Amazing grace and God-filled living…

I some times get the feeling that, in order to recapture ‘the fear of the Lord’ in the Church today, people (including myself in the past) attempt to foist OT revelation on NT revelation (full daylight is so much better than evening shadow). E.g. folk feel that the NT puts so much emphasis on ‘God’s love’ that any sense of ‘the fear of the Lord’ is lost. One person I was attempting to mentor said to me, ‘If I know that my school teacher is going to give me ‘hell’ if I don’t do my homework, I’ll make sure that I do the necessary!”

How often church leaders are afraid to entrust their disciples totally to God’s love, lest they become antinomian. Of course, they will become antinomian if they don’t properly grasp God’s great love in Christ]

My question is, would I not excel more as a child if I have both a healthy respect for my parents plus the assurance of their steadfast love for me? My wife and I could relate one or two stories…

It’s amazing how, for much of my early Christian life and pastoral ministry, I read the Scriptures through guilt-driven and legalistic eyes. Long before I saw the promise of God in a Scripture, I would get bogged down with my responsibilities and previous failures. Not that privileges don’t carry with them corresponding responsibilities…

I’ll give an example of a striking scripture featured in our local newspaper a few days ago, viz. Titus 2:11-12. In these verses Paul is instructing Titus (his convert and co-worker in Crete, Ephesus and Corinth) on the very foundation of Christian living. The scripture reads (NIV): “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (my emphasis) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Titus and and his fellow-believers should live in the way outlined because God has graciously acted for their salvation in Christ. In Christ the very grace of God ‘appeared!’ [‘grace’ is one of the great Pauline words, being used by him 100 times out of a total of 155 occurrences in the NT – it highlights the free-ness and extravagance of God’s gift in Christ. Furthermore, we can’t separate God’s grace from Christ, because He is the very summation thereof].

To summarise, there is nothing here about ‘fear,’ only the surpassing grace of Christ.

We could also mention 2 Cor. 5:14-15, where, with regard to the ministry of reconciliation, Paul stresses the compelling love of Christ as our motivation. Yes, he mentions ‘fear’ in v. 12 – however, is he not here simply emphasising his great sense of accountability as a servant of the Lord?

What about the call to ‘work out our salvation in fear and trembling’ in Phil. 2:12? Look at the context, 2:1-11, where Paul lays the foundation of that responsibility viz. Christ’s breath-taking self-humiliation on our behalf, hence v. 12’s ‘therefore.’ Note also v. 13’s under-girding promise: ‘For it is God (the God of 2:1-11) who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.’

How many times have I sung John Newton’s historic hymn Amazing Grace without getting the message, ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved!’

As my son recently reminded me, ‘Love will lead you where fear never will!’ Not natural or craven fear, not religion, not rules and regulations, not the law, nothing in all the world.

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