God’s Love

When Fear Is Cute

Kids are cute.

One of the cute things about kids is their innocence. My three-year-old makes my life more enjoyable because so much of life is a discovery of something new and exciting. We walked through a store recently, and it brought so much joy to see her so excited about things I walked past without a second thought–a zebra on a shelf, a poster of a tiger, a football.

Kids are afraid. But not always.

Because children are innocent, they are often scared of things more educated people are not … like being scared of the dark. And sometimes it's cute.

On the other hand, children don't have the fear of man that more “worldly-wise” people have. Ever been with a small child in a library or a nice restaurant? You may be paralyzed by the child's loud laughter, but the child just knows the enjoyment of that moment, without the fear of what other patrons may think (I'm not advocating poor behavior for children in public places!). The beautiful thing about childlike innocence is that he/she may just be naive enough to miss pressure a more “educated” person would experience.

Adults are like big kids.

What about adults and fear of others? That's not cute.

The thing about fear of man is … it's fake. Others have power over you only insomuch as you allow them to have power. What sophisticated library patrons think doesn't have ill effects on a child secure in the love of his parents. And the approval of others shouldn't affect children of God who rest secure in the love of their Heavenly Father.

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Thankful…

I'm thankful for a God who is sovereign, who rules over all circumstances and directs our steps wisely and graciously.

I'm thankful for God's Word, which is true when men are true and remains true when men are not.

I'm thankful for God's provision for us in surprising ways, using means that we don't foresee and abundantly beyond what we expect.

I'm thankful for a wife and children who bring great joy and who are growing in grace and Christlikeness.

I'm thankful for faithful friends who are encouragers, confronters, and comforters. For friends that tell me the truth, even when it hurts. For friends who know how to love by giving “the faithful wound of a friend.”

I'm thankful for an extended family that largely loves the Lord and encourages my immediate family in our pursuit of Christ.

I'm thankful for health and strength and for the opportunity to spend myself for the sake of the gospel.

I'm thankful for Jesus Christ, who gave His life to rescue me, a desperate sinner, from the penalty of my sin.

I'm thankful for the Church and that Jesus died for the Church. I'm glad I get to spend and be spent for the sake of Christ in a local church.

I'm thankful to be alive and enjoying life.

Isn't God good?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Cross-Dressing and the Christian

Have you ever run into someone in an awkward situation that was precipitated by their lifestyle choice? My family and I were recently eating in town when a man whom I had known from childhood walked in dressed in drag–complete with high heel boots, stockings, and mini skirt. This friend has made lifestyle choices that go along with his dress. We grew up in the same church, under the same preaching, and have much of the same cultural and educational background. My purpose here is not to discuss what motivates someone like this to make the choices he has made. Rather, I'd like to consider what an appropriate response for a Christian should be. How should we respond to a friend or acquaintance in a situation like this? Following are four characteristics that should characterize interactions like this.

Loving

The first thing that should characterize the believer's response to any situation is love. So, we should guard ourselves from mocking, scorning, or laughing in a way that demonstrates we have forgotten this person is made in the image of God. Demeaning behavior shouldn't characterize our interactions with any person, no matter how put-off we may feel by them. We ought to ask God to replace our proud thoughts with true love, with a heart that is concerned for the soul of this person.

Friendly

It seems appropriate in a case like this to look the person in the eye, smile, and shake his hand. To demonstrate that I still value him personally and that I can relate to him as one made in the image of God. Friendliness is not the same as love. Friendliness is also not the same as wholesale acceptance. More on this in a moment.

Reserved

What I'm not saying here is that believers should intentionally act awkward and reserved around those who are different. However, I believe it's also likely that there will be some sense of awkwardness in the greeting and in the relationship. A friend living any sort of inappropriate lifestyle–heterosexual, homosexual, drug-addicted, drink-addicted, etc.–should feel somewhat awkward around obedient Christians. Not because we don't demonstrate love and kindness, but precisely because we demonstrate concern for them while recognizing that their sin causes great harm to the image of God in them. Our response to their open sin should always be moderated by recognizing that we are sinful too and that only the grace of Christ can rescue us from our sin.

Honest

I don't believe that every conversation with an egregiously sinning friend should be about the person's sin–in fact, most of them probably shouldn't be, or you won't be friends very long! However, I do believe that we should take opportunity to lovingly confront sin in light of the relationships that God has given us. Friendliness is not the same as love. True love is opposed to anything that attacks a person's good. If there's never any open confrontation of sin, we are not truly loving our friend. Because sinful choices attack the true good of another human being, we should oppose sinful choices. Sometimes it will result in relational tension, but it should never be because I have rejected a person outright because I don't like what they've done. It must always be about God's holiness and their good. I can oppose sin in a winsome way, in a way that says, “I respect you because you are made in the image of God, but you are doing irreparable damage to that image, apart from the rescuing grace of Jesus Christ.”

Summary: winsome opposition

In summary, I believe we should winsomely oppose sin–in our children, in ourselves, and in those that sin blatantly and openly. I'm giving thought to this because I've encountered several situations like this, and I'm confident I'll encounter many more. I pray that God will help me equip my family and church to respond with truth and grace as we seek to winsomely oppose sin.

 

The Monster Within (Part 2)

Hope for fearful people

Last week, we looked at signs that indicate you may be struggling with the fear of man. This week, we'll focus on hope for those who are struggling with or controlled by the fear of man.

Be honest.

Perhaps the biggest struggle any person has is the battle to recognize sin as “sin.” Because the fear of man can masquerade as love for others (I'm being deferential, not fearful…), it is easy to be self-deceived. How can you tell the difference? Love for others is motivated by a desire for their good. Fear of others is motivated by a desire to be safe, to protect yourself.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that you're loving someone else, when you're actually watching your own back. It doesn't serve you well, and it doesn't serve them in the end either. Over time, people will be able to tell the difference and begin to recognize the fear that characterizes your relationships.

Be captivated by God's love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…. We love because he first loved us.” These words from 1 John 4:18-19 give us the key to living in love, rather than being controlled by the fear of man: recognize that God loves you far more deeply than any human being ever could, and revel in that fact!

You who once were God's enemy have now been made a friend of God. He has made you accepted in Christ (Eph 1:6). No matter who else rejects you, God will not. Nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus (Rom 8:38-39). You see, when God is for you, it doesn't matter who else is against you.

Conclusion

Are you living in fear or in love? Why don't you ask someone who knows you well?

Are you living in fear and calling it love? Call your fear what God calls it: “sin.” The next time you find yourself lacking the necessary courage to have a difficult conversation, think about the fact that God will accept you, even if that person rejects you. When you are tempted to manipulate others out of fear of failure, remember that even your greatest failures can't separate you from the love of God.

God's love is so great that it produces love for others, even when love requires great courage. Perfect love casts out fear.

See part 1 of this post, for signs that may indicate you struggle with the fear of man.