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…


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.


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.


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.


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).


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).


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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.

Think about a time in your life when you were afraid (real or imagined). How did you feel? How did you respond?

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

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

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

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?

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

Read Luke 18:18-30

  1. Why do you think the ruler was surprised of what Jesus asked him to do?
  2. 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.
  3. Put yourself into this situation. What might the Holy Spirit ask you to do?
  4. 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!

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • 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.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Fishing

This lesson deals with the disciples going back to fishing after they spent about nine months investigating the words and works of Jesus. Fear causes many today to drop out before they are fully trained and convinced of the claims of Jesus.

Background: These men spent nine months off and on with Jesus so this passage is not their first exposure to Jesus. After those initial nine months, Jesus stopped by their places of business and called to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Perhaps Jesus had hoped these men had developed a heart for the harvest and reaching lost souls for Christ. They dropped everything and followed him. We don’t know what caused them to return to their nets; perhaps it was fear. Luke 5:1-11 is really a confirmation of their call to become fishers of men.

Bill Hull writes:

When Jesus called the handful of Galilean fishermen away from their nets to follow him, they responded directly to that invitation (Mark 1:16-20). After a short sojourn with the master in Capernaum and the surrounding villages (Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44), they returned to Galilee to take up their nets again (Luke 5:1-11). Apparently they went home under the guise of straightening up their personal affairs, but Jesus knew better. He knew they needed a little more time to solidify their commitment, one more time-out from ministry to fish for a few days, experiencing the futility of empty nets.

He goes on to say that it is a leadership art form to be able to salvage the dropout. They were discouraged, fearful, and slipping into the old life patterns. Many good disciples fall through the cracks but Jesus teaches us that the dropout syndrome may be reduced by bringing would-be disciples to total commitment in stages.

John Mark is a great example of this in Acts 15:36-38. John left the ministry (Acts 13:13) and Paul wrote him off early (Acts 15:39-41), but over time, John Mark became a valuable asset to Paul in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).

Is Matthew 4:18-22 the same event as Luke 5:1-11? Likely not because notice the differences:

  1. The location of Simon and Andrew: they were not fishing in Matthew and Mark, but they were in Luke.
  2. The location of Jesus: he did not enter a boat in Matthew and Mark, but he did in Luke.
  3. The catch of fish: Matthew and Mark don’t mention a catch of fish, but Luke does.

So, it appears that these two pairs of brothers went back to fishing after their call to come and follow Jesus. After responding to this second call, they stayed with Jesus until the end, and returned to fishing only after the crucifixion.

What do we know about the popularity of Jesus at this point in the narrative (Luke 5:1)?

Where did all of this take place (Luke 5:1)? Gennesaret or Galilee?

Why did they go back to fishing? Perhaps they were overwhelmed and longed for the safe and familiar.

  1. Dealing with demons (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31b-37).
  2. Dealing with needy people (Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41) and the reality of compassion fatigue.
  3. Dealing with the demands of the crowds (Matthew 8:14-17, Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41).

Why did Jesus want to be in Peter’s boat (Luke 5:1)?

  1. A better position for acoustics: podium and how sound carries over the water.
  2. A better position for the miracle: to teach Peter a lesson of faith.

It may have been an awkward moment for Peter facing Jesus, whom he left to go back to fishing. Jesus was unwilling to let these guys fall through the cracks.

Why does Luke choose to call the disciple Simon son of John when Jesus had given him a new name, Cephas (which means Peter – John 1:41-43)? Maybe the old Simon was resurfacing during this time, and he was not “the rock” that Jesus said he was. People often take a step forward and three steps back. “Simon” reflected Peter at this time in his life.

What happened when Peter let the nets down into the water (Luke 5:6)? What symbolize might we see here?

When the nets began to break, what happened (Luke 5:6-7)? What lesson might we see in partnerships, working as teams, or doing ministry on our own?

