Having No Fear

This is the second of six in the God’s Not dead series, these are my teaching notes and slides:

Slide2One of the major themes in the movie was that of persecution; all around the world people suffer for simply having faith in Jesus. Some would argue that the world is much more tolerant today than it was centuries ago, but the facts say otherwise. In many parts of the world, people lose freedoms; and thousands of people are killed because of their faith in Christ.

While in America, tolerance is demanded for most any lifestyle or belief, yet for those who believe in Christ, they are met with systematic intolerance, which is grossly unfair and often absurd. Believers are often intimidated.

There is a challenge called moral relativism: the philosophy that teaches all beliefs are equally right and true. While people have the right to believe whatever they want about God, that doesn’t mean that all beliefs are true. Jesus warned about persecution (Mark 4:17) But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Let’s look at a three clips from the movie, about people who experienced persecution for simply having faith in Jesus, or even discussing the existence of God…

Slide4

It was all through the movie: Josh and his long time girlfriend, Martin (the Chinese student) had a very negative father and he wanted him to focus on studies and grades, not God, and Ayisha, the girl in the Muslim family, whose father wanted her to recant, that “there is one God and he is not begotten.” (John 3:16)

95% of Americans say they believe in God, but many are moral relativists who don’t try to live according to God’s Word (Josh’s girlfriend is a great example, she did not want faith to get in the way of career plans or opportunities). She scoffed at the notion that Josh would put God’s desire over her wishes.

Slide5

If we are to make a difference in the world around us, we MUST get rid of this type of paralyzing fear.

When we fear criticism: we learn that our identity and value is based on what others think instead of God’s acceptance of us.

When we fear consequences: we learn to trust in circumstances and decisions of others more than Jesus’ care for us (Matthew 6:25-34).

When we fear not attaining our goals: we learn that we have placed our hope for meaning and fulfillment in some worldly achievement over being a valuable part of God’s kingdom.

Let’s pray for a break in these strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

How to overcome fears: meditate on God’s promises (2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:13).

Remember that there are 365 references to “Fear Not” or “Don’t be Afraid.”  Don’t let fear stop you from doing the right thing.

Slide6

There may be other reason why someone might be adversarial to you and your faith. Don’t respond in anger, and remember that Satan, the adversary has blinded the people of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Their hostility might be the result of painful experiences in their past, in the professor’s case, losing his mother to cancer after asking God to heal her. In session 5, we will see that suffering is a huge stumbling block for many people. Try to find out the source of their pain, Josh asked, “What happened to you?”

Others may respond negatively because they feel Christians are bigoted and narrow minded, so, in essence, they are prejudging you. (MY college story of introducing myself as a follower of Jesus, a Christian = biased).

In philosophy, there is a straw-man argument: people build a false picture of something or someone, and then they attack it. How many times do we have to dismantle the negative press and false notions about Christianity? Maybe all Christians are hypocrites. Help them realize that out of 2 billion Christians, there are likely only a few who have hurt or disappointed them.

Remember that insults are not arguments: don’t focus on the insult but on the truth and reasonableness of your beliefs. While there may be many bad things that professing Christians have done, God still exists and has an ideal.

Slide7

There is an enemy of God and mankind, Satan. He is not the red suited figure with horns and a pitchfork, but an entity of evil that exists. We are wrestling with powers and principalities and spirits that affect hearts and minds (Ephesians 6:10). The goal of our enemy is to shut down the preaching of the gospel and the truth that God exists. It is vital that you not let persecution shut you down.

The apostles were told to stop speaking of the resurrection (Acts 4:20) but they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard and did so with BOLDNESS (Acts 4:29). The Romans did not like the fact that Christians claimed loyalty to another king, in fact, every knee would bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

When you are told to stop, find creative ways to put in a good word for Jesus, his word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).

Slide8

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Cares and worries of the world can distract us from God’s purposes in our lives; we can lose focus on our mission to share the gospel. Don’t give up; negative reactions can take a toll on our self-image and sense of worth (Allan’s story in Curacao, no fruit yet remaining faithful).

Stay strong, one day people might recognize your genuine integrity and come to you during times of struggle for counsel and guidance.

Some people will see your life and they refuse to repent, just seeing you brings out their rebellion. Rather than be convicted by the truth, they will suppress the truth and in anger lash out at you.

Today there is more persecution toward Christians than in any other time in history. More believers were martyred for their faith in the 20th century than in 1900 years prior combined.

You would think that technology and globalization would allow greater tolerance and understanding to everyone, but the opposite has occurred. The claims of Christ have set him apart from all other faiths and that is the offense that caused mankind to stumble.

Keep this in mind… Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12).

 

Fear of the Holy Spirit

Here are my notes for the second session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

1. Think about a time in your life when you were afraid (real or imagined).

  • How did you feel?
  • How did you respond?

2. Why do you think it is easy to become defensive and fearful of change when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?

3. With which camp do you most identify? What fears and stereotypes do you have with the other camp?

4. Do these fears prevent you from changing your views and practices, even if Scripture teaches those views are misguided?

