Fear or Love

I have discovered that people have different reasons for becoming a Christian.  Many respond because of fear.  They know their sinfulness and don’t want to go to the lake of fire spoken of in Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  Out of fear, they seek to obey God. 

On the day of Pentecost, immediately after the death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles.  A multitude of Jews gathered and heard Peter preach to them.  He told them that they had just crucified Jesus, who was the Lord and Christ.  Acts 2:37-39 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’”   I believe these Jews responded out of sincere regret and fear because of the terrible thing they had done to Jesus; they were cut to the heart.

One doesn’t have to have been a Jew who asked Pilate to crucify Jesus to have fear of God.  Here is a description of what will happen to all those who obey unrighteousness.  Romans 2:5-11 “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,  who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For there is no partiality with God.”  For those who do not repent and turn to God, wrath awaits them.  There is good reason for them to fear God.

Sometimes individuals become Christians and then depart from the faith and willfully sin.  Hebrews 10:26-31 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Those who depart from the faith have reason to fear God.

Even those of us who are faithful to God should have a measure of fear.  Proverbs 1:7a “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”  Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”  Even though we have a Father who loves us, we still need to respect His power and righteous retribution and have a dread of displeasing Him.  We realize that He is all knowing and all powerful.  We have reverence for God.

But we understand that God loves us.  Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Since we appreciate that God truly loves us, we love Him in return.  Whatever fear we have of God will be tempered with our knowledge of His love for us and our love for Him.  1 John 4:17-19 “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us.”  If we have perfect love for God, we will have no fear of Him.

Each one of us has a choice of fearing God or of loving Him.  If we are living in unrighteousness, we have reason to fear God.  If we have obeyed the gospel, our sins have been washed away and we are justified before Him; there does not need to be any fear concerning the unrighteousness we have committed in the past.  If we love Him and are seeking to please Him in all that we do, there does not need to be any fear in the present or the future.  I encourage you to choose love for God over fear.