Fear is a “second best” motivator. The best motivator is true love. True love will give you the courage to act, in defense of one who is loved, in an almost superhuman way. If you take “love” out of the equation, when a calamity is upon you, true fear manifests itself.
It is the lot of humans to experience fear in such a way that even the most macho, powerful people, have gone limp when God displays His power. Those of you who have endured an intense earthquake or witnessed a tidal wave’s power or the eruption of a volcano have seen a glimpse of God’s power. None of us are “courageous” on such occasions. Listen to the words of an event recorded by Moses.
Exodus 20:18-20 (NKJ)
18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.
19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
20 And Moses said to 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.”
We do not like to think of ourselves as fearful. But that does not remove the fact that God’s hand can be one of either extreme wrath or of unbelievable, unmerited mercy. You choose which you prefer.
Your sin, and mine, deserves punishment. Being able to say, “I’m sorry, I repent, forgive me God” seems far too simple. Yet, that is precisely what God is offering you as a “prepaid pass to eternity.” Who prepaid the pass? How can I get in free given all the sin I have committed? The answer is extremely simple. Grace, the Grace of God, and your faith in the redeeming act of Jesus Christ save you. Jesus, our personal Messiah, One sent from God, took your sins and mine upon Himself, that we might be presented blameless to a Holy Father who will not allow sin to enter into His Presence. Listen.
Isaiah 59:2 (NKJ)
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
When Moses taught God’s people about obedience, as they were about to enter into the Promised Land, he made it clear that “fearing God” and teaching his commandments to our children and grandchildren was required. Nothing has changed. Blessings flow from obedience and obedience flows from our faith and “responsive” love. (He loved us first!)
Deuteronomy 6:1-2 (NKJ)
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,
2 “that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
Only the High Priest could enter into the Holiest of Holies, into the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. To actually enter into God’s Presence requires more than a change of clothing. It requires a new heart, the heart of the Messiah, blameless and pure before the Father. The High Priest went into a tabernacle made by hands. Jesus, only, can carry us into the Holiness of God, into His Presence. We completely under estimate the importance of Holiness. We could never be Holy, in and of ourselves.
The blood of Jesus cleansed you and I of the most horrific sins and of the most childish sins. Your faith, provided you truly repent and turn from your sins and seek with all your heart to love and obey God and to love your neighbor as yourself, has made you whole, clean and presentable to the Father. True love will manifest itself in obedience, worship and service to God and His people. True love moves beyond belief. It consummates itself in action.
Perhaps one of the most pivotal acts of obedience occurred when God tested Abraham, whose faith in God led to a covenant promise which benefits all of Israel to this day. You know the story well. Listen.
Genesis 22:1-18 (NKJ)
1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2 And He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.
7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 And Abraham called the name of the place, THE-LORD-WILL-PROVIDE; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided.”
15 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven,
16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son–
17 “blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
John 3:16-18, 35-36 (NKJ)
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.
36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Verse 17 speaks to the atoning sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God. We simply must believe that God has done what He said He would do. Our sins are paid for and our obedience is required. We must acknowledge God’s gift of His only Son.
At some point, our sins deserve punishment and we deserve banishment from the presence of our Holy Father. But as in the story of Abraham, just as the judgment of sin is about to be executed, God intervenes and offers His only begotten Son as a substitute. The Lamb of God is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ and where Abraham did not have to suffer the pain of sacrificing his son, God did suffer that pain. Jesus did not desire to endure the cross, but His obedience resulted in your redemption and mine. Abraham’s obedience resulted in the covenant stated in verses 17 and 18.
God says to Abraham,
“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
God called Abraham’s obedience “fear.” I am not sure which comes first, obedience that stems from love or obedience that stems from fear. I suspect it is love that gives us the power to obey and not vice versa. Abraham’s love of God included the dimension of fear. Our God is an awesome God and greatly to be feared, says the scriptures. Love God, obey Him and your fear of Him will be as the scripture that says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Listen.
1 John 4:16-18 (NKJ)
16 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
17 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
18 We love Him because He first loved us.
Given the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, our relationship with the Father has changed. Where our sins were insufficiently atoned for by the sacrifice of bulls and goats, the perfect Lamb of God has removed our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered against us again. Thus, our fear, the dread of punishment deserved, has become reverence reflected in our joy at the Lord’s coming. For those that are saved, by the Grace of God, the return of the Messiah will be glorious. Perfect love really will cast out fear. The scriptures say:
James 2:19 (NKJ)
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe– and tremble!
Believing in God neither eliminates fear nor prevents judgment. Satan believes in God. Satan certainly fears God and knows that he will be judged by God. Salvation comes to those who repent, who turn from their sins, who obey His word and who acknowledge His Son. Fear only dissipates where forgiveness is assured and forgiveness is only assured if your sins are forgiven, and only One has been given authority to forgive.
Acts 4:11-12 (NKJ)
11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’
12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”