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Banishing Fear With Eternal Perspective (Matthew Sermon 40 of 151)

Banishing Fear With Eternal Perspective (Matthew Sermon 40 of 151)

December 01, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Matthew 10:26-33
Heaven, Courage

Perspective Conquers Fear 

Matthew 10:26-33 tells of how eternal prospective vanishes fear. One of the great privileges that I had in my life was being a witness for Christ in the country of Japan. While I was there ministering, my wife and I and our two older children started to learn of the great heritage of Christians who have gone before us, and who had been willing for centuries before that to lay down their lives for Jesus Christ.   Recently, I read the story about one of them. A 12-year-old boy named Ibaragi Kun, confessed faith in Jesus Christ and was rounded up with twenty-six other Christians and led to a place where there were twenty-seven wooden crosses. These twenty-seven were going to be executed for their faith. They were going to be nailed to the cross, each one of them, unless they renounced Christ. The captain in charge of the execution came and had pity on this 12-year-old boy Ibaragi Kun. He knelt down and put his arm around his shoulder, and said, "You have so many years ahead of you, why don't you renounce your faith in Christ and be Japanese and live a Japanese life and turn away from this early death?" The young boy started to cry and he shook his head, turned and said, "Please tell me which cross is mine?" The man was just struck by this and  weakly pointed to one in the middle, and the boy ran over to it. He embraced it,  he hugged it, and he died on it.  A twelve-year old boy. I'm speaking to young people today. Are you ready to lay down your life for Christ?  If a twelve-year old boy four centuries ago can do it, what about us? 

 Maybe God isn't calling on us to lay down our lives this week for Jesus Christ. Maybe he's just calling you to lay down your entrancement with your reputation among your friends. To lay down your reputation, be willing to go across the hall at college or go across the office to somebody in a cubicle or an office right across the way and share Christ. Maybe across the street, maybe to pick up the phone and call a relative that you know is not a Christian, and just out of love to throw away your reputation in that person's eyes, knowing full well that there's a very good chance that they'll reject the Gospel. It’ll probably get weird between the two of you.  Are you willing to risk it?  Twenty  years ago I gave my life to Christ.  It wasn't long after that that I was introduced to a companion.  I would not call it a friend, but a companion that's been with me every step of the way since, and that companion is fear of man because I was introduced early on through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ to the evangelistic call, that we are to be witnesses for Christ. If you're going to be a witness for Christ, you have to come face-to-face with this foe, the fear of man.

 How do we overcome that foe, how can we conquer our fear and be witnesses for Christ? That's what's facing us in the text today. How do we embrace the cross that God has for us, and not run away from it because we're afraid?  How do we live the Christian life?  Jesus is giving us, I believe in these verses, eternal perspective as a remedy for fear.  What do I mean by eternal perspective?  In the 1400s in Florence, Italy, artists discovered something called “the vanishing point".  It put perspective in drawing, so that from then on things  paintings looked accurate. Have you ever seen those medieval tapestries or paintings that look a little weird?  Everybody looks the same size, the city is the same size, everything is the same size, and it looks strange. The artists in Florence, Italy discovered something called “the vanishing point” where things get smaller the further away toward the horizon they go and from that point on, things look like a photograph. 

 One of the artists who perfected this technique was Albrecht Dürer, a German woodcutter, who did incredible art. He also loved the reformation. He was a personal friend of Martin Luther. He said, "When I listen to Martin Luther preach, I feel my fears and anxieties vanished".  I think that's what the vanishing point does,  that’s what perspective does.  As we look at things from an eternal perspective fears are banished, they tend to disappear.  We're not afraid anymore what people are going to think.  Actually, the more they heap abuse on us, the gladder we are in one sense.  That's what Jesus is trying to work with us here, that we would see all things in the light of eternity, that we would see our own lives that way, that we would see our neighbors as souls who will some day stand before God in judgment, that we will see God himself as the ultimate issue and his pleasure as our greatest treasure.  In order to understand this passage, I think as always we need to step back and get some perspective within the Gospel itself.  Matthew is the first book of the written testimony in the New Testament of the life of Jesus Christ.

