Title: Where Fear and Faith Collide
Text: Matthew 10:24-33
FCF: We often struggle what all it entails for us to be like Christ.
Prop: The highest goal of a disciple of Christ is to be like Christ, so we must fear the Lord, not men.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 10. So far in Jesus’ pep talk to his disciples as they are being sent out throughout Galilee to preach the message of the Kingdom, Jesus has told them where they are going. He has told them what to take with them. He has told them who to continue preaching the gospel to and when to stop preaching it. He has told them that persecution is sure – but amid that persecution they have certain guarantees. That as they go and are drug before the governors and religious leaders, that the Spirit of God will assist them in giving their testimony about Christ. He will help them to know what to say and how to say it. But also that if our faith is an enduring kind of faith – that we have the blessed hope of salvation at the end. Persecution is sure for genuine followers of Christ – but so is salvation. And if that was challenging for you. If you have trouble seeing that persecution is sure for followers of Christ – well today, that will be a crystal clear teaching, from the lips of Jesus Himself. I’m in Matthew 10, I’ll start reading in verse 24. I’ll be reading from the ESV today but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
In Matthew, there is a central goal in our study to identify exactly what it is Jesus preached. What was the message of Jesus Christ when He walked the earth? And so far His message is essentially – your hope is in me – so depend on and surrender to me. And with eyes that have access to the greater context of the entire New Testament we understand that being in Christ and Christ in us is our hope. Jesus even teaches this in John about abiding in Him. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be in Christ? What does it mean to be like Christ? What is the cost of following Christ? [Slide 2] That is at the core of what we will be learning today. What we’ll find today is that the highest goal of a disciple of Christ is to be like Christ. And we are going to learn several aspects of what it means to be like Christ. But the kicker… the punch… the take home point today is complicated.
We’ll get to that… but first – let’s dive back in to Jesus’ words to His closest disciples. Those who in the next 60 years would be systematically hunted down and murdered for their affiliation with Christ…
I.) True Disciples of Christ expect to share in His sufferings, so we must trust and fear the Lord alone. (24-25)
a. [Slide 3] 24 - A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
i. In reference to authority both the teacher and master have positions of control and guidance. The student or disciple submits to his teacher, and a slave to his master.
ii. Any deviation from this would result in either expulsion for the student or punishment for the slave.
b. [Slide 4] 25a - It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master.
i. The greatest aspiration that a student or disciple can have, is to be like his teacher.
ii. Now some of you are students here and you are thinking – uh, no. I don’t want to be like any of my teachers.
iii. But to understand this, you have to understand something about 1st Century Jewish culture. To be the disciple, student, or apprentice of a teacher was to secure your future as a teacher yourself. After all, what you taught was passed down through a line of teachers. So to say – I was instructed this by Bob, who was instructed this by Fred, who was instructed this by William, Who sat at the feet and learned this principle from the great Jimmy – would add clout to what you said. It is why when Jesus based everything He said on His own authority the people marveled. He didn’t claim to learn it from anyone except the scriptures.
iv. So to say that the greatest aspiration of a student is to be like his teacher – it actually was.
v. Similarly a slave’s greatest aspiration is to stop being a slave and be a master.
vi. Jesus is saying – the best we can do is to be like Him.
vii. But in this context what does that mean? He doesn’t leave us guessing.
c. [Slide 5] 25b – If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household?
i. It is difficult to know where Beelzebul came from. Some sources say it is from Baal, others say it is from a Philistine’s god. What they agree on, is that in the 1st century this title had come to be synonymous with Satan.
ii. So if they have the audacity to call the master of the house Satan – what do you think they’ll call the slaves?
iii. If they brutally murder your teacher, do you think they will have more or less respect for you?
iv. [Slide 6] Jesus says that the best thing we can aspire to be, is to be like Him – and to be like Him, is to share in His sufferings.
d. Although we have not quite gotten Jesus’ primary application point in all this, it isn’t difficult to guess. If our goal is to be like Christ, fearing persecution is silly.
e. It is like this. Josiah. Hey bud, I know you work out right? You look like a strong young man. Well Josiah I’d really like to get ripped myself. You know I’d really like to be an athlete. Yeah, I think I could really get there. So what do I need to do to get like really fit? ______________________ Well it sounds like what you are saying is that I may have to sweat a little. Yeah that isn’t gonna happen. Pass. What else you got, how else can I get super buff? What? I can’t get buff without sweating? Can I play football without sweating? Not well? Ok – well it looks like I am not gonna be an athlete any time soon.
f. To say you want to be an athlete that never sweats is ridiculous.
g. In a similar way – to say we wish to be like Christ and are afraid to suffer persecution at the hands of men, reveals the truth, that we do not understand what it means to be like Christ. Because being like Him is sharing in His suffering.
h. But what if I end my life and never suffered for His name? I’m not saying go out and try to endure suffering. But do you fear it? That is a much more difficult question. One that you cannot put a tick mark in a box somewhere. Yep suffered for Jesus today. NO! Do you fear suffering for His name? Do I?
i. I have concluded that it is silly to want it – and foolish not to flee it – but when all is said and done, and there is no other option but to endure or give in – do you fear paying for your faith with your most prized earthly treasures?
[Slide 7 (blank)] So the greatest aspiration we have as disciples of Christ is to be like Christ, and to be like Him we must share in His sufferings. With that expectation comes comfort and security knowing that we don’t have to fear the possibility of persecution but expect the probability of persecution. And since suffering with Christ is part of being like Christ, there is no fear in this, because it accomplishes that goal. But how else are disciples like Christ? Well, we also share in His mission.
II.) True Disciples of Christ share HIs Mission, so we must trust and fear the Lord alone. (26-28a)
a. [Slide 8] 26 – So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known
i. There you go – Jesus’ application to this entire notion of persecution is to not fear men. Why?
ii. Although the world appears to operate a certain way. Although cultures inevitably spiral into godless and debauched civilizations regardless of the nature of their beginnings. Although what seems right to men and wrong to men, are often the opposite of what God has revealed.
iii. One day – the shadow over this world will be removed. The blanket will be pulled off the light. The darkness will flee and all will be revealed to be what it has always been.
iv. One day all the world will know that God is God – that He is Holy – That He is Lord and in their agony they will beg to get away from Him – because on that day it is too late.
v. When the façade of the world is ripped away and the rot and waste is revealed – everything will be clear.
vi. So don’t fear men. Because although they appear to have dominion over the earth – soon it will all come crashing down.
b. [Slide 9] 27 – What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
i. Although that time has not yet come – where the wickedness of men is revealed – his disciples and by extension, his Church have been shown , in part, the truth.
ii. Perhaps as I was describing how the light destroyed the darkness you were remembering the day when the glorious light of the holiness of God shown into the wicked corners of your putrid heart and you repented and begged for mercy.
iii. To those who are disciples of Christ, they have been given the secret of the coming Kingdom. It has been whispered in their ear. Their eyes have lit up with revelation.
iv. The only response is to go out and shout this truth to whoever will hear. To proclaim the truth of the coming Kingdom.
c. [Slide 10] 28a – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
i. The message is so life changing and world rocking that it must be proclaimed.
ii. But in its proclamation you will have kickback, because no one wants to hear it.
iii. But do not fear these men. Why?
iv. Because all they can do is take away from you what is bound to this temporary existence.
v. They cannot take eternity from you.
vi. But there is one who can. More on that in a moment.
d. [Slide 11] In the last few verses we have seen clearly that true disciples of Christ share in Christ’s mission. That mission is to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. That today His Kingdom reigns in the hearts of His people and soon His Kingdom will reign on earth. We boldly proclaim this truth to any who will hear. And to those who continue to seek it, we reveal more of the mystery.
[Slide 12 (blank)] So the greatest aspiration of a disciple of Christ is to be like Him. And to be like Him, we share in His Sufferings and in His mission. In this, we do not fear men, who will react very aggressively to our message, but all they can do is take what is perishing from us. What we we see next, as markers of true disciples of Christ, are more internal and unseen attitudes toward the Father. True Disciples of Christ share His submission and trust of the father.
