I don't know how much you've thought about fear; we all have the capacity to be afraid. But fear can be the enemy of faith. Fear can hound you; it can paralyze you; it can rob you of your motivation and joy. It can make you, rather than want to live life, to want to escape from life. But there is a wholesome, life-producing fear that Peter talks about. Let me read for you again from 1 Peter 1, verse 17:
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. (Again) And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
I literally adore the way that Peter handles this topic of the fear of the Lord; I think it's incredibly helpful. And I think as I was studying this passage, I saw this clearly for the very first time. He's clearly not talking about a terror of God's condemnation. The fear that God would turn His back on you, the fear that He would throw you out of His family. Now how do I know that? Because Peter puts two titles together that, for the Christian, ought to always be together. He puts Father and Judge together. God is for the believer, not just our Judge, He's a Father-Judge.
Now, what does that tell you? It tells you that the one who watches over you, the one who holds you accountable, does that with the spirit and the heart of a father. It means you're already in His family. He's already made you an object of His love. You already bear His name. You're already the object of His loving protection and provision, His fathering care.
And so, it's like having a loving father, but who is an authority in your life. You're not afraid that He's going to hurt you. You're not afraid that He's going to pack your bags and throw you out of the family. But you know that there will be consequences to not obeying Him. That's exactly the picture he's talking about. Consequences are not condemnation. Hear what I’m about to say, “The consequences are God's discipline. God disciplines those whom He loves.” It's just wrong to think that since I'm God's child, and since I'm the object of His grace, there'll be no consequences for my sin. The Bible just doesn't teach that.
In fact, it says if God loves me, He couldn't possibly not discipline me. Discipline without love is not discipline, and love without discipline isn't love. And so that's so beautifully presented here as Peter says you fear Him like a child would fear a loving father; you have deep awe and respect for His authority. And so, you want to live in a way that pleases Him; that's the picture here.
I would ask you, “Does your life picture this kind of fear that you really want to live in a way that pleases this One who has loved you so; and you don't want to constantly be placing yourself under His loving discipline?”
I love that Peter brings together Judge and Father. We don't have the terror of His condemnation; but we have deep respect for His authority in our lives. We know He loves us, but we know how important it is to obey Him!