How did this miracle affect Peter (Luke 5:8-9)? Shame and amazement. Peter knew that God alone was omniscient, and since Jesus knew where these fish were hiding, Jesus therefore is God. The one who called them to catch men was none other than the second person of the trinity! Peter falls on his knees. While fishing was Peter’s thing, and he knew about fishing, what he witnessed was not fishing. Jesus knew where the fish were and was controlling them (that is not fishing). This was supernatural.

What experience is more overwhelming than the challenges of fishing for men (Luke 5:10)? Jesus says to not be afraid, even though he knows our sinfulness, finiteness, fear.

At the end of it all, Jesus does not offer another invitation, but rather an affirmation (Luke 5:10b) of the previous call.

How did they respond to this affirmation (Luke 5:11)? They realize that fishing for men is not a temporary activity but an eternal pursuit. Now they are getting ready to build their faith and get equipped for a life of fruitful service.

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Fear is a Barrier to Faith

Today we look into Luke 12:4-12, focusing on one verse Luke 12:5. The point is that Jesus needed to address the fears of his would-be followers, fears that would prevent them from repenting and believing. Fear of making your faith known, or going public, can be a real barrier to one’s salvation (Proverbs 29:25). Another perk of this lesson is to help believers to talk with lost friends about the fears that they have about following Jesus Christ. Once a person is a follower of Jesus, our love for him casts out fear (1 John 4:17-18). The one fear that should cast out all other fears is the fear of God (Luke 12:5, Hebrews 2:14-15, 9:27).

The Pharisee in Luke 11 acts like a friend in public (even inviting Jesus to dinner) but his hidden agenda is revealed in Luke 11:53-54. They intended to execute Jesus within a couple of months but since the crowds liked Jesus, they had to treat him in a civil manner while in public. Jesus knows about their plots yet is unafraid. They might be able to kill the body, but eternity is not in their hands. So, this situation begs the question, “Do you cower before bullies who can kill you, or cower before God who can not only kill you but throw you into hell?” Don’t be afraid of other human beings!

It appears that “do not fear” is a repeated phrase in the Bible, when people were afraid to publicly profess faith in Jesus (Luke 12:5, 7, see also John 7:13, 9:22, 19:38), and the rest of the Bible (Acts 18:9, Hebrew 13:6, 1 Peter 3:14, Revelation 2:10).

