Fear and Faith

Fear and Faith

Someone Asked: I have fear, but I wanna have faith. Yet, I’m afraid that when I’m afraid, I’m sinning because I’m not having faith, because anything that’s not of faith is sin, which makes me even more afraid. I’m trapped… HELP!

My Answer:

I have never quite understood the popular dichotomy of fear and faith. It seems that biblically, fear and faith are connected in some way, not necessarily directly opposed. For example, Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” Proverbs 14:27, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

So, I cannot accept that fear in itself is the opposite of faith nor can fear on its own be a sin—but rather, fear (in the context of a forgiven believer in Christ), whether expressed in reverence or trembling, leads us to the love found only in Christ. In the context of a believer, fear may be part of our sanctification. Paul expressed fear throughout his ministry (See 1Cor 2:1-5, 2 Cor 7:2-15), he instructs us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12, please note, NOT works in terms of justification, but rather, not taking our salvation for granted, also see Rom 11:20), and Paul expressed, fear that God would humble him (2 Cor 12:20-21)…

If your fear is due to being disciplined (or chastised) for unrepentant sin—turn away from sin and seek strength and forgiveness in Christ… As John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

If by fear, you mean anxious, then remember Philippians 4:3-7.

The bible does not set fear and faith as a dichotomy, but it does set fear and love in opposition. See 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” And so, contemplate this passage (not just the verse) in 1 John 4. This is such a beautiful passage on God’s love, the love between The Father, Son, and Spirit, and as part of this relationship, we see the gift of this amazing love shared with us. Are you in Christ? Then you are forgiven in Christ. And if forgiven, then remember, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” And then Paul continues, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus…”

Bill Johnson: By His Stripes (A Response)

Bill Johnson: “I believe it is the provision of the Lord in his suffering on our behalf; Jesus bore stripes in his body through brutal beating as an atoning work to deal with the power of sickness and disease…”

Jesus did not need to go to the cross to heal your cancer. Throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus, he healed people. During his earthly ministry, Jesus appointed 72 people to go out and heal people and share the gospel. Physical healing, while miraculous, wonderful, and beautiful, was not the purpose of Jesus’ ministry—preaching the gospel (Mark 1:36–38), the good news of forgiveness of sin was the primary purpose of Jesus’ ministry. I promise you, a leper that was healed of their leprosy, but in turn rejected the gospel, received no lasting good from their physical healing.

We know why Jesus went to the cross. The apostle Peter writes, “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (cross), so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

The phrase, “by his wounds you have been healed,” also translated as, “by his stripes” in 17th century King James English is first introduced to us by the prophet Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus’ earthly ministry. In describing the purpose and events surrounding the suffering servant (Jesus) in Isaiah 53. Isaiah records, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) The wounds Jesus voluntarily bore upon himself describe a healing from sin (for believers in Christ), as summed up at the end of the passage, “yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.” The same point the apostle Peter makes in 1 Peter 2:24.

While Bill Johnson’s sermon message is consistent with his legacy of an anthropocentric health, wealth, and power centered “gospel” message which appeals to the goals of every sinful human—it absolutely pales in comparison to the true gospel of Jesus. Where Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was not to provide you with the things that will pass away (health and wealth), but rather, to provide you with true grace, mercy, holiness only available through the Christ Jesus leading to eternal life that is full of goodness, joy, love, kindness, peace…because it gives us fellowship with God Himself back in the Edenic state.

The theology of Bethel Church in Redding is carefully nuanced—where we find scriptural axioms mixed between tragic errors and old heresies—the result of a faulty biblical theology, bad hermeneutics, and frequent eisegesis. Over the next few days, I am going to catalogue and write on a number of significant (i.e. Bible, Jesus, gospel) errors and heresies openly taught/advocated by Bethel Church in Redding. I am not talking about minor differences that make one a Southern Baptist versus a Presbyterian, but rather, the difference between those saved in Christ versus those outside of Christ. The difference between those who have received and teach the gospel of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins versus those who have embraced and teach a different gospel centered around health, wealth, and power.


