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Moving from Fear to Freedom

Christians step out of fear, and into freedom because we recognize that God’s love surrounds us and protects us. The presence of Jesus also testifies to his love for us. This love dispels any fear of harsh judgment or condemnation.

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Jan 27, 2022
Moving from Fear to Freedom

Have you ever felt that God is somehow against you? Have you ever been told that you are one sin away from eternal damnation? Many people grow up under such a message of condemnation. This can even happen in the church.

The famous sermon from Jonathan Edwards, for example, is titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Although this sermon does speak of grace and forgiveness, the overwhelming picture of God is one of wrath and ire. God is to be feared more than loved.

Sadly, many believe this to be who God is. Even in the church, many people assume that God is fundamentally angry at them. Thus, they picture God as condemning and distant. Little grace or mercy is found with this vision of God.

Instead, there is a deep fear. It is believed that if one gets too close, God will render judgment upon their sin. There is no escape.

The fact that this is a common picture of God is both sad and heartbreaking. The biblical truth is that God longs to embrace us. God ceaselessly extends redemption to all who would turn to him; it matters not whether we are “good enough,” or “perfect enough,” or “holy enough.”

As Christians, we are free from judgment. As Paul writes, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In Jesus, we leave behind a spirit of fear and live in one of freedom and liberation.

We need not fear an angry God because, in Jesus, the loving presence of God has been made known to us.

Living in Christian freedom is rooted in two fundamental truths:

1. God Comes to Us

Fear of God often stems from a belief that God stands removed from our lives. Sometimes, the very holiness and perfection of God are given as a rationale for God’s distance. God, it is believed, can’t abide the presence of the unholy.

Undoubtedly, this encompasses our own lives, for no matter how holy we may try to be, we can never claim the level of holiness befitting the perfect God.

The incarnation reverses this fear-based spirituality. In Christ Jesus, God does not stand removed and distant. God steps into the intimacy of our world.

In fact, the Book of Hebrews describes the incarnation this way: “You have come to God, the judge of all people, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:23-24).

Here, the author of Hebrews takes the fear-based images of the old covenant and nullifies them in light of Christ. God does not judge us as unloved, but as beloved; the blood of Christ speaks forgiveness, not condemnation. The point is, Christians do not live in fear of divine reprisal.

The presence of Jesus means we need not fear that God is the cosmic enforcer who will punish us on a whim. God does not look upon us from afar, waiting to charge us with spiritual infractions. In Jesus, God comes to us. In Jesus, God remains with us.

Jesus says this very thing at his ascension: “I am with you even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Because of this, we can have confidence in God’s forgiveness, and the freedom that Jesus provides.

2. God Loves Us

The presence of Jesus also testifies to his love for us. This love dispels any fear of harsh judgment or condemnation. People often adopt a spirit of fear because they see themselves on the wrong side of God’s anger, they are recipients of wrath and disdain.

Fear, writes John, has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). This punishment is seen as God’s fundamental disposition toward us. God is eternally displeased with us. Judgment, therefore, triumphs over mercy, and condemnation rules grace.

Yet, this is not who God is. John is fundamentally clear that the very heart of God’s identity and action towards humanity is one of profound, self-giving, love.

John writes, “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us, so that we will have confidence on that day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:16-18).

To be afraid of God is to misunderstand the very identity of God. Jesus is the very incarnation of love, a love that reaches out to us in grace and forgiveness.

What, then, do we do about sin? Does not sin drive a person away from God? If one sins, isn’t the love of God removed from them? Do not the sinful exist under God’s righteous judgment?

God does not condone sin, and yes, sin harms our relationship with God. Still, we must recognize the prevalence of God’s love for us. God’s love is everlasting. Nothing, Paul writes, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).

God’s love is not based on merit or deserve. In fact, Scripture is clear that the love of God is extended to us before we can do anything to earn it. John continues his discussion on God’s love by saying that “we love, because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

That is before any action can be done before any decision is made, God moved in love toward humanity. Love is not a response that God has toward our actions; love is the source of God’s constant and unyielding presence with us.

Paul describes something similar in his letter to the Ephesians. Here Paul describes how “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world…In love he predestined us to for adoption to sonship” (Ephesians 1:4).

Again, you see the prominence of love. Love governs God’s response towards humanity, and towards you and me.

What Does This Mean?

As Christians, we have not come to a God of distance, of condemnation, or fear, to a dark and brooding Lord. Rather, we come into a kingdom of grace, to thousands upon thousands of joyful encouragers, into a community of promise and hope.

Scripture teaches us that our names are written in the eternal book of forgiveness, inscribed by the very blood of Jesus, blood that speaks of the divine love he incarnates.

Christians step out of fear, and into freedom because we recognize that God’s love surrounds us and protects us. When Jesus hung on the cross, he did not speak condemningly to the people who executed him or mocked him. He did not call fire from heaven to condemn the sinful.

Instead, he spoke the word of forgiveness; to the repentant thief, he promised paradise. Jesus confirms an eternity of love and grace for each of us. This is the mountain upon which all Christians stand. This is the kingdom to which we belong.

For further reading:

How Is God Not the Author of Fear?

Why Has God Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear?

How Does Faith Relate to Fear?

How Is the Fear of the Lord the Beginning of Wisdom?

How Has the Freedom in Christ Set Us Free?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/francescoch

SWN authorThe Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.comibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca.  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.

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