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Well as we begin a new year together it's a great time to begin a new series together and I'm excited about the next few weeks. The next few weeks we're going to be talking about this idea of growth, about this call that Jesus puts into our lives when we enter into a relationship with him, to not stay the way we are. The beautiful thing about a relationship with God, is that he doesn't just invite us to prayer. This relationship causes a complete transformation in our lives. 

We are not just invited to invite Jesus to live in our hearts is if that the end of the story, it's the beginning of this journey of being called to be more and more like Christ. So we're going to spend sometime exploring that idea together, he's one of my favorite writers this way, say it this way God loves you just the way that you're, but he refuses to live you that way. 


He wants to make you just like Jesus. That's the goal, that's the destination that we are being called every single day towards, as followers of Jesus. So we're going to spend sometime exploring that together for the next few weeks. It has to be interesting from the perspective of God, that so often for Christians they believe in God then so often Christians in fear, can just get so intertwined that Christianity and fear can become so interconnected, especially for those of us that grow up in church, like I did, and for those who have been hanging around church for a long time. 


Isn't it true? That so often Christianity and fear can begin to just get interwoven or so intertwined together. I remember when I was in high school going to christian school for a couple of years and in that particular school there were all kinds of debates over what translation or what version of the Bible, that you were supposed to read and we had the King James folks, you have the new American Standard folks, you have the NIV folks, you have The Message folks and there's all kinds of fear, as that conversation unravelled, is this group are they offending God by reading the wrong translation of the Bible? 

I remember putting duck tape over what translation of the Bible I had, as if I was a missionary going to a cross country because I just didn't want people to judge and the was all kind of fear that surrounded the conversation. Some of us that were raised in church, you remember being taught to be afraid of college professors, the big bad world that's out there and there wasn't any sort of wisdom about how to proceed in the world with wisdom and how to be wise, it was just about fear, and about just kind of hunkering down in church and just being afraid of culture or anything out there, and it wasn't about how to proceed in terms of wisdom into the world, it was just about being afraid of science with the world or anything out there, because so often, isn't it true? Christianity and fear can just get so interwoven and intertwined. I have another friend he went to a Catholic school, when he was a kid 20-25 years ago and I'm sure this isn't true at all Catholic schools, but his in particular to this day he is terrified of nuns. 

And he won't even and when we try to talk about God or church or Jesus for him, he just can't even go there and all this years later because the whole God conversation, the Jesus conversation, it just begins in fear and I've tried to invite him to church, I've tried to convince him I'm not a nun but I don't think he believes me and it was just for him there's just all these fear that surrounds the God conversation or the Jesus conversation.

 For some of you grew up in a town where the church building was the nicest building in town, and there was all kinds of fear about what you can do in the building, what you had to wear when you went into the building., you get looks if you didn't have the right thing on when you walked into the building and there was fear about that guy or that girl or that deacon or whoever it was and the glare they give you and some of you have horror stories of chewing gum in church, the looks you get, because the church and fear so often, when christians get together, fear can be a dominant emotion. Some of us we have fears about offending God and we talk about God often, for many of us in fact this is why just many people walk away from church, because we talk about God as if he has this hair trigger temper he just gets so mad we're not really sure where the line is, and some people just get tired of navigating that. 

They don't want to thank us so they just leave altogether, because Christianity, some groups of Christians they take it as a step further and it's not even so much that they are worried about offending God, they get worried that this group of christians over here is offending God and christianity and fear can so often just get interwoven and they just get linked together and certainly fear is not unique to the religious experience, it's not unique to the christian experience,all people experience fear at some level, it's just that the part of life, it's just the part of being a human being in this world. 

We experience fear, but for some strange reason fear tends to be acute or it tends to flourish in the religious experience. When christians get together for some strange reason, fear can often just be a primary it's emotion that's in the building. And I say that's strange and I said that has to be eye from the perspective of God, because in this is just a good general rule when you read the Bible, if something is in there once it means God wants you to know about it, but if it's in there twice, it's like God really wants you to know that's it's important, if it's in there three times or four times it's really really is it important. 

