Facing a Fearful World.
Read: MATTHEW 10:1-33
In the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attacks – like:
the November attack in Paris that took so many lives…
followed so quickly by the San Bernardino attack in December…
Then the foiled attack here in Rochester on New Year’s Eve…
These added to the constant news of ISIS and its horrific growth and action, coupled with the upcoming election…
It seems only natural for fear to begin to rule the day.
Believers and unbelievers alike – at this moment in time – can be absolutely ruled by fear of what’s coming next.
As Vishal Mangalwadi wrote in: The Book that Made Your World – “In turbulent times, people tend to bow to whoever promises security, stability, and justice.”
Yet, for those who are in Christ by faith, God’s Word bids us to a very different mindset.
The Biblical mindset is not one that ignores that some things are truly fearful – but one that is driven by faith MORE than fear.
One that recalls a sovereign God still working in His world.
A mindset ruled more by the revealed truth of His Word than by the news, the commentators, the pundits – AND, our own imaginations.
This is not to ignore very real and present dangers – but it is to put them back into perspective.
Back into the framework that reminds us that God has a plan for human history – and that all things will be seen finally to converge into the fulfillment of that plan – no matter how scary and out of control the world around us is, or seems.
This is the hope – and not a BASELESS hope – but the ASSURED hope of those who are Christ’s by faith in His atoning death.
Those who are born again by the Spirit of God.
If there is one thing I personally find increasingly troublesome in our own secular age, it is how easily people seem to be placated, at least for small amounts of time, by mere, sentimental platitudes spun out in every direction.
Biblical hope does not just emptily say: “Things will be alright.”
Or even just “FEAR NOT”.
The Prophet Jeremiah faced a remarkably parallel situation to ours in his day in ancient Israel.
His nation, on the brink of economic collapse and military destruction by a foreign nation – said this by the Holy Spirit: Jeremiah 6:12–15
12 Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together, for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,” declares the Lord.”
Why should such a situation exist? He goes on: 13 “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.
And when such corruption exists, prophets and priests and those who wish to calm their own souls will turn to empty platitudes to make themselves and others feel better.
Jeremiah describes that condition this way: 14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
And why no real peace? 15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord.
A powerful and insightful indictment.
I for one cannot imagine that our own nation will be spared further troubles, even by the hand of God in the face of our own moral and spiritual decline.
Indeed, only a wholesale revival, a supernatural outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon the Church – calling us AS THE CHURCH back from our sin and compromise in as much as we too have fallen into rank materialism and moral ambiguity – and then on the general populace – calling multitudes to forsake their sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
But as we pray and wait for such a revival – IF, the Lord should be pleased to pour it out before what remains of our Biblically informed culture (even if it is only informed in the slightest bit) is snuffed out altogether – what hope, what help can the Believer count on in such fearsome times?
The New Testament speaks to this tendency to fearfulness in 4 key places.
3 by Jesus Himself.
But 4 places I’d like to examine just briefly with you this morning.
And I want you to take notice in each of these, that the command to “fear not” is never spoken in the abstract – as an empty platitude without foundation.
In each case, there is a “BECAUSE”. A “FOR” – that calls us to rest in a Biblical reality which is the comfort of those in Christ – no matter what the external circumstances may be.
It is NOT a word to us that we will be spared what is genuinely fearful.
Nor is it an encouragement to all mankind that they can just keep on defying the right of God to rule their hearts and lives and assume He will bless them anyway.
These things, belong properly and exclusively to those are truly His by faith.
The 1st comes to us in the passage we had read for us as we began this morning:
- Matthew 10:16-23 / 28–31 Fear not, because God’s Children are greatly valued by Him.
The context here is familiar to all of us.
Jesus is sending His 12 disciples out on their first mission to teach, preach and heal in Judea.
And He pulls no punches. This is a mission that is going to be fraught with danger.
So He prefaces everything by warning them: 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved…
And if that were all He said – I’ve little doubt anyone would have gone a step further. The 12 would have said: “NO THANKS!”
But He doesn’t stop there.
Yes, the dangers will be real, and they will be harrowing and fearful.
But listen to what comes next: 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Did you catch that last phrase?
This isn’t just “chin up! You’re off doing God’s work you know” – no.
He then says no matter what, you have to keep in mind this amazing fact of just how valuable you are in the eyes of your God.
Christian, you are not expendable fodder – just pawns on a cosmic chessboard.
You are God’s won children, His prize, His dear children, choice in His eyes.
Now the Disciples at this point had little more than Jesus’ word on it.
But we – we have the Cross to look back upon.
As Believer’s we can see what He was willing to pay in order to secure us unto Himself.
What a cost! The very life and blood of Christ the everlasting Son!
So we can exclaim with the Apostle Paul: Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
2. Luke 2:8–14 / Fear not because our Savior has come.
We can hardly pass up this next passage especially at this time of the year where we have just celebrated the incarnation.
