By Dr. Harold Sala

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.  Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”  Acts 9:31, NIV

“I don’t know how it could have happened,” a friend lamented.  “They were one of the most spiritual couples I knew. Reading their annual Christmas letter,” he said, “made me envious. Their lives were filled with so much, they were helping so many, they were involved in so many good causes.” And what caused his distress? She had just left him for another man. Another marriage failure. Two seemingly committed believers.

It’s easy to excuse things, saying, “Well, nobody really knows how bad things were,” or to say, “Those things happen, you know!” Yes, we know things happen. But we also know a lot of what is happening today, shouldn’t happen. We know a lot of what is happening is displeasing to our heavenly Father.

We can also say, “The devil’s doing it!” He’s tearing things apart.” True, when Lucifer launched his battle with God, he attacked the first family in the garden. But there is another issue—which is neither circumstantial nor spiritual. It is us, our will, our decisions, our choices.

Question:  Have we lost sight of personal responsibility? Have we forgotten that ultimately God holds us accountable for our choices? Or does it matter to us? Since forgiveness comes so easy and is so cheap, we reason, “OK, this isn’t good, but God will forgive us.” It is the attitude expressed in the old western movie where the hero walks out, guns smoking, and says, “Lord, forgive this little bit ‘a killin’. It were necessary!”

With our quick fixes and easy solutions which often produce estrangement, loneliness and profound pain, we have forgotten something important. The God who is there hasn’t let us off the hook. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” says the writer of Hebrews.  “Yeah, but that was Old Testament stuff.” Who told you that?

“Are you trying to scare us?” you may be asking.

Understanding the fear of God may keep you from a lot of things that you do without thought of related consequences. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, said the Psalmist. The writer of Proverbs speaks of people who hate knowledge and do not fear the Lord.

“Are you trying to scare us?” you may be asking. Not for a moment, but I would urge you to ponder the consequences of your decisions because God’s forgiveness never relieves you of the consequences of wrongdoing. You’re stuck with them.

Like those Solomon spoke of, today we lack the understanding of the whole picture. Thinking that our culture makes it “different” we no longer fear God nor ponder the consequences of sin.

“Are you afraid of God?” you might ask me, and I would answer both yes and no. No, in the sense that I love and trust Him. I’ve chosen to the extent I know how to serve Him and to walk the path of right living.  That’s what theologians call “a reverential trust.” But to be perfectly honest, I’d be mortally afraid to think that I could turn my back on what I know to be true and hope to get away with it. “You may be sure,” Moses told in his day, “that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). And you may be just as sure that as it was true in His day, it is just as true today.

Some things never change no matter how our attitudes and morals may. The flip side of that is that God’s faithfulness never changes either. He is still a refuge, a strength, and a help, and He can be counted on to help us resolve the issues that tear us apart and turn what could be a disaster into a good relationship.  He still makes the difference.

Resource reading: Proverbs 1-2.

Speaker, author and Bible teacher, Dr. Harold Sala founded Guidelines in 1963. Pioneering the five-minute commentary in Christian radio, Dr. Sala’s daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” is broadcast in 49 of the 50 states and is heard the world over in a variety of languages.

Sala, who holds a Ph.D. in biblical text, has authored over 60 books published in19 languages. He speaks and teaches frequently at conferences, seminars, and churches worldwide. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children and eight well-loved grandchildren.

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