5. If you have ever been afraid that God won’t act when you ask him to, what would that say about your view of God?

6. Imagine the Spirit taking control of your life and showed you exactly what he wanted you to do. Is this thought actually scary?

Read Luke 18:18-30

7. Why do you think the ruler was surprised of what Jesus asked him to do?

8. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Follow me?” Do you think the ruler understood Jesus? It is always easier to go “all-in” when you don’t have much.

9. Put yourself into this situation. What might the Holy Spirit ask you to do?

10. Would you be willing to follow, no matter what the cost, or what that might mean? The Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do.”

Read Ephesians 4:30 – Write down areas in your life that may grieve the Holy Spirit. Pray, and Repent!

Quotes from The Forgotten God book:

  • I would be dishonest if I did not admit there are still times when I worry about how others view me.
  • Whole denominations have been built around specific beliefs about the Holy Spirit. I know people who have lost jobs at churches and Christian colleges because of their beliefs about the Holy Spirit.
  • A life of following Christ requires relinquishing those fears when they do come. It means refusing to let your fears of what others think, your fears of rejection, keep you from pursuing the truth about the Holy Spirit and whatever else God is teaching you and calling you to. Are you willing to pursue truth in your journey to know and be known by the Holy Spirit? Do you have enough humility to be open to the possibility that you have been wrong in your understanding of the Spirit?
  • Fear of stepping outside of a certain theological framework causes us to be biased in our interpretations. We work diligently to “prove” that our presuppositions were correct (another example of eisegesis) rather than simply and honestly pursuing truth.
  • I think the fear of God failing us leads us to “cover for God.” This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more. We even convince ourselves that we don’t want more—that we have all the “God” we need or could want. I can’t imagine how much it pains God to see His children hold back from relationship with the Holy Spirit out of fear that He won’t come through.
  • All this leads to a question we cannot escape: Does God really give the Holy Spirit to those who ask, or was Jesus lying when He said that? I have found that it comes down to faith: Do you believe God keeps His promises or not? Do your prayers and actions give evidence of your belief?
  • Now you fear asking again because it would weaken your faith if God “fails to act” again. I’ve heard many people question God for not responding when they prayed in faith. I don’t doubt that these people prayed in faith, but the question is whether they prayed for things God has promised. Often, it’s the un-promised requests that God answers with a no. There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true. I encourage you to pray confidently for what God has promised.
  • The flip side of fearing that God won’t show up is fearing that He will. What if God does show up but then asks you to go somewhere or do something that’s uncomfortable? For many people, fearing that God will ask them to go in a difficult, undesirable direction outweighs the fear that God will ignore them.
  • When it comes down to it, many of us do not really want to be led by the Holy Spirit. Or, more fundamentally, many of us don’t want to be led by anyone other than ourselves. The whole idea of giving up control (or the delusion of it) is terrifying, isn’t it? Do you thrive on controlling the big and small in your life?
  • The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.
  • Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us. The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful. So, if you say you want the Holy Spirit, you must first honestly ask yourself if you want to do His will. Because if you do not genuinely want to know and do His will, why should you ask for His presence at all?
  • We want to believe that we are people who desire TRUTH even over relationship and acceptance. But the chances are that you care about people’s opinions more than you’re willing to admit.
  • Take some time to consider what fears you have about the Holy Spirit. It may take a while to pinpoint exactly what your attitudes and responses toward the Holy Spirit have been. Don’t hide your fears. Admit them, first to yourself, and then to God (who knows all of them already yet desires to have us share our fears with Him). As you come to Him, be honest about how you fear disappointing people more than quenching His Spirit, or how you don’t really trust Him to come through on His promises, or whatever else you may be feeling toward Him.

Why FEAR God?

Throughout the Bible we are told to fear God, but have you ever considered what that means?

At the start, we need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. While these distinctions can be helpful, they can also be a little dangerous because God’s Word is so much higher than my human words.

When Martin Luther struggled with the “fear of God,” he made a distinction between what he called a servile fear and a filial fear:

The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s the kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a brutal master who would come with the whip and beat the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner.

The filial fear draws from the Latin concept from which we get the idea of family. It refers to the fear that a child has for his father. In this regard, Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

This distinction can be helpful because in Deuteronomy and in Wisdom Literature, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 3:7, 9:10, 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, 33:6). The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God, which is often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and casual with the God of the universe. We are invited to call him Abba, Father (Romans 8:15) and to have the personal intimacy he promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for him.

If we really have a healthy adoration for God, we still should have an element of the knowledge that God can be frightening. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). As sinful people, we have every reason to fear God’s judgment; it is part of our motivation to be reconciled with God.

Jesus even warns his disciples not to fear men who may kill them, but to fear God, who could not only kill them but throw their souls into hell (Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:5).

But the good news is, for those who are in Christ, there is no longer condemnation (Romans 8:1)

[print_link] [email_link] Adapted from R.C Sproul