  1. Of what was Christ’s audience afraid (Luke 12:8, 11)?
    1. All they could do is threaten physical harm or make life miserable (Luke 12:11).
    2. People could be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22, 7:13).
    3. Many who came to Christ were disowned by their families, lost employment, or socially snubbed.
  2. How does Jesus address his audience (Luke 12:4)? He calls them his friends which is totally opposite to the hostility of the religious leaders. Don’t fear them, they cannot harm you past the grave.
  3. What would be forfeited if his hearers confessed Christ before men (Luke 12:4)? The worst thing would be their own lives, but even that would be a promotion, to heaven.
  4. What did Jesus command them to do (Luke 12:5, 7)? Here is the command:
    1. Fear – aorist imperative (Luke 12:5).
    2. Do not fear – present imperative (Luke 12:7).
  5. Who has the power to cast anyone into hell (Luke 12:5)? God (not Satan) is the “One” in Luke 12:5.
  6. How does the Bible describe hell? The word “gehanna” is found 12 times in the New Testament, 11 in the Synoptic Gospels, and every time it is from the mouth of Jesus himself. Gehenna is a Greek transliteration of Ben Hinnom (valley of Hinnom), a narrow ravine where Ahaz and Manasseh introduced pagan worship of the fire gods (2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:16, Jeremiah 7:31). People would take their babies and toss them into the red-hot arms of Molech, where the children would scream and cry as their flesh burned. Josiah stopped this abomination (2 Kings 23:10). This location later became a trash dump, like an incinerator for the city. Dead criminals were tossed in, dead animals, trash, it was continually burning, so with smoke rising, Jesus gives the people a visual image of what hell would be like. It is important to note that hell is NOT annihilation (See below).
    1. Matthew 13:42 – furnace, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, a loud expression of grief; wailing in hell will be continual. Who could recognize a friend’s voice in such an environment?
    2. Matthew 25:41 – a place prepared for the devil and his demons.
    3. Matthew 25:46 – eternal punishment, indicating a tormenting process that is accompanied by fear.
    4. Mark 9:48 – where worms don’t die and the fire is not quenched; Not only will fire not give off light, but does not consume the bodies of the unredeemed.
    5. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 – eternal destruction, perhaps physical ruin.
    6. 2 Peter 2:17, Jude 1:13 – black darkness, literally “blackness of darkness.” People might say that will be in hell where their friends are, but it will be so dark, they won’t be able to grope around and find them. Imagine being in a new place, where it’s hot (as hell) and dark with no light at all (like a cave in darkness).
    7. Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8 – the second death, “hurt” indicates the person’s body being injured.
    8. Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 14, 21:8 – a lake of fire and brimstone, a place for unbelievers after the Great White Throne judgment.
  7. How does Jesus encourage them to go public (Luke 12:6-7)? He promised them a Father’s care.
    1. Sparrows are insignificant yet God cares for them, so how much more will the Father care for them?
    2. The word “cent” means a penny. They were sold five for two pennies, so if you bought four, they would throw in one for nothing.
  8. What does it mean to confess Christ before men (Luke 12:8)? The word “confess” is used 27 times in the New Testament, meaning to affirm, declare, admit, acknowledge, or agree. This means to confess openly or state publicly.
  9. What happens to those who don’t confess Jesus before men (Luke 12:9)? A denial in heaven, I never knew you (Matthew 7:21).
  10. Can a person deny Christ yet still be a Christian (Matthew 10:32-33, 2 Timothy 2:12, 1 John 2:23)?
    1. Luke 22:54-62 – Peter’s denials.
    2. Romans 10:9-10 – the relationship between belief and confession.
    3. Titus 1:16 – relationship between belief and by our deeds denying him.
    4. 1 John 2:22 – denying Jesus, lying, antichrist.
  11. Why does Jesus warn against blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10)? The audience was in danger of committing the unpardonable sin (seeing the miracles of Jesus in the flesh and attributing these works to the enemy, Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:29-30).
  12. What does Christ promise in Luke 12:11-12? Divine assistance when their faith led them into harm’s way.
    1. This is a striking contrast to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, because believers will find that the Holy Spirit actually speaks through them.
    2. The circumstances of the Spirit speaking through believers is not preaching but persecution, in which preparation of an adequate defense would be impossible (Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 21:14-15).
      1. We should not neglect this needed preparation (2 Timothy 2:15).
      2. Luke 12:11-12 address those occasions that you don’t even know they are coming, when you will be taken away and made to give an account for the hope inside of you (1 Peter 3:15).
    3. Jesus’ enemies blasphemed the Holy Spirit while the disciples would be helped by the Holy Spirit.

What About Annihilation?

Many scholars have abandoned this traditional view on hell, which can also lead to Universalism as well. John Stott has four arguments to support his position, and then I have included a response under each point.