We have four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of those four gives us a view point of Jesus Christ. Each of them comes at it at a little bit different way. Matthew comes at it from the view of a kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven. Specifically that Jesus Christ has the credentials and the right to be the king of the kingdom of Heaven. This kingdom was inaugurated or begun when Jesus entered into the world, and when he began his preaching ministry, he said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In one sense, the kingdom is right here, it's immediate.  From the time that Jesus began his ministry the kingdom was here. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, therefore repent.  Jesus  said in Matthew 12: 28, he said, "If I drive out demons by the spirit of God then the kingdom of God has come upon you". The kingdom in one sense is here now, but in another sense, it's not yet.  We pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come".  That's a petition. "O Lord, may your kingdom come". What does that tell you? It's not here yet.  What do we mean by "Your kingdom come”?  Jesus says in the next line, "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". That's the kingdom, that we would do God's will, from our hearts with a joyful spirit, doing all of the things that he has commanded gladly. That is the nature of his kingdom, and it's advancing. The kingdom advances, it moves out. When we get to the parables in Matthew 13, a principle of growth we see the kingdom of heaven is like a seed sunk down in the soil, and it bears fruit. There's a sense of growing.  How does it grow? At the end of Matthew chapter 9, Jesus looks out over the crowd and  has compassion on them because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and so he calls his disciples to him and  says, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field". There it is, there's the field where the kingdom of heaven is going to be growing — it's people who don't know the Lord, it's people who are harassed and helpless, they're tormented by their sins, they're under the wrath of God, and they have no chance of salvation except for a message called the Gospel.

Christ Banishes Fear

In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares twelve apostles, twelve men and sends them out into the world.  The twelve apostles are our forerunners in this Gospel ministry, we follow in their footsteps. They went out into the world and they proclaimed the gospel message. Matthew 10 is their marching orders, the original instructions that he gave to them for this witness. We know that even though Jesus was in that time and at that place speaking just to them, at the same time, the words just seem to swallow up all of history and take us in as well. We can go to Matthew 10 and say, "Lord, how can I be a witness for Christ?"  As we read through Jesus' instructions to the twelve gospel messengers, it seems like it's going to be a hard life.  Look down at verse 14, it's the first hint there, that there's going to be trouble ahead. He says, "Go to towns and villages, and look for a person to take you in". Suddenly in verse 14, "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your word, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town".

So it could be that there will be some people who will not welcome you. There'll be some people who will reject you, they will not take you in, they will not welcome you. They have no interest in the Gospel of the kingdom. That's just a hint. Later on he says more directly in verse 16, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves". What do you think that means? Sheep versus wolves. Who do you think's going to win? The sheep win, but only by dying. It's going to be tough, it's going to be harsh, it's going to be difficult, there's going to be opposition. He says it even more plainly later on in verse 17, "Be on your guard against men, they will hand you over to local councils and flog you in their synagogues, on my account you'll be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles." Look what he says in verse 21, "Brother will betray brother to the death, and a father his child, children will rebel against their parents, and have them put to death. All men will hate you, because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another." This is obviously opposition; this is a Gospel advance only against great odds, against great opposition requiring great courage.

When you read these verses what naturally  pops into your mind. Imagine if you were one of the  twelve apostles and you are standing there listening. What starts to creep in? Fear.  It starts to grow and you start saying, "Wait a minute, you know it's been good up to this point, but this isn't what I signed on for.” “Yes, it is.” Jesus has been going around doing all kinds of miracles, but where is Jesus heading?  He's heading to the cross.  He says, "You have to embrace the cross too, if you're not willing to take up your cross and follow me, you're not worthy of me.” He's giving us a lifestyle of embracing a cross. That's exactly what he's calling us to. But how do we deal with the fear?  That's what Jesus is dealing with in these verses.  He says in verse 26,  "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”  In verse 31 Jesus says, "So don't be afraid, you're worth more than many sparrows". Do you see what Jesus is doing? He's working on the issue of fear. Three times in this small section here, he's saying, "Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid.”  He's zeroing in on the fact that, "I know how this must be hitting you, I understand how this must sound to you, that you're going to have to give over everything precious to you. I understand that fear is going to start to creep in, but don't be afraid.” Fear is rooted in unbelief, isn't it? Imagine if you would, an emperor sitting up in his throne room and he summons you. You're honored that he would even notice you and you come right to the front of the court. You are surrounded by courtiers in their beautiful clothes. He gives to a herald, a little scroll and says bring it down to him. Unroll it and there's some instructions for you to do with your neighbors. You're supposed to do this or that or the other, it's coming right from the emperor.  Can you imagine reading it and saying, "I can't do this, what will they think of me?" What will they think of you? This is a command from the king. “The real issue is not what will they think of you? What will I think of you?” That's the real issue. Imagine  if Jesus were right in front of you, at all times, you could see him with your eyes, and he's commanding you to witness and share the Gospel with that person right there. Would you obey or disobey? I think you'd obey. But now he's not there right in front of you, you have to see him only by faith. When fear start to creep in, you can see that fear is rooted in unbelief.  It's because we don't believe that God has commanded us to do this. Jesus wants to reach down, and just uproot that fear so that we're not afraid. You know fear paralyses the Gospel advance. If God wants you to go witness to your neighbors, wants you to go witness to your friends and family, and you don't do it out of fear, the Gospel is paralyzed through your unbelief, through your fear. He must root out this fear so that you can in fact be a Gospel witness.