How to be Fearless

And what phrase appears more than any other phrase in the entire Bible?
Fear not yes sir. Do not be afraid -if you are an NIVer- do not be afraid, fear not. It's the phrase that appears more than anything else and so it has to be interesting from the perspective of God that when Christians get together, fear can be such a dominant emotion in the building and so I want to talk about that today and look at fear and explore the Bible's relationship with fear because where can fear be a good thing? 

Where does it have a place in the life of faith? and the question is especially today is where does fear become disabling? Where does it begin to cripple our ability to look more and more like Jesus and the person that we're called to be? If you have a Bible, let's open it together to Proverbs, we're going to start in the Book of Proverbs, we're going to read a couple of verses in the Old Testament and then we're going to come back and read a verse together in the New Testament. 


Proverbs is the wisdom book it's right there in the heart of the Old Testament. It's written by the third King of Israel, a guy named Solomon and he says this in Proverbs 1:7, if you don't have a Bible we'll put it on the screens as well. The fear of the Lord, this is according to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instructions. 

Fear of God

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Let's go back to the Book of Psalm, Psalms 111: 10, this is Solomon's Dad, David the second king of Israel, says it this way and if something is in the Bible more that once, it's important. Here it is twice. 

The fear the of the Lord, it's actually there more than twice but we're just taking a couple of them. The fear of the Lord is the beginning, of what's the word? Wisdom! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All who follow His precepts, which is kind of the big church word for God's instructions or God's law or Gods rules have good understanding to him belong eternal praise. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, all who follow his precepts and commands have good understanding. So, in the Bible, fear isn't necessarily a bad thing in the Bible, the Bible talks about fear as a beginning. The Bible doesn't describe fear as just completely a negative experience. 

The Bible talks about fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, is the beginning of knowledge. In the Bible, fear is not necessarily a bad thing, in the Bible fear is described, as a starting point. It's the beginning of something, it's the beginning of a life of knowledge, it's the beginning of a life with God, it's not just a bad thing, in the bible it's described at the beginning of something and I've often heard Christians say well, fear the Lord. 

That means we are supposed to respect the Lord, and that sounds nice but the problem is when you hit it in the original language, the fear of the Lord it actually means, fear the Lord. It actually means you are supposed to fear the Lord. That there is something to that it's a beginning thing. That if Christianity is an organization, if it's cooperation, fear is the entry level job, it's a starting point. 

It's the beginning of something. 


For many of us, you came to faith in Jesus, you entered into faith in Jesus. Maybe as a kid, maybe later in life, but it was because you were afraid, if there was a God out there somewhere, and I don't know him, what does that mean for my life? And you entered in end because there was a fear of the Lord. There was a fear that if there was a God out there somewhere, in heaven, hell, all of this earth are all in his hands and I don't have a relationship with him, there was a fear the Lord. 

That was an entry point to faith, for many of us, fear the Lord, that was an entry point, the beginning of a journey. You could say it this way in our world. We live in a culture that says freedom is found away from God, do whatever you want to do, just if it feels good do it, that's a mantra that gets repeated in terms of your senses, if it tastes good, smells good, feels good. 

Whatever just go and do whatever it is that you want to do and for many of us like me, you have experienced this and learned this the hard way, that freedom in life is not found away from God, it's actually found with God. It's found in living in obedience to the commands of God, it's found in beginning to submit the fear of the Lord. Well, that is the beginning of wisdom, that's when you begin to walking down the right path. 

 Let's go over to the book of John, 1st John rather chapter 4 its in the back of the New Testament, if you don't have a bible we'll put it on the screens as well. 1st John 4, John has written a series of books, not so creatively titled, 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John. 

1st John chapter 4:16, and so we know and rely on the love God has for us, John says, he's talking about the love of God, and then he says this, God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in them, and so John is describing this idea, that God is love, he doesn't say that God is a God that likes to love, he doesn't say one of the attributes, one of the skillsets that God has is the ability to love, he says if you're ever curious about what the nature of God is, what is core to Gods nature,he say God is love, and the same way Gerald is a person, Steve is a man, God is love. 

This is the nature of God and his calling us on this journey to open ourselves up to the love of God, and he says that has a result, it has a benefit, there's a reward to that, when you begin to open yourself up to this God who is love, and he says this in the next verse, this is how love is made complete among us, so he's talking about this idea of completion. 

So, that we would have confidence on the day of judgement, so, he is talking about something with finality. In this world we are like Jesus, so, opening yourself up to the love of God carries you towards being more and more like the person of Jesus. This is what we are called to Vs 18, there is no fear in love according to John, but perfect love, love that gets perfected drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishments and John has some option of Greek words that he can choose when he is talking about punishment he could have used the word for punishment timoria, which is about in the same way you could send your son or daughter in to their room because they are getting in trouble he doesn't use that word. 

Instead he uses the word colossus, which has to do with punishment the way that you would punish your body to during exercise, it has a reward, it has a benefit to it. So, it is not just a punishment for the sake of punishment, it is punishment for the sake of gaining something in the process, because fear has to do with punishment, and then he says which is so interesting when you read it next to Proverbs. 

The one who fears is not made perfect in love, the one who fears, is not made perfect in love. So at one level fear has a place in our faith, and another level you can't be made perfect in love if you're dominated by fear. And essentially what John is describing here, he's describing that fear and love they don't make good dance partners. 

They don't go well together.

You see this when you watch CNN, or you watch Fox news, or you watch any news station, there is this group of people yelling at this group of people, and they're afraid of what they're going to do, and when fear, when the dial of fear gets turned up, love tends to leave building, and he says the opposite is true, they don't make good dance partners. Love is like a light, that when it gets shined on the darkness of fear, it immediately leaves the building. That love and fear, they're not compatible, they don't go too well together. At one level, this feels like a contradiction. 

When you read it in comparison to what Solomon and David are talking about, that they fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, John is inviting us in into this relationship with fear, where we don't have it so that we can experience a type of love. In one level it was seems like a contradiction at best, this is a conundrum. 

What type of relationship to fear should we have? If we want wisdom, we have to have fear of the Lord, if we want love, we can't have fear. So are we supposed to just be stupid lovers? What is the scripture? At one level this feels like contradiction, but the type of love that John is inviting us into, is what, is a perfect love. It's something we are being called to, it's a standard. For John, it's not so much about just idea of love it's a standard, a perfect love, being carried to look more and more like the person of Jesus. 

I would suggest what the Bible is giving us, is not a contradiction, what the Bible is giving us is a continuum. This is about stages of faith, this is about growth, this is about as you begin to look more and more like Jesus. The beginning of wisdom, the beginning of faith for many of us begins in fear, but were not supposed to stay there. 

Faith is not just about pain prevention, we're invited into this journey to begin to take baby steps day in and day out, to begin to look more and more like the person of Jesus, experiencing the perfect love of God and becoming dispensers of the love of God, more on more to the world. This isn't a contradiction, this is about faith development, this is about growth, this is about becoming a different kind of person every year, where you begin to look more and more like Jesus. 

If that's clear as much for you let me try to explain it this way. I have two sons, one of them's name is Hayden, the other one's name is Dane. We call him great Dane in our house, because simply he's great. He's three years old this week and he has no fear of anything, he is like a three year old super hero, he just charges into things and does not ask questions, that's kind of just how he's wired, how he's built, my wife and I we often joke that Dane wake up in the morning and he looks at us and he says, I'm going to try to die today, good luck. That's my goal, good luck with that, pay attention.

