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2007-03-04_Sheep Serpents and Doves_Matthew 10.16-23_SL

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Sheep, Serpents and Doves

Matthew 10:16-23   |   Shaun LePage   |   March 4, 2007

I.       Introduction

A.    Imagine this: A true prophet came to visit us and he asked one of you to stand (ask one man to stand). He then said to you, “I am going to lay hands on you and give you the power to instantly heal people. I’m going to send you out to LMH and you’re going to heal every person in the building.” Then, imagine that he asked another one of you to stand (ask one man to stand). He then said to you, “I am going to lay hands on you and give you the power to cast out demons. I’m going to send you to a local mental institution and you are going to cast demons from those who have been diagnosed with mental disorders.” Then, imagine that he asked another of you to stand (ask one man to stand). He then said to you, “I am going to lay hands on you and give you the power to raise the dead. I want you to go to every funeral parlor and every cemetery in Lawrence and I want you to bring every deceased person you find back to life.” He then says to all of you, “As you do these things, share the gospel of Jesus Christ with each person you meet.” Imagine how exciting! On a scale of 1-10, how exciting would that be?

B.    As you’re walking out the door, he stops you. He says, “One more thing. You will each encounter those who will hate the name of Jesus and will become violently angry with you. They will beat you. Have you arrested. Even kill you.” Would your excitement level change?

C.    This is exactly the kind of warning Jesus gave His apostles before He sent them out.

D.    Mt Review: In chapters 1-10, Jesus presented to Israel as King! Chs 1-4: King’s credentials; Chs 5-7: King’s teaching; Chs 8-10: King’s power—meant to authenticate Jesus and apostles.

E.     Chapter 10—2nd major discourse in Mt | One of the greatest discipleship chapters in the Bible.

F.     Chapter 10:

1.     1-15—temporary mission for the 12; only to Israel; don’t take extra money, clothes, etc.

2.     16-23—beyond the temporary mission: (1) Verse 1 forbids them to go to the Gentiles, but v. 18 says they will be “a testimony to the Gentiles.” (2) The Spirit could not speak in them until after Christ had been crucified and raised from the dead according to John 14:17, but v.20 says the Spirit will speak through them. (3) There is no evidence that the twelve apostles were persecuted at this time, but Jesus told them here that they would suffer serious persecution and some would even die. (4) Verses 22–23 parallel 24:9,13, where they definitely apply to the end time—the Great Tribulation. I believe 10:16-23 pictures the full mission of Jesus followers from the 12—at His first coming—through the present time to the Great Tribulation in the future and His 2nd Coming. This is not unusual: Mi 5:2-4; Is 9:6-7 (24-42—Principles of discipleship for every generation; next week)

II.     Body—Matthew 10:16-23.

A.    “Sheep among wolves”: Understand God’s calling (v.16a); cf. 7:15

1.     Religious persecution (v.17)—“courts and synagogues” run by Jews; “scourge” 39 lashes (Dt. 25:3)

2.     Political persecution (v.18)—“governors (e.g., Pilate) and kings (e.g., Herod)”

3.     Family persecution (vs.21-22)—the most tragic of all;

4.     Questions:

a)     Why does Jesus send sheep to wolves? As a testimony (v.18), but notice His protection: He warned us, His Spirit provides the words, He will save those who endure, and He is coming again to judge and reward.

b)     Why does true Christianity generate such hatred? Jn 3:19-21; Edwin Blum: “Men love darkness not for its own sake but because of what it hides. They want to continue undisturbed in their evil deeds. A believer is also a sinner (though a redeemed one), but he confesses his sin and responds to God.” (BKC)

c)     Why do we have no persecution? Not doing what Jesus commanded (i.e., evangelism)?

B.    “Shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves”: Use God’s wisdom (v.16b); “shrewd” (phronimos; wise, sensible)—not sneaky and deceptive; “innocent” (akeraios; pure, innocent). Together: righteous wisdom (Col 4:5)—4 specific principles:

1.     Beware of men—Don’t be surprised by persecution (v.17, 21-22); “Beware”—“shrewd” not naïve; avoid persecution if possible, but can’t please everybody. Christians may promise comfortable Christianity, but Jesus didn’t; Jn 15:18-21; “After the siege of Rome, in 1849, the Italian statesman Garibaldi issued the following proclamation to his followers: ‘Soldiers, all our efforts against superior forces have been unavailing. I have nothing to offer you but hunger and thirst, hardship and death; but I call on all who love their country to join with me’—and they came in their hundreds.” (Barclay, p.433)

2.     Be persecuted for Jesus’ sake—Don’t invite trouble (vs.18,22); 1 Pet 2:19-20; Jesus’ sake (cause) His way—don’t alienate/anger people unnecessarily; Col 4:6

3.     Be Spirit-led—Don’t worry about what to say (vs.19-20); when you don’t know how to prepare—this is not an excuse for laziness. 2 Tim 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15

4.     Be persistent—Don’t give up until Jesus returns (v.22); “endure” condition for salvation? “saved” (sozo, v.22) does not always refer to justification (e.g., 1 Tim 2:15); here deliverance from tribulation or full reward (overcomers!); Mt 5:10-12.

III.   Closing

A.    What Jesus said was true: Stephen (Acts 7:51-60) | James (Acts 12:1-2) | Polycarp (A.D. 155; arrested because he refused to swear allegiance to the emperor of Rome and curse Christ; “For eight-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?” Judge threatened with burning alive; Polycarp answered that the fire would last only a moment, whereas the eternal fire would never go out; tied to the post, “Lord Sovereign God…I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment…” | John Bunyan wrote “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in prison—he was sent there for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ | In 1535, William Tyndale was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church—his crime? translating the Bible into English | (Feb. 27, 2007) From The Christian Post: An Eritrean Christian man recently died after spending four-and-a-half years in jail for his participation in a banned protestant church. Magos Solomon Semere, 30, died of torture and chronic pneumonia in a facility near the port city of Assab in southeast Eritrea, according to Compass Direct News sources. He died on Feb. 15 after refusing to deny his faith in exchange for medical treatment.

B.    We should thank God every day for the freedom we have to worship in this country without being tortured and killed—the wolves in this country are chained up. We should pray for those—like our brother Magos Solomon Semere—who are in jail, or tortured or dead today for doing exactly what we’re doing right now. And, we should be taking full advantage of our freedom—shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves—“conducting ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders (those who have never trusted Christ), making the most of every opportunity” God gives us.  

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