Many Christians today are more concerned about their popularity and how many followers they have on social media rather than following God’s direction for their life, the former lead vocalist of a renowned Christian metalcore band has said.
Mattie Montgomery, who for 10 years served as the frontman of “For Today” before the band stopped touring in 2016, says in his new book, Scary God: Introducing the Fear of the Lord to the Postmodern Church, that too many churches today are doing a “great disservice” by teaching believers that they don’t need to fear God.
Although “fear of the Lord” is an instrumental part of the Christian faith, Montgomery says that many believers are being taught that they only need to respect and honor God.
Such teaching, he says, is causing believers to avoid seeking God’s help when tackling life’s biggest challenges and is leading many to seek protection, safety and help from worldly sources.
The Christian Post spoke with Montgomery last week to talk about his new book. Below is an edited and condensed transcript of the interview.
CP: What inspired you to write this book?
Mattie Montgomery: I think that one of the most misunderstood concepts in the modern church is the fear of the Lord. If we hear teaching on it all, we hear teaching on it that goes out of its way to try to communicate to us that God is not to be feared, not in the way that we use the word commonly but only to be respected or revered.
In my own experiences with God — and I talk about a number of them in the book — I’ve had terrifying encounters with Him. There are times when it feels like I’m so close to God that every little action or movement matters, where I’m so deep into God’s presence there’s no room for anything casual. I have to make sure that every step, every word, every thought, every action has to be with the nearness of God in mind.
I think we have done a great disservice to try to teach that you don’t have to be afraid of God and that the fear of God doesn’t mean fear, it means honor or respect. Scripture is really clear.
The Hebrew word used for fear is the word ‘yirah,’ which is the same word that Adam used in the garden when he said, ‘I heard you walking in the garden and I knew that I was naked so I was afraid and I went and hid myself.’ If you remember that the promise made to him was that in the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.
Adam says that the feeling he had when he thought he was going to die was yirah — fear.
That is the word Jacob uses when he thinks that Esau and Esau’s Army are coming to kill him.
It is the word consistently that people use in scripture when they think they are going to die. Yet, that’s also the word that Proverbs uses when it says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
To teach that fear means respect or honor is not only not biblically accurate, it’s also not beneficial in a practical sense for our lives. If I have a God that is just nice, when I need a warrior and I need a hero, I can’t turn to Him.
If the enemy that is against me is ferocious and relentless and aggressive and determined, it’s not until I have a revelation of the fierceness and ferocity of my God that I can understand that really no weapon against me can prosper.
I have seen it as a prevailing issue in the modern church and something that I felt God said a couple years ago: “It’s time for you to write it.” So I did.
CP: What’s the downside to viewing ‘fear of God’ as respect and honor?
MM: I think respect means a lot of different things for different people. I have a different kind of respect for my best friend than I do a police officer. I have a different kind of respect for the president of the United States than I do the bagboy at my local grocery store. I do respect those different people but if a president walks into a room, you make sure your clothes fit right and you stand up and you carry yourself respectfully. That is because there is an honor or respect for the position.
Respect can mean a million different things to a million different people and it can work itself out in a million different ways. So we have a whole generation in the church that says, “Don’t fear God. Just respect God.” They respect God the way they respect their best friend or their buddy. Ultimately, God is friendly toward us but He is not just our friend. He is fatherly toward us but He is not just our father. He is loving toward us but He is not just our beloved. …
The primary drawback to our misunderstanding of the fear of the Lord is that we diminish our acknowledgment of the divinity of God and as a result, we approach God as a concept or an idea. Most often, I think some people approach God as a friend, colleague or associate. Some people view God as a benevolent force in the sky that on occasion will rain down good fortune but lose our sense of awe at the majesty and magnitude of God by being taught to respect God instead of fear God.
The everyday believer does not view God as a hero anymore. He is not our champion, He is not our rescuer. We need to view Yahweh the way that the Philistines viewed Goliath. He is my Champion who goes down into the valley for me and confronts the enemy who opposes me and He wins the victory so that I don’t even have to fight anymore. So when we can view God as scary, then we are more than happy to send Him into the valley for us.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith