From He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen (available for free download here):
This is where organized religion so often gets it backwards and why so many people in the pews remain so distant from God and so unchanged in their character. We think conformity to God’s ways will lead us closer to him, when the opposite is true. Our intimate relationship with him is what will transform us.(Image: by fatal Cleopatra at flickr)
Fearing God can compel us to conform our behavior to his desires, but it will not last. Because it convinces us to act against our will, even when it leads us to righteousness, it does not change us. The behavior that results only lasts as long as the fear itself, which is why those who approach it this way will need greater levels of fear to stay motivated.
He knows that responding to his love will take you much further than fear ever could. That’s why love must first deal with your fears. “Perfect love drives out fear,” John continues. While fear may be the most powerful motive known to man, God’s love is more powerful still and in the face of it our greatest fears are swallowed up in him. Love displaces fear the same way light displaces darkness.
There is nothing more critical to spiritual growth than making this transition. John concludes, “The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). As long as we live in fear, we exclude ourselves from the very process that will make us complete in God. . . .
God has better things in mind for you. He wants you to know his love so completely that fearing him will have no place. When you are absolutely convinced how much God loves you, it will drive out every fear you have. You won’t need to fear an uncertain future, the rejection of friends, the lack of desires, or even God himself. Knowing his heart for you will free you to trust him more than ever and that alone will lead you to ever-greater participation in his holiness.