Thesis: We are created to be motivated by love, not fear.
Brennan Manning says “Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, ‘I think I can fix this.’”
What is he talking about? He is talking about the fact that we as Christians accept grace in theory—that we can do nothing to earn a right relationship with God, that we are as helpless as the plumber an Niagra Falls—but we deny it in practice. We choose to live the lives of slaves, though the fetters have been shattered from our ankles and wrists.
On a blustery October night in a church outside Minneapolis, several hundred believers had gathered for a three-day seminar. Manning began with a presentation on the gospel of grace and the reality of salvation. He used Scripture, story, symbolism, and personal experiencing—focusing upon the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Yet as Manning stood near an exit as people were leaving he overheard one pastor turn to his associate and fume, “That airhead didn’t say one thing about what we have to do to earn our salvation!” Something is radically wrong.
What do you think? Is God upset with you right now because you didn’t read the Bible this morning? Are you worried about your spiritual scorecard? We are all tempted to live a life motivated by fear of a divine slave-driver, but that isn’t the life Jesus calls us to. There is no scorecard, and there is no reason to live in fear of an abusive master—because there is only a loving Father.
Today we continue our series Slave to Child—one of the key journeys each of us must make in how we view God, view ourselves, and view success in life. The past three Sundays Pastor Ron has spent time sharing about our identity as children and God’s identity as Father. Today, I want to piggy back on the overarching concept of what it means to move from slavery to sonship or daughtership, particularly the way this transformation affects our motivation for serving God—is it fear, or is it love?
So what we’ll do is take a look at two pictures of God—one of Him as a harsh master, and one of Him as a loving Father. Then, after looking at those pictures, we’ll talk about the difference your perception of God makes in how you live out your life day to day.
This chart is similar to the chart Pastor Ron shared last week, with a few expansions. It comes from the work of Dr. Neil T. Anderson who specializes in the study of spiritual bondage and freedom. He has realized through his extensive research and experience that the difference between spiritual slavery and spiritual liberty is the difference between believing truth and believing untruth—lies.
In his book The Bondage Breaker, Anderson puts it like this:
Freedom from spiritual conflicts and bondage is not a power encounter; it's a truthencounter… When I was a boy on the farm, my dad, my brother and I would visit our neighbor's farm to share produce and labor. The neighbor had a yappy little dog that scared the socks off me. When it came barking around the corner my dad and brother stood their ground, but I ran. Guess who the dog chased!
I escaped to the top of our pickup truck while the little dog yapped at me from the ground. Everyone except me could see that the little dog had no power over me exceptwhatIgaveit. Furthermore it had no inherent power to throw me up on the pickup; it was my belief that put me up there. That dog controlled me by using my mind, my emotions, my will, and my muscles, all of which were motivatedbyfear.
When we look at God, we primarily see Him as either a master or a father. And depending upon which view you maintain, you will either be motivated to serve Him out of fear, or out of love. You see we fear those we can’ trust, but we freely love those who are trustworthy. We are created to be motivated by love, not fear. As we go through this list, perform an honest inventory of how you view God.
God as Master
God as Father
Distant and disinterested
Intimate and involved; Psalm 139:1-18
Insensitive and uncaring
Kind and compassionate; Psalm 103:8-14
Stern and demanding
Accepting and filled with joy; Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 15:7
Passive and cold
Warm and affectionate; Isaiah 40:11, Hosea 11:3-4
Absent or too busy for me
Always with me and eager to be with me; Jeremiah 41:20, Ezekiel 34:11-16, Hebrews 13:5
Impatient, angry, and rejecting
Patient and slow to anger; Exodus 34:6, 2 Peter 3:9
Mean, cruel, or abusive
Loving, gentle, and protective; Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 42:3, Psalm 18:2
Trying to take all the fun out of life
Trustworthy and wants to give me a full life; His will is good, perfect, and acceptable for me; Lamentations 3:22-23, John 10:10, Romans 12:1-2
Controlling or manipulative
Full of grace and mercy, and He gives me freedom to fail; Luke 15:11-16, Hebrews 4:15-16
Condemning or unforgiving
Tenderhearted and forgiving, His heart and arms are always open to me; Psalm 130:1-4, Luke 15:17-24
A nit-picking, demanding perfectionist
Committed to my growth and proud of me as His beloved child; Romans 8:28-29, Hebrews 12:5-11, 2 Corinthians 7:4
*Steps to Freedom in Christ by Neil T. Anderson
Two very different pictures of God, two very different motivations for service to Him.
