Luke 12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (ESV)
Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (ESV)
In “Relationship not Religion (Fear of the Lord)” I discussed how Jesus is telling us to fear the religious (or religion personified) in this passage above. In “We need more “fear of the Lord”” and “Fearfully Remade” hopefully I showed you how the “fear of the Lord” is this excitement and anticipation of a good and loving God manifesting His love in our lives. Before that we had a whole series on the “wrath of God” that started with “We need more wrath?” If you haven’t read these posts I would encourage you to go and take a look.
I had a reader ask me a question (based on this Luke 12 passage) about why would Jesus tell us to “fear man?” It is a really good question and I think Jesus gives us the answer. This reader also made this statement:
It’s like the fear of God (in the negative sense) is so closely knit into my fibers that it’s almost part of me and my own self doesn’t even recognize it as a foreign entity.
The question and the statement are about the same thing. I believe this is at the very root of why God came to Earth as a man. I would like to unpack that briefly in this post (and likely every post that follows) but can we reflect for a moment first?
This has been a very exciting journey of discovery and revelation. Your response as readers is proof that I am not the only one excited to discover that God really is that good. I thought I would take a moment to catch up those that missed a few posts or are just joining us. It is also a good idea to pause and reflect when you are running so hard and fast.
I think most people would agree that “God is good.” I doubt that you would get resistance in nearly every church you walked into when you declared “God is good.” As a matter of fact you might hear a popular response “all the time He is good” (or something like that). Want stir up the bees however, say “God doesn’t send His children to hell” or “we shouldn’t be morbidly terrified of God” or “God is non-violent” or “God’s wrath is for us” or “God isn’t angry about our sinning” or anything that challenges an angry-God image.
This is what Jesus faced when He walked the Earth.
God gave mankind a law, a ten guidelines summary. At the root of this short list was love. Mankind did not understand unconditional love. Mankind did not understand Grace. Mankind had no clue about how to have relationships based on divine love. All we knew was fear. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes from the very source of love. They were poisoned by an untimely consumption of a wrong fruit. The knowledge of good and evil was only suited for an infinitely loving God, not a limited perspective human. This infusion of conditionals and lists and rules and judgment killed us. We died inside to the knowledge of a good and loving God. Instead we turned to shame and condemnation. Our defensive responses kicked in and we immediately blamed each other and became critical and judgmental and jealous and envious and… murderers. The “Spirit of Cain” emerged as the final say regarding broken relationships. We still do it today. Pointing fingers and casting blame are a fallen-human, normal operating mode. Now add religion with more fear and more condemnation…
Jesus came to set us free from all that and more. With a universe-shaking expression of self-sacrificial love He declared “it is finished” to the power of sin, the fear of death, the works of the devil and our fallen nature. He was and still is our liberator. For the last 1000 years the western church has lost sight of that. Human wisdom fueled by circumstance and experience, empowered by religion, produced a new concept of “penal substitution.” It is important that we understand where these concepts come from. The concept that Jesus saves us FROM God is a recent (1000 years old) interpretation or opinion not a factual truth. What is true and undeniable is Jesus came to save us TO God. There is a concept name for this too…”Christus Victor.” You may think “why all the theology, brother, you are killing me with words” but I believe it is so important that we see Jesus as God, saves us from us, saves us from a fallen nature, saves us from fear, saves us from the power of sin, saves us from condemnation, saves us from shame..WOW!!!!…He sets us free. Ask yourself this very important question:
“If Jesus didn’t die on a cross to save us from and angry God, then why the cross?”
This is the most important question you will ever ask. It is the question that God wants to answer for you. It is who He is. I hope these posts (over 250 now) and more to follow will help us find the answers so hang on tight. It is going to be a fun ride.
Now let me address the reader’s question. Check out this verse (Jesus talking):
Matt 23:3 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (ESV)
Jesus said we need to be born again of the Spirit to “see” the Kingdom of Heaven. He said we need to be born of Spirit and water to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This isn’t a riddle. The Holy Spirit restores us from the inside out making us a new creation that now has the ability to SEE THE GOODNESS OF GOD! This is why we are breathing. We are here on planet Earth to fall in love with our most amazing, loving, beautiful, powerful, complete, safe, unbelievable, awesome Father. Then we become His love to others. Our “spirit of Cain” takes a hike and we are like it was before our judger was born from bad fruit.
RELIGION does not allow for an absolutely good God. Instead it uses fear to control people. Jesus came to liberate us from religion. He came to uphold the “law of love” and to remove the religion of law. He came to give us relationship instead of fear. He came to reveal a loving God who has always loved us and has never been offended by us. He came to defeat the lies about an angry God.
Jesus is warning us that “man” will use religion (and many other things) to “keep us out of the Kingdom.” Fallen mankind rejects the idea of a good God. In the “Kingdom” we get a revelation of the King and He is good. In Luke 12:5 and Matt 23:3 Jesus is telling us to beware of anything that keeps us from entering the Kingdom and believing in a good God. This revelation of a good God is what sets us free. “God on our side” removes every obstacle. “God is with us” removes every fear. Jesus, as our savior, flushes the junk and fills us with a compassion that we never thought possible.
So we should “fear” anyone or anything that denies the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s goodness. Jesus said we should pray that the Kingdom comes to Earth. Jesus said we should pray that God’s will (perfect love) be done on Earth. This was and is God’s plan. Jesus told us to watch out for teaching that is against the Kingdom. If it is filled with fear and condemnation and guilt and shame (even if it is disguised as sin management) flush it, reject it, abhor it. Religion inflames the fallen human nature and has us building more alters, making more rules, following more guidelines, relying on self and all the while avoiding a relationship with Jesus.
You might even hear the pastor say “we want people to have a personal relationship with Jesus.” That sounds good but in practice you see something different. Once a person gets a glimpse of the Kingdom in relationship with Jesus they are changed. They don’t see condemnation or fear. They don’t see sin as the problem but instead Jesus as the solution. They don’t see an angry God but a rescuing and loving God. Then the same pastor “corrects” the person by the re-insertion of fear (dread) or worse… total rejection.
That is what Jesus is talking about. Don’t receive that stuff. Don’t let anyone steal your revelation of a good God. Instead let the perfect love of God cast out any irrational fear including the fear of a man. This is what Jesus said after His caution about the religious:
Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)