The Issue of Fear

**Warning- this one is a longie… It’s a lot to get through, but I believe it needs to be said…and read…**

My thoughts recently have been plagued with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the hypothetical, but mostly fear for the lost- those who don’t know Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Atheist, Penn of the magician duo Penn and Teller, is quoted as having said,

I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

And I can’t help but be extraordinarily convicted by his statement. As a believer in Jesus Christ, how can I know the truth of God and not care to try to save others from the same condemnation which I myself have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus? The truth is that I can’t. This fact hit me full force two nights ago and I found myself sobbing over people I both admire and respect but who according to what I believe the Bible says about sin, conviction, confession, repentance, and forgiveness, I believe will end up in eternal punishment of Hell for rejecting Christ.

I encountered a comment made by a Christian turned atheist, and it hasn’t left my mind since I heard it… To paraphrase, the individual stated that while there may not be anything to look forward to after death according to the atheistic world view, there was also nothing to fear

People have a lot to say on the subject. One of the most famous quotes regarding fear came from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural speech:

…So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Another quote commonly (mis)used by governmental bodies in regards to the deprivation of privacy in the name of increased surveillance and “security” is one by Upton Sinclair written in 1919 in his expose`  entitled, The Brass Check, in which he said,

From first to last, I had nothing to hide, and for that reason I had nothing to fear…

Fear. There was that word again. So I dug deep and decided to educate myself in what the Bible had to say on the subject of fear. I understand that if an individual is not a believer in God, they will be reticent at the very least to accept the Bible as the standard by which moral law exists and to those individuals, I say that as a Christian, I DO believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and therefore my proceeding thoughts will flow from that lense.  First, I feel it necessary to define the word ‘fear’ as used in the Bible and as it relates to God. For my definitions, I turned to Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible:

Old Testament Usage

Verb. yare`- to be afraid, stand in awe, fear. Genesis 22:12, 17; Exodus 14:31; 20:20

mora`- exclusively used to refer to the fear of being before a superior being. Usually used to describe the reaction evoked by God’s mighty works of destruction and sovereignty. Deuteronomy 4:24

yir’ah- fear; reverence of men= Deuteronomy 2:25; of things= Isaiah 7:25; of situations= Jonah 1:10; of God= Jonah 1:12; Reverence of God, Genesis 20:11

New Testament Usage

Nouns. phobos- flight; that which may cause flight” Acts 2:42; 19:17; 1 Corinthians 2:3; 1 Timothy 5:20; Hebrews 2:15; 1 John 4:18, Revelation 11:11; 18:10, 15

b. Reverential Fear- (1) of God- not a mere “fear” of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him… Banishes the terror that shrinks from His presence. Romans 8:15

attitude of one whose circumstances are guided by trust in God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Acts 9:31; Romans 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:17

aphobos- without fear- Luke 1:74; 1 Corinthians 16:10; Philippians 1:14; Jude 12

Here is a link to a resource listing more verses in the Bible regarding fear.

Having clearly defined the word and its many forms used throughout scripture, we can better understand what the scripture actually means and then apply that to our own lives. In regards to the comment from the individual that has since plagued my brain, I say this: There is no fear in Christ Jesus. Period. 1 John 4:7-19 talks about knowing God through love and specifically in verse 18 clarifies that there is no fear in love, because fear has to do with punishment and that perfect love casts out fear. If you have fear in Christ, it is because you have not been made perfect in love (sanctification through the Holy Spirit). What does love have to do with fear? Jesus Christ is the utmost example of the perfect love to which 1 John refers.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Fear has to do with punishment. What does the Bible say about punishment? That Jesus Christ, as he suffered and died on the cross absorbed the wrath of God, (Romans 5:6,9-10 & 4:7-8) taking on himself the punishment we are due for our sins against God. All four Gospels account for Jesus feeling the weight of the wrath and separation from God the Father as he gave up his Spirit for our redemption- Matthew 27:45-46 & 50-51; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:46-47; John 19:30; even Revelation 16:17 says. “It is finished.” God’s wrath and eternal punishment have already been established and firmly fixed. It’s like seeking shelter beneath an umbrella of grace- if you humbly come to the shelter of Christ, your sins are covered, paid for; your soul redeemed, saved. If you choose to stand in the rain, well… that’s for another post.

There is a sort of path which I have followed in my own life as it pertains to walking with Christ and living out the faith I profess. I was able to break it down like this:

1.) Conviction– in order to be saved, one must believe it essential that he need saving. My conviction came when I read the Bible, and realized that my own life fell very much short of the standard God set forth in his Word. I believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I accepted him as my Savior and Lord.

2.) Confession– Confessing one’s sins to God is an act of humility and dependence; it essentially says, “I know that what I’m doing isn’t what You would have me to do, and I’m sorry for offending Almighty God.” It’s not that sovereign and omniscient God doesn’t already know of which offenses a person stands guilty; It’s about the humility of one approaching the God of the universe and admitting and accepting responsibility for their own faults, failures, and sins.

3.) Repentance– Turning away from the sins that previously held one captive, and pursuing instead righteousness as that of Christ Jesus. Cheap grace is that which says, “I know God will be faithful to forgive me any shortcomings, so I’ll just do what I want and say sorry later.” That’s not repentance. The Bible says believers will be known by their fruit- unrepentant sin is indicative of a life withheld from complete surrender to Christ.

4.) Forgiveness– God is faithful to forgive those who turn to him and confess their sin, repenting of their former way of life and being radically transformed by the power of His mercy, grace, love, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

5.) Redemption– Forgiveness and redemption sort of go hand in hand. At the moment one confesses faith in Christ, his eternal soul is purchased from the debt of sin and paid for by the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s blood that was shed when he was crucified for the sins of the world. Done. It is really that easy. Like signing your name in the Payee line of a blank check. The check in this case being the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.

6.) Sanctification– Now comes the process by which the confessed, repented, redeemed believer is set apart for service to God; It occurs by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit which continues to lead, guide, direct, and convict our actions day to day and lead us in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible Study, service. It is the process by which we are sealed by the Holy Spirit at redemption and made less and less like the rest of the world, and more and more we begin to reflect the true likeness of Jesus Christ. Being a Christian is like a woman getting married and taking the last name of her husband; I am identified with my husband’s surname; People know I am connected to him as wife. As believers called Christians, we become identified with Christ. We are connected to God the Father through His Son, Jesus, with the seal of the Holy Spirit. (I’ve written many more posts on how marriage is a perfect analogy to a relationship with Christ on my other blog, A Cord of 3 Strands.)

There is nothing to be feared as a believer in Jesus Christ. Not God, not wrath, not punishment, not man, not daily life, not death- Absolutely nothing. If you need reassurance, look to John 14:27, Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 43:1, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 34:4, 2 Timothy 1:7.

I’ll leave you with this brief six and a half minute segment from Pastor David Platt. Amen, Come Lord Jesus!

 

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