Hiding Your Faith?
John takes us on a long journey through the Passion Week. We will be in this week, as we go through our verse-by-verse study of John for several more months to come. John focuses on conversations that take place during this week, an insightful recognition of both the true believers in the false hopes and false beliefs that were held by so many. Being preserved for us by the Holy Spirit, it becomes quite a litmus test for us to examine our own hearts, and no less than the encounter that we have in our text today in John 12.
I call us to really ask the question, Are you hiding your faith? You're here this morning; would there be those who would be surprised you are here this morning? Are there those that you'll see tomorrow at school who have no idea that you are a Christian, that you hold these beliefs? Are you heading to work tomorrow among people who would have no clue that today you came to church?
Are you hiding your faith for fear of those who are around you? For fear of your standing among your peers? For fear of what the repercussions would be if you were to let someone or a group know that your belief system is what drives you, that it is not the acceptance of the intellectualism of the world, but that you live by a faith, that you live by a belief, that your standards are different…if in fact they are different, if in fact you do live by faith, if in fact this Bible does mean something to you?
I want to draw your attention to John, chapter 12, and I want us to look in our text this morning at this idea of hiding behind our faith. John tells us that there are those there who believe, there are those who did not believe, and he said that the lack of belief was a fulfillment of God's sovereign law. I just want to tell you this morning that if you continue to hide behind faith, that if you do not profess your faith openly, if you do not profess faith in Christ, there is, my friends, a sovereign law of God that is in play.
That law is mentioned to us in Isaiah; John quotes it beginning in verse 38 of chapter 12. He says, "That the word of Isaiah..." talking about those who did not acknowledge Christ "...the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?'" In other words, John is saying that Isaiah had prophesied that even though Jesus Himself was walking on the earth, even though the Messiah Himself was performing miracles, raising people from the dead, that there would be those who wouldn't simply choose not to believe.
But there is a danger in that, my friend, and that danger comes in another verse, really back from Isaiah 6, and John picks it up in verse 39. He says, "Therefore they could not believe." Now, we don't like that because we live in America, and we can be and achieve anything we want to. We don't like to be told that we cannot do something, but God is not limited to our constitutional law. He has his own sovereign law in play, and He tells us what it is in verse 40: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."
Now I don't know why God put this into play, but my friends, there comes a time in your continual rejection of the life of Christ, your continual rejection of His sovereign purpose for your life, your continual rejection of His call on your heart, when God turns it off, when God says, "That's enough," when God says, "You will die in your blindness. You will die without seeing Me. You will no longer hear My call. You will no longer be able to respond, because it was never your decision; it was always My invitation, and I withdraw the invitation."
John boldly and bluntly speaks to not only those who initially heard his gospel, but he speaks to the condition of the Jews in that day, saying that they have had every opportunity, but their rejection of Christ is now coming to an end, it is coming to the crucifixion, and that spigot will be turned off, that opportunity will close for them.
Oh, my friend, let me just appeal to you, just give you that old preacher appeal right now: don't let the opportunity of the Holy Spirit of God speaking to your heart this morning, convicting you of your need to confess Him as Savior, and don't think that you can put that off to a better time, don't think that you'll put that off for a more convenient time, but take advantage of the invitation while it is given to you to receive Christ as Savior, or to follow God in His calling on your life.
God doesn't need you to do the ministry in your school that He has called you to do; He can raise up another. God doesn't need you to be the sole witness in your place of employment; He can call up another. God doesn't need you, He doesn't need me, but when we hear His call, we need to respond to His call because He can quit calling, He can quit giving us that opportunity.
Verse 41, John said, "These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him." I don't know if you're familiar with Isaiah 6. Isaiah says, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple." He saw Him in His glory, and when he saw Him, his response wasn't, "I'll get back with you." His response wasn't, "Nice visit." No, his response was, "I am an evil man, and I live with a people who have evil tongues." Yet, God responds and says, "I am calling you. Who is going to go for me?" Isaiah says, "Here am I. Send me." I am going to take advantage of this opportunity. I am going to respond to this call.
