What would you do if I told you that being afraid of God was a sign of immaturity? Many people believe that we should be running around with “the fear of God” in our hearts to keep us from sin and that being afraid of God helps us grow in holiness. The liberating truth is that God, being a God of pure love (see part 01) is not seeking us out to instill fear in us (see part 02), but to drive it out completely!
The Apostle John, the one who was known as the Apostle of Love, says in his short letter 1 John that Fear and Love are unable to coexist peaceably in the heart of a person. He writes, “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears. We love because God first loved us” (4:18-19 NCV). Did you see that first sentence of this passage? There is no fear where God’s love is. They cannot co-exist! John even notes that it is the threat of punishment that makes a person afraid. A person who is living in fear of God punishing them has not been “made perfect” (matured) in his understanding of God’s love and the fact that there is now no type of condemnation for the Christian (Romans 8:1). This teaching is further enhanced when Paul writes to Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of love! (2 Tim 1:7). It is not fear, but love that has been poured into our hearts through the indwelling Spirit (Rom 5:5).
Let me ask you: When you think of God and approach Him, do you do so with a heart full of His steadfast love for you, or with the dread that comes from fear of Him punishing you for those things in which you fell short? If you answered the latter, then you will never experience true intimacy with God until you begin to refine the image of Him in your mind. The passage from first John says that we become loving people by living in communion with Him. Our experience with a loving God transforms us into loving people (1 John 4:16-17).
The truth is that if all God had to get people to come to Him was fear, He would be a pretty pathetic deity. You see, we know that fear works to bring about behavioral compliance. However, those who have to revert to intimidating tactics in order to bring someone’s behavior into line may succeed at just that very task, but will never bring true transformation of heart and mind that can only happen by being loved (1 John 4:19). The Bible says that God uses love every time because love cannot fail (1 Corinthians 13:8)! Take some time and think about your views on God and your beliefs regarding the way He relates to you. In the parts of your image of God that you find Him cold, distant, mean, annoyed, condemning – views of Him that cause you to fear – find a Scripture verse that contradicts it.
Here’s a practical way to do this. Go to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (as we will be doing in the next few devotionals in this series) and look at Paul’s description of how true love manifests itself. If you still feel like God is mad at you over something that you’ve done, take note of the part that says that love keeps no record of wrongs. If you feel like God is going to fly off the handle at you when you make a mistake, look how Paul writes that love is patient. He doesn’t bring thoughts into your mind and heart that are unkind and disrespectful toward you, because love is kind.You see, if God is love, then He has to be all these things! Meditate on these descriptions of love and see how much of your view of God lines up with the description of love found in that passage. The more you see parts of your mind where your thinking is out of line with the loving essence of God Himself, the more you will be able to change those beliefs and images in your mind and, as you gain a fuller, healthier view of God, the fear will begin to melt away and you won’t just “know” that God loves you and that you “shouldn’t” fear, but you will feel God loving you and, at the same time, driving the fear straight out of your heart!