Love or Fear
Sunday as we continued our series on Christian Atheism, we hit on what I consider the saddest topic in this series. I have found myself in this category before. I also have had close friends in ministry who fell into this category. Christian Atheism is defined as someone who believes in God, but in some area of life, lives as if He doesn't exist. The reason I find this week's topic so sad is because of the area in question.
I believe in God, but God can't love me.
In so many areas, the motivation behind our Christian Atheism is selfish. Things like arrogance, greed and pride top the list of reasons we are living like God doesn't exist. But this form of Christian Atheism is driven by one of the enemy's most powerful tools. Shame.
I do not believe God ever deals in shame. Certainly, the Holy Spirit will work in us to convict us, but there is a huge difference between conviction or shame. Conviction is when I am reminded by the Holy Spirit of God's standard and "convicted" or challenged to make the wrong right and restore that part of my relationship with God. Shame is much different. Shame carries a sense of fear and embarrassment, and it is shrouded in finality. Conviction says "God loves you but doesn't love what you are doing right now." Shame just says "God can't love you."
This is a blatant lie from the enemy that has so many people trapped. I have had friends in ministry who taught about God's love, mercy and grace and truly believed in it and believed it was available to everyone...except them. They lived with fear and shame of being "found out." They thought if the truth of their past ever came out, they would be disqualified not just from ministry, but from the kingdom.
The only way to unpack such an ugly lie is with God's truth. 1 John is addressing this fear and how living with this sense of fear is contrary to living in the Spirit. Listen to these words:
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:17-18 NLT)
Do you ever doubt if you are saved? Do you ever wonder if God can love you? Please hear this: Genuine Love confirms your salvation. Fear and Love in this case are like oil and water- they can't mix. We can love and revere God at the same time (Live in Holy fear or Awe of God), but we can not approach God in love and hide from God in fear at the same time.
Let me try to make it even more clear. I don't know your past, I don't know your mistakes. I don't know what you have done that would make you feel ashamed or afraid. And I don't have to. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and you have confessed your sins to God, you have no room left to be afraid. God's perfect Love is so vast and so all encompassing, that it leaves no room for fear.
What breaks the heart of God is when the mistakes of our past cause us to feel afraid in the present which keeps us from being used by Him to shape the future. God has a plan for you! He wants to use you for the sake of His kingdom. You are just who He wants to use in whatever situation He has for you, and the realities of your past don't disqualify you. In fact, in many cases, they uniquely qualify you. Where we are weak, that's where God is strong.
Does this mean you'll never make a mistake again? Does it mean that you'll never mess up? Does it mean life will always be easy from here on out- absolutely not! What it does mean is that when life happens, God will love you then just as much as He loves you now, and His grace will still be sufficient.
You are perfectly loved by God. The only thing keeping so many people from living in that love is fear. Which are you going to choose to live in. Because you can't live in God's love and hide from Him in fear at the same time. His perfect love casts out all fear. But the opposite is true too- living in fear will keep you from experiencing God's perfect love. The choice is yours. And in my opinion- I think the choice is easy.
But I can't choose for you.