Pastor Scott L. Harris
June 13, 1993
Confidence for Disciples
For the last couple of weeks, we have been examining the instructions that Jesus gave in Matthew 10 to the apostles prior to sending them out on their first mission which was to spread throughout Israel the news that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). While many of the things Jesus said to the apostles were specifically to them, there are also principles we examined that apply to us which include: ministry should be focused, the message should be clear, the life should be one of ministry with a heart that trusts the Lord, and there should be a concentration on those who respond and a departure from those who are firm in their unbelief. (See: Instructions for Ministry)
Last week we saw Jesus warning to them that they were being sent out as “sheep in the midst of wolves.” If they were to survive and accomplish their mission, they would have to be as “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” and have full trust and confidence in the shepherd who was sending them. They would face great danger at the hands of false religion, ungodly governments, the society at large, and even from family members. Those same dangers still exist for us, and so we should beware and be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (See: Sheep Among Wolves)
As we begin verse 24 of this chapter, we see that Jesus now changes his tone from being mostly specific to the apostles to general statements that apply to believers of every age. He begins to use the indefinite third person (a disciple, a slave, everyone, whoever, etc.) along with the second person which clearly indicates that He is speaking about every true believer and not just the apostles. What we examine this morning applies directly to us!
We have already seen in the past weeks that persecution will come to those that live righteously. The world hates Jesus, and therefore anyone else that is truly reflective of Him. This morning we will see that again, but at the same time there is a great hope given to us. There is confidence for disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need not fear what may come regardless of the strength and intensity of persecution that may lie before us, for God has given us eternity. We need not fret about our Savior’s love, for God loves us infinitely and He is personally and intimately involved with us.
Those who are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ can have confidence: Confidence in the purpose of their life, Confidence in being used by the Lord,Confidence in the midst of persecution, Confidence in God’s intimate care for us, and Confidence when we stand before God.
CONFIDENCE IN THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
What is the purpose of life? That is a question that I have often asked you to consider and one I ask you to consider again. If you do not understand what your life is all about, you are doomed to reach the end of it and see it as a waste. That was even the conclusion of Solomon when he was living his life apart from God. If you live to gain fame, Solomon said, “For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 2:16). If you live to gain riches it will not satisfy to start with, for as Solomon said, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10), and in the end you cannot take it with you, “all the fruit of my labor. . . I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19). If hedonism is your thing, living life to enjoy pleasure, then remember that Solomon concluded that it too was “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). Solomon’s final comment about pleasure needs to be heeded, “. . . follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring to judgment for all these things” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
The purpose of the Christian’s life is to become like Jesus Christ. Look at Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;”
You were saved for the purpose of becoming like Jesus Christ. That is the same principle we find in the opening verses of our text this morning.
Matthew 10:24, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master.” Stop there for the moment.
Remember that a disciple is simply a learner, a student of a teacher. The goal of the student is to become like the teacher. This does not mean that the disciple will become equal to the teacher, but like, similar to the teacher. He will gain the teacher’s qualities. The same is true about the statement concerning the slave. The slave will not become the master’s equal, but will take on the master’s qualities so that those who meet him will know to whom he belongs. Luke 6:40 tells us this truth too, “A pupil (Mathates – same as in Matthew 10:24) is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” If you are a true Christian, then you are a disciple by definition. As we shall see as we go on, not all disciples are true Christians, but every true Christian is a disciple and the purpose of the Christian’s life is to become like Jesus Christ in character.
The analogy of pupil and teacher speaks to the volitional aspect of man. A disciple willingly and purposely gives himself over to the teacher in order to become like him. The analogy of a slave speaks about the volition of the master for the slave’s volition is subjugated to the masters. Both of these analogies speak to our relationship to God. We are disciples who by our volition strive to be like Jesus, but we are also chosen and purchased by Jesus so that “we are not our own, but bought with a price.” We are His slaves and subject to His will. The purpose of our life is to learn and become like our master. When people meet us they should be able to tell to whom we belong.
The Scriptures state clearly the purpose of our lives which is to be reflective of the Savior and accomplish His will. We can, therefore, be confident that our lives are meaningful and worthwhile.
Before we look at the next verse, we must also take into account the warning given at the end of verse 24, “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household.” Here Jesus transfers
to a family analogy and tells us plainly that if we become like Him and they called Him Beelzebul, then we can expect no less.
Beelzebul (also Beelzebub & Baalzebub) is a reference to a Canaanite deity which came to be a common reference term for Satan. And the false religious leaders did call Jesus that. We will see that in detail when we get to chapter 13. Take note that if Jesus was called Satan, then we are certainly going to be called the same and worse. The apostle Paul certainly understood this, that is why he could write in Philippians 3:10, “. . . that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed into His death.” Part of our fellowship with Christ will be the suffering we will undergo, just as He did at the hands of sinful men, because we are like Him.
CONFIDENCE IN BEING USED BY THE LORD
Now the thought of suffering is never pleasant, but in the midst of persecution that may arise we can be confident that we will be used by the Lord to accomplish His will. We will be able to fulfill the purpose of our lives. Look at verses 26, 27, “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.”