III.) True disciples of Christ share His Submission to and Trust of the Father, so we must trust and fear the Lord alone. (29-31)
a. [Slide 13] 28b – Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell
i. Our fear of God – honor for His name and Fear of His wrath, far outweighs our fear of man.
ii. The fear he is talking about here is a reverential terror over a choice between facing the wrath of men and the wrath of God. In this particular context, Jesus’ words are – there is much more to fear from God
iii. So the choice to fear God above men, is a choice to submit to God out of reverence and fear of His power.
iv. In Christ – we see the same thing happen in the garden of Gethsemane as He sweats blood, not desiring to endure the full measure of the wrath of God. A transaction that I am confident we don’t fully comprehend.
v. So to be Christ’s disciple, we too carry out the mission of Christ out of a reverence and fear – out of submission to the Father.
vi. But it may be easy to take this fear too far. So Jesus helps us to balance it out.
b. [Slide 14] 29-30 - Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered.
i. A penny here is not a 1 cent equivalent. The penny mentioned here is, depending on your source, anywhere from 1/10 to 1/16 of a denarius. A Denarius was a days wage for an unskilled worker. It is difficult to translate this into today’s economy. There are simply too many factors. But very roughly you are talking about a half hours’ worth of work for 1 sparrow. Probably somewhere between 3-5 bucks.
ii. And yet, even though these birds are so cheap to purchase in the market, There is not one sparrow that falls down dead outside of the will of God.
iii. Contextually speaking, we know that this is not simply talking about God’s knowledge of their death – but His Sovereignty over their death. That will become clear in a moment.
iv. In fact, this same God who makes it His business to tend the life and death of such valueless creatures as sparrows, also knows, perhaps one of the least significant details about us – the exact number of hairs on our heads.
v. Of course the interesting twist to this, that perhaps the ancient world knew, is that the number of hairs on our head changes – CONSTANTLY.
vi. The implication here, is that not a hair of your head can fall out without the consent of the Father. For some of you here today, perhaps you wished God said no a little more often. J
vii. So what is Jesus’ point here? Where is he going with this discussion of sparrows and hair?
c. [Slide 15] 31 – Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
i. Do not fear – But wait a second! I thought Jesus just got done telling us to Fear God? Right? Now He says not to fear God?
1. First of all, the object of the fear is not necessarily God. It could be going back to the fear of men again.
2. But even if Jesus is saying not to fear God, which I think He is, it isn’t really a problem. Why?
3. Because before He was talking about having a choice between the wrath of men and the wrath of God and in that instance we should fear God and His wrath.
4. But here, He is talking about God’s Sovereignty and providential hand to bring about His will. And in that even sparrows and hairs do not fall without His consent. SO DO NOT FEAR GOD – because if you are going about, fulfilling His purpose for you and something terrible befalls you, you can rest easy in the knowledge that God did not lose control for it to have happened to you.
5. Indeed this is how we know that with the sparrows and our hair it is not merely God’s knowledge of them falling. After all, what real comfort is it that God is aware of our suffering but is unable or unwilling to help. The true comfort comes from God’s knowledge of our suffering and His Sovereignty in spite of it. That His plan and purpose includes our suffering.
6. And you might think, what a sadistic God to will His own to suffer. But there are many stories of dying for their faith in Christ and the very ones who executed them were converted because of their resolve. God is always in the habit of making gourmet omelets out of broken eggs.
ii. You are of more value than many sparrows.
1. Jesus is not trying to say that all humanity is of immeasurable value. The context doesn’t really allow that here.
2. What He is saying is that God is Sovereign over even the smallest details in this universe and as His ambassadors, you are in no way the smallest detail. He cares for you.
3. I know we talk a lot about the wrath of God and the depravity of man – but listen, Jesus Christ is God’s prized possession – and if you are in Christ, you inherit that. Not because you are worthy, but because He is. On our own we are of little value as failed image bearers. But in Christ – we inherit sonship. And this is what Jesus is saying here. You are of more value than many sparrows.
d. So in these last couple verses we find that true disciples of Christ both submit to the will of God, fearing Him over the fear of men, and trust His Sovereign hand to deliver us from men or, to carry us home.
e. Paul Summarizes Jesus’s words in his famous quote – For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
f. Use me, break me open, spill me out, so that I may know Him in His death and resurrection.
