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 25: Love is Stronger than Fear
I am not saying in this that the fear of God is wrong, only that it is incomplete. It is the first rung on the ladder to knowing God in his fullness. He said himself it was the beginning of wisdom, but it is only the beginning. Love is the end of it.
If you don't love God, you would be well-served to fear him. At least that might keep you from behaviors that will destroy you and others around you. But once you know how much he loves you, you'll never need to fear him again. In other words, this Father doesn't just seek your obedience, he desires your affection. He can have your obedience without your love, but he knows where he has your love he will also have your obedience.
"There is no fear in love, because fear has to do with punishment," John wrote as he tried to convince the church in Ephesus that God's love had replaced the old order of fear. It was revolutionary then, and regrettably still is today. We seem more comfortable fearing God than we do loving him.
But fear isn't in God's nature. He fears nothing. Thus his own holiness is not produced by his fear, but by his love. In fact, fear cannot produce the holiness God wants to share with us. It is incapable of doing so. For God to transform us to be like him, he must expel our fear and teach us the wonder of living in his love.
John paints fear and love as polar opposites. Before the coming of Jesus, God used fear to hold our passions in check, but it never made anyone holy. In Christ, God appealed to us on the basis of love. Thus he needs our fear no longer, knowing we will never love that which we fear.
You might honestly believe the highway patrol officer behind you in traffic is looking out for your safety, but that doesn't endear you to him. In fact, the fear of getting a ticket will make you extra careful about every move you make. For the time he is near you in traffic, you are safer than any other time on the road. Not only are you driving more safely, but so are the other drivers around you.
But does that keep you from being relieved when he finally turns to go another direction? Even though his presence was more helpful to you than you might realize, it didn't make you want to become his friend. The motives of conformity do not produce intimacy. This is where organized religion so often gets it backwards and why so many people in the pews remain so distant from God and so unchanged in their character. We think conformity to God's ways will lead us closer to him, when the opposite is true. Our intimate relationship with him is what will transform us.
Fearing God can compel us to conform our behavior to his desires, but it will not last. Because it convinces us to act against our will, even when it leads us to righteousness, it does not change us. The behavior that results only lasts as long as the fear itself, which is why those who approach it this way will need greater levels of fear to stay motivated. He knows that responding to his love will take you much further than fear ever could. That's why love must first deal with your fears. "Perfect love drives out fear," John continues. While fear may be the most powerful motive known to man, God's love is more powerful still and in the face of it our greatest fears are swallowed up in him. Love displaces fear the same way light displaces darkness.
There is nothing more critical to spiritual growth than making this transition. John concludes, "The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). As long as we live in fear, we exclude ourselves from the very process that will make us complete in God. People who serve God because they fear his punishment will forever try to please him by doing the best that they can and will find they will always come up short. Dominated by guilt and having to justify themselves in failure, they never discover what it really means to become God's friend.
God has better things in mind for you. He wants you to know his love so completely that fearing him will have no place. When you are absolutely convinced how much God loves you, it will drive out every fear you have. You won't need to fear an uncertain future, the rejection of friends, the lack of desires, or even God himself. Knowing his heart for you will free you to trust him more than ever and that alone will lead you to ever-greater participation in his holiness.