Nothing to Fear
James C. Denison
On June 6 of last year, a 21-year-old man named Ben Carpenter had a day he’ll never forget. Ben has muscular dystrophy. On this day he was driving his electric-powered wheelchair down the sidewalk in Paw Paw, Michigan. He then crossed the street at the corner of Red Arrow Highway at Hazen Street, in front of a semi truck waiting at the stop light.
The light turned green. The driver somehow did not see Ben in his wheelchair. The engine roared to life and the truck started ahead. It struck Ben’s wheelchair, turning it forward with the handles stuck in the truck’s grill. The wheelchair kept rolling, Ben held in his chair by his seatbelt. The driver continued down the road, oblivious to Ben pinned to his truck.
The truck reached 50 mph. People who saw what was happening called 911 and waved their arms to get the driver’s attention. Two off-duty policemen began to pursue the truck. Still the driver was oblivious. Finally, after two miles, he pulled into a truck company parking lot, clueless that Ben Carpenter was pinned to the front of his truck. Fortunately, Ben was unharmed after the ride of his life.
I’ll bet you know something of the feeling–being pushed by forces more powerful than yourself in a direction you cannot control. You know the name of that truck this morning. The good news is that God has a word for us, whatever fears we’re facing.
No matter the powers against us, the power for us is greater: “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship” (Romans 8:15). That is the solution to every fear you’re facing today. Today it is my privilege to show you why.
Are you a slave to fear?
Let’s begin by understanding the bad news, so we can appreciate the good news. Psychologists say that our society deals with fear on a level unprecedented in history.
We live in a nuclear age. The United States and Russia together have the power to destroy the human race 47 times. North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon. Pakistan may be the most unstable country in the Middle East, and is a nuclear power. Most observers believe that the president of Iran wants such a weapon.
For the first time in American history we are dealing with an enemy who has attacked us on our soil. Except for the Civil War, all our battles have been fought in other lands. Now our enemies have come to our streets and cities, and threaten to continue to do so. In a letter to America composed in 2002, Osama bin Laden warns us, “Leave us alone, or else expect us in New York and Washington.”
News about the economy has not been good this week, as retail and housing continue to decline. The bird flu scare in Southeast Asia continues to make the news. The death of actor Heath Ledger has been ruled an accident, the result of combining six kinds of painkillers and sedatives, illustrating the depression which continues to rage at unprecedented levels today.
But our issues with fear go even deeper than the news and the circumstances of our world. Our Western culture has produced a mindset, a worldview which has made insecurity an epidemic.
Our society judges us for what we do, how we look, how many people we impress, what we own. And none of these things are permanent. After I preach this message today I have to start tomorrow on next week’s sermon. I’m only as good as my last message. Our possessions can be taken from us in an economic downturn; popularity and appearance are fleeting; health is uncertain.
No one loves us unconditionally. As much as my family loves me, there are things I could do this morning to fracture our relationship. As kind as you have been to me and my family over these 10 years, there are things I could say right now which would end my ministry here and forever.
We continue to search for stability, predictability, assurance. But there’s only one place to find the security our souls crave. Only one.
Are you the child of God?
Here’s the question which makes Romans 8 relevant to you or not: are you the child of God? Have you asked Jesus Christ to forgive your mistakes and failures and made him the Lord of your life? If you have, verse one says that there is no condemnation for you. Verse 3 says that sin is condemned in you. Verse 6 says that you can live in the Spirit and experience “life and peace.” Verse 10 says that “your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Verse 11 promises that you will live forever when his Spirit gives life to your mortal body.
As a result, you have no “obligation” or debt to the sinful nature. Now there is no sin you must commit (v. 12). Rather, “by the Spirit” you can “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (v. 13). When you bring your temptations to God’s Spirit and ask for his help, you have it. God’s Spirit wants to lead you as a shepherd leads his sheep, because you are God’s child and God loves you (v. 14).
Now comes the point, the key, one of the most significant statements in all the word of God: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (v. 15).
You are no longer a slave to fear. There is literally nothing in this world of which you need to be afraid. You don’t need to fear death, for it is the gateway to paradise. You don’t need to fear Satan and his demons, for they are defeated foes. You don’t need to fear people, for their worst cannot compare with God’s best.