That's just how he's built and he's this beautiful, vibrant, just filled with life boy, but he's constantly charging into things, he just has no fear, no matter how many times we tell be afraid of this, be afraid he just charges the head. 

Sometimes this has somewhat catastrophic results for Dane as it did this week. We landed in the emergency room a couple of days ago, I brought a picture in of Dane and I in the emergency room. This is Dane and I here we go, here we are. Dane pulls a stocking holder down on this head a couple of days ago and we ended up in emergency room. Micky and I are fine, in case you're wondering, we're just wearing sympathy bandages. He has no fear and as much as we tell him, buddy, you can get hurt it never seems to matter.

 In the backyard, I have a grill and in the yard next to the grill, Dane is always playing, he's always running around and he charges towards the grill when it hot face forward, hands forward trying to touch the grill and it doesn't matter, buddy you need to be afraid of the grill. Inside, he would constantly go in and try to touch the stove which is unfortunately is perfect eye level height for him, he's always trying to reach over and touch the stove, buddy you cannot touch the stove, you will go back to the emergency room, but it doesn't matter, in our house you can say it this way, fear of the stove is the beginning of wisdom. 

That's a good thing in our house, fear in our house right now, we need fear to be instilled in Dane. Fear of the stove, that's the beginning of wisdom but I don't want him to say there. I don't want to raise a 30-year old man who's still terrified of touching the stove. That would be a lazy husband some of you guys, some of you guys that's your excuse. 

My mom told me when I was little, don't touch the stove, don't make me sin. Don't get me in trouble with my mum. I want him to develop a healthy relationship with the stove, to realize one day you can touch it, it has a benefit, it can do something good, but at this stage I want him to be afraid of it. 

In the same way, fear, it has an important role to play in our development, it has an important role to play in our faith, fear is what teaches us impulse control, fear is what teaches us pain prevention, some of us have learned this the hard way. If I touch the stove, if I do that too many times my heart gets broken, I get hurt, I get addicted, all these different areas. Fear rather has an important role to play especially in the early stages of our faith. 

Be Not Afraid

But if we stay there, we don't grow and become the kind of person that Jesus wants us to be, and at this stage it prevents pain, but if you stay there becomes a prison. We're invited on this journey towards this perfect love that cast out fear to begin to look more and more like the person of Jesus, this is about faith development. 

We are invited on this journey in our faith, we're invited to begin to look more and more like Jesus. You can say it this way, fear is great at preventing pain, it's terrible at developing love. It has a role to play in the life of a disciple of Jesus, it's the beginning of wisdom, but it's not the ending point. We're invited to move forward, and to become more loving and it's great at preventing pain in our lives, but it's terrible at developing love and making us more and more and more like the model that Jesus presents in his life. 

For some of us, you are brand new to this christian thing, for some of us you are brand new to church, this whole Jesus thing, the whole God thing, is brand new for you. You have a Bible and you're still trying to figure out how to get through it and there's this sense for you, and this is true for many people that I meet, they come to faith as an adult or come to faith as a teenager, therefore for many of us we come to faith or come back to faith as an adult because we are afraid of something bad happening, or something bad just happened in our lives. 

Many of us in this room, the reason you came back to church, or the reason you started coming to church to begin with, it's because you're afraid that something bad was going to happen, or because something bad in your life that you thought never could happen and did happen, maybe it was a divorce and you thought, if my wife and I don't start going to church, the rails could fall off this thing. 

Or maybe you experienced a divorce, and you thought I need to begin to the pick the pieces of my life back up, I need to put my life back together, maybe it was financial and you thought if I don't get control of my impulses, if I don't get control of spending, if I don't begin to submit myself to God's principles and rules of finances, everything could begin to fall apart. Maybe you had kids and you thought, I'm afraid of what would happens, if I don't raise my kids in church and I haven't cared about that for 15 years but now, I want to raise my kids in church because I'm afraid of what would happen, and for many of us this is where you entered into faith and this is where you are. 

