I once knew a woman who was literally afraid of everything. She had experienced a couple of bad falls, broken some bones, and each subsequent injury took longer and longer to heal, so she became very skittish about walking and especially about getting out of the house. In fact, she told me that she had gone to church on one occasion, climbed the steps, and reached for the doorknob only to have someone open the door for her. The sudden fright of the unexpected happening was enough to make her want to go back home immediately in fear. Like I said, she was scared of everything. Oddly enough, though, in the same conversation, this woman admitted to me that she had never been afraid of God. A doorknob, yes, but not the Judge of the universe! Sadly, however, this is not such an uncommon story. Today if you go to your average Christian bookstore - the kind that sell more kitschy knick-knacks than books on Bible doctrine - you're likely to find a lot of books that will (at some point or another) try to explain that when the Bible encourages us to "fear" the Lord, it doesn't mean be afraid, it means something more like "revere". It's amazing to me that with as many times as I've read that in some popular-level Christian book, the Bible translators just aren't hopping on board with the whole idea. Even the most modern translations still say "fear" in all of those hundreds of verses where the fear of the Lord is encouraged. The reason why the tranlators aren't sold is because even though the word "fear" can (and should) certainly include the idea of "awe", the word "revere" doesn't really carry a sense of terror, which is also necessary for the proper understanding of the term.
Now, of course the modern man-centered culture (even the "Christian" branch of it) wants to remove the idea of terror from God. A God that is scary needs to be pleased and appeased. It is His will that becomes front and center in such an arrangement. That takes too much focus off of man. The god of modern culture lives to serve man. He's more like a grandmother than a king. If you do wrong, she's always there with a soft hug, never a frown. If you forget to pay attention to her for years on end, she doesn't mind. She's just glad to have you back whenever you decide to come back. Such a view wants to overemphasize the tenderness and compassion of God while completely ignoring His justice, sovereignty, and Law.
On the other hand, the Bible regularly repeats the phrase, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." What is it about being terrified of God that makes a person more wise? The most obvious answer is that if you are scared of God, you are scared of His displeasure with you. You will not want to break His Law because you know what He could do to you. When you do break it, you tremble before Him, begging for His forgiveness. That's wise! Contrast that with someone who doesn't really believe that God will ever settle the score - someone who thinks that God's commands are more like suggestions. Such a person is a fool and will likely head to an ugly and swift end - not just in this life, but in eternity as well.
But the Bible's "fear of the Lord" is not to be compared to a horror movie. We are not to "fear" God like we would "fear" Freddie Krueger or a grizzly attack (actually, I don't know about that - see 2 Kings 2:24 ;) ). Rather, "the fear of the LORD is Zion's treasure" (Isaiah 33:6). It is a treasure! It is wisdom! Biblical godly fear is more like a child's fear of his earthly father. All of the time there is great love between father and child, but the child is fearful of daddy's anger when he breaks the rules. That fear of discipline is what drives the child to greater and greater obedience. That is the kind of fear we are dealing with in the Bible. So go "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), but at the same time "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength" (Mark 12:30).