Mike White shares how fear is a tool of the enemy that we can overcome through the transformative power of grace, faith, and God's love.
Well, good morning church. It's gonna be with you in worship today. Can I grab my stand please? I'm pretty confident that inside this box I have the greatest fear for the majority of the people in this room. Now take a deep breath. There's nothing living. There are no spiders, there are snakes. There are no politicians inside this box. But I feel pretty confident that I have the greatest fear for the majority of the people in this room, inside this box. You ready? You see, fear is an interesting thing. There is fear in American society in some ways. We've seen a rise in extreme sports and you press into those fears. We went skydiving years ago and it was incredible. Some of you all might say there is no way we are ever going skydiving, bungie jumping deep sea diving, those sorts of things. You see fear being faced in our culture. Today we have the next holiday in the American calendar coming up Halloween, and I don't know about you, but I think as soon as Easter ended, halloween decorations and candy began to be sold in stores around this country. And then, coming up, we'll see the horror movie season. You'll see haunted houses come out, where kids and adults the same will go and be scared in these things. Even one of our staff members decorates his yes, his office for Halloween with paraphernalia and stuff like that. We love Halloween as a culture. I think the greatest fear is none of that, the greatest fear. It reminds me of this show back in the day called Fear Factor. Anyone remember Fear Factor? Joe Rogan hosted this show back in 2001 to 2006 and contestants would come on individually or in groups and they would compete and they would face their greatest fears, and some of these fears were heights. They would walk across a tightrope, strapped in and safe, hundreds of feet above the ground. You'd face your fear of heights. There would be claustrophobia or darkness or whatever it might be. But the worst things for me is when they would introduce live animals, insects, bugs, or they would have to eat really gross things. And so they had one where a person was buried alive in a coffin with earthworms crawling all over them. Yeah, and then some of the things they would have to eat a lady ate a giant African spider. That was live. And when I say spider, I don't mean spider, I mean spider Like this was a heavy snack this lady ate and we have footage of that. Right now let's go to the video of the live spider, I'm just kidding. One gentleman was eating cow eyeballs and I don't know. Some of you folk from rural Nebraska or Iowa, that might be your delicacy or Thanksgiving centerpiece, suburban Houston, we can roll that way. Okay, let me push a little bit farther. There was one that actually triggered some viewers to sue the show. You ready for it? Well, I'm gonna give it to you anyway, doesn't matter. A man drank a shake that was a blended rat, right, and I just saved you brunch today, right, just saved you some dollars right there. But these viewers claim that they became sick, violently ill, from watching this man drink a blended rat. And these are all, in some ways, surface level fears. But I believe there is a deeper fear to the majority of us in this room. Wrestle with it is not breaking a mirror and having seven years bad luck. I don't believe in that. It is not that your looks are going, even though that's probably true. Unfortunately, we speak truth here at King of Kings. I believe our greatest fear is to be truly and deeply known and rejected by people around us. Studies show the fear of failure, fear of rejection. I believe our greatest fear is to be truly known and rejected by those around us and I'll hear people say I don't care what others think about me. Oh yeah. Have you ever embellished your success at work to look better than you actually are? Do you struggle with admitting that you're wrong in a given situation? Have you ever lived vicariously through your kids or your grandkids performance because it reflects on you as a parent or a grandparent? Are you unable to have healthy rest because you're driven by achievement and perfectionism, because you care so much what others think about you? Have you put out a facade of you and your family on social media to look better than you actually are? We're driven by performance based identity, but I think the Word of God, I think Jesus, intervenes and gives us a better word. You see, pastor Tim Keller says it this way to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. There we go, but to be fully known and truly loved as well a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of self-righteousness and fortifies us for all difficulty life can throw at us. Our greatest fear is being known and rejected. Imagine next week we come back for worship and there's just an incredible spirit of worship. God is present. We celebrate the Lord's Supper and then, during the sermon time, we say hey, instead of a normal, message is given by one of the teaching team. It's gonna be about you and not the good parts of your life. We're just gonna play a timeline and a highlight reel of all the negative things in your life All your mistakes, all your failures, all the wicked thoughts you've had, all the horrible words you've spoken, all the websites you visited. We're just gonna put that right up on the screen and put you center stage and we're gonna watch who's coming back next week. Right, I know there's no chance I'm stepping because there's still inside of me this unhealthy fear that's based on my performance and what you think of me. But the word of God speaks better. We're in a series called Favorite Verse and I want to share some of my journey around this topic, where I lived in performance-based identity. I cared so much what others thought of me, but the