Fear and sin

face-113177_640Nehemiah 6:13: For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me.

Nehemiah was sure that his enemy’s tactics was to make him afraid, not just for the fun of it, but to get him to sin. He was supposed to be moved to panic and make errors of judgement that will compromise his leadership position. And when his leadership position is compromised his vision for building the wall of Jerusalem would suffer a setback and may even be stopped. The bible reveals that when the shepherd is struck (in the case of Nehemiah, with fear) and the sheep will scatter (Matthew 26:31).

When fear enters, the right sense of judgement goes out through the window. Fear is the worst motivation there is. It is the motivation of self-preservation, but the best motivation is love, it is the motivation for giving all our heart to God.

In the service of God, the fear of what people can say would cause you to shut up your mouth and not say what God wants you to; the fear of how they will react will hinder you from pleasing God. Paul told Timothy: preach the word whether in the favourable or unfavourable condition (2Timothy 4:2). The commitment to God should be your driving force and not the fear of men.

When God called Jeremiah to the ministry he helped him to overcome his fear which would have rendered him useless in the ministry (Jeremiah 1:1-8, 17). He told him: I will be with you, and you don’t have to afraid of the sternness of the faces of the people, but you shall deliver my word faithfully.

Paul said that if he still seeks to please men (which will cause us to fear men) he would not be a servant of God (Galatians 1:10). And when we don’t please God because we are afraid of men that means we have committed sin, since sin is about not pleasing God.

Another definition of sin is something that is done but not by faith (Romans 14:23), and since we cannot walk by faith and at the same time walk by fear it means walking by fear is sinful. (Faith is active expectation of the best of God, while fear if active expectation of the fear of the devil.)

But the problem is that some overreact to presence of fear in their heart. Everyone gets struck by the fiery dart of fear sometimes (Ephesians 6:16), whether the logical or illogical type. What we need is to immediately x-ray it with the word of God (which says perfect love cast out fear [1John 4:17-18]; love believes all things [1Corinthians 13]) to dissolve the fear. We dissolve fear by focusing on the word of God rather than seeing the fear as something we should act on, as wisdom. If fear guides your action, you will not be able to act right.

Was Jesus afraid at any time? Yes he was; at the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). How did he deal with that fear? Did he allow the fear to move him away from the will of God (which involved his going to the cross to execute God’s plan of salvation of the world)?

No. He recognised it as a crisis time and dealt with the fear in prayer, by drawing near to God. Don’t allow fear to run you out of the will of God, run fear out in the place of prayer. The fear model does not produce the template for doing the will of God.

In the place of prayer we resolve issues with God. We get to gain his perspective, we get to move in a spiritual sense beyond the prevailing situation to the end that God has in mind as it happened to Jesus.

From the place of prayer, Jesus went to the cross. The bible says that Jesus for the joy set before him despised the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:1-3); he could handle it, not yielding to fear but yielding to the will of God because he got a renewal of vision and strength in the place of prayer (Jesus experienced angelic ministry there) and was cured of his fear of the cross. He was able to walk by faith in the will of God for him, pleasing God.

Fear is a trap that can put you in a cycle of sin, because it does not allow you to reach for the grace of God. Fear is negative expectation, and does not give room for the operation of the grace of God.

That is why the fear of sinning ultimately leads to more sinning, because living by grace cannot occur in the arena of fear. The fear of sinning triggers more self-retrospection and focus on self-will and does not permit us to reach for the grace of God.

They do not know that righteousness is a gift to be received (2Corinthians 5:21), grace to be embraced, it is the life of Christ that he lives through us, and it is an outflow of the love of God that the Holy Spirit has shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).

Weeping in repentance after sinning is a not a sign of genuine repentance. Genuine repentance comes when you realise the need to engage the grace of God more and less of the fear of men and the things that tie us to human opinion and self-pleasure. Repentance is about coming to the light so that the blood of Jesus can clean us from all sins (1John 1:7-9). The fear of sinning, which sounds like a good thing actually cuts us off from the grace of God and at the end what we don’t want to do is what we do and what we do is what we don’t want to do, as Paul puts it (Romans 7:14-8:2).

But he repented and turned to Jesus, and from him experiences freedom, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets him free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus did not do the right things in his life time, through the fear of sin but through the love of God. The preaching of the love of God is not about how much we can get away with, but how much our life is reflective of God’s.

Since God is love (1John 4:8), it is to the limit that we operate by his wavelength (of love [Ephesians 3:13-21]) that we express his holiness. There is no fear in God, and there is no way that fear will produce Godlike behaviours. There was no fear in Adam when he was made in the image of God, but when he sinned (Genesis 3); he got the twisted impression that God is the enemy, and ran from him in fear (and there is no grace apart from being in union with God).

So where does the fear of God come into the situation? Note that it is the fear of God not the fear of sinning. The fear of God is focused on God and how our lives should be about him, giving us meaning.


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