Piety & Fear of the Lord

By:  Staci Stallings

And the Greatest of These is Love

Piety is a word I used only in relation to God for many years.  A pious person was one who was respectful in church, one who took God very seriously and worked to do what was right.  Unfortunately, I was missing what real piety is.

Real piety is simply love.  Love for God and the things (people) He loves.  It is respect, but respect out of love, not just duty.

Building That House

God’s built us quite a house so far with knowledge, understanding, wisdom, right counsel, and fortitude, but we’re not finished yet. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 spells out what our next building block is all about.

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love is not jealous.  It does not put on airs… Love never fails.”

Love is what piety is all about.  But St. Paul in that same passage gives us a warning about what happens when love is not in play in our “right” actions.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  –1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Let me paraphrase St. Paul:

If I have all knowledge and understand everything God has told me; if I have the wisdom of Solomon and impeccable judgment; if I can make right decisions consistently, and then do what I know is right to do, but I don’t do it in love, I’m missing the whole point.

The truth is, you can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons.  Just look at the Pharisees, and you will clearly see this trap.  The Pharisees kept all the rules.  They even made up rules to keep themselves from coming close to breaking the rules.  They prayed, they worshiped, they kept the commandments.  But they were missing the point.

The point of God is love.  Love God.  That means trust His plan for your life, trust His guidance minute-to-minute, trust His mercy and forgiveness for the times you’ve gotten your walk with Him all wrong.  Trust in what He has done for you that He took your sins onto Himself and nailed them to a cross so that you could live with Him forever and for right now.

And love your neighbor as yourself.  Some take this one and twist it to say, love your neighbor more than yourself, but that’s not what it says.  It presupposes that you love yourself.  You are part of this equation too.  God wants you to accept the love He is giving you.  He wants you to feel loved, accepted, and worthwhile.  He wants you to believe so much in Him and His love for you that you don’t look to other answers in the world.  He wants you to absorb His grace into your life so deeply that you will bring what He’s done for you into this world that needs Him so much.

This is the essence of piety.  It’s not a show.  It’s a deep down, real understanding of how much God has done for you.  It is peace that what God has said and done is real.  Right now, as it is in Heaven.

When you receive the Gift of piety, life changes.  You become more humble because you get how much God has given you and how very little you deserve it.  You become gentler with people and with yourself.  You stop believing the lie Satan tries to tell you that God isn’t Who He says He is, and you start absorbing how great and awesome God is into your whole soul and being.

In short, you start really living.

Fear doesn’t mean “fear”

Of all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, this is the one I got the most wrong.  Someone somewhere translated the original word as “fear” instead of “awe,” and wow did that confuse me to no end!

The Fear of the Lord does not mean you’re supposed to be afraid of God.  It makes no sense for God to tell you over and over not to be afraid and then say, “But you’re supposed to be afraid of Me.”

The word should be “awe” or “reverence” or “mind-blowing, down-on-your-face-crying-that-He-is-Who-and-What-He-says-He-is-and-He-has-done-for-you-and-given-you-every-precious-thing-He-promised!”

Oh!  When you really understanding it, Fear of the Lord is great.  It is humbling.  It is overwhelmingly wonderful.  It is crying because you are so lucky that God loved you THIS much!

With Fear of the Lord, you see what He has done, what He is doing in your life, and you are just unbelievably grateful for all of it—even the bad stuff.  With His wisdom on your side, you can often see through the things that look horrible and see how God took and is taking those and making them something good.

True, maybe He or you would not have had that thing happen if given the choice, but one thing I’ve learned is that God is a God of right now. That means He doesn’t look at, whine and pout about, hold over your head, or dwell on what you did yesterday.  If you say you are sorry today, He starts where you are now and goes forward.

