Fear is often tied to Halloween. Fear has also been the subject of a class I have been teaching with my church for the last two months. Referencing the book When People Are Big And God Is Small by Edward Welch throughout the class, we defined what the fear of man is and identified what it may look like in each one of our lives. Three specific manifestations of the fear of man seem to prevalent in life: the fear of exposure, the fear of rejection, and the fear of harm. When we have sinned, we do not want to confess what we have done so out of the fear of exposure we attempt to cover up. Because we allow what others think of us to control us, we do not risk rejection by telling them the truth but we tell them what they want to hear. This is evident in our witness. We do not share the gospel with unbelievers because we are afraid they may reject what we have to say. We have the fear of rejection. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in persecuted countries face the fear of harm. They fear for their lives. Certainly with the fear of harm there is a level of understanding why it is present. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We live in a fallen world and we are fallen beings. Simply put, we fear people.
The World’s Way and The Word’s Way of Facing Fear
We know we fear people. But we don’t how to face that fear. We get counseled by the culture. They tell us we need to have greater self-esteem and we should not allow what others say to affect us. While both have a hint of truth, for we should not degrade ourselves and we should not allow others to control us, their words of wisdom fall short. The world’s way of responding to the fear of man does not solve the problem. It does not solve the problem because it leaves out the Person who is the solution. Matthew 10 hits at this truth and Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 shines light on this, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” The way to face our fear, the fear of man, is not by disregarding people. The way we face our fear of man is by having a biblical view of God. When we do, we realize He is the One who has total power, He is the One who can see all, and He is the One we fear. Unbelievers should fear God with a fear of judgment because He can kill both the body and soul. This should produce repentance in the heart and a trust in the Lord. This is possible because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We still allow the fear of man to settle into our lives. We do not always fear God like we should. But we see 1 John 4 that God loves us and has sent His Son to save us. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” For the Christian, we no longer face God’s eternal punishment for our rebellion. As redeemed ones, we fear God in a new light. Edward Welch puts it this way, “[t]his fear of the Lord means reverent submission that leads to obedience” (Welch 97). Another way to speak of this type of the fear of the Lord is to speak in terms of worship. We fear the Lord by keeping His commandments. When we are keeping His commandments out of a joyful heart, we are worshiping Him. And He is worthy of that praise. He sees everything we do and think and we are accountable for everything we do and think. Our fear should not be with people but with God. We respond and face our fear of people with the fear of God.
Facing Fear with the Proper Perspective
Our fear of the Lord does not mean we disregard people. Rather, our fear of the Lord places our view of people in its proper place. The Apostle Paul is a grand example here. By no means was he a people-pleaser (Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4). He was a God-pleaser and the love of Christ was what controlled and compelled him (2 Corinthians 5:6-15). Throughout his letters, though, you see his desire to please the Lord was accompanied by his love for people. He did not fear people but he loved and served them. We should too! We should not be controlled by the fear of man and we should not let people define us (our identity). Our identity is in Christ and we fear the Lord because of who He is and what He has done. When we grasp and hold to this biblical view of God, we are well on our way to facing our fear.
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