Christian Courage & Boldness

Overcoming the fear of man, fear of persecution, fear of criticism, fear of rejection

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    Opposing the majority to stand up for God and biblical standards is scary. Despite God’s Word declaring “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe,” (Proverbs 29:25) it is hard not to cave in to being afraid of criticism, ridicule, and rejection, let alone risking violent opposition as so many did in Bible times and throughout history.


    Suppose a thousand elite angelic troops turned up at your front door and the Commander declared, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.” Would it boost your confidence? In fact, forget the battalion of celestial beings armed to the teeth with heavenly weaponry. All you really need is a personal word from the God of Infinite Power; a word from the God who cannot lie.

    The words I put in the Commander’s mouth are actually a Bible quote. It would be exciting if those words applied specifically to you. But do they? Everything hinges on the context. Let’s take a closer look:

      Isaiah 54:17 “ . . . no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

    This promise belongs only to special people, and what makes them special is not natural advantages but that they serve God. This is your birthright if you are a child of the King of kings and serve him. The promise belongs not to the well-heeled or popular or good-looking or muscular or intelligent or those with the right connections, but solely to whoever serves Almighty God. In fact, those who put their trust in natural advantages will end up shamed (many Scriptures).

    Having discovered that this thrilling promise applies to all who have been born again into God’s family and humbly serve him, read what God says to Jeremiah, knowing that the promise is to you if you have been born anew and serve God:

      Jeremiah 1:18 Today I have made you a fortified city, and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land . . .

    Let’s begin by exploring the symbolism used here.

    A Fortified City

      In an era before explosives and aircraft, fortified cities were so impregnable that invading armies could do nothing but surround a fortified city, cutting off all supply, and wait until all its stores of food were exhausted. Usually this would take not days or weeks or months but well over a year.

    An Iron Pillar

      In those days, iron was rare and expensive and the ultimate in strength and toughness. Try smashing your knuckles into an iron pillar with all your fury. Clubs, sling shots and arrows are useless. Not even swords or spears could dent it.

    A Bronze Wall

      We talk about stonewalling someone but the wall God was making his servant into was not made even of massive granite blocks but of solid metal. Again, this was exceedingly rare and costly and regarded as impossibly difficult to attack.

    Now let’s consider the context:

      Jeremiah 1:17-19 “. . .Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

    The Lord make it clear that many people would rage against Jeremiah but it would end up like them head-butting a steel girder. Why? Not because of Jeremiah’s natural abilities. Just moments earlier, Jeremiah had said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD . . . I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was a bumbling novice who saw himself as immature. All that mattered was that Almighty God was with him. Nevertheless, note the words cited above:

      Jeremiah 1:17  . . . Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.

    Jeremiah might not have felt strong and might not have had natural ability but he needed to act as if he were untouchable. He needed to act as if Almighty God were on his side, backing him every step of the way. If he did, the Lord would indeed be his defender. If, instead, he cowered before them and did not act as if God were his defender, God would not defend him.

    Obviously, this takes faith. Faith can descend into an intense battle when circumstances or feelings or our tiny minds conspire to make the Almighty Lord who is resolutely devoted to us seem small and distant. What is needed is not to screw up our face and try to muster faith in faith, but to snuggle into God and deepen our understanding of his heart so that our certainty of God’s integrity, dependability and commitment to us is not dependent upon signs or circumstances or feelings or our pathetic attempts to understand God’s strategy.

    A huge obstacle to faith is mistakenly thinking God has let us down some time in the past. Most of our mistaken impressions stem from the fact that only God sees the full picture. If we knew all the things that are currently hidden from us, including all the complex chain of events triggered by everything we do and receive, we would be shocked. Our priorities and evaluation of what is in our best interest would be markedly different. Suddenly we would see how wise and loving and patient and merciful God is in allowing things to transpire that to our puny intellect had seemed senseless or even heartless. True love goes to the extreme of risking our wrath rather than giving us what we clamor for if that thing ends up being inferior to the good God has planned for us. Every devoted parent knows the pain of having to make such decisions.