And you might hang out here for a while, and you are going to say things like I wish I would have had that 20 years ago, I wish I would have listened 20 years ago, it would have saved me a lot of heart ache, a lot of pain. Some of us here you are going to say things, like this is like water in a desert, scriptures as I read them, this is a breath of fresh air. 

And for some of us this is where you are, you are at the beginning of the stages of faith of coming to Jesus, but here is the deal, God doesn't want to just leave you there, he doesn't want to just leave you in a permanent state of pain prevention. He wants to give you opportunities to grow into and to move forward and become more loving and sacrificial kind of a person, and he is inviting us, to look more and more like Jesus. 

For some of us, you've been a Christian for 30 years or 40 years and your faith has never left the starting block, and it's always been about praying for God to prevent pain, its always been about preventing pain and following Gods rules and following God's authority because it prevents pain, and God is inviting you to look more and more and more like Jesus, and this isn't a bad thing, but its just the beginning thing. 

And we're invited to more loving and sacrificial in our lives. At different stages of our faith, we ask different questions, at the fear stage, at the fear of the Lord stage, the question that we ask is, what does wisdom require of me? This is the question, as you enter into relationship with God this is the question, what does wisdom require of me? 

I remember when I became a Christian at 18 years old. I had a lot of friends that I didn't need to have and I was coming back to faith after I having being away for a really long time and at this stage of my faith, it was all about pain prevention, it was all about what does wisdom require me? I remember reading this verse in Proverbs 13:20, that just got sealed into my mind and heart, that he who walks with the wise grows wise but a companion of fools suffers harm. 

Some of us you have experienced in the same way I have, the consequences of that verse and so when I entered into faith, one of the things that wisdom that required of me was a change of friendships. For some of us, as you begin to make new years resolution, for some of us as you begin to come back to church, maybe its a new year's resolution, one of the questions as you look at your money, as you look at your family, as you look at your marriage, and all this different areas of your life, as you look at your health, what does wisdom require of me? But as you grow, and as you begin to move forward in faith, there is a different question that you begin to ask, what does love require from me? 

What does love require? For my neighbor who doesn't know Jesus. I can easily pull in the garage and avoid him but what does love require of me? For my mum who has been driving me crazy, for my boss or my ex-boss, who's been driving me crazy and I've forgiven him a hundred times. What does love require of me? 

What does love require of me? As I look at missions, as I look at money that I've been given as a resource by God and how to spend it just more on myself and my kingdom, what does love require of me? We're invited to begin, this is a question here, of sacrifice. This is a question of safety and it doesn't mean that you stop asking this question. 

It just means that as you grow and you look more and more like Jesus, you become like a skilled jazz player that knows when to ask which question, and when to play which of the notes. What does love require me? What is the sacrifice? When do I need to be safe? Sometimes it's about sacrifice, sometimes it's about safety. We're invited into this beautiful tension and this journey of looking more and more and more like the person Jesus. 

I have met many of you who have been journeying with Jesus for 30 years, 40 years and you have this unbelievable stories, of how in terms of your resources, in terms of your money, in terms of what you do with your time, you have lived so sacrificially, and the older you get and the more your journey with Jesus, you don't clench up with your resources or your time, you begin to give more of it away, and more of it away because there is something in your heart that realises, the more sacrificial, and the more you realise love requires of you as a disciple of Jesus the more you realise you look like Jesus, and the more you're experiencing this perfect love, the more you're experiencing this in your relationship with God, what does it look like this year? 

Total Life Changes

For you to journey with Jesus and become a more sacrificial kind of person. What does it look like? Maybe for some of us the question is, how do I get worse at fear and better at love this year? How do I become more and more like the person of Jesus every year? These have different goals this is about sacrifice and this is about preventing pain. 

