to get on the bus after school. They would be picking me up.
So I boarded the bus as usual. Only this day was different.
To start with, my older brothers who always boarded first at the
high school weren’t there. A few minutes later when we arrived
at the grammar school on the route, my youngest brother wasn’t
in line there either. How could this be, I wondered?
Immediately I remembered the words the pastor had spoken
the Sunday before at church. Talking about the Second Coming
of Christ, he told about two people in a field. One was taken,
the other left to face the torment of the Great Tribulation. “If
there is one unconfessed sin between you and God when Jesus
comes again, you’ll be left.” It didn’t take me long sitting on that
bus without the rest of my family to come up with a whole list of
things that could have kept me out of the rapture.
That bus ride home was the longest of my life. By the time I’d
gotten to my stop, my imagination had run wild. I was certain
now that I had missed the rapture. I ran up our quarter-mile long
driveway, hoping against hope that at least one of my parents
would still be home. But they weren’t.
I was devastated. I prayed. I cried. I repented. I begged God
to take me even if a bit late, but all to no avail. Terrified of the
tribulation to come, I knew that going to hell would be even
worse. I then and there determined that I would be faithful
to God no matter what the Antichrist tried to do to me. Even
though I’d blown the first chance, I would not the second. In the
arrogance of youth, I prepared myself to face the Antichrist.
An hour later my parents returned with the rest of the family
and the miscommunication unraveled. I hadn’t missed the rap-
ture after all! I was elated with the news, but I was taking no
chances on the future. I was going to be the best twelve-year-old
God ever had.
For the next month, I probably was. As best I knew, I lived
sinlessly, avoiding any temptation that surfaced and spending
time in prayer and Bible reading every day. But it didn’t last. As
the days passed, so did the reality of my fear until some months
later I had ended up right back where I had begun.
Jesus knew that fear, like a crutch for someone with a broken
leg, is only a temporary fix. Though it can be a heady motivation
in the short-term, it is absolutely worthless for the long-haul. As
He Loves Me!
such it doesn’t really change us, it only controls us as long as our
fear can be stoked. That’s why sermons on God’s judgment are
so common in Christianity. They confront us with our fears of
God and seek to provoke us to live the way we know we should.
The repentance that follows and the resolve to rededicate our-
selves to Christ’s purpose, makes us feel clean again.
Such experience actually helps us live better for a while—but
only for a while. Eventually the passion of such moments fade
and the old self encroaches its way back into our lives. We end
up caught in the same patterns from which we had repented.
Soon the cycle repeats itself.
Fear cannot lead us to life-long transformation, but only a
momentary reformation of behavior. Instead of inviting us to
enter into relationship with the Living God, it pushes us away
with feelings of inadequacy and repetitious failure.
Jesus had a far better way. He wanted to break the bondage
of fear itself—even our fear of God. He knew of a force far more
powerful—one that would not fade with the passing of time and
would invite us into the depths of relationship with God. He
would settle for nothing else. Why should we?
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been
pleased to give you the kingdom.
For your personal journey
Think back to the time you first made a commitment to
Christ. Did it come because you were overwhelmed with his
love, or because you were afraid of his punishment? When you
think now of God watching you every moment of every day, do
you find that comforting or scary? Do you see fearing him as a
necessary motive to help you avoid sin and do the things you
think God wants you to do and if so, has it helped you avoid all
the sins in your life? Think through these questions as you ask
The God We Love to Fear
God to show you how your fear of him might be keeping you
from feeling safe in his presence.
He Loves Me!
The Most Powerful
Force in the Universe
Won’t the awareness that God loves us
no matter what lead to spiritual laziness and
moral laxity? Theoretically, this seems a
reasonable fear, but in reality the opposite is true…
The more rooted we are in the love of God,
the more generously we will live our faith.
Brennan Manning in Lion and Lamb
o you love me?” Is there a harder question you can be
asked by someone you care about? It implies that you’ve done
something to suggest otherwise. How do you answer with
words when your actions fall so far short?
“Do you love me?”
The words must have sliced to the depths of Peter’s heart as
Jesus probed him. It had been a little over a week since Peter
had abandoned Jesus at his greatest moment of need. After
promising he would die for Jesus, Peter’s fears had caught up to
him. In the heat of the moment he had proved to all that he had
loved his own life more than he had loved his friend.
