If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will notice that most of my recent posts have been about fear. I think this is the topic God is choosing to address with me this year. It keeps coming up in sermons and talks and books… and even movies like Frozen.
The latest source of lessons on fear is a book by Tullian Tchividjian called One Way Love. I don’t have words to express how highly I recommend this book. I got to hear Tchividjian speak at the Linger Conference, and this book is a more in-depth exploration of his topic: the inexhaustible grace of God. I want to buy multiple copies of this book so I can have them on hand to give to people when they slump with the weight of their inability to “measure up.”
In its entirety, the book is a much-needed reminder that God’s love and grace are one way: He pours them out on us because of His desire to do so. There is no striving or earning on our part, either to get it or to keep it. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus bought what we could never hope to afford. The words “it is finished” ring out over the story of our lives, meaning our need to measure up no longer exists. Because Jesus won, we are free to lose. Because Jesus succeeded, we are free to fail.
So what does this have to do with fear?
Grace proves to us that God’s love for us is perfect.
A perfect love exists when the beloved is both fully known and fully loved. A perfect love continues regardless of what is known about the beloved. A perfect love has no conditions or strings attached. It is not dependent upon the beloved in any way.
God knows everything about us. He knows every thought, every desire, every word, every action. He knows the fulness of our sin and the extent of our helplessness. And in the face of this knowledge, He did everything He could to save us.
Tchividjian puts it this way:
“Christianity alone affirms that the God who makes the demands also met those demands for us in the person of Jesus. That God would deign to reach us in a way that both acknowledges and resolves these fundamental realities [that we have a debt to pay and that we can’t pay it] is not juvenile or overly abstract/economic- it is both gracious and miraculous. We are both fully known and fully loved.”
God knows everything about us and still He loves us. More than that, His love is not contingent upon anything we do or don’t do. His love is gracious and it is perfect.
Perfect love casts out fear.
We discussed this idea last time, but it’s worth repeating.
Because God’s love is perfect, it comes without the threat of punishment.
Do you believe that? Because it’s true. There may be negative consequences as a result of our actions, but there is no punishment. Jesus already absorbed all of the punishment for us. Nothing we do will make God stop loving us.
Without the threat of punishment, there can be no fear of punishment. And when there’s no fear of punishment, we are free to try. Whether we succeed or fail doesn’t matter. Both our successes and failures are covered by the blood of Christ. Either way, we’re still loved.
No matter what your fear is, God’s gracious, perfect love has the power to cast it out.
“Grace empowers risk-taking effort and neighbor-embracing love.”
When fear is gone, we are free to live the way God has called us to. It’s not a requirement. It’s His desire for us to live for Him. And when we’re free from the requirement, we’re free to pursue this life with reckless abandon and pure joy. Our good works are no longer “for God” in the sense that we’re trying to maintain our good standing with Him.
Instead, our good works become “for others” in a way we could never imagine on our own. Think how different your relationships would be without the fears that hold you back: fear of others’ opinions, fear of rejection, fear of not being enough. What could the world look like if we loved and served others without fear?
I’ll let Tchividjian have the final word:
“What prevents us from taking great risks most of the time is the fear that if we don’t succeed, we will lose out on something we need in order to be happy. And so we live life playing our cards close to the chest … relationally, vocationally, spiritually. We measure our investments carefully because we need a return- we are afraid to give, because it might not work out, and we need it to work out. … The Gospel breaks the chains of reciprocity and the circular exchange. Since there is nothing we ultimately need from one another, we are free to do everything for one another. Spend our lives giving instead of taking; going to the back instead of getting to the front; sacrificing ourselves for others instead of sacrificing others for ourselves. The Gospel alone liberates us to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.”