Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Is Fear an Effective Motivation for Following Jesus?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Is fear a valid reason for us to give our heart to Jesus? Well, fear is an important element in the makeup of any human being. You look both ways before you cross a busy street. You remember you must pay the rent. You plan for a "rainy day." And Jesus plainly said, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). Noah was "moved with godly fear" when he contemplated the coming Flood, so he "prepared an ark for the saving of his household" (Heb. 11:7). Wise! He didn't want to drown.

But let's ask a second question: Is fear an effective motivation for giving our heart to Jesus? The other side of that same coin is a motivation of hope for reward. And no, fear, and hope of reward fail as effective motivations for being Christians because the result is the "lukewarmness" that Jesus says makes Him sick at His stomach (see Rev. 3:16, 17). A church crowded with lukewarm members is no satisfaction to Jesus.

Let's ask a third question: How does fear relate to love as motivation for following Jesus? John says that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). That kind is a special love known as agape, which is different from any kind of "love" that we humans inherit through our DNA. It's the kind of love that drove Jesus to die for us on a cross, to die a different kind of death than any human has ever died--the equivalent of "the second death" (see Rev. 2:11; 20:14). Peter says Christ went to "hell" in order to save us (Acts 2:27).

If we "let" that love into our hearts, it will "cast out" our fear. Paul says that God is trying His best to persuade us to "let" that "mind" of Christ "be in you" (Phil. 2:5). That kind of love (agape) is stronger than the healthy fear that comes with us naturally. You may come forward in an altar call motivated by a healthy fear of being lost and a self-centered desire to be saved--a good beginning. But if you stay where you are, you will not grow spiritually.

Christ as our High Priest is preparing a people to be ready for His second coming--and that is not a "works trip," but learning to "comprehend" the dimensions of that agape-love (see Eph. 3:14-21). It stretches our little souls and "enlarges" our "hearts" (Psalm 119:32).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 23, 2002.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."