The 21th Sunday After Pentecost November 2, 2014
Isaiah 51:1-8, 12-16
1 Timothy 4:1-11
39, 648, 395(1-5,8), 426
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
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.
In Christ Jesus who is the solution to all of our fears, dear fellow-redeemed:
What makes you afraid? Is it ISIS and its violence and known hatred for the United States? Is it Ebola? Cancer? Advancing age? Death itself? Are you afraid of your sins and your guilt?
Many of our reactions in this life are the result of fear. If we were to peel away the layers behind some of what we do we would find fear and insecurity in our hearts.
If we don’t see something about ourselves, or our behavior, or events in our lives that everyone else seems to see…perhaps it is because we are afraid to face the truth.
If we have an unwillingness to admit that we are wrong, it may be a fear of mistakes—a fear of not measuring up to a standard that we think we must meet; and a fear that if I fail in expectations people may not love me as much anymore.
If we act like someone we are not, it is fear that if someone saw the “real me” they might not want me around anymore.
Fear is a very human reaction. Some kinds of fear are virtually unavoidable. If someone startles you, you are for a moment afraid. However, once you’ve evaluated the situation and realize that there is really nothing to fear, the fear subsides and is gone. Applying knowledge to fear helps to keep us from living in a state of fearfulness.
Many…? Most…? All…? …of us came here have some sort of fear held somewhere in our minds and in our hearts right now. For that reason it is good for us to hear the Word of God and be comforted because GOD ANSWERS FEAR’S QUESTIONS I. WHY is this happening (to me)? II. HOW am I supposed to live like this? III. WHAT should I do?
Why are there fearful things? Why am I afraid? Why is this happening to me? The easy answer is sin because sin lies at the root of every sorrow and every fear on the earth. “Sin” is the easy and simplest answer, but let’s go a littler further.
Jesus said in our text, “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. [vv.25-26]
In the verses just before the text, Jesus had been describing the kind of persecution the disciples could expect. They would be taken before councils, they would be put on trial, they would be accused because of what they believed and taught. Jesus said, “don’t let it surprise you because if they called Me “Beelzebub”—accusing Me of being from Satan and a devil Myself—then they are certainly going to do the same kind of things to you when you preach My name.” In other words, as the disciples went out into the world, they should expect persecution and backlash from being followers of Jesus.
The apostle John records these words of Jesus, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).
Why is this happening? We can be assured that we will face persecution and trouble because of what we believe, because of what we teach and confess—It’s guaranteed! The sinful world in which we live is the same sinful world that opposed Christ, it will, therefore, also oppose us.
This is one answer to why we face fearful things in this world. We should expect it as Paul says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution!” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Don’t be deceived into thinking that the violence and battles taking place across the world has nothing to do with the truth of Christ. The Moslem faith is opposed to Christianity. It is a different belief. It is a belief that follows a false god which is completely different from the true God revealed in Scripture. While many who follow this false religion do not take these differences to the point of hatred and violence, there are those who do. There are political factors as well, but we should understand that a good portion of Islamic violence is warring against Christ, just as the Moslem Turks in Luther’s day were a threat to Christianity in Europe.
We will face certain hardships, certain trials, certain fears because of who we are—children of God. But there are also sufferings and fearful things that are not directly related to our faith in Christ. These are things that unbelievers face too. Why? Because the sin in this world is going to affect us.
The Devil and his evil horde want to take the trials and tribulations of this life and lead us to ask out of sheer despair: “Why me?” The Devil wants us to develop a “woe is me” approach and attitude to the things that are troubling us and frightening us. He wants us to ask “Why me?” and then become discouraged and discontent.
Even when a particular trial or fear is not directly related to our faith, we still need to stand guard and be aware that our enemies are wishing to use that trouble for their purposes, namely, our destruction. We remember how Paul warned the Ephesians: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places: (Ephesians 6:12).
The sickness, the disease, the sorrows, the hardships that are unavoidable in this world of sin are things the Devil wants to use against us; but God promises to use them for us. Scripture says, “We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). This does not mean that God is going to make us jump through fears and troubles just to see us go through them and say, “You have to go through this obstacle course otherwise I’m not going to let you into Heaven!” That is not God’s intent, but because we live where we do, because we live in a world that is affected by sin, we will absolutely face fear and trouble.
The good news is that God uses these things so that we do not grow too attached to this life. If this life and this world are frightening to us, why would we put our permanent home here? Why would we want to do so? As we face these fears and trials we are reminded that we have a far better, a heavenly place to which we are going—a place to which we will come, our true homeland. God will use fears and trials to remind us that we are just passing pilgrims here, and to remind us that we are weak and sinful and in need of a Savior.
Why is this happening to me? Because I live in a sinful world where it’s unavoidable? Why? Because my enemies are going to use every angle of this world’s troubles to try to afflict me. Why? Because my gracious God is using it for my security, my strengthening, and my faith. Ahh… there is the answer to chase away fear: GOD has it in control!
…but how am I supposed to live like this when things are so troublesome? How am I supposed to live in this fear and agony and misery? Jesus says, “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.” [v.28]
Don’t fear anything on the earth because it can only hurt your body. To which you might say, “Only? I rather like my body and rather enjoy my life, health, and safety.” The point is, however, that compared to our soul, our bodily well-being is minor and insignificant. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Our bodies are dispensable, our souls are priceless. So do not fear those who can only hurt the body.
