Fear is a great enemy of gospel advance. Boldness is the gift of God to overcome this enemy. Boldness is confidence in the gospel, a message that defies fear to the uttermost.
I am burdened, of late, to study and write on this topic because of the mounting threats i see the enemy posing toward Christians. Persecution is on the rise as Islamic fundamentalism continues to expand. The field with greatest missional need, the Islamic world, is also the most dangerous.
Mission strategists need to promote boldness, not syncretism and compromise. At the same time, Western culture is posturing more and more anti-gospel. To a culture that has ingested the whole apple of sexual immorality, and put its stamp of approval on homosexuality, speaking about sin is the new sin. Those who uncover shameful acts are quickly put to shame. But now is not the time for retreat and cowardice. Jesus commanded us not to put our light under a basket but instead to hold it out and let it shine in stark contrast to the darkness of a world that would hate us (Mt. 5:16). It is a time to preach the gospel with all boldness, knowing that where sin abounds grace all the more (Rom. 5:20). Boldness is necessary if we are going to be risk-takers and not self-preservers. And risk-taking is absolutely necessary for the progress of salvation. Finally, as I started into this issue, it became apparent to me that boldness is a highly neglected topic and one that it is vital to every believer. So many people are controlled by fears of all kinds. The person who receives the gift of boldness is delivered from a multitude of transgressions and lives in peace.
There are numerous phobias, but most of them can be categorized under a few primary headings: fear of death, fear of judgment (separation, rejection, condemnation), fear of torment (mutilation, loss, ugliness), fear of being overpowered (loss of autonomy, confinement, claustrophobia), and fear of worthlessness (ego-death, failure, humiliation, shame, non-lovability).
As an Introduction, I briefly note how the gospel addresses a few of these areas but leave room in future posts for more detail.
The Fear of Death
Christ dealt the deathblow to the fear of death by conquering death. The gospel message in its core is about the resurrection (Acts 17:18). Death will be eliminated and thrown into the lake of eternal fire (Rev. 20:14). Christ broke the chains of the grave and ascended with a new body to the Father. Those who are in him will shine with indestructible glory and immortality. This truth is the epicenter of boldness because it confronts the mother of all fears and delivers “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:15)
Fear of Judgment and Fear of Worthlessness
Truly the soul shrinks back when it is judged, disapproved, or devalued. All people fear rejection and worthlessness because there is an inherent dignity in personhood. The idea of that dignity being lost, or facing our Creator naked and exposed with all our failures, is terrifying. But perfect love casts out this fear (1 Jn. 4:18). It is important to understand that on the day of judgment no one will be accepted for who they are. Rather, everyone will be evaluated on the basis of who Christ is. The question is, who is Christ for you? In the gospel, people are valued not because of what they do (that would be a disaster), but in spite of what they do. Christ came to save sinners and set them free from all just condemnation, making their punishment his own. He makes sinners his own. We do not have to fear a day of reckoning if Christ has reconciled us to God (Col. 1:21-22). But there is something far greater to all of this than escape from judgment. The Father of creation, the maker of all souls, chose (valued) us not based on our works or our willing, but based on his eternal love. He says to convicted sinners, “you are worth the death of my Son.” We can be confident that God values us. Why would someone loved and chosen by God ever fret over the approval and acceptance of men? In a world of Facebook and Instagram, where everyone wants to be a celebrity, believers celebrate being cherished by the Father.
If God really did defeat death, remove condemnation, and chose believers before the foundation of the world then gospel people should be people of unshakable courage. We should be as “bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1).