grace of God meets us there and has a better word If you have your Bibles open up to 1st John 4 and this will be our anchor text for today and it says this, and so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God and him. In this way, love is made complete or whole among us, so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Dr Lee Warren he's a neurosurgeon. I listened to an interview about him and he served in Iraq during the war and he saw PTSD and just incredible things happen in the lives of our soldiers over there, our men and women who gave their lives and fought for the freedom of this country. And he works a lot with fear and he was breaking down the science of fear and he said, literally, fear, it's chemicals going off in your brain and sometimes it's right and sometimes it's not right. And he was working with PTSD victims and that's where he was saying he's saying they go back to an old account of like just trauma that brings it into the present. And he gave this illustration and he said imagine if you open your garage and you go in and there's a grizzly bear in your garage, right, hopefully, unless you're insane, it's gonna trigger something in your mind that is fight or flight. But think of another situations. I know I've had this. I think we can all relate to this. You're going to sleep and there's this kind of twilight phase. Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night or whatever, and you hear a noise in your house. Does anyone ever think that it's a good thing? Right? Does anyone ever go that way? No, there's always a group of acts murderers coming down the hallway for you right there, and there's this literal fear that happens. But I think spiritually what the apostle John is saying there's unhealthy fear, but our faith in Jesus changes this. You see, judgment day is not just something far off, that we feel that comfort, then it's a present reality, now that God's love casts out fear. But before I wanna dig more into the idea of fear, you see, fear is a tool of Satan. Satan desires you to question God's goodness and your identity before him. This is what fear is and this is how Satan works, as he works in fear, and he wants you and me to constantly believe that God is not good, like his word says, and I am not a child in his family. And we see two main accounts where Satan tries to work this way. One is the beginning of scripture, in Genesis three. He creates man and woman. Everything is good. He gives them authority to steward his creation and then they encounter Satan. God gives them one prohibition from a certain tree in the garden. In Genesis three, they encounter Satan. He says this Now, the serpent, satan, was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman did God really say notice the questioning here you must not eat from any tree in the garden. The woman said to the serpent we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say and she actually gets it wrong here you must not eat from the fruit that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it or you will die. You will not surely die, a serpent said to the woman, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Satan sneaks in and he imposes doubt and he questions God's goodness and intentions for humanity, and then what he's doing is fear and false promises. The way you are now is not what you could be. There's so much more out there and God is withholding this from you. And Satan works in this pattern of fear and I believe that he whispers to us today you are not enough. God does not love you the things you've done. No one can love you. Be someone different. And we live in fear and we live in anxiety. The second account where we see Satan encounter is with Jesus, and Jesus was just starting his ministry, at about 30 years of age. I love this. In Matthew, chapter three, you can see a similar sequence in which Satan approaches humanity. It says as soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water and watched the Trinity here, father, son and Spirit present. At that moment, heaven was opened and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him, and a voice from heaven said this is my son, with whom I love. With him I am well pleased. God, the Father speaks identity, speaks pleasure, speaks pride over his son. I don't think it's coincidence. This is how he starts his ministry, going out in the public. And then we notice in chapter four it says then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. That might be the greatest understatement in all of scripture, I don't know. Some of you have kids and they go about an hour and a half from their last meal and they say Mom, dad, I am starving. No, this is starving. You ever hit this point? You can use that word. Otherwise, strike that from your vocabulary, right. And I've learned there are different names for meals, kind of wherever you grow up regionally, they may call things differently. We kind of grew up with traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner. You might say supper. I think some country folk grew up and it was breakfast, dinner, supper. Any of those in the crowd today where it's like that okay, okay. Well, I've learned there's actually a fourth meal of the day that I didn't know about before. We have a 15 year old son and he eats this thing called second dinner. I don't know if you ever heard of that before, but between nine and 10 at night he's having a bowl of cereal or a sandwich or something like that. Anyway, second dinner. If you have young kids, look forward to that day that comes ahead. So Jesus is physically at his weakest, yet he is spiritually at his strongest. He knows who he is, he knows what his father thinks of him, he knows what his mission is. And here's how he responds. The temperature came to him and said if you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Prove your identity by