Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.Acts 5:3-5
I believe God wants to return the church to the fear of the Lord. But before we could return to the fear of the Lord, we had to learn about the love of the Father. Once we know we are loved completely, then we can have the right heart posture when it comes to the fear, awe, and reverence of the Lord. Fear of the Lord isn’t about being scared of an abusive father. Fear of the Lord is about being in total reverence of an awesome God such that obedience is all we want to do.
And the fear of the Lord brings really good fruit. Ananias lied to the church and to God about his offering. After he dropped to the ground dead, the rest of verse 5 says, “great fear seized all who heard what had happened” (Acts 5:5).
Then when his wife Sapphira came in three hours later, she delivered the same lie to the church and to God. After she dropped dead before them all, the Bible says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11).
But fear is bad, right?
Well, some kinds of fear are bad. Certain kinds of fear can be used by the enemy to paralyze us into inaction and disobedience. But this kind of fear, the fear of the Lord, led to really good fruit. Notice the report that happens right after this event.
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.Acts 5:12-14
When people take a heart posture of awe, reverence, and holy fear of the Lord, God seems to love to move powerfully through that. Something similar happened to the apostle Paul.
Paul was doing “extraordinary” miracles as he saw people healed from illness and delivered from demonic oppression. Some of the Jews who witnessed Paul’s ministry were so impressed that they tried to imitate what he was doing. Though they didn’t believe in Jesus, have a relationship with Him, or have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, they still attempted to use Jesus’s name to cast demons out of people who were demonized.
It didn’t go well.
The demons recognized the name of Jesus, and they even recognized Paul’s name. But the demons saw that these seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were operating outside of the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. So these seven brothers got completely beat up by the demonized man they were praying for. It was so bad that these seven guys ran out of the house naked and bleeding (see Acts 19:13-16).
The very next lines of scripture are instructive:
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.Acts 19:17-20
Did you see the fruit of the fear of the Lord?
- The name of the Lord was held in high honor.
- People began to openly confess and repent of their sin and rebellion.
- People left their old way of life that involved the occult and witchcraft.
- People were willing to surrender things of tremendous monetary value just to follow Jesus.
- The gospel spread widely.
- The message of the gospel grew in power.
A couple years ago I had an encounter with the tangible fear of the Lord. It is hard to describe but I try to do so here. It was like the Lord pulled back the curtain and gave me just a taste of the fullness of His Presence, and I was completely undone. God is indescribably awesome, powerful and fearsome. God is love, more than we even know. God is also holy. He isn’t someone to take lightly.
Romans 11:22 advises us to, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…” The word in the Greek translated here as “sternness” means “severity or sharpness,” like a sheer cliff. You know that feeling you get when you walk to the edge of a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet either to the ocean or to the rocks below? That feeling of awe, wonder, and heart-pounding fear? That’s what the fear of the Lord is like, and we, as the church, need to return to it. If we do, good fruit awaits us there.