Monday, March 1, 2010

Words of Encouragement

(are you ready to jump into life? What's holding you captive? Decide to be fearless today).

(Message from Virginia Prayer Retreat - 2/2010)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

What are you afraid of? There may be several different answers to this question.

Some are afraid of the dark, or of snakes or bugs. Some are afraid of those things they have no control over, such as illness or death. Some are afraid of doing something foolish in front of others, or looking bad. The underlying thing with all fear is a person’s inability to handle that fear and not knowing what the outcome might be, because of that fear. Fears are mainly related to what we think will happen. We are afraid of bugs because we think they will bite us and make us sick or hurt us. We are afraid of dogs because we think they may attack us. Some fears are based on previous experiences. If you were once attacked by a dog, now you are afraid of all dogs. So we are afraid or have fears of what we think may happen based on an event or situation.

There’s an acronym for fear. F=False E=evidence A=Appearing R=Real. Our fears are things that immobilize us because we are looking at evidence that we believe is real based on how it appears to us, and we respond to it even when it turns out to be false.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. - 1 John 4:13-21

Scripture background: This scripture, this entire book in fact, presents an overarching theme throughout the chapters. On one hand the scripture talks about our belief, our trust or faith. (we see that in 4:13-16). As we read these verses the key points are about us having the confidence or trust that we are in Christ. We have our testimony, our experiences, our understanding of God’s promises to reassure us of where we stand in God (we have our mind – our logical and reasoning processes, our hearts – our testimony and experiences, and soul – our assurance from God where the Holy Spirit bears witness with us). We have also the greatest thing, which is the love of God that dwells within us richly. Therefore we have several things in place to help us have the confidence in God and in our relationship with him.

Therefore this theme that runs through the scripture is: Belief (trust, faith) & Love (which is the perfect love of God) = strength for the believer to accomplish the things of God

But on the flip side: Fear (lack of faith or trust) results when reliance on love is absent. For example: If fear (false evidence appearing real) sets up in my heart or your heart, we begin to lose the trust or reliance on the Love of God which strengthens us. If my money situation is bad, health not so go, marriage in shambles, these things take on an appearance different than what they truly are. The truth may be these are things we are facing, but it is what we think about them that are not true and causes fear to set up in our hearts. The truth is God’s love for me is actively at work in those situations. The false evidence is that these things are going to over take me. They are going to destroy me and I’ll never recover from them. So fear sets in because we are afraid we have no control over those things in our lives and that somehow God has missed what is happening to us.

What things do we need to remember when fears grip us?

God is the source of all love (4:7-8) – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

We are not talking about emotional, temporary love. You know that kind of love, you love me then I’ll love you. You stop loving me, well then I’ll stop loving you. God’s love is unending. His love for us means God has committed himself, obligated if you will himself, to taking care of the needs of his children. In fact, we need to begin to believe that God finds pleasure in doing for his children. We need to think not of God as the “big Santa” in the sky that wants to give you everything you want. Because some things you want God is not going to give them to you because he knows they will make you a spoiled brat and he will not do anything that will cause you to separate yourself from him.

But he does desires to give his children good gifts. You can trust him. He tells us he is faithful to the faithful. If you were young, and have now gotten older can you say you have ever seen the Lord forsake his children or leave them begging bread? God is the source of all love. So when fears arise, we need to remind ourselves about the love of God for his children.

God models what genuine love is (4:9-10) – This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

When we forget what genuine love looks like we need to remind ourselves using God as the example. He loved us enough to send his son to die for our sins. He loved first. We did not decided one day to love God, but he first loved us. And that love drew you and I to him by the wooing of the Holy Spirit. It is then the example of what we should do, we should in turn love others, first. Not wait until they love us and treat us well, but love them first.

God commands us to love each other (4:11-12) - Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

God shows us how to love by his example. God’s very essence is love, therefore, when we belong to him, we are now equipped to love in return. It is our mandate to love those around us. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I know you are probably asking, what has any of this to do with fear? Good question, glad you asked. Fear keeps us locked up and away from allowing the love of God to flow through us not only in our lives, but it cripples us from reaching others as well. Fears make us look at ourselves and think, I cannot do that. I cannot pray for this one or that one. I cannot pray like sister “Call heavendown”, so my prayers will simply fall out my mouth and hit the floor. Someone once shared this with me, and now I share it with you. Think of your prayers as smoke, they’ll rise up from your feet and reach heavenward. God is not looking for impressive prayers, just honest, sincere loved laced prayers.

Fears also keep you from seeing yourself. You look at yourself through the lenses of your past. Though those events really happened, fear gets in and you believe that now every time you do something, you’ll get the results you got before. If you were mistreated, you feel if you trust someone you will get abused or neglected again. That does not have to be truth. And really, even if everybody mistreated you, God has already given you the promise that he will be with your always, even until the end of time. So truth is you are not alone. Fear says you are.