performance, performance-based identity. We'll get there in more in a second. Notice how Jesus responds. He answered. It is written man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God, satan comes at him, just like we saw with Adam and Eve, with questions, with doubt, with fear. Prove who you are. But Jesus is secure in his identity. He knows who he is and he quotes scripture back to Satan. I want to share some of my faith journey. I wrestled with this growing up. We started going to church around age 10 and it was awful Like honestly, it was a horrible experience. It was just boring and whatever else. But I wanted to honor my parents and my faith was based in morality. There was a list of the do's and the don'ts and that's what faith was to me and I think, as a kid in development. It's concrete examples like that and it kind of makes sense right. I started living my faith out and I felt that God was constantly disappointed with me, that I always fell short, I was never enough, and I had this image of God where he was this up in the clouds somewhere sitting on a throne with long white hair and a white beard and just looking down at me and just kind of shaking his head because I never performed well enough for God. I heard a quote recently from AW Tozer, prolific writer and American pastor, and he said this what comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. Said in another way, your image of God, whether right or wrong, will drive out your faith life, and so for me, my image of God was off. I did not know the word of God, and so I had an incorrect image of who God was, and it led me to live out performance-based identity in my faith life. It was all about morality, it was all about my performance and it was unhealthy, and years later I realized that I had imposed my relationship with my earthly father onto my heavenly father Okay, and I think this is common for a lot of us in this room and we ended up. He died eight years ago. We had a great relationship, but as a kid I lived out performance-based identity with my dad. Our home was not super affectionate. There was not words of pride or love spoken over me consistently. We never said I love you, parents a tangential sermon point today. Speak love, speak identity, speak pride over your kids. So for me, here's a couple of examples. I remember I was a very good student and I would usually get straight A's and so I would come home with my report card and I would have all A's. I'd want to go show my parents right away. And I remember my dad. I would say, hey, I got a 94 in English. He would say, well, why wasn't a 98? And I don't know if he was joking, but I didn't interpret it as joking. So for me, my relationship with my father became based on my performance and, like I said, we did not speak. I love you to each other. My wife's family totally different. They speak. I love you all the time. They'll go to the store and say, hey, do you want anything. Nope, see you in a bit. I love you. I'm like wait, why do you say that so quickly? It's just all the time. Right, we didn't do that. Here's the pinnacle moment, with my dad doing this. We were recessing out of our wedding 20 years ago. Thank you very much, that's good. We were recessing out just celebrate our 20th anniversary. Closest friends, close family, you've been there, right and we go into this separate room and everyone's emotional and you're hugging and you're like high-fiving all kinds of stuff with each other, and there's my dad. I'm like this is my moment. And so I walk up to him and I say I love you dad. And he says I know what's going on, right, like well, that didn't go great, you know, we spoke that eventually over time. But what I found is that this is what drove my faith life. I lived in performance-based identity I think a lot of us do too and I separated my faith life from my real life, and so I kept looking ahead and finding these moments and these milestones, and I would say my success is my identity, my athletic performance, my body, these achievements, these next milestones graduating, graduating college, getting married, having kids, having success in my career and what I found over and over again is it didn't fulfill who I was. I watched a clip of this movie recently, called Jerry Maguire. A lot of you have seen this. Go back and watch it. There's some inappropriate stuff. Make sure you screen it before your kids see it. That movie came out in 1996 and I felt so old when I saw that and I hope you do too. Okay, but there's this iconic scene in the movie. Jerry Maguire is a sports agent and he was at the height of success and he crumbles and he's trying to resurrect his career as a sports agent and he's married Renee Zellweger and he's out doing this business deal and she's kind of home with her girls hanging out and he bursts in. Tom Cruise enters the door and he talks to her and says he had this success. It's kind of this sweet moment. And then he finishes it and he says but something was wrong, you weren't there. And he looks at her and he says you complete me. I'm watching it, I have a little tear in my eye and I'm like this is so sweet, like this acting is so great, this moment is so sweet. The problem is it is a load of crap. But this is what we believe the performance based identity, that things will complete us. There are temporary things, relationships, accomplishments, whatever it might be, it's going to complete me and I've noticed in my time in ministry and just on this planet there are certain patterns based on gender. Let me share those with you. Men, I think for the most part we're success driven, we are achievement centered so we can pour our lives into our careers and climb the corporate ladder At the detriment of our own health, of our marriage, and will sacrifice our kids on the altar of success. Watch out Women. In general terms, what I have noticed is that women long to be married and have