What To Fear ~ 20210124 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/24 Jesus; What to Fear; Fear God (Mt.10:28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210124_jesus-what-to-fear.mp3
What Do You Fear?
What are you afraid of? Many fear disease, fear danger, fear loss, fear failure, fear rejection, fear people, fear disappointing others, fear being alone… the list could go on and on.
What are you afraid of? Fear is a natural and normal part of our human existence. Some fears help keep us safe. A healthy fear of heights may keep you from getting to close to the edge and falling. Fear of the dark may keep you from stubbing your toe. Fear of snakes might prevent you from getting bit.
In Mark 4,
Fear of drowning is a legitimate fear. Fear of death, fear of violent storms and shipwreck are all reasonable things to be afraid of.
The disciples had something real to fear. But Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and tells them not to be afraid.
In Mark 6, Jesus was not in the boat. They were again out on the sea, again facing a storm, this time in the dark, this time alone.
The disciples, in the boat battling the storm see a figure approaching them across the water. We already know the story, but put yourself in their boat. That’s terrifying. They thought it was a ghost, a phantasm, a spectre, a spirit. