Leaving fear-based theology for Love

No_Fear_in_LoveDan Notley spoke at our church recently after returning from Thailand where he and his wife are now opening homes for children at risk for human and sex trafficking (see DTN Ministries for more information on that). He said something profound that I want to key in on today. You can hear the audio clip from our service below.

Here are a few excerpts from what Dan said (bold type at beginning is mine):

“The greatest problem facing the human race in general, but the church in particular, is not sin, it’s fear. Fear is the only weapon that Satan has. But if you can buy into the lies, if you buy into the fear, then everything else becomes possible for him.

Fear is at the root of all sin, all disobedience, all disease, all dysfunction. He traffics in fear….

From the day that you’re conceived, the enemy is conspiring to rob you of your destiny, to rob you of your giftings and your callings. He can’t get at God [directly]. The only way he can get at God is by getting at His children, getting at His creation, and his primary weapon is fear….

Every experience you have comes attached with a message. Actually, comes attached with two messages. But we usuallly listen to the one that tells us we’re not enough, we’re inadequate, we’re at risk, we’re in danger, we can’t trust. We can’t trust God….The problem is, once you believe the lie, you empower the liar….

Then we live in such a way and make choices that actually fulfills that lie, and then we say, “‘Well, there it is. It must’ve been true.'”

When I heard this it made me think about how much of our popular evangelical theology and teaching is rooted in fear—fear of hell, punishment, God’s wrath, the Great Tribulation, false teachers, false prophets, the judgment of God on nations, and on and on. These fear-based subjects seem to hold a strange fascination for us.

After all, many of us came to Christ to escape something (hell, punishment, tribulation…), so now we’re motivated by fear and self preservation. And these are powerful motivators. The only trouble is, neither one is found in the Kingdom of God, for God is love and there is no fear in love.

As Dan said, everything we see or experience comes attached with a message–actually, two messages.  We’re more inclined to embrace the negative or fear-based option, which creates the “glasses” by which we even interpret Scripture.

Because of this fear-based paradigm, we seem obsessed with who the antichrist might be, blood moons, economic ruin, and other warnings of the latest prophets of doom. Our best-selling books seem to point this out.  Don’t we find this focus a bit strange in light of being in relationship with a God who is called Love?

What if instead of trying to predict judgment and destruction on the world, we prayed for mercy and showed them His love?

What if we weren’t known for what we’re vehemently against but by how outrageously we love? Just a thought…

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be watchful, but we must remember that our enemies are not flesh and blood (Eph.6:12), no matter what nationality, religion, or lifestyle they may belong to or embrace. We are not called to judge them out of fear but to liberate them into love.

But we must be liberated into love ourselves.

God’s perfect love truly does cast out fear. Indeed, the Kingdom of God does not operate on fear but on love. Here’s what John said about it (bold type added):

Love has been perfected among us in this: 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 involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19 NKJV)

It was hard not to highlight this whole passage! There are several points that can be made here.

First, love was perfected in Christ. He showed us what God was really like, not the darkened, self-reflected image we had of Him before Christ.

Second, when we see Him as He really is, we see ourselves as we really are–in Christ. As Christ is, so are we in this world. This speaks to our identity and purpose.

Third, in Christ THERE IS NO FEAR. To have fear is to not be perfected in love. It is an inferior mindset and theological construct that must be jettisoned for the supremacy of love.

Fourth, this love originates with HIM, not with us. We learn to love Him with His love! (See also John 15:9.) Everything in the Kingdom comes by receiving; we learn to love by learning how to BE loved by God.

Dan says so many other really good things on the audio clip. The point is, God wants to deal a death blow to our fear! We’re living in the greatest hour the church has ever known. But do we know it? It all depends on our perspective. You decide which perspective you will embrace.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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17 Responses to Leaving fear-based theology for Love

  1. paulfg says:

    Lovely post Mel, and struck me we always seem to start with “them”: the unconverted, the “yet to be Godded” – with others – never “right here right now – right “me”.
    Because, for me, that is where fear begins. In my head. No one else’s. And that is where He and me are, where He and me happen – 24/7. If I am at peace in “there” – then the rest is so much easier. Because it becomes “me” – it is me and Him – seamless. And then it is real.
    Thank you!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Paul. Great point! We get it all backwards, don’t we. Looking at specks through our log-filled eyes. Like you said, it must start with us and God, not with “them.” If we can get the fear cast out of us, we’re free to love others. Loving others is the fruit of being loved by God. That IS the answer! 🙂
      Blessings to you.

