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Are You Afraid of God?

Or do you have the Fear of the Lord?

by David A. DePra

     Many Christians are afraid of God. They obey God, and even
say they believe Him, because they are afraid of His "punishment."
They are afraid He will punish them by bringing bad things into
their life, or by taking things away from them. So they live "good"
lives to avoid this "punishment."
     Despite the fact that being afraid of God is never the right
motive for obeying Him, Christian teaching has always served to
cement this error into the minds of most people. "Obey God or
go to hell for all eternity," has always been preached, one way
or another. It is so much a part of our religious mentality that to
suggest another motivation for obeying God sounds as if you are
removing all incentive for obedience. Afterall, who obeys God
simply out of love for Him? Sadly, very few of us.
     The fact is, many people, if they were no longer afraid of God,
WOULD disobey Him. They would do as they please. But where
that is the case, the problem is not the removal of incentive for
obedience. The problem is that they may have never seen the
Truth to begin with. If the only reason I do what is right before
God is that I am afraid of what He will do to me if I don't, well, then
I'd better ask God to start exposing me for who I am. I have yet to
take the first steps in God's grace and love.
     There is a "fear of God" which is commanded in the Bible, but
which has nothing to do with "being afraid of God." The proper
"fear of God" is reverence for Him. It means to ascribe to Him the
value He deserves -- which is infinite. Such a reverence of God
is the beginning of wisdom, because once I start treating God AS
God, it will filter down and affect my entire being.
     The wrong kind of fear is when I am AFRAID of God. Or it is
when I am afraid of something else DESPITE saying I trust God.
And this wrong kind of fear is NEVER of the Holy Spirit. "God has
not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound
mind." (I Tim. 1:7) If God has not given us the spirit of fear, then it
means we can stop trying to figure out whether our fear is of God.
He has already told us it isn't. We need to simply believe Him.

Standing by Faith

     Now believing is the hard part, isn't it? Yep. That's because
within us are many damaged emotions which constantly LIE to
us. And since most of us have been thoroughly trained to listen to
our emotions, and to take what they are saying as the truth, we will
have a battle on our hands if we try to stop listening to them. We
will be faced, on the one hand, with powerful, persuasive emotions
which lie, and on the other, with the still, small voice of the Holy
Spirit. It is just so much easier to listen to the "louder," emotional
     We must not. We must stand IN faith against the lies of our
emotions, intellect, and damaged perspective -- where these
contradict the Truth. And God will not do this FOR us. WE must
do it, by faith. WE must make that choice, and keep making it.

Dealing With Fear

     Fear is never of God. Ever. God never talks to us using fear.
Neither is there is anything in God which could incite fear in us. God
does that which is good for us. We need not fear His plan.
The way to deal with fear is the way we should deal with any lie:
Stop listening to it. Tune it out. Focus elsewhere. Treat it as a
bag of hot air which carries no weight at all. If we will do this, fear
isn't going to shut up altogether. No. The enemy will always try to
use it in our lives. But it will have less and less impact upon us.
We will less and less be moved by it, for we will know the
     It is the Truth which sets us free. That's because the Truth is
light. Light exposes all the lies for what they are, and then shows
us the reality to which they blinded us: Jesus Christ.
What this tells us is that the solution to fear is never to attack
and fight it. We cannot rid ourselves of fear by getting out a club
and beating it down. If we try this method, we will become more
focused on fear. And that's exactly what the enemy wants.
     Fight fear by neglecting it. But not in a passive sense. Neglect
it by speaking the Truth in your heart. Tune out fear by tuning in
the Truth. Then the light will shine and expose everything for what
it is.

Knowing the Truth

     When we say we must "stand by faith" in the Truth, this must
not be taken as some abstract, impractical thing. There will be
many choices we must make in conjunction with this stand. But
the real stand is in the inner man. I must refuse to be moved from
my unconditional trust in God. I must stand in the Truth.
     What if we don't know what the Truth is? What if we haven't
even reached the place where we know WHAT to stand in -- let
alone HOW to stand? Well, that's easy. You really aren't to stand
in truth as an idea or doctrine. You aren't to stand in a teaching or
concept. You are to stand in a PERSON! So if you don't know
what the truth is, as far as being able to articulate it, then stand in
GOD! Stand in the Person of Jesus! And refuse to be moved by
anything that would paint Him as less than perfectly faithful to you.
In time, if you'll stand, God will make you able to articulate these
things in an understandable way.
     It might seem scary to stand in Jesus Christ by faith even if
don't know what He is doing. Or even if we can't see where He is.
But Jesus Christ knows where we are. And God knows what He is
doing. It will become a normal part of our spiritual walk with Jesus
to have to walk by this kind of faith. If we go on with God, we are
going to find that out.

Afraid of God

     As mentioned, one of the greatest problems Christians have in
their spiritual walk is that the are afraid of God. Why? And how do
we stop being afraid of Him?
     The reason we are afraid of God is that we believe lies about
Him. ALL fear goes back to somewhere I have embraced a lie
about God. But the lies I've embraced do not have to be in the
form of doctrines or teachings. No. Spiritual lies are almost
always in the form of mental and emotional concepts. They are
almost always generated within me as a seemingly real
perception. I have this image of God, howbeit unspoken, which
terrifies me. I simply react that way; think about Him that way.
And it is unreasonable. I should know better, but I just can't seem
to help it. It affects my faith, my actions, and my peace and rest.
No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to see God any other
     This is, of course, deception and bondage. It is something
born into us through Adam. It is not an intellectual or emotional
problem. It is a spiritual problem. It is a problem of nature. We
can expect little else until God begins to set us free.
The wrong kind of fear of God, the Bible says, has to do with
"torment" -- or as the Greek indicates -- "PUNISHMENT." (I
John 4:18) But in order to grasp the full meaning of what John is
saying, we have to read the entire passage. For in it is a contrast
which explains that meaning.
God is love, and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in
him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness
in the day of judgment, 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 torment (punishment). He that fears is not made perfect
in love. We love Him because He first loved us. (I John 4:16-19)
     We are afraid of God, John says, if His love is not perfected in
us. And this fear has to do with "punishment." We will be afraid of
God because we will think that He is One who wants to punish us,
rather than save and redeem us.
     In contrast, if God's love is "perfected" -- (Greek: matured)
-- in us, then we will have "boldness in the day of judgment."
Why? Because we will know God loves us and is NOT out to
punish us. God is always seeking His best for us, and always
working towards redemptive ends.
     Thus, we see again WHY Christians have a wrong fear of God:
Rather than know He loves us, we see Him as a God who is out to
punish us. And so we are afraid of Him.

