We direct your attention to the well known words ofPs. 111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
There is nothing that is more important to young people than wisdom. Knowledge is important, but wisdom is even more important. Those who are involved in teaching know this very well. One may have four years of college and have a great accumulation of knowledge, but knowledge doesn’t make a teacher. You need wisdom. You need the ability to communicate that knowledge to a young person. You have to know how to handle the class room situation, how to deal with the slow learner and the discipline problem.
In the area of our Christian faith, wisdom is putting into practice the knowledge which we possess. This is important for us, because you came here to this Christian school to gain not only knowledge, but especially wisdom. You need wisdom in order to put into practice your Christian faith. Until we do this we have not accomplished the task for which we have set out. You need wisdom in order to pray; what is your prayer life like? Are you wise in your prayers? You desire to witness, both to one another and to those who cross your path in life; this is important for in it you serve Jesus. Are you wise in your witness? You need wisdom in all the important decisions you have to make in your youth, your courtship and marriage; if you truly desire to establish a Christian home you need wisdom in your dating.
It is this wisdom, which is so important, that is so lacking today. Isn’t it striking to you, as it certainly is striking to me, that there is so much foolishness going on. Foolishness to be sure is in the world of the wicked: look at the foolishness of war, crime, drugs, and rebellion. There is also foolishness in the context of that which calls itself the church. This concerns me very much and I want to share some thoughts with you on this.
Let’s examine one aspect of putting into practice our Christianity; that is) our prayers. So much of that which is called prayer is foolish. That shouldn’t shock you. You and I have to be discerning today. When we stand before God in that holy activity of prayer, one stands struck with that fact that if we don’t have the fear of the Lord in us when we pray, our prayers will be foolish. This is what strikes me often, when I listen to young people pray. I’m sure they mean well, but how foolish it is to pray a so-called “pop-prayer.” It seems that the Campus Crusade movement advocates and promotes this kind of praying. Sometimes you hear prayers, “Hi God,” and it makes me tremble, tremble because prayer is foolish when you talk that way to your God. O, it started a long time ago with the changing of pronouns, but it hasn’t ended with that. Now foolish man thinks he is going to bring God to the human level, he wants Him to be a good buddy with whom he can talk. That’s foolishness, that doesn’t show the fear of the Lord.
There is another area, that of Christian witnessing. O, I thank God that we have young people who are filled with zeal to witness in their word and life. When witnessing assumes the proportion of the Jesus movement, again I tremble before the Lord God of heaven and earth. When someone tells me that Jesus is “cool, and that you might listen to him and follow him,” I tremble. This is Jesus of the Scriptures? No, here the Son of God is dragged down by the use of such common language. He is presented as the one who can solve all your problems, He is the lovey-dovey Jesus who can change the whole world, and by following Him, all your problems are solved. What is lacking? Here it is: the fear of the Lord! Without it, witnessing becomes foolish.
This same thing applies to the most important question we ever ask; how do I get into Jesus Christ? How can I be assured of my salvation? In this area also, there is much foolishness. It comes under the banner of Neo-Pentacostalism. It is presented in such a way as if somehow the credentials to enter into the kingdom of heaven consist of an emotional experience whereby you are “turned-on” by the Holy Spirit. When this happens, we are told you have the guarantee of entering into heaven, and if you don’t have it, too bad, you are out. Again, I tremble. When an emotional experience is made the criterion of salvation, and the Holy Spirit is made so common that He turns-on people, how foolish! Why do we have this foolishness? Here it is: the fear of the Lord is lacking.
I hope you understand that these three areas to which we have directed your attention are crucial in our Christian experience. We need wisdom if we are to be faithful in serving God in these areas of our life.
We are told in our text that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. By this the inspired Psalmist does not mean that the fear of the Lord is one department of our Christian life and that has to precede our walking in wisdom. When he tells us that it is the beginning of wisdom, he tells us that it is the principle that permeates our whole Christian life. If we lack it, our whole life will be foolish: if we possess it we will certainly be wise. You sense now the importance of the fear of the Lord.” We must ask ourselves personally, “Do I possess this fear of the Lord?”
What then is the fear of the Lord? Let’s notice briefly that it includes three things.
