Cowards Will Not Enter God’s Kingdom, part 2

 

In my previous post on fear, I wrote about how fear is not often spoken about, nor thought of as one of the more heinous and wicked sins Christians deal with.  And although this is not universally true for every believer, in my experience fear has mostly fallen by the wayside, when it comes to tackling it head on.  I suspect that many of you would agree with this.  But I believe it is time to get honest with ourselves, and I include myself at the top of that list.  Unbiblical and unholy fear can destroy us, if we neglect to deal with it.  I am so thankful to the Holy Spirit for making me aware that I need much work in this area.  And I hope and pray that He does the same for you.  No one is immune to the fear of man, or fear of the future.  And don’t forget the enemy knows that if he can get you to fear man, that you will not fear God.  And that is the most dangerous place to be!  As Jesus said, you cannot serve two masters, only one.

Now please do not misunderstand me, there is a type of fear that is natural and good.  If you see a grizzly bear while out hiking, you should get scared!!  That is natural, not sinful.  As far as whether you should run from the bear, or stand and face him or her head on, I’ll leave that to other experts.  I am no outdoorsman.  What I am referring to is ungodly fear, especially the fear of man and fear of what might happen to us in the future.  These two often go hand in hand.  This is the type of fear that makes us shrink back from obeying God, and causes us to please man instead.  It’s the type that does the comfortable and easy thing, instead of obeying Christ.  This type of fear is one of the reasons our Lord Jesus had to die on the cross.  Sinful fear had to be paid for by our Savior.  That blood flowing at Calvary didn’t just pay for murder, homosexuality, adultery, jealousy, and pride.  It paid for sinful fear as well.

Perhaps this would be a good time to define exactly what we’re dealing with here.  According to dictionary.com, fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”  So, when we are talking about sinful fear, we must take the definition a little further.  When I put it all together, I would define sinful fear as this: “believing, and acting on the belief, that pleasing people and avoiding the unpleasant consequences of not pleasing them, is more important than standing up for the truth of God and obeying the commands of Jesus Christ.”  I may adjust this definition in the future, but I am afraid to right now. (my laugh track is already dying out)

Over my years of walking with Christ,  I have seen the increasing temptation and allurement of giving in to ungodly fear.  And, from time to time, I find myself succumbing to its attraction.  Succumbing to fear of man gratifies us in the moment.  It brings with it a sense of relief, and the ease of avoiding what might happen to us.  Fortunately for us, God is all too aware how much His children are in danger of this attraction!   He has given us abundant warnings.  Maybe not as much as other evils, right?  I mean, certainly the most repeated commands in all of Scripture are the “do not commit sexual immorality” type commands,  right?  With all of the debauchery going on today and throughout history, and with all of the pain it causes to ourselves and our families……not to mention society at large.  With the toxic increase of sexual sin in our nation, surely that must be up there as most repeated??!  Oh wait a sec……… my apologies, there is something worse than that I’m forgetting.  The most repeated command is, of course, “Do not murder!”  That has to be the most repeated, right?  Taking a human life??  Of course!  Ok, I think you get my point, and you see where I am headed.  According to research (and I’m taking everyone’s word on this one), the most repeated command in the Bible is some form of “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid.”  Maybe we know this to be intellectually true, that it is the most mentioned command in the Bible.  But do we act like it most of the time?  Hmmm…….

We sometimes hear about men and women having study groups, undergoing therapy, enrolling in “12 step” programs, and starting entire ministries dealing with all manner of sin issues.  Everything from drunkenness, gluttony, homosexuality, pornography, anger, and adultery.  And don’t get me wrong.  These are serious sins, as all sins are.  We should never neglect fighting any sin that we’ve been made aware of.  The Christian life is all about looking to Jesus Christ for all of our joy and fulfillment, and fighting against anything that hinders that joy.  And all of these sins I mentioned (and many I did not), will hinder your joy in Christ.  So fight them with all the weapons God has given us. (See Ephesians 6 for this).  But now is also the time to get real against fear of man.  Let’s put it to death, through the working of God’s Spirit.  Here is the question you and I need to ponder: Since “Fear not” is the most repeated command in Scripture, how and when are we going to start attacking this sin with fervor?  At some point of my blogging experience, I plan on writing about ways in which we can successfully put the fear of man to death.  So until then, remember this warning along with a precious promise: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

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Cowards Will Not Enter God’s Kingdom

 

Lord willing, this is just the start of a series of posts regarding the sinfulness of fear.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There is a kind of fear that is wicked: the fear of man.  Jesus also warns us not to fear the future.  We don’t often equate this sin as being as evil as other sins in our own lives.  And even when we discuss the wickedness of other men in the pages of the Bible, we rarely ever focus on the fear of man.  We talk about Adam and Eve eating from the Tree, and also of Abraham’s lying and David’s adultery.  We talk of the deception of Jacob, the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, and the betrayal of Judas.  But how often do we speak of Peter’s sin of refusing to eat with gentiles, when he was afraid of the reaction of the Judaizers?  Or how about when the Apostles scattered in fear the night of Jesus’ arrest?  We may talk about fear when we read those passages, but I don’t sense as much conviction in this area as compared with other sins.