So, what to do if you see Him as harsh master? Well to that I’d like to share with you the last sentence of Anderson’s story. He writes, Finally I gathered up my courage, jumped off the pickup, and kicked a small rock at the mutt. Lo and behold, it ran!
Light always dispenses dark, truth always dispels falsehood. So if you are struggling with seeing God as loving Father, you must read, meditate on, memorize, and speak the Scriptures. We are created to be motivated by love, not fear.
Now that we’ve looked at the two opposing pictures of God, we are going to talk about the difference this perception makes in our day to day lives.
To set this up, I’ll invite two people on stage.
[People come on stage]
Okay, you are our slave and you are our child.
[Place lanyard around them]
I’m going to do a little interview with you for a moment. It should be easy because I already filled in your answers ahead of time.
Section one of the interview has to do with the things each of you do to serve God.
Child: Do you regularly participate in worship services?
Yes—as much as I can, I love worship!
Slave: Do you regularly participate in worship services?
Yes—I haven’t missed a Sunday in ten years—I even came that Sunday the pipes burst in the bathroom and nobody else showed up.
Child: Do you abstain from coarse language?
Yes—I mean I don’t really think about it much, but yeah I do.
Slave: Do you abstain from coarse language?
Yes—In fact I cringe when Pastor Ron says “Oh, Fiddlesticks!”
Child: Do you regularly give of your resources—time, finances, possessions, help?
Yes—God freely gave to me, so I give to others!
Slave: Do you regularly give of your resources—time, finances, possessions, help?
Yes—10% of each. I keep track in a spreadsheet, that way I always hit my quota.
Interesting! So you are pretty much the same as it appears on the outside. That’s good, great.
Well, let’s move away from the outside appearance and talk about the inside. I thought a good way to do this is to discuss the fruit of the Spirit—the things that Paul talks about in his famous chapter on living a life of freedom, Galatians 5. So, we are talking about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Child: Do you experience Love in your soul?
Yes—It’s like God’s love is poured into me until I overflow it onto others.
Slave: Do you experience Love in your soul?
Well—I wouldn’t put it like “Mushy” over there. But, you know, I take care of my own.
Child: Do you experience Joy in your soul?
Yes—It doesn’t mean I’m always happy, but even in the worst of times I rejoice in my salvation and the hope of God.
Slave: Do you experience Joy in your soul?
Well—maybe “joy” is too strong of a word. But I often feel satisfaction of knowing I am saved.
Child: Do you experience Peace in your soul?
Yes—It is hard to explain, but no matter where I am, inside I feel I am safe at home in God’s love.
Slave: Do you experience Peace in your soul?
Well—Let’s be honest, does peace get you up off the couch? Discontentment is a much better motivator. After all, didn’t Jesus say “strike while the iron’s hot?”
Child: Do you experience Patience in your soul?
Yes—God was patient with me in my sin, and I rely on Him to take care of things that I have no control over. I’m so thankful for His help.
Slave: Do you experience Patience in your soul?
Well—I think if the world would act a little bit more like they are supposed to, we wouldn’t have to be so patient all the time.
Child: Do you experience Kindness in your soul?
Yes—I really don’t feel the need to be harsh or rude.
Slave: Do you experience Kindness in your soul?
Well—I am certainly not rude, but I can tell you that kindness enables people. And I don’t want to enable people to keep making poor choices.
Child: Do you experience Goodness in your soul?
Yes—When I lay down at night and when I look in the mirror in the morning, I see the image of God. I’m not perfect, but at my core, I am good. So it is easier to extend that same outlook to others.
Slave: Do you experience Goodness in your soul?
Well—[somber tone] No one is good but God. That’s all I have to say.
Child: Do you experience Faithfulness in your soul?
Yes—God has been faithful to me, so I am to others. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. God promises to carry His work on in me until it is complete. So I stick with brothers and sisters in trial, no matter what.
