Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fearing Jesus

I don’t usually get afraid when reading the Bible, though it has happened on more than one occasion. This morning I read in Luke 8:26-39 a story that made me afraid. The story includes things that have been known to scare other people as well: talk of torture, tombs, demons, high cliffs, deep water, and a pig stampede; but they aren’t related like you might think. You have to read the story to find out where the fear shows up, and when you do maybe you’ll be stunned by the same phrases that got me.

Read Luke 8:26-39

Did you read it? Two reactions to the story are juxtaposed with each other and I wonder which one best describes you and me. Both reactions are associated with fear. The first one is in v. 37: “the people asked Jesus to leave them.” The second one is in v. 39 where Jesus says, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Three things about these verses make me afraid:

1. It is possible to get so comfortable with the way I have arranged my life that when Jesus upsets it, I might find myself wishing he would leave. In this story when it’s clear that Jesus isn’t welcome, he leaves. That scares me.
2. It is possible to care more about my comfort level than about someone getting their life miraculously changed. A man is liberated from bondage and death, his life is forever changed, he is saved, rescued, miraculously delivered, and all people can think about is themselves. That scares me.
3. Jesus has instructed all of us who have had our lives changed to “Tell how much God has done for you.” But we don’t. Or at least few of us do. What did this man do? Verse 39 continues: “So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Why don’t we? One word: fear. Fear of what people may think; fear of what to say, fear of how people will respond, etc.

I fear the fear that keeps us silent and preoccupied with lesser things while people all around us live in bondage and death. Do we keep Jesus at arms length out of fear? Are we more concerned with our comfort level than changed lives? Do we share the good news of Jesus or are we silenced by fear?

“Lord, I praise you for all that you have done for me. Help me recognize opportunities where I can tell others of all you’ve done. You’ve healed me, forgiven me, saved me, adopted me. You’ve cleansed me from my sin and filled me with your Holy Spirit. You’ve given me a purpose and hope and a reason for living. You’ve given me a calling and spiritual gifts to serve you and others. You have surrounded me with blessings, with family, with friends, and placed me in a church that is inspired by a clear mission from you. I am blessed beyond measure and its all because of you! Forgive me of my fear, I surrender it to you. You have not given me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of love and power and self-discipline. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me boldness me to tell others of what you’ve done for me. Amen.”

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