    To always understand infinite wisdom will remain beyond us but what is obtainable is to understand God’s heart. It is never smart to trust our ability to understand what Infinite Wisdom will do, but it is always smart to trust Infinite Wisdom to do what is best. It is always smart to trust God’s integrity and dependability and devotion to us.

    Christian faith is never about blind faith in some nebulous force but trusting the most capable and loving Person in the entire universe – the one whose commitment to us is absolute.

    It is hard to trust a stranger. It is so much easier to trust someone we intimately know – especially if we know that person is highly capable, utterly reliable and is devoted to us.

    The only way to turn a stranger into someone you thoroughly know is to invest much time sharing your heart with him and letting him share his heart with you. To discover the heart of God you must “pursue righteousness” (Isaiah 51:1) and set your mind “on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). You must “Look to the LORD and  . . . seek his face always” (Psalm 105:4), “asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Colossians 1:9). It is not enough to read the Bible; you must keep seeking his interpretation of it, praying with the psalmist, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalms 119:18). You must take to heart all the Scriptures about God’s goodness and love and read everything through that lens; continually striving to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5).

    That’s enough about growing in faith because more is needed than raw faith. You might believe you will make it but why put yourself through it all? To embrace challenges takes not just faith but motivation. That, too, comes from knowing God’s heart.

    When you discover how good and wise and selfless God is, you will know that whatever he asks of you is so good and wise that it is worth the greatest sacrifice to do it. Moreover, getting to know God will lead to you loving God and the people who are dear to him – all of humanity. And love is the motivator you need to power through life.

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    When Fear Meets Love

    The abundant, Spirit-filled life revolves around love and is saturated with it.

    The God who has our best interest at heart yearns that we make it the driving force in our lives to love with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) the One whose love is so colossal that he sacrificed everything to come to earth and suffer not only deprivation, ridicule and humiliation but be tortured to death for us. Here’s the part we too often miss: he did this not so that we could avoid the cross but so that we could be like the glorious Son of God himself – pure, passionate, powerful and not of this world – and, driven by selfless love, take up our cross as he did and follow him on the trail he has blazed through opposition and adversity to eternal glory, where he will lavish upon us the spoils of his stupendous victory so that we can reign with him forever.

    Our Maker reveals that the second most important thing in life (Mark 12:31) is that we love others as Christ has loved us (John 13:34); laying down our lives for them (1 John 3:16).

    I have mined the riches of God’s precious Word; digging into its richest, but too-rarely explored vein. I beg you to prayerfully polish the jewels I’ve found. Hold them up to the light of divine revelation. Do you see your face reflected in them or for you are they mysteriously blank?

      Romans 8:17  . . . heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

      Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him

      Philippians 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

      2 Thessalonians 1:4-5  . . . we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. . . . and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

      Acts 14:22  . . . We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God . . .

      2 Timothy 2:11-12 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. . . .

      1 Peter 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

      1 Peter 4:12-16 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. . . . if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    If you don’t feel inclined at present to study more such Scriptures in depth, I encourage you to at least give a one or two second glance at Even More, just to see how much God’s Word emphasizes this message.

    Does this describe us, or are we “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4)?

    Yes, we are back to the heart of God again – pure, powerful, perfect love; the glorious selflessness that seeks not its own and yet lifts to Godlike status and beauty those overflowing with it; the exquisite honor of losing oneself in the matchless joy and fulfillment of doing what is right.

    Love is not dour sacrifice but the most thrilling motivator of all; the fountain head of incomparable joy.

      Hebrews 12:-2  . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    We must power through life with our eyes glued to our heroic Leader; transfixed by the Exalted Lord “who for the joy set before him endured the cross”.

    What joy?

    It was certainly not the “joy” of self-serving decadence, because self-indulgence produces no more joy than gorging oneself on contaminated treats that inevitably ends in agonizing, revolting food-poisoning. Luxuriating in endless ease has no more likeness to joy than the foolishness of a drug-crazed high from which its victims emerge to the shamefaced realization that they have humiliated themselves and squandered their lives.

    What motivated Jesus was:

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    The joy of rescuing and restoring us, his loved ones, and seeing us become noble, wise and selfless like him.

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    The joy of eternal companionship with us.

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    The joy that proud parents revel in when they see their children succeed – joy that is so intoxicating that they are ecstatic if their children’s success eclipses their own.

