The Fear that Casts Out Fear PDF Print E-mail
Written by Toby Sumpter   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 12:57

Ungodly fear and anxiety are unfortunately not very rare in the Christian Church. I don’t mean the “what-if-the-Yankees-don’t-win-the-world-series?” variety of fear, I mean anxiety attacks that only seem to respond to heavy medication, the paralyzing fear of death, the aching fear of failure, the constant-gnawing worries that something-everything may go wrong. These are fears and worries that cause debilitating migraine headaches, angry outbursts, life-threatening high blood pressure, deep depression, insomnia, dramatic weight loss (or gain), radical withdrawal, drinking problems, and the list goes on like the ingredients on the back of a box of cereal.

But sinful fear and worry always stems from at least two directions. The first seems counterintuitive, but the Scriptures teach that the great antidote to sinful fear is godly fear. Jesus taught us this plainly when he said that His people should not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. “But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28). Peter applies this teaching while addressing Christians facing persecution and urges them forward with the command to fear God and to allow that fear to fill their lives (1 Pet. 2:17-18, 3:1, 15). The deep rooted problem in Christians consumed by godless fear is a failure to fear God properly. This is what God told Israel when He first gave the law at Sinai and scared everybody to death. Moses told the people: “Do not fear; for God has come to test you and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:20). God comes near His people in order to test them, and He tests them in the form of real trials, real hardships, and painful situations. Why does He scare His people? To teach them to fear Him, and He teaches us to fear Him so that we may not sin. One of the sins His fear ought to root out is sinful fear and worry. It is God’s kindness to reveal Himself in the hurt and pain and pressures of life that we might fear Him and not sin.

But frequently this sort of explanation just causes Christians who struggle with sinful anxiety to go into panic mode. First they were afraid of lots of other big ticket items, and now I’ve told them that they are not fearing God rightly, and they’ve dutifully added that to the pile of fears they carry around with them, popping pills to help steady the load. And this leads to the second direction sinful fear and worry comes from. Somewhere along the line, this suffocating sin has blinded these believers to Jesus. The fear of failure, the fear of apostasy, the fear of death, the fear of children dying, the fear of pain, all these fears are fundamentally lies about Jesus. They are lies because they claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus may not cover failure, may not be enough to prevent apostasy, may not really undo death, and may not really help with the pain. But these are lies from the Evil One. The declaration of the gospel, that our sins are forgiven means that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Justification by faith now means that nothing can spoil the promises of God for you later. These promises include family, joy, overcoming death, and no more tears. Faith means believing that these promises are true because Jesus is risen from the dead. And so the fundamental question becomes: Is Jesus risen? If Jesus is raised from the dead then He is seated at the right hand of the Father ruling all things perfectly, working all things together for the good of those who love Him. And this means that since Jesus has taken responsibility for all the details of your life, you don’t have to. Unload the burden. When the pastor declares that your sins are forgiven you should always hear Jesus promising to keep you safe and unharmed.

In Genesis 22, when Abraham is called upon to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac, as an offering to the Lord, God concludes just moments before the raised knife was to spill Isaac’s blood that now God knew that Abraham “feared” Him (Gen. 22:12). At the point at which Abraham gave over that which was most dear to Him, God knew that Abraham feared Him. The Hebrew word for “fear” is closely related to the word for “see.” Proper, godly fear is a way of “seeing” God, fixing our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of the storms of life. Only two verses later, Abraham worships through the substitute-ram, calling the place “The Lord will Provide” (Gen. 22:14). The word for “provide” is an even closer relative to the word for “fear” and likewise related to the word for “see.” While Abraham fixed his eyes upon the Lord, the Lord was steadfastly watching over Abraham. The Lord looked ahead and provided a ram, a substitute son, for Isaac, Abraham’s only son. And we have so much more in Jesus.

This fear of God in Abraham recurs in the other patriarchs, Jacob in particular, who can refer to Yahweh God as the “Fear of Isaac,” the fear of his father (Gen. 31:42, 31:53). Jacob was no stranger to hardship, but he learned to see with his father and grandfather the promises of God. And in Jesus, the promises of God are yes and amen. We have the promises of God in flesh and nailed like a banner on the cross for the world to see. This banner reads: forgiven. The Cross of Jesus is where the Fear of God was displayed, where all evil and pain and injustice were nailed to a bloody tree and left to die, where God “looked ahead” and provided a substitute for all His people. It is only as individuals give over all that is dear to them and fix their eyes on Jesus, that healing can begin. Fear not, your sins are forgiven.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 15:01