[Slide 17 (blank)] As we approach the end of this text, we have seen that the highest aspiration of a disciple of Christ is to be like Him. So far we have seen that to be like Him, we share in His sufferings, His mission to preach the Kingdom of God, and His reverence and trust of the Father. The final item we have before us is in some ways a summery but in others a unique thought under this idea of being like Christ. Simply put – to be His disciples, we must be public identity sharers with Christ. What does that mean? Let’s look.
IV.) True Disciples of Christ share His identity, so we must trust and fear the Lord alone. (32-33)
a. [Slide 18] 32 – So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in Heaven.
i. What does it mean to acknowledge Christ?
1. The word translated acknowledge in the ESV is a compound word in Greek.
2. One word means to say – the other means the same thing or at the same time.
3. However you can go wrong assigning meaning to a word based on its compounded roots.
a. Some words you are safe – like meatball – It is a ball of meat right?
b. But what about firearm? An arm that is on fire? Or something that fires arms?
c. What about book worm? Are we talking about a worm that eats books? Or someone who loves reading?
d. You get my point
4. Still we can draw at least some meaning from the two compounded words. It has to do with parity or agreement.
5. Other ways it is translated in the New Testament are covenant, promise, confession or profession, and to give thanks.
6. So what does it mean to acknowledge Christ?
7. It is the profession or confession that You are His and He is yours. That every desire of His is your desire. That you are the same. No matter what it costs you – it is absolute fidelity
ii. Before men – a public profession by word or deed
iii. Jesus’ promise is that if He is yours, you are His. That if you endure in being one mind, faithful, in agreement, then He will be faithful to save.
iv. Jesus is repeating what he said last week. Those whose faith is enduring – will be saved.
b. [Slide 19] 33 – but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
i. The word deny is somewhat less complicated. For the most part it is all there on the surface. But what constitutes a denial of Christ? Is it word or deed? Is it sinning in front of someone?
ii. Because there is an enduring aspect of our acknowledgement, we might assume that there is an enduring aspect here, but not grammatically.
iii. However, to deny means to reject, to contradict, and to undermine.
iv. So a person who works against Christ – or is anti-Christ – this is a person who is denying Christ.
v. A person who is not depending on Christ for everything and is not surrendered to Christ
vi. To deny means that their faith, their dependence and surrender stops. They do not endure.
vii. As such – Jesus will say depart from me, you lawbreaker, I never knew you.
c. [Slide 20] True disciples of Christ share their identify with Christ. We are in Him and He is in us. Our identities are lost and we are swept away with His identity. And without spoiling too much for next week – He basically comes out and says this in a few short verses.
[Slide 21 (blank)] So what do we do with a message like this today? How then do we live?
Applying this passage in our context is difficult. Many preachers will apply this to our lives to talk about how we should not fear what others think of us or how others perceive us. That we shouldn’t be afraid of getting made fun of for our standards or our clean speech or the movies we do or don’t watch. They’ll apply it to standing up for our faith in our schools and in our work places – engaging in apologetics and not bowing to the peer pressure to not speak up.
These applications are not wrong. They aren’t even wrong for this context necessarily. Insults and attacks on our faith are persecution. But one thing we need to see is that Jesus wasn’t talking about insults. He wasn’t talking about people making fun of the disciples or even debating them. He said, they have called me Beelzebul and they will call you worse. They have called me Satan – and they will call you worse. They have called me evil, heretic, blasphemer, and they will call you worse. And on the surface we may think – well those look like insults – but in this culture, blasphemy was a crime worthy of death. Now since the Jews were a conquered people, they were not permitted to execute criminals. Which is why later they take Jesus to Pilot on trumped up insurrection charges. But the crime that Jesus committed in their eyes, was blasphemy.
Jesus is talking about– end your life, take your family, burn your children kinds of persecution. And while I don’t want to cheapen what some of you may endure at work or school, being called a bible thumper or even someone attacking Christ or God’s Word, we need to recognize that although Jesus’ words probably include our persecution – it goes far beyond that.
A second thing that I’d like to point out that is completely neglected by applications focusing on standing up for your faith or enduring ridicule, is this - Christ’s statement to not fear men, is less than half of what Christ is commanding. Jesus is communicating a put off put on principle, and certainly part of that is putting off the fear of men. What they may say or do to you. But the other side of that coin, the put on, is a fear and trust of God.
We need both aspects of this for our take home point for today. Now more than ever in the US we face ridicule and attack because of our faith. Last week we really dove deep into the certainty of the persecution here getting worse. Which leads me to one inescapable application about fearing men. If we cannot identify with and swear allegiance to Christ publically today – when all we face is ridicule and insults – how do you think we will faire when our lives are at stake? I want to be fair here – much of humanity adapts to their surroundings. We have been left to worship as we want for long enough now that our skin has grown quite thin. So to a certain degree, we know, that as the persecution amplifies, those who are genuine believers will also endure. But just because this is true of real disciples, does not abrogate our responsibility to obey. We ought to be preparing our hearts now for greater persecution
[Slide 2] One practical way that we can prepare for persecution in all its degrees is to read about those who have endured it. So here is something I would like each of us to do. I am giving us homework.
For the next two weeks we will be in this context. We will be discussing Jesus’ discourse here. Then we have Christmas Eve and New Years Eve Services which will be non-Matthew messages. So, for the next month, I’d like you to find a copy of Foxes book of martyrs and read it cover to cover.
If you’ve read it recently, and can accurately recall at least 3 or 4 stories from its pages – then that will count, but if you aren’t going to read Foxes’ book of martyrs then I’d like for you to pick up a copy or two of The Voice of the Martyr Magazine and read a couple stories from there.
For Foxes book of martyrs I have a PDF version that is 1 MB big – which means I can probably email it to you. I also have a couple copies of the book in my office. And if you really want a printed copy – most Christian book stores sell them. I also have some copies of voice of the martyr in my office but not many.
I want us, as a church, for the next several weeks – even amid the Christmas season – to transport ourselves to a different context, where Christianity is hated and persecuted. I want us as a church to immerse ourselves in the stories of our brothers and sisters who have gone through hell on earth to identify themselves with Christ.
I want the images of their pain burned into our minds – together as a church – so that we can accurately prepare ourselves for all levels of persecution. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, what you may find is that in reading these stories you will be horrified at the level of hatred that is possible against someone for swearing allegiance to Christ. To the extent that you actually begin to fear men even more.
And you might be thinking – isn’t that the opposite of the application today? No. It is the opposite of half of the application today.
The secret to conquering our fear of men is not to read stories of those that endured. The goal of this homework is not to give us confidence to face our attackers. The goal is to increase our fear of men. Why would you do that Chris?
Because when you read these stories, you will see all that men are capable of doing. They can only take away from us what is already fleeting.
[Slide 23 (blank)]The secret to not fearing men… is to understand the God you serve.
First, that He is a God who is the giver and taker of life. He is sovereign over all things and nothing can happen without His consent or purpose being fulfilled in it, and yes, even the sin of men bows to His will. See the Crucifixion for proof.
Second, that He is the righteous judge of the earth. And executes judgment and justice based on His law. He keeps it to the letter because He is a righteous judge.
We serve a God that can destroy our bodies and our souls. Yet He has loved us, and called us to His purpose.
What can men scheme that He cannot stop? What can men do that He cannot undo? What can men try to take that He cannot prevent them from taking? If it is not His will – it will not be done. They can take our reputations, our dignity, our freedom, our children, our families, and our very lives – but they cannot do it unless God wills it to be so.
What is there to fear of men compared to our infinitely greater God? A God that is worthy of our trust. Regardless of what that may mean for us.
So read these stories and as you feel the fear and horror rise in you at the wicked nature of men- remember the far greater God that is your Father and judge. He is in control and will bring you to your end in the way He desires.
And if that is true…What joy it would be to be counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ.