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Fear is unpopular - yet the writer tells Christians to fear.   There are not many places in the Bible where God tells Christians to fear.  There are many more where God says, “fear not.”  God told Abraham, “Do not fear” (Genesis 15:1).  He told Moses, “Do not fear him [Og], for I have given him into your hand” (Numbers 21:34).  The LORD told Joshua, “Do not fear them [the Canaanites]” (Joshua 10:8).  Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body” (Matthew 10:28) and “Do not be afraid, little flock” (Luke 12:32).  Yet, there is a good fear and a bad fear.  In the New Testament, Paul tells Christians to fear the secular government whom God uses to punish evil: “if you do what is evil, be afraid” (Romans 13:4).  Paul also tells Christians to fear pride, “Do not be conceited, but fear” (Romans 11:20).  The angel in Revelation says that everyone should “fear God and give Him glory” (Revelation 14:7).  In 4:1, the writer begins with one Greek word: “let us fear.” Here, fear is a good thing.  The writer is exhorting us to it and exhorting believers to look out for others with it.  The fear the writer is talking about is ‘coming short’ of God’s promises.  The word ‘come short’ in 4:1 is the same word that occurs in Romans 3:23: “fall short” of the glory of God.  Falling short once one has heard is fearful, because sin and unbelief causes it, and sin and unbelief are deceitful and damning (3:13, 15).  Believers should be sensitive to the point of looking out for others who even ‘seem’ (4:1) to fall short.

After hearing, always comes a period of testing.  Unbelief, the particular sin that the writer focuses on (13:19), is a sin that occurs only after one has heard.  This sin, which is particularly active and harmful, occurs after God calls a person to respond in faith.  Therefore, there is a particular emphasis, responsibility and warning that the writer puts on the fact that these people had heard.  The writer mentions this hearing three times in 4:2: “good news preached to us, just as they also” “the word they heard” and “those who heard.”  Just as when God led the ancient Jews into the wilderness to test their faith, to see whether or not it was genuine, and just as God led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days, to show everyone that He was genuine, God tests every believer after he has heard the Gospel as to the genuineness of His faith.  If one is sluggish (6:12), turns back (10:38) or does not go to the end (3:6, 14), he may suffer like the Israelites in the wilderness.  God was angry with them, and swore that they should not enter His rest (3:17, 18).

Those who pass the test show it with an active, vigorous faith.  Faith, like unbelief, is not neutral – it is active.  In Chapter 11, the writer gives many examples of biblical faith, and in each case the believing men and women served God against all odds.  They “conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions” – “the world was not worthy” of them (11:33 – 38).  God’s rest is one that the believer ‘enters’(3:11, 18; 4:1, 3) with diligence (4:11; 6:11) and a faith that is firm (3:6, 13) and “without wavering” (10:23).

Fear falling away for yourself and others!  Be diligent in your faith!