Freedom from Fear

Freedom from fear

Every year, on 31st October, much of the country is taken over by Hallowe’en: trick or treating, lurid shop displays and horror films on television. Many people emphasise the fun and excitement but, at its heart, Hallowe’en remains a celebration of death, the macabre and fear. Perhaps in this scientific age, it’s a reminder that deep parts of human life remain dark, sinister and irrational.

It is perhaps a cosmic irony that, on the same day, many Christians celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In the darkness of his own time, five hundred years ago, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther called the church to celebrate and proclaim the light of the good news of God’s salvation. This gospel he defined in clear terms – God’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Luther understood that this gospel brings freedom, especially freedom from fear.

By God’s grace alone

 …means that we are free from the fear that God is somehow against us. Rather His grace means that He is using His power and His love to save us from evil, from our sin and our worldly selfishness.

By faith alone

…means that we are free from the fear of having to measure up, from having to be good enough to earn God’s approval. None of our human activity, our work, our virtue impresses God or means that He owes us anything. Instead all God asks is that we put all our trust in Him alone.

In Christ alone

…means that, through faith in Jesus, we are set free from captivity to sin and death. Jesus show us that God is indeed good and perfectly holy, while also revealing how far short and sinful we are in the light of His loving perfection. In His death, however, Jesus takes our sin and its consequences on Himself, so that we ‘might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21) and enjoy eternal life with Him (John 3:16).

For the glory of God alone

…means that we are free from seeking our own way, free from having to protect and display our own fragile egos. Instead God promises that He has adopted us as His children, ‘before the foundation of the world’, ensuring that our lives have fullness, meaning and purpose. (Ephesians 1:11-12) 

 

Luther found this wonderful truth as he began reading the Bible for himself. He saw in the Bible the promises of God in Jesus Christ, promises that were real to him as he believed, promises that developed into a life-changing relationship with Jesus. These are his wonderful words after reading Titus 3:5-8:

Rely not upon yourself, nor upon your faith. Flee to Jesus Christ; keep under His wings; remain under His shelter. Let His righteousness and grace, not yours, be your refuge. You are to be made an heir of eternal life, not by the grace you have yourself received, but … by Christ’s grace.

This is a much better reason for celebration than Hallowe’en. The freedom that Luther rediscovered in the gospel of Jesus Christ is one in which we can stand today. It’s a freedom that means that we can truly live to love God and joyfully serve one another in love.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Galatians 5:1

Lawrence Braschi