There was much that the disciples were learning from Jesus as they began to understand the Old Testament correctly, but there was also new revelation being given. There were mysteries that were coming to light. This is the reference to the things that are “covered” and “hidden.” There was the mystery of Israel being cut off and the church being grafted in (Romans 11:24, 25), The mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:3,4,9; 6:9, etc.), The mystery of the resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:51), the mystery of the husband/wife relationship being reflective of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). All these various things that before were covered and hidden were revealed and made known. From the book of Revelation, we know that there are still things we do not understand that are yet to be revealed, and one day they will be revealed.
The phrase, “what I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light,” refers to Jesus often teaching His disciples privately. The phrase, “what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops,” refers to the practice the Jewish Rabbis of that time had in training their students. They would stand beside them and whisper in their ears and what the student heard whispered he would then speak aloud. The reference to shouting it from the housetops was the common Middle Eastern method of making both official and personal announcements. The Islamic practice of announcing prayer times from a minaret is reflective of this custom.
What Jesus is in effect telling us in this day and age, is that we have had the word of God whispered in our ears through the Scriptures. We are to proclaim that message publicly with nothing held back. We are to proclaim the sections of Scripture that provoke as well as the comforting one. The whole counsel of God is to be proclaimed, not just the parts you like.
A classic example is John 3:16-21. Everyone likes verses 16 and 17, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” Those are great and precious words, but they are only part of the message. Read on through to verse 21. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment,that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deed should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
The gospel is wonderful news of God’s mercy and grace, but the whole gospel also contains the message of His judgment. Remember, Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4).
As an aside, let me just stress here that Christianity does not have any secrets. Everything is revealed. Because of this there is no such thing as a “Christian” secret society and Christians have no business belonging to such fraternal orders and lodges that have secret rites and ceremonies such as the Masonic Lodge and other groups. They do not further the true gospel; therefore they can in no way assist a Christian in fulfilling the purpose of his life. If you are part of such an organization, quit wasting your time and going contrary to this principle of Scripture.
CONFIDENCE IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION
Now that last statement could make people involved with such groups upset and mad. I had a friend who was asked to pastor a small Baptist church out in the country. He was there a couple of months when one of the Deacons asked him to go to a meeting of the local Free Masons. He then found out that all of his deacons belonged to the group, and when they found out his opposition to the group, and there is more to be opposed about the group than just the fact it is a secret society, they forced him out of the church.
My friend faced opposition and minor persecution. When it arose, he had a choice to make. Would he set out to please God? Or man? In verse 28, Jesus tells us that we can have confidence in the midst of persecution because we serve the sovereign God. “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The very worse thing that men can do is kill your body. They cannot touch your soul. The most Satan can do is kill your body for even he cannot touch your soul if you are in Christ. Remember, Satan is not the ruler over Hell now nor will he be in the future. In the future Satan will be a captive who is tormented in Hell (Matthew 25; Revelation 20). The only one that has power over both the body and the soul is God. He is able to destroy both, and that is “destroy” as in great loss or ruin, not annihilation. It is the same word as in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “And these will pay the penalty (those who do not know God and obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ – verse 8) of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” We need not fear men or Satan and his hosts. We do need to fear, in the sense of awe, respect and honor, God.
Now fear is a real emotion that can lead us to do all sorts of things, but if we keep our eyes on the truth and hold to the promises of God, fear will not control us. When Hugh Latimer was to preach before King Henry VIII he reports that he said to himself, “Latimer! Latimer! Remember that the king is here, be careful what you say.” Then upon reflection he said to himself, “Latimer! Latimer! Remember that the King of Kings is here; be careful of what you do not say.” Because of such unflinching faithfulness to Christ he was later burned at the stake. But Latimer feared failing God more than he feared offending men. We should be the same, and our confidence in doing so is that while man may harm us physically, they cannot harm the soul.
CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S INTIMATE CARE FOR US
We also have confidence to face what lies before us because of God’s intimate care for us. Jesus illustrates that personal concern in verses 29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Sparrows then are like sparrows now. They were very common and practically worthless. They were served roasted as a very cheap finger food, an appetizer if you will. They sold for the value of an asserion, the smallest coinage in circulation which was worth about 1/16 of a common labor’s daily wage. Yet God is even aware of the activity of such inconsequential animals. God is so intimately involved with you that he even knows the number of hairs on your head – talk about trivial knowledge, and for some of you that is an ever changing and diminishing total. If God takes notice of such mundane things as the number of hairs on the head, then how much more does he consider the condition of your soul which is of such greater importance? You are worth more than sparrows; you can be confident of God’s intimate care and love for you.
CONFIDENCE WHEN WE STAND BEFORE GOD
As we fulfill the purpose of our lives of carrying out the Lord’s will and being changed into His image, then we will be able to stand firm against any challenge thrown against us. We can have confidence that we can carry out the Lord’s will even in the midst of persecution while taking refuge in the fact of His intimate care for us. We will also be able to be confident when we stand before Him.
