Written by Stephen Cox
Evangelism. We love the word. If you have the joy of being a Christian you were brought from death to life through being evangelised. You desire to see God glorified and people saved and that happens through evangelism. But the word also terrifies us. What if I muck it up? How will I cope if I lose friends? I feel guilty if I don’t engage in evangelism.
We need boldness mixed with love. Boldness is not a lack of fear. It is faith in something bigger than our fears so that we appear fearless.
One obstacle to boldness is the fear of man. The fear of man grips us all at some time. We are all concerned to a certain extent with what other people think of us. We fear that people will reject us. We fear that others may expose us – our obsessions, our sin. Fear of man is not limited merely to how we act or what we say, it is also related to what we choose not to say or do.
Why do we Fear Others?
Without being too reductionistic, we fear man because we do not fear God or because we do not fear God enough. Each time we give ourselves over to the fear of man we are choosing to love ourselves more and fear God less. Ecclesiastes closes with the admonition to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
As image bearers of the one true God, we were designed to fear God. Reflect on that. You were designed to fear God. We were designed to live in perfect fellowship with Him and devotion towards Him, as we had been given His image to bear in His world.
God designed us to live with no shame towards one another, no fear of being exposed or rejected by others.
Why should we fear the Lord?
He is intrinsically worthy of fear. God alone is worthy.
Ps. 89:7 ‘Who among the heavenly being is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones and awesome above all who are around him?’
He is more awesome than all that surround Him. Yet, we, as a culture, have minimised God and made him in our image as one who is merely a little better than we are. This is NOT the God who is revealed in the Bible.
I think Isaiah 6:1-8 is a passage we need to keep coming back to for a right perspective on who God is. Isaiah trembles in the presence of the Lord. He is brought low, and the Lord is shown to be high and mighty. He is filled with astonishment, awe and reverence for the Lord. This awe and reverence leads to action as he sees how completely unlike the Lord the creatures are. Thus, Isaiah willingly responds to the Lord, “Here am I! Send me,” (verse 8) when the Lord seeks one who will proclaim His message to the nations.
Jesus Himself recognised God’s ultimate authority over His creation when he told his followers, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).
The fear of the Lord leads to obedience/devotion to and trust in the Lord. Ultimately, it leads to worship. For the one who fears God, worship extends to all spheres of life since those who have been reconciled to God worship God with their whole being in all they do.
If we truly get how great God is, man will seem very small and our fear of man will diminish significantly. And as we look to the Scriptures will also see clearly that God loved us first and he loves the ones we fear, and so should we! As we properly fear the Lord, we will grow in our desire and ability to love God and love our neighbours.
If you’re like me, and want to grow in boldness, pray to God. Ask him to help you be bold with the people you meet. Ask him to help you be loving to others. The good news is this: he will. He’ll always answer these prayers.
You can be a someone who stops in at the same cafe for a coffee a few times a week and builds a friendship with the employees there. You can be a council worker who earnestly asks your coworkers how they are. You can be a mother raising three kids who gets to the school yard and reaches out to mums who are struggling with the demands of child-raising. In these and other roles, you can be a faithful witness.
You and I are not serving a weak, church-mouse-quiet God. We are worshipping the God who took death by the throat and whose Son now roars over his creation as a lion.
So, take a gospel risk. Put your quiet, easy, buttoned-down Christian life on the line. Embrace a bigger, bolder, loving witness. You’re going to meet all sorts of people, many just confused about Christianity. As members of Christ’s church, you and I have the words they need.