by Herb Douglass
We are all the same, at least some time in our lives. No matter how we want to describe it, when we stand at the edge about ready to be pulled over by that huge, extra piece of apple pie smothered with vanilla ice cream (or is it another slice of Vienna torte cake), what is stopping us?
When that flirt gives us a ;come-on,’ what is stopping you? Or your friends want you to help celebrate a birthday party next Friday night-what is stopping you? Or it may not be anything like the above — just something that stops you for a moment: Shall I or shall I not!
Let's get to the nub of it all: When it comes to committing a sin, what are we afraid of? Are we afraid of what God will do to us, or are we afraid of what sin will do to us?
Let's think about it! For a young Christian, sometimes fear of God can be a good motivator. But as we mature in our Christian walk there has to come a point in time when we are no longer afraid of God, because he is our Friend. Then what?
Some time in our ‘growing up,’ we understand that God is not the enemy, sin is. I know, it sometimes takes a life time for some people to finally ‘get it.’ No doubt after many bruises, wasted hours and years, the truth sinks in. But why does it take so long?
But the question remains: What are we afraid of? Wisdom seems to suggest that being afraid of sin itself, or having a desire not to sin, should be driven by a fear of what sin will do to us.
To be frank, the obedient child doesn't run out in the street because he is probably afraid of what mom or dad will do to him if he does. Ah! Punishment! But as he gets older he learns that mom and dad are his friends, and the enemy is not his parents but the car that could possibly kill him. We call that motivational change, maturity.
Our job is to be grown-up, mature Christians as Paul describes the process in several of his letters. All this simply means to treat sin as the enemy instead of God
Right now our country is wrapped up with rules and regulations, more so every year. Why, because so many of us are so out of control. Those who are personally way out of control must be kept under control by the laws of the land, or, let's just say it – by fear of punishment.
Such is the motivation of our law-makers: The more this country gets out of whack, the only thing that will keep people in line, or, should we say somewhat in line, will be the fear of punishment, the fear of the government, the fear of the Man, the fear of what will happen to them if they do something wrong.
Is that the way God runs the universe? Does He make laws hoping angels and other intelligences obey because they fear the punishment? What is God's preferred plan? That all intelligent creatures should desire to do right because it is right? Or not to do right out of fear of punishment? If the fear of punishment is the only motivation that holds a society together, the society is doomed.
How does a mature person face all his or her choices? He/she realizes that actions have consequences. He/she knows that the law of cause and effect is as reliable as the law of gravity.
So again, to be realistic, what does the wise person do? Think of young Joseph. In the prime of young manhood, accosted by a gorgeous female in the seclusion of her private quarters who begged him, “Lie with me.” When she clung to his clothes, he said, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9)
But does Joseph's answer settle the matter? I think not! Was Joseph afraid of what God would do to him? Was that fear of a Righteous Judge what caused Joseph to flee?
When any female reading these words refuses the advances of a smiling boss or a very understanding pastor, is she afraid of being caught by her husband or the charmer's wife? And the embarrassment and punishment is enough to fear and to say no? Of the fear of what God will do some day down the road, either immediately or in the Judgment Day?
Let's put it another way: Do we say No to sin, because of what God will do to us or what Satan will do to us?
It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to think of what wrong choices can do to us if we worry about diabetes on one hand and keep feeding the habit of maple walnut ice cream, loaded cheese lasagnas or omelets, and sinking into the easy chair watching another evening of TV when we should be walking that extra mile before bedtime.
Look at the question again: Suppose you change your diet, and make daily exercise a habit, not because you fear diabetes but what God will do to you if you flaunt His laws of health.
Do we then make a habit of making the right choices for the wrong reasons?
I will give you my understanding: God is our friend, not our exacting judge. God is our Father, not our calculating bookkeeper. He lays out His plan for our happiness, our safety, our peace.
He pleads with us to chose life, not death; health, not sickness. Listen to Our Friend speak: “For why should you die, O House of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies.” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live.”
Just before this lamentation, Our Friend said, “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” Our Friend is always on the side of health and happiness and we are the ones who frustrate Him.
Remember that pregnant moment in Eden when our Creator said to Adam regarding the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge; “You shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die!” (Genesis 2:17).
What was Adam to fear? Our Best Friend, our Loving Creator, did not tell Adam that when he should eat of that tree, God would kill him!!
No, then and now, God wants us to fear the consequences of our choices, not His Hand of Judgment Even when we make the right choices, let's make sure that we are afraid of the bad consequences — and not God's punishing hand. It makes all the difference in the world how we think of who and what God is!