Fear or Love?

Jan Antonsson

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

October 26, 2018

Neosho, MO

‘‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, ESV).

 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31, NKJV).

So, which prevails in our lives, the fear of God or His love?  The only verse in Hebrews which I remember hearing preached about in my youth was Hebrews 10:31, which always scared me spitless because didn’t the Bible say it was a fearful thing to fall into His hands?  Moreover, I don’t recall EVER hearing a sermon based on the oft stated fact in scripture that “God is Love” (See I John 4:8; 4:16; II Corinthians 13:11).  If He is love (and He is), how can it be fearful to fall into His hands?

As the graphic above illustrates, Paul declared to Timothy,  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:7, ESV).  If God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, where did so many of us learn to fear Him to the point that we couldn’t really trust His guidance or grace because we were too terrified of Him?   Perhaps I speak only for myself, but based on 20 years of hearing from readers and friends, I don’t think so.

In his October 25 meditation, Fr. Richard Rohr quoted Colleague James Finley’s timely observation on the subject of our fear.

“We might start this way: In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood because he was afraid (Luke 22:44). It is possible that he was infinitely more afraid than we could ever be. But the difference is: Jesus was not afraid of being afraid, because he knew it was just fear. So why are we so afraid of fear? We are afraid of fear because we believe that it has the power to name who we are, and it fills us with shame. We feel ashamed that we’re going around as a fearful person, and so we pretend that we’re not afraid. We try our best to find our own way out of feeling afraid, but this is our dilemma, our stuck place, that Jesus wants us to be liberated from. But we cannot do it on our own.  End Quote.

I first read this in the middle of the night and it struck me as powerful truth.  His observation that we are afraid of fear because we believe that it has the power to name who we are, which fills us with shame, shame that we’re going around a fearful person, and so we pretend that we’re not afraid.  Sadly this describes my own dilemma early on as well as that of a lot of Christians I have met, who can’t be what we think we ought to be, so we put on a mask, go to fellowship with other Christians, and hope no one gets a glimpse of what’s really under the mask.

We have these pesky little sins (I prefer “missing the mark,” which is the definition of sin), that we have maybe struggled with all our lives, but still can’t control.  Paul describes this hellish dilemma in Romans 7:18-19,  “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  He cries out in despair, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Vs. 24, ESV).

He doesn’t leave us dangling there, but answers his question brilliantly:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV).  But how do we get from the “body of death” to “no condemnation?”  He had already given the answer earlier in chapter 7, but I missed it for years.  It’s so simple, yet brilliant but I just didn’t get it.  Paul gives the example of a married woman who is bound under law to her husband, and thus would be an adulteress were she to marry another.  If her husband dies, she is free to marry another.  Then he states what I overlooked for decades:  “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4, ESV).  We are dead to the law, Paul affirmed.  What does this mean?  “Apart from the law, sin lies dead” (Vs. 8).

To put it another way, which was a liberating message Lenny was called to share with the Baptist men, Dead men don’t sin!  The law can no longer slay us because it was nailed to the cross: “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive-right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s Cross” (Colossians 2:13-14, The Message).

For me, this is the antidote to the fear which used to arise in me when I thought about Hebrews 10:31.  His perfect love is the answer to our fears, because as the Apostle John wisely noted, “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” (I John 4:18, ESV).

This marvelous passage has been so helpful to me.  When I’m afraid, I ask God to love me out of it, because as we all know, fear is paralyzing, intimidating, and totally destructive to faith, without which, we’re stuck in the swamp of our own neurotic stuff.  Knowing that God’s love is all sufficient and He does ALL Things well, allows me to ask Him by His faith, to love my fear away. Here’s the best thing about it, there’s nothing of Jan involved.  It’s all Christ in me, my only hope of glory.  Paul’s triumphant words have been reverberating and joyfully ringing down through the centuries, swelling in jubilant chorus to a glorious crescendo  among God’s children.  What a Savior; what a Father we have.

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms?….No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us. I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 37-39, Phillips).

Father, we fall before you in praise and joy as we behold the height and depth, the breadth and scope of Your unconditional love for us. You have chosen us, saved us from ourselves, and made it possible for us to live victoriously in Christ, even as we stumble along in our feeble often failing flesh.  We ask that you enable us to share Your glory, Your majesty, and Your unconditional love with all those You place in our path.  We join our voices with “the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!”  Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850

All our writings from 1997-2010 are on

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