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Ten Biblical Facts About Fear

By David A. DePra

One of the continual battles for each Christian is against fear -- against being AFRAID of God.   Thus, it is profitable to realize what the Bible reveals about this matter.

(1) "The fear of the Lord," does not equal, "being afraid of God."

There is a huge difference between, "the fear of the Lord," and BEING AFRAID of God. They are, in fact, polar opposites. "The fear of the Lord," is a REVERENCE for Him. It is the result of recognizing the sovereignty of God. But when I say, "recognize," I mean this in more than a doctrinal way. "The fear of the Lord," is actually the product of having received a REVELATION of Him. It is the result of KNOWING Him. It is not possible to know God without revering Him. And it is not possible to revere God without surrendering to Him.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Prov 9:10)

In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. (Prov 14:26)

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. (Acts 9:31)

Being afraid of God, however, is based on a lack of the true knowledge of God. It is the result of NOT trusting God. If I am afraid of God, this might result in my altering my conduct according to what I think will appease Him. But this is not reverence. It is actually unbelief.

(2)  "The fear of the Lord" makes us want to be near God.

We can always tell the difference between, "the fear of the Lord," and, "being afraid of God." The true FEAR OF THE LORD makes us want to draw near to God. It makes us want God. That is because the fear of the Lord is based in a tremendous reverence and value that we see about God. Reverence for God will always draw us to Him for our needs. And when we fail, reverence for God will always draw us to Him for restoration.

"Being afraid of God," however, will not result in us drawing near to God – although we might religiously come to God because we are afraid NOT to. But basically, being afraid of God makes us want to hide from Him. Even if we approach Him, we will do it wearing a mask, or wearing whatever we think will shield us from His supposed anger. In short, reverence for God will result in us standing before God naked and unashamed – because of Jesus Christ. But being afraid of God will result in us standing before God naked and ashamed – we will try to cover our true condition, because we are afraid to confess it to God.

This takes us back to the original sin of Adam. BEFORE the sin, Adam was naked and unashamed. This tells us that God created Adam that way -- naked and unashamed. In other words, God created Him to have no resources in himself (naked), but to be completed by God (resulting in being unashamed). This was GOOD. Adam was created as a naked creature – but one who God intended to be completed in Himself. This resulted in Adam having no consciousness of his nakedness – Adam was unashamed. But AFTER the sin, we find that Adam is still naked, but is now fully ashamed, or conscious of need. Why? Because he was no longer completed by God.

If you read Genesis 3, you will find that the fundamental characteristic of Adam AFTER the sin is that he was afraid. He was afraid of God – hiding from him among the trees of the garden. Adam was not willing to come out and be exposed before God – he instead tried to hide his nakedness. This is an apt description of spiritual death. Man hides from God and does not want to confess his true condition. He is afraid of God.

John writes, "This is condemnation, that light has come into the world, but men loved darkness, rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Reverence for God will motivate us to love light rather than darkness. We will stand in the light before God, naked. But because we revere God, we will know that He wants to complete us. But if we are afraid of God, we will stand back in the dark, and try to cover ourselves – like Adam did with, "fig leaves." We might even get religious with God. But in the end, being afraid of God will motivate us to love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil, and we don’t know or trust God to restore us.

It is amazing how many Christians are afraid of God, but do not revere Him. And it is amazing how many actually think that if you are NOT afraid of God, that this will result in disobedience. No. The reality is, if you are afraid of God, you are ALREADY in unbelief. Any obedience will likely be out of the wrong spirit – perhaps the result of being, "under the law." But if you do revere God, you will want to obey Him. And you will do it in faith.

Being afraid of God will make me want to hide from Him – one way or another. Reverence for God will make me want to draw near to Him. And if we are willing, the Holy Spirit will begin to make us aware of which is our motivation.

(3)  All of the wrong kind of fear of God goes back to somewhere I am believing a lie about Him.

The wrong kind of fear of God is being afraid of Him. But I will not be afraid of God if I believe the Truth about Him. I will revere Him. Thus, if I am afraid of God, it is because I believe errors and lies about Him.

I am speaking here about more than DOCTRINES. It is quite possible to believe all of the right doctrines – to believe that GOD IS LOVE, etc., but to nevertheless be governed by a spirit of fear. To believe the Truth about God I must receive a revelation of Jesus Christ. And this will result in a progressive growth – I will come to revere God, and not be afraid of Him.

If you feel cut off from God, or afraid of Him, you can be sure that you are presently operating under a lie. It may not be a lie that you can articulate, but it is a lie. Perhaps you simple FEEL AFRAID of God – and therefore you think that what you feel must be the Truth. If this is the case, then the lie you believe are the feelings you feel.