children, and these are both great and incredible things, but when they become the ultimate thing that your identity, your self worth is based upon, they're very, very dangerous. And what I've even heard and seen is that church unfortunately promises both of these things to women. It's not biblical, not everyone, unfortunately. They're great things, women strive for them. That's what God's calling you to, but there's singleness in the Bible. There are, unfortunately, are women that can't have kids. But when this becomes everything that you strive for, you say my identity is based in these things and they don't come true, or you get them and then the amount of pressure that you put on someone else to complete you in life. It's devastating. Nothing temporary will ever complete us. We have to find a better voice that's outside of ourselves for identity than anything that is on this earth. And what I lived out is performance based identity is exhausting Because you're constantly striving for something else. Performance based identity is exhausting, but grace based identity is freeing and life giving. It's not easy, but grace based identity is freeing and life giving. So let's read that John verse again. And so we know there is a knowledge of truth that's outside of us. We know and we rely on the love that God has for us. There is a head knowledge, there is a heart trust. We are stepping by faith and believing that this book is true. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him, and this way love is made complete or whole. There's completeness, not Jerry Maguire garbage. This is completeness right here Among us, that we will have confidence on the day of judgment because in this world we are like him. There is no fear this is the word. Phobia like exceedingly afraid. There is no fear in love, but perfect love. This is the agape love of God, his unconditional love for you and for me, drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, the one whose fears is not made perfect in love. If we take this to heart and press in by faith and live this out, it's gonna radically transform our lives. And so what John is referencing is the end of the world and judgment day and we're saying we'll have confidence on that day because of what Jesus has done for us. But I don't think it's just a future thing, that we face down the road. I believe the word of God, the promises of God, the Holy Spirit living in us will transform our lives now. So we are not living out performance based identity, but God offers us his grace. So for me, there is this transition point in my life where I really came alive in my faith, in my walk with Jesus, and I lived in this performance based identity, this morality, where I was like, ah, I'm just never enough for God. In my 20s I really got into the word of God, reading it cover to cover and just digging into it and praying and wrestling. And there's this concept that is unique to Christianity called grace. It's getting something you don't deserve. It's someone else's performance that you actually receive. It's incredible. We were at this church outside of college named Point of Grace. We literally received and experienced and learned about grace and it transformed my life and my faith. This is what John's saying. You know the truth and you rely. You press in by faith. If you've been around King of Kings for any amount of time, we have four values. We have to weave those into our services and just live these out as best as we can. It's who we are now, but it's who we're also becoming. We believe in transformation. Here at King of Kings, I've seen transformation because of the grace of Jesus in my own life and I think these four there's actually a healthy sequence of these four and there's a formula I wanna put up on the screen that says authenticity plus reliance equals courageous and generous. Okay, authentic, reliant, courageous, generous, and they work together and there's a sequence, there's a linear sequence of this. So authenticity, it's being honest, it's being real with who you are. How many of you would say you struggle with admitting your faults? I know it's a test, right? What are you gonna do now? How many would say the person next to you struggles with admitting their fault? And now hands are shooting up across the room. This is ridiculous. Sinners, come on. But when I look at scripture, the Bible properly diagnoses who I am and who you are too. And there's this word called sin, which we don't like in our culture today. But that's what the word of God speaks, and it reveals who we are and all our authenticity. And so Romans three it says it like this this is a familiar verse to some of you. It says for all have sin, not some all, and fall short of the glory of God. Even if you look at the 10 commandments, like those of you that have kids, you probably broke one or two of those on the way over here this morning. Right, we can't even keep our own standards, much less God's standards for us. So what the Bible says is that we're all broken, we've all fallen short, we've all sinned, and there's consequence to that. See, romans six says it this way for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We all had this eternal debt that we can't pay, and I kept living my life out working for this, working for this, doing trying my hardest, and it was exhausting. But the end of that verse says but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. You see, every Christian, I think, has a very unique journey where we all have the same starting point. We must all admit that we don't measure up. We've all fallen short. We need something outside of myself to pay for what I've done. Brings you to the next value reliance. So we admit where we are, but thankfully it's not where we're staying. Romans eight it says it this way. It says therefore okay, we have to stop. It's already so good A spiritual lesson. Whenever there is a therefore in scripture, we have to ask why is therefore therefore? Does that make sense? It's a connecting word. There was something before this that was really important. I don't have time to dig through seven chapters of Romans this morning, but go read it. You see, humanity has fallen short. They've gone their own way. We see, the wages of sin is death. All have sinned, but thanks be to God, he came in the flesh. Jesus lived a perfect life. He died for your sins and mine, but he didn't stay dead. He rose from the grave, might have life now and life forever. Okay, get you caught up a little bit. Back to Romans eight. These two verses work together. I go to them very frequently because fear can come back. I don't believe I'm enough. I don't believe God loves me, and I think that's true for you too. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear. There's that word fear. Yes, so many of us in this room are chained to fear on a daily basis because we don't believe that we measure up, because we're allowing the world around us to judge us and determine our worth. But God gives us a better word. But you received the spirit of sonship, and by him we cry Abba, father, man, that is good. I know some ladies in here are like sonship, that's weird. No, it's actually a promotion. See, women in first century Palestine were not valued in the same way they are today. Hopefully, their word was not admissible in court. The son had all the authority and the inheritance, and so what the apostle Paul is saying is you actually get a promotion, no matter your gender, your ethnicity, your socioeconomic status. We've all received sonship in the family of God, and what I've learned about myself is I have to find a word that's outside of myself, because I'm going to constantly live in fear that I don't measure up, and I'm going to perform for you. We know and we rely on the love that God has for us and I believe there's a one-time kind of salvation moment. But this reliance is not just a one-time thing. I mean, it's an everyday thing to cast out this fear. God's perfect love casts out fear and the other two values we have here, that King of Kings, courageousness and generosity. When we receive this truth that we have new identity, there is a courage, there is a boldness that we live with. When the world doesn't define who you are, you can live radically on fire lives for Jesus, you can share Jesus, you can pray boldly. Hebrews 4 says approach the throne of grace with confidence when you know you're standing before God based on Jesus' work. You have confidence and you pray incredibly bold prayers. The early church was marked by this. We saw the disciples that were consumed by fear. They met the resurrected Jesus and they were transformed Teenagers, transformed by the power of God. I believe that power exists today. So we see courageous faith. We see very generous lives that are poured out for those around us and we see that financially as one way we can be generous, but it's so much more than that. Giving time to people, serving people, loving people, forgiving people. This is how the early church was marked. It says they sold pieces of property, laid it up the apostles' feet and said do what you will. And Scripture says there was not a hungry person that lived among them. What if we, as the King of Kings family, pressed in and received this truth today, that the grace of God has been given freely to all and that surrender is available? We don't have to be marked by fear. Perfect love casts out fear. As we wrap, today, I want to pray for two different groups. I know that there are some in here who have never professed faith in Jesus, and I want to give that opportunity to you. There's a verse in Romans 10, just so you know this is not my word or King of Kings words. This is the word of God speaking to you, and it says this that if you confess with your mouth Jesus says Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Salvation can be an instant thing. It was God knocking on your heart. Today Is he calling you to surrender and profess faith in Jesus. So I want to pray for those today. Just give you a moment to respond. So, jesus, we believe that salvation comes in a moment. God, this is not the only life. Eternity is ahead. Lord, your perfect love casts out fear. God, you came in the flesh. You lived the perfect life that we could. You died an excruciating death that you didn't stay dead. Jesus, you rose from the grave. That we have power now. And, lord, I pray your spirit is moving in this place. God, if someone has not professed faith in Jesus, I pray that this is the moment. So, god move in incredible ways. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. If you, for the first time in your life, just profess faith in Jesus, I just invite you to raise a hand up right now. Amen, trust that God's working. And for those believers, I want to pray for you that your lives don't have to be marked by fear. Performance-based identity is exhausting, but God has given a better word. He's given you new identity in the family of God. I just want to pray that we can live our lives out in radical ways of courage and generosity. So let me pray. I invite you to stand as we wrap up today. So, jesus, thank you for who you are. Thank you for the love that you've given to us. God, I pray against Satan in all his works and ways. God, we cast out fear. Today, your perfect love casts out fear. God, I pray against performance-based identity. That your grace meets us in our deepest places. That we can live out our lives in radical generosity, radical courage, all for your name and all for your renown. God, move amongst this place. We pray power from your spirit of God. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So, god, we pray. Your power comes amongst us. Today, as we worship, we proclaim our identity in Jesus' name and all guys, people said amen.