Fear and Love
Fear and Love
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 1st August, 2021
Every week I ask the Holy Spirit to show us something of God’s heart towards us for right now…. To reveal something from the Word of God that speaks to our lives and our circumstances in this moment – something that strengthens and builds the church – that stirs us up to love and good works – to gain His heart for the lost.
I felt like He did just that this week as I was reading the foreword in a book that came across my path.
It inspired me. I haven’t even got to the book itself yet – just the foreword.
But it stirred in me emotions that seem at first glance to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. That’s why I have titled this message – “Fear and Love.”
For the purpose of this message, it doesn’t matter what the book is. In fact, the book was simply the spark that lit the fire and set me on a course.
I feel as though the Holy Spirit is actually pointing us away from ourselves and turning our whole attention – our whole attention – onto Who God is!
And those two words – fear and love – when we truly consider God for who He is – then they all of a sudden belong together. They aren’t opposing emotions at all – not where God is concerned.
When we get it…. When we really understand that God is not made in our image – (what a revelation that is for some people) – that He is who He is…. only then can we fully and truthfully celebrate our own position as sons of God.
Humanity seems to have a default position for worshiping something or someone…. But that something or someone is often the product of their own imagining.
And it is often based on what they think will be good for them – and what they need.
The object of their worship is actually created out of their own brokenness and – let’s face it – out of their sinful desires. And the more you worship something – the more you become like that very thing or person you worship.
Our broken humanity, left to its own devices, will always set its own desires at the forefront of everything else.
But what if we actually aligned ourselves with who God is – His nature – His character – His desires for us – His sovereignty – instead of us trying to get God to align Himself with us? With our nature – our desires – and our imaginations?
I know I’m pretty much talking to the converted – but I think we need to hear this – and to remind ourselves of not only why we should expect to be overwhelmed with God’s love – but also why we should at the same time, shudder with awe-struck fear of who He is.
When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, straight away, Moses hid his face. He was afraid to look upon the presence of God. And God said, take off your shoes, because you are standing on holy ground. It was a fearful encounter.
God said to Moses to go to Pharaoh and ask for the release of the people of Israel.
New King James Version
“Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Those words – I Am Who I Am – mean that He is ever present, ever powerful, unchanging, the beginning and the end of everything, and He will do all that He plans to do. He is not dependent on circumstances. He isn’t dependant upon anyone else’s approval. He is Sovereign!
And it’s interesting that this flies straight into the face of Pharaoh’s attitude.
He basically responded to Moses by saying I am who I am – I am Pharaoh – and I will not submit who I am to anyone else.
But doesn’t this seem to be the response of humanity even now to the same God that we are speaking about?
I’ll be who I want to be and I’ll do what I want to do. And no one has the right to tell me who I am.
It doesn’t matter what particular issue we can think of – at the foundation of everything is this attitude that I am who I am – and any God I worship will have to fit in to my image of not only who I am – but who he is.
Even some in Christian circles – some denominations – they have bent their belief in God to make room for human brokenness to be acceptable – even in the direct opposition of God’s Word.
As much as many people don’t want to hear it – there is a great cost to becoming a Christian.
It means making Jesus Lord over every aspect of our lives. Everything. Our identity – our sexuality – our relationships – our wealth – our career – our calling….
But having said that – we know that this is our greatest joy and brings the greatest peace – and the love of God that we encounter far surpasses and outweighs anything that self could ever exalt above God and His Word.
Just as I was preparing this – as often happens – an interesting conversation occurred between Venese and one of you ladies.
And it brought my attention to an example in the bible that has great relevance to what it means to being willing to cast off a part of our earthly identity so that Jesus can realign us with the identity that He always had planned for us.
It’s the story of blind Bartimaeus.
As Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus cries out to Him – “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
He cried out a couple of times – and Jesus stops and tells His disciples to bring him to Him.
And the really significant thing about this story is that when Bartimaeus stands up – he casts his cloak aside. That speaks so much about his encounter with Jesus.
The Passion Translation
“So he threw off his beggars’ cloak, jumped up, and made his way to Jesus.
51 Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The man replied, “My Master, please, let me see again!”
52 Jesus responded, “Your faith heals you. Go in peace, with your sight restored.” All at once, the man’s eyes opened and he could see again, and he began at once to follow Jesus, walking down the road with him.”
Even before Bartimaeus is healed, he throws off his beggars cloak.
His beggar’s cloak represents who he is – his identity is completely tied up with being a beggar – and even with being blind.
Sometimes out of our humanity, we allow our brokenness – our rejection – our fear – our unworthiness, to become our identity.
The cloak represents Bartimaues’s life – his way of getting money – his security – his comfort – his position in the world compared to everyone else. This is how he was recognised for being who he was – a blind beggar.
It was most likely his shelter from the elements as well.
And I think that’s a great example of what it means to completely abandon yourself to Jesus, and instead of saying – I can never change – my identity can never change – this is a powerful act of faith that reveals that we can.
Perhaps for some of us here today – the Holy Spirit is saying – it’s time to throw off that aspect of your identity that has kept you bound – you’ve owned it and felt bound by it all of your life – but now it’s time to throw it off.
Perhaps you are fearful of casting that part of yourself away because you don’t know what will be left. Will there be a void? Will whatever comes be better than what you had? Could it be worse?
It’s a fearful thing surrender yourself – your very identity – to the presence of God. What will He do with you? What will He expect from you?
But I really feel as though the Holy Spirit is saying through Bartimaeus – you will never be disappointed when you make a decision to align yourself completely with Jesus and the identity He had for you even before the foundation of the world.
Coming back to that tension of fear and love – having a healthy fear of the Lord actually brings a perfect balance. Loving God is having a healthy fear of Him.”