We cannot believe with our emotions. We cannot bring forth any Truth at all from our emotions. Emotions are of the natural man, and not the depository of Truth or life in Christ. Our emotions are REACTING agents. Because of that, even though we cannot believe WITH our emotions, it is possible to believe the emotions themselves. We are all prone to doing this – it is how natural man operates – and so the enemy will use our emotions as a tool against us. This is one of his devices, and all Christians need to be aware of it.

It is entirely possible for you and I to FEEL a certain way and to paste this on God – and then believe HE feels this way towards us. I call this, "the mirror effect." We have reactions on an emotional or intellectual level, and we think that this is the face of God. But it is US – it is nothing more than our own reflection looking back at us. God, on the other hand, is something entirely OTHER than this. He is completely OUTSIDE of this box – of this reality – that we have created for ourselves.

When we believe our emotions, our faith is in our emotions. In effect, our faith is in ourselves. But WE are not the source of Truth – Truth is not manufactured by our brains, our emotions, or our personality. Truth is a Person who exists outside of us. But once Christ is in us, even then we must spend a lifetime having our minds renewed according to the Truth. We must constantly grow in a revelation of Christ. Hopefully, this will eventually bring our emotions into line. But it will never happen perfectly. It will always be an issue and a battle.

We need to come to terms with the fact that everything we believe about God and everything we believe about ourselves could be dead WRONG. Again – I am not here speaking so much about doctrine as I am about our personal, functional, everyday operational knowledge of God. It doesn’t matter how sure we are about it, nor does it matter how comfortable or at rest we are in it. There are Christians today who are totally deceived about God – they are totally governed by being afraid of God.

Believing a lie about God will always result in wrong fear because once the lie governs me, I will be operating upon a completely wrong basis. Of course, it is possible to believe a lie about God and to be at peace with it. But this peace is a faηade – only in place until the Truth disturbs it. The real peace of God is always solidified by the Truth, and the real peace of God is always based on a reverence for Him.

It is not possible to KNOW GOD, and to BELIEVE GOD, and yet be afraid of Him. Thus, if I am afraid of God it is a wake up call. God is calling me to Himself – to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ.

(4)  To the degree that I trust God, I will revere Him. To the degree that I trust God, I will not be afraid of Him.

It is impossible to really TRUST someone that you are afraid of. You might obey them out of the wrong kind of fear, but you won’t trust them. Faith in God must come back to some measure of KNOWING HIM. In short, you have to know that God is trustworthy if you are going to trust Him.

If you have seen the Truth about God, it is certain that your faith is going to be tested and proven. God will see to this so that your faith might be PROVEN TRUE, and made stronger and more pure. But when you are tested, if you drift back into fear, there is always one reason – you have somewhere lost faith. The moment you begin to doubt the faithfulness of God to you, things fall apart. The moment you lose reverence for God, the spirit of being afraid of God will come in.

This is because faith in God is a foundation – it is for salvation, and it is for everything else. Therefore, if we begin to doubt God, the foundation for everything that is of God is broken. The wrong kind of fear will immediately come in. We will be afraid. The only solution is to get back to believing.

Of course, "believing," isn’t simply a state of mind that I create to shield myself from unpleasant thoughts. It is not some kind of self-brainwashing that I perform. Neither is believing something I do lest I make God mad at me because I am not believing. Faith is always based on the Truth. I am believing because it is the Truth. And in the end, even if I have little understanding, I can trust the One who does understand. Faith is a relationship word – faith is in God. It is always possible to turn and believe.

Because faith is a relationship with God, to the degree that I believe, I will not be afraid. To the degree that I doubt, I will be afraid. This is because faith and unbelief speak of my relationship with God Himself. So if my relationship with God is skewed, it will show in my reverence, or in the wrong kind of fear. It all comes back to myself and God.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Ps. 46:10)

(5)  The wrong kind of fear goes back to faith in the WRONG thing.

Because man is created dependent, we will be dependent upon something. If not God, then something else. Usually, if we are not dependent upon God, we are dependent upon ourselves.

Trust in ourselves will always result in us living in fear. This is because our faith is only as strong as the object of our faith. Thus, if we have real faith in God, we will not be afraid. But if we have faith in ourselves, we will be afraid. We know how unfaithful we are.

There is, however, another level of deception here. Many of us, "have faith in our faith." We trust in our ability to believe God. In other words, if we, "believe that we are believing God," we feel confident – now we believe! But if we feel like we are not trusting God, then we fall to pieces. Yet all of this is deception. It has nothing to do with faith in God Himself.

