(Note: this is the gist of yesterday's sermon out in our parking lot. The video'd sermon will be on our church youtube channel eventually at: www.thewelllososos.com)
INTRODUCTION – The apostle Paul, who was saved and delivered from a self righteous life of rage, hatred and violence towards Christians, often wrote of the greatness of our salvation in Christ. One of those statements reads like this, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”. (Eph. 1:3)
One of those spiritual blessings for every born again believer is the supernatural ability or grace to live free of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one of the most odius scourges of humanity. And only one Man ever fully rose above it and escaped its poisonous tentacles – and that man was the Godman – Jesus Christ.
So when the apostle John says that Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, one of those works He is destroying is the mindset or the lie that it is ok for me to live an acceptable public life, but carry on a much different private life. Hypocrisy is supported by a web of interwoven lies, and when Jesus saves us and begins to clean us up from the inside out, He will methodically put His finger on every one of those lies.
Last Sunday Joshua walked us through the latter part of Luke 11 wherein Jesus lit into the Pharisees and the Lawyers and Scribes for their hypocrisy and hard hearts. That these top religious leaders of the Jews could be so fake and so corrupt is very sobering. As Joseph Hall once said, “No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil.”
One of the most sobering realities of corruption among religious leaders is that it can quickly and easily spread to those under their leadership.
With that in mind let’s read our passage for today, and then I will make some comments about it. Luke 12:1-12.
While Jesus consistently and mercifully ministered to the crowds as He traveled from city to city and from village to village, His acute focus was on His disciples. As we like to say around here, “Only disciples change the world.” And it was to these disciples, among the thousands of onlookers, that Jesus warned against the leaven of the Pharisees, which He then made clear is hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy sucks the life out of the church; it eats away at its authority and it is a huge stumbling block to its children. And thus few things like hypocrisy can cause our Lord and Savior to raise the alarm to His disciples.
So how can we become more like our Savior, who walked in absolute authenticity, purity and righteousness no matter the cost and no matter the external pressure?
Well Jesus rarely calls us to something unless He gives us the way and the resources to obtain it or to walk it out. And that is certainly the case with the verses that follow vs. 1 here in chapter 12.
The first thing He wants to make sure we all know and are convinced of is that nothing in this life stays hidden for long. Everything will be uncovered sooner or later. God sees, hears and knows it all, and He has made this clear throughout scripture. Look at Vs. 2,3 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
This conviction is one of the reasons Job continued to walk in the fear of the Lord in the midst of awful suffering, the scorn of his wife, and the unrighteous judgment of his friends. Job soberly declared, “Does He not see my ways And number all my steps?” Job 31:4
Moses confessed in Psalm 90:8 “You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” Which of course means there are no “secret” sins.
David spoke to this many times in the Psalms. For instance – speaking of the wicked – he said in Psalm 59:7,8, “Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; Swords are in their lips, For they say, “Who hears?” But You, O Lord, laugh at them; You scoff at all the nations.”
Then speaking of himself, later in Psalm 69:5 he confessed, “O God, it is You who knows my folly, And my wrongs are not hidden from You.”
Disciples, who are born again by the Spirit of God, and who are learning to say along with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself up for me.” These disciples live the same in any and every circumstance, whether alone or on the public stage because we know nothing,…… nothing escapes His notice and His righteous response; and because we have learned to depend on His life within us to walk in truth and righteousness.
One thing I’m ever more appreciative about our Lord and Savior is that He sees and deals with the roots and foundations of our sin - so we who are free are free indeed. And if there is any one root of hypocrisy it is the fear of man. And that is what He begins to expose starting with vs. 4. “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” Please note that when Jesus confronts the Pharisees and Scribes and Lawyers about their hypocrisy, it is nose to nose, in your face confrontation because their eternal destiny is at stake. When Jesus deals with your and my hypocrisy He relates to us as friends. There is no condemnation! We are His coveted sons and daughters. But He will faithfully and firmly purify and cleanse all that is not pleasing to Him; and if we resist, He will chasten and discipline us until we get with His program. He loves His kids too much to let us wallow in our sin.
Proverbs 29:25 says “The fear of man brings a snare,……” Amazing really that we fear men so much… Amazing that we who are the super blessed sons and daughters of the King of Kings would give a second thought to what any man or woman or body of men or women think about us. But in fact, for a whole variety of reasons, we give a lot of thought to that in our daily lives.
One of the most striking examples of this in scripture is none other than the very one Jesus Himself chose to be the leader among His twelve and one of the top leaders of His church – once it burst onto the scene.
When Jesus prophesied that His disciples would deny Him and scatter when He would some time later be arrested, Peter vehemently vowed that while they might, he would never do that. And yet hours later he not only did it out of fear of a servant girl, he did it twice more after that. Then Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead after 3 days, and spent parts of the next 40 days preparing Peter and His other disciples to lead His church forward, before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father. In the early chapters of the book of Acts, which is the history of the early church, Peter was the clear Spirit appointed leader. He led the church with courage and grace and he preached the gospel to the lost with courage and grace. When Jesus the Head of the Church began to speak to Peter about His desire and intention to include the Gentiles in His growing church family, Peter obeyed and was used marvelously with Cornelius and all those friends and relatives that had gathered at his large home to hear whatever Peter wanted to say. What a breakthrough this was for the Gentiles or non Jews in that day! And Peter was God’s instrument to bring it about.
