What does it mean to fear the Lord? Does the fear of God mean that I am to be afraid of God?
The fear of God does not mean that we are to be afraid of God the way some children are afraid of the dark, or the way some people are afraid of heights or getting on an airplane. In fact, just because a person is afraid of God does not mean that the person fears God in the biblical sense. The fear of God in the biblical sense means having a loving reverence for the person of God that results from experiencing God firsthand. God is infinitely holy, indescribably glorious, and ineffably awesome, and when we encounter God in our personal experience through the power of the Holy Spirit based on the Word of God, the response to our awesome God is awe and reverence and a profound sense of our own inadequacy in God's presence (Ex. 3:1-6; Isa. 6:1-7; Luke 5:1-11; Heb. 12:28). The reverential and experiential fear and awe of God includes the desire produced by the Holy Spirit to please God in all our ways, mingled with a holy dread to displease Him. The holy dread of displeasing our infinitely holy God before whom the angels veil their faces and never cease to cry holy should make us watchful of our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior; our loving reverence for Him motivates us to live the whole of our lives in ways that please Him. We are to reverence God and stand in awe of Him, but at the same time we do not have to be afraid of our heavenly Father. A. W. Tozer says it well: "The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraidthat is the paradox of faith." I suspect that one of the great needs of the 21st-century church in the West is a renewal of the fear of the Lord.