New King James Version
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
The Passion Translation
“Serve and worship the awe-inspiring God.
Recognize his greatness and bow before him,
trembling with reverence in his presence.”
We should be always rejoicing – loving – celebrating – worshipping God.
But perhaps there needs to be a little more trembling reverence going on.
If this doesn’t speak to you – at least I know it’s speaking to me.
I’m sure we’ve all felt it. Standing in such awe and wonder of God that you just feel overwhelmed by His greatness – His majesty…
And it causes you to examine yourself to see if you could ever be worthy enough to even be there…. And of course, in and of yourself, you’re not!
But Jesus is! And we stand in holy fear only because of the Blood of Jesus Christ. Without that spiritual covering of the Blood we would be destroyed in a moment. It’s that cloak of righteousness that He has thrown over us, in place of the cloak of our own making.
And that’s all part of the feeling of awe. Knowing that we can stand there – we could be struck down in any moment – but we at the same time have this incredible joy knowing that we won’t be – because Jesus loves us too much.
I want to take you back again to Moses – but through a reference to him in the New Testament. And I want to break it up as we go and make a few comments.
The Passion Translation
Entering into God’s Presence
18 For we are not coming, as Moses did, to a physical mountain with its burning fire, thick clouds of darkness and gloom, and with a raging whirlwind.
Just take that in for a moment. This is the presence of God we’re talking about. Moses sees a burning fire – thick clouds of darkness – gloom – and a raging whirlwind.
Have you ever thought of God as thick clouds of darkness and gloom before?
In other versions this mountain is referred to as being untouchable.
19 We are not those who are being warned by the jarring blast of a trumpet and the thundering voice; the fearful voice that they begged to be silenced. 20 They couldn’t handle God’s command that said,
“If so much as an animal approaches the mountain it is to be stoned to death!”
Christians now, generally speaking, can’t wait to hear the prophetic word of God for their lives. We speak about listening for the still small voice of God. And we hunger for His word to us.
But the people in Moses’ day didn’t want to hear God’s voice – they were in fear and trembling of what He might say or do. Because they knew His power – His righteousness – His sovereignty over them.
They knew His word could change their life in a moment.
21 The astounding phenomena Moses witnessed caused him to shudder with fear and he could only say, “I am trembling in terror!”
22 By contrast, we have already come near to God in a totally different realm, the Zion-realm, for we have entered the city of the Living God, which is the New Jerusalem in heaven! We have joined the festal gathering of myriads of angels in their joyous celebration!
23 And as members of the church of the Firstborn all our names have been legally registered as citizens of heaven! And we have come before God who judges all, and who lives among the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect in his eyes!
24 And we have come to Jesus who established a new covenant with his blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat; blood that continues to speak from heaven, “forgiveness,” a better message than Abel’s blood that cries from the earth, “justice.”
These are powerful words. And they reveal the truth that we have been brought close to God our Father through the Blood of His Son, under a New Covenant of grace.
I am extremely grateful that myself and my family and us as a church have been born for such a time as this. The revelation of Jesus Christ and His grace and acceptance of all who reach out to Him.
But at the same time – let’s not forget that God Himself hasn’t changed.
We have – we’ve become new creations in Christ. But God is still all powerful and completely holy and righteous – and can’t ever bear to so much as look upon sin. Let’s never forget that!
Let’s not forget also that Paul says in Philippians that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
As we move closer and closer to the return of Jesus Christ, I believe there is going to be a great sifting of people’s lives. It’s already begun.
There’s a shaking and a shifting going on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I believe this is a time for bringing clarity and purpose to our own walk with God.
It’s also a time for the church to bring clarity to what we believe – and to demonstrate that.
We see different expressions of the church in the later days revealed in Revelation.
In Revelation 2, there is the church that has lost its first love. There’s a call to repentance otherwise their lampstand will be removed. The lampstand speaks of its source of light – God’s very presence.
The next church is one that has suffered persecution and tribulation. To this church there is a call to overcome and be faithful.
Then there is the church that has been compromised by immortality and idolatry. And again, there is the call to repentance, otherwise they will have God Himself fighting against them.
The next church is the one that allows the spirit of Jezebel with it’s sexual uncleanness, idolatry, manipulation, and a host of evil influences. It is full of corruption. Again – repentance is the only way to overcome the Jezebel spirit. But those who do overcome will rule nations.
The fifth church is the the one that thinks it is alive but it is spiritually dead. Repentance and a call to overcome is again upon this church.
The sixth church mentioned is the faithful church. The one that has persevered. And as they continue to face trials, they are called to stand and hold fast.
The last church is the lukewarm church – the one that God says He will spew out of His mouth, unless they become zealous and repent.
So you see – these churches, which represent the church in our age as well, are being sifted. They are being shaken out of their complacency, their compromise, their spiritual oppression, their dead works…
And this speaks to us again that God’s love for us – for His church – is expressed in His command that we become pure and holy through repentance – through standing our ground in faith.
He loves us enough to shake us up – to wake us up. And He speaks as the One who reminds us that He has the power to blot out our names from the book of life – to vomit us out of His mouth.
Many of us find comfort in. Ps. 103. It contains so many promises and blessings.
But listen to these particular verses:
New King James Version
“For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;”
New King James Version
“As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.”
Other versions say as a father loves his children, has compassion on them, has tender feelings toward them…
New King James Version
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,”
So, according to these scriptures, the fear of the Lord releases His mercy – His love and compassion – His righteousness to the generations…
It all works together – love and fear are bound together.
God isn’t made in our image – we are made in His – and He is One to be loved, feared, worshipped, glorified, exalted, and magnified.
Part of the sifting is getting clarity of who God is – knowing Him. Only then can we really know who we truly are – and continue to go from glory to glory – more and more into the likeness of Jesus.