FEAR GOD, NOT PEOPLE
Luke 12:1-12 (key Verse: 12:5)
“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
In today’s passage Jesus is surrounded by such large crowds that they are trampling one another. Strangely Jesus by his Messianic power used this uncomfortable teaching environment to give special high level servant of God teachings specifically to his 12 disciples. Do you and I want to be servants of Jesus Christ? If so we must now listen carefully to Jesus servant of God teaching to his disciples. Like all higher level teachings it is not easy listening. Especially it does not itch our ears like one of our favorite podcast we enjoy listening to. Notwithstanding by the grace and help of God and the Holy Spirit we too can learn and apply these servant of God teachings in our own lives.
First Jesus Christ servants must guard against hypocrisy. Look at verses 1-3 “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Jesus teaches the first enemy his servants must guard against is the “yeast of the Pharisees” which is hypocrisy. As a reminder, hypocrisy is behavior and language that contradicts what a person teaches or believes. Yeast as you may know is just a small pinch of a substance bakers add to a batch of dough to leaven the bread when it is heated. Yeast of the Pharisee’s means the corrupt ways of the Pharisees can easily spread to all the disciples if they do not diligently and persistently guard against it. Matthew 23:1-7 Jesus describes in more detail the kind of hypocrisy his disciples must guard against. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
First and foremost Jesus disicples must guard against being bible teachers who do not practice what they preach. According to Romans 2:17-24 Jewish bible teaches taught people not to commit adultery. But they did not practice what they preached. They committed adultery. They taught people not to steal. Yet they stole the wealth of God’s sheep under their care. The worst aspect about religious leaders hypocrisy is that it caused the Gentiles to blasphemy God. Romans 2:23-24: “You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Image a person whose job is to serve God by helping people believe and honor God. Yet because of hypocrisy in one’s life people instead blasphemy God. That is a scary thought. Unfortunately it happens all the time. Some of you may remember when many Catholic priest were being exposed for committing sexual sins against people in their church. While this was going on I was working with construction workers. I remember how the construction workers talk with the highest of disrespect towards the institution of Catholic priest. Since I grew up in the Catholic Church their blasphemy of priest seem very out of order. Obviously not all catholic priest were living a life of hypocrisy . Many I’m sure were very prayerful, caring, sacrificial men. Nevertheless the yeast of hypocrisy from the hypocritical priest spread to all priest in general. It is not only the Catholic Church. Many evangelical churches have experience the same kind of hypocritical leadership. If you allow me to be real then I must add I myself and leadership in UBF has been guilty of the yeast of the Pharisees. In my opinion one of the tragedies of hypocritical Christian leadership is that at minimum it discourages God’s sheep. At worst it can cause them to loose their faith in Jesus Christ. Look at Galatians 2:11-14: “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” Apostle Peter, Jesus Christ top Apostle allowed hypocrisy to infiltrate his life. He lived like gentiles but made the gentiles live like legalistic Jews. He destroyed their faith in the Gospel of God which is faith in Jesus Christ as God’s only means for justification. Moreover his yeast of hypocrisy caused other Jews to join in his hypocrisy. Even Barnabas one of the great first Christian leaders was infected and led astray by Peter’s hypocrisy. When Christian leaders as high as Apostle Peter allow hypocrisy to infiltrate their lives the problem is far to great for a lowly lay Christian man like myself to offer a remedy. Jesus Christ himself must solve it. As for Peter’s hypocrisy Jesus sent Apostle Paul to rebuke him. To Apostle Peter’s credit he repented of his hypocrisy.
I do have my own words of encouragement for those who were very negatively infected by the hypocrisy of spiritual leaders. Let me encourage you not to let the hypocrisy of Christian leaders destroy your faith and passion for Jesus Christ. Moreover let me encourage you to fight to overcome any spiritual bitter root that may grow in you because of Christian leaders hypocrisy. I am very grateful to many of you who prayed countless times for God and Jesus Christ to heal my cancer. I stand here giving this message because of your countless prayers and encouragements. Briefly let me share the spiritual lesson I learn from my cancer. Cancer taught me I must struggle in prayer with all my might to forgive all things I hold against all people. This doesn’t mean I accept injustices. What it means I give all judgement to Jesus and I make a determination to forgive others because my Lord Jesus taught his disciples: “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone forgive them so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.” Mark 11:25 My cancer also taught me I must call on the power of the Holy Spirit to help me over come all spiritual roots of bitterness caused by the hypocrisy of Christian leaders. I have become convinced unforgiveness and bitterness can be triggers to physical cancer. If I am serious about overcoming my cancer then I must be just as serious asking Jesus Christ to help me forgive all people and help me over come all spiritual roots of bitterness.