Many of us look inwardly, and try to find faith in God in ourselves. And if we find it, we say, "This is good. I do believe God. So I am fine." But if we see doubt in ourselves, we say, "I am not believing God. This means God is not pleased with me. I’m in trouble." But if you notice what is really happening here, we are treating faith as if it has a mind of it’s own – we are treating it as if faith is something that HAPPENS IN US – almost as if we are victims. In reality, none of this has anything to do with faith. What we are dealing with here is really emotional, or intellectual. It is not faith.

Faith is in GOD. It is trust and dependence, indeed, surrender to Him. This is beyond all of the emotion conditions possible for us. One of the works of the Holy Spirit is to cut through all of these possibilities in our natural man and to separate soul from Spirit. In the end, it will be possible to feel completely faithless, but yet believe and revere God. That is freedom.

Faith in our faith, faith in our ability to believe, faith in our spiritual maturity, faith in our works, faith in our Bible knowledge – all of these won’t solve the wrong kind of fear. They may MASK it – because if you really DO have faith in the wrong thing, you might feel good or safe. But eventually, if the mask is torn off, you will be afraid. The crutches will be kicked out from under you and fear will come in. And yet even this – if we turn to God – will be a GOOD thing. It will be the path to freedom.

(6)  The wrong kind of fear is NEVER of God. Ever.

John writes:

God is love. (I John 4:16)

He also writes:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

So let’s, "do the math." If God is love, and perfect love CASTS OUT fear, then God casts out fear – His presence will absolutely cast out fear. Therefore, how much of the wrong kind of fear – that of being afraid of God – can possibly come from God? Zero. Sure. Indeed, the wrong kind of fear is precisely what God casts out!

Have we recognized this great Truth? That every single scrap of being afraid of God is NOT from God? That all of this is a LIE – whether from the enemy, or from our own ignorance and unbelief?

God inspired other passages on this matter:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)

We are being told point blank that a spirit of fear is never given to us by God. Ever. But we are told that what God DOES give is power, love, and a sound mind. So how much fear is of God? None. It is NEVER of His Spirit.

Does this give you a glimpse of just how deceived we all are? Does it give you a clue as to just how far man has fallen, and how far Jesus intends to bring us back? We are literally GOVERNED by fear – we saw that in the garden with Adam after the sin. But God says that NONE of that is of Him. And He wants to get us to the place where we are governed, not by being afraid of God, but by reverence and love for Him.

John also writes:

We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Here we see that it is useless to try to, "generate love," up to God. No. You must first RECEIVE. And yet if we do receive Christ, and grow in Christ, the result is going to be, not being afraid of God, but loving God.

Religious man – and this has always been a big problem in Christianity – thinks that God cannot keep man in line except through threats of punishment. But the revelation of the Bible is that, "the love of God constrains us." In short, Christians are to obey God because we revere and love Him. This requires a changed nature.

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)

(7) Fear and Love go back to the foundations of Christianity.

Think about the person you love most – a spouse, a child, a parent, etc. Why would you NOT forsake them, or turn your back on them? Well, because you LOVE them. This is an echo of our relationship with God. Yet don’t you continue to have free will? – don’t you have the free will ability to forsake them? Sure you do. But you won’t – because of love. Likewise, on a greater plane, Christians do not relinquish their free will when they give their lives to Christ. Thus, our salvation is eternally secure -- not because we cannot choose to reject Christ, but because if we are truly converted, we WON’T reject Christ. Love and reverence have replaced enmity. I am talking here about true conversion.

He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)

John had already told us, "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us." John knew Christians sin. So that is not what he is talking about here – he is not talking about SINS here. He is talking about THE SIN of unbelief – of rejecting Christ. That is why he uses the Devil as an example of this – the sin of the Devil being the ultimate sin. John is saying that if you are truly converted to Christ, you got that way be forever repenting of unbelief. So you won’t commit that sin. Yet this is not because you have no free will. It is because you love God.

Those who believe you can lose your salvation do not understand what salvation IS. Or perhaps they have simply never asked the question and therefore have assumed error is the Truth. Or perhaps they just don’t know. Sometimes such folks think that Christianity is merly a religion to obey, and that salvation is a legal classification to maintain. But this is not a confusing issue in the word of God:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Rom 8:15-16)

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)

Salvation belongs to the Lord – and is Christ in us. This is eternal.

Now, of course, all of this ties back into the, "God side," of love. We love Him only because He first loved us. So no matter how much we think we love God, it cannot approach His love for us. Everything having to do with salvation comes back to that as the beginning.