God In A Box?

God In A Box?

I recently heard someone substantiate a theological claim with the reasoning, “you cannot put God in a box.”

If he had intended this as a literal claim there would be little dispute—but this is an expression meant as an illustrative claim. The phrase is used to disarm any number of theological viewpoints that appear to limit the power of God. I have been on the receiving end of this claim in witnessing encounters. It is a common response when someone disagrees with a truth about God or the statement by Jesus when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)” The person disagreeing will frequently respond with a diatribe on the perceived lack of fairness regarding a single savior (as if anyone deserves salvation) and then close their claim with, “you cannot put God in a box.” All they did was create a different box—the box of arbitrary fairness and gently set their god in the new box. The issue is not the limitations presented by the box; the issue is the contents of the box—The God verses a god.

I acknowledge that we cannot place God entirely in a box, to do so, would require an exhaustive knowledge of God which is impossible for us. Yet, this dispute is not regarding what is known about God, the dispute is being raised as a question mark, as if, what God has shared with us is insufficient to make any conclusions. Pair this premise with the high level of discomfort among many Christians to limit God in anyway and quickly you find yourself standing before a tattered box unable to hold any discernible quantity of truth. What God has shared about himself is absolutely sufficient for us to know him and we ought to find comfort, not anxiety, in the things God cannot do—God cannot lie, do evil, or do anything inconsistent with his nature. Let’s take a look at this box.

God has revealed himself, both in general revelation and special revelation. In general revelation, everything about existence, both tangible (the universe, earth, diversity of life, diversity of elements, etc.) and intangible (love, logic, morality, etc.) point to God. As David writes in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” We ought to also recognize that we are not held to a standard of exhaustive knowledge of God when the Apostle Paul writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Yet, God did not stop revealing himself with general revelation.

God desires that we know him—To know him like a sheep knows his shepherd, a child knows their father, a wife their husband, how good friends know each other. God has revealed himself directly to individuals and groups throughout the ages, he has used special messengers, and the writer of Hebrews records that, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Throughout this time of special revelation we learn much about God: His holiness, wisdom, patience, truthfulness, immutability, transcendence, faithfulness, kindness, justice, mercy, and love. I think it is our nature to focus on the attributes about God we find most beneficial while doing our best to ignore or justify the attributes that scare us, like his holiness and justice. However, we ought to acknowledge that with each trait of God that is revealed to us by God, we cannot then logically apply the opposite. If God claims to be light it would be false for us to then claim God is darkness, if God claims to be love it would be a false contradiction to say he represents indifference, if God claims to have a plan we cannot then say he is capricious and arbitrary—do you see a box forming?

Again, like God’s characteristics, we only dislike the box metaphor when we feel as if it is working against us. For example, we dislike gravity when we are falling, we do not dislike gravity when it keeps our cars planted on the road while traveling 70mph. We dislike the rigidity of God’s truthfulness when he warns us against sinful behaviors, we rejoice in His truthfulness when we think of His love and mercy. As Christians, we should not confuse piety as meaning we must have a lack of confidence in God’s character and word anymore than we would fault a physicist for having confidence in gravity.

God has clearly revealed himself to us by sharing his characteristics and often doing so with anthropomorphic language to help us better understand. We should recognize that the box God is placed in, is a box of his own construction, and God stepped into the box. This point is most evidently seen when God the Son put on human flesh in the person we know as Jesus. We can have confidence in knowing Jesus is who he said he is because as Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” We should have absolute confidence in Jesus because God has proven to be faithful, truthful, and powerful. As the Apostle Peter writes, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” We do not need to feign ignorance or worry that we are limiting God in some way by resting confidently in the description of God has used of Himself, preserved in his word. We ought to look at God’s revealed immutable character with either tremendous fear or a confident hope. Tremendous fear knowing all that God has promised will come to pass for those outside of Christ; confident hope knowing all that God has promised will come to pass for those in Christ.

God built the box so that we could know truth. God did not place himself in a box because it was necessary for him—he did it, because it was necessary for us.

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

Athanasian Creed

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.