Summary: An irrational fear of God can cause us to build a wall between ourselves and Him. What can we do tear down that wall and lay hold of His love?
OPEN: Several years ago, a freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair with a scientific survey that he conducted. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of a chemical known as "Dihydrogen monoxide" because:
1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
2. It is a major component in acid rain.
3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.
5. It contributes to erosion.
6. It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.
7. It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.
Then he asked 50 people if they support a ban of this particular chemical.
43 said yes
6 were undecided
And only one knew that the chemical is ... water. (2 molecules of Hydrogen/ 1 of oxygen)
APPLY: When you know the answer, the question seems silly.
Water isn’t really dangerous.
Granted it is a major component in acid rain (it’s the rain)
And when it’s in its gaseous state (steam) it can cause severe burns
And if you accidentally inhale it, you can drown.
All of those statements were true. And if you didn’t know any better, you might be afraid of Dihydrogen monoxide". You might ask for this chemical to be either eliminated or controlled by the FDA. You might become afraid of water… that is… IF you didn’t know any better. But when you know better, the fear seems irrational.
In today’s text, we find that Paul is addressing people who have an irrational fear of God.
• They’re afraid that God hates them.
• They’re afraid God is just waiting to judge them for their sins and destroy them
• They’re afraid He wants to rob them of the joys of life.
• And they’re afraid that when life turns sour… He’ll up and leave them/ He’ll walk away.
Paul’s objective in this chapter is to get Christians to realize that that’s not true.
He wants them to see that, if they only knew better, that fear would seem as foolish as the fear of Dihydrogen monoxide.
Now, at the heart of all this fear of God is one basic emotion = shame.
Many times, when people come into God’s presence, they ask themselves: “How could God love me? I can’t hardly stand myself. I’ve done things/said things/ thought things that make me cringe… how could God possibly love me?
• God hates me.
• He’s just waiting to destroy me
• Or at the very least He’ll deny me joy because I don’t deserve that
• And one of these days I’ll look around and He won’t be there.”
They are afraid of God.
Now the Bible DOES tell us we should fear God.
Deut. 6:13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Prov. 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Psalm 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!…
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…
Psalm 115:13 (God) will bless those who fear the LORD— small and great alike.
Again and again and again we’re told to fear God.
But the kind of fear the Bible endorses is the kind of fear that makes me want
to please God
to praise Him
a fear that makes look forward to receiving wisdom and blessings and a safe life.
By contrast the fear Paul is addressing in Romans 8 is a fear that makes me want to run away from God. It’s an irrational, baseless fear. It’s like fearing H2O.
ILLUS: I once read about African natives who would make an idol of their god and then they’d bury in the ground… because if he couldn’t see them, he wouldn’t hurt them.
Now that seems a bit odd. Except that many people do the same thing to Jesus.
They build a wall between God and themselves.
They won’t come to church because they don’t think God would accept them.
He’s in here and they’re out there, and as long as it stays that way… He can’t see their sin and He won’t hurt them.
Yeah, it’s irrational, but it springs from the shame of past sin.
That’s what Paul addresses in Romans 7:14-24
“ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing.