Why Fear a God of Love? (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Join us as we continue our journey through 1 Peter verse by verse!

Last post we explored 1:13-16 where Peter helps us set our hopes not on any earthly hope but on the salvation realities found in Christ. In a world driven about by knee-jerk emotionalism and untamed desires, we are called to be driven instead by minds that are actively engaging the truths of God and not intoxicated by fuzzy ideas or common deceptions. We are surrounded by people every day who are, according to Peter, “conformed to the passions” based on “ignorance.” Here’s the passage again:

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance….

We are called to be different, set apart, odd and strange in this world as we conform our thinking and behaving to the Way of God revealed in Jesus:  15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Now, before we get haughty and begin looking down our noses at others who are still “ignorant” of God’s Ways (Peter’s words, not mine), we are warned that we are all individually accountable to God and he will not play favorites and cut us slack because we’re on the “inside.” The God we are privileged to call Father is also a holy judge.

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…

The same God who Jesus taught us to address intimately as Abba, or “daddy”, is also the holy God to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess as Lord. We are to live securely in his grace, knowing he is merciful and loving; but also live with an appropriate measure of “fear” during our time on earth. Paul likewise urges: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (Phil 2:12).

What does it mean to fear a God of love?

How do we reconcile this apparent tension in our relationship toward God? Should we approach him as friend and savior? Or holy judge and Lord? Should approach God boldly without fear, or should we tremble in his holy presence? Is he our beloved Abba or coming Judge? Are we dealing with the wrathful God of the OT or the compassionate God of the NT?

Of course, its both-and. We should always resist resolving this apparent tension…though we should let our image of God be ultimately filtered through the the character of Jesus who is the fullest revelation of God.

Nevertheless, I think this passage goes on to suggest that the thing we ought to fear is not primarily God himself. We certainly ought to revere God and approach him with awe and wonder and respect.

But the thing we ought to fear, according to Peter, is cheapening or making light of the great cost of our redemption.

Peter is urging us to consider how much it cost to redeem us from our empty lives and futile ways. We were not ransomed with money or some other material thing; we were redeemed with the precious blood of his one and only son! Peter says:

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 

When we begin to contemplate this matchless gift from God and what it personally cost him to rescue us from our futile ways, it ought to motivate us to live obediently and reverently for his glory. We should fear ever treating this gift lightly, or worse, spitting in God’s face by going back to our sinful ways and bowing down again to the idols we once served when we were “slaves to sin.”

A story best illustrates what we ought to fear.

Imagine your precious teenage daughter is kidnapped by a deplorable thug who threatens to rape, torture and kill her unless you pay a hefty ransom. The ransom is set at $1 million dollars. You move heaven and earth to find this $1 million and cash in your entire life-savings in the process. At the arranged moment of exchange, you place the ransom money between yourself and the car holding your daughter. You watch expectantly as she gets out of the thug’s car and begins to walk toward you. Your hope rises as each step brings her closer to your loving embrace. Suddenly, she stops halfway, picks up the ransom money, turns the other way and runs back to the thug across the street. Jumping into his greasy embrace, she turns around and yells to you, “Sucker!” And drives off into the sunset with her despicable lover.

We should live in fear of treating God and his priceless gift in such a way.

Our Heavenly Father paid far more than $1 million dollars to ransom us from our sins. We were purchased with the precious blood of Jesus! We should fear ever treating God’s costly ransom in this way! When we too easily turn back to our old sinful habits and presume upon God’s grace and patience, we are thumbing our nose at our Merciful Father and cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus. 

John Piper’s warning is apt here: “If cozing up with the sins for which the Father sent his son to die is ever tempting to you, run with all your might the other direction, lest you find yourself in bed with the things which slaughtered the precious son of God.”

Now, of course this doesn’t mean we never sin. We all fall short of God’s glory and all stand in need of continual grace and forgiveness. But we should live with an attitude of reverent fear and humble contrition. We should habitually practice repentance and confession. We should never forget how much it cost to purchase our freedom and salvation! Let’s remember the words of Paul:

“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:3-5)

Let us pray:

Merciful Father and Loving Savior,

We confess all the ways we turn back to bow down to the things which you paid so much to rescue us from. We admit that we do not hate sin as much as we ought. The temptations of the flesh are still more appealing to us than the righteous paths you have paved for us. We need your grace and forgiveness anew each day. Help us to live with the reverence you deserve, and to be always mindful of the great price you paid to ransom us from our old empty ways.

In your great mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

 

 

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