When a storm hits a community, whether it be a tornado or hurricane, often times you’ll hear interviews with people who’ve lost their homes. They’ll say, “I’ve lost everything I own, but thankfully my family is safe…we’re all safe!” We understand the statement because homes can be rebuilt. Paul tells us that our bodies are our earthly houses. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
This body is just the shell in which we live. Our souls have been redeemed by Christ, there is true value. Redeemed by Christ we will be given life again on the Last Day with resurrected and glorified bodies. So don’t fear those who can only take your earthly life and harm your body, rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.
In this warning, Jesus is not referring to Satan. Satan wants us to be destroyed in Hell. He will do whatever he can to lead us into Hell, but he is not the one who holds the authority to condemn or set free. It is God Himself who judges sin. It is God Himself who will condemn the unforgiven sinner to an eternity of damnation in Hell. Fear God! Don’t fear earthly things. Fear God who can destroy your soul and body in Hell. We hear in Hebrews, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Yes, we should be afraid, we who are sinners, for God holds the authority of judgment. God says, “You will die for those sins!” There is reason to fear, but Jesus came to die for those sins in our place. We have every reason. as sinners, to fear judgment and that is what we should fear because that has eternal implications, but thanks be to God we don’t have to fear that either because God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for our sins and thereby redeem us from damnation and its fear.
The thing we should fear most—God’s judgment—is taken away because Jesus came and lived a perfect life in our place. Jesus died on the cross to forgive us all of our sins. He said, “It is finished! Your sins are wiped away completely. Fear no longer.”
We do not need to fear God’s judgment because we are righteous through Christ. Jesus goes on to give even further comfort. “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.” [vv.29-31]
Sparrows are not pretty. Sparrows are plentiful. Sparrows are not big enough for hunting and to eat. They are, in the bigger scheme of things, pretty close to worthless birds—as they were in Jesus’ day as well, for a small coin could purchase two sparrows. However, Jesus says, God knows when one little sparrow falls to the ground—one little sparrow! That little sparrow is the same one about which Jesus spoke when He said, “look to the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns yet your heavenly father feeds them are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25).
God takes care of every one of those seemingly worthless birds. They are not truly worthless, for they are part of His creation and He cares for them. God knows when one of those little birds falls to the ground. He is going to take care of you! He knows how many hairs are on your head—trivia to us, but an illustration to show that God knows the minutest detail about you. God knows!
When you are afraid, God knows. When you have things troubling you, God knows. God knows what you’re going through and He will take care of you. He will be with you and help you. In Luke, Jesus said, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost” (Luke 21:16-18). The Lord knows and cares and helps!
Consider the words of Psalm 121 when fear arises: “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” That LORD knows. “He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep…The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Psalm 121:2, 3-4, 7-8)
How can you live like this? How are you supposed to live in fear and in danger with wickedness all around? You have a place to turn for help. God knows. God cares. God is not going to allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear (cf: 1 Corinthians 10:13). God is going to provide.
How am I supposed to live like this…? It may be tough. It may be troublesome while on the earth. How will the Lord bring me through this? I’m not sure, but I do know that He will! Ahh…there is the answer to fear…The Lord is with me and knows me.
Well, then, what should I do living in this fearful world with God’s comfort? There is a song that was popular years ago that said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” What the world needs now is Christ—always has, always will. That love of God that moved Him to send His one and only Son into the world is what this world needs. Jesus said: “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops…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.” [v.27, 32-33]
Jesus told His disciples to proclaim from the rooftops all that He taught them and explained to them. Proclaim it far and wide! Yes, that will lead to persecution. Yes, that will lead to opposition, but don’t let that stop you. Don’t be afraid. I am with you and will bless your efforts. You and the world need this Gospel truth more than anything else.
If we proclaim Christ’s Word it will go out and work in the hearts of people around us. That will result in less affliction around us because more of those around us will be following Jesus instead of troubling us. There will be less temptation because those around us will be there to encourage and uplift us instead of leading us astray. There will be less wickedness all around. People do what they do out of fear so give them the news that drives out fear. Give them the news that through faith in Christ—putting our hope and trust in that full and free forgiveness for all of our sins—there is life everlasting waiting for us. Lead them, bring them to the Gospel so that by the Spirit’s working they will be led to confess their Savior and also to be confessed by Him.
Peter wrote these words to the Christians: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 3:14-15; 4:12-16).
When fear rises up and leads us to question whether we should do what we know we should do in confessing Christ, the answer is that we have a message to proclaim! When we do suffer fear and trouble for Christ’s sake, we can rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake. And with all the other fears and troubles that we may have we can also rejoice because Jesus has given us a purpose and a message to speak. Ahh…there is the answer to fear…God gives me a purpose and work to do; and He has given me the promise, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
What should I do? I should I proclaim that “fear-chasing” message to all and cling to it myself!
Of what are you afraid? Fear of the unknown? God knows. He has the future in His hands. Fear of trials and tribulations? God knows what you can take and He won’t give you more; and He will help you through whatever He allows to come. Whatever fear you have, God has the answer!
Fear not! I am with you oh be not dismayed;
for I am Your God
and will still give you aid.
I’ll strengthen you, help you,
and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous,
omnipotent hand. Amen. (TLH 427:3)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.