Stronger Than Fear
Fear is everywhere today. It has a hold on people of all ages, young and old. It is a strong force that is relentless. But I know something that is stronger than fear. God’s love! I want to share with you some passages from a book which has had a profound influence on me personally and has brought freedom and relief to me in so many ways. The title is, “He Loves Me,” by Wayne Jacobsen: [words in Brackets are mine]
After his work on the cross was finished Jesus went looking for love. Could this be what he most wanted the cross to produce in his followers? Was his death designed to reach past their fears of God and begin a new relationship based on the intimacy of love instead? What else could it be?
Through the Old Testament, God often identified himself as the God of love and mercy, but few understood him that way. They seemed able to obey him only under threat or judgment. Even commanding them to love him with all their hearts seemed to negate the end by the means employed. Can true love really be commanded?
Love is at the very core of God’s nature. In fact, when John summed up the substance of God, he did so in a very simple statement: “God is love.” We may not be able to explain in concrete terms all that God is and how Father, Son and Spirit relate together in such unity, but we do know that they exist in a perfect state of love.
When that love touches you, you will discover there is nothing more powerful in the entire universe. It is more powerful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your dreams, and even your fears. God knows that when you tap the depths of his love, your life will forever be changed. Nothing can prevail over it; and nothing else will lead you to taste of his kind of holiness.
I am not saying that the fear of God is wrong, only that it is incomplete. It is the first rung on the ladder to knowing God in his fullness. He said himself it was the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 ), but it is only the beginning. Love is the end product of wisdom.
If you don’t love God, you would be well-served to fear him. At least that might keep you from behaviors that will destroy you and others around you. But once you know how much he loves you, you’ll never need to fear him again. In other words, this Father doesn’t just seek your obedience, he desires your affection. He can have your obedience without your love, but he knows where he has your love he will also have your obedience.
“There is no fear in love…because fear has to do with punishment [or torment: KJV],” John wrote as he tried to convince the church in Ephesus that God’s love had replaced the old order of fear. It was revolutionary then and regrettably still is today. We seem more comfortable fearing God than we do loving him.
But fear isn’t in God’s nature. He fears nothing. Thus his own holiness is produced not by his fear, but by his love. In fact, fear cannot produce the holiness God wants to share with us. It is incapable of doing so. For God to transform us to be like him, he must expel our fear and teach us the wonder of living in his love.
Fearing God can compel us to conform our behavior to his desires, but it will not last. Because it convinces us to act against our will, even when it leads us to righteousness, it does not change us. The behavior that results lasts only as long as the fear itself, which is why those who approach it this way will need greater levels of fear to stay motivated.
God knows that responding to his love will take you much further than fear ever could. That’s why love must first deal with your fears. “Perfect love drives out fear,” John continued. While fear may be the most powerful motive known to man, God’s love is MORE powerful still, and in the face of it our greatest fears are swallowed up in him. Love displaces fear the same way light displaces darkness.
There is nothing more critical to spiritual growth than making this transition. John concludes, “The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). As long as we live in fear, we exclude ourselves from the very process that will make us complete in God.
People who serve God because they fear his punishment will forever try to please him by doing the best they can, and they will always come up short. Dominated by guilt and having to justify themselves in failure, they will never discover what it really means to become God’s friend.
God has better things in mind for you. He wants you to know his love so completely that fearing him will have no place in your life. When you are absolutely convinced how much God loves you, that knowledge will drive out every fear you have. You won’t need to fear an uncertain future, the rejection of friends, the lack of desires, or even God himself. Knowing his heart for you will free you to trust him more than ever, and that alone will lead you to ever greater participation in his holiness.
You would think being free from the fear of the Lord would be great news, but I don’t find that everyone shares my excitement. Many see their fear of God, or eternal judgment, as the only thing that keeps them from indulging in sin. Without it, they are so afraid they might give in to their flesh, they cling to their fear of God as if it were a life raft in a frothing sea.
It is difficult to give up our fear of God if it has served us so well. That’s understandable. We don’t often think of love as a compelling enough motive to hold us in check.
But the love God extends to us and invites from us is nothing like any love we have known before. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). John defines our Father’s love for us because he knew that our earthly references to love would never do justice to God’s.
John said it best. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Until we experience the reality of God’s love and grow to trust him with the details of our lives, we will not break free from the power of self. That’s why it is so critical to understand Jesus’ death on the cross as an act of love for you. If you see it only as God satisfying his justice, then you unwittingly empty the cross of its power.
The doorway into the Father’s love begins at the cross. Seeing what Father and Son accomplished together in that moment defines love in a way that you can experience only in him. This is the love that will allow you to feel perfectly safe in the Father’s presence. It frees you to be exactly who you are, weaknesses and all, and never again have to pretend before him.
Then you will discover that life in God rises out of your security in his love, not your insecurity that you don’t love him enough.
“You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.”
FOR YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY
Are most of your actions motivated by your security in God’s love for you, or your fear that if you don’t do enough God might not be pleased with you? Ask him to show you the ways your fears motivate you in day-to-day decisions. Read through 1 John 4:7-21 every morning for a few days and meditate on John’s words there. Ask God to help you discover how much he loves you and, in doing so, to drive out the fears in your life.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for speaking to me in your word today. I need a revelation of your love for me. I want to be free from fears but haven’t known how to get free. Help me to be motivated to meditate on the passages of scriptures that tell me about your love. And as I am working on this renewing process, please help me to love others the way you would have me to love them. Thank you Jesus for the cross and for demonstrating your great love for me and for the world. Thank you that you want me free even more than I want to be free. I can’t do this on my own so thank you that by your Holy Spirit great things will be revealed to me and the transformation will be possible.
In Jesus’ Holy name I pray,
By Sherry McPherson | May 5, 2011 9:35 am