What is Christ's tactic, what approach is he taking here? He's doing what we call faith-filled reasoning. He's reasoning with us through faith. He's assuming certain things are true and then he's reasoning out the consequences as a result. He's already done this a few chapters ago in Matthew 6.  Jesus comes to the issue of anxiety, he comes to the issue of fear over material possessions. Look what he says in Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you'll wear? Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes". What is he doing there? Is he not reasoning with you saying anxiety or worry about these things doesn't make any sense. This is what we call faith-filled reasoning. Verse 26, "Look at the birds of the air, they don't sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Then he says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life".  What is Jesus doing? He's got his sight set on anxiety.  Anxiety is in his cross hairs, what is his weapon?  He is going to strike anxiety down with faith-filled reasoning saying, "God provides for the birds of the air, he provides for the grass of the field.  You're worth more than they are, so stop worrying. And besides which, has worrying ever done anything good for you?"  Now, back to Matthew 10, he's doing the same thing here, he's reasoning with us, saying, "Don't be afraid of them.” Then he starts giving reasons. "There's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed,” and in verse 28 he says, "Don't be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  In verse 29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid, you're worth more than many sparrows.” It's the same kind of approach that he's taking here.

What I think is so wonderful about this is to realize we don't have to be slaves to fear.  Jesus is commanding you not to be afraid.  He seems to think you have control over this.  I said at the time when I was preaching about anxiety, you know what anxiety is?  It's imagination run amok, thinking of all the things that might happen.  So also it is with fear. You think ahead to what it will be like, and it causes you to pull back from obedience.  He's working with you, he's reasoning with you so that you won't be afraid.  The bottom line here is simple. Do not fear temporary earthly opposition rather fear God and seek to please him for the advancement of his kingdom.

I've noted before some paradoxes here in Matthew 10.  I think this is very interesting. He says, "Be on your guard against men, they will hand you over to local councils and flog you in the synagogues." In other words, watch out for them.  What is the implication? Do what you can to not get arrested.  Do what you can to avoid it.  Then he says, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Then what he says, "When you are persecuted in one place flee to the next.”  Now, just a minute, how do we stand firm and yet flee for our lives?  How do you put those two together?  The idea is that you should seek to preserve your life, you should seek to stay alive if you can, but understand the reason for that, it's so that you can die another day for Christ, that's all.   It's so that you can lay down your life in another better setting that God chooses that you do whatever you can to stay alive so that you can produce fruitful labor for Christ. This is exactly what Paul says in Philippians 1, "I'm torn between going and being with Christ, which is better for me, but staying here in the body, which is better for you.  I don't know, I'm torn between the two.  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it's more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.”  What is Paul's attitude here?  He said, "I don't care about my earthly life, except that I might be poured out for Christ, except that I might serve him.”  The paradox here is basically stay alive as long as you can, so that you can serve Christ as much as you can.  But in the end, God may choose to pour you out like a drink offering.  Don't be afraid of that, that's the way of thinking.

