GET ACQUAINTED: What is one thing that you are really fearful of? Why?
RECONNECT: What in this past Sunday’s message are you hoping will be discussed in Life Group? Did anything that was said in the sermon leave you with questions, answer them, or was an “aha” moment for you?
SRIPTURE: Psalm 56 – Focus verse: (v.11) “In God I shall trust I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me”?
REFLECT: 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The context here is important: verse 17 says, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”
The “fear” that perfect loves casts out is the fear of “the day of judgment.” We know that it’s coming, but those who are in Christ know the love of God, which drives away fear of condemnation. The dismissal of the fear of judgment is one of the main functions of God’s love. The person without Christ is under judgment and has plenty to fear (read John 3:18 ), but, once a person is in Christ, the fear of judgment is gone. He is reconciled to God, and “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ).
Part of understanding the love of God is knowing that God’s judgment fell on Jesus at the cross so that we can be spared: “… the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ). Jesus’ sacrifice appeased God’s justice and won His good favor (read 1 John 2:2 ). Jesus spoke often of His mission: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17 ). The only person who must fear judgment is the one who rejects Jesus Christ: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (v. 18).
The Bible says that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ (read Romans 8:38 –39). God’s love does not increase and decrease; it is not a dependable, emotional sensation. God’s love for sinners is why Christ died on the cross. God’s love for those who trust in Christ is why He holds them in His hand and promises never to let them go (read John 10:29 ). That divine love should take away our fear: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ).
“… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ). A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God. Sometimes this “spirit of fear” overcomes us; and to overcome it we need to trust in and love God more completely. Trusting God is how Stephen stood before his killers fearlessly (Acts 7 ).
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ). If, as a child of God, we still fear God’s punishment, we have not yet reached the point of maturity in love. To help us be complete in love, God has liberally sprinkled encouragement against fear throughout the Bible. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone, of being too weak, of not being heard in our prayers, or of being penniless or not being able to meet our physical necessities. These cautions cover many different aspects of the “spirit of fear.”
The key to overcoming fear is total and complete trust in God. Trusting God is how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fearlessly faced the fiery furnace (Daniel 3 ). To trust God is to refuse to give in to fear. Even in the darkest times, we can trust in God to make things right. This trust comes from knowing God and knowing that He is good. Once we have learned to put our trust in God, we will no longer be afraid of the things that come against us. We will be like the psalmist who said with confidence, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” (Psalm 5:11 ).
In summary, the word perfect in 1 John 4:18 means “complete” or “mature,” and the love that is referred to is God’s selfless agape love. The fear that this perfect love drives out is the fear of punishment. We have God’s promise that believers in Jesus Christ will not be judged with the world: “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9 ; 1 Corinthians 11:32 ). We can say with the psalmist, “In God I shall trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me”? (Psalm 56:11 )
GET IT: Does being afraid lead you to trust God more or less? Does not trusting God lead you to be more afraid? Less? Why? How can you choose faith when you are afraid?
DIG DEEPER: Biblically, what is the difference between punishment and discipline? Use scripture to defend your answer.
APPLY: If God is with us, why do we fear human threats so much? Can our “head knowledge” of God alleviate emotional fears? How can you overcome fear? How does Psalm 56:4 answer that question? Why is praise and trust so important in quenching fear? How good are you at praising and trusting God when fearful? What can you do to quench your fear(s) this week?
PRAYER: End your discipleship time praying for the needs that are mentioned/represented in your Life Group.
Some excerpts from gotquestions.org