What do you think of when you think of God? What visuals come to mind? What characteristics do you imagine? Here’s one take…

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,
let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably
with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12:28-29)

God is a consuming fire, Paul (presumably) writes, but I’ll bet that’s not the first picture that pops into your head when you think of the Father in Heaven. Typically we think of a tender-hearted, compassionate, “motherly” Father.

In contrast, the writer here is depicting, not the tender compassion of God, but instead His white hot vengeance. Both aspects of His personality coexist, but which of the two we experience depends on our actions. If we are faithful to Him, and repent when we err, we can expect to receive His mercy. If we reject Him and live in an ungodly way, without remorse or penitence, we will surely suffer His vengeance.

The writer says that Christians belong to the kingdom of Christ, which can not be moved. As such we should be faithful to Christ. We have no reason to fear; no enemy can storm God’s castle and drive us out. let us be faithful, so that we can be found in God’s favor (grace). How do we do that? The writer gives us two things to maintain toward God:

Reverence and Godly fear.

The words are similar but carry different ideas. “Reverence” carries the idea of humility. In fact the word literally means “downward eyes” and thus describes the physical posture a person takes when approaching God. In awe of His holiness we should bow down our heads.

“Godly fear” in the Greek literally means “to handle carefully.” It actually does not have the Greek word for God (“theos”) in the word, though certainly it is applicable. It carries with it the idea that we who approach God should not be flippant or casual.

We are not walking over to a buddy; we are humbly approaching the Almighty Maker and Master of the Universe. He deserves respect.

The children of Israel were so terrified of God’s voice as it thundered from atop Sinai that they begged Moses to make it stop. Imagine being so scared of God that you ask Him to stop talking to you! Christians, however, do not need that level of fear: We can approach God with “boldness” (meaning “confidence”) because we have Christ as our Mediator (Hebrews 4:16).

If we are faithful to God we have nothing to be afraid of; but if we are not faithful…

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else,
whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
(Oswald Chambers)

Live your life as God knows you can, turn back to Him when you err, and just be faithful. Just. Be. Faithful. Just be faithful and you will have nothing of which to be fearful (1 John 4:18)!

~ Matthew