True Fruit of the Fear of God

by Mike Ratliff

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV)

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This should not be so.

What is wrong? The sin level has risen in the visible Church because there is the same level of fear of God in it that the lost have. In other words, there is no fear of God before their eyes. They actually fear men more than God. This sad state of affairs in the Church actually parallels the apostasy of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 5 is the conclusion of God’s evaluation of His people, which began in Isaiah 2:1. In Chapter 5 God compares His people to a vineyard, which He cultivated, but which did not bear fruit.

“Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1-2 ESV)

Isaiah is singing this song to the Lord whom he loves. Who owns the vineyard? God does! He placed it on a very fertile hill. That would be the planting of Israel in the Promised Land. However, on a spiritual level, He gave them His Law and sent them prophets. This signified in Him digging it and clearing it of stones. This is the planting of God’s truth within them. This truth shed light into the darkness removing the stones of confusion and the ways of men and of legalism and self-righteousness. God did everything possible to point the Israelites in the right direction via the Law and the prophets. There should have been good fruit, but instead there was only bad fruit from this vineyard.

“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” (Isaiah 5:3-6 ESV)

God asked for the Jews to judge between themselves and Him. Read this passage carefully. God again repeated the charge that the reason He is bringing judgment upon them is that they do not produce good fruit, but only bad fruit. What are these fruits and what are their roots?

“For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah 5:7 ESV)

From this passage we see the good fruit and bad fruit. God looked for justice, but found bloodshed. He looked for righteousness, but beheld only the wail of the oppressed. The Hebrew word translated as “looked” here means “to look for patiently” or “to hope.” God is patient towards His people beyond anything we can imagine. The Geneva Bible and the King James Bible translate “justice” here as “judgment.” It is the Hebrew word “mishpat.” This word means “properly” referring to a verdict that is pronounced judicially. It carries with it the idea of all judgments being carried out in a manner that is right in all parts of government, not just the judicial section of it. If this is maintained by a society then this would be “good grapes,” but if injustice and corruption prevail then God sees “wild grapes.” In this song Isaiah tells us that God beheld bloodshed in Israel instead of justice.

The Hebrew word translated as “righteousness” here is “tsedhaqah.” It means “rightness, rectitude, justice, right, righteousness, justness, faithfulness, virtue, piety, mercy, mildness, etc.” The absence of this in society creates victims.

Now carefully reason with me here. The analogy is that God planted good seed in His vineyard and gave it everything it needed to bear the good fruit of Justice and Righteousness, but instead it bore only bloodshed and oppression. Why? Justice and Righteousness that God looks for in His people are both rooted firmly in the fear of God, not the fear of men. On the other hand, the bad fruit is rooted firmly in the world which has no fear of God before its eyes.

What are we to learn from this? You may be saying, “Well and good, but I’m not part of government.” Well, neither am I. However, I know that I am in position everyday all day to make judgment calls in my interactions with other people. So are you. If we fear God and walk before His face in light of that fear, will we judge others hypocritically? Will we falsely accuse people? Will we commit adultery? Of course not! However, if we are walking this life outside of the fear of God then we will be operating in the flesh and will make fleshly decisions that are rooted in the fear of man, not God. That means that we will do evil in the darkness and only stop when we are in danger of being caught.

The fear of God is the missing ingredient in most professing Christian’s walks. The Spirit-filled believer does fear God and walks in submission to Him in all things. The fleshly believer does not fear God and walks according his or her fleshly fears and lusts. They may indeed deeply desire to have victory over their sin, but are powerless to get it. They will try to be godly one of two ways that don’t work. The first way is to be legalistic. This is trying formulas for success or keeping rules. It will work only up the strength of one’s will power. The other way that does not work is to “let go and let God.” This is asking God to miraculously zap us so that we become instantly godly.

No, the only way to conquer our flesh and walk before the face of God as a Spirit-filled believer is to become a mature Christian. That requires cooperation with God in our sanctification. It means a life dedicated to repentance, prayer, and living in the Word of God by applying it to one’s life and submitting to everyone as Christ would. If we will do this we will find that we indeed do fear God and the fruit of that fear is a life that bears the fruits of justice and righteousness.

35 thoughts on “True Fruit of the Fear of God

  1. Thank you, Mike, for this post. I needed to hear this today.

    By the way, I’ve ordered a book entitled, “The Fear of God,” by Arnold Frank. Have you read it? I am looking forward to digging into it as soon as it arrives.

