If God’s Love Casts Out Fear, Being Filled with the Spirit means Being Filled with Love Free from Fear

The apostle, John, wrote, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) This was written by a man who, when the chips were down for Jesus, kept his distance from Jesus in fear with the rest of the apostles. When Jesus tried to tell them of the need for him to die and be raised from the dead, they did not understand. He predicted they would forsake him.

“You will all fall away because of Me this night…. (Matthew 26:31)

Peter pumped his chest with bravado as he protested that he would never leave, (Matthew 26:32-33), but Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He knew that Peter would deny him not once, but three separate times. (Matthew 26:34)

So great was the fear that overtook the disciples that they scattered after Jesus was taken by the Roman soldiers. Though Peter stayed back to witness the interrogation, beatings, mocking and humiliation to which Jesus was subjected, but he denied that he knew him three separate times.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can overwhelm us and cause us to stumble from the path that we know is right. How do we overcome fear?

When Jesus was present, the apostles were different men. One of them even drew a sword on the Roman soldiers when they came to take Jesus in the garden. (Matthew 26:51) But, with Jesus absent, suffering at the hands of those same Roman soldiers, the apostles’ bravado turned to fear.

Even after Peter and John went to the tomb, found it empty and “believed” (John 20:8), they were still fearful. When Jesus came to them after he had risen from the dead, he found the disciples behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews”. (John 20:19)

In that encounter, Jesus appeared to them, showed them his hands and his side, and spoke to them. He breathed on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit”. Certainly that would have changed the demeanor of the disciples! Right?

It didn’t. Eight days later Jesus came to them again, and he found them, once again, inside and behind locked doors. (John 20:26) Nothing had changed.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, after spending about forty more days with the apostles, speaking to them and confirming his words with signs (Acts 1:1-3), the apostles returned to the upper room where they had been staying. (Acts 1:12) They remained cloistered.

The apostles were not empowered by Jesus appearing to them, by him breathing the Holy Spirit upon them or by explaining to them everything that they didn’t understand. After all of that, the apostles remaining holed up in the upper room.

The apostles didn’t venture out with boldness until after the Holy Spirit came upon them and filled them. (Acts 2:2-4) Filled with the Holy Spirit, they drew a crowd (Acts 2:6) and stood up and addressed the crowd, and the crowd was “amazed and astonished”. (Acts 2:7) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly addressed the “men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem” (Acts 2:14) demanding that they repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)

The same apostles who cowered and scattered when Jesus was taken and remained in hiding fearful of the Jews even after Jesus appeared to them risen from the dead became bold, did not become courageous proclaimers of the Gospel until they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Love is from God (1 John 4:7), and God is love. (1 John 4:8) Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit are filled with love, and perfect love casts out all fear.

If we are fearful, we have are not filled with the Holy Spirit. If we are fearful are not filled with love. If the God is love, the Spirit of God is love, and perfect love casts out all fear. .

God, please fill me with your Holy Spirit and drive out the fear lurking in my heart!

How Important is Love in Your Theology?

Where does love come from?

Tina Turner sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” We might ask that question about theology. We might even ask that question about life, itself!

Most people, I think, would say that love has a lot to do with life and theology. Or, at least, it should!

What does the Bible say? Does it affirm that intuition? The answer is clear that the Bible affirms that intuition of the importance of love ins spades!

What is love?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)


“This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)


“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:15)

What is the source of love?

“[L]ove is from God”

1 John 4:7


“God is love.”

1 John 4:16

How important is love in the Bible?

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

The supreme importance and place of love in Scripture reveals that love could not more more important or prominent in our theology! Any theology, therefore, that is light on love is light on truth.

What Does God Want from Us?

This question gets at the whole point of Scripture….


If God is the creator of the universe, of everything seen and unseen, as the Bible says, if God was intentional in His creation and made us in His image as the centerpiece of His creation, what was His intention for us? What does He want from us?

This question gets at the whole point of Scripture, but I think we miss the point among all the words sometimes.

Even people who believe that God exists and acknowledge God made us get lost in the words sometimes. We see in Scripture lists of “do’s and don’ts” and rules and warnings, and we fail to see the big picture, the purpose of God. We fail to see God’s character and heart.

The Law was intended by God to show us what is right and, more importantly, to reveal to us that we are incapable of doing what is right in and of ourselves. (Rom. 7:7-25) We all fall short (Rom. 3:23), and we fail to do what we know we ought to do. (Rom. 7:18-19)

Anyone who depends on doing right to make themselves right with God are cursed (Gal. 3:10). If they fail at one point, they fail at everything. If a person refrains from killing anyone his entire life except for one time, he is still a murderer – not because of all the people he didn’t kill, but because of the one person he did kill. If a person lies only once, he is a liar.

If you sin once, you are sinner. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

The point of the law is to help us understand that we can’t achieve righteousness by our own efforts. It’s impossible for us. We must depend on God for it. The Law was given alongside the promise of God to show people their sins to that we would receive the grace that God offers us through Jesus. (Gal. 3:19)

Salvation (from sin and death) is a gift God gives us by His grace; God gives us salvation by grace so that none of us can boast about having earned it. (Eph. 2:8-9)

But is this all God expects from us? Is this all God wants from us – to be saved from sin and death? If salvation from sin and death was all God wanted for us, He could have made us without the capability of sinning, and He could have made us eternal from the beginning.

Continue reading “What Does God Want from Us?”

The Non-Transactional Nature of Love

Love is more than something we do for God and others


1 Corinthians 13[1] was the subject of the sermon I watched this morning online. Perhaps, my favorite all-time chapter in the Bible. It’s a popular favorite, too, recited at weddings and funerals and known to people who aren’t particularly religious.

Some things that stand out to me from the sermon are these things: Love isn’t a feeling; it’s something you do. Talent, skills and giftedness are things we value, but they don’t require or demonstrate love. An eloquent and inspirational speaker without love is like a clanging gong or cymbal.

I liked the analogy of the guitar solo vs. a gong solo. Who would do that? No one does a gong solo. A gong solo is like talent without love. Nothing but noise.

Not even prophecy, or knowledge or faith that can move mountains is worth anything if I don’t have love. If I give everything I own away to the poor and give my body up to be burned at the stake (the ultimate religious sacrifice), but I don’t have love, I gain nothing.

As I think about these things, it occurs to me that love isn’t (just) something that we do. It’s certainly true that the love being described isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. Love is more like a commitment than a feeling in that sense, and it is (partly) something that we do; but it’s much more than that.

Continue reading “The Non-Transactional Nature of Love”

The Observation of an Atheist Historian: What Makes Christianity Stand Out Among World Religions


The radical quality of the love of Jesus stands out over and above all other examples. I have written on this before (the Christian expression of the Golden Rule compared to other religions). Most other world religions express some concept of the Golden Rule, but not in the way that Jesus did.

Other world religions state the Golden Rule in a limited way, such as not doing things to others that you would not want them to do to you. It’s the idea of refraining from doing evil. Under that concept of the Golden Rule, we simply need to avoid doing evil to our neighbors. There is no compulsion to do good to them. Ignoring your neighbor would be perfectly acceptable on this less golden iteration of the principal.

Most major world religions do not express the Golden Rule positively, as Jesus did: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. In this statement of the principal, doing unto others is an affirmative duty. Simply refraining from doing them evil is not the concept of the Golden Rule expressed by Jesus.

Jesus made this clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable begins with a man who was robbed and left injured on the road. A priest and Levite (the priestly cast of Judaism) walked by the man on the other side of the road, ignoring him, while a Samaritan (an outcast to Jews) crossed the road to tend to the injured man. The good Samaritan was the example of the person who demonstrated love for a “neighbor” because he didn’t just ignore the injured man lying in the road.  The idea of the Golden Rule that Jesus expressed includes an affirmative duty to do good.

To be fair, some religions come close to an affirmative expression of the Golden Rule, which I affirm in the previous blog piece, but there is one additional expression of the Golden Rule that stands alone: that is the concept of loving even our enemies and doing good to those who intend evil toward us.

I think of these things as I pause from listening to Douglas Murray in a discussion with Esther Riley on the Unbelievable? podcast with Justin Brierley, the host. (See Douglas Murray and Esther O’Reilly – Christian Atheism and the search for identity. The video is embedded below.)

Douglas Murray, an atheist and openly gay man, makes the observation that most Christian tenets can be found in other cultures, save one: that is the principal that of loving and forgiving even our enemies. Loving and forgiving our enemies is the ultimate statement of the Golden Rule.

Even when we have enemies who intend to do us harm, and even when they actually do us harm, Jesus says, “Forgive them.” The conversation got into some recent examples of that expression of love and forgiveness that I will explore.

Continue reading “The Observation of an Atheist Historian: What Makes Christianity Stand Out Among World Religions”