Perfect Love Breaks The Bondage Of Fear

By Jason Cooper

Fear is bondage. Fear leaves the child of God barren and guilt-ridden. Fear dictates the well-intentioned and passionate Christian into a shameful holding pattern over the unfulfilling status quo. Afraid of change, afraid of the unknown, afraid of what others will think, afraid of failure, and (oddly enough) afraid of success – the list of what scares God’s people and keeps them from following God’s call into deeper spiritual waters is a long one.

But there is hope.

There is only one force that can break the paralyzing bondage of fear, and 1 John 4:18 gives us the liberating answer. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

Sadly, I think most of us have got this scripture…well, kind of wrong.

In May of 1985, John Piper delivered a sermon entitled “Perfect Love Casts out Fear.” Piper’s explanation of “perfect love” in 1 John 4 has exploded like an atom bomb in my spirit. Forgive the short language lesson that follows, but hang in there, because it’s worth it.

Piper explains:

“Most people, when they say something has been perfected, mean that it was changed from a state of imperfection into a state of flawless perfection. But the Greek word that John uses for ‘perfect’ is teleioo [tele-OH-oh]. In the New Testament, the word usually means ‘finished’ or ‘completed’ or ‘accomplished.’  It’s the same word used in John 4:34 where Jesus says, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish (teleioo) his work.’ It doesn’t mean that Jesus took the flawed work of God and made it flawless. It means that he took an assignment of God and turned it into action and so completed it…That’s the way Paul uses the word for “perfect” in Acts 20:24 when he said, ‘If only I might accomplish my course and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus!’ Paul did not mean that he expected to have a flawless ministry. He meant that he fully expected to finish putting into action what the Lord had assigned him to do, even if it was not “perfect” in our usual sense of the word.”

Following this line of thinking, the “perfect love” we see in 1 John 4:18 that casts out fear is not a flawless love. It’s not talking about a person who loves flawlessly. What it is talking about is a person who “loves in deed and truth and not just in words.”

Perfect love has to do with completion…not flawlessness. What breaks the bondage of fear isn’t flawless love. In Piper’s words, “What breaks the bondage of fear and casts it out is love that does not die on the vine. It’s love that comes to fruition. Love that walks, not just talks. It’s love the goes beyond desire and is completed in a deed.

For the fear-chained child of God who hears His call and feels His pull, yet remains frustratingly bound, the only hope for liberty is to put love into action.

How do we put love into action?

Jesus himself provided the answer. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.”

Our freedom from fear will be found in obedience to the very command that has us petrified.

For some of us, that sounds like a Catch-22.

We think, “If I’m scared to death to do what God is asking me to do, and the only way I won’t be scared is to do it, how do I win?”

I take great comfort (and find “the win”) in the following scriptures:

In Genesis 15:1, God tells Abram, “Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

In Psalm 28:7, the writer says, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

These two scriptures speak directly to the fear-bound heart. We have a shield that is omnipotent, universal, and eternal.  God did not say, “I will give you a shield…just any old shield that will suffice.”  What He did say is, “I am your shield.” The Almighty, The Creator, the Very God of Heaven says that He Himself will be our shield.  That shield cannot be defeated, and it is as strong, complete, and capable as God Himself.

It’s not a Catch-22. It’s not a no-win situation.

What it really comes down to is our answer to this single question: “Can God be trusted to do what is right?”

Ask yourself, “Can I trust God to do what is right by me?”

If God Himself is my strength and my shield, and if the battle really isn’t mine, but the LORD’s (2 Chronicles 20:15), what is left for me to do?

Simply trust.  Simply…walk…forward.

That’s all that’s left. I don’t have to fight, I don’t have to protect myself, I don’t even have to supply my own strength. I just have to trust Him enough to walk forward into what He has called me to do.

During the Boxer Rebellion in China, Missionary J. Hudson Taylor was completely broken by the deaths of so many innocent Christians and their children. At one point, he said, “I can’t read. I can’t think. I can’t pray. But I can trust.”

Sometimes, that’s all we have left. But if we can trust in our Shield, and take that step forward, the clanking of fears chains will turn into the sound of breaking bonds. Perfect love, love in action, will break the bondage of fear.

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