    Thanks again for the ways you minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    –Brian

  2. Mike – I agree with what you say but I must caution you on the use of the word “unchurched”. I believe this word was coined by the Rick Warren crowd and implies that church attendance is synonymous with being a true Christian. When we use the language of the enemy in our communications we make small concessions to their point of view.

  3. Bill,

    I actually struggled with trying to find another way to express that thought without using that word. I do not mean it the way R.W. does. I meant it to differentiate those who go to church and profess that they are Christians from those who do not profess that they are Christians. My contention is that a very large percentage of professing Christians are not genuine.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Hello Mike,

    thanks a lot for this post. As usual, I am so blessed by this article of yours.

    Also, just FWIW, perhas you could use the term ‘nominal Christians’ to refer to those who go to church but are not truly Christians?

  5. At the base of this matter is a heart condition.

    Even the noblest external works of righteousness are as filthy rags before the Lord and are often actually idolatrous in nature when secretly conducted with underlying selfish motivations or ambitions. By “secretly” here I don’t necessarily mean the underlying motivations are kept from external parties, but rather – as is often the case – these secret motivations never even make it to the level of conscious awareness due to man’s depraved sin nature.

    Sadly Israel is in many ways a Biblical case study in how not to behave toward God, yet we would do well to bear in mind that the Holy Spirit was not given to indwell OT humanity as they were pre-cross, thus their external observance of God’s ordinances and laws was, as Paul explained, their teacher and taskmaster which ultimately ought to have pointed them toward their need for a Savior. Interestingly only a handful of individuals actually recognized the entrance of the Savior into the world, Mary and Joseph, a few shepherds, the magi, and Simeon and Anna. How sad is that? Especially considering the fact that first century Judaism was virtually on pins and needles expecting the advent of Messiah due to Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks!

    Yet how men love the law of works righteousness! And how we desire to showcase our righteousness before men! Oh How appealing are the chief seats and how we love our greetings in the marketplace! “Brother!” “Sister!” “Pastor!” We’re so self righteous that it’s antithetical to our very being to be identified, much less to self-identify, with the wretched sinfulness and reprobate unrighteousness which is our true estate when we are still unregenerate.

    Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?

  6. There is no fear of God even among us. We might have an awareness that there isn’t, but to be honest before our Lord we need a revival that brings us face to face with Who God is and among other emotions we will fear. And when I say fear, I mean ever bit of being AFRAID. Reverence, awe, respect, and all the rest to be sure, but the Bible actually means to be afraid.

    Now that fear doesn’t compromise our intimacy with Christ, it actuall enhances it. But you are correct, people live their lives without the thought of the fear of God. May 2008 bring us a fresh awakening of the fear of God which should drive us to repentance, prayer, and a revival that will glorify the Lord Jesus.

  7. >”There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This should not be so. ”

    I note that you are quoting exclusively from the Old Testament (old covenant) and have not included the New Testament (new covenant). Which covenant are Christians under?

    Jesus came for sinners and His Church is full of them. The stats seem to verify that His Church is reaching its target market.

    “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” [Matthew 9:12-13]

    God bless…

  8. Amen Mike. The easy believism is an epedemic. They still wear all of their ‘No Fear’ T-shirts and thats what pops into my mind when I see that. So many lost. So much prayer is needed for them for our Lord to send His Spirit to regenerate them.

  9. Steve,

    Thanks brother. Also, thanks for the link. I am listening to Fernando Ortega on your site right now. :-) I will add your link to my blogroll.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. Timothy,

    You are incorrect about several things. First, people in the Old Testament were saved the same way as people in the New Testament and our time. That is, all are saved by grace through faith. The Law, in fact the entire O.T. was fulfilled in Christ. Does this mean that we totally ignore the wisdom and standards of God that He graciously gave us in the O.T.? I suggest you read the book of Romans carefully. You will find that we are indeed still liable to the commandments from God except for the ceremonial. The reason that does not apply to us now is that that part of the Law is replaced in Christ. This is laid out very clearly in the the book of Hebrews.

    Now concerning your comment about the church being full of sinners. Yes, we are all sinners, but that does not mean we live in the flesh and remain no different than the unregenerate. If you are under the teaching or are teaching that that is not so then I pray for you to repent of it and get out from under it.