Let’s now turn our focus to the verse 4:18 - There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1. No fear in love – As I have been trying to present, fear counteracts love. Fear gets in the way of perfect love being utilized as well as love being accepted. If fear holds your heart it is like placing poison in your yard. The toxin (fear) taints the hearts soil. Therefore, when God plants his love within our heart, if the soil is not ready to grow the seed, it is difficult to bring forth good fruit from the seed God has planted.

2. Perfect love – The good news is perfect love (God’s love) drives out that fear. Perfect love is like a consuming fire that burns off the imperfections of fear. It’s like going into your yard and pulling the weeds out by the roots. Not just chopping the heads off. You think you are really doing something when you pull the heads off the weeds, until you come back a day or so later and see the weed growing again. In this instant the entire root is pulled up. But have you even pulled a weed out that had been neglected and grown big? Did you see how large a whole it left? If something wasn’t put in that whole, you still could have a change of a weed growing again. So you put in some rich soil and took care of it. Well that is what perfect love is, it is like that rich soil that God puts into that now large hole that is in our heart. He removes the hole caused by fear, and places his love there so we can become complete.

3. Fear – has to do with punishment. Punishment has several meanings, “sentence, penalty, chastisement, scolding, caution, concern or worry”. What is that fear associated with? Not necessarily the fear of hell, but the fear of falling short, or being sentenced by God, or being scolded. Fear has several levels that we are drawn into if we allow it to set up in our hearts. We begin to be concerned about something. As our minds dwell on that, we begin to feel as if we are being sentenced or punished for something. We begin to worry that this thing will not go away. If it continues to go unchecked, we can begin to feel as if God is punishing us for something. So we ask, God why me, why does this have to happen to me? If we do not check fear, fear can become all consuming and makes us ineffective, in our prayer life, in our witness and in every aspect of our walk.

4. One who fears is not made perfect in love (this is what fear does). This is the result of what happens when we let fear grip our hearts. We are not made perfect. I like the word “wonderful” in place here. This perfect doesn’t mean without problems (for we will continue to have those), but it means that when we allow fear to get in we do not let God do the wonderful thing in our lives, which is to make us look more like His Son.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. – 1 John 5:13-15

There is something that happens to our lives when we allow the perfect love of God to have control. What are those things:

1. We have confidence.

a. In worship – approaching God

b. In prayer - we can ask, and have faith we will receive

c. In our relationship – we know that God hears us, and that whatever we ask he will respond to us, thus we have faith in our relationship with our father, which helps us to become “fearless”.

2. We have love for others. – This love is what propels us to seek to help others even if it means sacrificing “self”. It helps us to do as Romans 12:1 states, “ 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

3. We have love for ourselves. – This love is what allows us to face the truth about ourselves. This love will allow us to see our shortcomings but this love casts out fear so we do not respond by trying to hide, or becoming afraid of a sentence against our lives. This love allows us to accept what Romans 8:1 states, there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.

What does it mean to be fearless?

Bold – bold in our witness (Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.")

Unafraid – (Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father.") you no longer walk timidly through life because you cannot figure everything out (walk by faith, not by sight). You are willing to let go of the false evidence and see your life and situations through God’s lenses.

Brave – you are willing to stand even in situations that you may not feel you are capable of, yet the love of God in you propels you to do it. I didn’t want to come here. I told the Lord, what will these women be looking for? They probably have had some really great speakers and they will be looking at me, and I’ll be looking at them. And I had just worked my way into a freezy. God had to tell me, Jewel, I am making you fearless. You can go anywhere I send you in my power and my strength. That is the truth. The false evidence appearing real is that you won’t be effective. But truth is, if God calls you to it, he will see you through it.

Daring – (Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.") You are willing to do things that others may be afraid to do or that others think cannot happen. You’ll be able to walk out on the water like Peter did. You are willing to see the possibility even in situations that seem impossible. The love of God in you, helps you to see you can do even the impossible.

Valiant (heroic) – John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.) You are willing to even lay down your life for what is right. That may not mean your physical life, but you are even ready to be misunderstood, mistreated, misrepresented, all for the cause of Christ. Why? Because you have the love of God in you which compels you to obey even if it means your own way of life is affect.

My question then to you today is this, are you ready to let go of fears and become fearless for the Lord? That means letting go of those wrong self-images. Letting go of past mistakes that keep you from stepping into what God has called you to do? Letting go of all that keeps you from functioning in the perfect love of God. If you really want to step out into the deep, but have been too afraid, now is your day. Let’s do that right now.