I recently came a across another person’s blog (web site) who wrote that he did not like the way some Christians share their faith. These Christians had gospel tracts that said on the cover “What you miss by being a Christian” and on the inside it said “Hell” and then described what Hell was like before explaining the gospel. This fellow did not think we should motivate people to get saved out of fear of burning in Hell for eternity, but rather by motivating the sinner to have a love for God and wanting to be where he is. Now, some may say “What’s the difference?” There really is a big difference.
1 John 4:7-10 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
A sinner (lost person) can not love God because he does not know God yet and therefore a love for God can not motivate the sinner to get saved. The only way for a sinner to be saved is for the sinner to see that he or she is guilty before God and deserves the just punishment for his or her transgressions. It is only through the fear of not wanting to receive the just punishment that a sinner will be motivated to repent and believe. Look at the penitent thief – he rebuked the other thief and said they deserved the punishment. Look at the publican in Luke 18: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Neither of these two men said anything about loving God. They were fearful of their deserved punishment.
So should fear motivate a Christian? Certainly not the fear of Hell for a saint is promised by God that he or she will never have to go to Hell. Hebrews 6 says that if we are to move onto perfection – to maturity, we are to leave behind the foundation of repentance – to leave behind the fear of Hell that motivated us to repent. A Christian will not and can not grow if he or she is fearful about going to Hell. Once we are saved, we should and must move past that fear. Once we are saved, we know how to love God – we desire to please him. Because we have been saved, we have a grateful heart and desire to show that gratitude towards God for his marvelous works. God does chasten his own but as a Christian, I am not motivated to serve God out of fear of being chastised. I realize that if I disobey or go my own way, God will chastise me – but I don’t go through the day thinking “well I better do this or God will spank me.” As with my wife, I seek to do those things that please her. I am not motivated to do things because I think she will be angry with me if I don’t.
As a husband, I am motivated by my love for my wife. As a saint, I am motivated by my love for God.