“I, even I, am He…”
Doesn’t that sound a lot like “I AM?” That’s followed by “who comforts you.” It sounds a lot like, “YHWH is my Shepherd.”
“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men who are like grass, that you forget YHWH, your Maker?”
“YHWH is my Shepherd. I will not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides quiet waters… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”
A lot of what I am going to say may apply to very different sins and struggles than that of fear; sin is sin; all sin flows from and to idolatry, from and to death; sin leads to sin. Pride – fear – hatred – at the bottom, they are all the same; they are all opposed to God, to salvation. They are all the opposite of faith; instead of being the gaze of the soul upon God – “One thing I have asked of YHWH, that I shall seek… to gaze upon the beauty of YHWH” – sins are the turning of the soul towards self, the setting of attentions and vision not upon God, but upon self and other selves. “Who are you that you… forget YHWH, your Maker?”
The remedy is beautifully depicted in this verse from Galatians: “For I have been crucified with Christ and yet I live; it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. The life which I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is more or less a picture of the Christian life. It is a picture of Christian victory. If I have been crucified with Christ, how can I fear? I will not fear what will happen to me: it is not I who live. I will not fear that I will fall into sin in the day of temptation: it is not I. I will not fear that I may lose this high ground, that I may fall short of the vision I have seen, that I may suffer defeat where I have known victory: it is not I. Of course, this is only one half of the verse, and it has all its meaning and substance from the other side. “It is Christ.”
I feel very hesitant here. How can you ever know unless God shows you? But, perhaps, I may be able to help someone know what they know… or to be the means through which God shows someone else… or, at least, help someone to see that they do not know, to get the tiniest glimpse of what they do not know, and to look to Jesus, to ask God to show them His Son.
There is a lot of talk about assurance of salvation, whether it is possible, how it is to be had, whether it is necessary, on and on and on. I really do not think it is the point. The point is simply this, “It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It’s not about whether or not you or I can lose eternal life… It’s about the fact that Jesus Christ is eternal life. It is all about Him. How many times did He say, “I am He?” Let us cease to look at ourselves and instead look to Him. “You have been buried with Him through baptism into death.” Salvation – everything – is about Christ. “He who descended is also He who ascended that He might fill all things.” Salvation means that we die and are raised in Christ.
This is the way to conquer fear.
Fear of what will happen to me? God loves me and is in control of all things. He is sovereign and He loves me as no other can love. This is eternal comfort, but it is not even about eternal comfort; it is about the fact that He is good, that His love is real, that He is YHWH. (How I wish I could say this without using words like I!) Even though I should not know His love, not know His goodness, even though I should forget all that I have ever known of Him (unless He continually gives me the knowledge of Himself I must forget it, for it is knowledge of eternity, eternal knowledge; it is not the kind of thing a creature can keep; it must be continually received by grace through faith,) even though I should turn my back on Him… still, He is good. He remains unchanged. He is Love. He is YHWH – I AM WHO I AM – I am He.
(This is another way of seeing how it is that: “There is no fear in love, but perfect Love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”)
Fear stems from pride. When I fear that I will sin again, it means that I am looking to myself instead of to Jesus Christ, who in His life and death and resurrection conquered my sin and filled my void with His righteousness and life. It means that I am staking something on my power to keep from sin, instead of receiving God’s salvation by faith, and that I am giving sin attention that I should be giving Jesus. I may – and must – hate my sin with everything in my being because He is worthy and I love Him. However, to fear falling into sin is to take my eyes off the power of God and the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ – which, of course, is to begin falling right down into the pit of sin. It is not to trust God. It is the opposite of “the life which I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God…” the opposite of looking to God and receiving life through His Spirit, walking by faith and not by sight and conquering by that faith, yes, by His conquest. It is not, “but Christ that lives in me.”
Then, sometimes, we fear that we will be afraid. We are in terror of experiencing the fear that we have experienced before or of falling from the vision of His love and goodness in everything that we have received. I’ve been afraid that when what my fear comes to pass I will not be able to look to Him, or even that when it happens again, the glory I’ve seen will be gone.
Sometimes, God allows our image of what He can and will do to be completely crushed, He lets us experience whatever depth we feared, to prepare us for the revelation, for the glory, that we expected and that is greater than anything we could ever expect. That way, it will be all Spirit and not flesh (remember, the Spirit is more real, eternal, substantial, meaningful than the flesh). Sometimes, He leads one through the valley of the shadow of death in order to clear one’s eyes to see the light of His glory. Of course, He often prepares one to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with a vision of His glory and, sometimes, there is scarcely even a moment of what feels like the crushing of one’s expectations – but, oh, in that moment, however dark, however horrible, however long, to hold to the glory one has seen, and yet to let one’s expectation of that glory go and wait for the greater glory, the true glory!
What if, in the dreaded moment, I cannot see at all? Why then, I may rest upon Him. If I cannot feel Him, then I may know the greater glory – invisible to mortal eyes – of living by YHWH, by He Himself. The words of the hymn are so beautiful:
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
God will always give us His grace to stand fast in Him. He will always give us His strength to praise Him. His Spirit will always live in us to make us more than conquerors in Christ Jesus our Lord. We may trust Him for all that He has promised. He is faithful and also will do it. We may trust Him and place our confidence in His power to sustain us. Let us trust in Him and hold to Him with the faith that His Spirit gives to us and let us relinquish our expectations and every “blessing” as He takes it, that we may know Him — for He Himself is Blessing. Most importantly, God is Love. God is YHWH. All else may perish, but He will remain. We may be faithless, but He is faithful. Even though I cannot hold to Him, He is there. He is Real. His presence, His love, He Himself, is Heaven.
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale