Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let go of Fear

Fear will be your enemy.  And that statement seems to set the tone very early in the movie.  If there seems to be one overriding emotion in the movie “Frozen” it is fear.  The King and Queen are fearful for their daughters and so the girls are separated and grow up alone.  Elsa is afraid of what she might inadvertently do with her power and so she puts up barriers between her and those she loves.  Anna fears being alone and so she ends up engaged to a man she had just met.  Hans being the youngest of 13 brothers fears insignificance and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he had a place in the world.  Kristoff fears for his business, who wants to buy ice when it always cold?  . And the villagers?  Well like villagers everywhere it seemed that they feared everything.   It seemed that the only characters in the story who weren’t afraid of something was Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the snow man. 

This is week two of our “Let it Go” series and we are looking into the passage that was read for us earlier, in particular looking at the seventh verse that says 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fear isn’t just the overriding theme of the movie Frozen, sometimes it seems that fear is the overriding theme of life. 
So let’s begin by looking at fear what it is and how it affects our lives.  
The words fear and afraid are mentioned close to five hundred times in the Bible and in the New Testament there are actually several different words used to convey the idea of fear.  The first word simply means to be in awe of, or to revere or respect something.  This is a natural fear.  In the Bible it is used of the fear of God, or fear of death.  This is the type of fear that keeps us from doing silly things, like stepping off tall buildings.
Another word that could have been used means exceedingly afraid or terror. It’s where we get our word Phobia. And it is natural fear taken to the extreme.  If the first type of fear keeps us living, the second type keeps us from living.  The website actually lists over 500 different fears, things like Acousticophobia- Fear of noise or Alektorophobia- Fear of chickens., Cometophobia- Fear of comets, Didaskaleinophobia- Fear of going to school. And finally Homilophobia- Fear of sermons, there would appear to be a lot of people who are suffering from that in our country today.
But it isn’t either of those words that Paul used when he wrote to Timothy.  The word he used means, timid or fearful and its root word in the original language means faithless. 

And the context of this word is being afraid to do things or for that matter even to try things, because you are afraid that you might fail.

And so let’s begin back where we started, 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity. . . And so we begin with Paul's instruction to Timothy to Let Go of Your Fear

This is the fear that makes us live mediocre ordinary lives, never taking chances, never trying to change anything, content to simply drift along.  This is the spirit of average, and it keeps you in a rut, and you know what a rut is right?  A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. 
And Paul tells us that this fear has not been given to us by God.  The question is, if God hasn’t given it to us then where does it come from? let’s listen to what this theologian had to say about the origins of fear.  (clip from “The Phantom Menace where Yoda tells young Anikan that fear comes from the dark side)

That’s right, fear comes from the dark side, and the devil wants you to be afraid to do anything great for God, to say anything for God or to try anything for God.  And we can’t let that happen. 
The spirit of fear robs you of what God wants for you.  When you are governed by fear there are things that you will never do because of your fear of things that may never happen.   And so you are presented with an opportunity to try something new and you don’t because you project your fears into the situation.  I have mentioned before that I am terrified of heights, not just a little scared, really scared.  And that could have kept me from learning how to fly when I was in college but it didn’t.  And in 1988 I was looking at one of the big roller coasters in Florida telling myself that I would never go on it when I realized that I had preached the week before on overcoming our fears, and so it was that day that I discovered that you can be afraid of heights and love monster roller coasters.  And Deborah and I have ridden some of the best in Florida.  But I would never have discovered that if I had of let myself be governed by fear. 
And so Paul continues in his instruction to young Timothy saying 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
So not only does Paul tell Timothy what God doesn’t give, he also tells him what he does give. 
So this morning we aren’t just telling you to let go of fear we are going to look at the three things that God has given you as believers.  Notice that this is not a God will give you, but it’s a God has already given you statement.  You already have these things, you may not recognize it, you may not use what God has given you but as a Christian these things are alaready yours.  Kind of like someone who has a winning lottery ticket in their sock drawer.  The money is theirs all they need to do is claim it, and tithe it of course.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power . . . And so the first thing Paul tells Timothy and by default us is that youneed to Embrace the Power You’ve Been Given.  At this point Paul is writing from the perspective of thirty five years down the road from the Day of Pentecost.  You’ll remember the promise that Jesus made to the Apostles before he returned to heaven.  It’s recorded in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
But you already knew that because that’s one of my favorite verses and I’ve only used it five gazillion times in the past nineteen years.  And ten days later on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and the church became synonymous with Power.
Most scholars agree that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy about 66 AD.  And because of that Paul was able to look back at the power that had been released on the Day of Pentecost.  Paul was able to say; “This power, this power that could take eleven unlikely men and turn them into the champions of Christianity is still available to you today.” “The power that took a trembling Simon, the swaying reed who shook at the questions of a harmless maid and turned him into Peter the Rock, able to stand up to the very leaders who had Christ crucified, is yours for the taking.”

You see, up to the day of Pentecost the followers of Christ had his teachings, his words to guide them and give them direction, but it was with the coming of the Holy Spirit that the power was released.  The teachings of Christ were good, but the disciples needed the Power of the Holy Spirit to reveal those teachings as the words of God himself.  It was Al Capone who said “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”  Well you can get more with the Gospel and the Power of the Holy Spirit then you can with the Gospel alone.

