Rev. denHartog is pastor of the Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.

How easy it is for us to fear man more than we fear God. We often are so blind and foolish. We imagine that, since man can be seen and God cannot be seen, man is therefore more to be feared. Yet we know that there is so much more reason to fear God than man. When we fear God there is no reason to fear man. Everywhere Scripture exhorts us not to fear man but to fear God. The child of God born again by the Spirit of God must always be motivated only by the fear of God.

To fear God means that we know that the Lord is the absolutely sovereign God, infinite in power and greatness, awesome in majesty and holiness, terrible in righteousness and judgment. This God is enthroned in the heavens. He rules sovereignly over all. He is at once everywhere present in the world. We cannot escape His all-seeing eye and His all-knowing knowledge. He is the judge of the nations. He rules over His ungodly enemies, laughing them to scorn because He holds them in derision. When He has finished His purpose with them He shall dash them to pieces as a potter’s vessel. His anger is dreadful. In His just and holy wrath He will cast ungodly sinners into the eternal condemnation of hell. He is the God of sovereign predestination. In sovereign mercy He saves those whom He has chosen before the foundations of the world. By almighty sovereign grace He makes His people to be instruments of His praise. He saves them into eternal glory to live with Him forever and to praise Him through all eternity. By the same sovereignty this God condemns the ungodly from eternity and causes them to be vessels of His wrath fitted for destruction. He raises up a proud Pharaoh and sovereignly hardens his heart in order that God might show His power and glory in delivering His people Israel. What reason there is to fear such a God! How very puny and powerless man is in comparison to this God. There is nothing more terrible imaginable than the holy and righteous judgments of this God. There is nothing more blessed and wonderful than the favor and loving kindness of this God.

Yet often we fear man rather than God. We fear what man can do to us. We fear what man will say to us and about us. We fear shame and reproach before man. We want desperately to be accepted of man I and to have a place of honor and glory among men. We forget that we stand before the Lord. He daily judges all our actions and even the thoughts of our hearts. How much more important it is to be accepted of Him, and to be exalted in His presence.

When we fear God, love His commandments and keep them, and confess the truth of His name, then the world will hate and despise us. We will be ridiculed and put to shame in the world. If we are serious Christians who refuse to compromise the Word of God, then the world will ostracize us. When we seek the glory of God and condemn the wickedness of the world, we will be threatened and persecuted in the world. This is just as true in the modern day wicked world as it always has been. In fact we know that in the last day this will grow worse and worse. How much then do we need to be very clear on the truth that God is to be feared more than man. We need to stand in the spiritual courage that is rooted in the fear of God. We need to be willing and ready to suffer the loss of all things in the world, including our own honor and glory because of the fear of God. We must very really expect the time to come when Christians will once again have to face terrible suffering and even death for the Lord’s sake. The only thing that will keep us in that day is the fear of God. We can expect to stand in that day only if by God’s grace today we fear God rather than man.

The most fierce hatred against the Lord and His truth always comes from apostate Christendom. History has proven that time and again. It was apostate Israel that persecuted and killed the true prophets of the Lord. The unbelieving Jews crucified the Lord of glory. It was the apostate Roman Church that engaged in one of the most dreadful eras of persecution of the true church of Christ that the world has ever known. Our age is such an age of tolerance of every form of belief that we easily imagine that this kind of thing will never hap pen again in the world. But we must remember that, though the world will tolerate every form of the lie and wickedness, it will never tolerate the righteousness and truth of God. In the last days the true church of Jesus Christ will become smaller and smaller, while the apostate church will become larger and larger and more and more powerful. We must be ready as faithful believers to face the ever increasing wrath and fierce hatred of the liberal Christianity of our day. To be associated with the true church of Jesus Christ will become increasingly unpopular. If you are serious about living the life of a Christian, you must be ready to endure the shame and ridicule and persecution of modern day nominal Christianity.

