There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
There’s lots of fear mongering going on today. The word “monger” originally referred to a trader of commodities, but today it’s more often used to describe a person involved in something petty or contemptible.
You don’t have to look very far to find someone who’s only too willing to inform you about all the things you should fear, whether it’s financial collapse, food shortages, killer diseases, or the government secretly planning to lock you up in the FEMA camps they’ve been building so they can force you to take the mark of the beast.
Books and videos explaining signs from God that foretell of coming judgments are guaranteed to sell even if they are not always accurate in their interpretation of His word. This is because all around the world there is a growing expectation of judgment. Paul explained that even those who have no knowledge of God’s law intuitively know right from wrong (Romans 2:14-15), and even the most casual observers are beginning to sense that things are going wrong.
I don’t know of a single nation that’s being blessed today. All are in some stage of the end times judgment that will culminate in the fulfillment of Jeremiah 30:11 when the Lord will completely destroy them. Only Israel is guaranteed survival and even they will endure some very difficult times first.
We recently compared current events in the world with the “birth pangs” Jesus described as indicators that the end of the Age was drawing near. We saw evidence that these indicators are steadily becoming more frequent and more intense as the time for the Second Coming approaches in the same way birth pangs become more frequent and more intense as the time for the delivery of a new life approaches.
Many Christians are still deeply immersed in the world, and even though they are born again, the fearful attitudes of their unbelieving counterparts have begun occupying their minds as well. What with the evening news, the internet, radio and TV talk shows, and what passes for secular entertainment these days it’s no wonder.
Don’t Let It Get You Down
The Bible warns us about letting the fears and uncertainties of this world infect our minds. In Matt. 6:25-34 Jesus repeatedly said, “Do not worry.”And in Matt. 13:22 He said the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of worldly wealth could stunt the growth of His word in our hearts and make us unfruitful. He said we should expect trouble in this world but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). And about the times we’re in, He said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Notice that Jesus didn’t tell us to take heart because He would give us the strength to overcome the world ourselves. He said to take heart because He has overcome the world. And He also said seeing the signs of the approaching End Times should cause us to stand up and lift up our heads because our redemption is drawing near. One of the great promises of the Bible is that we don’t have to be overtaken by events in this world, but can remain above them.
But because of our fallen nature, this doesn’t happen automatically. Our natural tendency is to mirror the attitudes of the world around us. We learn very early in life that this is how we get the people around us to accept us, and acceptance is one of our most basic human needs. That’s why so few of us are truly individuals. We’ve been working to fit in with the world around us since we were little children. By the time we reach adulthood it has become second nature to us. Most of us never come to understand that we are who we are primarily because we’ve learned to reflect the attitudes and habits of people whose acceptance has been important to us.
Becoming born again doesn’t automatically change us, especially if we are still immersed in the same society. In its newness, evidence of our faith will show itself in the way we talk and act. But if the company we keep doesn’t approve, we’ll soon learn to keep that part of ourself private. It’s a price we pay for acceptance.
Many Christians discover that living out their faith requires developing a whole new set of friends, but even then they often become the same kind of Christian their new friends are. Ever notice that in congregations who believe in prayer languages, just about everybody has one? But in those who don’t believe in prayer languages no body has one.
The same is true when it comes to legalism, baptism, prophecy, different schools of theology, etc. A person’s position on any of these points will usually mirror the position of the church they attend. And it’s not because they went looking for a church that teaches a particular doctrine. Most of us didn’t know what to believe when we first started going to church, and the vast majority of us never check to see if what we are being taught is true. We believe it because the the people who have accepted us into their midst believe it.
Acceptance Trumps Knowledge
This is because the need for acceptance trumps Biblical knowledge. The Bible only teaches one view on all these things and if everyone relied on the Bible to help them form their beliefs there wouldn’t be all these different denominations. This was Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 3:1-9.
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
The problem is most of us don’t rely on the Bible to inform us. We rely on what other people tell us. Because of that we can never be certain that what we know is true, and our uncertainty is the open door to our mind that fear walks through when things start to get scary.
Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephes. 4:22-24).
Paul was speaking here of allowing the Holy Spirit to begin His regeneration process in our minds. Being transformed and being made new in the attitudes of our minds are not things we do, they’re things He does. Our participation in the process involves reading God’s word and letting the Holy Spirit confirm the truth of it in our minds. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). God’s word is the only source of that truth.
But many believers omit the step of reading God’s word. As a result they are left with only their feeling that the truth has been spiritually revealed to them. People like this have a zeal without knowledge, something Proverbs 19:2 says is not good. I can’t count the number of e-mails I’ve received from people excitedly claiming that the Holy Spirit had revealed something new to them and they’ve decided to share it with me. Usually I discover after a few minutes of study that what had been “revealed” to them is in direct contradiction to what the written word says.
Most people don’t realize that our minds can be tricked into thinking we’ve received something from the Holy Spirit when it’s actually coming from a different source altogether. When we omit the step of reading God’s word we’re removing the confirmation step from the regeneration process, which can easily retard our spiritual growth and even result in believing a false teaching.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8).
I’m convinced that Paul was not just talking about sources from the unbelieving world here. Listening to a pastor or teacher without confirming that what he says is consistent with God’s word is one of the most common ways of having a false teaching planted in our minds. This is why Paul commended the Bereans for confirming everything he taught them by searching the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). In failing to do so we run the risk of simply exchanging a secular man made tradition for a religious one.
What Does The Bible Say?
Jesus said there will be trouble in this word but to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He said when the particular trouble the world is experiencing right now begins to take place we should stand up and lift up our heads because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28). He said because we’ve kept His command to endure patiently He will keep us from the hour of trial that’s coming upon the whole world to test those who live on the Earth (Rev. 3:10). He said He will come back and take us to be with Him so that where He is we will also be (John 14:2-3).
Paul said Jesus will rescue us from the coming wrath (1 Thes. 1:10). He said we who are alive and are left will be caught up (raptured) to meet Him in the clouds and we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thes. 4:17). He said to encourage each other with these words (1 Thes. 4:18). He said events leading up to the end of the age should not take us by surprise (1 Thes. 5:4), and that we are not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through Christ our Lord (1 Thes. 5:9).
If you’ve only heard these things from the mouths of men then you can’t be sure they are true, and you’re fair game for the fear mongers who delight in shaking the confidence of the uncertain.
But if you have read with your own eyes the verses from which these statements come, and know them well enough so you can easily find them in your Bible, if you have asked the Holy Spirit to confirm the truth of them and believe in your heart that they apply to the times ahead, then you have protected yourself from all the fear mongering that abounds today.
You know that these promises do not necessarily exempt you from any persecution or trial between now and the day He comes to take us, but you know you are a child of God (John 1:12-13) and because of that you can continue to endure patiently. Since you believe He left, you know He will come for you. When He does He will take you to His Father’s house, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (John 14:2-3).