I was watching a video by Bruce Wauchope after Lance Floyd had mentioned him in one of his inspired blog posts titled, “Religious Inspired Amygdala.” What both Bruce and Lance had said got me to thinking about how religion is inspired from fear…Adam hiding in the bushes, separated from God…and the Christian life is inspired by love.
Of course, when we talk about fear and love we must consider what John said in his first epistle. It’s noteworthy that John’s gospel and letters were the latest and most sophisticated writings in the Bible, written toward the end of the first century. He mentions God as a Father over 100 times and his common theme is love. According to John, you cannot get any more theologically pure than to understand that God is love (1 John 4:8). Here’s what he said about fear and love in the fourth chapter of his first epistle. It is a very familiar passage on this blog.
17 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. 18 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. (1 John 4:17-18 NKJV)
I would like to unpack this loaded love bomb by way of comparison as concisely as I can, showing how fear comes from fallen man’s response to God and how love comes from life in the Spirit. I’ve included the simple chart below to help with my explanation.
When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he became separated from God in his mind, which did a terrible thing. It produced fear, which is why he hid from God. The serpent had convinced Adam, and us, that we could fulfill our destiny apart from God.
The fruit of separation is rejection and abandonment, which leads us down the murky path of our own darkness, which inevitably leads to bondage.
From this matrix of separation, we can see how man responds in relationships. Instead of trust and devotion, we become suspicious, defensive and judgmental. This comes from our Adamic “fight or flight” response and a need for self-protection.
In our relationships, we play “tag” instead of having honest vulnerability and intimacy. In other words, there are no teams and the object of the game is to not be “it.” All divisiveness, broken relationships, gossip, slander, and malice comes from playing this dysfunctional game.
In the fear matrix, everything is understood in the dualistic paradigm of good and evil. All religions are built on this foundation, even the religious versions of Christianity.
This is the fruit of eating from the wrong tree.
Sin is simply the counterfeit to the superior pleasures and fulfillment meant for us by God. Unfortunately when we, like Adam, still see sin as a forbidden fruit instead of a toxic poison, we continually falter and fail in trying to overcome it. This produces the fruit of guilt and shame. Finally, we come to the end of ourselves and submit, which brings us into the recovery phase, which starts another turn on the merry-go-round. Sound familiar?
Unless we allow Christ to free us from this fear matrix, we will continue on the treadmill of performance and failure.
The Adamic mind creates all religions and their theology from this fear-based matrix. In part, this is also how Israel understood the Old Covenant as they were still seeing God through this same fallen lens.
Through this lens, God is not seen as relational (Father and Son and Spirit) but as distant, judicial, and retributive. A separated mindset makes Him transcendent, unknowable, unapproachable, and wholly apart than us.
Creating “steps to get to God” is the primary focus because “fear involves torment” or punishment (See 1 John 4:17-18 above). This “steps to God” philosophy actually started in the fallen mind of Plato, not of Christ.
While we’re here, “Old Covenant-based” Christianity is built on this same Adamic paradigm, although now we’re mixing law and grace, so it’s really neither covenant.
God’s holiness is defined by separation instead of other-centered love.
Sin management is the primary focus because of fear of punishment, but it’s a constant losing battle that only produces guilt and shame. We end up either giving up and running away, or it’s burn out and living like the religious elder brother. It’s a constant roller coaster of trying harder and failing.
Like Adam, even though we sincerely love God we’re still hiding our hearts from Him, keeping our distance while trying to save ourselves with our religious programs.
Christ came to free us from this Adamic cycle of separation. “Love has been perfected among us” in Christ, and all who eat from the Tree of Life, which is Christ, are perfected in Love.
This is why the Gospel is not about retribution but restoration; not for His satisfaction but for our healing. And that, my beloved friend, is GOOD NEWS!
How does this restoration and healing work?
First, because Jesus was fully God and fully man (hypostatic union), He actually knew God and knew our human frame. In fact, Jesus was the first human to ever actually know God (see Matt.11:27; John 1:18), and He “explained Him” to us. In other words, we only know God through Jesus Christ.
Second, because God had fused the divine nature to the Adamic human nature in Christ, when Christ died, Adam died. Christ became the “last Adam.” We died with Him, and so did fear. When Christ rose from the dead, we rose with Him.
Now, we’re no longer separated, but seated with God in Christ, in the eternal Godhead. Finally, God’s eternal purpose of adoption has been accomplished (See Eph.1:3-10).
Adoption is about belonging. It’s about being included in the Divine Circle of God. Literally, we’ve been given access to knowing God the same way God knows God. I wrote about adoption in my last post.
Now, instead of Adamic performance, it’s about Divine participation.
Because we are adopted as sons, we are loved the same way God loves God (John 15:9; 17:23). This is the core of our identity…”because as He is, so are we in this world.”
Unlike Adam, we don’t see ourselves separated from God so there’s no need to build a religious stairway to get back to Him. Instead, we abide in His love and bear His fruit of the Spirit.
Because we belong, there’s also no longer a fear of rejection or abandonment, therefore, we “have boldness on the day of judgment” (See 1 John 4:17 above). Instead of “fight of flight,” we have confidence.
Confidence produces faithfulness in relationships–both with God and with each other. Confidence is not like its counterfeit called arrogance. Confidence means that, because of love, we no longer need to divide ourselves anymore out of fear and self-preservation.
We no longer need to define God or other people according to our own self-preserving reflection. All, including God, are freed to be themselves around us instead of being made to jump through our hoops. I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, Sonshift.
Instead of an endless cycle of trying harder and failing, leading to rejection and fear, faithfulness takes us on the path to fulfilling our purpose in Christ. As Paul said, we have successfully run the race and won the prize.
This is why the pathway to fulfilling our destiny and calling is leaving fear through the paradigm of God’s perfecting love.