    Lastly, you are associating the Visible Church with the genuine or Invisible Church. The Visible Church is made up of the regenerate and unregenerate together, wheat and tares, sheep and goats. However, the Invisible Church is made up of the regenerate alone. Who are they? They are those who have entered by the narrow gate that few find. They have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and are taking up their crosses, denying themselves daily and following their Lord. They fear God. I am of this number. Are you?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Amen Paul!

    By-the-way brother, my wife gave me a wonderful Christmas present. I now have a 1560 Edition of the Geneva Bible! Wow! It is a facsimile not a modernized version of it. I read it and my heart burns within me. I find myself weeping as the clarity of God’s Word hits this heart. I read it about half the speed that I normally read because I have to translate as I go. However, this is awesome because it slows me down and I actually dig into it. What a blessing that is!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. Unless I have misread, that was satire concerning the fear of the Lord.

    Mike – I have benefited by your writings in 2007 and I look forward to your blog in 2008. You and your family have a great New Years Eve!

    PS – Just so you know, I will be drinking Powerade. Make sure you have a designated driver!

  13. You too Rick! i will be drinking water and coffee and will stay home with my wife. You have a great and an New Year that is spiritually prosperous in the Lord as well!

  14. 1560!! Thats great. We have the 1599 and just love it too. Also the ESV is the wifes favorite and then good ol KJV. Blessed reading brother. Tyndale……… :) that was a good one Mike :)

  15. Mike,

    And there we differ. I don’t believe it is God commanding us through the Bible. Just people, and I see no reason to listen to people who want to drive the wedge of fear between me and God.

    But it comes to an interesting question. If it came down to direct experience vs the Bible, which would you believe? How about reason vs scripture?

    Dan

  16. Dan,

    What you or I or anyone else believes or doesn’t believe has no bearing whatsoever on the truth. John 1 says that the Word is God. We know God through His Word not experience. We experience things in light of His Word. Human reason is fallible. God’s Word is not.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  17. Mike,

    Ah, so the Bible says the Bible is the word of God. That’s not circular at all.

    If the Bible is God’s word, and God’s word is infallible, then is every directive in the Bible one we must follow?

  18. Dan,

    The Bible also says that it is impossible to please God without Faith. You have none, at least none of that kind. Your faith is only in what you can see or feel, etc. That is humanism and rebellion against God. Genuine faith is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9-10)

    The answer to your last question is yes, but not as far as keeping parts of the Old Covenant that were fulfilled and done away with in Christ.

    Also, what you are doing with your argument is contending with God. His Word also says that to do that is an offense and will be cursed. That includes sarcasm when referring to Him and His Word.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  19. Mike,

    How sad that for every argument for the Bible you must either ask us to abandon reason or to trust the Bible that the Bible is true. Anything you cite from the Bible only creates another circular argument.

    Why would a good person who loves God and acts with love towards fellow beings have anything to fear? The answer is there is no fear for a man or woman who loves God and knows the divine. You don’t need a book for that (even if the book insists you really do).

  20. Dan,

    No, my arguments are not circular at all. You are the one who is insisting on a basis for truth that has no foundation. The Bible, God’s Word is that foundation. Also, the god you love is one of your own imagination, not THE GOD. Lastly, we cannot say that such and such is so because I said so, but God can and does. He is perfectly Righteous and Holy. That is why we reverently fear Him. Christ makes it possible for believers to know God. It is through our relationship with Him that we can pray and serve God.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. There is no end to the rebellion of man. Whether it be claiming God does not exist, or framing God in their own image, man in constantly seeking to deny or define God. Why? First, because the ancient deception is still alive. Man is still beguiled by the hissing of the serpent, asking “Did God really say…?” Moreover, man is repeatedly confronted by the adversary who seeks to convince him that “[he is] like God, knowing good and evil.” Not that man can identify what is truly good and what is evil, but that he can make those discernments on his own apart from God. Furthermore, that he can go even further to make acts that are evil in the eyes of God his very definition of good.

    Second, when we define God on our own terms we have little reason to acknowledge His lordship over our lives, to face inconvenient decisions where God asks of us one thing though we desire another, and to struggle with difficult ideas and issues that confront one living in the flesh but trying to walk by the Word.

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