In those days, John the Firebrand started his ministry, preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, “You’re all destined for the fires of hell. You need to turn or burn because the judgement of God is at hand.”
His message was in keeping with the prophet Jeremiah:
“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
circumcise your hearts,
you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.”
His clothing matched his message; rugged, itchy, and uncomfortable camel’s hair; as did his diet of sour grapes, locusts, and lemons.
Those in Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordan went out to hear his preaching and out of fear many of them were baptised by him in the Jordan River.
Not the Bible: The Ungospel of Matthew 3:1-12
What drew you to God? Was it fear of going to hell? The fear of punishment?
You see these things are good at drawing people to religion but not drawing people close to God:
“God’s kindness that leads [us] towards repentance.” (Rom 2:4)
I had a father who ruled our household by fear. If we did something wrong we would receive punishment, if we annoyed him we would receive punishment. In a sense it was successful – we were well behaved around him, we have grown up good citizens who respect the law and contribute to society.
But in another sense it was totally inadequate.
Outwardly I was obedient but inwardly I was flipping between scared and resentful. Outwardly I would seem a perfect son who was achieving high grades at school but inwardly I was empty and driven to try and win affection from my earthly feather.
You see fear can’t generate relationship.
And since fear doesn’t promote openness or vulnerability it also stunts growth.
Yes there’s a healthy respect and awe (the “fear of God”) but it’s His love that captivates and moves us. It’s His kindness that motivates us to draw closer and to bring out our secrets into the open so we can receive cleansing.
Father, I confess I often fall into the error of either being frightened of you and doing things out of fear rather than out of trusting in your love for me. Help me to know you better – to know that you are a good Father who always has my best interests at heart and can be trusted with my worries. In Jesus’ name. Amen.