My life was full of fear when I came to Christ in college. I had an overwhelming fear of judgment for my sins. But I also had another kind of fear. I feared I would have to give up all the things I thought were important to me and gave me joy.
What motivates some to come to Christ and some to reject the offer of Grace? “Salvation is from the Lord,” but each one is held responsible to respond in faith. Some gladly accept forgiveness and some reject.
I find it interesting that fear is often the motivator to come to Christ as well as to reject him. Obviously, these are two very different kinds of fear. To sort this out we must be careful to make the issue of the Gospel what the Bible makes it—sin. The issue of the Gospel is sin, not our happiness, not our problems in life, but sin. And sin must be dealt with. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to fear the consequences of sin and turn to Christ. I’ve heard it said many times that evangelism shouldn’t scare people into heaven. But we must remember the words of Jesus who said the Holy Spirit is sent to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). So fear of judgment is proper.
But some reject Christ out of a different kind of fear. As always, the words of Jesus are sobering, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). People hold on to what the world has to offer: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life.
• They hold on to materialism, fearing they will have to give up the things they value.
• They hold on to the cravings of their flesh, particularly sex and substances they enjoy, believing they could never experience such fun if they came to Christ.
• They hold on to the relationships that surround those things that make them feel valued, accepted and important.
Some simply have a great fear they will have to give up everything if they accept Christ. Hence, the great struggle.
But here is the reality. You don’t lose anything by having your sin taken care of when you come to Christ. Instead, you gain more than you could ever imagine. Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). If you seek the things of earth, you not only miss heaven, but also the joys of this life as well. But if you seek Christ above all else, you not only grasp heaven, but the enjoyment of life on this earth.
The one who gains the whole world but loses his soul never really gets to enjoy the things of this world. God wants us to enjoy the things we acquire, food and drink and intimate relationships—all part of a life redeemed. We enjoy them best when we love God most.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Before we can experience the abundant life, we must have eternal life, and the issue of sin must be dealt with, and it has been by Jesus. Once we have “passed out of death into life” as Jesus said, then we can live the abundant life. Then, all the promises of salvation are available to us: rebirth, renewal, new nature, dead to sin, the Holy Spirit, united with Christ, part of Christ’s Body, the Church.
My college days are long gone. Grace has relieved my fears. I no longer fear eternal judgment. Yes, I fear disappointing God with my sin, but I’m grateful for His daily grace—that I am now free from the penalty of sin, and free from the power of sin. I also no longer fear missing out on all the world continually offers. Yes, I am sometimes tempted to seek the wrong things, but God has given an enjoyment of this life in Christ that the world could never match.