Verses 32, 33, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. The idea of confession is to “say the same thing as another,” to “voice agreement with him.” Confession of Jesus means to agree with Him about who He is, and that is more than simple acknowledgement of facts. It is a declaration of your true belief, which carries with it the dedication to live according to your belief. I have said it before, I will say it again. You can say anything you want, but your true beliefs will be demonstrated by your actions. Jesus is not talking here about a verbal acknowledgement; it is an affirmation of your true belief. “Shall confess” is in the future indicative case, meaning it is an on-going affirmation, not a confession that happened once.
In addition, this confession, this affirmation of your true belief in Jesus, is to be public – “before men” in our text. Remember the context here contains persecution. It is the willingness to confess that Jesus is your Lord and to continue to do so even when that will cost you, possibly even your life. Jesus says that to those who will do that, He will confess before the Father in Heaven.
But there is a flip side to this too. Verse 33 “But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.” People do not like this verse because it is frightening. They quickly go to the doctrine of eternal security and claim “once saved, always saved.” They also quickly point out Peter’s denial and say, “see, Peter denied Christ and was saved, so I must be safe too.”
Let me point out two things. First, while I believe in eternal security, I also believe there are a lot of people who have a false security because regardless of what they say they believe, they are not saved. We saw that point very clearly in Matthew 7 where Jesus talks about those who do all sorts of things in His name including prophesy, miracles, casting out demons, but Jesus does not know them. They are those who practice lawlessness and are sent away.
Second, Peter denied Christ prior to his receiving the Holy Spirit and Peter confessed that as sin and spent the rest of his life professing Jesus publicly even though it meant time in jail, persecution, and eventually martyrdom.
Jesus’ words here are plain enough. The grammar and context specifically indicates Jesus is talking about false disciples who fear men more than God and deny Jesus in order to gain favor with men, or even fail to profess Jesus in order not to incur the disfavor of men. Jesus will do likewise, and deny them before the Father. The commentator Lenski puts it this way, “Jesus is here . . . [referring to] disciples who, because of men, fail to confess him . . . “Many fear to lose the favor of men and the profit and the advantages men offer them. In thousands of cases self-deception veils the secret motive, for the heart is deceitful above all things. The consequences are terrible beyond all description. In 7:23 we have the very words with which Jesus in turn will deny those who denied him. Confusion, dismay, consternation, eternal misery will overwhelm them. Would to God that the warning might strike home in all disciples and doubly in the pastors who are to lead others!”
What is the confidence we can have? We know our purpose of life is to become like Jesus Christ and do His will. We have confidence that we will carry out the work that He has set before us for He empowers us to do it. We have confidence in the midst of persecution because men cannot affect our souls. We have confidence in God’s intimate care for us. He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. We have confidence when we stand before God because our lives are marked by our confession of Jesus.
This kind of confidence is seen in the story of the “Emperor’s Wrestlers”. In the days of Nero, there was a band of soldiers called the “Emperor’s Wrestlers.” They were hand picked from the best, bravest of the land. In the great amphitheater they upheld the arms of the emperor against all challengers. Their song before the throne was, “We, the wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Emperor, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor’s crown.” And one point in time this band of brave soldiers was sent to Gaul (modern France) where they proved to be the bravest and most loyal of all Rome’s armies. But news reached Nero that many Roman Soldiers had accepted the Christian faith. Nero sent a decree to Vespasian, the Centurion in charge of the band that said,“If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!”
The decree was received in the middle of winter where the band was encamped by the shore of a frozen lake. Vespasian called the soldiers together and called on all those who held to the Christian faith to step forward. Instantly forty wrestlers stepped forward, saluted, and stood at attention. He read the decree and told them they would have until sundown to make their decision as to whether they would deny Christ and live or hold to Him and die.
At sundown Vespasian once again called the soldiers together and asked those who held to Christ to step forward. All forty stepped forward again. Vespasian pleaded for them to deny the Lord and live, but none were persuaded. He was unwilling to have their comrades carry out the emperor’s decree, so he ordered them to strip and march to the center of the lake where they would be at the mercy of the elements. The men took off their clothes and formed into four columns and marched to the center of the lake singing a new version of their wrestlers song, “Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee the victor’s crown!”
Through the long hours of the night, Vespasian watched and waited by the fire as the wrestler’s song became fainter and fainter and the elements did their work. As the morning drew near, one lone figure, overcome with exposure crept to the fire. In the suffering he had renounced his Lord. Faintly but clearly from the darkness came the song, “Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee the victor’s crown!”
As Vespasian heard this and saw the tragic figure by the fire something happened within him. Perhaps he saw clearly for the first time. He took off his helmet and clothing and sprang onto the ice crying, “Forty wrestlers,wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory, and from Thee, the victor’s crown!”
Where do you stand today? There is confidence for true disciples, but tragedy awaits those who are false. Are you out on the lake or by the fire?
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