  2. My life bears witness to the truth spoken (and written) here. Fear has been my most familiar ‘friend’ – and a lousy one at that. Apart from knowing Papa’s love, fear is impossible to shake.

    He is so faithful and patient as He woos us. The more accurate our understanding of Him, the looser fear’s grip becomes, and the easier it is to love others. He’s a good, good Father, for sure!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Tami. Amen. You have a great testimony that makes our heavenly Papa look good! I know it will give others courage to trust Him as their Good Papa, too. 🙂
      His love makes us brave! Blessings.

  3. Agreed! Those who walk in fear don’t know a loving Father. It’s a shame that fear sells so well in Christianity. A thought occurred to me. What is we get what we ask for? On so many occasions we don’t know our place in the world. What if the sins we forgive are actually forgiven?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, that is a thought! As Job said, “the thing I greatly feared has come upon me.” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jesus said we receive according to what we believe(Matt.8:13). Some have more faith in what they’re afraid of than what a good Father wants to give them. It’s sad, really.

  4. It doesn’t matter how many times I think about it, Mel, I simply don’t understand why people choose fear instead of love. And I have to wonder if it is a conscious choice. I have to wonder is the enemy has so clouded their vision, has so blinded their eyes it is impossible for those who walk in fear to see love anymore.
    I can only pray for their thirst, their hunger for God’s love to be stronger than the enemy’s fear, and that they will open themselves for His sustenance – His everlasting grace and love.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, pretty crazy. I think it’s probably sub-conscious, but also a habitual way of thinking. People just expect bad things to happen. It’s pounded into us through circumstances by the time we’re an adult. I remember hearing about a news program that tried focusing on good news and the viewership dropped off! People are just attracted to bad news. It’s totally dysfunctional when you step back and look at it. That’s why people struggle with grace and understanding that God is good. They need to put a “but” in there because they just can’t conceive of something so wonderful.
      I join you in your prayer! 🙂 Blessings.

  5. Cindy Powell says:

    Yes, yes, YES! This is so good. “After all, many of us came to Christ to escape something (hell, punishment, tribulation…), so now we’re motivated by fear and self preservation.” That is such a powerful and profound statement and so telling about where much of the Church lives and why. But that was never my story which is why it has always been so hard for me to understand why people seems to desire Him so little when He is so amazingly good. I had ZERO conscious awareness of a need for Him to save me from hell or even to intervene in some particular situation — I needed Him. Period. I needed hope. I needed to be loved. He offered me all of that and so much more. Maybe because I had been so profoundly aware of my failings my whole life that it didn’t even factor into the equation for me … I never had any illusion of being able to handle things well on my own … I was just so stunned by the revelation of His love for me that nothing else really mattered from that point on. It was all about what He added to me, not what He kept me from (hmm, there just may be a blog post in that statement). It was only much later that I learned (sadly) that is not a typical “conversion” experience–but I pray it will become one because it changes everything! I will also definitely check out your friend’s ministry 🙂 Blessings Mel!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Cindy. Yes, definitely check out Dan’s ministry. Not a lot of information on his website but he has a newsletter too. Some great opportunities have just opened up for them in the Golden Triangle region (borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand) where a lot of abductions are happening among the tribal children. These children are the most vulnerable because they don’t have any national protection. Dan’s working with local pastors and leaders and they are opening up homes for these children. These are not orphanages but family homes with parents who will raise them. Dan and Trish are moving back to Thailand as soon as they sell their house. It’s an awesome ministry.

      Your testimony is like mine. I came to Christ because I wanted to know HIM. I was actually pretty happy with my life (as I knew it) and I didn’t care about hell. When I opened my heart to Christ all I found was love. I had to have people teach me to be afraid of God and everything else in the world. But most Christians I talk to came to Christ through some type of fear-based message, as I mentioned. It’s actually a form of theological abuse, in my view. It keeps people from the love of the Father and feeds on their fear. That’s why I take great pleasure in unraveling these myths and exposing people to the truth about our Father’s unfathomable love. 🙂

      • Cindy Powell says:

        You do that really well 🙂

        I’m hoping to go back to Thailand next year so I will definitely check out what Dan and Trish are doing!

        • Mel Wild says:

          Awesome. He said they should be ready for teams sometime in 2016. He also has connections with most of the other ministries in Thailand. He lived there for 15 years before. He could connect you with lots of opportunities there. 🙂

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