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    The joy of seeing good triumph over evil.

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    The joy of delighting God the Father – of receiving his “Well one!”

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    The matchless fulfillment of achieving the humanly impossible.

    Authentic, Cutting Edge Christianity

    Sadly, much that calls itself Christian is so insipid that, to use a human expression, it turns God’s stomach (Revelation 3:16-17). Authentic, cutting edge Christianity – the only type that is worthy of the crucified and glorified Lord of the universe – is not drawn to the soft life. It is not about cozy feelings but passion that is so red-hot that it begins to approach divine dimensions. It is fired by sacrificial love that goads one to Christlike extremes; driven by devotion that mounts higher than the terrors of pain and death. Those worthy of the triumphant Lamb who was slain are the ones who “joyfully accepted the confiscation” of their property,” (Hebrews 10:34), who, after their flogging, left “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41) and “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).

    The sky’s the limit for those who have died to self. Achieving this would be beyond us, except for this glorious truth found in the following Scriptures. You’re excused if you do not feel inclined to study each of them right now but as your eye slides through them at least note what a strong biblical theme this is. Scripture emphasizes it over and over. Regardless of how much it might be neglected in some Christian circles, it is undeniably mainstream Christianity:

      Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

      Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

      Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

      Romans 6:4-8 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin . . . Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

      2 Corinthians 13:4 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.

      Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

      Colossians 3:2-3 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

      2 Timothy 2:11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him

      John 12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. . . .

      Matthew 10:38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    We do nothing alone. Nothing God asks of us is a solo act. Everything is done in exquisite union with the divine. Success is guaranteed. Christ has already won. How exciting!

    Dying to self is not a one-off experience:

      Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all [Mark 8:34 says, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples”] : “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. . . .”

      Romans 8:36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

      1 Corinthians 15:31 I die every day . . .

      2 Corinthians 4:10-11 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    Just as remaining married is a daily decision and at any moment one could choose to be unfaithful to one’s vows, so it is with dying to self. This is why, when writing to Christians, Paul found it necessary to tell some of them:

      Colossians 3:5-10 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

      Romans 6:10-13 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. . . . Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    Likewise Peter had to remind his readers:

      1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

      1 Peter 4:1-3 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

    Paul wrote:

      Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

    Living sacrifices can wriggle off the altar. They need continual urging to offer themselves again.

    This does not, however, make dying to self an optional extra; the reserve of the few who want to be especially saintly. The Word of God keeps insisting that daily denial of oneself – living for God rather than living for self – is so essential that a refusal to keep dying to sin/self is alarmingly serious. Consider how often it emphasizes that those who prefer sin do not belong to the kingdom of God:

      1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

      Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

      Ephesians 5:5-6 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

      Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    Consider also such warnings as these:

      Philippians 3:16-19 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. . . . For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

      Hebrews 10:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

      2 Peter 2:18-22 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

    Note the conditions and provisos in all of the following:

      Matthew 10:22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

      Matthew 24:13  . . . but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

      1 Corinthians 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

      Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

      Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

      Colossians 1:22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

      Hebrews 3:6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

      Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

      Hebrews 6:11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure .

      Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

      Hebrews 10:38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

      James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

      1 Peter 1:6-7  . . . for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith . . . may be proved genuine . . .

      Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

      Revelation 2:7  . . . To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

      Revelation 2:10-11 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. . . . He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

      Revelation 2:26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations

      Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

      Revelation 21:7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

    Study the context in which Jesus said we must take up our cross and follow him:

      Luke 9:22-26 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. . . .”

    Jesus clearly wanted his hearers to see the close connection between what he was expecting of them and the agonizing reality of his own suffering, rejection and death. Crucifixions were not uncommon to his hearers. They knew all about people taking up their cross. They knew that anyone taking up his own cross was under the death sentence and would not walk indefinitely but was staggering forward to the pain and humiliation of his own crucifixion. Jesus immediately continued by explaining how critical for one’s own salvation it is that we submit to this.

    We are either “dead to sin” or dead to God. It is important to grasp that being “dead to sin” does not mean we are not sorely tempted. It means we refuse to cave in to sin’s demands; we do not let it rule our lives, no matter how intense temptation gets. Consider our sinless Leader agonizing in the garden over submitting to God’s will. The battle was stupendous but no matter how alluring, he refused the cowardly way. He relentlessly continued to set his “face like flint” (Isaiah 50:7 – a Messianic prophecy) in his determination to go God’s ways, irrespective of how torturous it was. He won and, through union with him, so can we.

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    “Perfect love drives out fear” is seldom quoted in context. This beautiful thought is so liberating and evocative that it almost seems stifled by the original context:

      1 John 4:16-18 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

    At the very least, this is saying that no one with perfect love need fear Judgment Day. Another thought is that fearing divine displeasure causes us to run from God, whereas understanding the perfection of God’s love causes us to run to the God who “is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:2). Like a defenseless chick, “under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart [a massive defensive wall]” (Psalm 91:4). “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me,” declares Psalm 144:2.

    In addition to removing fear of divine displeasure and moving to run to God, our Protector and Inspiration, experience proves that when love grows strong enough, it can overpower other fears that could cripple us. Consider a mother’s powerful love: she might normally be too afraid to do certain things but if her child’s life hinged on it she would nevertheless do them. Her love would prove stronger than her fears.

    Here’s another Scripture suggesting that love is the antithesis of fear:

      2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (Emphasis mine.)

    A light switched on inside me when the term “drives out fear” reminded me of driving out a demon. Once demons find a submissive victim, they want to stay put and stubbornly refuse to budge. They must be forcibly evicted by a stronger power and will back off only if commanded to by someone who is insistent that they do so. In the presence of a Christian, demons can only resort to bluff but they will nonetheless stand their ground unless the believer realizes his/her authority in Christ and refuses to be intimidated by the demons’ continued resistance. Even when demons reluctantly leave, they will return, seeking to re-enter (Luke 11:24) and they will again enslave their victim unless the person refuses to cave in to their attempts at intimidation.

    Likewise, fervent love is a stronger force than fear but a battle of wills is likely.

    It might not be that fear instantly flees in the presence of full-blown love, but it will cease to be the dominant force determining one’s behavior.

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    How can our Love Grow?

    It is sadly typical of our society that most people want love simply because they want to feel good. For many, “love” was just a chemical high. “Love is an addiction like any other drug,” agreed teenagers in a survey. Real love, however, has nothing to do with feeling good and everything to do with being good and therefore doing good. It is the most exquisite of virtues that lifts a person to Godlike levels. Real love is not about receiving but giving. “Love” that focuses on receiving is both a sham and a shame – ugly self-centeredness.

    Real love is selflessness. So the key to love is to die to self – something we are as loathe to do as a heroin junkie asked to give up the addiction that is killing him. Despite a junkie feeling as if he cannot live without his drug, there is a whole new, beautiful life out there if only he has the courage to break free from his dependency. So it is with self-infatuation.

    A love of money can lead to all sorts of evil, and other things can likewise lead to evil, but they all have the same root cause: selfishness. In short: the love of money is “a root of all kinds of evil,” (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV, emphasis mine). but selfishness is the root of all evil.

    Selfishness is the enemy of all that is good and right. It is the great illusion – the ultimate con job – promising so much and delivering nothing but endless regret. It is a disgusting parasite that sucks the life out of us, leaving us an ugly, withered shell of the magnificent person we could have been. Not only is it the drug that enslaves and degrades us and the thief that robs us, it is the filth that pollutes the entire world. To keep wallowing in its mud is to smear contempt on Christ’s sacrifice because it was to deliver us from this slavery and degradation that the precious Son of God gave his life.

    To die to self is to live. It is the death of a grub and the birth of a butterfly. It is to die to all that is shameful and come alive to all that is good and eternal. It sparkles with purity and glows with endless joy. It is the basis of rebirth. You cannot be born anew and keep your old life, any more than a beautiful butterfly can remain a grub. We must leave the old behind. In the words of Jesus, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:62). Or as Paul put it, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self [our former, self-centered life], which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self [our new, vastly superior life], created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

    The First & Biggest Step has Already been Taken

    “We love because he first loved us,” declared the apostle of love (1 John 4:19). God himself has already taken the first step – and it is a colossal one – in helping us love. To love like God loves we must love those who hate and despise us but even if we have almost no love, we can manage to love Someone who deeply loves us and has no faults. So start your journey to eternal honor and fulfillment by discovering at least a fraction of all the astounding love God has for you. I have provided heaps of support for you in this quest. There is a key link at the end of this webpage: How Much does God Love Me? Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You. It will take you to many other links.

