(Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, ThD)
Lately, I’ve had friends and relatives express great fear over what is happening to the culture of our country, the USA. They take a very pessimistic view of events, especially in the last few years. They betray great fear that we are doomed, and seem to have given up hope. I hope, by the Triune God’s grace, to dispel much of this fear. Most people don’t know what it means to be really, really fearful. I do. There were times in Vietnam that I expected to die, immediately, or soon. I told the Lord on several occasions something like this: “Lord, if my Seargent tells me to expose myself by running in the open from one fox hole to another, I have to do it. It is Your job to direct the outcome, whether life, death, or maimed, preferably not maimed.” At times, I was so scared that if I had had anything in my stomach, it would have come out. In other words, there is a natural fear we all have of dire circumstances. This is not what the Lord Jesus meant when He told His disciples not to fear. Indeed,
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28 NKJ).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7 NKJ). (One who is not fearful of God Almighty is not brave; he is a fool.)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10 NKJ).
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid” (Matt. 17:5-7 NKJ)
This is the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain top. When He shown with the brightness of the sun, they were naturally fearful—as you and I would be! Indeed, after the resurrection whenever the Lord Jesus appeared to people, their natural response was fear! One great problem (among a hundred more) I have with the Word-Faith movement is the cavalier relationship they claim to have with Jesus after His resurrection. For example, Kenneth Hagin claims that he was watching TV when there was a knock at his house door. When he went to the door, Jesus was standing there asking to come in. He did, and they watched TV for a while and had a discussion about miracles. Jesus allegedly said, “I’m going to give you a formula that whatever anyone wants (not “needs”) from me, if he’ll do these five things (or four, memory getting old), he will ALWAYS get what he wants.” If I may be blunt: That is a lot of crap. When people saw Jesus after His resurrection, they were filled with fear, raw, unadulterated, knee-knocking fear.
Recall the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road when Jesus appeared to him as pure light (Acts 9:4-9; 22:6-15; 26:12-16), and Paul was blinded for several days. Likewise, when heavenly angels appeared to those in Holy Scripture, they were very fearful (Luke 1:10-13), and when Jesus did appear to His disciples in the enclosed room He immediately said “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). I could go on, but the point I’m making is that we are to fear God, not humans, and not even Satan or demons.
Put yourself in the upper room. Jesus suddenly appears. Will you give Him a high-five, shake His hand, or fall at His feet and call Him Lord? Fear and respect go together. The way to eliminate fear is by perfect love:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:18 ESV). If you’ve had a divorce, you know the truth of this verse. Broken love smothers one with fear, fear of the future, fear of one’s ability to love, fear in raising kids, fear of pursuing another relationship, and so on.
And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified” (Matt. 28:4 NKJ).
But what I’m driving at indirectly is that the One we fear is God, not so much humans. Recall David who went out to meet Goliah. He did not express fear but confidence in the LORD His God. That is what we need in times like these. We have ungodly fear of God’s and our enemies. Who do these uncircumcised reprobates think they are in challenging the Most High God the Father and the Most High God the Son and the Most High God the Holy Spirit, one God eternally existing in three equal persons, the same in substance and glory. Now for some encouragement.
Recall what Jesus said about the Church and the kingdom of God.
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:14 NKJ)
“Hades” is the kingdom of darkness. “Gates” are the defensive structure to keep the Church out. The image is one where the Church is assaulting Satan’s kingdom, and he is trying to keep us out, which is the fulfillment of Israel attacking the city of Jericho. In both cases, the gates fall, and the Church, under the authority and Crown rights of His sovereign majesty the King of kings, kicks in the gates and takes over by the power of His gospel to change the hearts of people. Do you recall the heretic Rev. Ike? He had a saying he often used in his radio broadcasts: “You can’t lose with the stuff I use, and the stuff I use is mind-power.” Well, we can’t lose with the power of the Gospel. Our problem is not power or weapons or lack of peace; rather, it is fear. But “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJ). What can stop this from happening? Christ is omnipotent. Christ is omnipresent. Christ is omniscient. Who can conquer that? Who can resist Him? Thus, we see that it is infallibly impossible to stop the Church. We have basically two problems: lack of faith and the presence of fear.
Our pessimistic eschatology has frozen us in fear. I don’t suggest you try this, but I live in the country. The closest neighbors are 300 yards behind us, and are very nice people. They love animals and have goats, guineas, turkeys, big dogs, horses, and other mouths to feed. The big dogs came up to the fence and barked like they would eat us alive. One day I tested them by running straight at them. Guess what? They tucked their tails and ran. Likewise, consider the devil:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 NKJ)
I don’t want to underestimate our enemy the devil, but Paul gives us the most detail about confronting the devil and the antichrist than anyone else. Now, have you ever seen a demon? I have, sort of, at least I’ve seen them through humans who were possessed, and I can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience. The last thing I want to do is present myself as an exorcist; that is scary work. But to make a long story short, I was stationed at Ft. Stewart, GA 1969 to finish my last six months in the Army after Vietnam. I got to be very good friends with a man who married a Ruth (like I did) about three months after I did, and he spent most of his life as a missionary to Japan. (I won’t mention names.) We had Bible study one night a week at the chapel on base, and a young man who was going to kill himself came. He said virtually nothing at the weekly Bible study when we got on the topic of demons. Then the following Sunday, after the liberal chaplain preached, my friend and I hung around the chapel talking about the Lord Jesus. Then this young man walked into the chapel, which gave us three people in the chapel. He said: “I was going to kill myself when I came to your Bible study as sort of a last resort because I’ve been talking to someone inside me.” When we began to pray, invoking the name of Jesus, he was thrown on the floor, his eyes rolled back in his head, and a deep voice said, “I’m going to kill you,” saying it several times. After a few minutes, he sat up, his eyes cleared, and he said: “What happened?” I said, “Buddy, you’re in big trouble. You better believe in Jesus quick.” He did, and from that moment he was not only delivered, but his whole countenance radiated Jesus. He led more people to the Lord than all the rest of us combined. “He who is forgiven much loves much.” So what is the point: We need not fear the dark side for Jesus is Lord, right now. Yet there is a scary part of the dark side that is too detailed for a short article like this.
Recall Ephesians 1: (1) The Father chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6); (2) the Son redeemed us 2,000 years ago (Eph. 1:7-12); and (3) the Holy Spirit sealed us and continues to apply the merits of Christ to us (Eph. 1:13-14). The Father’s work is completed, and He gave the elect to the Son (John 17:6-10) who redeemed them and in turn His work was completed (John 17:6-10; Heb. 1:1-4; 7:25-27; 10:10-14), and now the Holy Spirit sanctifies us by applying the merits of Jesus to us (Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Rom. 8:31-39).
Now let us consider the Lord Jesus’ response in His crucifixion. Was He given over to fear, or did He trust the Father? In His high priestly prayer in John 17, we see one who is in control, serene, majestic. When He stands before Pilate, do we see one who is overwhelmed by fear, or terrified to the point that He could not function? Hardly.