Fear and Grace

Fear and Grace

This past Sunday we had the joy of baptizing several people from our church. The baptism was outside at Chadron State Park. It was a beautiful afternoon. Perhaps my favorite part of the event was the singing afterwards. We sang two songs, one of which was “Amazing Grace.” I have sung this song on many occasions, but for the first time, the following line from the second stanza stuck out to me: “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear and Grace, my fears relieved.”

This beautiful little lyric captures a lot of truth. It shows not only that God’s grace saves us, but also that God’s grace teaches us to fear sin as well as God’s wrath toward sinners. We often think of the good feelings that God’s grace gives us, but not the fear. That truth reminded me of the message preached that very morning at church from 1 John 5:13-15. The passage taught that all of 1 John was written to make believers confident in the eternal they have in Christ.. You might say he wrote it to relieve them of their fears. However many of the passages in John’s letter at first look are not very encouraging, but rather are warnings meant to bring fear. Here are some examples:

If we say we have fellowship with [God] while we walk in darkness. We lie and do not practice the truth. – 1 John 1:6

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. – 1 John 2:9

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love… – 1 John 4:8

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:6

How frightening! These verses do and are meant to instill great fear into the hearts of believers. We should be asking questions like: “Am I living in the darkness?” “Do I love others well?” “Am I abiding in sin?” Though they are scary, these questions and the fear they create are grace to us. Such fear graciously shows us our need for Christ.

But grace does not stop there. It shows us how our fears can be relieved in passages such as these from 1 John:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

[Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. – 1 John 2:28

See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. – 1 John 3:1b

What great grace! Oh, how such truths can relieve us of the fear of our sins and darkness! We need but turn to Christ, seek forgiveness of our sins, and we will abide in him. This little letter from John is filled with such grace. Grace that generously teaches us to fear God’s wrath, and grace that shows that we need not fear thanks be to Christ. Oh, what confidence we can have in eternal life. Oh, what confidence we can have in Christ. May we live in the confidence of God’s amazing grace!

In the words of John Newton:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home
And Grace will lead us home

What I Learned Last Sunday