The power that is offered to the believer is first of all the power to conquer our fears, because as a believer we know that God is in control.  Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Can we say that together?  Let’s try it: Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Notice that God didn’t erase David’s fear he simply freed David from them.  He gave David the power over his fears.  I believe that when David stood in front of the giant Goliath and looked him up and down that he was afraid.  I believe that when they tossed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace that the three boys were afraid. 
I believe that when Daniel was invited to attend dinner with the Lions that he was afraid, that when Peter stepped over the rail of his fishing boat and placed his foot on the surface of the Sea of Galilee that he was afraid.
And hold unto your seats because I believe that in Luke 22 verse 42 when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane  Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
That Jesus Christ the son of God was afraid.  He was afraid because he knew that he would be beaten, humiliated and hung on a cross to die a long painful death.  And if he wasn’t afraid then he wasn’t a hundred percent human, and that wouldn’t be fair. 
Fear said “Please take this cup of suffering away from me.”  But the power over fear said Yet I want your will, not mine.”  Fear says “I can’t.”  the power over fear says Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Personally I will probably always be afraid of snakes but that didn’t keep me from moving to Australia with 7 of the top 10 poisonous snakes in the world. And I will probably always be afraid of heights, but I will climb a ladder and clean out my gutters, don’t enjoy it but I will do it.  And with God’s help I will never let my fears keep me from doing what God wants me to do. Why because I have not been given the spirit of fear but the spirit of power.  And to quote Margaret Thatcher  “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.” 
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love . . .
Secondly you are told to Embrace the Love You’re to Display.  You do understand how important this is don’t you?  Love is the key identifying mark of the Christians.  Time and time again we are commanded to love. To love God and to love one another.  And the bottom line is recorded in John 13:35 when Jesus told his followers John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
The reciprocal of that is “Your absence of love for one another will prove to the world that you are not my disciples.”

The greatest definition of Love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Now we all know that Jesus is love incarnate.  Jesus was love in a physical form, John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Logically then if we have a definition of love and if Jesus is indeed love then Jesus should fit into that definition.  Let’s try it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand his own way. He is not irritable, and he keeps no record of being wronged. He does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
The word Christian means follower of Christ or little Christ, and if that is the case then would it be fair to say that we need to be exhibiting the same Characteristics as Christ?  Let’s try it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Christians are patient and kind. Christians are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Christians do not demand their own way. Christians are not irritable, and they keep no record of when they have been wronged. They are never glad about injustice but they rejoice whenever the truth wins out.
Sound tough, of course it’s tough.  If it was easy everyone would be doing it.  The great thing is that you’re not expected to do it alone. 
If attend Cornerstone then eventually you will hear our mission statement or perhaps you will read it on our website.  And it says “Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.”
And maybe you’ve wondered what exactly the fruit of the Spirit is, well it is defined in Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
The very first characteristic that we are supposed to exhibit when the Holy Spirit is in control of our lives is love.  And Paul tells Timothy that we have not been given a spirit of fear, instead we have been given a spirit of love.  This is reiterated in Romans 5:5 when Paul tells the early believers Romans 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
On our own we will never be able to love people that way described in 1 Corinthians 13, just not going to happen, and God doesn’t expect it to, that’s why we have access to the power of the Holy Spirit and the Love of the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
And then finally we are told to Embrace the Self-Discipline You’ve Been Promised Actually if you are following along in a different translation of the Bible “Self Discipline” may have been translated “a Sound Mind”, which bothered me for a while because I wasn’t sure where I stood if sanity was a prerequisite of salvation.  However my fears have been eased because I’ve discovered that the word used in the original language is kind of tough to translate and this is actually the only spot it is used in the New Testament.  In the Greek it could mean self-discipline or a disciplined mind.  Both translations are pretty close to each other and the word never implied a connection to your spirituality and your mental health.
What it does imply though is that we have the power to control ourselves and our thought life and that might be even more disturbing then the mental health issue.  If you go back to fruit of the Holy Spirit, the first characteristic is love and that would make the last characteristic self-control, or perhaps self-discipline.
You may have discovered in 2014 that it’s not necessary to accept responsibility for our behaviour.  We are told that we behave the way we do because of society, or because of our upbringing, or because it is our inclination or our orientation or because of other areas outside of our control. In other words it’s not our fault if we exhibit behaviour that is unacceptable or hurtful to ourselves or to others.  We are simply a victim and we can’t help ourselves. But that isn’t what the Bible says, the Bible tells us that we are responsible for our behaviour and that if we can’t do it on our own that we can do it with the help of God.
And that is why one of the defining marks of being a follower of Jesus Christ is self-control or self-discipline. And before we can gain control over our actions we need to gain control over our thoughts.  And here Paul tells Timothy that he has already been given a disciplined mind.  Bill Burbury was a professor of mine back in the day and he used to tell us over and over again, “You aren’t what you think you are, you are what you think.”  Motivational speaker Napoleon Hill said “Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do.”
And so the battle for self-discipline and self-control must first begin here.  First of all you have to want to have self-control.  The problem a lot of times is we are too busy enjoying sin and self-destructive behaviour to actually want to stop. And the assurance from the Bible is that if you are a Christian and if you’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to have control of your life that you have already been given the spirit of Self Control and the spirit of Self Discipline.  And yet many of us are like the story you hear every once in a while about the person who dies in poverty and it is discovered they have horded away a fortune, all the while screaming poverty.
Listen to me please right now, if you are a Christian, if the Holy Spirit controls your life you have the spirit of self-discipline, you may choice to use it, or you may choice to not use it, but it is there for you. 
So where are you at today?  In closing this morning I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes, now cup your hands in front of you.  Now I want you to visualize the fear that is keeping you from being everything that God would have you to be, the fear that keeps you from doing everything that God wants you to do.  It might be the fear of rejection, or the fear of failure, or maybe the fear of losing control. 
Now I want you to open your hands and let it go because it is not of God.  You understand, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity.

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