On some have compassion, making a difference, and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 22-23)
I promised yesterday to explain the proper role, audience, and usage of my constant assailing of the traditions of men in our day concerning “faith only.” I’m going to use a question to do so that was asked of me by my wife and also a close friend of mine.
Fear is not my primary motivation to follow God. Should it be?
First and foremost, we love him because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). Love of God and faith in Jesus is our primary motivator.
The truth is that all of us face temptation and we face spiritual laziness. We face times when our diligence lags and we would rather just check out for an hour, or a day, or a week.
Usually, if we are disciples, committed to growing to be like our King, then the only fear we need is that we would slow down and quit growing. That matters to us enough that we don’t need a wake up call from someone else. We will urge ourselves to rise and do good just to prevent ongoing laziness in ourselves.
Sometimes, though, temptation is great enough that it is a healthy fear of the judgment that protects us. This should be rare. This should be for unusual circumstances, but we all know that these circumstances do happen. Good Christian men and women get in a rough enough spot in their marriage that someone comes along, rubs some salve on a wounded heart, and even if a conscience is strong enough to avoid active adultery, in this modern age it is often not strong enough to avoid, over time, a divorce and remarriage that is nothing but an prolonged adultery. At such a time, knowing the truth, that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, is a help.
Examples from My Own Life
I’ll give two examples from myself. I used to have an explosive temper. I probably still do, but I have been trained, with open confession and a lot of help from others, not to give in to it anymore. In this case, I was motivated by the horror I had over my behavior. I did not need to be reminded that “outbursts of wrath” are among the works of the flesh that will stop us from inheriting the kingdom of God.
Others do need reminding because overcoming overactive emotions, whether rage, jealousy, possessiveness, or some other, is neither easy nor pleasant. It can be like a drug addiction, and it is easy to give up when the work is hard or when we give in so often that we feel we will never be delivered.
We can’t give up, the unrighteous do not inherit the kingdom of God. Our very souls could be on the line.
My second example:
Before I ever met my wife, I worked at a business that had just one employee: me. Eventually, the owner hired another person, a very pretty young woman in the middle of a divorce.
I was too young to know that you don’t give advice or comfort to a person of the other sex in such a situation. I found myself in the extremely awkward and extremely tempting situation of being diligently pursued by her. She was not subtle. She asked to go home with me on a regular basis and showed up at my house early in the morning before breakfast a couple times.
Every day I would get up and read Proverbs 5-7, all three chapters. Verses that stood out to me, and helped me were:
- 5:3-5: The lips of an adulteress drip honey … but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death. Her steps lead to Sheol.
- 6:26-27: The adulteress will hunt for your precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?
- 6:32: He who commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding. He who does it destroys his own soul.
- 7:7,21-22: I saw among the simple ones. I discerned among the youths a young man void of understanding. … With persuasive words she led him astray. With the flattering of her lips, she seduced him. He followed her immediately, as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a fool stepping into a noose. Until an arrow strickes through his liver, as a bird hurries to the snare and doesn’t know it will cost him his life.
There was one other I couldn’t find that said that those who go down to her never return.
I finally went to a pastor who said, “Wow, I really understand how hard that would be.”
I told him, “I don’t need you to understand. My single friends already understand. I’m in a war here. There’s a good side of me, and there’s a bad side, and I want the good side to triumph.”
A flash of understanding went across his eyes, and he narrowed his eyebrows. “Oh,” he said, and his voice grew stern, “Do not give in. You cannot do this. You will regret it for the rest of your life. You owe it to God to obey him.”
Even though I had to ask for the rebuke, it helped. It got in me. It steeled my will.
She quit the next day, and I never saw her again. Well, I did see her one more time. It was a year or two later, and I was with my wife. I saw her, and I waved to her and said hi. The feeling of gladness that I could wave at this woman, walking with my wife and guilt-free, was thrilling. At that moment I was intensely grateful for the warning of Scripture and the rebuke of a friend.
The Normal Christian Life and the Weapon of Fear
Such warnings and thoughts of hell are not to be the mindset of Christians. Our minds are to be set on things above, not things below. Our eyes are to fixed on our King, seated at the right hand of our Father, and with our eyes on him and our mind on the things of the Spirit, we will live in a powerful and effective holiness.
That is the normal Christian life.
What I am fighting for is a tool, a defense of our soul, that some of us need worse than others and most of us should need only for the most difficult battles. However, the preachers of false grace—who would award heaven to the unworthy and tell the worthy that they cannot be—would steal the weapon of fear from all of us at all times.
While Americans fight for their second amendment right to own a gun, I fight for my Jude 23 right to wield the weapon of fear, by means of which you and I can pull some from the fire.
Yes, it is much more often that the Jude 22 weapon of compassion is used. It, however, is said only to “make a difference.” The weapon of fear is for saving and pulling the endangered from the fire.
I refuse to let it go.
For those of you who are walking worthy of the calling with which you are called, I am not asking you to focus on judgment. I am, however, asking you to arm yourself, like the saints have throughout the ages, with the weapon of fear. I tell you with James that if you turn an erring brother from his ways, you have saved a soul from death and covered a multitude of sins.
Knowing the terror of the Lord, I persuade men. (2 Cor. 5:11)
- Life of an Atheist or Non-believer (meanlittleboy2.wordpress.com)
- Which way do you run when temptation calls? (examiner.com)
- Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. (church4u2.wordpress.com)