Eternal Perspective Banishes Fear

What do we mean by eternal perspective?  There are five things that Christ is seeking to get across to us here. You have to work through and  pull them out. The first is that there is a God who rules over Heaven and Earth, who judges Heaven and Earth. He is sovereign, he rules over all things, number one. Eternal perspective also teaches us, secondly, that there is a Judgment Day in which all human hearts will be revealed, the secrets of every heart will be exposed.  There is a Judgment Day coming.  Thirdly, there is for every human soul an eternity to be spent either in heaven or in hell. That's a reality.  For every human being you meet, they have a soul, and it will spend eternity in heaven or hell.  Fourthly, the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is the only hope the human race has of escaping hell and living forever in heaven.  These are four irrefutable biblical facts, and therefore, fifth, earthly troubles and concerns are minuscule, they're puny, compared to the first four facts.  That's what Christ is trying to communicate to us, but he does it in an interesting way.

First, he looks at how eternity exposes secrets. Verse 26 says, "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known." In the NIV, the “so” is a little weak. I should be “therefore”. This is how we begin. He begins reasoning with us, so that we're not afraid by saying therefore.  Well, “therefore” causes us to look up at what he was just saying in verse 23, "When you're persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes."  Verse 24 and 25, "A student is not above his teacher nor is a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household?"  What is he getting at?  Persecution is inevitable for the faithful Christian.  It's inevitable. Therefore, listen to what I'm going to say because I want to help you not be afraid.  That's what the word “so" or "therefore" means at the beginning.

He says, "Don't be afraid. Do not be afraid of them."  He gives them a command.  He gives us a command.  You don't need to be afraid.  As a matter of fact, you must not be afraid.  You must work against this kind of fear.  This is a command from your king, and he gives it three times. We should listen very carefully.  Do not be afraid.  And then of whom? Do not be afraid of them.  These are human persecutors.  It may be the government councils in front of whom you're going to be giving a defense.  It may be your family members who betray you or your friends who betray you over to the government.  It may be any human being.  The “them” in that verse are human persecutors, human opposers.  Don't be afraid of people. That's what he's saying, "Don't be afraid of them."  Proverbs 29:25 says, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be kept safe."  Fear of man is a snare, isn't it?  Someone once said, I think it may be Mark Twain, said, "I don't know the path to success, but I do know the path to failure: trying to please everyone."  That's how we fail. Try to please everyone.  No. . . please God and God alone. That's how we succeed.

Along the way, there may be others pleased with you as well, wonderful. Let's have good fellowship, but please don't be afraid of man.  Isaiah 2:22 says, "Stop regarding man, who has but a breath in his nostrils, of what account is he?"  Psalm 56:11 says, "In God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Isn't that wonderful?  He lifts your eyes up and says, "Don't be afraid of them, of human persecutors."  This is hard to do, isn't it?  Imagine if you lived in occupied Holland and you're hidden some Jews in your house, and there was a Gestapo raid to the left house and to the right house the last few nights. How do you go to bed and not be afraid?  That's hard to do.  I'm not saying this is easy.  Or imagine you are a house church pastor in China and your church has just been raided and they've taken all the hymnals. You got warning ahead of time and managed to get out of there before you were arrested. But you know they have your name and sooner or later, they're probably going to get you too. Or perhaps you're a Christian in Vietnam and there are people persecuting, even killing, your loved ones and your neighbors because of their faith in Christ.

This is not a lightweight command and Jesus knows full well what he's asking, but he's saying, "Do not be afraid of them."  He gives a reason: there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.  He doesn't say what he means here directly, but we know what he's talking about, he's talking about Judgment Day.  In the Book of Life is  recorded everything that everyone has ever said or done.  Jesus said you'll have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word you have spoken.  These persecutors do what they do in secret.  They hatch plots just like they did with Jesus.  They meet together to conspire against the Apostles.  These plots, all of them will be exposed by God, and he will judge them.  "Vengeance is mine says the Lord," so don't be afraid of them.  God is on the case.  Everything that they do against you will be exposed and concealed.  In a way, it's a kind of a two-edged sword, isn't it?  Because it's not just the persecutor's secrets, but it's actually everybody's secrets who will be exposed.  If in your heart, you're harboring secret unbelief, or just behaving like a hypocrite or like a Christian,that's going to be exposed too.  When the fire of persecution comes, then it will be shown to everyone that you're not truly a believer.  Everything concealed will be exposed and brought to light.  If I can actually get off the context here for just a moment, this is a universally true principle about Judgment Day.  I have no idea what's in your hearts right now.  I have no idea what you've done this week but imagine if you would... Everything that you've said and done broadcast up here on the screen so that everybody could see it —last 24 hours, seven days a week, last week, everything that you've done up there. Can you imagine that? 