Jesus had already asked the question twice, referring to the
greatest depth of love any person could offer another. Both
times, Peter could not say that he did. In the verbal dance they
engaged in that morning on the shore of Galilee, Peter had
answered with a different word for love than Jesus had used. “I
have great affection for you, as a brother,” he responded.
We are not told why he couldn’t answer with the word that
Jesus used, but it is easy to assume his failure might well have
played into it. Peter knew he had not loved him as much as he
thought, and perhaps in the face of his denial tried to find a
word that would more honestly fit his actions.
When he asks him the third time, Jesus switches to Peter’s
word for brotherly affection. Though Peter answers in the affir-
mative he is hurt by the fact that he’d been asked three times. But
notice how undeterred Jesus is by his answers. All three times
he invites Peter past his weakness to ministry in his kingdom.
“Take care of my sheep.” His message is clear. You’re not dam-
aged goods. Your failure has not changed anything between us.
You’re still in the family.
This exchange is fascinating for a number of reasons, but per-
haps the most incredible is not the answer he seeks of Peter, but
the simple fact that Jesus asked the question at all.
What God ever cares about being loved?
THE GOD WHO WANTS TO BE LOVED
“Do you love me?”
It’s not exactly a question we expect God to ask, and yet
John records it as one of the significant conversations the resur-
rected Jesus had with one of his disciples. That he asks it more
than once focuses even more attention to it.
Why would he care about being loved? He is Almighty God
enthroned in the presence of thousands of adoring angels.
He can command obedience simply because he is the greatest
power in the universe. Why would he be seeking Peter’s love?
We seem to be far more comfortable when our deities com-
He Loves Me!
mand fear. Almost every idol or false god man has ever created
seeks the submission of his or her subjects by sheer terror. But
love? What false god ever wanted to be loved? Feared? Yes!
Obeyed? Yes. But never loved.
After his work on the cross was finished, however, Jesus
comes looking for love, and he seeks it from the one who had
just failed him most. Could this be what he most wanted the
cross to produce in his followers? Was his death designed to
reach past their fears of God and begin a new relationship with
them based on the intimacy of love instead? What else could it
Throughout the Old Testament God often identified him-
self as the God of love and mercy, but few understood him that
way. They seemed only able to obey him under threat or judg-
ment. Even commanding them to love him with all their hearts,
seemed to negate the end by the means employed. Can true
love really be commanded?
What Jesus seeks from Peter reflects what the Father had
always wanted from his people, but what they have rarely
understood. He desires the warmth and tenderness of a rela-
tionship filled with love. None of this was lost on Peter, even
though his answer didn’t come easily. If the power of the cross
can reach past that failure, then something new had really hap-
pened. Jesus was inviting Peter past his failure to experience the
depths of God’s love—to tap into the most powerful force in the
Love lies at the very core of God’s nature. In fact, when John
sums up the substance of God he does so in a very simple state-
ment: “God is love.” We may not be able to explain in concrete
terms all that God is and how Father, Son and Spirit relate
together in such unity, but we do know that they exist in a per-
fect state of love.
When that love touches you, you will discover there is
nothing more powerful in the entire universe. It is more pow-
erful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your
dreams and even your fears. God knew that when you tap the
depths of his love, your life would forever be changed. Nothing
can prevail over it; and nothing else will lead you to taste of his
kind of holiness.
The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
STRONGER THAN FEAR
I am not saying in this that the fear of God is wrong, only that
it is incomplete. It is the first rung on the ladder to knowing God
in his fullness. He said himself it was the beginning of wisdom,
but it is only the beginning. Love is the end of it.
If you don’t love God, you would be well-served to fear him.
At least that might keep you from behaviors that will destroy
you and others around you. But once you know how much he
loves you, you’ll never need to fear him again. In other words,
this Father doesn’t just seek your obedience, he desires your
affection. He can have your obedience without your love, but
he knows where he has your love he will also have your obedi-
“There is no fear in love, because fear has to do with punish-
ment,” John wrote as he tried to convince the church in Ephesus
that God’s love had replaced the old order of fear. It was rev-
olutionary then, and regrettably still is today. We seem more
comfortable fearing God than we do loving him.
