No Fear (Part 2)

There are many Christians who struggle with a kind of fear that they feel is particular to them, the struggle with doubts about their salvation.

They read convicting verses of Scripture and believe that they have somehow separated themselves from God’s mercy and grace and that they no longer have standing as sons and daughters of God. This is a very painful place to be and causes an intense fear and a deep grief at what they feel they might have lost. The answers to such doubts have nothing to do with trying harder or even feeling better. The answers have to come from taking a stand of faith on the character and the promises of God revealed in Scripture.

There are two questions we must answer:
[box type=”shadow”]

  1. Is God’s love capricious or fickle – can He change His mind about us easily?
  2. Is our salvation a matter of our day to day “performance” as believers in Christ, and can it be lost on the basis of our personal failures?
[/box] First, it’s important for us to understand God’s character, His nature. What is He like and how does that impact the way He relates to us and how He judges us? There are many instructive passages that would add to our insight into this issue, but let’s limit ourselves to four.

[tabs slidertype=”left tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext] Exodus 34:5-7 [/tabtext] [tabtext] Psalm 103 [/tabtext] [tabtext] Hosea 11 [/tabtext] [tabtext] Jesus [/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab] Moses has just been pleading with God to continue to move with the Israelites as they journey towards the Promised Land and after Yahweh agrees to his request, Moses asks to see His glory. Yahweh agrees to this, saying that He will cause all of His goodness to pass in front of Moses and that He will proclaim His Name. In the ancient Hebrew world the name represented the character of the person named (e.g. Nabal or Jacob). This is what God revealed to Moses:
[quote] Yahweh, Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to a thousand generations and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. [/quote] This is followed by a promise of judgment on “the guilty”, which the parallel passage in Deuteronomy explains is for those who hate Him. This representation of God’s character is cited in Numbers, Nehemiah, in three of the Psalms, in Joel and in Jonah. In the latter (Jonah 4:2), the prophet pouts to God that he ran away from his mission to Nineveh precisely because he knew that it was the LORD’s nature to show compassion and to forgive and he wanted a much different result for Israel’s enemies. [/tab] [tab] Psalm 103 is one of those places where Exodus 34 is referenced. Starting with verse 8:

[quote] Yahweh is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse; nor will He harbor His anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on His children, so Yahweh has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust [/quote]

In a context of saying that God honours those who fear Him and obey His commands, this passage also says that He knows our weakness and the frailties we were made with. He treats us with greater compassion than a human father has for his own son, and so surrounds us with His love and removes our sin far from us. [/tab] [tab] Hosea 11 illustrates beautifully the tension between God’s holy anger at sin (in this case, Israel’s proud refusal to repent of their idolatry) and His love for His people. The ebb and flow of His internal dialogue ends with this:
[quote] My heart is changed within me; all My compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man — the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.[/quote]

Here the holiness of God is presented as the reason for God withholding judgment against a people who had done much to deserve it. The fact that He is God, and not a human, mitigates against Him coming in fierce anger and devastating His loved ones. It’s worth reading Hosea 2 to see a picture of how God’s heart of compassion results in His acting in self-sacrificial ways to win the hearts of those He loves. [/tab] [tab] Jesus revealed the character of the Father to us in His words, His priorities, His compassion, His works of power, His teaching and in His sacrifice. And among His teachings, one that stands out to me on the nature of the Father is called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”. Jesus went out of His way to demonstrate how the father in the story was shamed by his son. He allowed himself to be taken advantage of, to lose his reputation in the village, to give up the land that had been in his family for generations and then to wait, shamelessly, for his lost son’s return. The anger of the ones listening to Jesus’ parable would be directed towards the son who left home and wasted his father’s inheritance in wild living, but the story itself points towards the other son and asks him for his response. Again, the father takes the embarrassing role of going out to the pouting son and begging him to come in, leaving himself in a position vulnerable to abuse, and the abuse comes:
[quote] All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never even gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
[/quote] The story ends with a final invitation from the father as he asks the older son if he wants to participate in a miracle of grace, in the story of salvation that his younger brother has experienced — from death to life. [/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

This is the character of God. He is a God of great mercy and deep love. He is always on the lookout for the lost to return to Him and He has great understanding of us in our weakness. He knows us . . . and still He loves us. Way back in the days of Noah, we’re told that God, who created everything good, looked on the earth and saw what had happened to the human race, that every inclination of people’s hearts was only evil all the time, and it broke his heart. God’s broken heart is behind the great effort of redemption and reclamation that has been going on for thousands of years, starting with the call of Abram and continuing today in the mission of His church to the world. His broken heart also tells us that He is willing to show mercy to us, today, that His desire is for all who are humble to admit our failings and to receive His forgiveness.

[button link=”/pastorsblog/no-fear/” color=”teal”] Click here to read “No Fear” Part 1 [/button]
[button link=”/pastorsblog/no-fear-part-3/” color=”teal”] Click here to read “No Fear” Part 3 [/button]


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’] [/author_image] Dave King is the founding Pastor of Silver Valley Community Church. Dave studied at Regent College in Vancouver and completed a Master of Divinity degree in 1989. He has pastored in the Lower Mainland for nearly 30 years and started Silver Valley Community Church with a group of friends in 2003. Read more