“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us.” (I John 4: 17-19)
Joy is not possible in the midst of fear. A prerequisite to having joy and keeping it is to reach the end of fear.
So what is it that causes our fear?
The problem is our focus on ourselves — on our own performance, our own good works, our own sincerity, our own inner spiritual gymnastics. Even our own faith.
As Christians, has God brought us to a place where we can live without fear? Do we have a relationship to Christ that removes fear? Can we know the peace and joy of His approval?
The answer is, “Yes”.
But this demands something from us.
It demands a rejection of my own self esteem. And a replacement with Christ esteem.
But that is a bold denial of all that we are taught in the world today. And even what we are taught in much of Evangelical Christianity.
It has to do with why God values us. The temptation for a Christian is to believe that there is something intrinsic and foundational within himself that causes God to love him. Which leads us to do an inventory of our performance, our inner sincerity and all that resides within us that God likes and approves of.
And therein is the problem.
God loves us because He has chosen to do so. Not because we deserve it or have merited it. Period. Which is the whole basis of salvation.
We accept His salvation based on what He has promised us if we trust Him. Based on His Value and not on our own.
I know that I keep saying this in these posts. You might think I am obsessed with this idea. But, Christians are continually forgetting the basis of their standing before God.
As You Received, So Walk
They start out by faith for salvation; and then ignore that whole principle when it comes to the day-by day Christian life.
True biblical Christianity is about a Person. Not about a bunch of spiritual things. But all about a Person.
To give an illustration all doctrine, which is critical by the way, is the skeleton of our life. The structure of the body. When that structure is out of whack, the body is in danger or falls apart.
But the life in that body is Christ. It is He, by His Spirit, who is our Life.
We must have both doctrine and Christ or we will not survive.
But, when it comes to fear and joy and all the deep things we seek, it all comes back to the LORD, Himself, dwelling within us. He is our value. He is our hope, our anchor, our peace and our joy.
If we focus on ourselves this Christmas, we will miss Him.
The Manifest Presence of God
Go to His word. Ask the LORD to show you Himself in the word. Ask Him to manifest Himself to you. To show you all the value He desires to provide for you.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
We only fulfill that requirement of keeping His commandments by faith. That means we rest in Him to do all that He chooses to do in us. Not to engage in a commandment-keeping program carried out by our own dedicated Christian flesh.
But learning to REST in Him. In His working. In His workmanship in us. And to stop looking at our own failures and successes.
After all, how else are we to produce eternal fruit? By our own pitiful Christian efforts? Our own self-control, self-discipline, self-help and self-esteem?
When we look at our own efforts to keep His commandments, we must always be fearful of falling short of those. Even with the promise of eternal security for the Christian, there remains this fearfulness of falling short in pleasing Him.
After all, that is the whole point of our life here on earth. To please the Lord and to do those things which He says.
But deeper than that is to do the things He says in the way that He says.
And that takes more than some intense, all-out-program of self-effort, prayer, focus, concentration, sincerity, etc., etc., and a thousand other good works to do what He says.
We need something more than ourselves to do an eternally, spiritual thing. Something incredibly greater than ourselves!
It really boils down to a basic belief.
Is God working in me or not?
Whose Work is it Anyway?
Does God need my efforts to produce Eternal fruit? Is this eternal fruit creation process a percentage deal? As in .001 % me and 99.999 % God?
In His time on earth, did Christ depend on Himself? Or did He depend on the Father and the Holy Spirit?
“As He is, so are we in this world.” Did you ever really think about what that phrase means in the opening verse we quoted?
I think it means a lot of incredible things. But one thing I believe it means, for this discussion, is that we are to do the work of God in the same way that Christ did His Father’s work.
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9: 11-14)
Do you see it? The Incarnation of Christ involved the Lord Jesus setting aside His power to do the work and making Himself dependent upon the Father and the Spirit to do all the work through Him. He was dependent, moment-by-moment upon the Father to perform the miracles, to guide Him down the road, to speak the words the Spirit spoke through Him.
All this in order to show us how we ALSO are to live this thing called the Christian life! To live in total dependence on the Son, Jesus Christ, by His Spirit dwelling within us.
Knock Yourself Out
So, you may say, “This is an excuse to do nothing?! It is a license to sin and an excuse for the flesh to run rampant! Nothing is going to get done!”
Well, I say, go ahead and do it your way.
Then stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ and see how pleased He is with your efforts — as sincere and dedicated as they may be.
Go ahead and knock yourself out. Do the very best you can do.
Go ahead and follow the Christian behavioral psychology we are fed these days. Go ahead and read another book about how to get out of addictions and sin problems and do God’s work by self-discipline and strict devotional habits. And whatever other lists and requirements the popular Christian authors tell you to follow.
And don’t forget to send me a postcard from wherever you end up.
And you might even succeed somewhat for a while. For a season.
But, someday, you will discover, that your Christian “best” is not good enough. You will reach the end of your rope.
So what is the answer?
We must look to Him and watch what He does through us.
Not to copy “What Would Jesus Do?”
But to Watch What Jesus Does! Watch what He does in you and through you. While being fully dependent on Him.
And enjoying Him as your Life.
May you come to know His manifest presence this Christmas season!