"Gospel Fear"In chapter one we learned about important assumptions about parenting that we need to identify. The primary assumption that stood out was the realization that the goal of our parenting should be the transformed hearts of our children through what the bible calls "new birth", or regeneration. Chapter two explains that the gospel is the power for parenting and for producing the transformation of the new birth in our children. In both chapters we have learned that our children need the new birth, but we cannot give it to them!
Chapter three begins with the bold assertion that the fear of God is "the most important thing that parents can possess to move God to regenerate their children." (pg. 55) Farley explains that while this is not a guarantee of salvation, it is a "general principle" that has a strong biblical basis to it. He follows this assertion with many biblical examples that tie the parents' fear of God to blessing for their children as well. It is important to understand that Farley is not expressing moralism (God blessing us because we are good.) He says, "God blesses faith, and a key expression of faith is the fear of God." (pg. 55)
I had never thought of the fear of God as an expression of faith before, and yet he shared example after example of the fear of God preceding and motivating obedience. Because of their fear, they obeyed. Fear was an expression of faith, not fearing was an expression of unbelief. This was a new way for me to see faith in the Old Testament.
Farley then begins a helpful explanation of the fear of God. He shows that this fear has two expressions: one attracts us to God; the other repels us from God. One is son-fear, the other is slave-dread.
Slave-dread, the wrong type of fear, does not motivate obedience. It causes us to run away from God.... Those with slave-dread draw back from God. They have no conviction that he is good, that he rewards those who seek him, or that he has their best interests at heart. All they see is his holiness, his severity, and his hatred of sin, and they run the other way.
But son-fear, the fear that comes with new birth, attracts us to God. It motivates us to pursue God. As we have seen the people of Israel drew back from Mount Sinai, but Moses went right up the mountain into the fiery cloud to be near God. Why? Like Israel, Moses saw the holiness of God. But he also saw that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and mercy and that he does not give us what our sins deserve but removes our transgressions from his presence...
Moses' fear was more like the fear that attracts us to the edge of the Grand Canyon. We are afraid, but the incredible beauty and vastness of the great gulf irresistibly compels us. (pg. 62-63)I love that image of the fear that attracts us, and irresistibly compels us! What other images or experiences come to mind when you think of that kind of fear?
Understanding the fear of God will be important as we learn how we are to be obedient to our calling as parents. Farley stated that this fear of God motivates, attracts, inspires, "rivets our eyes on eternal realities" and "makes parents humble, teachable and approachable". All these things are critical elements in bringing the gospel to our children.
How did this chapter change your understanding of the fear of God?
What can a parent do to grow in the fear of the Lord?
I would love to hear your thoughts, please share them with me and the others reading along in the comments section! (If you are reading this by email, you will need to click through to the website to comment.)
The next chapter will help us to see how the fear of the Lord culminates in the gospel, specifically in the cross.
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