But fear isn’t in God’s nature. He fears nothing. Thus his own
holiness is not produced by his fear, but by his love. In fact, fear
cannot produce the holiness God wants to share with us. It is
incapable of doing so. For God to transform us to be like him, he
must expel our fear and teach us the wonder of living in his love.
John paints fear and love as polar opposites. Before the
coming of Jesus, God used fear to hold our passions in check,
but it never made anyone holy. In Christ, God appealed to us
on the basis of love. Thus he needs our fear no longer, knowing
we will never love that which we fear.
You might honestly believe the highway patrol officer behind
you in traffic is looking out for your safety, but that doesn’t
endear you to him. In fact, the fear of getting a ticket will make
you extra careful about every move you make. For the time he
is near you in traffic, you are safer than any other time on the
road. Not only are you driving more safely, but so are the other
drivers around you.
But does that keep you from being relieved when he finally
turns to go another direction? Even though his presence was
more helpful to you than you might realize, it didn’t make you
He Loves Me!
want to become his friend. The motives of conformity do not
This is where organized religion so often gets it backwards
and why so many people in the pews remain so distant from
God and so unchanged in their character. We think conformity
to God’s ways will lead us closer to him, when the opposite is
true. Our intimate relationship with him is what will transform
Fearing God can compel us to conform our behavior to his
desires, but it will not last. Because it convinces us to act against
our will, even when it leads us to righteousness, it does not
change us. The behavior that results only lasts as long as the fear
itself, which is why those who approach it this way will need
greater levels of fear to stay motivated.
He knows that responding to his love will take you much fur-
ther than fear ever could. That’s why love must first deal with
your fears. “Perfect love drives out fear,” John continues. While
fear may be the most powerful motive known to man, God’s
love is more powerful still and in the face of it our greatest fears
are swallowed up in him. Love displaces fear the same way light
There is nothing more critical to spiritual growth than
making this transition. John concludes, “The one who fears is
not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). As long as we live in
fear, we exclude ourselves from the very process that will make
us complete in God.
People who serve God because they fear his punishment will
forever try to please him by doing the best that they can and will
find they will always come up short. Dominated by guilt and
having to justify themselves in failure, they never discover what
it really means to become God’s friend.
God has better things in mind for you. He wants you to
know his love so completely that fearing him will have no place.
When you are absolutely convinced how much God loves you,
it will drive out every fear you have. You won’t need to fear an
uncertain future, the rejection of friends, the lack of desires, or
even God himself. Knowing his heart for you will free you to
trust him more than ever and that alone will lead you to ever-
greater participation in his holiness.
The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
WHAT MANNER OF LOVE
You would think being free from the fear of the Lord would
be great news, but I don’t find that everyone shares my excite-
ment. Many see their fear of God, or eternal judgment, as the
only thing that keeps them from indulging in sin. Without it,
they are so afraid they would give into their flesh, that they cling
to their fear of God as if it was a life raft in a frothing sea.
It is difficult to give up your fear of God if it has served you so
well. That’s understandable. We don’t often think of love as a
compelling enough motive to hold us in check. We all know that
we loved our parents, but not enough to keep us from doing
things they told us not to do. Only the fear of getting caught
and punished was enough to deter us from wrongdoing. Many
of us transfer that same idea to God so it is no wonder we trust
our fear more than his love.
But the love God extends to us and invites from us, is nothing
like any love we have known before. “This is how we know what
love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). John
defines our Father’s love for us because he knew that our earthly
references to love would never do justice to God’s.
Love in earthly terms is invariably tied to self-interest.
That’s why people talk about falling in love, or out of love.
What they mean is that they feel affection for someone when
they bring some benefit to them. However, when they no
longer provide benefit, or become more of a burden than a
joy, we don’t feel the same way about them. Haven’t we all
had what we thought were close friends, who turned on us
the minute we no longer served their interests? Haven’t we
done the same to others? Self-centered “love” can only seek
its own good.
Only in the rarest moments will someone’s love for another
call them to deny their self-interest and sacrifice themselves for
another. Probably the greatest stories in literature play to this
theme and are the ones that touch us so deeply. They provide
a glimpse into the eternal. Rare indeed are the relationships in
this world that rise to such self-sacrifice.
But that’s exactly what Jesus did for you. By doing so he
turned the definition of love upside down. God’s love is not
He Loves Me!
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested