When I first became a Christian, I remember feeling carefree, and to say I was excited about the Lord would have been an understatement.
I was also a sponge.
Anything anyone said to me about my newfound faith I took as “the gospel.”
As you might imagine, for a young, impressionable Christian this was not good. I didn’t fully understand grace, and as people would talk about sin, I began to become fearful of not measuring up.
I began to live in fear of sinning.
I began to question my motives, actions, thoughts—everything—and assume everyone was questioning them too!
I was afraid of the judgment of others. I was terrified of the opinions of others.
I judged others in fear, and I feared man.
Because Sometimes We Forget
“Fear of man” is a term used to describe the heart of someone who acts or says, or does not act or say, certain things out of fear of what others may think. You’re no doubt familiar with Peter’s infamous denials of Christ from the gospels, but I think there’s much to be learned about fighting the fear of man by looking at Jesus’ interaction with Peter leading up to that event.
Jesus had prophesied that Peter would deny Him, but Peter strongly objected, saying, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31). He fell into the trap of believing that he was above this sin. Paul warns us that if we think we stand, we must “take heed lest [we] fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
No one is completely immune to certain temptations, but Peter was sure of himself. He was sure that he would stand strong with Jesus, facing the authorities and mockers, till the bitter end (Mark 14:29).
You know, however, how it turns out.
Peter did not stand with Christ and denied Him twice to a servant girl and then to an entire crowd. Peter knew immediately after that rooster crowed that he had failed the test that he’d been sure he was going to pass.
Peter didn’t continue in pride or make excuses for his denial. He fell to the ground and wept. I imagine the tears were many. He had betrayed his friend, teacher, and Savior for fear of his own life being taken from him. Peter didn’t want to die.
At that moment Peter forgot what it meant to follow Christ.
He Is Already Pleased
When we fear man, we join Peter in his moment of forgetfulness. Peter forgot that those who kill the body cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). That Scripture is packed, in just a few short words, with an ocean of theological truth about the fear of the Lord.
There is only one whom we need to fear, and that is the Lord. But Peter forgot, as you and I so often do. His pursuit was self-preservation. It was more important to him to blend in with the crowd than be known as “one of those people.”
We know from earlier in the gospel records that Peter received the keys to the kingdom. I don’t mention it here in such a way as not to make him look foolish or to condemn him but rather to highlight the amazing grace of Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him. Jesus is God and therefore possessed all the foreknowledge of His Father. He not only predicted Peter’s denial (Mark 14:27–31); Jesus knew that one day He would honor Peter despite it (Matthew 16:19). And He does the same for us.
Tragically, you and I deny Christ every time we care more about what others think of us than of what God has already declared.
Every time we seek man’s approval and praise, we say to the Lord that His sacrifice was not enough. And He says to us that He became “fear of man” so that we would be counted as righteous. We are presented before the Lord as concerned only with loving and pleasing Him—and it is finished because of Christ.
He is already pleased with you and with me.
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*The above post is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Trillia’s newly-released Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves.
(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)
Fear & Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves
“We will never be short on fears. Failure, rejection, sickness, losing a loved one, being alone-the fears we carry are many and heavy. Fear can be a tyrant, a bully we can’t hide from. It can paralyze our spirit, damage our relationships, and hinder our faith.
Trillia is no stranger to fear. She has known its harsh grip on her life. But she has also known the gentle hand of God, a peace and a faith from the One who conquers fears.
In Fear and Faith, Trillia will encourage you as she reflects on Scripture and her own story. She will show you Jesus, who was tempted like you in every way. She will show you the character of God and how it inspires faith. And she will show you real women who have walked the road of fear-or still are-and how they found security in the Lord to be their strength. Whatever your fear, you are not alone, nor are you without hope. You have the One who can replace your fear with faith.” ~ from the Publisher
I am thrilled with the recent release of Trillia’s new book and highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with fear, or is looking to strengthen your faith. In other words, I am recommending it to everyone! ~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
You can learn more and purchase her book by clicking the link below:
Trillia Newbell is the author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015) and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (2014). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She currently Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Along with writing, she is pursuing her M.A. in biblical counseling from Southern Theological Seminary. For fun, she enjoys group fitness (she used to be a fitness instructor!), cycling, and listening to a variety of music. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN. You can find her at trillianewbell.com and follow her on twitter at @trillianewbell.