In the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is with His twelve disciples giving them many instructions. He tells them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and make disciples. Jesus says to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and instructs them to heal the sick and raise the dead. And he also tells them to not fear those who can kill the body but rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Mat 10:28)
It is not the schemes and attacks of man we are to fear, but we are to fear God himself. The one who can rightly punish us for our transgressions and cast out the sinner for all of eternity apart from Him. Why would a loving and merciful Savior tell his disciples to fear him? Isn't that like telling your child, "I love you son but remember one thing, I brought you into this world and I can take you out!"
To fear God is to have a deep respect and understanding of His holiness and grace. When we come to terms with our sinful condition and that we are not able to stand in His presence because of it, the fear of the wrath of God should motivate us to cry out to Him to save us. Some people say that fear is the great motivator. Others believe that motivation through fear is abuse and only positive things should motivate us. Regardless of your world view on the subject, one thing remains... Jesus tells us to fear the Lord.
John Bunyan puts it this way. "Christian, let God's distinguishing love to you be a motive to you to fear Him greatly. He has put His fear in your heart, and may not have given that blessing to your neighbor, perhaps not to your husband, your wife, your child, or your parent. Oh, what an obligation should this thought lay upon your heart to greatly fear the Lord! Remember also that this fear of the Lord is His treasure, a choice jewel, given only to favorites, and to those who are greatly beloved."
The fear of God is not something that should cause us to run from Him and hide, but rather, draw us closer to Him for protection. Moses tells the people of Israel that "God came in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." (Exo 20:20) And second Corinthians tells us (2Co 7:1) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The fear of the Lord should motivate our lives. It keeps us from sin, it gives us a reverence for His holiness, and the fear of the Lord puts God back where He belongs in our life; into the center of it. God's perfect love is countered with His perfect justice and when He calls us into relationship with Him we avoid the wrath we deserve because of the justification we have in Jesus Christ. Live rightly before Him and fear Him and you will be counted worthy of the promise of Heaven.
Mat 10:28-32 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. "So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. (nasb)