Western church culture has silenced any notion of a healthy fear of God.  At the first sign of preaching where God is rightly exalted as “holy” and “awesome”, a God worthy of our fear and reverance, we often quickly abort that truth by countering it with the more comforting thoughts that “God is love” and wants to be our “friend”. We have, in large part, reduced our vision of God to that of a wise sage, benevolent Grandfather or super hero sidekick. This is why it is especially helpful to incorporate Puritan literature into our lives because the Puritans sought a biblical understanding of God that was meant to inform and transform the mind in such as way as to make men wise in this world.

In Thomas Watson’s book Religion Our True Interest, Watson gives three reasons why we should cultivate a healthy fear of God in keeping with the words of the psalmist, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding” (111:10).

1. God’s eye is always on us. “Does he not see my ways and number all my steps?” God judges the heart (Jer 17:10). We cannot hide from him in the darkness (Psalm 139:12). As Watson said, “We cannot sin but our judge looks on.”

Think of how often you reconsidered your contemplations to sin when you knew that someone you respected was either watching or would become informed of your actions. Knowing that someone will not only see but expose our shameful deeds is often a deterrent to sinful behavior. But when the One watching our every move is the “Holy One of Israel”, how much more should we be aware and in awe of His eye?

2. God interprets our not fearing Him as a slighting of Him. Have you ever been at a social gathering where you saw someone you knew, knew they saw you in return, but they didn’t acknowledge you? You felt slighted, perhaps even angered by their thoughtlessness, right? “Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account?'” (Ps 10:13) Failure to acknowledge that God sees all our deeds shows a lack of fear of His holiness and wrath against sin. But to assume that God will not respond to our misdeeds is the highest form of slight and indifference.

3. God has the power to destroy us. “…fear him [God] who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Watson said, “We are apt to fear men who have power in their hand to hurt us; what is their power to God’s? They threaten a prison, God threatens hell. They threaten our life, God threatens our soul, and shall we not tremble before him? O Dreadful, when the great fountains of God’s wrath shall be broken up, and all his bitter vials poured out! see also Ezekiel 22:14.

Apart from the gospel we have every reason to fear God the Father. However, we can be thankful that God has poured out His righteous wrath upon His Son Jesus. He made Jesus to be sin, though He knew no sin, so that we could become the righteousness of God by faith (2Cor 5:21).  But lest we think that through faith in the gospel we should not still cultivate a healthy fear of God, we would do well to remember, as we celebrate the gospel and think about the cross, that Jesus endured torture and death because of our sin. So, in acknowledging and worshiping God through the gospel, we are, in effect, nurturing a healthy biblical fear as we consider the cost of our sinful treason and rebellion against God.