Living in the Fear of God or the Love of God

Growing up, one of my favorite movies was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the movie, Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) rescues the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis who intend on using its magical powers to take over the world.

At the climax, the Nazi soldiers open the Ark of the Covenant to see what’s inside. The video clip above recounts the scene. People are struck with fire. Faces melt. And nearly everyone dies from the presence of Almighty God.

In some ways, this scene reflects the image people many have of God: mysterious, elusive, and powerful.

Is this true? You bet it is.

But the scene also portrays God as angry and vengeful. While God is capable of anger and vengeance, he’s so much more than that.

Today’s reading will offer us a different perspective on God.


Exodus 17:8-19:15
Matthew 22:34-23:12
Psalm 27:7-14
Proverbs 6:27-35


Exodus 17:8-16. Did you notice the placement of this battle in the unfolding story? It immediately follows Israel’s crisis at Massah and Meribah where they had no water and asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Apparently, the answer is “Yes”!

Exodus 17:15. Banners were waved in front of the army before going into battle. By proclaiming the altar “The Lord is my Banner,” it meant that God goes before the armies of Israel.

Exodus 18. This is a great chapter that every leader needs to return to on a regular basis. After pastoring for 22 years, I still need to remember the power of empowerment.

Exodus 19:5. By promising that Israel would become a “kingdom of priests,” God was saying Israel would play an intermediary role between the nations and God. As followers of Jesus, this ministry has been given to us as well (1 Peter 2:5,9).

Exodus 19:10. “Consecration” refers to the process of purification in preparation to worship God.

Matthew 22:34-40. The longer I follow Jesus, the more important this passage becomes to me. Following Jesus boils down to two things: loving God and loving my neighbor. By living with these two values in focus, we need no other laws. In fact, the Ten Commandments fall into two categories: loving God and loving your neighbor.

Matthew 23:5. Phylacteries were scroll-like containers that people bound on their forehead and arm when praying. Tassels were hung on the side of the robe and offered a great opportunity for showing off and gaining a reputation for piety.

Proverbs 6:27. We’ve already spent a good amount of time discussing adultery’s pitfalls. Nevertheless—this verse so aptly describes the plight of adultery: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?” No one can commit adultery without painful consequences.

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Do you live in the fear of God or the love of God?

One of the advantages of reading through both the Old and New Testaments at the same time, is it offers us a contrast between life before and after Jesus.

Did you notice how the Israelites prepared to worship God on Mt. Sinai? God told Moses that any unauthorized person who sets foot on his holy mountain would be put to death. Seems pretty extreme. God’s holiness was clearly on display for all Israel to see. A little reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But our study of Jesus in the book of Matthew gives us a completely perspective on God. Think back to our reading over the last month: Jesus touched a defiled leper and allowed a woman to touch him who was considered defiled as a result of continuous menstrual bleeding over a twelve year period. Through Jesus, God’s love was clearly on display for everyone to see.

So what’s the takeaway for all of us?

Many sincere Christians live in the fear of God. They believe God is breathing over their shoulders, waiting to punish them for any errant thought or deed. Rather than expose the dark areas in their hearts, they conceal them. Hopefully God won’t see it, they think to themselves. Nothing they do is good enough for their God.

But we can live differently. We can live in the love of God. Living in the love of God means we don’t need to be afraid that God is waiting to pounce on us for any errant thought or deed. It means living with the confident belief that God is nuts about me! We can expose the dark areas of our hearts because bringing them into the light brings freedom and restoration in our relationship with God. Jesus isn’t repulsed by us because of our sin!

God is still holy, but because of Jesus’ life and death on the cross, we can touch his holy mountain. No longer do we need to live in the fear of God.


  1. Think of a leader who, like Moses, needs his or her hands held up in order to win the battle. What can you do to support the person?
  2. Read Matthew 23:1-12. Do you see yourself in any of Jesus’ accusations? If so, where?
  3. What’s the difference between fearing God and living in the fear of God?
  4. Do you live in the fear of God or the love of God? How does this play out in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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