“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” —1 John 4:7-8
My youngest daughter learned to swim by jumping off the side of the pool into my arms. Each time she jumped, I moved back slightly until she had to swim a couple of strokes to reach me. Within just a short time, she was swimming on her own. In those moments, her life was in my hands. She trusted me completely every time she jumped. Why? Because she knew my deep love for her would protect her.
Throughout this series of devotionals, we have been exploring fear from a biblical perspective: a perspective centered on God. The Bible tells us we don't need to fear any earthly power or calamity because God is with us. The Bible also tells us clearly that fearing the Lord is for our own good! It is for our own good because of God's character. You see, although God is rightly to be feared, even in His omnipotence, His love is infinite!
The Apostle John declares, “God is love.” This is how God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins . . . This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment . . . there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:10, 17-18).
The Apostle Paul tells us, “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The One who could turn the cosmos into dust is also the One who saves us from sin and destruction. Because of God's love (revealed in Christ), we can approach Him as a child would to a loving, earthly father, with a deep abiding confidence in His goodness toward and love for us (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16).
My friends, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, but it is not the end.
We start there recognizing that every single aspect of our life depends on His omnipotence. We begin knowing that our sinful selves deserve nothing but utter destruction. We start understanding that living in opposition to Him is like diving headlong over a deep precipice. However, we don't stay there. We move on to embrace the truth, obey Him, accept the gift of salvation in Christ, and avail ourselves of the life-giving wisdom contained in Scriptures. In it, we discover abundant earthly and eternal blessings. In other words, God has made a way through His Son for us to have a relationship with Him, not based solely on fear but on His love and the confidence we have in Jesus Christ.
So, to fear or not to fear? In the end, the answer depends on God’s will for each believer, as Scripture is always faithful to guide us correctly if we will listen.
Prayer for the week:
Heavenly Father, may my fear of You be tempered by my knowledge and experience of Your love for me. I thank You that in Your fearsomeness, You invite me through Christ to draw near in love to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Andy Lauer is senior pastor of South Bend First Church of the Nazarene in South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Written for Coffee Break.