  1. The language of eternal punishment speaks of destruction, which normally means extinction.
    1. John 3:16 – perish means to destroy utterly, this is not extinction but ruin and loss, not of being but well-being.
    2. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – destruction means utter and hopeless ruin, the loss of all that gives worth to existence. So Paul refers to physical separation (God and the lost) more than physical annihilation.
    3. Revelation 2:11 – this hurt will be experienced throughout eternity, the idea of a person’s body being injured.
  2. The imagery of fire is for destruction, not torment (fire burns things up).
    1. Revelation 20:10 – this is sort of point blank in response to points one and two, tormented day and night forever.
    2. Revelation 14:9-11 – torment goes on forever, no rest day and night.
  3. The notion of justice precludes eternal punishment. How can sins committed in time be punished for eternity? Where is the justice? The penalty inflicted ought to be according to the evil done.
    1. The amount of time it takes to commit the crime does not factor into the punishment. If I kill a store owner in two minutes, the judge won’t take that into consideration.
    2. It’s not about the time it takes to commit a crime but the nature of the crime. It’s not about how long we sin, but what sin is.
    3. The nature of sin is an act of rebellion against an infinite and holy God, which brings an eternal penalty. Threatening to kill me is not as serious as a threat to kill the President of the USA.
    4. A crime against the Creator brings a penalty worthy of the sin committed. Humans can never pay the penalty we deserve. We often forget the holiness of God and the true nature of our sin.
  4. The eternal existence of hell would not bring everything fully into a right relationship with God.
    1. Revelation 19:1-6 – God’s judgments are true and righteous, he has avenged the blood of the saints, the smoke rises forever…
    2. Revelation 18:20 – rejoice over the pronounced judgment. God’s righteousness has been revealed in the destruction of his enemies.
    3. God’s wrath is an occasion for God’s glory…
      1. Revelation 19:1 – the outpouring of God’s wrath against sin highlights the mercy shown in saving grace.
      2. Revelation 19:2a – the outpouring of God’s wrath displays his righteousness.
      3. Revelation 19:2b – the outpouring of God’s wrath confirms his love for the saints (or they suffered in vain).
      4. Revelation 19:5 – the outpouring of God’s wrath magnifies the holy fear that is due him.
      5. Revelation 19:6 – the outpouring of God’s wrath proves that the sovereign Lord is Ruler over everything, the Lord reigns. All his enemies will be brought under his authority.

Take Away:

  1. How do you feel about everything done in secret being revealed (Luke 12:2-3)?
  2. Jesus teaches us to fear yet be fearless (Luke 12:4-5).
  3. How can we be assured that we have not committed the unpardonable sin (Luke 12:10)?
  4. What is Jesus teaching about the disciple’s security in the face of opposition (Luke 12:11)?
  5. When have you taken a stand (a risk) for Jesus in a public way? What did you learn?
  6. How can you remind yourself of your importance to God each day this week?
  7. How can we pray for those who suffer due to their relationship with Jesus?
  8. What is a step you can take to better prepare yourself for coming persecution?

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]



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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

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Three Fears of Leaders

For God to really use you in ministry, you have to be willing and able to get close to people and enjoy real relationships with them. But for most believers around the world, it’s pretty apparent that we’re dying of relational isolation.

Many of our relationship problems are not really relationship problems; they’re personal problems that spill over into relationships. Many of our relationship conflicts, including conflicts with people within the church, are really personal conflicts and internal battles. If you want to have great relationships and therefore be a better leader, you have to start with some changes in yourself first rather than expecting everyone around you to change and fix your internal issues for you.

The Bible says in Romans 12:9, “Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it” (MSG). Authenticity is when “what you see” is “what you get.” It’s when you don’t play a role, you don’t wear a mask. Most People are afraid to remove their masks. Here are three reasons why.

We Are Afraid of Being Exposed

The fear of exposure is the fear that people will find out that you’re not really who you say you are. It is the fear of exposure that keeps us from being authentic.

We don’t mind our strengths being exposed. We don’t mind our capabilities being exposed. We don’t mind all the good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out about us is our weaknesses. We don’t want our insecurities exposed. We don’t want our sense of inadequacy exposed (and all of us have that sense of inadequacy). It’s part of being a human and ministry leaders are not exempt. We don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together.

The truth is nobody has it all together. So why do we pretend? Why do we fake it? Why do we wear masks? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one really knows what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself.” The reason it’s easy to wear a mask is because nobody really knows what you’re like on the inside. In the entire universe there is only one person who fully understands you. And, by the way, it’s not you. It’s God. You don’t even understand yourself.

If you really want to build deep, meaningful, satisfactory, intimate relationships you’re going to have to let people see your weaknesses. There is no other way. We can impress the people we lead from a distance but we can only influence people up close. And when we get up close, people see our warts and they see our mistakes and we don’t like that.

