| Fear Factor|
Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to write a few articles for the religious section of our local newspaper. Thought I would share one of them with you guys. I hope it edifies.
What is Christianity really all about? Recently, I was involved in a discussion when the following question/comment was presented: It seems Christianity is based on a consequence. What I mean is people live their lives a certain way to get into heaven or to avoid going to hell. It's a fear thing. Would all these people live their lives differently if not faced with a consequence?
This, I am afraid, is a widely held notion concerning Christianitythat the prime motivation for being a Christian is the assurance that one will avoid hell and make it to heaven when they die. But is this really what Christianity is all about? Do Christians serve God, primarily, because they fear what will happen if they dont?
In resolving this dilemma, we must understand that the natural state of all mankind before conversion to Christ is selfishness. Selfishness is placing yourself and your happiness above the rights of everyone else, including God. The Bible calls this sin. It is a wrong purpose of life--the "what's in it for me" syndrome.
Now, a person may see the reality of eternity and take up Christianity as a way to find happiness there, because they believe this is what they must do to escape Hell and get to Heaven. However, such a person is deceived, because though they may change their outward actions, they are still living for the same purpose--their own happiness. They are attempting to serve God from a selfish (or sinful) motive.
But true Christianity is radically different from this. It is nothing less than to change the ultimate purpose for which you are living--a change of heart that results in a change of actions. It is a change so radical that the Bible refers to it as being "Born Again." It is to stop living for your own happiness and to start living for God's instead. Also, it is to give your neighbors happiness the same consideration as you give your own.
True Christianity is not about where we will go when we die; its about giving God the love and honor He deserves, because of who He is. Just think for a moment about how awesome He is: He created us and He is the reason we are here. He is the one who is holding everything together. He is the wisest and most loving Person there is (He proved that love by sending His Son to save us), And, He is infinitely more qualified (and willing) to properly manage our lives than we are. Those are just a few of the reasons why we ought love and worship Him; not because we are afraid we will go to hell if we dont.
There's only one reason for becoming a Christian and that's because Jesus Christ deserves the love and obedience that He can get out of our lives. I once heard a wise old missionary put it like this, and I couldnt agree more: I believe the only people who are real Christians are those who come to Jesus and say something like this, Lord Jesus, I'm going to obey you, and love you, and serve you, and do what you want me to do, as long as I live even if I go to hell at the end of the road, simply because YOU ARE WORTHY TO BE LOVED AND OBEYED AND SERVED, and I'm not trying to make a deal with you!
The idea of Christianity being based upon a consequence is a misconception that has probably turned more thinking people away from God than anything else. The notion of fear being the motivation for loving God just doesnt make sense. Fear can never produce love. According to the Bible, it actually works just the opposite: There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out all fear: because fear has torment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
To God be the glory,
| 2005/10/30 9:19||Profile|
| Re: Fear Factor|
I think that's an awesome article, man. What was it writen for? It could be a good "foot in the door" for christianity in the lives of some who are skeptics. Now if we can just teach them why God is so worthy, help them understand sin, and their condemnation because of God's justice, then they can understand why the Grace of God is so great.
Anyway, to again quote Paris Reidhead, [we receive heaven]"as a by-product, and not a prime product."
Grace and Peace...
| 2005/10/30 10:38||Profile|
| Re: Fear Factor|
Amen, Billy. Perfectly pitched. :-) You have a knack.
| 2005/10/30 16:59|
I have a different take on the subject of fear. I don't think Reidhead was tying to erase the idea of fear as un-Biblical, so much as he was trying to say that the modern gospel is merely, 'accept Jesus and go to heaven' vs 'repent or you will perish.'
While the escaping of hell is mentioned in the modern gospel, hell is not dealt with. And the following are usually not dealt with: sin, law, righteousness, judgment, repentance, etc. We often hear 'accept Jesus and keep doing what you are doing' instead of 'take up your cross and follow Him.'
So I think fear can be healthy to those involved in sin. The phrase 'fear of the Lord' appears 30 times in Scripture. Here are two:
Proverbs 1:7a "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge"
Acts 9:31 "the churches...were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."
Here are some quotes from some of the giants on the subject:
"fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." -Jesus
"let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." -Paul
"I have found by long experience that the severest threatenings of the Law of God have a prominent place in leading men to Christ. They must see themselves lost before they will cry for mercy. They will not escape from danger until they see it." - A. B. Earle
"When I was in the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell, as that I feared sin; and all the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honour of God's name, and the integrity of His moral government." -C. H. Spurgeon
So while I don't think fear should be our prime motive for serving God, fear is healthy for those who those who are in sin. Remember Moses' message to Pharaoh, or Nathanial's message to David, or John Baptist's message to Herod. Herod feared John.
