Encouragement to Confess Christ Openly
5th after Pent.(A)
24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,[a] how much more the members of his household!26"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny[b]? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Perhaps in a sense we can be grateful that, in the wake of the great social upheaval of the 1960s, some (what were then considered) “radical” individuals and groups called America’s awareness and sensitivity to focus on issues of racial inequality, bigotry, poverty and the like. We should have a proper sensitivity and concern. Some back then, however, refused to give patriotic allegiance or to show any honor before our country’s flag, asserting that for them it only represented oppression and exploitation of certain classes and peoples. Patriotism itself then became a volatile issue.
As I remember it, prior to that time most of our citizens proudly and lustily stood and sang the National Anthem at sporting events, for example. Since that time, at least until 9/11/2001, the masses have by-and-large seemed embarrassed to sing and can barely drag themselves erect. The Anthem seems to be a burden that we’re obliged to resentfully tolerate for the few moments it takes, with even many of the athletes we go to see modeling disdain or discomfort. Their shoulders droop and heads hang with stern expressions on their faces. Sadly, many of us who do feel a patriotic twinge have also allowed ourselves to be intimidated into silence. We’ve become ashamed to express our pride and gratitude for what our flag truly does represent.
Let me here remind those who lived through the 60’s and briefly inform those who did not, that the simple cloth bearing stars and stripes in red, white and blue stands for countless lives laid down on our behalf to defend certain freedoms unknown in any other country at any time in history. While it’s true that hatred lives on, planting terrorist bombs and torching churches, and especially of black people (despicable acts of cowardice!), that does not diminish the fact that tens of thousands of White and Black and Hispanic and Asian and Native Indian Americans died for you and me. They gave up their own liberty and pursuit of happiness so that you and I can worship whatever God we please. Most of us can treat ourselves to McDonald’s fries or an ice cream cone whenever we have the hankering. We can travel around without fear of soldiers carting us off to detention camps for simply having a bumper sticker that disagrees with the current National Administration. Although our institutions are far from perfect, we’ve been granted certain privileges which we call “rights” in regards to education, health care, welfare and unemployment benefits if eligible. But we either complain, take it all for granted, or are just plain apathetic!
Contrast our blessings against a war-torn Bosnia, massive genocide in Rwanda not all that many years ago, immense refugee populations in nations all over, and particularly in the Middle East and continent of Africa, mass starvation and horrendous epidemics. You who have traveled beyond our borders know first-hand the comparatively vast wealth and blessing we ourselves enjoy beyond even the imagination of people elsewhere! Yet nothing makes us any more deserving than they are of good things.
Would we rather give up the freedoms and benefits of such great providence showered by God on us, and which are still given to us in spite of our faults and accelerating immorality? How is it even rational to be shamed into silence or be fearful of displaying patriotism in view of the blood shed for us and the wondrous principles and rights at least intended for us all in our Constitution? Our flag does represent the right ideal as well as immense sacrifice and security you and I have had, and I for one am not ashamed, therefore, to express allegiance and honor to our country! (Not arrogant pride, but gratitude.)
This is not merely a patriotic pep-talk though. Our Bible Text leads us to consider the same feelings and attitudes and actions regarding Jesus Christ. Why are we so often reticent, ashamed or afraid to extol and honor Him? How can we be encouraged and strengthened to give Him His just due?
A. IT IS REALISTIC TO EXPECT CRITICISM AS FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST
The first verses of the Text are actually not very comforting. Jesus, our Master, was called “Beelzubul,” the Prince of demons. His disciples and servants, the members of His own household, can realistically expect to be even more seriously maligned, He says.
Right there we tend to be intimidated into silence without really giving attention to the rest of what Jesus has to say. Our fallen natures make us so afraid of what others might think or say about us, that we’re ready right away to “throw in the towel.” Like the naughty child that shrinks back without his parent even lifting a hand to spank, we cower at ghost perceptions. We don’t even get out of the starting blocks. At the very outset we’re guilty of doing what Jesus aims to wean us away from, which is being afraid to speak up for Him.
Be honest with yourself! Many are the times and ways you have denied Christ. But He nevertheless went onto invite us to “Have no fear...”
B. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO CONFESS CHRIST OPENLY
Speak His teaching in the light and proclaim openly what is learned from Him in more private settings, He encouraged. That may sound fantastic and intimidating to us! It’s like Moses telling the Israelites to literally keep God’s Laws always in sight, written on their gates and door posts, on small booklets tied to their wrists and hanging before their eyes, diligently teaching them to their children when sitting or walking or laying down or rising. What could enable in us such commitment to openly speak of Christ and His Word?
