When someone we know is hurting or going through a difficult time, we are likely to tell them, “God loves you, He knows best.” Yet, so many times those words aren’t really received by the hurting person. They may find it difficult to really believe that God loves them because they are still challenged by their situation and have more questions than answers. What is missing here?
Just after Jesus was taken by the soldiers to be tried, beaten and crucified, the disciples fled in fear. Peter’s fear was so great that he denied he knew His Lord three times. Soon after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His Disciples. He asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” It had been a little more than a week since Peter had abandoned Jesus at His greatest time of need. After telling Jesus he would die for Him, Peter’s fears had caught up to him. He proved that he loved his own life more than he loved his friend.
As Jesus engaged Peter with the question, Peter answered Him with a different word for love than Jesus had used. “I have great affection for you, as a brother.” Could it be that Peter’s failure might have been his reason for using a less intense word for love? Perhaps in the face of his denial of the Lord, Peter tried to find a word that would more honestly fit his actions.
Jesus asked Peter a second time, yet he still did not answer Jesus with the same word for love. When Jesus asked him the third time, Jesus switched to Peter’s word for brotherly affection. Peter answered in the affirmative. Yet Peter was hurt that Jesus had asked him three times.
What is so astonishing is that each time Peter answered Jesus’ questions, Jesus invited Peter to minister in His Kingdom. “Take care of my sheep.” Peter had failed Him, he hadn’t loved Jesus enough. His fears had ruled his decisions. Still, Jesus held out the invitation. Eventually, Peter got past his fears and failures and experienced God’s love so deeply that he walked in powerful ministry, literally changing the world.
Why would Jesus care about being loved? After all, He is Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, with countless angels who worship and adore Him. Why would He desire Peter’s love?
After Jesus’ work on the cross was finished, He went looking for love. He knew His followers didn’t understand why He had had to die. He would appear to them and they would see love in its greatest power. And because He loved them this much, they would at last understand the purpose of the cross and would embrace His love and therefore love Him in return. Love lies at the very core of God’s nature. The Disciple John summed up the essence of God this way: “…God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
Every idol or false god man has created seeks the submission of his or her subjects by fear, or terror. Not love! What false god or devil ever wanted to be loved? Feared? Yes! Obeyed? Yes! But never was love a component for worship.
I am not saying that fearing God is wrong, only that it is incomplete. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10), but it is only the beginning.
Love is the end product of wisdom. Many people today believe that fearing God keeps them from behaviors that will destroy them or others. But so many of these same people do not rest or abide safely in God’s love for them. I believe the lack of knowing and experiencing God’s love keeps many people distant from Him and unchanged in their character. It is not in focusing on our fears and performance that transforms us. It is only by being in the security of God’s affection that He is able to transform us. God knows that responding to His love will take us much further than fear ever could.
The disciple John tried to convince the church in Ephesus that God’s love had replaced the old order of fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment (torment), and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
All along, mankind has been more comfortable fearing God than loving Him. But fear isn’t in God’s nature. He fears nothing. His own holiness is not produced by fear but by perfect love. John portrays love and fear as polar opposites.
Why would it be different now? Before Jesus came to earth, God allowed fear to hold people in check, but fear never made anyone holy. I believe through what Jesus came to do, God wanted to win our love with His own love.
People who serve God out of fear will forever try to please Him by doing their best and will always come up short. Then guilt will dominate and they will never really discover what it means to become God’s friend. The law of God (Old Covenant) tells us we are sinners. We’ll never measure up. But Jesus fulfilled the law and has brought a new order…LOVE. God wants us to know His love and He wants us to follow Him out of love for Him. “We love because He first loved us.” (John 4:19) If we can embrace His love, we can love Him back. When you are convinced of how much God loves you, this knowledge will drive out every fear you have. When you know His love you will be free to trust Him more and more.
I know so many Christians who get angry at God when they are facing a difficult trial. This kind of response shows that they do not know how much God loves them and they do not understand His nature: “…that for those who love God all things work together for good….” (Romans 8:28) They don’t trust God to work for the good in their situation.
People fall “in love” or “out of love,” but this is self-centered love. God’s love is not based on selfishness but selflessness. Until we experience God’s love and grow to trust Him, we will not break free from the power of self. We must understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection were an act of love for us. The greatest love we will ever know!
This is the love that will allow you to feel perfectly safe and secure in the Father’s presence. Then you will discover that life in God comes out of your security in His love, not your insecurity that you don’t love Him enough. This is the lesson Jesus wanted to teach Peter that morning.
God has great things in mind for you. He wants you to know His love so completely that you will never walk in fear and you will love Him.
Are you ready to embrace His love right now? “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) This is your time to be free. His love is enough!!!
I have lived so much of my life in fear, yet you still embrace me. You still tell me to come to You. I want to know this love of Yours. I choose right now to reach out to You, to trust Your embrace. Please melt these fears away by Your love and fill me with Your love so that I can love You back. Thank You for being My Savior, My Deliverer and My friend. I’m excited to walk this new walk secure in Your love for me.
In Jesus’ Holy name I pray,
Except as noted, all scripture references are from the English Standard Version
I highly recommend you read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen! It is awesome!
By Sherry McPherson | June 1, 2010 1:05 pm | Comments (1)