Do Not Fear Man

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Fear of man is a weapon that Satan uses to prevent us from doing what God calls us to do. In many parts of the world, there is the very real fear of being martyred for being a follower of Jesus. But in America the fear we most often deal with is the fear of being ridiculed or “cancelled”, for standing for the truth of God’s word.

In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares his disciples to go out and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. From verse 16 his teaching is directed towards all who would be his disciples in the generations to come. Jesus teaches us to be fearless in proclaiming the Gospel boldly (Matthew 10:27).

In this passage we have five reasons to have courage:

1. Jesus experienced it.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:25b, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

By being mistreated for proclaiming the Gospel, we are simply being treated the way Jesus was treated. It is a sign that we belong to him. The insults bind us closer to the Lord. It brings great comfort to know that we are being identified as a child of God.

2. You will be vindicated.

Jesus continued in Matthew 10:26, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

When you know you are right, you don’t have to continue to argue, because you know that you will be vindicated. The same way with the truth of the Gospel, even though people may reject it, it is seldom helpful to try to argue with someone. You and I cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting people of their sins. Jesus said if they ridicule you for the truth, take heart, the truth will be revealed, and you will be vindicated.

3. What’s the worst that can happen?

We read in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The worst the anyone can do to someone who proclaims the Gospel, is to kill the body. This is a very real fear for millions of believers around the world. But as we know, the worst that man can do, God turns around for His glory and for our good. Killing the body of a believer is an upgrade to glory.

The second sentence of this verse has always struck me. Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, and Jesus spoke about it more than anyone else in the Bible. Hell is the penalty of God’s wrath and that is why Jesus said, “fear Him”.

It may seem like Jesus is saying, “stay in line, do what you are commanded to do, or else the One who has the power will destroy you?” But in the following verses, Jesus speaks about how much more valuable we are than the sparrows. Essentially Jesus is saying that we should fear God, but if we believe in him, we do not have to fear the wrath of God, because He is a good Father.

While it is true, the fear of the Lord is reverence and awe of God, but this teaching of Jesus really means, be afraid of God. Be afraid of the wrath of God towards sin. The only way this fear is removed is when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 8:1-2).

Jesus is teaching that we need to see sin as something more serious than we could ever imagine. The real problem is that we don’t see sin for what it really is. We are sinning against the One who is infinitely holy and infinitely worthy of our worship. When we sin, we are displaying that something else is more desirable and worthy than God. When we understand that sin is an afront to and infinitely good, holy, powerful, and worthy God, then we become aware that our sin is infinitely deserving of eternal punishment. God cannot overlook sin; it goes against His character.

However, Jesus not only warns us, but he also rescues us and promises salvation (Luke 12:32).

Do not fear man, the worst that he can do is send your soul to paradise.

4. God sees you.

In Matthew 10:30 Jesus said, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

God sees you and He knows everything about you. When we suffer some hardship or persecution for speaking the truth, it is not that God is oblivious, on the contrary, He sees, and He knows the outcome even before we experience the persecution. The creator of the universe is with us, He is close, we can be of good courage and speak the truth.

5. God has a plan for you.

Jesus continued in verse 31, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God governs the world, He controls the lives of the sparrows and the smallest flowers, there is nothing that will happen to us that is outside of His perfect will. This truth has encouraged followers of Jesus for centuries. Henry Martyn said, “if God has work for me to do, I cannot die”.

This difficult conversation with Jesus is really an encouragement to live a life of freedom. Freedom from fear, expectations, criticism, and even the persecution of man.

If we succumb to the “cancel culture” of the day, it is because of one of two things; either we don’t believe the words of Jesus that he is the only way (John 14:6), or we don’t believe in Hell.

We need to be people who love the truth and speak the truth.

Are you going to fear man or are you going to fear God?

Do Not Worry

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Are you anxious? What worry keeps you up at night?

Worry hurts us, and it is a sin. Jesus dealt with the sin of anxiety in Matthew 6, speaking about the most basic human needs; food, water, and clothing.

In modern day America we can miss the impact of these verses. For people living in the 1st century, they didn’t have refrigerators, or a grocery store on every corner. They would have to wake up every day concerned about fresh food and water. Most people only had two articles of clothing and wore them until they were unusable. A far cry from the clothing store app on our phones.

Most of us don’t have anxiety about food and water, but we do worry about safety, job security, and unexpected illnesses.  

It doesn’t matter what we find to be anxious about, we are prone to anxiety and Jesus gives us eight reasons not to be anxious in these verses.

We need to view these as commands from Jesus for our own good.

1. Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

If we are worried about the need for the most basic human necessities, we are missing out on the greatness of life as God intends for us. Missing out on the reason why God created us.

Jesus said in Luke 12:21, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

When we are focused on necessities, we miss the glory of God in the world around us.

2. Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This is not an encouragement to carelessness or laziness. Birds are constantly busy, scratching and digging for food. But God feeds the birds, they are not anxious about their next meal. God provides it, but they must work for it. We too, trust God for provision, but we must work diligently trusting God for tomorrow.

