The prophet Jeremiah warned the Israelites that those who live wickedly and refuse to repent will one day experience God’s wrath. This truth is restated throughout the Bible. God uses fear as a means of bringing people to salvation and encouraging obedience. Fear has certainly been a major factor in my life.

Two current misconceptions have weakened the moral influence of this fear. The first fallacy is that Bible standards for conduct have no authority today. I know of a public school teacher who expressed no shame for behavior that the Bible calls immoral, and he saw no need to repent.

The second fallacy is that if there is a God, He is so tolerant toward sin that He automatically forgives everyone (except maybe mass murderers and child molesters). A woman expressed this view in her letter to the editor of a local newspaper when she wrote of the unrepentant teacher, “God has forgiven him, and so should we.”

In sharp contrast to these misconceptions is the truth that comes from God. His standards are absolute, and He punishes those who do not repent of violating them. Therefore, let’s take seriously the fear of sin’s consequences and make it an incentive for repentance and godly living.