Fear is a part of our lives. Some fears can be debilitating like a fear of insects, animals, heights, water, public transportation, storms, closed spaces, crowds, people, illness, public speaking, or death. A German proverb states, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”
Perhaps our fear of fear makes us question the Apostle Peter’s statement, “…conduct yourselves in fear…” Instead of avoiding fear at all costs, we need to use it as a motivating factor. What Peter is trying to communicate is that if we call God our Father, we need to live with a healthy fear and awe of him because he is a holy God who judges justly. That is the main idea he presents in 1 Peter 1:17-21.
Because of who God is (1:17a). Peter states this paragraph with the word, “since.” In so doing, he connects this thought to the previous one on holiness. He shows that a healthy fear should motivate us to holy living. Peter is writing to believers who enjoy an intimate relationship with their heavenly father. Rather than treat him flippantly, we need to be mindful that God disciplines us in the same way an impartial judge dispenses justice. Years of obedience cannot purchase one hour of disobedience.
Because of what God has done (1:18-21). God redeemed us from an empty way of life. Our redemption was accomplished by something of greater value than precious metals—the blood of Jesus Christ. Before God created the world, he knew that Jesus would die for our sins and that God would raise him from the dead. That places a very high value on our salvation.
Live in Awe of God (1:17b). Because of who God is and what he has done for us, we should have a healthy fear and awe of him. We need to recognize that we are strangers and exiles. Earth is not our true home, but rather we are citizens of heaven residing temporarily on earth. In light of that, we should travel lightly.
Far too often, we go from one extreme to another regarding fear. With no fear of God, we view him as a buddy who overlooks our sin. With an unhealthy fear of God, we view him as a harsh judge and we live in fear. The one leads to license while the other leads to legalism.
In contrast, a healthy fear of God motivates me to live a holy life. Because I remember who God is, I will strive to avoid sin. When I do sin, I will remember his grace. Traveling lightly, seeking to honor God, and telling others of his grace all demonstrate my sense of awe and worship of God.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 8, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.