Thursday, 26 April 2012
This post was originally going to be about our love for God, sort of a second side to the previous post about God's love for us, but something else has intercepted my thoughts, and I want to talk about it. The thing I want to talk about is Fear.
Fear is something with which I am very familiar. I had terrible nightmares as a child, and I occasionally still do. The kind of nightmares that follow you into the daytime and feel like a creepy presence around you. My little sister has them, too, and we both agree that these nightmares are inspired by demonic forces with the intent of making us afraid, and making us believe that they have some kind of power over us.
When you fear something, you are, in a way, subject to it. Fear comes from your knowledge of something or someone's ability to inflict itself on you. If that thing can have no ill effect on you, there is no fear. Our fear of demonic forces comes from our belief, however unfounded, that they can do something to us. Demons do have a certain amount of power in this world, as seen in Acts 19:11-20, where the demoniac overpowers seven men who falsely claim the power of Jesus, and in Ephesians 6:10-12, where God tells us plainly that our struggle is against demonic powers. But, as Christians, our Father is greater than the spirits in the world. In 1 John 4:1-6, John is talking about demonic spirits and why we don't need to have any fear of them. We've already overcome them; our God is greater than they are.
Fear ties to discipleship in that it can be scary to give your life to God and face an uncertain future. You don't know what will be, and you give up any control you may have had in deciding what will happen to you. Not being in control is naturally a scary idea. But it doesn't have to be.
The answer to fear, the antidote to it, is love. Keep reading 1 John 4. In verses 7-17, John switches from talking about fear to talking about love. And in verses 18-21, he ties the two together by stating unequivocally that perfect love casts out fear. This isn't our love for God, this is His love for us. Verse 16 says we rely on God's love for us, and that God is love. He lives in us and enables us to have confidence to the day of judgement -- confidence that our judgement will be made in the love of God, where there is no condemnation -- because our love has been made complete in verse 17. It comes full-circle:we live in the love of God, and God lives in love in us. It's that two-way street again.
Why does perfect love -- which God must perfect in us, we being imperfect -- cast out fear? Because in fear there is punishment, as verse 18 says. Which is also what I said earlier about fear being about what someone can do to us. But Romans 8:1 says there is no punishment, no condemnation, to those who are in Christ Jesus. So the punishment of fear is taken away by God's love, and without it, fear dies.
What this means for discipleship is that we need not fear a future in God, no matter how uncertain. We don't have to be afraid to give our all to God; He loves us, and He is always there with us, and what He wants for us is good things. We can be confident in surrendering ourselves completely to God's love. He has a great plan for us, just like it says in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
I'm not afraid of that; I'm excited to see it.
How has your walk with God been fearful? When have you had fear, and how did you overcome it?