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Sheep Among Wolves (Part 2), Trusting Our Loving God

Life of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:36
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God's children need not fear a hostile world since their heavenly Father greatly loves them. (Please pardon the bad audio quality, today we worshiped in the Fellowship Hall as the Sanctuary is being recarpeted! Our sound system isn't as advanced in the Fellowship Hall...)

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SHEEP AMONG WOLVES (PART 2): TRUSTING OUR LOVING GOD) Matthew 10:26–31 – MHAFB, 24 Feb 19 Series: Life of Jesus Topics: Life of Jesus; Teachings of Jesus; Commission, Hostility, Persecution, God’s Love, Sheep ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Opening of Worship Passage: Psalm 36:1-9 (NASB) Songs: God is Able, Your Grace is Enough, You Never Let Go, Whom Shall I Fear Slide, Psalm 119:105: Introduction 1. Attention: Phobias a. Fear—what comes to mind to you when I say this word? i. Fear is a powerful motivating factor—it gets people to act, often without much thought! ii. Perhaps this is why politicians throughout history use it to get us to support their views & decisions! b. A healthy, controlled fear is actually a good thing since it quickly prepares you to take possible lifesaving action-i. However, uncontrolled fear can be quite detrimental! c. Consider what Psychology Today shares about fear, i. “As soon as you feel fear, the amygdala (...of your brain) sends signals to your autonomic nervous system, which... kicks in, and suddenly, 1. your heart rate increases, 2. your blood pressure goes up, 3. your breathing gets quicker, and 4. stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. ii. The blood flows away from the heart and out towards the extremities, 1. preparing the arms and legs for action. . . iii. the brain basically shuts down as the body prepares for action. 1. The cerebral cortex, the brain's center for reasoning and judgment, is the area that becomes impaired when the amygdala senses fear. 2. The ability to think and reason decreases as time goes on, a. so thinking about the next best move in a crisis can be a hard thing to do. 3. Some people even experience feelings of time slowing down, tunnel vision, or feeling like what is happening is not real.” iv. (Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/crisis-center/200807/the-anatomy-fear) d. Indeed, such uncontrolled fear produces all sorts of negative outcomes in our lives: i. We make bad decisions, experience greater anxiety & indecisiveness ii. Pessimism & gloom grow & often creates destructive habits! iii. Peace & contentment are stolen away as we doubt God’s goodness & faithfulness iv. As a sagely character once shared, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda) e. Since fear is such a common and dangerous human reaction to living in our dangerous world, God says a lot about it! i. The Greek word for fear, phobeō, appears 95 times in the NT and, like our English word, actually covers a broad spectrum of meanings from worry (Mt 1:20) to discomfort at potential circumstances (Mt 2:22; 10:31; 14:5; 21:26, 46), to feelings of awe and/or terror, especially in the presence of the supernatural (Mt 9:8; 10:28; 14:27; 17:6–7; 27:54; 28:5, 10) ii. Two main applications in fear are seen in the NT: 1. Fear of God: Which we will talk more about later, & 2. Fear of man or circumstances: Something that we know well, which is the primary way we reference fear in American English 2. Big Picture: a. Can any of you think of something from last week’s sermon that may cause people fear? To give a quick refresher… i. We are at the point in Jesus’ ministry where He sends 12 disciples out as apostles (sent ones) with His authority (v1) to proclaim “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (v7) ii. Vv2-4 share the “Alpha Roster” of Jesus 12 apostles iii. Vv5-15 share the ROEs on how they are to do ministry iv. Vv16-25 share how ‘being in the family of Jesus will put them at odds with the rest of humanity’ — something that could be quite fearful! 1. He warned that some, because they represent Jesus, will be betrayed to their deaths—even by their own families! 2. Others will be hated, seemingly by everyone! 3. Some would face persecution from town to town, causing them to have to keep on moving. 4. And many would be slandered, accused of being or acting like Satan! b. This was a rather bleak picture for Jesus’ disciples & probably not what they had in mind when they first followed Him! i. But Jesus’ sermon doesn’t end exclusively with that focus! ii. Slide, Title: Today’s sermon is entitled, “Sheep Among Wolves (Part 2): Trusting Our Loving God” 1. While last week we looked at how the family of God has been sent like sheep among wolves into a hostile world-2. This week we consider the other focus of Jesus in these verses… 3. Jesus shifts from these dire words of warning to encouraging words of comfort c. Slide, Thesis: And that is our focus today; in this, I hope that you will see that… i. God’s children need not fear a hostile world since their heavenly Father greatly loves them. d. To see this. we’ll look at Matthew 10:26-33 i. Jesus sermon actually goes on until v42 at the end of this chapter, which I encourage you to read on your own this week ii. But for our focus, we’ll focus on these verses in two sets, vv26-28a & 28b-33. 3. 4 Slides, Verses: So, join me now in Matthew 10 as we begin this very thing… Matthew 10:26–33 CSB 26 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. 