LESSONS INDEX

Fear Or Love, Which?

We may talk about trusting, and not really know just what is being discussed. It's sad, but some use language without really understanding the very words that they're actually using. So then, when we talk about trusting, just what do we mean?

Trust itself, is the conviction that something or other, is the truth. And this something could be:

Indeed, there are only two forms of motivation in life, fear or love. None other, just these two, fear or love. So what do you trust?

Unsurprisingly, false brethren rely heavily upon the use of fear to motivate people to do whatever it is that they have in mind to get others to do. It doesn't bother them that they haven't got anything on someone, as they'll simply make something up, which they use to sully another's character.

1 "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged. 2 For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Mt 7:1,2.

In the 7th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is warning his audience not to pass judgement upon others by trying to "read" their minds. No one can know what another is thinking, or what their motive is; no one. When the corrupt want to damage someone they don't like, and, not surprisingly, have nothing on them, they simply make something up, upon which they hope others will be turned away from them. After all, if they have nothing on someone, it doesn't matter, not really, for all they need to do is fabricate false evidence, and just keep on with their repititious lying; as usual.

But Jesus does let his audience know that there is a way of determining the true nature of someone. And He does this by looking at the evidence of the fruit of their labours to determine the nature of their characters:

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. 18 A good tree can't produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. 21 Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' 23 Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.' Mt 7:15-23.

The message that Jesus is spreading, refers to anyone who has an unquenchable thirst for Love and Grace, who has mastered the art of manifesting the fruit of the spirit. You know, the very thing that Jesus was teaching in the fifth chapter of Matthew, in this same sermon on the mount; the Beatitudes no less.

The teaching that we have come to know as the sermon on the mount, isn't a collection of independent statements. Rather it is a complete lesson in and of itself. Each part of the lesson, has a connection to the lesson as a whole. And the message is of two types of people:

...and the beautiful life that love manifests; as expressed in the beatitudes.

This problem of lying has ever been with us. It's been with us throughout history, and it'll continue to be with us until the end of time, because this has to do with evil. The apostle Paul was challenged with this problem during his own ministry in preaching the gospel. I mean to say, you would have thought that by the time Paul wrote the Galatians letter that the message would have gotten through to the saints. But no, that wasn't the case at all, as we may find out by reading what Paul had to write to the saints at Galatia:

1 For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, 2 if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; 3 how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, Gal 3:1-3.

The Apostle Paul is our great example of what it is to be a Faithful Christian.

So, what did Paul trust in?

Did Paul trust in his preaching to save him?

24 Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. 25 Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, 27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. 1 Cor 9:24-27.

No, Paul didn't trust in himself, that is, in his own nature, or whatever skills that he had, instead, he trusted in the blessings of God Himself to enable Paul to manifest the fruit of the spirit in his own life. These works that Paul did were considered Righteous by the fact that they were based upon the fruit of the spirit. Works that are without the fruit of the spirit, are the works of darkness, and darkness has nothing to do with walking in the light.

Paul understood that preaching the gospel could not and would not save him. Paul didn't put his trust in his works, that is using his scholarly background to put him in a favourable position with the God of heaven. Paul did use his earthly power to "serve" God before his conversion, he was your absolute bully, and he used this obnoxious "attribute" to get his own way with others. But, by the Grace of God, he eventually shunned the way of fear which evil people use, for he was converted by, and to, the power of Love.

Did Paul trust in his suffering to save him?

Let's be clear on this, after some have experienced hardship, there's likely to be a state of mind whereby they're convinced that because they have suffered so greatly in their service to God, that God will definitely save them. But, and it's a big BUT, Paul didn't fall for this Satanical deception, he knew exactly where he stood with his Heavenly Father. As we may read below:

16 I say again, let no one think me foolish. But if so, yet receive me as foolish, that I also may boast a little. 17 That which I speak, I don't speak according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many boast after the flesh, I will also boast. 19 For you bear with the foolish gladly, being wise. 20 For you bear with a man, if he brings you into bondage, if he devours you, if he takes you captive, if he exalts himself, if he strikes you on the face. 21 I speak by way of disparagement, as though we had been weak. Yet however any is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. 24 Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. 26 I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; 27 in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. 28 Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is caused to stumble, and I don't burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness. 2 Cor 11:16-30.

It seems to me that the reason that Paul was saying it was foolish of him to boast, was because they were supposed to know him. How weird it is when those who are supposed to know a person well, are easily swayed to a contrary view by the reputation-shredders. It's not a good thing to dwell upon, but there are many who are easily led to believe that which is patently untrue concerning decent people. Why is this? Is it because they're afraid of standing up for the truth? Is it because they haven't given of themselves to loving Righteousness, simply because it's the right thing to do?

6 For if I would desire to boast, I will not be foolish; for I will speak the truth. But I forbear, so that no man may account of me above that which he sees in me, or hears from me. 7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted excessively. 8 Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Cor 12:6-10.

Paul, like so many of us, was distressed by the "thorn in the flesh" that was sent to keep him from thinking too highly of himself. And if a man of Paul's calibre needs to have that which keeps him from becoming "exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations" he had experienced, how much more so for the rest of us!

