I love the Scriptures, but I have to admit that there are some passages I find frankly frightening. Now, there certainly is an illegitimate kind of fear that we ought not to walk in, because the perfect love we experience in Christ casts out fear (1 John 4:18). But it seems that there is also an appropriate kind of fear we ought to walk in, even in the midst of our confidence in Christ. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:12: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Here are a couple passages that freak me out:
1 Corinthians 4:5 – “[The Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people’s hearts.”
In context Paul is talking about leaders who have been entrusted with the “mysteries that God has revealed,” saying that God himself will judge them, exposing their deepest motives and bringing their secrets into the light. As a leader, this freaks me out. (I hope in a good way!) I want God to purify my motives and reveal to me the things I don’t see about myself that hinder my ability to lead well in the kingdom. I want to be a leader whose character can bear the weight of my gifting. I want to have the kind of “bold humility” that Paul displayed when he said, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” Knowing that eventually God will bring everything into the light makes me want his purifying fire now.
Matthew 21:43 – “I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.“
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought they could rest on the laurels of their genetics (“We have Abraham as our father”), and Jesus spoke this scathing sentence to the religious leaders of his day after painting them into a parable in a very unflattering light. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought they could rest on the laurels of their genetics and tradition (“We have Abraham as our father”), and Jesus flatly said, “Not so.”
When I read this passage, and others like it, I wonder what kinds of “laurels” I rest on. Church attendance? Church non-attendance? Self-identification as a Christian? Involvement in community service? Saying “the prayer”? Having the right opinion about the war? According to Jesus, what matters is living an interactive “with-God” life that bears kingdom fruit. According to Jesus, God wants to richly pour out the blessings of his rule (his kingdom) on those who will bear its fruit, and those who try to claim the kingdom as their own “piggy bank” at the expense of the “outsiders” will eventually find themselves outsiders themselves, because of their refusal to bear the fruit of the kingdom. And the only way to bear the fruit of the kingdom is by living an interactive “with-God” life as a disciple of Jesus.
Theses passages scare me because I realize that bearing kingdom fruit is not a foregone conclusion just because I’m a “Christian.” The fact that the Spirit can be grieved, that His fire can be quenched, that I can, by my choices, shoo the dove away, grips me with a sense of fear. I realize how capable I am of ignoring the Spirit, of ending up hard-hearted. I hope it’s a fear that just keeps driving me to my knees, seeking the kind of interactivity with God that produces abundant life and kingdom fruit.
So, your turn! What passages in the Bible do you find scary?