The words in this text, are glorious words spoken to the Shepherds by angels when they appeared to them announcing Jesus’ birth.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Once again notice that the admonition to “fear not” is not in the abstract – not even “fear not because we said so” – even tho they were angels!
No, the shift from fear to faith is rooted here in that fact the Savior has been born –
Born as prophesied –
Born in the City of David as prophesied –
And that this Savior is Christ – THE LORD!
God in human flesh!
Peter alludes to this same concept in 1 Peter 3 – something we’ll unpack in more detail later in our study there –
But notice this for now: 1 Peter 3:13–15 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
We face the worst of all the uncertainty of this fearful world in its fearful state by refusing to give these fearful things any honor in our hearts – but instead – honoring Jesus Christ as the Lord and Sovereign Ruler over all – even over the worst of our enemies!
And THAT Beloved – in this fearful age, is so absolutely counter-intuitive and contrary to human reasoning – that in these dark times, people will be compelled to seek us out and ask us why we are not all tied up in the same knots they are over everything.
It is a testimony to our God of the highest order when we face fearful things in such utter confidence and joy because of Christ.
Christ has come.
The Lord of all is alive forever more!
3. John 12:12–15 / Fear not because God’s Word is true and unfailing.
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
Why should Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem be of any comfort at all – so that Jesus should say to them “fear not” on this occasion?
The connection isn’t hard to make: Even the most obscure of details in prophecy cannot fail – but will all be fulfilled.
If even this seemingly insignificant and obscure prophecy from Zechariah 9 – uttered some 500 years earlier – was certain, then how absolutely sure are His other promises?
The promise to cleanse from all sin and guilt – everyone who comes to Him by faith.
His intention to keep all of His own and lose none of us –
His promise to be always with us, even to the very end of time –
His promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit –
His promise to complete the work of conforming us to His image –
The promise of His 2nd coming –
The promise of the resurrection unto eternal life of every Believer –
The promise of eternal life and the New Heavens and the New Earth –
The promise of the end of all sin, all suffering, and injustice, all pain and sorrow and tears and death!
Fear not – Because “Heaven and earth will pass away, but not the slightest jot or tittle of His Word will in any wise fail.
Not one letter or punctuation point!
4. Revelation 1:9–18 / Fear not because of who and what Christ is in His reigning glory and power.
Last, consider this portion in Rev. ch. 1.
John is on the Island of Patmos when he receives this incredible vision of Jesus Christ.
He sees and hears Jesus – who commissions him to send messages to the 7 churches in Asia Minor.
In that vision he sees Jesus represented in unspeakable glory – and depicted as walking among His churches.
He is clothed in a long robe –
He has a golden sash around His chest
His hair is white like wool
His eyes like a flame of fire and His feet like burnished bronze
His voice is like the roar of many waters
In His right hand He holds 7 stars –
From His mouth comes a sharp – two-edged sword
And His face is shining like the sun in its full strength.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
The Christ who has come in human flesh and walked among us –
Is the same Risen Christ who STILL walks among His Churches – from the most faithful and dedicated, to the weakest and most infirm.
And this Christ, our Lord and Savior Jesus is:
- “The first and the last” – The one who is the sum of all God’s plans and purposes.
- “The living one” – Crucified but risen – with power over death.
- Has “the keys of Death and Hades” – Has absolute authority over all life and death, and the judgment of all sin in the flames of Hell itself.
Satan does not rule Hell – Christ does!
ISIS does not rule death – Christ does!
The Congress doesn’t have ultimate authority – Christ does!
No political party has carte blanche – Christ does!
No power on earth has absolute power and authority – Christ does!
And this Christ, this Jesus, is the one who gave His life for us, that we might have cleansing from all sin and guilt in His own blood –
That we might be delivered from the wrath of God –
And who will ultimately judge all humanity in perfect righteousness – with the power to carry out final sentence upon all.
This one is the Believer’s Savior, Healer, Master, Friend and Brother.
FEAR NOT! Christian.
We’ve no true idea of just how much value God places upon His children –
Our Christ has come and died for our sins and risen again –
Every minute prophecy about Him He completely fulfilled, which gives us every ground to believe the remaining promises He will still fulfill
And in His resurrected glory He rules and reigns not just in Heaven – but over the earth and all those in it.
FEAR NOT! Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
Now let me ask – do you know Him as YOUR Lord?
Or is this Christ your enemy?
If He is not your Lord, if you’ve not been reconciled to Him, you have EVERYTHING to fear.
This world is a terrifying place and you ought to be terrified in it.
More, God’s judgment upon all who reject Him is infinitely more terrifying yet!
But if you are His by faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, you have NOTHING to fear, no matter how fearful things may be.
Nothing to fear in all of Heaven or Earth.
Nothing past, nor present nor yet in the future.
For as the Apostle Paul so potently said: Romans 8:31–39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.