Maybe we should have a little (at least a little) humility in accepting the problems that seem to afflict us from time to time. We may never fully know this side of Eternity, what a blessing our frustrations have been in keeping us in the Light where Righteousness dwells in abundance. Problems which have kept us from becoming too full of our own "importance."

Did Paul trust in the personal approach by Jesus to save him?

1 But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. 4 He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5 He said, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do." Acts 9:1-6.

And how many there are who think that the God of Heaven has chosen them for a great work. They only have this view of themselves, and by themselves, but Paul had someone else sent to him after the meeting with Jesus. There was a third party, Ananias, who the Lord sent to Paul. The Lord uses men to carry out His Will, and in this case it was the Lord Himself who was speaking to Ananias:

15 But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake." 17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. 19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. Acts 9:15-19.

So, Ananias was sent to Paul, even though he was fearful, but the love of God led Ananias, whereupon he was able to inform Paul how he could enter into saving Grace, through baptism. However, Paul didn't look upon his "Damascus road" experience as a personal guarantee of salvation.

Did Paul trust in his position as an Apostle to save him? Let us take notice what he wrote to the brethren at Galatia:

8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. 9 As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any gospel other than that which you received, let him be cursed. Gal 1:8,9.

Paul understood that being an apostle didn't allow him to be sloppy in the living of his life as a christian, even as an apostle. He knew only too well that mankind is sinful, and it's by the Grace of God, that one walks in the light by God's Grace, which is where our assurance is. It is not our fear of punishment, it's our love of the truth where the power to live the life of the Righteous has it's origin. Paul wasn't trusting in a fear of punishment, but was trusting in the fulfilling of his love of the truth as it was manifested in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ; by His Grace.

The one thing that Paul trusted and gloryfied in, was the Grace of God:

8 For we don't desire to have you uninformed, brothers, concerning our affliction which happened to us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, so much that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us out of so great a death, and does deliver; on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us; 11 you also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; that, for the gift bestowed on us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on your behalf. 12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you. 2 Cor 1:8-12.

Paul was the kind of man who understood that of himself he would be pretty well out on a limb when it comes to surviving in this wicked world. And he had this delightful grasp of how much he was dependant upon others for the simple things in life. To Paul, Grace wasn't a word that had lost its meaning by thoughtless usage. To Paul, Grace was the power of God in practical terms that led him to be able to serve his Lord effectively. And, this same Grace is what led others into giving generously during his many times of personal trauma.

Paul told the Ephesians that we are saved by Grace through faith, not of your selves:

8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, that no one would boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. Eph 2:8-10.

Fear, or Love? It isn't too difficult is it, when you think about it, that fear has nothing to do with Grace. Whereas, Grace has everything to do with Love. As Paul points out, "created in Christ Jesus for good works," The good works of Love that is living within the hearts of the redeemed, by His Grace of course. The world's fear, has been transcended by the Almighty's Love. And surely this is the one and only authentic motivation that has the power to manifest the Love of God in one's heart.

But what was Paul's mindset towards the end of his life?

5 But you be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. 8 From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing. 2 Tim 4:5-8.

There's nothing quite like facing eternity for bringing reality to mind. Not in all people, but at least to the fortunate "some," who face up to eternity before the end of their life. For these "some," they may experience the joy of insight. This is where we may become so clear in our thinking that it may even leave us gasping at our good fortune. This is all of God, not ourselves, it's the Grace of God. It's at times like this that we're brought to the point of seriously assessing the difference between, fear or love. Which Motivation are we likely to follow?

The choice we follow will depend upon what we've been nurturing in our hearts in our quiet moments, during the times when we are by ourselves and are reflecting upon the mercy and grace of our heavenly father. This isn't something that can be forced upon anyone, it's what we do of our own volition. This is what Paul did, and it's what we too may do, for we are following the same Loving and abiding God who is full of Grace.

How do we get into the faith? What shall we do? Let us read what Peter's answer was on the day of Pentacost:

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself." 40 With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation!" 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer. 43 Fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together, and had all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. 46 Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:37-47.

What a day! The crowd were shocked and dismayed that they'd crucified their very own Messiah on the cross on Calvary, "Fear came on every soul...Acts 2:43a." However, Love was in the air, along with Grace, and Mercy too. The Love of God inspired the people on that day to take advantage of the Mercy of the One Who dwells in Light, and, what's more they did take advantage of it; by God's Grace.

It is in Jesus only that we have redemption:

13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love; 14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; Col 1:13,14.

And when people submit to the mercy of our Heavenly Father, as Paul found out, and as those who hunger and thirst after Righteousness today, may also find out, His Mercy is still available to all who are willing to take advantage of it, even in our day and age. Therefore, with the example of this extroadinary life of the Apostle Paul, his advice is surely of great worth, which is;

Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1.

So, ...let us embrace Paul's exhortation to imitate his imitation of Jesus, ie, living a life of Love, as members of His Kingdom. For, this is the Faith that keeps the God of Heaven in our hearts, for our peace of mind and eternal well-being. And as the apostle John put it so clearly;

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18.

So beloved, be attentive and resolute, in that which you choose to trust in...

GROWING INTO HIS LOVE



LESSONS INDEX