    The more you discover how much you mean to God and how devoted he is to you and how good he is and that your endless happiness and well-being means so much more to him than his own, the more you will warm to him and want to get to know him better. And the better you know him, the more you will love and admire him. And the more you love and admire him, the more you will want to be like him.

    People shrink from God because they imagine he is cold, hard and judgmental but God is love. Love is warm. It has a soft heart. It is gentle, kind and patient. It is faithful and dependable. It has your back. Love forgets wrongs. It longs to forgive. It believes in people and sees the best in them.

    Others cannot warm to God because they imagine he is arrogant and self-serving and aloof but the Son of God came to show us the Father’s heart. And he did this by sacrificing everything for us. He humbled himself to the extreme humiliation of the cross so that we could be exalted. God is true love – the personification of selflessness; the ultimate in generosity; the epitome of faithfulness. He is not only the most exciting person, he has the most beautiful heart in the universe.

    Opening the Floodgates

    Although the King James Bible says, “We love him, because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:19) him is not found in the oldest manuscripts. That used to frustrate me. Desperate to grow in my love for God, I wanted the text to make it clear that it was referring specifically to loving God, I now realize, however, that all godly love – whether it be for God or people – can only be ours because God first loved us by sending Christ so that through his sacrifice we can be filled – in fact, overflow – with divine love. Whether love streams out from us or gets blocked depends on how much we open up to God. Praise is critical to keeping this flow open.

    Love and praise are Siamese twins. Attempting to separate them risks the life of both. The Bible’s Song of Solomon – the only divinely inspired book devoted (at least on one level) to the love between a man and woman – is filled with each lover praising the other. Marriages where each partner regularly praises the other – to each other’s face and each other’s backs – are highly successful. Counselors to whom people bear their deepest hurts know painfully well the devastating consequences of parent-child relationships in which there is little praise. (By the way, the Lord praises us and the Enemy of our souls loves filling us with false feelings of condemnation because it blocks our awareness of the positive way God sees us.)

    Praise focuses on a person’s positives and expresses appreciation and admiration. “Love conquers all” when love and praise march arm in arm. Human love thrives or falters according to the level of praise, and nowhere is this more true than in our love for God. If we get our fill of divine love we can even love those who hate us but to keep opening ourselves up to divine love we need to keep praising him. God does not need our praise –though it delights him because our love means so much to him and because of what it does to our hearts – but we desperately need the transformation that praising God builds within us.

    Praise opens love’s floodgates. Praising our almighty Savior pierces the murk of negativity and deception; empowering us to view more of God’s beauty, perfection, love and power than would otherwise be possible. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” says Colossians 3:2 and this is what praise and worship achieve, thus enabling us to soar above earth so that we gain God’s perspective – the God of truth. Only then do we finally begin to see things as they really are. Truth glorifies God; lies defame him. By causing us to focus on the truth about God, praising and adoring God makes faith skyrocket but, still more important, focusing on God’s beauty, love, goodness, mercy, patience, wisdom and so on builds our love for God; causing us to open our hearts wider to him so that his love can flow through us.

    Only a small proportion of Christians realize what a vital part of the Christian life praise is. So when you reach the end of this webpage, I urge you to read the link there, titled God’s Anti-Depressant for more on praise.

    * * *

    Related Pages

    Christian Insights into Martyrdom and Persecution

    Afraid? Christian Help with Fear of Obeying God, Fear of Pain, Fear of Rejection, Fear of Failure

    Coping with Rejection & Cruel Criticism: Slandered by Fellow Believers

    Fear, Phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Christian Help & Cure

    Spiritual Secrets: Dying to Self

    How Much does God Love Me? Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You

    Praise: God’s Anti-Depressant

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    Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2014. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.

 

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