Antidote to Fear, Part Two
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
We all have fears. The solution to all our fears comes from God the Father through his Son in the Holy Spirit, and it is to be received by faith. Though we have sinned terribly and offended our holy God, his love toward us does not change. The Bible says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What is the context in which God teaches us of his changeless love? Examine the latter part of Isaiah 43:23. There God says, "But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses," and in verses 26-28 God goes further, saying, "Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Your first father sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me. So I will disgrace the dignitaries of your temple, and I will consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn."
This is serious language! Here God is expressing his determination to destroy his chosen people Jacob because of their sins, and the truth is, we have no defense. But in Isaiah 44, we see a change, as we did also in the beginning of chapter 43. In verse 1 God says, "But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says-he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. . . ."
This is amazing! God just said he was consigning Jacob for destruction, but in the very next verse he says the opposite. How can we explain it? The answer is found in the unchanging nature of God himself. In spite of our extreme sin, God's relationship to us does not change.
God Shows Mercy to His People
Let us, then, look at Isaiah 44.
First, we read, "But now listen, O Jacob. . . ." Notice the word "Jacob," which means "deceiver." Jacob was a deceiver and is a symbol of us who are sinners by nature and by practice. But God says, "Jacob, my servant, Israel whom I have chosen." Jacob has become Israel, not by his own ingenuity, but by divine mercy and grace.
The name "Israel" means "prevailing prince." So the second point is that God has made us princes in his own royal family. The Bible declares elsewhere that we are kings and priests forever. We are no longer Jacobs; our new status is Israel. But it is good to keep that word "Jacob" in mind so that we may be filled with thanksgiving and praise for the transformation God has wrought in our life. By sovereign grace Jacob has been changed to Israel.
Notice that God calls Jacob "my servant." We used to be slaves of sin and Satan, but God has granted us the right to be his own exclusive servants, his holy ministers. What high dignity has been conferred upon us miserable sinners!
Not only that, God says, "Israel, whom I have chosen." God's eternal choice of us remains irrevocable, in spite of our many sins against him. We still remain God's chosen ones; he will not reject us. God hates divorce.
We are told in verse 2 that God is "he who made you, who formed you in the womb." God is our mother, who formed us individually in his womb. This is speaking about the individual regeneration of every chosen sinner. God himself makes us new creations.
We are told in verse 2, "I will help you." The fact that God recreated us according to his own sovereign plan and purpose guarantees that he will help us. What a wonderful promise this is! God will help us in our temptation and trials; in our sickness, poverty, and loneliness; in our marriage, family, and work; and in persecution, life and death. Why does he do this? Because he did not create us to cast us away. He did not form us in the womb to be aborted. He helps us in all our weaknesses so that by his help we shall become what he designed us to be.
In spite of all our sins against this great God, we read in verse 2, "Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant," and then we read, "Jeshurun, whom I have chosen." This word "Jeshurun" appears four times in the Bible: Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5, 26, and Isaiah 44:2. In spite of our sin, we remain God's Jeshuruns. This name is an affectionate diminutive which I would translate as "sweetheart." In spite of our ugliness of sin, God our bridegroom calls us his sweethearts, his righteous ones.
This is what God designed us to be; it is his eternal plan for us; and he will achieve it. Knowing our extreme sinfulness, he still chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in his sight. Therefore, his Son loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy and to present her to himself a radiant church, holy and blameless. The Bible declares we are the apple of his eye, a term we also find in Deuteronomy 32. In spite of our sin, we still remain God's Jeshuruns; therefore, we must not be afraid.
God is for us and he did not create us in his womb to destroy us; rather, he presented his own Son on the cross as a sacrifice of atonement in our behalf that we may remain his beloved for time and eternity. In fact, the Septuagint translates "Jeshurun" by the term íªgapíªmenos, "beloved," which, in turn, was used by God the Father to refer to Jesus Christ when he said, "This is my beloved Son." We are beloved of God in his beloved Son.
Reasons Not to Fear
In our previous study we gave a number of reasons not to fear. In this study, we want to give three more.
God Is Our King
In Isaiah 43:15, God declares: "I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." The first reason we need not fear is that God is our King.
As King of kings, Jesus Christ has received all authority in heaven and on earth; thus, he alone is sovereign and does what he pleases. No power in the cosmos can defeat him, but by his death he has defeated all his enemies. He rules even now in triumph and leads us always in triumph.
As our King, therefore, he has conquered us and now governs us. We must know that Jesus is Lord first, so that he can be the Savior, for if he were not Lord, he could not save anyone. And now as King he governs us, provides for us generous gifts, and defends us against all our enemies. The good news, according to Isaiah 52:7, is our God reigns! And because he is our King, we have the peace that passes all human understanding, and great security. Thus, what we need to do is to forsake every kind of autonomy, the feeling-centered life, and submit to this great King! The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our King holds the keys of hell and death; therefore, we need not fear.
He Blots Out Our Sins
The second reason we should not fear is stated in Isaiah 43:25: "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Adam and Eve fled from God naked and in fear. The cause of their fear was the guilt of their sin. How can we rid ourselves of our own infinite guilt that terrifies us? The only way is by the effectual application of the blood of Jesus Christ, which alone cleanses us from all our sins. Here, then, we are told he blots out our transgressions for his sake and remembers our sins no more. God wipes our slate clean.
The Bible speaks about this idea many times. It says he forgives us our sins freely, canceling our debts, as we read in Micah 7:18 and Isaiah 55:7. Then we are told in Micah 7:19 that he treads our sins underfoot. Micah 7:19 also tells us that he casts all our sins into the depths of the sea. And here in Isaiah 43:25 we are told he blots out our transgressions, which is also the language of Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. . . . Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (Psalm 51:1, 2, 5, 7-9).
In Isaiah 44:22 we read, "I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Elsewhere we read that he remembers our sins no more, which means God will never bring a forgiven sin against us to condemn us.
In Isaiah 38:17 we read this profound statement: "Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love, you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back." What is the basis of this profound statement? The propitiation of Jesus Christ. Christ suffered the wrath of God that was against us in his death on the cross so that God can say to us, "I will blot out your transgressions."
God tells us "Fear not" because the cause of fear has been taken away forever on the cross. Therefore, we can resist the devil and he shall flee from us. He cannot swallow us up like a roaring lion because we trust in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which guarantees the removal of the entirety of our guilt. The second antidote to fear, then, is this great announcement: "I have blotted out your transgressions."
God Will Pour Out the Holy Spirit
The final and the most important cause for us not to fear is found in Isaiah 44:2-5, where God says,
Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, "I belong to the Lord"; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, "The Lord's," and will take the name Israel.
Our greatest need is not money or power or any other thing of the temporal world. Our greatest need is God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in him. Therefore, to deal with our fear, God promises to pour out his Spirit on us and on our children.
God does something negative-he blots out our transgressions-but he also does something positive-he promises to pour out his Holy Spirit upon us. When a mighty rain falls upon a parched land, suddenly life will burst forth in all vigor. God's rain causes the desert to blossom and flourish. Even so, when God pours out the Holy Spirit upon us miserable sinners, life will burst forth in all its vigor and luxuriant growth. Then shall we hate sin and love the Lord with all our heart. Then we will become new creations who delight in the word of God. Then we will pray earnestly and worship God in spirit and truth, singing and praying in the Holy Spirit. Then we will love one another, delight in obedience, and detest all forms of autonomy. Then we will declare the gospel to the world, and the Lord will add to the church such as should be saved.
God promises, "I will pour out my Spirit." This is salvation by grace because God is taking initiative to change us. All the promises of God are like checks signed by him which we can take to him in prayer and he will cash them for us. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Our immutable God who cannot lie will fulfill everything he has promised to those who come to him in prayer.
Notice, then, God says, "I will pour out." This is a guarantee for his people. We find this idea of the Holy Spirit being poured out again in Joel 2:28, Acts 2:16-18, 33, 38. When God pours out, he does so in great abundance. It is not something given drop by drop. God's pouring out is a mighty effusion, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or imagine. The Bible says where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. So Jesus declared, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38). God pours out his Spirit in such abundance that it not only goes into us but it goes out like streams of living water for the world.
So the most fundamental need of man is the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, the separated, scattered, dry bones will come to life again and will rise like a mighty army, as we read in Ezekiel 37:1-10:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' " So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet, a vast army.
Jesus said we must be born again, born of the Spirit and the wind blows where it pleases. That is what happens when we prophesy from the pulpit. Dry bones come alive because of the mighty operation of the Spirit of the living God in people's hearts. The spiritually dead comes alive by the word and the Spirit.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then, causes life to come from people who are dead in trespasses and sins. Three things happen when the Holy Spirit comes upon a sinner.
Regeneration: The Spirit of God makes us alive and gives us a new nature with new desires, goals, and purposes so that we can be called God's workmanship, a new creation. God forms us in the womb and makes us his saints, his glorious ones.
Residency: The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residency in us and we become the temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in us, empowering us, enlightening us, and causing us to love God.
Rulership: If we are touched by the mighty effusion of the Holy Spirit, we will submit to God's rulership in our lives. Thus, if we find ourselves continuing in our autonomy, we can conclude that we have not been touched by the Spirit of the living God. We should cry out to God, "O God, pour your Spirit upon me, that I may be touched by, not angels nor men, but by mighty God, that I may rise from the dead."
The Holy Spirit is the resident boss who rules within us in behalf of Christ through the Holy Scriptures. PGM The Bible says the Lord is the Spirit and his rule is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Friends, his rule is our happiness because it results in our living for the glory of him who bought us with his precious blood. How can we fear and dread when the mighty God himself dwells in us!
When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, there is holy communion and holy joy. We hate sin and love to obey God. This coming of the mighty Holy Spirit upon us is like stuck barges finally being able to separate when the tide comes in. All of a sudden we are liberated from being anchored to our feelings, anchored to sin, anchored to the world, anchored to the devil, anchored to pornography, anchored to greed, anchored to autonomy-liberated by the Spirit of God!
That is why we say our greatest need is not more money or a false revival or a fake miracle worker or more scientific knowledge or psychological mumbo-jumbo. What we need is an outpouring of the Holy Ghost, a new Pentecost for our generation, that will change our lives and our families and our neighborhoods and our nation. So Zechariah says, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6). Not by human might nor by governmental powers, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord, all mountains of evil will be leveled. When God pours out his Spirit upon us, we shall be like trees, planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season, whose leaves shall not wither; whatever we do shall prosper. We will not fear when heat comes and have no worries in a year of drought. When God pours out his Spirit, he also pours out his blessing through him.
Notice, it says, "I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants." Where there is Spirit, there is plenty of blessing. Where there is blessing, there is Spirit. One blessing after another will be poured out upon us. He meets our every need. God pours out his Spirit, and the Spirit, in turn, pours out blessings. All blessing comes from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.
What, then, is our need? First, we need the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Spirit we need the ability to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In Romans 5:5 we read, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Here we find the same idea about pouring out the Holy Spirit, not in a trickle, but in a mighty effusion. So first the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and then he, in turn, pours out into our hearts the capacity to love God and love our neighbor.
Not only that, in 1 Corinthians 12:4 we are told, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit." And in verse 11 we are told, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."
That is why we need the Holy Spirit. I feel sorry for those who think our need is a new job, or more money, or a bigger house, or a shinier car. We need more of the Holy Spirit, who gives us not only the capacity to love, but also gives us additional gifts as he determines for the common good.
When the Holy Spirit is imparted to us, there will be a sure manifestation of it in our lives. Husbands will love their wives, and the wives will love and submit to their husbands. Children will love and obey their parents. People will see these things and say, "They have the Holy Spirit" because this is the type of life the Holy Spirit produces: a life that manifests itself in vigorous growth, visible to the world, the church, and the family. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, Paul says, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to his good pleasure." What God works in our hearts must come out. Where there is root, there will be fruit; where there is a vine, there will be branches and grapes.
The Promise to Our Children
In Isaiah 44 we find a glorious promise: God says he will pour out his Spirit, not only on us, but also on our children. So we read in verse 3, "I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants." Peter quoted this verse on the day of Pentecost when he said, "The promise is for you and your children" (Acts 2:39).
