It seems to me that just the word “fear” itself conjures up fear. As humans we can find all kinds of things to be afraid of. Perhaps as kids it was the boogey man that caused our fear. As an adolescent, maybe it was the fear of rejection from that first love. As parents, it might have been your child’s first time to drive that struck fear in your heart.
Eventually we get around to contemplating the big issues of life. When we get into deep contemplative thought I believe there are three big fears to consider:
- Fear of death
- Fear of life
- Fear of our salvation
Paul tells us in Romans 8:21 that it is by God’s design that we should be set free from the slavery and corruption of this world to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. Paul is telling us to place our trust in Jesus and live free of all three of those big fears. Do we?Most Christians at some point on their spiritual journey lose their fear of death itself; unfortunately however, many if not all Christians remain chained to their fear during life. It is not our fear of death that paralyzes us butit is our fear of living. Our fear of how God will treat our sins keeps us from truly living and ultimately this fear keeps us from TRULY LOVING.
It seems to me that sometimes, albeit it accidentally, our churches (yes all of them), in an effort to protect our souls have unwittingly taken away some of the freedom which Christ came to give. With good intentions they have created rules that can at times seem to be barriers to the freedom that Jesus came to bring. It is as if in an attempt to act in our best interest, they created these rules in the fear that we would abuse and or misuse the freedom brought by our Savior.Sadly, too often it seems we actually prefer to be slaves of some “laws” rather than embrace the freedom of Christ’s grace and love. We seem to be bound stillby a fear of our salvation. We can become so fearful of the possibility of breaking a rule and somehow losing our salvation that this fear of losing our salvation overshadows our call to discipleship.What does it mean to be Christ’s disciple? John 13:34-35 tells us: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” By this measurement, are you a disciple?
John 14:23 goes on to tell us: “Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”” We have so much fear of maybe losing our home in heaven that we forget that God has already come to dwell in us here on earth. What we need to do is to start loving others as Jesus did and in doing so our fears will leave us.Once raised from the dead Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God here on earth. This is a kingdom of freedom. Jesus is truth and we are told “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Are you free?Do we really trust in the freedom that was given to us through Christ’s death on the cross? I wonder if we really do. Fear of falling short, fear of sin, fear of breaking a church rule can all leave us questioning our very salvation. Do we doubt that Jesus’ death was for us personally? He knew we would fall short, that’s why He died.Paul was mad at theGalatians. In 3:1 Paul had this to say: “O stupid Galatians!” In 2:16 Paul tells the Galatians that it is through faith in Jesus that they are justified, not by works of the law. With emphasis Paul tells them that no one by works of the law will be justified. Finally from Galatians 3:13 we get this: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Jesus did hang on that tree for you and me. Galatians 5:1 states: “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Fear can again enslave us. Our hope in our salvation comes from our faith in Jesus.My friends, let’s let go of our fear of some Almighty retribution for our sins and simply learn to Love others as He loves us. Romans 13:8-10 “Love Fulfills the Law. Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” It really is that simple!Our freedom does not come from ourselves because we are slaves to sin; no it comes from Christ Jesus and His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. We must let go of our fear. 1 John 4:18 states: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” If we love others as Jesus loves us then we have no reason to fear. We should live our lives full of joy.Author Brennan Manning in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel offers a quote from Robert Hotchkins which says this: “Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We all ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable orgies of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is and being a Christian.”
We need to ask ourselves these questions:
- Am I liberated from the fear of death?
- Is my joy in life attracting other people to Christ?
- Do I truly understand that it is LOVE that fulfills the law?
- Do I understand that it is LOVE that fulfills all of the commandments?
- Do I understand that it is LOVE of others that drives out FEAR!
As we begin our Advent season, I will leave you with this line from the classic Christmas song, O Little Town of Bethlehem: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” We must believe in Jesus, love others, and let go of our fear.