So how do you overcome the fear of exposure? You decide to walk in the light. The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 “If we live in the light as God is in the light then we can share fellowship with each other.” Fellowship is soul-to-soul interaction, heart-to-heart. The key to genuine fellowship in a marriage, in a friendship or any other relationship, is to live in the light.

We Are Afraid of Being Rejected

We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. Proverbs 29:25 says this “The fear of human opinion disables.” You spend much of your life trying to earn the acceptance of other people. The way you dress, the way you talk, the kind of car you drive and the house you live in. The fear of human opinion disables. But trusting in God protects you from that.

Why do we fear the opinions of other people, often people we don’t even know? Because we all have a deep desire to be loved. In fact, you don’t just have the desire. You need to be loved. You were created by God to be loved by God and by other people It’s one of the basic needs of your life – to be loved. So we spend our entire lives making sure we’re not unloved. And we’ll do anything to make sure we’re not unloved. It drives us to great extremes many, many times.

The antidote to a fear of rejection is to trust in God’s love. Don’t build your self-worth on another person who loves you conditionally. The Bible says in Daniel 10:19, “Don’t be afraid for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong.” And Psalm 56:11 says, “I trust in God so I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?

We Are Afraid of Being Hurt Again

The truth is you will be hurt in life many, many times. This is not heaven. This is earth where people get hurt. And you’re going to be hurt over and over and over. The important issue is what you do with that hurt. If you hold on to that hurt, it’s going to strangle the love out of your life. It’ll all go away. If you hold on to your hurt it will shrink your heart, harden it, and eventually turn it to stone. You’ve got to deal with the hurt so you can get on with your life.

There’s a sad process that goes like this:

  1. The more you have been hurt, the more you become afraid of being hurt again.
  2. The more you’re afraid of being hurt again the more defensive you become and protective.
  3. The more defensive and protective you become the more inauthentic a person you become.

We develop self-protective habits and build defensive walls around our hearts that nobody can get through. We actually push people away by all kinds of behaviors.

What happens to people who give in to the hurt and hold on to it? What happens to the people who don’t know how to let the hurt go? The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:17, “All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow and they end up sick, defeated and angry.”

The antidote to the fear of being hurt again is to let God give you a new heart. God is in the heart transplant business. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone.” Have you been on the defense because you have been hurt? Jesus Christ can give you a fresh start. He can move you from phony inauthenticity back into authentic relationships.

If you want to be a more effective leader and shepherd, it means being close to people. Being close to people means taking the risk of being exposed, rejected, and hurt. In the end, it’s a risk well worth taking. Jesus opened Himself up to people and He was rejected and crucified; but He also launched a world-changing movement and became the Way for people to know God and go to heaven.

If you want to lead, you’re going to get hurt, but you just might change the world in the process.

From: 3 Fears That Prevent Leaders from Being Authentic and Influencing People
By Rick Warren

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Why People Resist Change

Change is hard, people will fight to keep things the same, but why? Why is change so difficult? I was reading an article by Lynn Hardaway (with The Bridge Network of Churches) that brings a few key insights.

What can be done when your church’s core values have drifted away from what makes a church healthy? How can a pastor lead people back to Great Commission values? The first step is to understand why people in an established congregation resist change.

1. They do not feel a need to change.
Unless the church is in crisis, most members believe “all is well” and will not be responsive to the pastor’s pleas to adopt different values. An old adage from the farm says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can, however, mix a little salt with its oats!” Show them the benefits of change and the danger of refusing to change.

2. People prefer the status quo.
It is safe, comfortable and familiar; moving out of that safe zone to a new place risks giving up control and feeling vulnerable. You should lead them to stop looking at what “is” and to start looking at “what can be” and “what should be.”