Second, a servant of Jesus Christ does not need to fear men who can only kill the body and after that do nothing. Look at verse 5: “But I will show whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Matthew 13:40-43 Jesus gives more details about this future day when he will send out angles to throw into hell all those who cause other people to sin and do evil. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
In this world we were born into and raised up in, fear of those things and people who can kill our physical body caused our worst fear. No one taught us we should fear Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ himself teaches we should fear him because he has been given authority from God the Father to send out his angles to throw into a blazing furnace all who cause others to sin and do evil. Many people become angry and offended when they hear biblical teachings that stress the importance to fear God. If the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had feared God, God would not have destroyed their cities with a fierce rain storm of burning sulfur. When they were warn God was about to destroy their city they laughed at the warning and consider it a joke. Going to hell is not a joke. It is absolutely the worst punishment that can happen to any and every person. People who consider hell a joke comfort themselves by saying: “All my friends will be in hell.” There will be no laughing, hi fiving and carrying on in hell. Rather it is a place of eternal thirst, painful torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Words such as love, hope, peace, parole and light do not exist or apply to those in hell. We must always thank God and Jesus Christ for giving us the Gospel of God to save us from having to live forever in hell. Sure we may have a terrible day at work, school or home. Life sometimes might feel like hell. Nevertheless, if you and I still have hope for peace, love, light, goodness, and can pray to God then we can be assure were not in eternal hell. Moreover we must thank and praise God the only being that God has given authority to put us in hell is Jesus Christ, his Son. Imagine if God gave authority to certain men and women to put people into hell. None of us would make it to heaven. Jesus Christ on the other hand, we are taught, while we were living as his enemies died for our sins. He calls us to him like he called Jacob who was full of mistakes and weaknesses. He gives us his powerful blood and the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of acts that lead to death so that we can serve the living God. He is our eternal high priest therefore we can have eternal security knowing he won’t later change his mind and place us into hell. Jesus Christ who is the only one God has given authority to send us to hell is the very reason by God’s grace we will not go to hell. Unfortunately every day bad people kill good people. The good news is never again can these bad people hurt the good people they have killed. I find tremendous comfort in this fact. People who have died with faith in Jesus Christ have gone to be with Jesus forever. Jesus will wipe away their tears. He will generously share his glory and kingdom and eternal life with them. If bad people who kill good people do not repent and believe in Jesus Christ they too one day will die. However when they die who will save them from the second death? Revelation 21:8 reveals what will happen to sinners who do not repent and call on Jesus to save them: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” As for me not going to hell is a wonderful motivator to help me to persistently believe in Jesus Christ and fear Jesus Christ. Additionally with this one single teaching Jesus Christ reduced the number of people we need to fear from billions to just three: God The Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirt. Since God is the author of love, forgiveness and mercy I gladly and gratefully fear God and Jesus Christ.
Let us read together the follow up verses to fearing God and Jesus and not people: 6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Jesus had to teach his disciples how to fear God and he had to un-teach them how not to be afraid of everything else. He does it by teaching how God never forgets even the insignificant sparrows. Even in Israel in the days of Jesus there were countless sparrows flying around. Sparrows were the poor persons substitute for making Jewish religious sacrifices to God. A poor person may not have enough money to buy a lamb to sacrifice. On the other hand they only need two pennies to purchase five sparrows to sacrifice them to God. Jesus informs his disciples even though there are countless numbers of these sparrows flying around, God Almighty does not forget about any of them. He protects and feeds every one of them. When one of them does fall to the ground and dies God knows about it. God in every way is great and awesome. Then Jesus tells his disciples they are worth more than many sparrows. How much more will God not forget to care for all the needs of his people. More than that Jesus teaches God knows his people better than they know themselves. He knows the exact number of hair on our head. The average person has two eyes. Two arms, two legs but only God knows how many hair are on our head. If God didn’t care for our lives and our bodies why would he care about how many hairs are on our head? Jesus adds: “Don’t be afraid you are worth much more than many sparrows.” Do you and I want to live without fear, worry and anxiety. Then we must learn from sparrows. We must let go of our worries and let God provide for us. Summer, fall, winter and spring sparrows fly around without a care in the world. They always look happy and content. Sparrows are one of the smallest and weakest of all birds and creatures. We don’t hear them complaining to God. They have complete faith Creator God Almighty is watching over and protecting and providing for them. Each of us are worth more than many sparrows. Great God Almighty will also watch over, protect and provide if we let go of our worries and let God provide for us. When Mary and I married the only thing of worth I had to offer her was my faith in God and Jesus Christ. My job was paying me about $5:50 cent a hour. Every month I wrote down one prayer topic for God to answer. This prayer topic was for God to provide enough money for rent. Every single month, after month, year after year God provided rent and everything else. I have nothing to be proud of but I am very thankful to God who provides for my family and myself just as he does for the humble sparrows. I know God does not forget about the sparrows and I really believe he never forgets about me. I also really believe he never forgets about each one of you. God is faithful all the time. All the time God is faithful.