Well, imagine it because that's Judgment Day.  Everything that we do, all of our secrets will be exposed and brought to light. Therefore Paul says we have to give an account to God. We must all appear before the judgment seat of God that we may give an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad.  Paul says since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we persuade men.  It’s in a two-edged sword.  Don't be afraid of them because you know there's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, in a way that urges us to not have a concealed fear of man.  Don't care anymore what people think.  Live for the glory of God. That's his first reasoning, eternal perspective.

 Secondly, eternity validates Christ's words. In verse 27 Jesus says, "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight. What is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."  What does he speak to us in the dark?  What does he whisper in our ears?  I would call it the word of God.  Anything Jesus said, this is the word of God, but how much more the gospel message?  “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”  “You must speak, you must proclaim, what I speak to you, what I say to you in the dark, speak in the daylight. What is whispered in your ear, proclaim. They have their dark secrets, their little hidden plots to persecute you. You have no secrets. Live openly before everyone and proclaim widely the gospel of Jesus Christ, fearlessly and boldly. No secret doctrines, no hidden things, proclaim this message.”   Matthew 24:14 says, "This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come."  Or Isaiah 40:9, "You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up. Do not be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, behold, your God."  Eternity will validate Christ's words as life-giving. Go out and speak his word. Tell people the truth. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Eternity will validate that the words you speak. Christ's words, will last forever. Go out and speak the Gospel. 

Thirdly, eternity reveals human weakness. He says in verse 28, "So do not be afraid," it says, "of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." This is striking, isn't it?  Those human persecutors look awfully powerful.  There was a time when the Gestapo looked perhaps all powerful. It seemed like they could do anything that they wanted to anybody, any time.  The Communist party in China looked all powerful during the Cultural Revolution.  They could take anybody away for any reason, and kill, and there was no recourse. There was no trial. They look powerful, don't they?  It's just a mirage, because all they can do is kill your body.  Oh, wait a minute, now that's big. Was it big to Jesus here?  He said, "Don't be afraid of them, because all they can do is kill the body."  It seemed like there's something even more significant.  Do you realize that we, human race, that we are already under a death sentence?  Did you not know that?  The wages of sin is what? Death. In Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man to die once.”  We're going to die. I hope that's not shocking to you.

 Do you remember John Patton when the man tried to convince him not to go as a missionary? "You'll be eaten by cannibals." Remember what he said? He said, "I foresee that very soon you'll be in the grave and you'll be eaten by worms, either way." Our bodies are under a death sentence, but I want to go pour out my life for Christ as a missionary to the cannibals.  And so he did.  We're already under a death sentence.  Don't be afraid of those who can kill the body and after that can do nothing more.  Rather, I'll  tell you who to fear, fear God.  Polycarp understood this when he was about to be executed. The governor said "I will cause you to be consumed by fire unless you repent." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire which burns for an hour and after a little while is quenched, for you do not know the fire of the future judgment, and of the eternal punishment which is reserved for the unbelievers.  But why do you delay? Do what you will." That's Polycarp. "I'm not afraid of your temporary fire. I'm afraid of something more serious than that. The one who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

 As a Christian, you know also spiritually, you've already died to your life in this world.  Did you know that?  Colossians 3:3 says, "You died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."  He also says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." Your life in this world is already under a death sentence. What are you afraid of?  What are you afraid of?  That's Christ's way of thinking.  He says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, cannot kill the soul." 

