no doubt the Bible teaches us that Christians can be and are disciplined by the Lord, but God disciplines every son or every child whom he loves. And so his discipline is not to hurt us. It’s to help us grow in holiness and to open our eyes to where we need to make an adjustment. It’s a loving discipline. So yeah.

I feared my earthly father because I knew he might discipline me, but I didn’t fear him like I fear a snake or a scorpion or a grizzly bear. And I know some people had fathers who maybe they did fear them like a grizzly bear because your father was like a grizzly bear, and may God bless you for that suffering. But my dad was a good dad, but my dad spanked his children when they disobeyed. And so we had a healthy fear of our father, but knowing all the time that he loved us. So that’d be the same thing if we have a healthy fear of God, that we know fundamentally that he loves us. And he’s not just waiting up there with a hammer, hoping that we’ll step out of line so he can crush us like cockroaches. No, no, we’re his kids.

And if you’re suffering with an unhealthy fear of God, then I would recommend that you get balanced by focusing on the scriptures that will help you get balanced. Quit reading all those scriptures about Ananias and Sapphira for a while and the ground opening up during Korah’s rebellion and those people falling in there. Read some scriptures like where Jesus said God knows even when a sparrow falls to the ground and don’t be concerned because you’re much more value than many sparrows to God. And he’s numbered all the hairs on our head and think, about Jesus dying on the cross for you, and think about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. If you’d have been there, he’d have washed your feet, too. I know it sounds incredible, but he would have.

God is good and he’s merciful and long suffering. So to gain a healthy fear of God, the way to do it is to get to know God as he really is. He reveals himself as a father, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he? You see, and he’s not the leader of a dysfunctional family. God’s perfect. He’s more loving, more long suffering, more merciful than any human being ever dreamed of being. And if you believe in Jesus, if you repented of your sins, well, that’s your God, that’s your father. So yes, you should fear him, but with a fear that pleases him. He would not be pleased if you feared him like you fear a scorpion, because scorpions are just… they got one small brain, little brain. And if they feel like you’re trying to put your foot in their shoe, they’re kind of like a one track mind.

God is much bigger than all that. He is slow to anger, the Bible says, and he gently corrects us. Yes. Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Negative things can happen to God’s kids and do happen because God’s trying to get their attention, but God’s not up in heaven gritting his teeth and rubbing his hands and, “Oh, I’m so glad I get to make them-” No, no. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and the scriptures in the Old Testament talk about the Lord weeping.

All right, well, we’re out of time for today’s Little Lesson. I think I’ll go one more time on this because I got one more thing I want to talk about. It’s really an obvious, unhealthy fear of God. It’s when Christians think that they’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit. So don’t miss our next Little Lesson on that subject.

Until next time, may the Lord bless you.

What Is the Difference Between a Healthy Fear and an Unhealthy Fear of God? (Part 3)

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

We’ve been talking here for two previous lessons about the fear of the Lord and trying to help folks understand that there’s a difference between a healthy fear of God and an unhealthy fear of God. If you attend a church that the preacher is always preaching about God’s judgment and his wrath and his righteousness and his holiness, there’s a good chance that you could develop an unhealthy fear of God. On the other hand, if you attend a church where the pastor is always preaching on the goodness and the love and the mercy and the grace of God, you could develop an unhealthy lack of fear of God. So there’s this entire spectrum and we want to be right in the middle, biblically balanced.

I can’t tell you what church to go to, but again, you want your pastor or your preacher to be balanced like the Bible is balanced. The whole Bible is very balanced when you read the whole thing. But a pastor that only focuses on judgment and righteousness and wrath is unbalanced. A pastor that focuses just on love and mercy and goodness, unbalanced. We need a healthy balance.

So the cure for any imbalance is to get balanced. That comes by reading the entire revelation that God has given us in the Bible. Now I’ve talked about this in detail. If you miss the first two Little Lessons on this, you might want to search for them and go back because we’ve covered quite a bit of ground.