Fourth the servant of God absolutely must never disown Jesus Christ or blasphemy the Holy Spirit. Look at 8-10 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
If you’re a member in the U.S. arm forces or have been a member you know there are many rules and therefore many, many mistakes a soldier can make. For example a soldier loosing his government issue weapon is definitely a terrible mistake. Nevertheless, it is not always a career ending mistake. General Colin Powell when he was a young officer lost his government issue .45 during a training maneuver in Germany. Because he had a understanding commander this mistake did not end his career. He went on and eventually became the top General among all the arm serves. On the other hand a soldier that sells or gives classified information to other people or other countries that is a mistake that soldier will never recover from. For the rest of their lives they will be imprison and labeled a traitor to their country. Similarly as a servant of Jesus Christ there are many rules and therefore many mistakes a servant of God can make. Jesus gives two mistakes we must at all cost, even the cost our life by God’s grace never make. First we must never ever, ever, disown Jesus Christ. Jesus warns: “Who ever disowns me before others will be disown before the angles of God.” Jesus Christ uses his angles to both save and destroy. In other words if Jesus Christ acknowledges us before God’s angels we are saved. Read about the times God sent his angles to save his people in the Bible. God’s angles are always 100 percent successful in saving God’s people. On the other hand to those people who disowned Jesus, Christ Jesus will disown them before the angles of God. Which means these people will surely perish. In Isis held communities throughout the Middle East these days and in terrorist attacks by Muslim extremist around the world, again and again you read about them holding a gun or sword to captured Christians head and offering not to kill them if they disown Jesus Christ. By God’s help if we ever were one of their victims we must never disown Jesus Christ even at the cost of our life. Some of you may have heard the life story of Perpetua. She lived in North Africa in AD 202. She was a young mother with a baby. She and a group of other believers were arrested and sentence to death simply because they called themselves Christians and believed in Jesus Christ. Her father a nonbeliever begged her to renounce her faith in Christ, reminding her if she was executed her baby would grow up without a mother. She replied: “Father, do you see this water pitcher? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am-a Christian. On the night before she was to be killed, Perpetua wrote of experiencing God’s comforting strength: “I saw that I should not fight with beasts but with the devil; I knew the victory to be mind.” The next day, the Christians were marched into the arena. There before a crowd of cheering people, Perpetua and the others were killed by wild beast. Secondly Jesus teaches, God servants must never blasphemy the Holy Spirit because it is a sin that never can be forgiven. A person can sin against the Holy Spirit when they attribute works of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to the power and work of the devil. We saw this sin committed earlier when Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit drove a demon from a man that was causing the man to be mute. Thank God this is not a sin we see as common as stealing, coveting, adultery and murder which are in themselves grievous sins but forgivable if we repent. Personally, Jesus warning against sinning against the Holy Spirit has taught me to be careful not to criticize and judge all the many different kinds of Christian ministries. Christian ministries may be doing works I do not agree with. Nevertheless, their works may be inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is best for myself and other people to keep my opinions to myself.
Lastly Jesus disciples must rely on the Holy Spirit when they are brought before rulers and authorities. Look at 11-12 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Jesus servants throughout history have been brought before authorities for their ministries and their acts of faith. Jesus tells them do not worry how to defend themselves. Just trust and believe that at the right time the Holy Spirit will teach what must be said. One of the most significant testimonies about Jesus Christ was said by Apostle Peter when he was brought before rulers because he healed a cripple man by faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:8-13 reads: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Notice when Apostles Peter and John trusted in the Holy Spirit to guide them in what to say to these rulers and authorities, they stood and spoke as courageous men. In other words they did not fear men but feared God and Jesus Christ. Moreover Peter spoke words which could only have been inspired by the Holy Spirit: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” By allowing the Holy Spirit speaks through him, Peter made it vividly clear, Muhammad , Buddha, Hindu gods, Moses laws, higher education, money and the countless other cults are all powerless to save. God of Heaven gave one name, and only one name every human being must believe in and call on to be saved: Jesus Christ.
All servants of Jesus and all Christians need the Holy Spirit if we are to guard against hypocrisy, if we are to put into practice Jesus teachings not to fear people but fear God and Jesus. God is forever faithful to us and will never forget us. I pray God will use this message to help us not to disown Jesus Christ but depend on the Holy Spirit to acknowledge him in every and all areas of our life.