This message on Inescapable Fear could just as easily been entitled as Freedom from Fear. And, without any contradiction, it could also be entitled The Christian Grace of Fear. But all this will take some unpacking.
“And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows”(Luke 12: 4-7; cf. Matt. 10:28-31).
Summary of the Text
Notice how Jesus addresses His disciples here—He calls them His friends (v. 4). His next words are instructions to them to not be afraid of those whose maximum power is that of physical death (v. 4). He then turns to the subject of the one that they should fear—the one who has complete, full, and final authority over hell. Christ emphasizes that they should fear Him—He says it three times in one verse. Fear Him (v. 5). God remembers even the sparrows, sold so cheaply in the market (v. 6). This means that the hairs of your head are all numbered (v. 7). Do not fear, therefore, because you are worth more than many sparrows (v. 7). Fear Him, friends.
Fear Not, Fear, Fear Not
Here is the pattern. We are not to fear men. All they can do is kill us. We are to fear God—He is the one who can throw people into hell. But God loves us and cherishes us, and He cares deeply for us. We should therefore not fear the providences of God concerning us.
7. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:21).
8. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
Still less should we fear the pains of hell. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4: 18). We do not fear hell; we defy it. We do not fear hell because we fear the one who can put us there. This is not a contradiction, but rather the secret.
Because we fear Him, we know that He does not want to do this to us—we are worth more than many sparrows. When He sends His angels, they almost always say, “Fear not.”
Now this is why we have spoken about inescapable fear. If we fear man, we do not fear God. If we fear God, we will not fear man. But we will fear someone. The question, therefore, is not whether we will fear, but rather whom we will fear. This is just another form of “not whether, but which.”
One of the central reasons why modern Christians are so timid is because we have not cultivated a healthy fear of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). This is foundational. If you are beset with fears (or nightmares), the solution is not to run from all fear (you cannot), but rather to run toward a particular kind of fear.
And notice how fear of God is described in the New Testament as a glorious and wonderful thing. Forgive me as I belabor the point.
1. “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (Matt 28:8).
2. “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
3. “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day” (Luke 5:26; 7:16).
4. “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
5. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
6. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
There are many other passages like this—this is a point that could be multiplied many times over.
Bring This Together
In our fear of God, we begin to know; fear and great joy mingle in knowledge of the resurrection; fear receives mercy; fear renders awe and glory; walking in fear means walking in comfort; fear advances personal holiness; fear works out salvation; fear enables us in cultivating the spirit of mutual submission and humility; fear animates appropriate worship. Fear of God is therefore a Christian’s glory.
Profound and All-Pervasive Fear
Because of this profound and all-pervasive fear, we do not fear anything. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15). “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15).
To Press the Point
This means that if you are troubled with anxieties and fears, then you need to name the problem accurately. The problem is that you do not fear as you ought, and the vacuum has been filled by phantoms. Now I am not talking about normal physiological reactions—shaking when you just escaped from a car wreck, or if you had a close call with a grizzly bear.
I am talking about the ongoing fears that cripple your Christian life and your relationships with others. What do I mean? I am referring to fear of slippery roads, loss of reputation, the cancer you might get twenty years out, dying young, marital unhappiness in the future, or any other kind of “what about? or “what if?” followed by some unpleasantness that you cooked up in your imagination. The fear of God liberates. The fear of the creature paralyzes—because to guard effectively against whatever it is, you have to be omnipotent. And you are not.
We May Boldly Say . . .
So the fear of God is the foundation of all true contentment. All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And when we are content, free from grasping and covetousness, what may we then say? God will never ditch us. We are His people.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).
And remember, always remember, that the only way a fallen sinner can come to the Father in a lively fear that ends in joy is . . . through Christ. Let Him be your fear, let Him be your dread (Is. 8:13-14).
Initially preached in August 2007