The Gospel of Fear

     The gospel which most of us have grown up with simply verifies
this wrong concept of God to us. Rather than a gospel of grace,
many of us have heard a "gospel of fear." We were told that, yes,
God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die for us. But we
had better believe it or God is going to punish us by sending us to
hell! And then piled on top of that we were handed a list of rules
to obey under this same threat of punishment. All of this, right in
the middle of sermons and teachings about the grace and love of
     This "gospel" is, of course, not THE gospel. The real gospel of
Jesus Christ is not a threat of punishment if you don't receive
Christ. The real gospel tells us that we are ALREADY dead. So
Jesus came to offer us LIFE. He came to do everything for us that
we cannot do for ourselves. And yes, if we refuse it, God will
judge us. But He won't need to "add" some kind of punishment.
He will simply judge us worthy of our own choice to die.
     The "gospel of fear" is one of the biggest lies which has ever
infiltrated the body of Christ. It gained public entrance once
church leadership sought to control those in the church for
financial gain, and out of a desire for power. They sought to
control by demanding obedience from people under threat of
God's punishment upon them. And it was easy to get people to
believe it, because, by nature, we are fearful creatures.
     We see this in the garden after Adam sinned. The first reaction
Adam had after the sin was to run and hide. He said, "I was
afraid." And remember: Adam did not have anyone to hide from
but God! Thus we see that being afraid of God is fundamental to
the sin nature. It is fundamental to who we are in Adam. A
"gospel of fear" is therefore a gospel which fits right into our
nature, and is easily embraced as the Truth.

A Spiritual Condition

     But why was Adam afraid? Fear is the direct result of living in
independence from God. It is the result of being disconnected
from the only source of security, light, life, and sanity in existance.
I fear because I am alone; away from home. I am lost; without a
Father. There was nothing in the original design of God for man
that would enable us to live in such a condition. But Adam
decided to do it anyways. And fear was one of the results.
     Fear is therefore a SPIRITUAL CONDITION. It is more than an
emotional state, or the result of intellect. Emotions and intellect
are merely the servants of spiritual fear. Fear is always rooted in
sin and death -- in what we are in Adam. And until we allow
God to bring us back to Himself, we will be bound to it in one way
or another. We will spend our lives compensating for our fear. We
will do all manner of things to try to cover our nakedness, just like
Adam tried to cover his. Many of them MAY be extremely
     So how do we stop being afraid of God? We stop being afraid
of God by growing to KNOW Him. If fear is the result of embracing
lies about God, then the solution is to believe the Truth about Him.
Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you
     Can we possibly imagine a God we are not afraid of? Can we
possibly imagine believing and obeying God for no other reason
than love for Him? The fact that these are almost foreign concepts
to us shows us how far afield Christianity has gone. The NORM
should be that we are not afraid of God. The NORM should be
that we believe and obey Him out of love. But this is not the norm.
The norm is to be afraid of God, and to develope a religious
pattern we think will appease Him.


     God is not out to punish us! He is out to redeem us. Even
when He causes or allows what we perceive as "bad things" to
happen to us, He does so for redemptive purposes. He is
chastising us as a loving, Heavenly Father.
     All of that being said, how do I grow to know God like that? If
the way fear is cast out is by love, then how to I grow to know God
loves me?
     Our passage in I John tells us, "We love Him because He first
loved us." God takes the initiative upon Himself to reveal to us His
love. He does this by dealing with us through His grace. In the
process of time, we grow to experience the love of God.
     Now make no question -- God does not force His love upon
us. There comes a point in each stage of spiritual growth where I
must choose to let go of the old and embrace the new. I must
dare to do so. But if God has brought me to such a place, I will be
able to do so. I will have what I need to make that choice. If I
make it, I'll find a greater freedom FROM the false knowledge of
God born into me through the old creation, and a greater freedom
TO the Truth in Jesus Christ.
     It is not possible for me to think of God more highly than He is.
It is not possible for me to overestimate His love, faithfulness, or
involvement in my life. It is not possible to presume God loves me
more than He does. Therefore, I can afford to abandon myself to
Him -- totally and unconditionally. I can't go too far.

For God So Loved

     There is absolutely nothing in God to incite fear in us. Nothing.
Thus, fear is never of God. This Truth stands at the foundation of
the gospel of Jesus Christ: "For God so LOVED the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him
should NOT perish, but have everlasting life. But God sent His
Son into the world, NOT to condemn the world, but that the world
through Him might be SAVED." (John 3:16-17) This passage
proves that God's motives towards us are always redemptive.
God is not out to punish us. He is out to save us. And He paid
the ultimate price to do so.
     Am I afraid of God? Probably at least on some level. But as
God exposes these fears which are in us, we can rejoice. For He is
giving us the opportunity to face these lies head-on, and to stand
in Christ against them. If we will choose to do so, we shall grow
to see the Truth and realize the freedom in Christ it brings. *

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