“Fearing” the Lord in Counseling

In some ways, there are churches like the Samaritans who were foreigners that were settled in Palestine by the Babylonians and who adopted some, but not all, of the elements of the Hebrew religion. They accepted the law of Moses, but none of the rest of the Scriptures. And included with this deficient, truncated acceptance of divine revelation, we read that “They feared the Lord, but they also worshipped their own gods according to the customs of the nations where they had been deported from” (2 Kings 17:33). Again, we are told, “they feared the Lord but also worshipped their idols” (2 Kings 17:41). They were eclectic “fearers.”

How can you “fear the Lord,” and do what they did? To speak of the “fear” of God was to use what had become a technical term that meant to become a member of the outward community of God. Like circumcision, where there was a circumcision of the flesh and a circumcision of the heart, so too, there was a “fear of God” that was but an outward profession of belief in Him, and there was also the “fear” of those whose profession of faith was also an inner reality.

How much has been gathered into the Christian church today, by people whose profession of faith is merely outward, that is detrimental! It is destructive because God will not take His stand alongside of false gods of man’s making—whether or not it involves idolatry—and accept worship. He tolerates no equal; no partner; no substitute, no one else.

So, my friend, is your worship as well as your counseling eclectic? Often the two go together. It is dangerous to adopt alien systems of thought having to do with the very deepest aspects of a man’s life (such as those involved in counseling) and not be personally influenced by them. Have you so compromised your thinking in the area of counseling that it has, in effect, diluted your views of God? This may be especially the case if you tout what you are doing under the label, “Christian,” when it isn’t. Pretty soon, you may come to the place where you even believe it! Whom do you really fear? Who is the sole object of your fear? In the light of much that goes for “fear of God” in the church, it’s a question worth asking.

Children In Worship

Some parents insist on bringing their small children into the service during the preaching of the Word. They make it a principle  to do so: to train their children, they say. Is this a good—i.e., A biblical—idea?

Think about this verse:

All the people gathered together  . . . all who could listen [to the reading  and exposition of the law] with understanding.         (Nehemiah 8: 1, 2; see also vv. 3; 10: 28) . . .

Others who could not understand because of age or infirmity were not present. This verse refutes the argument of such parents.

Not only do children who can’t understand wriggle, make noises, drop things, etc., distracting those around them who want to hear, but they are being trained by this mistaken idea NOT TO LISTEN. They are being trained to sleep on mom’s shoulder, eat, draw pictures on the bulletin, etc. rather than listening.  No wonder they have a hard time later on doing so!

Putting It Together

Many sermons are preached from Romans 12:1:

I urge you then, brothers, because of these mercies from God, to present your bodies as living, holy pleasing sacrifices to God, which is the reasonable way to serve Him in worship.

“It seems to be a favorite verse of readers as well.  But is there, in the interest shown here, something that many miss?”


“Well, if that’s so, what is it?”

Let me answer by observing, first of all, that the verse is packed with truth and virtually tells us not to miss all that is it:

  1. The verse is the conclusion of something that went before—Paul is urging his readers to do something;
  2. He gives a compelling reason for doing it;
  3. He clearly explains what it is;
  4. He relates it to proper worship in a New Testament times;
  5. He draws what he urges from what he has said in previous chapters

In worship we “serve” God (Note that worship involves activity on man’s part).  The word for worship is latria—a term that calls one to give service of any and all sorts to another. Many want to know how to worship.  The answer is to be ready at all time to do God’s will. Worship is not singing a song, praying a prayer and listening to a sermon (though these things may be a significant part of it).  Worship is larger than what we do at a church “service.” It includes all of our service to God.

The aspect of worship that is “urged” in this passage is said to be the reasonable way to worship.  It is reasonable because it ought to be the natural outcome that stems from the “mercies of God’ that have been shown to us in chs. 1-11.

“ What are they?”

All of the gracious acts of God found in those chapters of Romans preceding this one. He bases his appeal for worship upon the way of salvation and sanctification that is explained there, and upon all to which such mercy ought to lead.

But further, note, Paul calls for worship that comes from bodies that are living sacrifices.

“That one has always troubled me.  How can a sacrifice be ‘living?’”

What Paul means, in contrast to Old Testament sacrifices, is that God requires our bodies to be “sacrificed.” In a physical sacrifice the very life of the victim is given up. That means, in worshiping God, our bodies are to be given up to His service.  That is to say, they are to be used fully in His service.

And, here is what is ordinarily missed—this is the reasonable outcome of what he tells us about our bodies in chapters 6 and 7.  There, he discusses sanctification—becoming more and more what God wants us to be; becoming more and more like Christ. That process (it does not come all at once) involves using the members of the body, that once were dedicated to serving sin, to serve God every bit as fully in His service as we did in serving sin (see 6: 13, 16, 19). In offering a “living sacrifice” the believer willingly submits of all aspects of his body to God to be used as He directs in His Word.

This transition verse is, therefore, the beginning of the conclusion to the whole argument of the book which is that God alone saves you by faith alone and expects us to serve him alone with all aspects of our bodies (including our brains!).

Will you worship God that way today?  Will you “conform” your ways so as to please God according to His perfect will?  If so, you will cease more and more to conform to the ways of this modern age. By renewing your mind you will more and more think as God does. And that will enable you to do the will of God.

“How can I know what His will is?”

In one way alone—by determining from His Word what “pleases” Him. And that takes the study of the Scriptures so as to transform our minds which, in turn, transforms the use we make of our bodies. We must wholly offer our bodies to Him in His service. That is worship in Spirit and in truth.