He gives a straightforward reason not to fear if we’ll trust Him about it: “Nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” SO WHAT if others do ridicule and call us wimps, whisper behind our backs and spread nasty rumors, or secretly plan to undermine our attempts to serve Christ and His truth(?!). It will all eventually be exposed and made clear who’s really sincere and right-hearted and who are they who are truly the mean-spirited, intolerant and wrong. Especially at the Final Judgment the truth that the Gospel has carried all along will be made manifestly clear to all humanity. Christ’s enemies are destined to not succeed and will be brought to shame. His Word and Gospel, on the other hand, will not fail. It won’t be suppressed, and its saving grace attends us wherever we go.
The Lord’s next point is likewise not intended for us to get hung up on the negative, but that our faith might grasp the contrast between two powers: “Do not fear those who kill the body but can not kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Any evil that enemies of Christ can perpetrate against us is limited. God’s power is vastly greater!
True, if we’re going to give in to the low motive of fear, we’re better off being more terrified of God than even physical death. But God’s intention is not to terrorize us, but to enlarge our faith in Him and His power. The Bible doesn’t only tell of the prophets who were stoned or God’s people put to death, but likewise so often informs us how His Mighty Arm saved His people from all their troubles, freeing them from bondage and jails, lions’ den and fiery furnace, and rescuing them from all kinds of “close calls.” Jesus here invites us to trust HIM for His strength to settle our anxiety and fear.
What’s more, we’re assured of the immense value our Heavenly Father has chosen to vest in us. With us being so much more valuable than the ½-penny sparrows for which God also cares, and ever at any moment even having the numbers of hairs on our heads counted in His vast care for us, God simply will not permit us to be brutalized and abused by His enemies outside of His own occasional purpose or without applying all 3 of these promises in Romans 8: “The sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” “In everything God works for good with those who love Him.” “(Nothing) in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
C. ACKNOWLEDGING CHRIST OPENLY IS ATTENDED BY HIS PROMISE OF THE SAME FOR US
As with America’s flag, Jesus means much more than just some noble cause or principle to follow or uphold. There is an actual date in history that He made the supreme sacrifice and died on our behalf. To honor Him openly and acknowledge Him before men is not a shameful, wimpy thing no matter how far the world has gone to turn it into seeming that way.
It means everything to the Christian believer that Christ’s humble action in willingly suffering and dying on the Cross has reconciled us to God. He died for all our fears and denials as well as every other sin committed in the lives of us all. The undeserved grace and forgiveness of all our sins, earned by the shedding of His Blood, far surpasses any other blessing we’ve known in this life. The impotence of His enemies and detractors then and now is manifest by Christ’s powerful resurrection!
That’s no embarrassment for us; it’s God’s awesome Gospel power of salvation! Again, as with our flag, I for one am not ashamed of that. I’m SAVED by it for goodness’ sake!
Acknowledging Jesus is nothing more than honoring Him in faith by sharing both His teaching and the meaning of His death and resurrection with those who do not deserve it, even as we never did. And the encouragement that caps off the Text from Jesus Himself (and I invite you to try to actually picture Heaven’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords doing this): He says, “Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father who is in Heaven.” Won’t such amazing grace “blow our minds” when we get there!?
Be ashamed of denying Jesus, but don’t be ashamed of HIM! There is no white-washing what a sorry bunch of disciples we are every time we deny or fail to give honor to Christ out of fearfulness. It’s sin, and, if it continues to the extent that it quenches faith altogether, there will come His wilting words of judgment: “I never knew you.”
But Peter denied Jesus and was still saved, wasn’t he? Of course he was, through bitter repentance and tears and learning to trust Jesus for His rich pardon and grace all over again. For us it’s not too late to repent in our hearts right now. Be assured that Jesus intercedes and stands up for you right now. Pray for His Spirit and courage to stand up for Him from now on.
Jeremiah was a man afraid of proclaiming God’s message at first. People did all kinds of nasty things to him when he did what he was supposed to, but God caused his faith to increase to the point that God’s Word became like burning fire in his heart and bones. He just couldn’t hold it in any more!
Jesus gave us 5 things to encourage our growth in faith today:
1. His Gospel truth will prevail and expose every evil secret.
2. God’s power is vastly superior to evil men’s.
3. Our Father’s personal care for us is far greater than we realize.
4. Christ’s own love and power by His Cross and resurrection are ours.
5. He wants and intends to point us out to His Father as those who by grace have acknowledged Him. ASK God for Jeremiah’s “fire in the bones” kind of faith!