“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NKJV).
Yesterday we talked about Jesus’ provision to make us fearless. Today we are going to talk about the “how.” If He came to the earth to set us free from slavery to fear, how does He actually bring about that freedom in our lives?
To understand this, let’s first look at the second sentence in our Scripture for today. “He who fears has not been made perfect in love.” The converse of that statement would be, “He who does not fear has been made perfect in love.” We want to know how to get to the point this verse is describing – where we don’t fear. Therefore, for our purposes, we need to understand what Holy Spirit means by the expression “being made perfect in love.” Once we’ve been made perfect in love, we won’t fear anymore.
Taking a look at the Greek, “perfect” in this passage is teleios. The meaning of teleios is not “morally flawless.” So God is not saying, “When you finally attain to perfection and have it all together, then you’ll be really living in freedom from fear.” Nope. That would not be the correct understanding of this verse. What teleios actually means is “complete” or “mature.” Continuing to chew on our verse, “to be made perfect in love” means to be made mature in love.
In other words, we need to walk through a maturation process in order to move fully into fearlessness. The more seasoned and mature we become as Christians, the more markedly free from fear our lives will be.
Still, how? How does this maturation process work?
This is where the first half of the verse comes in. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” The process of maturing means that, in a gradual, progressive manner, over a long period of time, Jesus’ perfect love casts out all our fears. One by one, He meticulously eradicates them from our lives, until they are completely gone.
I used to have a bit of a struggle with this Scripture. I’d read it and ask, “What’s defective in me? If God loves me perfectly, why do I still have fears? Why haven’t I been made perfect in love?” I felt like the verse was pointing out my deficiencies in overcoming fear. Now, I know better. I have come to understand that these words from Jesus’ heart are not a measuring stick. Rather, they are a beckoning to go deeper into His heart. They are an invitation to grow up in Him by sinking my roots down ever more profoundly into His love.
The more we walk with Jesus, the more we get to know Him. The more time we spend with Him, the more poignantly we come to experience His love. His relentless, tender, exquisite devotion becomes like a caulking for our soul. Little by little, it slips down into every last crack. Slowly, steadily, every vulnerability gets healed and filled in by the substance of His presence. The revelation of His heart systematically obliterates torment and replaces it with the sealant of perfect love.
By the time He is done effecting this breathtaking work in our lives, fear can no longer seep in. It simply can no longer find a way inside of us. Perfect love has cast it entirely away. We have, at last, been made perfect in love.
Jesus purchased fearlessness for us on the cross. Let’s respond to His invitation to mature into it as He loves on us. Every new morning that dawns, let’s drink deeply of His nearness. Every new day of our lives, let’s walk intimately with Him. With every new breath that we breathe, let’s appropriate more than yesterday what is already ours.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart…” (Song 8:6a, NKJV).
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Ps. 34:4, NIV).