It's not necessarily a bad thing but sometimes our faith calls us to ask this question. It's not about safety, but right now in this moment, in this season, at this stage of life, what's the sacrifice that I need to make? And as you journey with Jesus, as you grow in your faith, there will be times where you will look back, and you will begin to say I can't believe as I look back on myself two years ago, three years ago, six months ago. 

I can't even believe I'm asking this question, I can't even believe I'm considering, because this is going to require something of me, the two years ago, three years ago, seven years ago I never would have thought possible. I was talking to someone recently, he's 44 years old they have a carpet cleaning business, they've been incredibly successful. 

Three kids and they began to get involved in a Ministry that was reaching out to prisoners, teenage prison boys in prison and we were having lunch. We were having this discussion and this Ministry was growing and it started off as something small, it was growing and it was growing and it was growing in the middle of the lunch he looks at me and said, I think I'm supposed to sell my business and just do this full time. 

I thought is that even wise? He goes I don't know. This is what love requires of me. This is where I'm at on my journey, this is what love requires of me. I was talking to someone else recently to have had opportunity to adopt three kids from inner city Los Angeles, they didn't even have kids, he and his wife, they didn't have kids at this point and we're talking about this at lunch, and I said, is this even a good idea? He goes I don't know. 

This isn't a question a safety, this is a question of sacrifice, this is what love requires of me. We're invited on this journey to be more and more like Jesus. The cross, the symbol that many of us wear around our neck, or have a piece of jewelry perhaps on us at this moment, that we hang in church buildings as a symbol of our faith, some of us have tattooed, we carry it some of us have it in our car, the symbol of the cross, the symbol of our faith 2,000 years a go it was a symbol of fear. 

It was the Roman government's way of striking fear into the heart of anybody that cross them or did wrong to Rome, it was their way of putting fear in everybody's heart. Jesus goes to the cross and defeats it, and Jesus goes to the cross is a way to say my love of humanity is bigger than my fear of death. 

The Christian faith, the very anchor of it, the logo for it, is built not in fear, it's built in love, where Jesus as the ultimate question, and we're given Jesus as the example in the scripture of who to become like, where he asks the ultimate question on the cross, what does love require of me? and he conquered the greatest symbol in the history of the world for fear, with love. The christian faith is built on this idea that love is bigger than fear. 

Dr Caroline Leaf a brilliant a neuro psychologist, she has a book in which she suggests this in her theory, in her research she suggest this idea, that we're wired for love, but we learn fear, we get conditioned in life to fear things. You touch the stove enough times, you begin to realize you get burnt, but the way that God has built us and the way that we've been designed is to experience love, to open ourselves up to love, from the love of God, love of other people and become dispensers of we're wired for love. 


And so this journey, of becoming more like Christ, is not into something fun. It's a journey into how God has made you and designed you to be, less fear more love. In the image of God we were made to be loving people. We have been built for this. Maybe a good new years' resolution this year. How do I have less fear and more love? 

How do I begin to become a person that reflects more and more, more than I did this time last year? The love of Jesus in my life. Maybe you are here and you are brand new to this thing, and you need to hang here for a little while , and get cleaned up and begin to heal and ask questions of what does wisdom require of me? 

God doesn't want to leave you in a permanent state of pain prevention, He wants to call us forward over time to begin to look more and more like Jesus. What does love require of me? Let us pray together, God I thank you for the cross, the ultimate symbol to humanity that love is bigger than fear, and we are called as disciple s of Jesus to a life, a times of safety but at times of sacrifice and as we journey with you, as we walk with you this year, I pray for all of us that we will look back this time next year say this year I look a little bit more like Jesus. 

Take a baby step, it will be forward motion to be more and more like Jesus. I thank you God, that perfect love casts out fear, the more we experience your love the less fear we have. When we begin to walk forwards, towards being the being the kind of people that reflect the love of Christ in out lives, in Jesus name we pray, Amen. 

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