TODAY’S READING: PSALMS 73-77
Psalm 73:7 says, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?”
The you in these verses is God. The psalmist is saying God is to be feared, for who can stand before God when God’s anger is roused. This same mindset – that you must fear God – can be found in other places in the Bible.
This is exactly what many people say today – you should be afraid because if you don’t come to God he is going to pour his anger out on, you are going to get his wrath, and God is going to destroy you in hell. Basically, you need to fear God and come to him or he’s going to kill you and destroy you forever.
All of this fearing God and the preaching of it is justified because the Hebrew words for fear supposedly mean both fear and awe(I’m not a Hebrew scholar so I have no way of truly knowing that).
Take the Lexham Theological Wordbook, for example. Speaking of fear as a broad category of words, it says:
“Fear includes anxiety, dread, and loss of courage in the face of an unpleasant or dangerous situation. The fear of God can refer to either to the awe, reverence, and respect that is the proper deferential attitude toward the divine, or the physical dread and terror evoked by the divine presence or by the experience of divine wrath.”
“The physical dread and terror evoked by the divine wrath?” Please! This is completely counter to what Jesus revealed about the Father and what the Bible actually teaches.
1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.”
And, 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
God is love and there is no fear in him. If there is no fear in God, then he is not instilling fear in anyone. Instead of instilling fear in anyone, God’s perfect love casts out fear.
1 John 4:18 also says, “For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
We fear because we are afraid of being punished. We fear because we are afraid of being punished with death. But, if you fear, if you fear God punishing you or anyone with death, then God’s love has not been perfected, or completed, in you. In other words, then you fully don’t know who God is.
But, there is one who does deal in fear, punishment and death.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Who has the power of death?
The devil. Satan.
What does Satan do with this power?
He keeps you in fear of being punished with death. By keeping you in fear of death, Satan puts you into lifelong slavery to him.
But, notice that Jesus came to destroy Satan and his death power and our fear to it. However, Jesus doesn’t and can’t destroy Satan’s power of death and our fear of it by replacing it with the fear of God and the fear that God will punish us with death. If so, then nothing would have changed for us.
The reason the Jews saw God as both to feared and awed is because they didn’t distinguish clearly between God and Satan. Satan was simply doing the will of God. Jesus came to show that this wasn’t true. Jesus showed that Satan and God were entirely and completely separate.
This is why the words “do not fear” appear 37 times in the Bible. Most of those are God or Jesus telling us directly to not fear.
This is why 2 Timothy 1:6-7 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Fear does not into flame the gift of God. Fear does not stir us up to serve and worship God. But, the spirit that God gave us – a spirit of power, love, and self-control – does. It’s that spirit that stirs our hearts to live and die for the cause of Christ.
This is why Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who is every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” As our high priest, Jesus showed that God sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands us and why we fail. Because Jesus showed us that the Father loves us and cares for us, we can come before God in confidence, some translations say with boldness, to receive mercy and grace. We are not to come to God with fear but confidence and boldness. God loves you.
This is why Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The word kindness could also be translated goodness or benevolence. God does not bring you to repentance through fear. Rather, he brings everyone to repentance through his goodness, his kindness, his benevolence, his love.
There is no thought in scripture of God bringing people to repentance through a fear of death, wrath, eternal torment, hell, or any other such thing. Those ideas are all false gospels, if we can even call them that. Those ideas are doctrines of demons.
There is not single positive, healthy relationship that anyone could ever think of that is based on fear.So, we need stop preaching anything and everything that has to do with fearing God.
And, we need to start preaching, and living, God’s love.