03 April 2008

Bad Theology is Fertile Ground for Fear

I saw a program on the National Geographic channel called Dogs with Jobs. In this particular episode, a dog that was being trained for an elite defense team in Austria was being tested to see if she would make the grade. She was a young Belgian Shepard who obviously loved her work. She watched her master's every signal and command and obeyed him, doing all he asked with all she had. She located bad guys who were hiding, disarmed one gunman and cornered another. She scaled walls and crawled on her belly under barbed wire. All of these things were perfectly executed but her final test would be the deciding factor. She and her master went up in a helicopter- way up-and parachuted out together. The dog and her master were clipped to an expert skydiver, whose job it was to guide them to the earth as if they were going in on a mission. If the dog balked, became disoriented, sick or frightened, she would be disqualified. The dog so trusted her master that she didn't seem to notice she had left the helicopter. In fact, when she landed she wanted to play and was given her favorite toy as a reward.

I watched the program in total amazement all the while thinking what a wonderful gift God has given us in dogs. Their companionship, loyalty and ability to help us is a blessing. I also saw in this example the freedom from fear that comes from trusting your master absolutely. We experience fear, the unhealthy and sinful variety, when we don't trust our Master. We don't trust Him because we don't fully understand who He is. Bad theology is the right soil for cultivating fear and the lack of spiritual discipline acts as fertilizer.

Spiritual discipline alone is not a cure for fear. It is a means by which our faith is bolstered and our understanding of the character of God is increased. We see our utter dependence and His complete faithfulness when we submit to Him and discipline ourselves to seek Him. Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Donald Whitney in his book "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" describes it this way; "The Spiritual Disciplines then are also like channels of God's transforming grace. As we place ourselves in them to seek communion with Christ, His grace flows to us and we are changed. " He then goes on to quote Charles Spurgeon. "I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace--mark that--yet it will be the channel of it."

Not knowing God as He really is, not hearing the Word of God cut straight and rightly divided, not spending time in prayer, bible study, and worship, the only sensible reaction is to be scared. A right understanding of God will cultivate the right kind of fear. God is completely trustworthy, holy and righteous. He does not lie and takes no pleasure in our sinful fears. His perfect love casts out fear.

I John 4:15-19
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
16 And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17 By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
19 We love, because He first loved us. (NAS)

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