Getting Love Right (5)
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22.60-62
Called to be witnesses
Whatever in our lives brings delight or joy, we talk about with others. Seen a new film that you really loved? You’ll tell others. Excited about an upcoming vacation? You’ll make sure others know. Thrilled about your marriage or proud of your kids? You’ll talk about them. Get a promotion? Buy a new gadget? Download a new app? You’ll talk about such things, because they are important to you, and they bring you a measure of delight.
When we love God as He intends, His Spirit will be very active within us for pleasure and joy, and we’ll talk about Him with others who love Him, as well as with those who don’t. We will not be able to help ourselves. So rich and wonderful is His love, so greatly does love for Him swell within us, that not talking about God is unnatural. We want to talk about Him, because we want others to know His love as well.
The more we drink from the river of our Lord’s delights, the more that will become rivers of living water, overflowing from us to touch others with God’s grace and truth (Ps. 36.8, Jn. 7.37-39).
And we don’t need to worry about where the ability to do this will come from. It’s not necessary to learn lots of tedious outlines or answers to objections or clever illustrations. The power of God within us, which brings us into His Presence and love, will exert itself through us as the Holy Spirit leads and enables us to bear witness to Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us (Acts 1.8).
We are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ, to the love God embodies in Him and that we know and enjoy in and through Him. When that love has captured our hearts, our hearts will overflow with it, and we will talk to others about Him.
Obstacles to witness
Affections play a large part in our witness for God and His love. When we fear God and love Him, we will talk about Him and His love with others. When we fear men and love ourselves, we may be reluctant to identify with Jesus, or at least, to talk about Him freely and openly. Indeed, we may fall into a spiral of guilty silence in which we convince ourselves that talking about Jesus isn’t essential to believing in Him. And at that point, we will be perilously close to a failure of love for the Lord that can lead to betrayal.
Jesus warned us about this snare. He said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Lk. 12.4, 5) And in practically the same breath, He promised, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Lk. 12.11, 12).
The fear of men is but another way that self-love goes awry. Misplaced fear leads to misguided love. When we are afraid of what others may think of us or do to us because of our witness for Christ, self-love can lead us to keep quiet about Jesus, or worse, to deny Him before others. We love ourselves more than we love the Lord when, given the opportunity to bear witness to His love, we fall into the snare of fearing men rather than God.
Just look at Peter. He is exhibit A in how self-love, fueled by the fear of man, can compromise our witness for Christ. Peter loved Jesus. He’d spent some three years with Him, had heard His many wonderful teachings, seen His great works, and enjoyed intimate fellowship with Him. He loved Jesus, he really did, as he would insist over and over in John 21.
But in a moment of fearing men, Peter’s self-love took over, and rather than die with Christ, as he had said he would, Peter denied Jesus three times. He feared a servant girl who challenged him as a follower of Christ. He feared the people around him who suspected him of being a disciple. He was afraid of what might happen to him if he owned up to knowing the Lord, so he denied Him vigorously, and ended up broken-hearted and in shame.
We’re no different than Peter. The fear which we owe to God can, in the grip of self-love, be redirected to people, and then love for God and neighbor goes out the window. Rather than being moved by love to speak the truth in love, we give in to fear and self-love, and fail to make the most of the opportunity for proclaiming, embodying, and celebrating the love of God in Christ Jesus (Eph. 5.15-17).
Jesus promised that whenever we feel the fear of men rising, we should know that the power of God is present in us to overcome that fear. The Holy Spirit can bridle self-love and keep fear rightly focused on God, so that in obedience to our calling, we will bear witness to Jesus and the love God has for us in Him. What Peter lacked on that terrible night – the indwelling Spirit of God – we have with us always, to empower us to overcome the evil of unbridled self-love with the good of faithful witness (Rom. 12.21).
Fearing God, let us obey Him as His witnesses, so that, as His love grows in us and flows through us, we will fulfill our calling to make His love known to the people to whom He sends us.
1. What does it mean to “be” a witness for Jesus Christ? What should being a witness look like in our daily lives?
2. Why does the fear of man present such a formidable obstacle to our being witnesses for the Lord?
3. What can you do, whenever you feel the fear of man rising in your soul, to tap into the Spirit’s power to bear witness to God’s love in Jesus?
Next steps – Conversation: Pray for an opportunity to talk with someone about Jesus today. Go expectantly, and listen for the leading of God’s Spirit as He turns open the spigot of God’s love in your soul.
T. M. Moore
Your soul in the Kingdom of God
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.