Fourthly, he says eternity demonstrates God's absolute power.  In verses 29-31 Jesus says, "Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Who is this?  This must be God.  The devil doesn't have this power. The devil himself will be destroyed in hell.  But this is God, fear God.  Every year, for a number of years, when I was up in the New England area, we used to go out at Halloween time, and witness in Salem, Massachusetts. I don't know what Halloween is to you. Maybe it's a kids' holiday, where you dress up in costumes and go around and get a bunch of candy.  In Salem, Massachusetts, it's something  altogether different.  There are over 3,000 registered witches in that city.  As they walk around in flowing black robes year-round with oaken staffs, and as they offer hidden sacrifices and do all kinds of weird disgusting things, you begin to realize that as a minister of the gospel, that is a dark place that needs the light of the Lord, so we used to go out on Halloween night and witness.  There's one time in particular, I had organized a number of people in our church and we're going to go out on Halloween and we're going to witness for Jesus Christ.  All day long, I felt the cold hand of fear on my shoulder.  I just didn't want to go.  I was afraid and I was looking for excuses.  I was wriggling and turning every which way.  There was a big storm that had whipped up the waves into a frenzy, it was close to a hurricane, I remember that.  I thought, "Oh the rain, nobody will be there." You know the excuses you start to make when you don't want to do something.  I remember Christy[my wife] said, "You need to go. They're going to be waiting at the church. What if you don't show up? You need to go." But I remember the turning point for me was a specific Bible verse: Isaiah 51. Isaiah 51:12-13, I could read the whole section but I'll just zero in on these verses. "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men? The sons of men who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your maker who stretched out the Heavens and laid the foundations of the Earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor who is bent on destruction, for where is the wrath of the oppressor?" And then he goes on to make me a promise. "The cowering prisoners will soon be set free. Go set them free."  But what is he saying?  First of all, "Don't fear men.  Fear me, and obey me and go out and be a witness."  This is exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 10. "Do not fear those who kill the body and after that can do nothing, but fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Then he points to God's absolute power over earthly events in history, verses 29-31, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny, yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered, so don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows."

Jesus zeroes in here on doctrine.  Doctrine dispels doubt. What does he give us?  He gives us God's omnipotence.  God rules over all things.  Even the sparrow doesn't fall to the ground, apart from the will of your Father.  You think that bird that you saw on the side of the road there, God didn't know about it?  It was God's will that it died when it did.  Read Psalm 104, "When he takes away their breath, they die and return to the dust."  If a sparrow doesn't die apart from the will of your Father and it's sold for a couple of pennies, what about you?  He's been crafting your life, building it.  He's been crafting and shaping you and working with you. Do you think your death is going to slip by unnoticed?  He didn't notice that you got arrested.  He didn't notice that you're in big trouble, that you're on trial for your life, these things escaped his attention?  He knows, he's doing it, he's omnipotent, he's ruling over all things.  He didn't spare his own son, why would he spare you?  He's crafting through omnipotence and omniscience.  He says, "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."  He knows how many hairs I have on my head. Does he not measure out how many days you'll be languishing in prison?  He knows. He's not saying that you won't have to suffer.  He's just saying you won't have to suffer for nothing.  He'll pour you out but it'll be for a good end.  You will suffer, you may even die, but from your blood will spring up people for Christ.  It's going to be for a purpose.  That's what he's promising, not that you won't suffer but that you won't suffer in vain.

Finally, he points to rewards and punishments.  Eternity displays rewards and punishments.  In Matthew 10: 32 and 33, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven, but whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." Acknowledges means openly embraces, welcomes.  Are you willing to stand under the banner of Christ, to acknowledge him as your Lord and Savior?  Are you willing to go outside the city gate and stand under his cross and bear the reproach that he bore?  Are you willing to stand with Christ?  If so, he will stand with you and  as it says in Hebrews 2:11 he won't be ashamed to call you his brother.  He won't be ashamed to have you in his family. That's incredible to me, that he would not be ashamed of me.  What's incredible to Jesus is that we would be ashamed of him.  Therefore, he says, "If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his Father's glory with his angels." [Mark 8] He says, "Listen, embrace me. Welcome me. Show yourself to be a Christian at great cost, and I will welcome you, but if you're ashamed of me, if you disown me, I will disown you." Some people say, “But what about Peter? Didn't he deny the Lord?"  People are very like, "How much denying can we do and still be a Christian?"  That's not really the right question to ask. Yes, it's possible to deny that you ever knew Christ and still end up in Heaven.  Peter did it, but what else did Peter do? Forty days later, where was he? Downtown Jerusalem. What was he doing?  Preaching the gospel. What was happening?  3,000 people were being saved. What happened in the end?  He was arrested and taken where he did not want to go, and church tradition said he was executed for Christ. He repented, and he was covered by the prayer of Christ his faith did not fail.

Application 

Acknowledge Christ. Don't be ashamed of him. Embrace him. What application can I take? This is very simple. Do you know anybody who needs the gospel? Are you going to see anybody? You , as a congregation, are going to interact with thousands of unbelievers this week. Will you confess Christ? Will you share the Gospel? Will you speak? Will you invite someone to church?   Will you say something for Christ? Will you reach out? 

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