Oh, how we want to hear that call, how we need to respond to that call! But I tell you that sometimes we feel and sense and accept the call of God on our life, we feel and sense and accept His invitation for salvation, but then we never tell anyone, then we never let it get outside the doors of this sanctuary.
Notice with me in verse 42, it says, "Nevertheless even among the rulers..." now, this is the Sanhedrin council, this is the home of the opposition to Jesus "...many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees..." because of that conservative minority group that was so dead set against Christ "...they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue." Their reasoning? Verse 43: "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
Now these aren't just anybody, all right? These are the leaders of the religion of Israel, the religion of YHWH. Not just any religion, all right, the religion that claims the Scriptures as its basis. These are not uneducated fools; these are very educated teachers and scribes and scholars. But they are people just like all of us, and notice that they fear their peers, they fear the Pharisees, and they love the praise of men more than the praise of God. Why? Because the praise of men is so immediate, the praise of men is so convenient. The praise of God is often silent; the praise of God is not often audible in this world.
We often, do we not, choose the temporal. We choose the immediate. "I'd rather be thought well right now by my friends, I'd rather be praised by my co-workers, I'd rather be at the top of the pile, at the top of the heap right now. Oh, I know there will come a day when I need to choose to let God be my primary focus, but I'm riding high right now. My career is going up right now, I'm making great grades right now. I'm very popular at school right now. I've made the team right now, and I'm going to ride the crest of that wave as long as I can."
Because you prefer the praise of men more than the praise of God. You're hiding behind the mask, you're wearing the mask of "I'm just like you guys," and you're hiding the fact that no, you're different. You're a believer. You may be a mature believer, you may be a new believer, but you are to put off that old man; you are to put on that new creation. You are not to stifle the work of the Spirit in your heart anymore. And when you hide behind that mask, you do exactly that. That is what these leaders were doing.
If you go with me over to Luke 23, verse 50. Let me tell you about a couple of those leaders: those who liked the praise of men more than the praise of God. It says, "Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God."
Now go over with me to John 19, verse 38, after Jesus is taken down from the Cross, it says, "Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came." So Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are two of the people that John is talking about back here in John, chapter 12. Those who believed among the rulers of the people, but they would not confess Him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Now if you read those descriptions, they sound like believers, and I believe they were. But becoming a believer of Jesus does not make you automatically a super soldier of Christ. You still have these fears that have to be set aside; you still have this peer pressure that you have to deal with. And Joseph and Nicodemus, I'm going to trust that they moved forward in their spiritual growth. Perhaps they left the council. Perhaps they were kicked out of Jerusalem. But they sincerely followed Christ. They did some very courageous things. But they didn't start out that way.
I'm not here to beat up on you because you haven't stood on your desk at school and proclaimed Jesus yet. I want to tell you that your timidity is common, but it is not to rule your life. Fear cannot rule the life of the Christian. It cannot grip the hearts of believers. Only our passion and love for Christ can grip our heart, only it should drive and motivate and move us. And wherever we're lacking, wherever we lack the courage, we are to ask God who graciously abounds and gives us all that we need, all that we could ask or want, Who will give us the strength, and we can in His strength when our strength is not there.
Listen, it says in 42 that the rulers believed, in 43, "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." In other words, they were quiet about it, right? They were hiding. They were secretive. They didn't think that it was something you ought to just mention in public. They didn't think it was something they could tell their family. I want you to see the contrast, because in this setting of John there is One who is about give His life for Joseph of Arimethea, for council member Nicodemus.
It says in 44, "Then Jesus cried out." I just want you to see that. John mentions these who kept their mouths shut, and in 44 Jesus cried out. He cried out. He cried out and He said, "He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me." Here He is in His last days, about to face the Cross, and He is not going to waste any opportunity, He is not going to be secretive, He is not going to hold it in. He is going to share His faith, He is going to share the truth, He is going to tell all who will hear. Unlike these new believers, He is going to set the model of crying out and confessing Christ as Savior. Jesus has told us the importance of not having a hidden faith, but having a courageous faith.