3. Matthew 6:27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 

By worrying, you won’t be able to add a single hour or day to your life. On the contrary, it may shorten your life and make you miserable.

4. Matthew 6:28-30,And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Obviously, we are not all dressed like Solomon, but Jesus isn’t saying that we will have extravagant clothing, rather that we will have the clothing that we need.

God doesn’t promise us riches here on earth, but the one who follows the Lord and fulfills the call of God on their life will never lack basic provision at a minimum (see Psalm 37:25).

5 and 6. Matthew 6:32,For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

In other words, by worrying you are acting as if God doesn’t exist, you are acting like an unbeliever. We might believe that God exists, but we don’t believe that He sees or can provide for our needs. Perhaps we doubt the goodness of God, we doubt that He is a good father. When it comes to the day-to-day needs of this life, we can be guilty of being practical atheists.

“Anxiety shows that we are too close to the world and too far from God”. John Piper

This world has nothing lasting to offer and our Heavenly Father has, and always will, prove Himself faithful.

7.  Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

This is not a formula for obtaining wealth, it is a description of how the kingdom of God works. Jesus taught that our focus should be turned away from this world and towards the things of God’s kingdom.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t diligently work at a job, rather it means that we put the things of God above the things of this world.

This is an encouragement by Jesus to avoid idolatry. An idol is anything that we value more than the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Worry and anxiety is an idol.

8. Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Lord provides for us today, but we are frequently guilty of taking tomorrow’s uncertainties and bringing them into today as a worry. Jesus desires his followers to be free from fear and anxiety.

Worry is a sin, because deep down, we do not trust that God is able to provide for us.

We worship what we value, and frequently we value our worries in our day-to-day decision making. The root cause of anxiety is misplaced worship.

So how do we avoid worry? Psalm 119:11 has the answer, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Meditating on the promises of God’s word is the antidote for worry. Psalm 46 is a great place to start.

When we sit in the presence of God and encounter His omnipotence, goodness, and glory, our tomorrow fears crumble. That is what it means to, “Seek He first the kingdom of God…”

What is the worry that you are carrying today?

Love Your Enemies

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Of all the teachings of Jesus, this is one of the hardest to obey. How do we love our enemies? Perhaps Matthew made a mistake when he wrote down the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?

However, deep down we know that these words of Jesus align with the truth and the heart of the Gospel. Jesus did say these words and meant them to be the authoritative word of God for every generation, including ours.

So, what did Jesus mean and how do we apply these truths to our life today?

We must understand that this instruction from Jesus is not a way for us to get God’s approval, we are not saved because we are able to love our enemies (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

These teachings of Jesus are not meant to be rules for actions, rather they are instructions for behavior. These aren’t a list of specific responses to specific scenarios, rather they are principles for a way of life.

Turning the other cheek and going the second mile doesn’t mean resigning yourself to the evil plans of others. That is not what Jesus is teaching here.

In order to understand this teaching, we have to ask; who is my enemy?

The legal expert came to Jesus in Luke 10 and asked the telling question, “who is my neighbor?” To which Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jews hated the Samaritans and to the hearers, when Jesus told this parable, he was saying, “love your enemies, even the Samaritans, for they are your brothers.”

In Matthew 5:43, Jesus quoted the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

But you will not find this statement in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible containing the law of Moses, in fact you will find the opposite (see Exodus 23:3-4).

The religious leaders had twisted the word of God for centuries and taught their fellow Israelites to hate any foreigner. There were many devout Jews and pharisees who firmly believed that they were honoring God by hating all Gentiles.

But before we judge the first century Jews too harshly, we don’t have to look very far to see that we are guilty of the same sin. Throughout modern history and particularly in the advent of the mass news media, we are constantly told who to hate, and we do it pretty well as a culture.

As human beings, we don’t think much of hating someone we have never met. It is a side effect of the fall in the garden of Eden.

But when we see people as created in the image of God, fellow image bearers of our heavenly Father, people that Jesus died for, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit begin to love them.

The challenge comes when our rights are violated, when we are the victim of persecution or crime, we want swift justice, we want to see our rights upheld.

But what is the greatest act of injustice that the world has ever seen? Without a doubt, the greatest act of injustice was when the Son of God was nailed to a Roman cross. The sinless creator of the universe was persecuted and killed by his creation.

And in the height of the injustice, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

That is the standard. So how do we love our enemies like Jesus loved those who were nailing him to the cross?

Do we pray for those who spitefully use us?

Do we ask God to have mercy on them and not to punish them?

Do we ask God to save their souls, to open their eyes to the Gospel message before it is too late?

Because that is the mind of Christ (see Romans 5:8).

We must note that there is a difference between loving someone and liking them. Jesus said, “love your enemies”, he didn’t say, “like your enemies”.

People who hurt us and treat us unfairly are probably people that we don’t like. But we are called to love them, praying for them, praying that God may work in their lives and we find that we begin to like them, because we see in them the renewed character of Christ.

Loving your enemies is a display of spiritual maturity and it is the same language the we see in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

How do we do this? Here are three points to pray through.

1: Loving your enemy does not display how good you are, rather it displays Who’s you are.

By loving our enemies, we show that we are a child of God. As His children we don’t have to fear being cheated or “short changed”.

John Piper wrote, “the intimate knowledge and tender, sovereign care of our omnipotent, all-wise, heavenly Father frees us for the radical kind of risks and losses that enemy-love demands.”

2: In loving our enemies, there is great reward.

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus taught about the rewards of enduring persecution.

The sustaining joy that carries us through persecution and slander from others is not the temporal gain we get out of enduring suffering, rather it is the certain knowledge that we will be receiving a reward in the age to come. Do we live with an eternal perspective?

3: Give what you have received.

We can love, because we have been loved by God (see Luke 6:36).  

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what it took for us to be reconciled with God. Before we became followers of Jesus, we were God’s enemies (See Romans 5:10).

We did nothing to save ourselves. The mercy that we are called on to show others is nothing compared to the mercy that we have already received.

Will you take the courageous step to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

You Must Be Born Again

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Have you ever noticed that some of the teachings of Jesus are hard to grasp.

Ultimately, what he said led to his crucifixion, and they are still offensive to the world today.

Sometimes we gloss over the hard sayings, or worse yet, we think that they don’t apply to us. But the teachings of Jesus are the Word of God to every generation.

In John 3, we read of a high-ranking Pharisee coming to meet with Jesus.

This well-known account of a senior leader a pharisee coming to Jesus to know more about Jesus. Nicodemus lived sincerely under the law as best as he could. He adhered to the strictest possible religious rules. But he desperately wanted to find out the truth about Jesus.

We see Nicodemus showing up a few times in the Gospel of John, a man who was not afraid to stand against the crowd and be identified with Jesus after his crucifixion. Nicodemus was bold and Jesus took time to meet with him.

Nicodemus doesn’t ask a question, But Jesus jumps right to the heart of the matter in verse 3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”.

Jesus knew his heart and the fact that he was seeking truth and cuts to the chase, he jumps into a difficult conversation.

A better translation of verse 3 could read, “unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.

Can you imagine poor Nicodemus, he must have been quite confused. Jesus was using language that we are familiar with because we hear it all the time, but Nicodemus was hearing this for the first time, and it made no sense. The familiarity of what Jesus said can also be lost on us.

Obviously, we are by nature flesh, referring to our ordinary humanity. But we are born spiritually dead. We are not spiritually attuned to the things of God.

Ephesians 2 begins with the shocking statement, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which you once walked, following the course of this world,” Ephesians 2:1-2a.

Until you are born again, you are spiritually dead, you are unable to see or understand the things of God. The problem with spiritually dead people is that they don’t know they are dead.

Spiritually dead people are unable to hear God speak to them, because they do not have the Spirit of God in them, they have no desire to read God’s word, because it makes no sense without the Spirit’s revealing truth to us.

Tragically, spiritually dead people can raise their hands and come forward in a meeting, saying all the right things, get baptized and become good church members. Spiritually dead people can serve on committees and even teach Sunday School or lead a life group.

Sadly, when it comes to eternal salvation, the church might just be a dangerous place. Because you can put on a clean face, clean up your language, give money, even mouth the right prayers, but unless you are born from above, you are not a child of God, and you are destined for an eternity separated from God in hell.

Becoming a Christian is not becoming a better person or cleaning up your act, becoming a Christian is coming alive! Being born from above.

Nicodemus was spiritually dead, but the Spirit of God was drawing him in. That is what the Holy Spirit does, He makes people aware of their desperate situation and leads them to encounter the risen lord Jesus.  

Nicodemus began to wrestle with the beauty of the Gospel, he asked Jesus in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

You see, this leader and rule follower, this man of exceptional discipline and obedience, was looking for something to do, but the new birth does not come by a set of accomplishments. It is a free gift.

Jesus says to Nicodemus in verse 5, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

What does Jesus mean when he says, to be born of water?

Nicodemus would have known Ezekiel 36:25-26. Where God tells the nation of Israel that He will spiritually wash them of their sins, a washing that will come with the new covenant when God puts His spirit inside of believers (see Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 5:26).

Being born of the Spirit means to be filled with the presence of God by the Holy Spirit, it means coming alive spiritually. If you don’t know what it means to be born of the spirit, you will never know what it means to walk in the spirit.

Walking in the spirit affects every aspect of our lives, our decisions and plans are all led by the Spirit of God. How we steward our finances, how we interact with people, where we go and how we spend our time. Being born of the Spirit means that we will begin to display the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-24.

If someone was to follow you around for the next 7 days, and see everything you do and hear everything you say, would they be able to testify that you are born of the Spirit?

Are you born again? Are you born of the Spirit of God?

Are you daily experiencing the power of the resurrected Christ in your life?