Yikes. Look at that picture. For me growing up, that was evangelism in a nutshell. Coming to Jesus was surrounded with lots of fearful talk of hell and (some) hopeful talk of heaven. So it probably comes as no surprise that my absolute favorite verses from chapter 4 are verses 17 & 18:
“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
These verses, especially 18, really resonate with me because I first came to Jesus because of fear. Maybe like many of you. As a kid I didn’t want to go to hell. What kid does? However, I fixated on hell even after I was saved. Even after I “invited Jesus into my heart.” I couldn’t shake hell. I had a heavy understanding of sin and lived in a near-constant fear that I would lose my salvation. This all resulted in an over-active conscience that I struggled with for years.
My mom even says I’m one of the only kids she’s ever known to tattle on himself. That’s how scared I was.
And I struggled with this kind of fear for years. Well into my college days and beyond. It even today still rattles around in the back of my head. But it was a crucial time of study and meditation that really struck the death-blow to that spirit of fear that gripped me. Because if I truly believe that God is love (which I do) and I allow myself to be powered by His Spirit (which I do my best to) so that I am, over time, made to be like Jesus (as in verse 17) then I have no need to fear.
Do you hear that? If you are living in God’s love, his perfect love, then you have no need to fear him. No need to fear judgment (as even many good Christians do).
And what does it mean to live in God’s love? Well that is most of what chapter 4 is about. Boiled down to one simple idea, verse 17 says it means “In this world we are like Jesus.”
Simple. But it takes a lifetime of practice.
Today may you learn to leave behind any spirit of fear in your life. Instead, may you embrace the perfect love of God and “in this world…be like Jesus.”
Grace and peace.