Slave: Do you experience Faithfulness in your soul?
Well—This I can agree with! If you give me a project, you had better believe it is going to get finished. I am no slacker. Someone can be screaming in pain outside my office, but I won’t move a muscle until the project is done.
Child: Do you experience Gentleness in your soul?
Yes—Even when I really make a mistake, God speaks into my soul gentle truth. It is still truth, it still hurts, but it isn’t cruel. So I extend that to others around me as well.
Slave: Do you experience Gentleness in your soul?
Well—I can be gentle, but if I am being honest in this interview, abrasive, or callous might be slightly more accurate descriptions.
Child: Do you experience Self-Control in your soul?
Yes—I think at first I thought, how is my life ever going to change? But as I spent more time with God, the sinful things I was a part of sort of fell away and I became accustomed to participating in life-giving things instead.
Slave: Do you experience Joy in your soul?
Well—I really don’t know what to say. I can control my life for weeks or months at a time, but it seems like I just don’t have the strength to hold on forever. Eventually I lose control and feel lost, lonely, and ashamed.
Thanks guys, you can take those labels off and have a seat.
While the slave and the child may look similar on the outside, inside there is a world of difference. God wants you to live a life of freedom marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things, Paul writes to the Galatian church, there is no law (Galatians 5:23)—which means you need not walk on eggshells with God anymore, but simply stay in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). We are created to be motivated by love, not fear.
So the question is, will you choose to accept, experience, and offer:
It all starts and it all ends with your ability to see God for who He is—as loving Father. Once you do, you will be able to experience and offer the fruit of the Spirit because you will be living a life motivated by love and not fear.
It’s interesting, I was reading a book this week about slavery in Roman Law and apparently there are three ways one could enter into captivity at the time of Christ—to be captured in war, to be born of a slave-mother, or to voluntarily sell yourself into slavery.
Well, in Luke 4, Jesus said He came to free the captives, so you are no longer a captive due to war. Paul explained that we are no longer children of a slave-mother, but children of a free-mother (Galatians 4). So we aren’t enslaved by that scenario any longer. Which leaves only one way for you to enter back into slavery—self-submission. By letting the yippy dog scare you into it.
But I urge you, don’t give in. Paul said
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV
Band, you can come up front at this time. Church, read this Scripture aloud with me:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 ESV
Let His love in and let your fear of needing to please Him fade.
We are going to sing a song together in a moment called No Longer Slaves. It’s a simple song, with lyrics that can be your prayer today. Your prayer to kick the dog out of the way, to take off the sign that says slave, to accept the love of the Father and become a child—to serve Him not out of fearful obedience, but out of loving desire. Please stand with me as we respond to God’s Word together through song.
This journey is not an easy one. Living your whole life as a slave is comforting—there is a deep sense of control, its easy to measure success, and you’re never expected to bare your soul. But Jesus calls you to come to the Father as children. To be born again. To come boldly to the throne. And as you do, you’ll find there is no other way of living that can properly be called “life”
Before you leave today, our prayer team is available at the front and our ushers are available to receive your Gideon offering and Connection Cards.
And as you leave I want to leave you with something I read of Brennan Manning recently which I think serves as the perfect platform for a benediction. He writes
In retrospect, my ponderous ponderings on the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages of my spiritual life, my assiduous search for shortcuts to holiness, my preoccupation with my spiritual pulse and my fasts, mortifications, and penances have wrought pseudobliss and the egregious delusion that I was securely ensconced in the seventh mansion of spiritual perfection. What would I actually do if I had it to do all over again? Heeding John's counsel, I would simply do the next thing in love.
So Church, go, and each next thing you do, simply do it in love.
God as Father
God as Master
Loving and Caring
Hateful and Unconcerned
Good and Merciful
Mean and Unforgiving
Steadfast and Reliable
Unpredictable and Untrustworthy
Giver of Good Gifts
Takes away, “killjoy”
Nurturing and Affirming
Critical and Unpleasable
Just, Fair, and Impartial
Unjust, Unfair, Partial
*Overcoming Depression by Neil T. and Joanne Anderson