The Fear of God: An Interview with Scott Brown
What is the fear of God? How does it influence our lives? How do Christians grow in the fear of God? Over the last weekend, I was blessed to attend the NCFIC annual conference. The theme of the conference this year was ‘The Fear of God.’ Located in the scenic mountains of North Carolina, and surrounded by the beauty of autumn, it was both a relaxing and edifying weekend filled with great fellowship and preaching.
One of my highlights over the weekend was the opportunity to interview Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC). I asked him questions on the fear of God and its importance in the church today.
Thank you so much for taking this time with me. My first question for you is, how would you define the fear of God?
“There are probably twenty different really great definitions of the fear of God that other men have come up with. I would say that the filial fear of God is the reverent fear that draws you near because you love the thing that you fear and it makes you run from sin and from everything that would displease your Savior.”
Why was this topic important to you and what spurred you to choose this for a conference?
“When Abraham was in the land of Gerar he recognized that there was no fear of God in the land (Genesis 20:11),** and we live in a time like Abraham’s time in Gerar. We need to proclaim the truth of the fear of God. To misunderstand the fear of God is to misunderstand God. To not have the fear of God is to not have God.”
How do you think that a greater focus on the fear of God would change things in the church?
“You would have churches that love holiness; you would have churches that were satisfied with the fellowship of God, and not with all kinds of antics and pragmatic solutions. Because when you fear God, you love Him and you love His ways and you want His ways.”
Why do you think that we lost a clear focus in the churches on the fear of God?
“The fear of God is a fruit of conversion. So, you have lots of people in the churches who are not converted. That’s why they don’t have any fear of God. The second thing is, worldliness dampens your fear of God. So, if you have people who are dampening their affections toward God, with the entertainments, and the toys, and the bobbles of this world, you are going to have less fear. When a church cultivates its relationship with God through the Word of God, it’s a church that has fear.
“I think it is simply a function of the centrality of the Word of God in the church. We have displaced the Word of God with all kinds of other things in our churches. When you displace the preaching of the Word of God with all kinds of other ‘higher priority’ things, you are going to hamper the fear of God in the church.”
What would you say has been the most impactful passage for you on the fear of God?
“Psalm 34:7 – ‘The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.’ That is the ‘ever-presence’ of God. The Ruler of the armies of heaven is present! And, because of that, you have no need to fear any man or any situation – because the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers him.
“And the next phrase is, ‘Oh taste and see that the LORD is good!'”
Yes, there you have the fear of God and the fear of man in the same verse and the right contrast of how those different fears should be balanced. Thank you very much!
The theme of next year’s conference is “Repentance: the Reformation Continues.” In fact, Martin Luther’s first thesis was “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt. 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” I’m looking forward to attending.
Click here for more information about the Repentance conference, and perhaps I will see you there!
*Image credit: NCFIC website
** Note: According to Genesis 20, Abraham believed that there was no fear of God in the land. The Bible isn’t clear if there were any God-fearers, though Abimelech the king of Gerar demonstrated some fear when confronted later by God. What does seem clear is that the general culture of Gerar, was apparently one of irreverence for the true God. In this sense, modern Christians often feel the same way that Abraham first felt while in Gerar: as if there is no fear of God in the land.