The experienced driver would no doubt edit that a bit to read: “Stay in the middle of the right side of the road.”
That puts one in the best position to face on-coming traffic and also keeps one away from dangers along the curb. As Christians, we want to choose the right road to heaven and then travel in the middle of the right side of that road.
The human response to God’s offer of salvation is often one of two extremes. Fear can motivate us to want to keep God’s commandments in order to avoid unwanted consequences of breaking God’s laws. If we don’t have enough evidence in our own lives of the pain and misery sin brings, the news media offers us a huge amount of evidence of those consequences every day.
At the other extreme are those who believe and teach that the only thing necessary to qualify for heaven is love. Just love Jesus and bask in his love for us. They point out that Jesus loves us so much he died to save us, and is forever forgiving.
These laid-back love advocates let it be known that overcoming their faults is not very high on their agenda, if it is there at all. They reason that God’s love allows them to show little concern for law keeping and to continue “to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). The idea that a loving God can be angered by their disobedience is not a part of their theology.
The best response to the dilemma sin has created is to bring some elements from these two extremes together and move to the middle of the right side. To fear to hurt the God we love — there is certainly nothing wrong with that. And to fear the consequences of wrongdoing — whether that’s here or in the fires of hell — that, too, is God approved.
The idea of fearing God is found hundreds of times in the Bible. It is typically used to define a deep, reverential respect for his authority and His right to request certain behavior from the beings he has created.
And love must certainly be a part of the true Christian’s experience. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord our God with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27); and “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)).
The love motive, planted in our hearts by a loving God, must drive our obedience.
We are scheduling ourselves for failure if we are trying to obey in our own strength. If fear is the only incentive that drives our obedience, we could very well become over-anxious and neurotic. And if a shallow, sentimental feeling of “love” is all that motivates our obedience, that will not have the long-term results that we would like either. It lacks the strength of the fixed purpose we need for victory over self and sin.
We should certainly rejoice in the provision God has made through Christ for our forgiveness, but also be quick to praise Him for empowering us through faith to overcome sin and live a life of willing obedience to all he asks. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
We have no strength of our own to do anything good. The ability to see what is right, the desire to choose to do what is right, and the strength to obey — all come from God. By faith we take hold of those wonderful gifts.