I was moved to write on this topic after reading Wayne and Joshua Mack’s excellent book Courage: Fighting Fear With Fear.  If you struggle with persistent fear, or even occasional fear (that would be all of us!), then I would highly recommend their book.  With that said, just how sinful is it to be a coward?  God says it is this sinful: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”  (Revelation 21:8 KJV)

If you are a Christian reading this, I suspect many of you, like myself, have wondered how the “fearful” ended up at the top of this list of sins.  Why not murderers and prostitutes?  Or even idolaters, right?  Take a close look at this passage in Revelation 21:8, and also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, as well as Galatians 5:19-21.  Most of us would be able to identify which of these sins are most problematic for us.  We certainly have not committed all of these sins outwardly, but inwardly we are guilty as charged.  The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) makes this fact abundantly clear.  If you are born again, most of these sins come to mind often.  They are obvious to us, and we see the sinfulness of them clearly…….well…..not always.  Sometimes we are blind to them and need to be rebuked by other Christians, or be disciplined by the Lord.  Conviction comes.  These sins may not always be easy to mention, but we seem to get them out in the open eventually.  If not to other Christians, certainly to God.

To be fair, some of these sins do make us blush, and sometimes we just don’t feel comfortable talking about them.  Some of them even keep us from looking at others in the eye when we do confess them, or when we are giving our salvation testimonies.  Some of these sins we would be embarrassed and, dare I say, afraid to mention we’ve committed when Christians of the opposite sex are in the same room.  Of course, it is a good thing to keep in mind the company we are with when we confess or share testimonies.  The ones I’m referring to are obviously sins of a sexual nature (lust, fornication, homosexuality, adultery, pornography, etc.)  We may not have committed all of them in our actions, but again, our hearts betray us with inner corruption.  And most of us (men especially!!), to one degree or another, still battle with many of these sexual sins.  And until we go to be with Christ, we will continue to battle them.  But the point is this: even with “embarrassing” sins, we still recognize these particular sins for what they are.  It is only the embarrassment and the shame of them that keeps us from exposing them.  They don’t exactly work well as the grand topic of conversation at your next co-ed Bible study!  Not to mention the inappropriate context when children and teens are present as well.  But otherwise, if we are having a Bible study with people of the same gender, we will admit these things from time to time, especially as we get to know specific brothers or sisters really well.  But fear still isn’t much spoken about.  It shows up at the top of the list in Revelation, but it often shows up near the bottom of our “personal list” when it comes to our sanctification.

Outside of the sexual sins, most of us will freely admit (in almost any situation I might add) to others that we’ve lied, stolen, been envious of others, been greedy, have had rivalries with others, and even drunkenness.  We admit these are sinful.  We often confess them to others.  And if we sin in these areas, we usually keep short accounts with God as well.  Not always, but often we do.  And even most unbelievers would admit they have done some of these things, and they even understand why those things are wrong, whether they admit it or not.  But I highly doubt most pagans would consider their fears as being sinful.  In fact, do we ever bring that sin up to them when we are witnessing?  Nope.  But let’s be honest here, dear brothers and sisters.  How often do we confess being “fearful” to other Christians?  Do we recognize the heinous nature of being a coward?  Worse yet, do we understand how wicked this sin is to Jesus Christ?  Do we quickly pass through the “sin lists” in the Bible and hone in on the ones we want to notice, like the ones we think are “really bad” and are worth fighting?  And most importantly, do we realize that if we live a life consistently marked by sinful fear, without repentance, that we are giving evidence that we are not even saved?  The study has been an eye opener for me, and it has been very convicting.  But I have so much more to learn in this area, both knowledge wise and experience!  As I continue to post on this topic, please know that I have seen my failure in this area.  I am pointing back at myself before I am pointing at you.  Check back with me soon as I continue with this topic.  Hopefully this will whet your appetite.  So until next time, remember these precious words:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).