God loves our children-the children of the covenant-and has a plan to prosper them by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them. He will regenerate them, reside in them, and rule them for Christ the King.
What happens when the Holy Spirit is poured out on our children? In verse 4 we read, "They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams."
These children will be raised up from the dead to confess with great delight and extreme pleasure, "Jesus Christ is Lord." And in verse 5 we read, "One will say, 'I belong to the Lord'; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and will take the name Israel."
Notice, it says one will say. It will be personal confession-not a forced, false confession. It will not be the nonsense of a grandparent or parent believing for the child. The child himself will come and say, "Dad, Mom, I want you to know that I have given my life to Jesus Christ and he is the Lord of my life." All of a sudden, the child will wake up in the morning and announce this glorious news to you. And if you are a true Christian, you will rejoice because you can conclude that God has poured out his Holy Spirit upon the desert, and the desert is blossoming.
These children will be true witnesses. "I belong to the Lord," they will say. "I am the Lord's." They will write it on their hands or foreheads, so to speak, saying, "I want everybody to know I am the Lord's."
They will recognize divine ownership. These children will understand that they must live for God's exclusive service. They know Christianity is not a mixture of Jesus and immorality, Jesus and disobedience, Jesus and autonomy. I am the Lord's! Elsewhere in the Bible we read, "I am my beloved's and he is mine." That is covenant language signifying an exclusive relationship. Just as a spouse would not appreciate his or her marriage partner committing adultery, God does not appreciate his people serving the devil.
When these children say, "I am the Lord's" they are confessing that Jesus is Lord over their entire being, body and soul. They will use their body, mind and spirit exclusively for God's purpose, knowing that their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. They are bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ; thus, they will honor God with all they are and have.
These children will say they are the Lord's for time and eternity.
These children will say, "I am the Lord's" in spite of their understanding that they will have pain, suffering, struggles, and persecution throughout their lives until the day they die.
Finally, not only will these children say, "I belong to the Lord," but they will "take the name of Israel." We cannot say "Jesus is Lord" and then believe in a solo Christianity. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also belong to his church. That is what these children will do.
Parents, can you imagine your children coming to you and saying, "Dad and Mom, I just received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I want to be received into the church. I want to serve God in God's church."
Yes, we know that some children of Christians parents are not serving God. But believe in God, pray for them, minister to them, and ask God for their salvation. This is his promise; take it to him in prayer: "O God, my child literally abandoned the brightness of the gospel and walked away from you. But no one can run away from God. Have mercy on my child!"
Are You Afraid
What about you? Are you fearful of life and death? The first thing you must do, as we read in Isaiah 43:5-7, is turn to Christ. And if you are God's chosen, you will do that. You must come in through Jesus Christ.
What if you have sinned as a believer? As we said, God's attitude toward you has not changed. You are still Israel, his Jeshurun, and so he will forgive your sins. Once again there will be floods of joy in your soul.
What else must we do? We must realize that our greatest need is not more money, but the Holy Spirit, whom God says he will give to all those who ask him. Our dry bones will be made alive when the breath of God comes into us. We need only ask. Praise God for forgiving all our sins and granting us Holy Spirit. We did not deserve such a great favor, but he, for whatever reason, has given it to us.
We must submit to Christ's beneficent rule in our life. Don't be a feeling-centered person. Oh, we use the word "feeling" but it is really autonomy, which says, "I want to do what I want to do when I want to do how I want to do." We are not to live by our gut feeling but by the Holy Spirit of truth.
Finally, find out why we were created. In Isaiah 43:7 God says we were created for his glory. And in verse 21 God gives further explanation of the divine purpose for our lives: "the people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise." We find this idea also in 1 Peter 2:9: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." We are called to praise God in our life and with our lips.
God does not want us to live by fear or by chemicals or by psychology or by philosophy or by anything else. He wants us to live by Christ-by his word and by his Spirit-for the glory of God. May God have mercy on us and help us to begin living for him this day. Amen.
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Copyright © 2003, P. G. Mathew
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