The Fear of the Lord

Two years ago I met a man named Rusty Woomer. Rusty loved the mountains and streams of his home in West Virginia. He loved to talk about Scripture and God's grace in his life. But the reason I will never forget Rusty is that he illustrated the missing ingredient in today's church. You couldn't be with Rusty and not sense that he had a holy, intimate awe of His Creator. Rusty knew what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord. That's because Rusty knew he was going to die in 11 days. You see, I met Rusty in his cell on South Carolina's death row. His execution date had been set. He knew that his head would be shaved and he would be taken to the electric chair. He knew that technicians would attach electrodes to him, the executioners would press a button, and 2,000 volts of electricity would surge through his body. He knew that at approximately two minutes after 1 A.M. on April 27, 1991, he would meet his Maker. And that's exactly what happened. As I tell Rusty's story in my new book, The Body, he paid society's price for his crimes. But he knew that Jesus Christ had paid the full price for his sins, and that in the moment after death he would stand before the living Lord. So when I met him, Rusty was full of the fear of the Lord. He called it, in his simple way, "God's radiance, His power, His love. Don't it scare you that someone loves you enough that He can forgive you for anything that you do? It scares me sometimes. . . His love is so strong that it might hurt us when we meet Him." So it was Rusty—an unknown Christian, not a celebrated theologian—who taught me the truth that has undergirded my thinking about the life of the church. In the book of Acts we learn that the secret of the early church was its fear of the Lord. The first Christians stood in deep awe of the holiness of God. Read the story of Ananias and Sapphira, whose punishment for lying to God was immediate death. The author of Acts says after that a great fear came upon the whole church. Yet "multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number." That strikes the modern ear as odd. Most of us wouldn't put fear of the Lord very high on our list of church growth prerequisites. Today's church growth gurus tell you that to make your church expand you need appealing music programs, spacious parking lots, and "relevant" preaching. But in the first century, it was awe of God's power—a deep reverence for a Holy God—that caused the new church to explode across the known world. This is the attitude I saw in Rusty Woomer. You and I may not be on death row. But, like Rusty, we will meet our Maker some day. We need to live day by day in the awe of His presence, His power. And if we do, I believe we will see a revival that will turn our world upside down. Part 5 in a series on The Body.


Chuck Colson


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