Fearing God: Freedom From Fear
1 John 4:7-21
24 September 2017
A study on the proper fear of God by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Fearing God –
Freedom From Fear
We’ve been exploring the problem of fearing people. It is a very complex problem. It becomes idolatry. We feel that we need other people. So we end up holding them in awe, putting our trust in them and even worshipping them. We fear people because they may not meet our felt needs. They end up controlling us. Fearing people is idolatry. It is betrayal of the one true God.
Because the fear of man is such a complex problem, it takes a multi-pronged approach to conquer it. David taught us in Ps 55 that we need to cast upon the Lord that which tempts us to fear. That is, The Lord has ordained the situation that we are in and we must leave the results to Him.
Then Isaiah taught us to make the Lord our fear. God instructed Isaiah and us that, “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary”. We must learn what it means for God to be holy. Then, we must submit ourselves to our holy, sovereign Lord, making Him to be our only fear.
This morning we will look at two more prongs of our attack on the fear of man. First, we must regulate our fear by faith in God’s promises. Second, we must love people instead of fear them.
I. Regulate fear by faith in God’s promises.
I don’t plan to spend a lot of time today on this principle because I’ve touched on it a number of times already. But I want to make sure we have it in our toolbox for fighting the fear of people.
We must keep God in the equation. He is key to it all. That’s why we’re studying the fear of God. When you read Scripture, notice how God counsels His people to regulate their fear by faith in His promises. God tells them not to fear people, then follows that with a promise. Some examples:
In Nu 21:34, when the king of Bashan came out for battle against the people of Israel, Yahweh warned Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand”. In Dt 3:22 Moses reminded the people that Yahweh had already driven out many nations. But there were still more to drive out. So Moses commanded the people, “Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.”
Even when we are being chastised by God, we must not fear those God may be using to chastise us. God counseled His people in Isa 10:24-27 to not fear the Assyrians. God’s promise and faithfulness should be the ground of their trust, “O My people…do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod… for in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their destruction.”
II. Love people instead of fearing them (1 Jn 4:18; Mt 10).
We’ve looked at three heart attitudes that we must establish so that we have the right spiritual framework to chip away at our fear of people. This last principle is also a heart attitude, but it is at this point where we must engage those heart attitudes into action to drive out the fear of people.
Loving people is a critical step in overcoming the fear of people. God’s love casts fear out of our hearts. Look again at 1 Jn 4:18. For genuine believers, fear must not be the ruling force in the heart. Literally, John said that THE love is there—specifically God’s kind of love described in 1 Jn 4.
It is perfect love. What is that? Perfect love is love in action. It is love that is completed to the point that it is active in the person. It is the opposite of fear. Fear is slavery, but love is freedom to serve. Fear worries about rejection or punishment. Fear is self-focused. Love is other-focused. Love is on the alert for biblical needs and then sets out to serve, to give, to sacrifice.
I want you to see the power of God’s love. John uses the action word casts out. This refers to the powerful movement of throwing or propelling something. It is a throwing outside. Outside of what? God has put His love within our hearts (Rom 5:5) as an active, working principle that moves us to action. God’s love then hurls unbelieving fear out of our hearts. When we operate in love, fear cannot be a working principle in us and cannot control us.
OK. So how do we go about having this love cast fear out of our hearts? I believe there are two primary duties we must follow. The first is to daily remind ourselves of God’s love for us in the gospel. We must review how incredibly marvelous God’s love is (1 Jn 4:9-10). We must never again fear God’s judgment (1 Jn 4:10, 17) because we are assured of the love that we have in Christ.
The second duty is to actively love others (1 Jn 4:19-21; also 7, 11, 21). John goes on to explain in v. 18 that the one who fears is not perfected in love. The reason that they still fear is that love has not taken root and begun to bloom in their life. They are not actively loving others.
Recall that we’ve learned that fearing people becomes idolatry because we need them. Ed Welch summarizes the right attitude toward people this way, “The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more” (When People Are Big And God Is Small, p. 19). Of course, we’re talking about biblical love which is not merely an emotion. Biblical love is a heart attitude that engages in action through giving and serving to meet real, biblically defined needs.
We need to be careful here though. Modern Christian writers have adopted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and sprinkled in Bible verses to make it sound biblical. They baptize pop psychology using Bible words. What they do is flip biblical teaching upside down but do so in a way that it sounds OK. We are told to think, “my deepest need is for you to love me.” Almost sounds biblical, doesn’t it? But that is a man-centered need and not a real biblical need.
The Biblical version is in 1 Jn 4:7, 11, 21 [read]. The pop psychology version is upside down. It teaches us to think, “I need you to love me,” meaning “I cannot be happy unless you love me.” That simply isn’t true. You should be happy in Jesus whether I love you or not. If you don’t believe me, meditate on the Beatitudes. There you will find Jesus’ people being happy in the most unloving situations. The biblical version that we just read, which is right-side-up thinking, says, “I have a duty before God to love you.” Let’s try to work this out a bit so you’ll see what I’m saying.
If you have a material need, it is appropriate for you to approach the deacons with it. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to think, “I can’t be happy unless my needs are met”. God may ordain for you to remain in an impoverished state. So you would be saying that you cannot be happy in a situation God has ordained for you.
This is bondage vs. freedom. Can you see bondage in this statement: “I need you to love me”? If I believe that, I have handed you the control of my happiness. I will be unhappy if you choose not to love me. Do you see how that thinking enslaves us? Now see if you can spot the freedom in this statement: “I am commanded to show you God’s love”. Do you see the freedom? I don’t have to worry about whether you will like me, think well of me or do something for me. My only duty is to show you love. It is not even dependent upon whether you receive it.
You see, the danger in unbiblical thinking comes when I think you need to fill my love cup. If I “need” you, then I will fear you because you may choose not to meet my “need”. Or you may use my “needing” you to manipulate me. What that means is that you become my idol. What the Bible does is to turn that right-side-up to set us free from idolatry. God commands me to serve you out of the love that God has already given me (1 Jn 4:19-21). And I leave the outcome to Him.
If you fear unbelievers, love them by telling them about the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to need their approval. You have a duty to be faithful to God in proclaiming to them the Good News. That sort of thinking helps me deal with my fear of looking stupid or getting stumped by a hard question. I need to so love them that I am willing to look stupid if that’s what it takes to tell them about Jesus. Ed Welch shares his insight, pointing out that “we are more concerned about looking stupid (fear of people) than we are about acting sinfully (fear of God)” (p. 40).
If you fear a believer, consider how you should lovingly serve them. Don’t allow yourself to need them. Serve them and leave the results to God. The point is, when you are focused on loving others by meeting their real needs, your fear will disappear. Loving others will have driven out the terror you used to feel. It’s that simple.
Let’s now look at Mt 10:5-42 to see how Jesus walks His disciples through all the kinds of opposition they will experience in serving others. They will be rejected by family, religious leaders, and those they serve. Then He tells them not to fear those groups of people but to fear God instead.
When people respond well, Jesus tells us to stay with them (pour your life into them, serve them). For those who reject your love, move on to those who receive your love. But this doesn’t mean that you merely kick them to the curb. You wait for God to work in them and make them ready.
A great example of this is found in Luke 15. Read that and watch how that father responded to his Prodigal Son. He let him go without fear. And as soon as the son was repentant, the father was eagerly engaged in restoring his wayward son. He poured out compassion on him.
The only way we can have that sort of compassion on others is because God has already had that compassion on us. Read 1 Jn 4:10. How did God love us? He sent His Son, He gave His Son to be the satisfactory payment for our sins.