Now, one of the indicators of a unhealthy fear of God that we run into quite frequently, people write to us here at Little Lessons and ask this question, concerns the fear of having committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or the unpardonable sin. As a consequence we have really lots of people within the church who develop this unhealthy fear that they’ve done something that can’t be forgiven, namely that they’ve somehow blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes they equate it with something slipped out of their mouth where they said something negative about the Holy Spirit under pressing circumstances or something. Then they make reference to what Jesus said.

Now, I just read the scripture before I started filming this Little Lesson. You can find one example in the gospels in Matthew Chapter 12, where Jesus said, “Anyone who will speak against the son of man, it will be forgiven him.” Now I might add, if he repents. If we take the whole of scripture. God’s not just forgiving people carte blanche. We have to repent. Then Jesus went on to say, “But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit or blasphemes the Holy Spirit, this is a sin that will not be forgiven, not in this age or in the age to come.” Because he’s committed this unpardonable sin.

Based on that one scripture, without considering the context of the entire rest of the Bible, focusing on just that, it’s possible to develop an unhealthy fear of God and a fear that one has committed the unpardonable sin. But if you just expand your view a little bit out from that one verse and read the context of when Jesus said that… Here’s the context. One of the Pharisees had just made a remark after Jesus cast out some demons. He cast out demons by the Prince of demons. So they’re attributing what Jesus did to the power of the devil. Of course we know that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and all of the miracles that he did were by the Holy Spirit of God. So what was just done, an irrefutable miracle, many miracles actually, by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit through Jesus, here’s a hardhearted Pharisee or Pharisees, attributing it to the devil.

That’s when Jesus makes his remarks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit being the unpardonable sin. Does that help at all to understand what he might be talking about? If you need to go to the whole rest of the Bible and see the kind of things that God forgives people of, horrendous things, horrendous things that God forgives people of. So why would speaking against the Holy Spirit be so grievous to God that it could never ever be forgiven in this age or in the age to come?

Well, it would just seem reasonable to think that the context had something to do with what motivating Jesus to say that right then. When we have someone whose heart is so hard that they can see a miracle of the Holy Spirit, like a demon coming out of a demon possessed person, and attributing that to the devil, that person is beyond redemption. That person has got a heart that’s so hard that they can’t be reached. They’ll never be forgiven.

We find other examples of that in the Bible. You can read it the book of Jeremiah. Go back Old Testament now. God never changed from Old to New Testaments. The covenant changed sure. But God’s character, personality, didn’t change. He’s the same. Three times in the book of Jeremiah, you hear God saying to Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people. Don’t pray. Stop praying. I will not hear your prayer.” Why? Because they had sent away their day of grace. They had repeatedly hardened their hearts under God’s attempts to try to get their attention and get them to repent. So God just said, “That’s it.”

When you think about it, all the people who are in hell right now, is there any hope for them to get out of there? Not anywhere that I can see in the Bible. Their day of grace has gone. They blew their chance. The grace period is over for them. God reached his limits of toleration and their fate is sealed. So that can actually happen before you die.

Now the folks that most of the time, actually I would say all the time, I’ve had scores of people come to me over the years asking me that question because they’re afraid that they’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit. I always tell them, just the fact that you’re concerned about it shows me you haven’t committed that sin. Your heart’s tender towards God. You want to serve him. You love him. You want to go to heaven. You fear him with a healthy fear, but now it’s become an unhealthy fear because you’re not fearing him rightly, as he’s revealed himself in scripture. You’re fearing him like a snake. A snake is unpredictable. You could be walking along and out of nowhere, all of a sudden, the snake bites you. Well that’s not God. God is long suffering. God is moral. God is the perfect being. His anger is only aroused very slowly and only very gradually in most cases. Because God is love. So if you’re concern that you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, well that shows you haven’t committed it because you’re concerned. Your heart is soft towards God. You haven’t sent away your day of Christ.

Get into the word. Quit reading those scriptures that fill you with fear and get balanced again before you go back and read those scriptures. get balanced with understanding of the love and the mercy and the grace of God.

Okay. All right thank you so much for joining me on this Little Lesson series. Until next time. May the Lord bless you.