“God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:16-18
God’s love for us, understood in our lives as followers of Jesus, is so big, so luminescent, so outrageous, so pulsating with light, so drenched in Christ’s victory over darkness, that we have absolutely nothing to fear!
After church this past Sunday a friend approached me, wanting to talk about one of the ideas Rebekah had floated during the sermon. Essentially, the conversation was about fear, and how – time and time again – so many people allow fear to gain unreasonable traction when it comes to how we live, and how we respond to everything from challenges to opportunities to faith to politics.
Sunday’s message was built around an incident in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus confronts a man with a tortured soul. Jesus heals him, but not before the tormentor screams out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1)
“Yes,” Rebekah said, “that’s exactly what Jesus was aiming to do… to destroy all that separates us from God and from one another.” Anything and everything that puts a wedge between us and the healing, reconciling, generous love of the Father.
It remains a great question today: “What does Jesus want with us?”
“The Devil Made Me do it!”
I found myself thinking about how tidy and “arm’s length” it can be when we make this kind of a story all about the devil. Cast the spirits out; throw the demon into eternal darkness; pin everything on evil: say the devil made me do it – anything to avoid facing our own issues!
Jesus is here to set us free! Not just from evil spirits, but from doubt, and fear, and mediocrity, and internal darkness, and the unbelief that chains us.
There are so many people who carry around the kind of fear that holds them hostage, they live in an uncertainty that paralyzes, they hold superstitions that leave them vulnerable to more fear, and even in their religious fervor sometimes they own an unbelief that separates them from the freedom we can experience in Christ.
But listen up! Hear the good news! Jesus has already done all that is necessary to free us from guilt, and fear, and uncertainty, and judgment! All we need to do is to acknowledge our need, say thank you, and then live in the light as Children of Light – because that is who we are!
“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.” Ephesians 5:8-9
One of the most profound truths in the New Testament is demonstrated here – and also in the passage from 1 John. We must decide to step into the light. We must make a conscious decision. There is an imperative we simply have to respond to. It is up to us to choose to live – going forward – as Children of Light.
Fear is no match for love. That’s what the Bible teaches! If your religion makes you cower in a corner, retreat, live in fear, or back away from a challenge you know is right instead of standing up as a torch-bearer for the King, then I’m not sure that it’s the Jesus kind of faith you are invested in.
I like that image: “Torch-bearer for the King.” God’s love for us, understood in our lives as followers of Jesus, is so big, so luminescent, so outrageous, so pulsating with light, so drenched in Christ’s victory over darkness, that we have absolutely nothing to fear!
“The person who is afraid, “John writes, “has not been made perfect in love.”
Oh that the deep, deep love of Jesus would drench us all in an unquenchable light! Come, Lord Jesus, fill us to overflowing, so the love and the light spill over onto everyone around us!
In love, and because of love – DEREK