J. R. Charlesworth, Barnstaple
Concerning multitudes of our fellow men and women, it may be truly said that "there is no fear of God before their eyes", Rom. 3. 18. Irreverence is so blatant in almost every section of society that, unless we guard against the danger, our own standards will be undermined and, imperceptibly perhaps, our own regard for the holiness of the Godhead will be impaired.
It is well to recall that Jesus came to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage", Heb. 2. 15. Encompassed by this "spirit of bondage", unregenerate men can produce nothing higher than an outward exhibition of piety. Paul spoke of himself, while a morally upright, zealous Jew, as being an enemy of God, Rom. 5. 10. In contrast, believers, "moved with godly fear", Heb. 11. 7 R.v., ascribe to their Father that true reverence which embraces affection, awe and wonder. Only those who walk in this "fear of the Lord" can display a truly reverent life. This reverence may be studied in its relation to God, to others, and to ourselves. Because he is to live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" every saint should:
Revere God as Exalted. Whenever we speak to or of Jehovah it is imperative that we remember who He is.
The attitude that one adopts in private communion with the Lord will permeate the whole character. When choice is available, it is irreverent to select, for one's quiet moments of prayer and Bible study, a part of the day when sleep is likely to overtake the tired body. Would one dare to allow concentration to lapse while talking with an earthly monarch? How sorrowful to the Saviour's heart when "he cometh, and findeth them sleeping", Mark 14. 37. Those who have "the spirit of wisdom" will endeavour to find a convenient time and place, day by day, conducive to that holy occupation for which there is no substitute. "Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone".
The maxim, "The more you think before you speak, the more your hearers will think afterwards", is a good motto for preachers. But just as the Bible teacher will weigh carefully how best he may present the truth, so too should there be an exercise of heart before publicly speaking to the God of heaven and earth. Let us ever bear in mind that our only access to the mercy seat is through the Holy One of God. Shame upon us if we use that precious Name lightly. While the Lord hears our words, He listens to our hearts.
Indirectly emphasizing the intimacy of their relationship to Jehovah, Christians in some countries are in the habit of employing a familiar form of address in prayer. In other areas the phraseology used in public prayer tends to highlight the supreme sovereignty of God. Where a balance is maintained, the brother leading the congregation in this holy exercise will do so in such a way that will make all present aware of the fact that we, as believers, are sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, 2 Cor. 6. 18. Holy boldness with reverent step forms the keynote of an acceptable approach to the throne of grace. Prayer meetings could be revitalized if we all realized the honour bestowed upon us by the God who, in wondrous grace, is more ready to answer our petitions than we are to make them. The privilege is too great to be abused.
We delight to contemplate the inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus. We are sons, therefore heirs, joint heirs with Christ. But princes must behave as such; royal priests must refrain from contact with that which is unclean; they that bear the regal vessels of the Lord must be holy. We walk before the Judge of Ananias and Sapphira. We are priests of the God who punished Nadab and Abihu. We are children of the One who chastens because He loves, and "scourgeth every son whom he receiveth". Flippancy has no place in the house of the Lord. "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire", Heb. 12. 28-29.
It behoves us to give our Master His correct title. Although the Saviour was known as Jesus of Nazareth and the disciples used the vernacular when speaking to Him, nevertheless they were always careful to address Him as Master and Lord. To speak of "Jesus" at Colossae could have been confusing to the saints there, for one of their number was so named, Col. 4. 11. Our Redeemer is Jesus the Christ; He is Lord of all, and His Lordship should be apparent in our speech and actions. His Name is holy and is to be reverenced by us all, Psa. in. 9.
Respect Fellow Believers as the Elect. A godly man will do nothing "to offend one of these little ones". Can I refuse to be of service to a brother for whom the Saviour was willing to die? May I deliberately hurt a sister's feelings, knowing that she is a lamb in the tender Shepherd's flock? If I view all Christians as those whom the Lord has chosen, I will not despise any of "the least of these".
A little reflection on the relevant Scriptures shows that to cause a brother to stumble, to sow discord among brethren, to act in a selfish or egotistical way, is to portray a lack of reverence to the God who dwells among His people.
When believers gather together, it is usually possible to do so in an atmosphere conducive of the realization that "God is here, and that to bless us". A sense of quiet expectancy and silent worship before the commencement of a meeting does much to facilitate the Holy Spirit's activity and leading. How this stands in contrast to the blare and babble of the world! At one time, cinema patrons were entertained by an electric organ while awaiting the programme to begin. If musical diversion is considered advisable before a service, let it not be a frivolous introduction, but such as will help to prepare hearts to receive the Word of the Lord.
Subjects of the King should display the manners of the court. Courtesy and consideration for others ought to be prevalent among us, I Pet. 3. 8-9. In so many little ways we can show a lack of reverence through thoughtlessness: - occupying an end seat thereby unnecessarily causing someone to have difficulty in reaching a vacant place in the row,, blocking an aisle while oblivious of those wishing to pass, cramming into rear seats while, in another part of the room, rows of empty chairs stare dolefully at the speaker!
A reverent person will study to be quiet. So often a spate of chattering breaks forth immediately a gathering is over. Friendly conversation is excellent; but hasty, idle words at the close of a meeting can do the devil's work very effectively for him. Well-sown seed may be quickly blown away! If at a prayer meeting I have so much to pour out before the Lord that it cannot all be spoken in a few minutes, then let me mention my request in silent prayer rather than weary my fellow saints with a monologue that causes some to wonder if I have misunderstood 1 Thessalonians 5. 16. If, through lack of preparation before the Lord, I have nothing to say at a Bible reading, then let me say nothing. Little is more frustrating to God's people than a speaker who, out of an empty heart, produces a lack of knowledge in a multitude of words! Thoughtless also is the brother who could contribute to a meeting profitably, but leaves the burden of responsibility entirely to others. "Consider one another"; cf. Job 35.16 with 2 Timothy 1. 6-8.
Regard himself as an Epistle. "None of us liveth to himself", Rom. 14. 7, or, as the poet expressed it: "No man is an island5'. Our lives do have an effect upon people around us. At a meal, for instance, guests do notice if just a feeble attempt is made to give audible thanks to God against the background noise of radio or television loudspeaker! Because censorious eyes are often upon us it is imperative that our actions are consistent with the truth of Holy Writ. Salt is no good if it has lost its savour. Too seldom are our neighbours able to say, "I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually", 2 Kings. 4. 9.
Just as a disobedient, obstreporous boy is an embarrassment to everyone, bringing shame upon the whole household, so can a believer, who fails to realize that he is an ambassador for Christ, unwittingly bring the house of the Lord into disrepute. On the other hand, like the influence in the home of a young believer who gives to parents the honour due, Heb. 12. 9, so is the value of godly lives as "ensamplcs to the flock". When tempted to compromise and forget our calling, let us bear in mind Paul's words that, as epistles, we are "known and read of all men", 2 Cor. 3. 2.
Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No - when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere His name.
May the Lord be able truly to say of us, "They will reverence my Son", Mark 12. 6.