Look at all the mistakes and fallen people He worked good for in the Bible even though their past said He was crazy to even take a chance on them…

Levi turned Matthew

Abram turned Abraham

Sarai turned Sarah

Moses, Judah, Joseph, David

Zaccheus, Martha, the weeping woman at His feet, the woman at the well, Nicademus

Peter, Thomas, Paul

Over and over and over again, God gave those He loved second chances and even third chances. (If you don’t know these stories, please take some time to choose one and read it.  Remember as you do that the Bible is a book of examples, not a book of exceptions.  What God did for these people He is willing and ready to do for you!)

Peter, God’s Work in Progress

Look at Peter.  Why did Jesus ask him three times on the beach, “Peter, do you love Me?”  Because He wanted Peter to be free of the three denials.  But that wasn’t Peter’s only relationship issue with Jesus.  There was the sinking after he had trusted thing and the three booths after the Transfiguration.  At one point Jesus said Peter would be the rock He would build His church upon, and then He rebuked Peter, calling him Satan and telling him to get behind Him.

And there was that whole cutting off the servant’s ear, and Jesus telling him to put his sword away.  Over and over Peter, the rock, the one Jesus would build His church upon, got it wrong… sometimes really, really wrong.

Yet God didn’t pitch him out in the dark.  God didn’t give up on Peter.  He forgave him, took him back, kept working on him in love and gentleness.  God loved Peter—with all his human mistakes and everything.

Why?  Because God is a God of now.  He loves you right now, and all He wants is for you to come to Him.  If you’ve turned your back on Him, all you have to do is turn back, and He’s ready right now to take you back.

When you gather knowledge, gain understanding of God’s great and deeply abiding love, you begin to grasp the wisdom of believing that what God said He would do, He did and does right now.  As you step into that wisdom, you begin to make good and right decisions consistently, and you have the courage to act upon those decisions.

As you see how God takes even you back, over and over, how He works with your best effort toward your best outcome, how He loves you even when you get it wrong, you very simply fall deeply in love with Him.  He becomes your go-to person on every question, every minute.  Trust begins to come naturally as does obedience because you see that “His way works, mine doesn’t.”

Then, you will look around you, at the miracles your life is producing (not because of you, but because of Him), at the miracles that are happening to you and through you and with you and for you…

Awe is the only logical response!

And none of it will be hard.  Life will feel like a Gift, rather than a curse.  You will step into missions He sends you on with confidence in Him, rather than in fear for yourself.  You will love, and it won’t be hard.  You will forgive because He has forgiven you so much.  Every day will be a Hallelujah day because He is right there with you!

What a great way to live!  Passing it on will come naturally because you’ll want everyone to have what you have.  But you won’t have to hammer them over the head with the message.  They will see how you live and will want to know more about what you have.

As you live out the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, letting Him do them through you, life will become abundant, full, and joyful.  Even the trying times will be opportunities to bring God’s love into the lives of others.  It won’t take doing on your part.  It will just happen.

Gifts to Use

We discussed earlier that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are to be used.

You are about to end this Bible study.  Maybe you learned the Gifts in a new way.  Maybe now they are easier to remember.  That’s great.  It’s a first step.  But only a first step.

The point is to now take these Gifts and use them! They are yours.  What you do with them is a choice only you can make.

Make that choice wisely!

Chapter Discussion

1)      What has the Holy Spirit put on your heart to do that you have not done because of lack of courage?  List the reasons you haven’t or didn’t do it.

2)      Have you ever done anything that was the right thing but you did it for the wrong reason?  What was the outcome?  How did that make you feel?

3)      Is worshiping God a duty in your life?  Do you praise Him because you’re supposed to, or do you praise Him because you really see how much He’s done in your life?

4)      Have you ever been overwhelmed with knowing how much God loves you?  If so, describe the experience.  What made you get a glimpse of God’s immense love for you?  What would life be like if every day you lived in that knowing?

5)      What have you learned in this Bible Study of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that you did not know before you started?  Has that changed how you live?  If so, how?

For more inspiration by Staci Stallings,

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Copyright Staci Stallings, 2010

About Staci Stallings

Staci Stallings shares her heart for God with her novels, articles, and conversations. She loves making new friends, writing, and playing piano and guitar.
This entry was posted in Living In the Light Bible Studies, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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