We’ve looked at how the Greek word, metanoeō, was poorly translated into English in our Bibles as “repent” before. Metanoeo is not re-penance! It means to change your mind. Re-form your thinking about something. The problem is, we don’t like change.
Turn and face the strain
We like the idea of being molded and shaped by the Lord…we just don’t like having to go through the changes.
Even the most open person is only really open to about five percent of what they don’t already agree with. We either ignore what’s outside of our current view of things or we fight it.
Some of this resistance is good, to protect us from being tossed to and fro by every wind…some of it’s due to fear. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that the latter is usually the case. We fear that if we’re wrong, something bad might happen to us.
I once had a lady email me to tell me she really liked our church, really felt loved, but was afraid of going to hell for going to the wrong church…so she stayed away. I kid you not! It’s amazing what absurdities we will believe when we’re living in fear. But she’s not to blame. This is what she was taught by manipulative preachers who feed on guilt and fear.
There’s nothing “anointed” or holy about controlling God’s beloved through fear.
If we live in fear of hell and/or punishment we will not consider going outside of our comfortable theological boxes “lest we be deceived.” We will stay stuck in a small-minded, fear-mongering gospel. We will throw rocks at whatever we don’t already believe, suspecting the antichrist under every bush, for Paul said there would be false teachers in the last days…or whatever else has been spinning our wheel in fear.
The only antidote to fear is letting God perfect His love in us!
17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:17-18 NASB *)
Two things to get here. First, love is perfected (fully realized) in us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment. What does this mean?
Is this because God will look the other way? I know I’m just a pardoned criminal (or an ogre in Shrek’s case), so I hope He’ll let me off on the “Jesus” technicality?
No! We’re not pardoned criminals, we’re a new creation! (2 Cor.5:17, 21). Confidence comes from identity…because as He is, so also are we in this world. It’s another way of saying we’ve finally realized that we died and our life is now Christ’s very own life (cf. Gal.2:20; Col.3:3).
This means that Jesus’ relationship with the Father is now our relationship with the Father because we are in Him.
Are you confident that this is true…or are you still on the “not worthy” treadmill?
Now, we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor.5:10), it’s just it’s not supposed to be in fear of punishment. The “fear of the Lord” here is reverential awe. We are confident we won’t be judged for our good or bad behavior, but for what we’ve done in faith toward Christ (Heb.11:6). And God’s white hot love will consume anything in us that’s not of Him, so it’s all good in the end! (1 Cor.3:15)
Is that hard for you to accept? See, I told you we don’t like change!
Second, when God’s consuming love is fully realized in us, fear is fully cast out. This means that Love has jettisoned any unholy dread we may have picked up from religion. There’s nothing holy about fear of punishment. It only produces bondage.
When you’re fully alive in His love, you are forever dead to fear of punishment.
Why is this important? The first reason is obvious. God is not some fickle Zeus-like pagan deity, waiting for you to mess up so He can zap you! Yes, God is holy, transcendent, and awesome in wonder, but these things are attributes of love. And Love is a pronoun here. We are confident because Love will never forsake us. Love never fails.
The second reason this is important is because I will not grow (which requires change) if I’m living in fear. I will only boldly go into new territories of faith, even being willing to temporarily go down a wrong path, if I have confidence that whichever way I may go, I’m secure in the Father’s constant embrace. Otherwise, I will hunker down like a spiritual orphan in my fortress of fear, living as though I’m separated from God, forever trying not to lose His acceptance, afraid that I may do the wrong thing, believe the wrong thing…so I will resist change (or growth) because I still fear punishment.
Turn and face the strain!
In other words, repent from this small-minded prison of fear between your ears and radiantly, passionately embrace love! See the open fields of grace before you…fully realize the joy of exploration, the endless treasury of discovery, finding transformational revelation even in failure, unafraid to faithfully question all of your theological assumptions, knowing that He will never let you go…and don’t stop until everything you believe, everything you think and do, looks just like Jesus. Selah.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Cor.6:11-13 MSG)