3. They have vested interests.
Because some people have been resident members of the congregation for an extended period of time, they have accrued positions of power and influence. You and your ideas for change are new on the scene and, in many churches, you are merely the current pastor who will probably leave within a few years; why should they change their values for a temporary leader? This leads to the next reason people resist change:

4. They do not trust you, yet.
You will need some time and successes to build your credibility in their eyes before they will let you make organizational and behavioral changes. People want to know if you can be trusted, if you know where you are going, and if you are capable of leading them there.

5. Old values and traditions have become sacred to them.
Whether those traditions are grounded in the Scripture or not is irrelevant; they are closely tied to how your people understand and relate to God. We all know pastors who found themselves ostracized because they dared to challenge the “sacred cows” in a congregation. Preach the Word of God compassionately, carefully lead the people to understand the difference between biblical values and cultural forms of worship, and you may be able to lead them away from this unhealthy mindset.

6. People prefer the simple over the complex.
When you introduce healthy systems, such as assimilation and evangelism, it can create confusion and frustration in the minds of your members, and they will naturally resist what they do not understand. They do not have the time or expertise to grasp novel concepts, so you must go the extra mile in clarifying and simplifying the process for them.

7. All human beings are basically self-centered.
While Christian people aspire to selflessness, most of us will react to a new value or idea with the question, “How will this affect my life?” You must remind your people regularly that life is not about them; life is about God’s great passion to see lost people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Once you understand these seven reasons people resist change, you can begin the process of moving them from unhealthy values to healthy values.

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Cultivating Courage

I believe that God is calling for people of faith to courageously stand up for Him and His mission without the fear that binds us and drags us down to a level of mediocrity. Life is meant to be lived with boldness, not like a beer commercials but His faithful walking with the confidence that God is real, He has revealed His truth and will to us, and has given us a mission to accomplish.


Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. — Winston Churchill

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened. — Billy Graham

Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free. — Paul Tillich

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. — C. S. Lewis

Research has shown that one’s thought life influences every aspect of one’s being. Whether we are filled with confidence or fear depends on the kind of thoughts that habitually occupy our minds. — John Ortberg

Top 10 Steps to Cultivate Courage:

  1. Identify your calling.
  2. Identify your fears.
  3. Consider how your fears will thwart your calling.
  4. Consider the authority of Christ over your fears.
  5. Trust God’s ability rather than your limitations.
  6. Decide whether you want a life of compliance or rebellion.
  7. Always choose obedience in the face of fear.
  8. Join forces with other of similar calling.
  9. Remind yourself that God’s side wins.
  10. Embrace the adventure of a life of significance.

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With Fear and Trembling

Paul leaves Athens and makes his way to Corinth, about 50 miles away (Acts 18:1). He describes his arrival in 1 Corinthians 2, without eloquence or superior wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1), resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that he came to them in fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). Interestingly enough, Acts 18:9-10, reveal a vision given to Paul for him not to fear. While Paul had been in danger in many places, there is no biblical evidence that he ever before was warned in a vision not to be afraid.

It is likely that what happened in Athens affected him more than we expect:

  1. Few converts.
  2. Overwhelmed by pagan and polytheistic beliefs.
  3. They wanted to argue philosophy when Paul wanted to discuss the truth.
  4. These few converts failed to produce any fruit, no church was established.
  5. He spent his time in Athens alone.

While Timothy and Silas may have come as he asked, perhaps they were quickly sent elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Perhaps Paul just moved on in frustration. It is likely that Paul was focusing on the negative and lost sight of the positive. Have you ever done that?

Have you ever noticed how solitude can affect your state of mind? Perspective changes, we see that everything is bad and cannot see the silver lining. Insecurity can lead to immobilization; sadness turns into depression; intimidation turns into terror.

First Corinthians 2:1 indicates that Paul left Athens feeling intimidated. The child prodigy and former Pharisee must have felt humiliated by their harsh words, calling him a babbler (Acts 17:18). He resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), not relying on his persuasive abilities or theological speeches.

