Just a brief note concerning this blog: for the teachings of Jesus, if he repeated things (as he often did), I may or may not comment on the things he repeated, depending on if God brings something new to light in my own heart. In most cases, if the same teaching is repeated, it should have been noted in previous blogs in the title.
As I look at this passage though, something does strike me. Three words: Fear. Fear not. Jesus said,
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (4-5)
In other words, “Fear God, not people. People, at worst, can kill you. But God has the power to throw you into hell. Physical death comes in an instant. But spiritual death is forever.”
Does this mean that we are to live in utter terror that God is just waiting to nail us every time we fail? That he takes pleasure in throwing us into hell? No. For Jesus also tells us.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (6-7)
I think there are two things about God’s character that we always need to keep in balance. First, his holiness. Second, his love.
Too often, people focus on the latter while trying to forget the former.
But throughout the Bible, whenever people first see God in his glory, it is always his holiness they see first. And not only his holiness, but their own unholiness. The result? Fear. Fear because they know they deserve punishment. Fear because they know they don’t even deserve to live.
But the second thing they always see is his love. And time and again, the first words that come out of God’s mouth is, “Fear not.”
Jesus shows us the same thing here. First he tells us to fear God. God is holy. And his holiness demands that sin be dealt with. Anyone who doesn’t come before God and deal with his sin here on earth, will have his sin dealt with in hell later.
But that’s not God’s desire. He truly does care for us. He wants the best for us. We are not just one of billions of people to him. He knows each of us by name, and every detail about us.
He cared so much for you that he was willing to send his Son to die for your sin. And even if you were the only person who had ever sinned, Jesus still would have died for you.
And when we truly realize that, our initial fear turns into overwhelming love for him. We no longer need to live in fear of God or anyone else. Because if we have put our trust in him, no matter what happens to us here on earth, our future is secure in heaven.
So let us remember the words of John who wrote,
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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. We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:16-19)