Many Christian writers and speakers spend a lot of time focusing on the wrath of God and how He will torture sinners. I recently read an article by John Burton titled, "Is it Time for Hell Fire Preaching Again?" In the article he stated, "we need hell fire preachers to emerge and announce to the church and the world the reality of their situation and the measure of God's wrath and judgment that is coming. Contrary to popular belief a very real revelation of hell, of torment, is needed to draw people to the Lover of their souls."
I can't agree with the idea that a very real revelation of hell, of torment, is needed to draw people to God. Instead of I want to lift up a gentle God. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus describes himself this way. “Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.” And in John 14:9 he says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to fear Him. God doesn’t want us to fear Him. Jesus wants to be our friend. He said in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” A servant is afraid of his master, but a real friendship should not involve fear. Jesus wants to be our friend and to dispel our fears. He wants to cast out fear.
I’m not saying that there are no consequences. There is a judgment. Galatians 6:7-8, tells us, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Does God use fear as a tactic to lead us to repent? Many Christian preachers and writers use fear. Fear spills over into our outreach efforts. We feel that we have to warn the world of the judgement, the Second Coming, and hell. Shouldn’t it rather be our privilege to announce to the world the Good News that Jesus is almost here? That we can all be ready for that because of what He’s already done before we were even born. That if we daily choose Him, we have nothing to fear from the judgement and hell.
There is no doubt that the world, and we ourselves in the church, need to come to repentance, But does God use fear as a way to motivate us? The Bible says in Romans 2:4, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" What leads us to repentance? What brings us to confess? Is it fear? Is it to avoid hell? Is it to gain the rewards of heaven? None of those are good reasons to repent.
Seeing his kindness towards us makes us sorry for the things we have done to hurt him. It leads us to repentance. Seeing God’s kindness towards us makes us want to be like him and show compassion to our fellow human beings.
God is the God of peace, God is the God of love. God is not the God of fear. Fear and love are at war with one another.
I will illustrate this with a story. One night a house caught fire, and a young boy was forced to go to the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see was flames, smoke, and blackness. He was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, “I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you, and that's all that matters."
Let me ask you a question. Was the boy in the story afraid? Yes, of course, he was afraid. What was he afraid of? The fire. Was he afraid of the fireman? No. He had to put his trust in the fireman. He couldn’t have put his trust in the fireman if he had been afraid of him.
What about you? Are you afraid? You should be. Not all fear is bad. There is a healthy fear. Fear makes us cautious in the presence of danger such as crossing a busy highway, working with High voltage electricity, or dangerous equipment. But don’t be afraid of the fireman, who is Jesus. He is your only hope, your only chance of being rescued. You need to trust him, not be afraid of him.
God doesn’t want you to fear Him, he wants to save you. Let’s do some soul searching today. Do you see God as a harsh, demanding God or a loving God? Do you serve a God who is a friend or do you view Him as a taskmaster just waiting for you to fail so He can torture you?
Psalms 86:15 says, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” Do you see God as a gentle God, a compassionate God, a gracious God? I hope so!