You look back over into Matthew, chapter 10, verse 32. "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." Jesus makes it very simple: being a Christian is not just a secret action done inside the confines of a church and kept here. It is something you do before the world, before men. You confess Christ in your life, you confess Christ with your words. Your confession of Jesus, your admission of being a believer, is essentially a proof of your salvation. It is a proof that you are one of His.
It is a proof that Jesus says shows that, "I will mention your name before God in heaven. If you mention My name, if you confess Me before people, I will confess you before somebody you couldn't otherwise talk to. If you'll talk to the people that you can talk to, I'll talk to the One you could not talk to. If you'll tell them about Me, I'll tell the Father about Me. But if you don't, if you deny Me, if you don't confess Me, if you're acceptance of Me is shallow, if it's just a head knowledge, if it's just a religious action, then I have nothing to say to the Father about you, either."
The proof is that we don't hide behind our faith, but we take the opportunities that come to us, and we pull that mask off, and we simply let people know. Listen to what Moses did in Hebrews. Moses had the opportunity, really the opportunity of a lifetime, to be the follower of one of the great pharaohs of Egypt, to stand in his place, to be the next president of Egypt, to head the army, to have everything he wanted. But God got a hold of his life, and it says in Hebrews 11:24 that, "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin." Why did he do that? Because verse 26 says, "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward."
Moses had an opportunity to keep the mask of an Egyptian son on his face, to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, but he chose to take that mask off and to let everyone see that he was a Hebrew, to let everyone see that he was a child of God. He didn't do that because there was money in it, he didn't do that because it made logical sense. He did it by faith. By faith he made the decision that the measurements of this world are nothing compared to what God can offer, that the passing pleasures of sin are exactly that…they are passing, they do not last. The real treasures would be the treasures that never go away, that are eternal, and that are reserved for him in heaven. A reward that is there for him, and he chose that path.
He didn't have a hidden faith any longer; he chose to have a courageous faith. What a courageous faith he models, because he goes with nothing but God to be behind him. Well, that's enough! You and God become a majority, but it takes a courageous faith to step out in your school, and to say that, "I am a believer. I will not participate in that activity." It takes courage to be faithful.
It is God who supplies all of our needs, but it takes courage to stand up and say, "I will not take that promotion. I will not do that unethical thing. You can fire me before because my standards are different than your standards. I have a faith system that is higher in my mind than that of this world." A treasure that says, "I would rather be lonely in Christ than surrender my morals for a mere relationship with you." To look beyond the mask we wear because of our fears. To be willing to do what God calls upon us to do.
Now I realize there is a job to do, there is school to learn. Not every moment of every day is spent pounding the Bible; I wouldn't want you to do that. There was a great devotional this morning about how we're not here to just stand up and argue people to death about the Bible, but we are to live it, we are to be ready to give an answer when the question arises.
Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15; he gives the people who are scattered in the dispersion, the Christians who are in other countries, who are very lonely and very scattered at this point. He says to them, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." In other words, set Him apart in your hearts, make Him special, hold Him up high; not the peer pressure, not money, not even the challenges of this world, but hold God high. "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." Reverential fear. With humility, be ready always to tell people, "I don't live behind a mask."
If you stay behind the mask, they are not going to ask you for your hope because you don't have hope. You are just like the world. It's when you take off that mask, it's when you tell your co-worker, "I know there are lay offs, but I know God is going to take care of me." It's when you tell the people at school, "I know that is the popular party, but I love God more than I love my reputation. I am going to choose Christ." It's when you take that mask off and say, "No, God has given me the ethics and the morals I need to live my life, and I'm not going to violate those. Not even for you am I going to violate those." It's then that they'll ask you, "Why the reason for your hope? Why are you like this?" And now you've been put into that opportunity to share your faith.
Several weeks ago we talked about how the hour has come, not only for Christ, but for all of us. God brings us to a moment in our existence when we take all of our failures and all of our successes and all of the paths that we have traveled, bring us to a time, it may happen again and again, but there is always at least an hour, a time, a moment, a season, when God wants us to stand for Him, he wants us to proclaim Him.
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