And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Rom 5:5-11)

The wrong kind of fear comes back to not understanding salvation, grace, and much else that is foundational to Christianity. Being afraid is often the result of believing these gifts are dependent upon OUR works.

Much wrong fear comes back to believing that God is a God to be afraid of, and not a God to revere and love. It comes back to believing love, grace, and salvation are CONDITIONAL – conditioned upon US maintaining them. But love is never conditional. It never depends upon us. This is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God IS love, and therefore God Himself casts out fear. It is therefore a fact that if I am afraid of God, or think that His love for me is based on my works, then I am not seeing the Truth. Fear is never of God. Ever.

(8) Fear is a spirit, not an emotion.

We read earlier how Paul told Timothy that God has not given us, "a spirit of fear." Our emotions can react and we can FEEL afraid. But underneath it all, fear is a spirit. It is of another realm. It is the governing spirit where the Holy Spirit is not present.

Again – we saw this with Adam. The moment Adam forsook God, fear came in. The moment Adam no longer depended upon God, he was afraid. Man without God is a fearful creature. Being afraid is always the result of being dependent, but not depending on God.

We need to realize that there IS another realm, and a person named Satan, who seeks to ruin all that Christ has for us. And often FEAR is what he uses. If Satan can get us to believe that fear is telling us the Truth, then he will set us down a path that will lead to greater and greater darkness. Only if we turn and believe God can this be averted.

The solution to fear is to see Jesus. He said:

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Rev 1:17-18)

(9) Conviction of sin never makes us afraid. It leads us to reverence.

When God convicts us of sin it is never for the purpose of condemnation. (Rom. 8:1) It is for the purpose of illumination -- about our condition so that we might turn to Him. God is redemptive in nature. He is always seeking us out and wanting to lead us into all Truth. If we open ourselves to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, what we will see is not only the Truth about ourselves, but the Truth about God. This will result in reverence.

Condemnation applies to those who reject Christ – knowing what they are doing. (Jn. 3:19) They are being convicted for the purpose of freedom from sin, but refuse. This leaves them with no recourse. It is not a one time sin, but a life time sin. They sometimes run and hide from God, but did have an opening – did have enough Truth to turn to Him. Other times they are perfectly comfortable with their hardness. They did not lose salvation, but refused salvation.

For a born again person, condemnation does not apply, but chastisement does. The removal of condemnation from our vocabulary does not mean God approves of all that we do. Rather, it means that we are on another basis – God will chastise us as sons and daughters. But this is for our good – it is not a punishment in wrath.

The fact that people accuse God of being angry and of being quick to punish them does not make Him so. This is nothing more than the spiritual equivalent of a child resenting the chastisements of a parent – they blame the parent of being unfair. No. God is always fair and just. Part of conviction is to show us this.

Condemnation will always make us want to run and hide from God. We will be afraid of Him because of the spirit of fear that is behind false condemnation. But conviction will always draw us to Christ. It is important, therefore, for each believer to realize that all condemnation was dealt with in Christ, and thus, in Christ, there is no condemnation. (Rom. 8:1) Unless we get these basic Truths settled we will not be able to walk rightly in the gospel of grace.

(10) We don’t overcome fear by fighting fear. We overcome fear by knowing and revering God.

The more you try to fight fear, the more you focus upon it, and the bigger it will seem. The real key to being afraid of God is to know and believe Him. If we do that, fear will dissipate.

What this comes back to is getting certain issues settled once and for all. If I get those issues about God settled, I will no longer be moved by fear. For example, is the finished work of Jesus really finished? It if is, and I believe that, then I will not be moved by suggestions that it is NOT finished. Does God love me unconditionally? If so, then I will not be moved by the lies that suggest that His love fluctuates based on my works.

Fear is probably not going to stop coming at me. There is always going to be that voice trying to make me afraid. But I can treat it like a radio that is playing in a room – but one that I am not really listening to. Rather, I can turn up the volume on the Truth. Then fear cannot more me away from faith in Christ.

They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides for ever. (Ps. 125:1)

The solution to fear is to see the Truth about God – that God is love, and that God is faithful. This is much better than to spend all time and energy trying to make fear go away. No. The light will drive out the darkness – you cannot just fight darkness. You must have light. Thankfully, Jesus promised that if we continually seek God, the Holy Spirit will bring us light and Truth.

Jesus said, "Fear not. It is I." This is the solution. God will bring us into situation where we must face our fears – because this equals facing lies and places where we lack faith. And if we do face them, we will overcome them in Christ. The result will be a growing knowledge of Jesus Christ and freedom from the lie of fear.

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