28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven. 4. Transition: We’ll stop there for today, but remember that this sermon does go on—and I encourage you to read the rest later this week. a. But for now, let's consider Jesus’ command… Slide, Main Point 1a: Do Not Fear the World 1. Explain: a. MP1b: Jesus just finished warning us that the world is hostile to His followers i. People would betray, kill, hate, persecute, or slander those who truly & fully bear the name of Jesus b. But of this world, Jesus says multiple times, “Don’t be afraid of them!” c. The first occurence is in vv26, where He says, “don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known” i. MP1c: We must remember God’s truth in the midst of worldly hostility that would otherwise obscure it! 1. Do be afraid when someone lies about you, slanders you, or falsely accuses you, even of being in liege with Satan— a. That which seems hidden will be made known! b. MP1d: God will reveal the truth about you 2. Do be afraid when the world does not accept Jesus’ message & even persecutes you because of it— a. That which seems hidden will be made known! b. MP1e: God will reveal the truth about His Gospel 3. Do be afraid when the world seems to get away with evil, even such things as betraying & murdering believers— a. That which seems hidden will be made known! b. MP1f: God will reveal the truth about sin 4. Christians can get into trouble and make their God look bad to the world when they try to take revenge or take justice into their own hands… ii. It is important that we not fear, but rather trust in our God (more to come!) d. This gets even more difficult when it moves from mere words & legal action to violence that can threaten our very lives! i. As Jesus warned, some will kill His followers simply because they bear the name of Jesus! ii. But what did Jesus say in these verses? 1. v28a, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul...” 2. Illustrate: John Chrysostom, an early Church Father from the 300s, faced such threats & persecution in his life a. In A.D. 398 he was appointed as the patriarch, or head Christian leader, of Constantinople b. In this position John’s zeal for reform antagonized the Empress Eudoxia, who consequently had him exiled. i. After a short time he was allowed to return ii. However, he once more infuriated the Empress, who again exiled him. c. How did Chrysostom respond to such persecution? With these words: i. "What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. ii. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord's. iii. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for; and from death I do not shrink." (Source: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/fear_of_man.htm) 3. Expand: And so may it be for us, for... a. MP1g: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear...” (2 Timothy 1:7a, CSB) b. However, we each know that it is easy to be told, “Do not fear” but MUCH harder to actually follow such a command! c. So, how can we do it, how can we be unafraid by a hostile world? Or anything else for that matter? 4. Transition: The answer to that question is found throughout the Bible, and Jesus certainly hits on it in these verses a. Ultimately we can be unafraid when we… Slide, Main Point 2a: Reverentially Trust God 1. Explain: a. This instruction starts in v28-i. Right after Jesus said, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul...” 1. He goes on to say, “...rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” ii. MP2b: And this brings us to a key biblical topic... b. Fearing God: The Bible speaks about ‘fearing God’ on hundreds of occasions in a very positive way! (e.g. Gen 42:18; Ex 1:17, 9:29-31, 18:21, 20:20; Lev 19:14, 31; Mt. 10:28; 2 Cor 7:1) i. But what does it mean? Do we fear God in the same way as we fear a venomous snake that is coming at us? 1. Yes & no, it depends on your relationship with Him… ii. Much like the English word “Love,” “Fear” can have multiple meanings & applications; two primary ones are ‘terror’ or ‘honor’ iii. MP2c: Terror: This is the traditional way that American’s use the word “fear,” 1. When we speak in this way, we are talking about fear of a negative outcome, such as a venomous snake bite! 2. When is it appropriate to fear God in this way? a. MP2d: When we are in a rebellious relationship with God! b. Why? Because God is a righteous God that must bring judgement & wrath upon those living in such rebellion! c. As Hebrews 10:31 shares, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (c.f. Psalm 9:7-12; Isaiah 13:6-11, 30:30-33; Zephaniah 1:18) 3. MP2e: But for those who actually have a terror of God… this can be a redemptive fear! a. Those who feel terror when they consider God actually take God seriously! b. For sinners who responds rightly to this, it can even lead them to get to know this God & seek what He expects of them! 4. MP2f: Interestingly, the worst, most rebellious, & most pitiable state for a human to be in is to actually have no fear of God! (c.f. Ps 36:1-4; Rom 3:18) a. The Proverbs talk with great warning about those who do not fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:22, 1:29, 10:27, 23:17) b. The one who has no fear of God, does not respond to Him, nor do they seek Him c. They are completely indifferent to Him, having hardened their hearts & stiffened their necks 5. Certainly no human should ever have no fear of God—yet no human should stay in merely a ‘terror’ of God... a. Such ‘fear of God’ is not the one so highly spoken of throughout the Bible; that type of fear may be rightly understood, in a simple way, as… iv. MP2g: Honor: An extreme respect, awe, & reverence 1. Such fear is appropriate for those who know God’s true loving nature 2. MP2h & i: Why? This comes from knowing the holy God as both your righteous Judge & loving Father a. And this loving Father is quick to forgive the repentant— b. He actually would rather forgive than bring destruction due to an unrepentant heart! (c.f. Ezekiel 18:23, 18:32, 33:11; Acts 3:19) 3. MP2j: This style of fear naturally forms in the hearts of those who have received His forgiveness through humbly approaching Him in confession & repentance from sin a. They now live in a trusting relationship w/God without fear of condemnation (Rom 8:1) b. Although they still have a very healthy high respect of God as their Judge that will hold us accountability for how we lived the life He entrusted to us (c.f. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, 7:1; 1 Timothy 5:20, 1 Peter 1:17) 2. Illustrate: The Reformer Martin Luther helps to understand this type of fear by describing it as filia, or family, fear a. This fear is manifested in the child of a consistently just and loving parent b. The son (or daughter) of such such healthy parenting demonstrates tremendous respect & love for his parents i. He wants to please them & 'fears’ offending them ii. In contrast to ‘fearing punishment,’ this child fears hurting or offending the object of his great love & respect iii. He does not want to displease those who are the source of his security & love c. This is the healthy fear that the Bible calls us to have of God i. A fear that leads us to an ever-greater sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God 3. Expand: So, knowing our loving God, we can revere Him & be unafraid of a hostile world a. MP2k: And this fear will also be paired with trust---we will reverentially trust Him i. And such trust will counter the feelings of terror that some may be tempted to feel about God! b. Consider how Jesus points out... i. We do not fear that God is unaware or unconcerned with us (vv29-31) 1. Jesus points out with his lesson on sparrows—God knows about every one & not one “falls to the ground without your Father’s consent” 2. MP2l & m: In contrast to this, we trust that God is concerned about us & highly values us! ii. We do not fear that God would abandon us (vv32-33) 1. As Jesus points out when He shares that “everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” 2. Even when we stumble and fall in various sins, we know that He remains faithful as our loving Father 3. MP2n: In contrast to this, we trust in God’s faithfulness to us c. MP2o: Such reverential trust naturally grows in those who know God’s love (& consequently love God!) i. It is from God’s love that His great concern for, value of, & faithfulness to us comes! 1. And the more we get to know this, the more our love for Him increases! 2. As Paul shares in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”” (or ‘daddy!’ as that loving & trusting child who tremendously respects his father) 3. Or as John shares in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. ii. MP2p: Terror, when supplanted by reverential fear (2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1), finds its perfection in love, trust, & obedience (Prov. 3:7, 8:13). d. And so i. We can understand & confidently believe our God when He says such things as, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, CSB) ii. We can confidently share in the declarations such verses as of 1. Psalm 46:1-2a, “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid...” (CSB) 2. Psalm 56:11, "in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere humans do to me?” iii. Those within the family of God need not fear a hostile world! e. Transition: Now, let’s wrap this up… Slide, Conclusion-a: Conclusion 1. Reiterate: God’s children need not fear a hostile world since their heavenly Father greatly loves them. a. We may be un-welcomed, arrested, betrayed, persecuted, ridiculed, falsely accused, and even killed by the world i. But Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear this hostile world, for He has not given us a spirit of fear… b. And we can do this because we fear God with extreme respect, awe, & reverence i. We understand that our holy God is both a righteous Judge & a loving Father ii. We have received His forgiveness through humbly approaching Him in confession & repentance from sin iii. And thus we reverentially trust Him, obey Him, & love HIm 2. Apply: So, how should we respond? a. Con-b: Seek the Lord with all your heart! (c.f. See Deut. 4:29, Jer. 29:13, 1 Chron. 28:9) i. One cannot reverentially trust someone that they do not know ii. While it may be a mental concept that we give ascent to, it is not a living reality of our daily life iii. Get to know the holy God as your personal Righteous Judge and the Loving Father iv. Con-c: Come to know His loving heart toward you through spending time in His word and learning from other saints (in person & even through biographies & the sort) v. And as you do, allow His Spirit to help you… b. Con-d: Learn & live in the “Fear of the Lord” i. Learn how to better revere God in all aspects of your life—again, dig into His word & learn from His saints! ii. Prov. 3:7, 8:13 shares, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. . . To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.” iii. Con-e: This reminds us that fearing God will lead us to a changed life, specifically to obeying God! 1. Demonstrate this in your words (highly emphasized by Jesus in v27), your actions, & even your attitudes 2. Demonstrated this with how you treat everyone you encounter—learn to truly love your neighbor 3. Demonstrate this through diligently removing every idol that fights for Jesus’ priority in your life iv. Become one who is known for his/her fear of the Lord c. Con-f: Do not fear the world i. The world can be a frightening place! ii. But as those who know reverentially trust God, it doesn’t have to be that way… iii. Allow God to calm your heart, 1. As is said, “Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.” 2. Either way, receive His comfort & strength. 3. And do not allow fear of the world to compete with your fear of God 3. Appeal: If we can live these truths out, the other words of Jesus in this passage will naturally result in our lives... a. What Jesus tells us in the dark, we will speak in the light—His whispers we will proclaim on the housetops (v27) b. We will endure to the end as those who acknowledge Jesus before others through our words, actions, & attitudes (vv32-33) c. We will take up our cross and follow Him, strangely losing our life in worldly terms & yet actually finding our life through Jesus (vv38-39)! d. We will indeed personally know Jesus as our good shepherd that will never let anything snatch us from His hand (John 10:11–18, 25-30) 4. Conclude: Pray with me...
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