He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 22: The God We Love to Fear
If you've ever tried to go to sleep at night with fear preying on your mind, you also know its incredible power. Even when we can rationally discount it, fear nevertheless forces its will upon us, like a relentless rising tide.
Those who motivate people know that nothing works better. Fear permeates life in this age. It's what makes you go to work in the morning, lock your doors at night and makes your heart race when a policeman pulls in behind you. Advertisers use it and so do friends and family when they want you to do what they think is best.
No wonder it's not easy to sleep some nights and no wonder we are bombarded with the symptoms of stress, all the way from headaches to depression. Fear is so powerful that almost all of our human institutions use various forms of it to keep people under control. Offering the right combination of rewards and punishments they can easily exploit people's fears to make them do what they otherwise wouldn't choose to do.
It would be easier to make the point here if fear always led us to do harmful and destructive things, but that simply isn't true. Sometimes fear will lead us to prudent decisions. The fear of getting caught might win over our temptation to do something wrong. The fear of losing our job will induce us to work harder than we would otherwise. In a fallen world, fear is the only way to hold society in check. Caring for nothing more than our own self-interest, the fear of hurtful consequences is the foundation of all laws and authority. Before Jesus died on the cross, there was nothing else. Even God used fear to help keep sin in check among his people.
Through most of its history, Christianity has been inseparable from the God of judgment. The panels in the Cathedral at Alibi, Jonathan Edwards' Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God, or the invitation to receive Christ, "because you could die tonight and go to hell," all seek to build on this foundation of fear. While it is effective to prompt people to make on-the-spot commitments to Christ, it has rarely led to spiritual passion and growth.
Isn't it odd that the most compelling argument to know God is the horror of not doing so? I find no such preoccupation in the ministry of Jesus for those who followed him. Certainly he and writers of the New Testament warned us about the destructiveness of sin and the consequences that befall those who neglect his offer of salvation. But he did not use that fear to induce people to follow him.
His invitation was to a God who loved them completely and to a kingdom more valuable than anything they had ever known. He didn't use their fears because he knew that fear was part of the problem, even their fear of God. Though it might be easily manipulated to secure a temporal response, it would never be enough to bring them to the fullness of his Father's glory.
Jesus knew that fear, like a crutch for someone with a broken leg, is only a temporary fix. Though it can be a heady motivation in the short-term, it is absolutely worthless for the long-haul. As such it doesn't really change us, it only controls us as long as our fear can be stoked. That's why sermons on God's judgment are so common in Christianity. They confront us with our fears of God and seek to provoke us to live the way we know we should. The repentance that follows and the resolve to rededicate ourselves to Christ's purpose, makes us feel clean again.
Such experience actually helps us live better for a while-but only for a while. Eventually the passion of such moments fade and the old self encroaches its way back into our lives. We end up caught in the same patterns from which we had repented. Soon the cycle repeats itself.
Fear cannot lead us to life-long transformation, but only a momentary reformation of behavior. Instead of inviting us to enter into relationship with the Living God, it pushes us away with feelings of inadequacy and repetitious failure.
Jesus had a far better way. He wanted to break the bondage of fear itself-even our fear of God. He knew of a force far more powerful-one that would not fade with the passing of time and would invite us into the depths of relationship with God. He would settle for nothing else. Why should we?
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. -Luke 12:32