Fear is a problem. H.P. Lovecraft, an early 1900’s author of horror, said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a pastor in London famously called the last Puritan preacher, said, “When a man is defeated by life it is always due, ultimately, to the fact that he is suffering from a spirit of fear…. The spirit of fear is the real, the ultimate cause of all failure in life, and of all unhappiness.” Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why, researched survivors of disasters to learn one thing – why survivors survive. She says that dread, fear on steroids, is a mind game that threatens emotional safety, security, and wellbeing – “Think of dread as humanity in a word.” Popular New York City pastor, Tim Keller, says “Fear is in the heart of our being.” Fear is a problem. What can be done about fear?
Why is fear in the heart of our being? The answer is found in the most unlikely word in the Bible: propitiation… “Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood….” (Romans 3.25)Loaded into propitiation is the sum of all fears, the lord of the fears, the headwaters of all fears. All other fears spin-off of, attach to, or express in some way the ultimate fear imbedded in propitiation. According to the Bible, fear is in the heart of our being because we feel deeply in our bones that we deserve doom. Therapists try to tell us that we don’t deserve doom, but deep down we don’t believe them. Our parents, family, friends, the media, culture, and world around us try to tell us we don’t deserve doom, but deep down we don’t believe them because we know we do.
What can be done about fear? Being told we don’t deserve doom does not help; we know we deserve doom, we know fear is real - we need a real solution. Romans 3.25 is a real solution: “Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Propitiation means to satisfy the wrath of God, to extinguish the judgment of God, to absorb all doom until there is no more left, until it is finished forever.
How does God deal with our deserved doom and the fear it generates in the center of our being? The answer is that he turns it on himself. The Judge judges himself. God spills his own blood. God absorbs all hell in himself upon the cross until there is no more left. God dooms himself in the place of messed-up people until all doom is finished forever. Therefore, Jesus is abandoned by God at the cross but never abandons his love for his brothers and sisters. Jesus is forsaken by God at the cross but never forsakes his love for his broken people. Jesus is doomed by God at the cross, but his heart breaks with love for sinners.
“…to be received by faith.” We can try to deal with doom and the fear it generates on our own, or we can put our trust in Jesus and his being doomed in our place. Receive Jesus doomed in your place by faith.