Last Sunday in Trinity November 26, 2000
27, 496, 501, 52
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
Dear Fellow Christians, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
“Summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.” Patriot Thomas Pain penned these words as a rebuke of those timid Americans, who, in the middle of our War for Independence, decided to call it quits. Pain was a pamphleteer for the revolution. It’s been said that his pamphlets did more to win the war then did George Washington’s army. His words sparked the necessary passion and courage it took to win the war against the British.
Last summer fellow Christians from NE, MN, and WI joined forces with us in passing out VBS flyers. In a very real sense we were working together as revolutionaries. We were pamphleteers for the One Great Revolution—the revolution whose purpose it is to win the hearts of lost sinners for Christ.
A revolution by its very nature seeks to topple the establishment. The establishment of this world is Satan and his forces of darkness. Satan controls the vast majority of hearts on the planet. He fills the world with His propaganda. His lies dominate the attitudes and actions of most in this world. The devil is intent on dragging down to hell as many souls as possible. Our God-given purpose in life is to topple Satan’s kingdom.
Our weapon? The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. With His Word, the Bible, we seek to demolish Satan’s hold over a sinful world, one sinner at a time. We speak of man’s sin. But then we proclaim the liberation of all people from sin. We broadcast God’s Declaration of Independence through the doing and dying of His Son.
The war for salvation has been won by Jesus on the cross. But people need to know about it. They need to be led to trust in the blood and righteousness of Christ or they will die in their sins and be lost forever. The LORD says, “Go! Be my revolutionaries. Fight for the souls of those held captive by the deceit of Satan.”
Today we get a chance to eavesdrop on Jesus as he talks to his disciples about the revolution. He is sending them out on a raid. They are to infiltrate the camp of the enemy. That is they are to invade the human heart, using the explosive power of the Gospel to break Satan’s grip over every soul they meet.
But Jesus warns them: “It won’t be easy.” They will meet fierce resistance. Satan is not about to give up his territory without a fight. And the fact is those under his control are not unwilling prisoners. They love sin, and are very willing to follow Satan’s orders. Whether they know it or not. Every unbeliever stands toe to toe with Satan and is adamantly opposed to the revolution.
Jesus makes this clear when He says: If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Jesus enemies called Him Beelzebub—the devil Himself. Jesus says the world is sure to look upon His followers with the same intense hatred.
In the last verse of our text Jesus further underscores the opposition to His cause. He says: Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Those words might startle us. Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? Didn’t He come to win the peace of sins forgiven for all people? Most certainly. But remember, the last thing Satan wants is for a sinner to receive this peace into His heart by faith. So, as Christ’s revolutionaries speak the clear, simple truth of Law and Gospel, the result will often be anything but peaceful. One modern day example is how Christ’s enemies have begun to refer to the Christian message as “hate speech”. Led by the Spirit, Christ’s soldiers will never seek to win the fight with bullets or fists or hatred. But the Word of God will produce violence against the Christian. Violence in the heart, violent words, and, yes, at time even physical violence.
We are at war, my friends. We are living in enemy occupied territory. So here is the question of the day: Will we or will we not actively participate in the battle for souls? Will or will we not energetically fight to topple Satan’s realm?
This is where we must be painfully honest with ourselves. Jesus says to speak His message in the daylight, to shout it from the rooftops. But are we that open and that courageous in our battle against darkness and sin? Or are we content to let others do to the fighting? In a recent sermon I read the pastor put it this way: “Just because someone is a soldier by trade does not mean that his life is always at risk. The Pentagon is full of soldiers and it is one of the safest places on earth. Those who fill positions behind the lines are seldom in danger. It is the front line troops who are fighting for their lives. What is more, they are fighting for the lives of others. Are we? Or could it be that we are not much of a threat to Satan?”
Jesus has strategically positioned you in a particular part of the war zone. Your neighborhood, your school, your place of work, your circle of friends and relatives, is the outpost where he has placed you, with the expectation that, in these places, you will carry on the revolution. How many sorties have you been on lately? How many hearts have you attempted to raid and capture lately for the Savior? How many souls in your area of influence have, from your lips, felt the cold hard steal of God’s law and the sweet embrace of Christ’s forgiveness? If our answer is zero … what is holding us back? … Is it not just plain old fear?