First, the fear of the Lord is this, that we stand consciously before God. Note carefully with me that I did not say that we stand consciously before a caricature of God. There are plenty that do that; you find them in darkest heathendom bowing before idols. And they are foolish! The only God before whom we can stand in the fear of the Lord is this, the God who has revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures. That God is not a buddy whom you drag down to your sinful human level; He is JEHOVAH, the God Who spoke His creative word in the beginning and by a miracle brought all things into existence! This God sovereignly wills to save His people chosen unto everlasting life in Christ, and therefore gathers, defends, and preserves unto Himself this people. He is a righteous God, not a lovey-dovey God Who wants everybody in His fellowship. He is a God of vengeance upon the wicked, and a God of great love and mercy through Jesus Christ which He bestows upon His children. When you have the fear of the Lord you stand consciously before this God. Then you are standing with your Bible open. Then you are spending time pondering the Scriptures and reading diligently with the one desire that the Lord God will reveal Himself to you as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. You reject any caricature, any idol, and stand before Jehovah.
The second thing that is involved in the fear of the Lord is this: as you stand before the God who has revealed Himself in His Word, you are struck with awe and reverence. This is what is wrong with cheap prayers. This is what is wrong with superficial witnessing. Where is the awe, the reverence for the. God whose Name we take upon our lips? No, I know the fear of the Lord is not to be afraid, but I wish that some people were more afraid of God. The Word of God tells us that it is a terrible thing for sinners to stand in the presence of the holy God. Awe, reverence! When you contemplate that the God before Whom we sinners stand is holy and just, we smite our breasts in humble repentance. You realize that Jesus Christ is God Himself joined in human flesh. When we speak to Him and about Him it is in deepest reverence. The fear of the Lord demands this.
In the third place, the fear of the Lord brings us to our knees and we make this one petition, “Teach me thy way, O Lord, show me thy paths.” For us it is not a question of what I want, what I think: rather, what does the Lord God of heaven and earth have to say. The truth, this is paramount for one who has the fear of the Lord. We need the truth not only to know intellectually, but to believe and to use it as a directing influence in our entire life. With the fear of the Lord we will reject all false doctrine and promote an understanding of the Word of God. Doctrine and life are inseparably connected. We will make it our earnest prayer, “Lord, I desire to do thy will in my life, show thy will to me as I read the Scriptures.” You see the point, the fear of the Lord brings us to the Word of God, whether for our belief or for our conduct. It makes us have a profound reverence for the Word of God.
With this fear of the Lord, we will be wise. Isn’t this a wonderful truth. I know it means that we will be distinguished from all that which is unbelieving and from all pseudo-Christianity. Mark you well, young people, that anti-Christ is coming soon. This Jesus movement is part of the total picture. Do not be deceived by everything that calls itself Christian or that assumes to itself the right to be called a follower of Jesus. Anti-Christ will make Jesus popular. But that Jesus is not your Jesus and mine. He is not the Jesus of the Scriptures. He is a nice man who will give you all you wanted, peace, prosperity, brotherhood. For such, His death on the cross was a tragedy. But the Jesus of the Scriptures is the very Son of God who shed His blood on Calvary as a payment for the ransom of God’s elect people. Don’t be deceived when many young people sing hallelujah to Jesus. We need wisdom to be discerning in our Christian faith.
With such wisdom we will be repentant of our sins. Examine your lives as young people. Look at yourselves in the mirror of the Word of God. How do you live? Are you wise? With the fear of the Lord in your heart you will be wise. You know what you will do? Not beg God for a rush of the Spirit to lift you up to a cloud of ethereal bliss; no, you will get down on your knees and pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You will ask God to show you the right way and assure you that His grace will be sufficient to help you walk in it.
The way will be open for you to pray fervently. With such fear of the Lord making you wise in your prayers, you won’t try to drag God to your level; you will seek to rise up and stand consciously in the presence of the holy God. Our prayers will not be man-centered: rather, they will be God-centered. The purpose of our prayers will be the praise of our God. Our thankful hearts will overflow with expressions of adoration. Even our requests will be sanctified with grace, we will not seek our will first of all, but the will of God. And that is wisdom!
With the fear of the Lord we will also have the wisdom to witness properly. You will not say, I’m a Christian and it doesn’t make any difference how I live. You will witness in the words that come from your lips; you will have a burning eagerness to tell others about Jesus Christ. You will share this together. In so doing you will not cheapen Jesus: rather, with reverence you will speak together of what Jesus means to you as your Saviour. He is the Son of God who went to Calvary in our behalf, and now He is our Lord!
You see, young people, wisdom is very important. Foolishness is so rampart. The fear of the Lord makes the difference.
May God use our meditation to instill in us the fear of His name in order that we may have wisdom.
In this way the God of all wisdom receives the glory, for His wisdom returns unto Him in thankful praise.
(The above is a transcript of a chapel speech presented at Western Christian High School at Hull, Iowa on Sept. 20, 1971).