While I don't think that we should exalt fear above all other Biblical doctrines, I don't think that one is foolish for fearing God or for rejoicing they are going to heaven:
Luke 10:20 "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."
| 2005/10/30 18:17||Profile|
I live in a small rural town in North Florida and we have a local newspaper that comes out once a week. It has a religious section and each month a different church in our community is asked to contribute articles for the month. Our church had its turn recently and my pastor asked me to do the articles. It really was an awesome opportunity to share the gospel with my community.
| 2005/10/30 21:41||Profile|
I totally agree with you, I don't think that Reidhead was saying that all fear is unbiblical, and neither am I. Fear is a gift from God. In its proper place, it serves a powerful purpose in our lives. But that purpose is never as our motivation for serving God.
God has placed within man a natural dread of misery, and many times He uses this as a means of awakening sinners to the claims that He has upon them. I love what Charles Finney wrote concerning this:
"Men are so drunk with sin that God cannot get their attention to consider His true character and the reasons for loving Him, unless He appeals to their hopes and fears. But once they are awakened, He presents the Gospel to them. When a minister has preached the terrors of the Lord until he has his hearers alarmed and aroused, then he should spread out the character of God before them, to draw their hearts to love Him for His own excellence."
As for the term: "the fear of the Lord," Personally, I don't see this as a particularly negative thing. I think this is speaking of fear in terms of respect. I mean, anytime we're in the presence of something or someone of great power, value and/or awesome beauty, its going to beget a certain amount of awe and fear in us. It's kinda like when your dealing with electricity; you'd better fear what it can do to you, particularly if you don't give it the proper respect it deserves and mishandle it. So it is with how we relate to God. As the Word says, this type of fear is tied to the knowledge of God, and I believe it increases in us as our knowledge of God increases.
| 2005/10/30 22:17||Profile|
There are some very good points here that would cause people to think.
Your use of the one word, "Christianity" is a concern for me. This word not in the Bible and the FACT is that it is a very wide umbrella of many, many faiths that use the Bible as their holy book. That is simply THE TRUTH, a FACT.
You are trying to redefine the word, and perhaps it is better to use another word, or group of words that speak more clearly to both churched and unchurched persons.That is very difficult because any word gets changed by sloppy usage. Even "those who have asked Jesus into thier hearts" can be merely a cliche. What about not using a label and just talk about the fact that Jesus promises abundant life and empowers us to trust him with our lives. ...
Even in my own writing, I find it gets very difficult to find the right words, as almost all the "right words" have been weakened through careless use. Jesus must have realized that, and that's why he used so much creative picture language - never the same thing twice.
God bless you as you seek his wisdom, and may he give you words that will reach others.
| 2005/10/31 6:51||Profile|
I too agree that there is respect implied in many of the verses dealing with fearing God, but there are some that go so far to erase the idea that fear in Scripture means fear...
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
I do agree with you that fear should not be the prime motivator in serving, though.
| 2005/11/1 20:15||Profile|
| Re: fear God or man|
When I examine the Biblical passages about "Fearing God" I see nowhere where merely "reverence" is implied - at least not the way we typically use the word. It means far more than that. The fear of God implies a deep awareness that God has power to bring justice on evil, including our own - and that awareness protects us from making sinful choices - like ignoring him.
There seems to be a very definite distinction made between fearing God, and fearing things of this world. You can't fear both. It is either one or the other. And that depends on your beliefs - who you believe has power over you.
"They have turned away...
ruin and misery mark their way;
there is NO FEAR OF GOD before their eyes." [Rom. 3:12-18]
'They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them." [Is. 19:16]
" Who are you, that you fear mortal men who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth." (They were terrified of Babylon, their oppressor) [Is. 51:12,13]
"You fear the sword,
and the sword is what I will bring against you,
declares the Sovereign Lord." [Ez. 11:8]
"The wicked man flees though no one pursues"[Prov. 28:1]
"Do not be wise in your own eyes.
FEAR THE LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones"[Prov. 3:7]
"Have no fear of sudden disaster,
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being snared" [Prov. 3:25]
"Since we know what it is to fear God, we try to persuade men" 2 Cor 5:11
"There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear."[1 John :18]
| 2005/11/1 20:27||Profile|
I understand where both of you are coming from and I totally agee.
The point of the article was merely to raise the question of how many so-called "Christians" would still bother to be "Christians" if the thought of spending eternity in hell was not an issue.
I know so many people who believe that being a Christian is all about avoiding hell when they die.
| 2005/11/1 21:11||Profile|