Today Jesus wants to erase your fears and make you His daring revolutionaries. The Savior loves His troops, knows you by name, watches over you every day, died for you personally, is intent on one day bringing you home, far away from the weary battle. And today He wants to help you overcome the fear of battle. Patiently and tenderly, Jesus, one by one, deals with common fears—fears that can sap us of the energy and the courage to carry on our soul-saving mission.
First of all Jesus also deals with the fear of failure. Look where He says: Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. These words are not about the secret sins of God’s enemies in general. When the context is taken into consideration—which is about resistance to Christ’s cause—we can see that these verses are talking about the plot to destroy the Gospel. We read the newspapers, watch the television, hear what is taught in public universities, and we can see that Satan is working hard to snuff out the revolution.
The effect is that Christians can easily give into despair and defeatism. Very often it looks like we are losing the war. We experience setback after setback It’s one step forward and two steps back. A fear of failure can immobilize the Church. Defeatism sets in and paralyzes the troops.
We need to recognize these feelings as Satan’ propaganda machine at work. We need to understand that victory has already been assured. Christ says the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church. The Gospel will continue to be proclaimed and continue to conquer hearts until the very end of time. Satan knows this. Jesus wants us to know it too.
Satan cannot stop the progress of the Gospel. He can only cause what looks like damage to it. Because the damage he causes will always be turned around by God and end up working for the benefit of the revolution. For example, Satan was behind the martyrdom of the early Christians. But when those Christians fled from persecution they took the Gospel with them, to other places, to other people. The result was just the opposite of what Satan intended. God’s Kingdom, instead of diminishing, rapidly grew. Another example is Satan’s introduction of false doctrine into the Church. From a human standpoint we would say that this tactic has been more successful for Satan. But what does the presence of false doctrine do? It forces Christians back into the word. It makes them stronger in their faith and therefore more willing and better able to continue the fight.
Satan can’t win. So let’s be bold and proclaim the Gospel to any and all. No matter how dismal things may appear to us, we can trust that Jesus, through our preaching, teaching and sharing of His Word, is wreaking havoc in the kingdom of Satan. By God’s grace lets frustrate Satan all we can, and not let him frustrate us.
Jesus also wants to remove from our hearts the fear of what might happen to our physical person if we contend against His enemies. In v.28 He uses stern, but loving law, to point out the complete foolishness of fearing what Satan and his enemies can do to us physically. At worst, He says, they can only kill the body, not the soul. Our sinful flesh should quiver in fear not at what Satan or man can do to us, but at what God can do to us. Only God has power to destroy both the body and the soul in hell. A rejection of Christ has far worse consequences than being a revolutionary for Christ.
But we also see in this verse tremendous comfort. For even if we are murdered for our faith, our enemies will have won nothing, and we will have won everything. Physically speaking, death is the worst thing Satan and his allies can inflict upon us, but death is the very best thing that can happen to a child of God. For then “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” He will take us to where “There will be not more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
Another fear that can stifle our commitment to the cause is the worry of not having enough of what we need for our bodies. This is what we call materialism. Behind all materialism is a deep seated fear. This is clearly shown in how the people who have lots of money are often the ones who worry about money the most. Materialism is a viscous false god set up by the Enemy. One can never sacrifice to it enough. It always wants and demands more. Materialism works against the revolution in that Christians can become so taken up with their earthly and bodily welfare that they have little time or energy to even think about attacking the camp of the enemy. They are too fretfully preoccupied with what they shall eat, wear and drink to get at the essential task. Jesus removes this fear as well. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
With these words Jesus sets us free to serve the cause of the cross. He puts in our hearts a child-like trust of God’s perfect care over our lives. Because God will provide for all our earthly needs, we can concentrate on demolishing Satan’s empire.
In one of his movies Marshall arts expert Bruce Lee is cornered by twenty men. Without a trace of fear in his eyes, Lee says: “Hey this isn’t a fair fight. Why don’t you get about twenty more men? Maybe then the odds will be even.”
We can face Satan in the same way. No, not in a spirit of false bravado, but in a God-given spirit of absolute confidence in our Savior. Satan can do His worst. The world can attack us from all sides. But no matter how many forces they muster, we can never be defeated. Jesus has conquered all of your fears. There’s nothing left to hold us back. We can get busy and engage Satan at every opportunity, conquering lost souls by the power of the Gospel. AMEN!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.