But the Judaizers (that is the Jews who had seemingly come to Christ, but demanded that Gentiles who came to Christ had to be circumcised) – these Judaizers began to wear Peter down. No doubt some of them were big givers to the church and were quick to contribute in other ways. While Peter had made great gains in his walk with Christ, his sinful flesh was as corrupt as ever just like yours and mine is. And the next thing we know - the leaven of these Judaizers began to spread to Peter’s heart to the point where the apostle Paul had to rebuke him. Listen to Paul’s account of this from Galatians 2:11-14, “But when Cephas (or Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabus was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
You see Peter when he was with the Gentile believers, fully embraced the simplicity of the gospel message that we all – Gentiles and Jews alike - are saved by grace through faith in what Christ has done on the cross for us – and nothing else is needed; not circumcision, not baptism or any other work of the flesh or good deed. But when these powerful and persuasive Judaizers came down,…… to stay in good graces with them, Peter quit eating and fellowshipping with these Gentile brothers and sisters.
I don’t know who the equivalent of the Judaizers are in your life. But for most of us there is someone in our world, who when we are around them, the freedom we have when we gather here on Sunday mornings with our brothers and sisters to worship and proclaim Christ is greatly challenged in their intimidating presence. We find ourselves not as straightforward with them, not as free to speak of Christ and His greatness and supremacy.
Jesus fully understands this dynamic. But He also fully intends to set us free from it.
And one of the main antidotes to the fear of man is the fear of God. That’s why Jesus goes on to say in vs. 5, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
One of the reasons I have been posting studies and blogs on my website about hell and eternal punishment over the last weeks, and much more is to come, is because I’ve become convinced that we don’t fear God as we should. If we really saw Him as He is and knew Him as He is, we would not fear man. We would fear God. And when the Bible speaks of fearing God, it doesn’t mean in a way that we run from Him and try to hide from Him. But rather that we reverence Him and adore Him as the holy, righteous and all powerful God that He is.
The scriptures from beginning to end make clear that great blessing comes to those who fear the Lord; but great sorrow to those who fear man.
So one reason Jesus gives for why we should fear Him instead of man is because He can kill through a variety of means; and He alone has the authority to send the rebellious to hell – a very real place by the way.
He knows we really struggle with the fear of man - - especially when we live in societies like ours is becoming where animosity and hatred of true believers grows by the day. So He gives us another reason why fearing anything but Him is irrational, and that is because of how much He values each of us. Look at vs. 6,7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your heard are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Jesus says we should not fear man nor calamity from evil men because God is keenly aware of our every move, our every need, every circumstance around us, every fiber of our being, even the number of hairs on our heads. He is a God who knows us intimately and cares deeply about us and hovers over us.
Now Jesus gives yet another reason why we should fear God and confess Him openly and that is because of the reward of doing so, and the punishment for not doing so. Look at vs. 8,9, “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” This is a very good reason to get cleansed and freed from the fear of man.
The final reason given in our passage for today for why we should fear God and not men is because of the great advantage and resource we have in the Holy Spirit. Let’s read vs. 10-12 together. “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. When they bring you before the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” One of the reasons why we should not hate our government leaders, but honor them, even when they are leading unrighteously and unjustly (as so many are today) is because Jesus plans to give some of us audience with them. And for us to make the most of that opportunity we have to be confident that the Holy Spirit will help us both with the courage and with the words to say. Now granted our audience with them may be because of persecution, but nevertheless it is an audience, and we may be their last chance to get right with their Maker before they have to give an account to Him face to face.
OK, I kind of sped through this passage because I want us to end our time together by partaking of the Lord’s supper or communion together. My sense in preparing for this sermon this week was that Jesus wants to purify and cleanse us and free us from the fear of man and thus the sin of hypocrisy - so that we can have the joy and authority that comes with that; and so that our children can learn early to fear God and not men.
When God calls a people to Himself, His heart and intention is to bless them and to use them. But before He can really do that, He has to replace the fear of man with the fear of God. This was His way with Israel, and it is His way with His church. Listen to God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah concerning His intentions with Israel:
Jeremiah 32:38-40 “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.”
When we partake of the Lord’s table or the Lord’s supper together – one of the things we are celebrating is the freedom we now have from Satan’s tyranny over us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. And one of the major ways Satan held us in bondage and in captivity was by creating in us the fear of death, which is very closely tied to the fear of man. Here’s how the writer of the book of Hebrews explains it:
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” Hebrews 2:14,15
Time of corporate response to sermon in intercession
I Cor. 11:23-26 - Communion