I’ll never forget my visit to St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida. It was a rare opportunity to see Dr. R.C. Sproul preach. I entered the sanctuary to a bustle of people. Some were visiting. Others were preparing to enter the sanctuary. After several minutes of exploring, I made my way into the sanctuary. Posted above the main entryway were words that said in essence, “You are moving from the profane to the holy.”
I made my way to the fourth row, where I engaged in some conversation with others. Before I knew it, an older woman seated in front of me turned around to face me, put one finger to her mouth, and made it clear that this was not the time to chit-chat. This woman was convinced that we had moved from the profane to the holy. Is it any wonder that R.C. Sproul says, “We have made our worship services more secular than sacred, more common than uncommon, more profane than holy.” Tragically, many churches fail to see the gravity of worship. They have turned worship into a three-stage circus.
One of the most reoccurring themes in Scripture is the command to fear the Lord. Michael Reeves drives this point home in his recent book, Rejoice & Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord. Reeves argues strenuously and persuasively that “the fear of God is just the tonic we need.”
Few books have been written that explore the theme of fearing God, so Dr. Reeves’s book is a much-welcomed and much-needed guest. In a stroke of biblical genius, the author distinguishes between “sinful fear” and “right fear.” It appears that many people have misunderstood what it means to fear God. Reeves is set on correcting this dilemma.
Sinful fear, of course, is prohibited in Scripture. Adam is the first example of one whose sinful fear caused him to flee from God. “This is the fear of God,” writes Reeves, “that is at odds with the love of God. Dreading, opposing, and retreated from God, this fear generates the doubt that rationalizes unbelief. It is the motor for both atheism and idolatry, inspiring people to invent alternative ‘realities’ in place of the living God.” The end result of this sinful fear leads to marginalizing God’s beauty and abandoning him in the final analysis.
The solution, according to Dr. Reeves, is manifesting “right fear” of God, which involves a blend of fear and joy: “There is no tension between this fear and joy. Rather, this trembling “fear of God” is a way of speaking about the sheer intensity of the saints’ happiness in God. In other words, the biblical theme of the fear of God helps us to see the sort of joy that is most fitting for believers.” Reeves continues:
The fear of God as a strong biblical theme thus stands as a superb theological guard dog. It stops us from thinking that we are made for either passionless performance or a detached knowledge of abstract truths. It backs us into the acknowledgment that we are made to know God in such a way that our hearts tremble at his beauty and splendor, that we are remade at the deepest level. It shows us that entering the life of Christ involves a transformation of our very affections so that we begin actually to despise – and not merely renounce – the sins we once cherished and treasure the God we once abhorred.
Rejoice & Tremble will challenge and encourages readers and push them forward in ways that are God-honoring. Indeed, this is only the tip of the iceberg as Michael Reeves challenges Christ’s followers to make their ascent to the summit of God’s glory. In the end, as the author makes clear, the fear of the Lord subdues and eliminates fears that plague the people of God.