Many times throughout the New Testament writings in scripture, Jesus says to “Fear not”, “do not fear”, or “don’t be afraid” – it’s good advice… especially now with so many global catastrophes and viral scares going around. However the advice to not be afraid really doesn’t mean anything without a reason why… if someone just tells you to not be afraid, you may wonder why, or think that they were crazy! But when you have a reason, then it becomes simple.
So today we’re going to look at some examples of Jesus, and what the scriptures have to say regarding fear, and what we find will be eye-opening.
As we begin this discussion on fear, it would serve us well to first consider what “fear” actually is. Have you ever thought about it?
You might say that fear is an emotional response – and that is correct; but an emotional response to what, exactly?
As we learned a couple of weeks ago, our perspective should be different; and as a result of that, our responses should also be different.
I’m not referring to mere behavioral modification, but actual transformation as a result of being reborn as a new creation in Christ. Take for example our first scripture today, which is Romans 8:15:
“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
The Origin of Fear
Notice what this verse is saying here… it is talking about your rebirth into Christ Jesus. And observe that the verse says you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. Many times this verse is read and that word “again” is just skipped-over – but we need to take time to consider why that detail is there. If, as the verse says, we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, that implies that we did receive the spirit of bondage to fear at some time in the past; so when was that? When did we receive the spirit of bondage to fear. Well, it was actually not one time… but on two separate occasions, recorded in the scripture; and both times are connected with something that we need to see about fear in order to understand why we don’t need to be afraid today.
The very first instance of fear in the scripture is Genesis 3:8-10, where we see Adam and Eve hear God walking through the garden, and they hide themselves. The relevant portion of this account for our topic today can be found in verse 10:
“And Adam said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Now as we know from the story, Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and became ashamed after eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is what caused them to become afraid… and notice what the object of the fear seemingly is: God. Adam and Eve were suddenly afraid of their creator – the very one who gave them life and provided for them in a completely finished garden, and even gave them dominion over all of creation. Now after taking the knowledge of Good and Evil, they see their own nakedness, and this causes them to be afraid of God. Keep this fact in mind as we continue, and look at the second example of fear being received in scripture.
The Spirit of Bondage
As we can recall from our first scripture of Romans 8:15, it specifically mentioned that we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear… so when is this reference referring to? For the answer, let’s take a look at Hebrews 12:18-21:
“For you are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor to blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)”
This obviously is referencing a specific event: the giving of the Old Covenant Law, and we can see that the commandments were such a burden and even the sight of the mountain so terrifying that even Moses (the meekest of all men) could not withstand it.
Now consider with me the reason why… why were Moses and the Israelites so terrified? Why were they so afraid? Upon consideration, we will come to the conclusion that it was for the exact same reason as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden!
Think about it…
Just as with Adam and Eve, the Israelites just received another form of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; they received the Old Covenant Law, after boasting in their own ability to perform “all that the LORD commands” in Exodus 19:8. And upon receiving the Law of Moses, they are suddenly filled with terror and dread.
So what’s going on here? Why were all of these people afraid? Why were Adam, Eve and the Israelites so terrified? Why was the presence of God, their creator and deliverer who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and freed them from their captivity, suddenly turned into a dreadful thing?
The key to this answer is in verse 20: they could not endure that which was commanded. This is referenced later on in Acts 15:10. No-one could bear the weight and burden of the commandments under the Law. But still why was this so terrifying? Why did the people see God as someone to be afraid of, even after seeing how good He was? Well, as we saw in part 4 of our previous series on perspective, it isn’t that God has some kind of multiple personality disorder, but their perspective of God changed! And moreover, their relationship with God changed… not on His part, but on their part. They stopped simply relying on God’s mercy and Grace, and began relying on themselves and their own ability. And the result of that, is always fear, wrath and ultimately death. (Romans 3:20, Romans 4:15, Galatians 3:10, Romans 7:10)
There are a great number of people today who are still under the spirit of bondage to fear, because the Law of Moses, self-works and self effort have crept-in and distorted the simple truth of God’s Grace in Christ Jesus.
So let’s look now at the answer to why today, you do not need to be afraid.
The Answer to Fear
Take a look at Hebrews 2:14-15:
“For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
This gives us further insight into the ultimate source of fear… which is not so much God Himself, but more specifically the fear of death, which is a result of the judgment for sin. When you are standing in yourself and your own performance, it is indeed very terrifying, because you suddenly realize that your best-effort is not even close to measuring up, because the standard set for the Law is nothing less than absolute perfection (James 2:10) and the Law has no ability to justify anyone before God (Galatians 2:16, 3:11)
However what we can see from our text here of Hebrews 2:14-15, is that He (that is, Jesus) took the power of death from the devil (note that the devil had that power for a time, but does not anymore!), and subsequently Jesus delivered through His death (on the cross) those who were subject to bondage through fear of death.
Now this is very important. Take notice how Jesus actually delivers people from their bondage. It does not come through them, or their works in any way… it comes through His death.
Jesus delivered you from the spirit of bondage and fear through His death!
How exactly does that happen? Because through His death, all of your sin – even your old identity of sin is permanently destroyed, and you are given a new identity of righteousness in Christ (Romans 6:6-11).
It’s not something that you work for, it’s something that you receive as a free gift in Christ Jesus. There’s actually a beautiful picture of this in the scriptures. Take a quick look at John 6:16-21:
“And when even was now come, his disciples went down to the sea,
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship: and they were afraid.
But he said to them, It is I; be not afraid.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land where they went.”
Things were looking pretty bad for the disciples in the ship here! The winds were strong, the waves were crashing hard, their visibility was reduced in the night; it was a very scary scene!
Then in verse 19, we see Jesus, walking on top of the sea. The spiritual picture here is that Jesus is walking above your scary circumstances… it’s already under His feet. And for those of us in Him today, it is also under our feet as well, because we are safely in Him! It’s beneath Him, and us.
Then in verse 20, we see these wonderful words: it is I; be not afraid.
The reason why you can be not afraid, is because He is here. As we read earlier in Hebrews chapter 2, He is the solution, and He is your deliverance!
Look at what happens next in verse 21: They willingly receive Him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at their destination!
This carries another spiritual picture for us… When they received Jesus into the boat they were immediately brought to the destination.
Likewise, when when we receive Jesus, we are brought immediately to the destination as well. We are brought into His finished work. Reborn as new creations in Christ. Perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, perfectly complete, and lacking nothing. (Hebrews 10:1-10, Colossians 2:9-10)
Friend, today if you find yourself looking at the strong winds and crashing waves around you, realize today that Jesus is just as present now, as He was back then. And you can receive Him into your life if you haven’t already, just by asking… no ritual required, no magic words needed. Just ask.
And if you have already received Jesus, remember who you are, perfectly righteous, perfectly redeemed, dearly loved child of God.
You have no reason to be afraid. And now you know why.
I look forward to thriving with you again next week.