The fear of man is one of the chief reasons for compromise in Christianity. We must realize that and be on our guard against it. It takes place on every level. Churches want to be popular in the world. They want to have large memberships and maintain vast and beautiful complexes to boast and glory in. In order to do that they must be careful not to offend any members, especially those with money and influence. Therefore they change the Word of God which sharply and absolutely condemns man’s wickedness, and they preach a doctrine of a God who loves everyone and who winks at sin. They seek to make their “gospel” appealing to the natural man and as easy as possible to follow. By: doing this they will attract many to their fold. But at the same time they fear not that they are dishonoring the name of God and compromising and denying His truth. What an awful judgment will come on such churches. Men stand in awe of the mega churches of our land but pay little attention to the Word that is preached in them and to the fact that many of them are nothing but synagogues of Satan. On the other hand a church that is small and insignificant in the eyes of men is looked on with disdain and ridicule, even though it may be far more faithful to the Lord and in the true sense serve the Lord with greater zeal and love to Him.

How many ministers of the Word in our land are desperately interested in becoming popular among men and even in becoming rich and famous in the world. The recent scandals that have been perpetrated by so-called ministers of the gospel are evidence of this. How easy it is for a minister to compromise the demands of the Word of God. As a preacher I know the danger of this. It is just so much more pleasant to be well received and to have all men speak highly of you than to have to bring the offense of the Word of God. It is so easy to leave off admonishing the people of God though they sometimes need this. It is a fearful thing to have to bring a Word to a home or individual that you know is going to offend. You know that you will be hated for it. Oh how we love the praise of men and try to avoid therefore anything that will make men angry with us. Yet we must remember that the fear of God is so much greater. If we fail to bring His Word faithfully we .will incur His wrath and displeasure, and He will hold us accountable for those we have deceived by flattering words and have failed to warn against their sins. How preachers need to be men of courage, a courage rooted in the fear of God and that is not afraid of the faces of ungodly men. One of the chief requirements for the minister of the gospel is that He is one that fears God. In the history of the church it was such God-fearing men that were mighty in the church and were ready to face even the fires of persecution rather than in the slightest way compromise the truth of God.

The fear of man is real for the workman in his work place and business establishment. The world we live in is full of corruption and wickedness. There is strong pressure upon the Christian that he go along with this. Often it seems as though the wicked man prospers in his way. On the other hand, when the Christian maintains the principles of the law of God, he must suffer financial loss. Only the fear of God can cause the Christian to persevere in such a world. The Christian who refuses to join the godless labor unions of our land will often be left without a job or have to take a job with much less pay. Threats and intimidation are the common tactics of the world to seek to persuade the Christian to join ungodly men in their ungodly walk. Who dares to oppose this out of the fear of God? What God-fearing courage is necessary.

There is strong social pressure on the Christian to conform to the “norms” of society. Those norms are based on humanistic philosophy that leaves out God and His truth. Anyone who refuses to conform to these norms will be ridiculed and put to shame. The feminist movement wants every woman in our land to rebel against her God-ordained role in the home as wife and mother and to seek a glamorous career in the world. It does everything in its power to make the virtuous and godly woman look ridiculous and stupid. The career woman of the world is portrayed as the most worthy of praise. She appears on the front page of the women’s magazines. How many are ashamed and afraid to stand against the pressures of our modem day evil society because they are driven by the desire of the praise and glory of men. But, again, let us remember that the wrath of God is upon this ungodly world. How much more important is the favor of God and being found of Him in honor and glory.

Young people face peer pressure. How very strong this is. Often it is very subtle. You must conform in your life style to be accepted, you must wear the same clothes as the world does no matter how immodest they may be, you must listen to the same music and dance with the world’s dance no matter how wicked and immoral. If you want to be “with it” then you must adopt the language and life style and interests of the world. And who wants to be different? Who wants to be considered a prude? Who wants to be left out of the fun and excitement of the world? Young people, are you afraid to be different because you are afraid of men and the consequences that a life of godliness will have on your glory and honor among men? Remember that the evil philosophy of modern-day youth is accursed of God. Fear God and be courageous to live lives that are pleasing to Him and honorable in His sight.

Fear God! The Lord will preserve all those that fear Him. He will destroy the wicked. His wrath and judgment are terrible. Fear not what man can do to you, for that is nothing compared to the judgment of God. Fear God, for the Lord is able to keep His own through all the persecutions and trials of this world. Fear God, for the reward of His grace to His saints who remain faithful and steadfast is infinitely more glorious and blessed than anything which the world can promise. Though the world may try to bring shame and reproach on the godly, before the Lord we shall never be put to shame. The glory of the world shall soon be destroyed. The glory which God will give to His saints will endure forever.