God taught Paul a lesson that day, that without the Spirit, no one can accept or understand the things of God, because to him they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:14). As we speak up for Christ, we cannot believe that we are foolish just because we were not persuasive enough. Paul was weak (1 Corinthians 2:3) which might be interpreted that he was so scared that he became ill. The man had lost his confidence. Perhaps he wondered if the fruit in other cities was the result of God blessing Silas or Barnabas rather than him.

The enemy would love to see God’s servants in self doubt, but Paul writes about a great demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4), which means proof. The abundant fruit produced through his preaching was proof of the Spirit’s power. God often proves Himself when we have the least to offer (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27).

Application: Perhaps God has opened a door for you and you lack confidence. Insecurity can hold people back from the ministry that God has planned for them. There are many wonderful promises in the Bible when we are weak: the Lord is our confidence (Proverbs 3:26), your strength will equal your days (Deuteronomy 33:25), My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Stand strong in the fact that God is the One at work in you, and the ministry He has for us will be accomplish through Him and not our own abilities, creativity, goals, action plans or strength. God has called us to be faithful and not necessarily successful, according to the world’s standards.

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Run Away or Trust God?

Paul and Barnabas shared quite a lot together. Today I’ll write about two episodes on their journey with different outcomes.

When they arrived at Iconium, as usual, the two would first go to the local synagogue (Acts 14:1), where the norm is that the Jews would begin to poison the minds of the people to prevent the gospel message from entering the hearts of the people (Acts 14:2). But our missionaries were faithful and fearless, proclaiming the gospel boldly and even working miracles among the people (Acts 14:3). Then comes the real trouble.

In their boldness you would think they would make their stand and trust God to protect them, but they did the unexpected, they ran (Acts 14:5, 6). Could not God have done a miracle to protect His witnesses? They were already doing signs and wonders, what’s one more to keep the ministry going? They fled and preached elsewhere.

God made these two smart. They were not running out of fear but responding with wisdom (Proverbs 22:3). Even Jesus would elude people who meant Him harm (John 7:1), and slipped away when the crowd picked up stones to kill Him (John 8:59). No one would mistake what Jesus did for fear or cowardice. Jesus explains that His time had not yet come (John 7:30). There was a purpose for miracles back in the day:

  1. Miracles were more for authenticating the message of the gospel than for divine intervention.
  2. Miracles were often used when natural means were either not available or not conceivable.

When the disciples were hungry Jesus did not do a miracle but usually found something to eat. When they were thirsty they would go to a well and draw water. Today, whether God uses natural or supernatural means to deliver us from danger, both or divine provisions. If you have ever been attacked or injured and wonder why you were not delivered, there’s more to this story of Paul and Barnabas.

On to Lystra for the next episode. Sometimes we think that one good miracle would convince people of the truth and get right with God, but it can also have a negative effect (Acts 14:11). After one miracle the people declared Paul and Barnabas to be gods, which was not their desired outcome. Not only were these two men smart, they were also sincere. They immediately spoke up declaring themselves to be mere men (Acts 14:14, 15). They maintained their integrity and did not allow the crowd to elevate them. A big miracle about now might have been helpful, but the people decided to cast stones at them, leaving Paul for dead (Acts 14:19).

I can imagine that the face of Stephen came into Paul’s mind as he was being stoned to death (Acts 6:15). But Paul endured this hardship and so much more, crediting God for delivering him from them all (2 Timothy 3:10, 11). I would rather be delivered before the first stone rather than after the last one, but Paul describes both situations as God’s divine rescue.

Remember that God did not just want to get Paul out of difficulty or danger; He wanted Paul to draw closer to Himself. That is the point each time we are delivered from a difficult situation.

Application: How many times have you felt that God had abandoned you in your time of need or distress? Your prayers just hit the ceiling and God was so distant. Remember that He promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, not necessarily to deliver us from that danger (Psalm 23:4). Do you see the miraculous in everyday life? How lives and relationships can come back together? How believers can respond to evil with good? Do you see God’s direction and protection as you walk through this antagonistic world? God gives us His wisdom and His presence. Walking with God may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.

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