February 23, 2017

Fear of not making the grade . . .

Two of my friends have a firm knowledge of ‘salvation by faith’ yet occasionally admit to a fear: “But what if I don’t do it right?” They admit knowing that ‘doing it right’ is not the Gospel, yet this fear creeps in and turns their joy into anxiety.

Fear is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, most often with an admonition to have courage, or trust God. When a Jewish leader came to Jesus requesting He come home with him and heal his daughter, some came from his house saying his daughter is dead, and not to trouble Jesus any longer. However, Jesus ignored them and said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)

Believe what? That the girl would be raised? That this bad news was in error? That she wasn’t really dead?

When I get in a dither about something, I want to believe the problem will go away, or be solved, or that I can handle this, but that is not the believing Jesus looked for. It isn’t believing that what I want to happen will happen, but believing in God and what He has done and will do. Such faith begins with believing in Him for salvation . . .

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16–18)

The problem is human thinking and the perversity of our pride. Salvation without earning it goes against our nature and our nurture. In life, there are no rewards that are undeserved. We have to work to get paid, be nice to have friends, put our best foot forward to get a job, and so it goes. Even when we ‘know’ that salvation is by grace alone there is that nagging voice whispering, “But you have to earn it.”

It is not what I do, but what Christ has done that saves me, yet the idea creeps into my mind that before I can truly trust Christ, I must be deeply convicted of sin, weep and mourn over it, desire holiness, repent, long for Christ, and earnestly seek Him.

This sounds right, but it is merely the voice of salvation by works. This happens to people both before that initial yielding to Christ, and after trusting Him and becoming a Christian. Yet Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe.” ONLY means ONLY — nothing more. Believing Jesus means no prerequisites or qualifications. Trusting Christ alone is how I entered into a saving relationship with Him, and it is how I am to live out my Christian life . . . 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6–7)

If I am saved by faith, so also I must live in faith, trusting ONLY Christ, not myself, my own wits, or anything else. Yet even knowing this is the way it is, my pride and my sin nature often sticks thoughts into my head of what I must do to solve the issues  of life.

The rub is that God also gives directions by speaking directly into my mind. So how do I know the difference? Those thoughts must be verified by God’s Word.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

And the Holy Spirit says, “Keep reading it, Elsie, keep reading it!”

Jesus, You are the Living Word and by believing You, I know You as Savior and Lord. And for the nitty-gritty of life and how to address what happens, including my fears, You have blessed me with the written Word. I am so thankful for many reasons, and at the top of the list is this wonderful fact: through Your Word You reveal to me what I need to know for all decisions and in all situations. Because of Your grace, I do not need to fear, only believe.

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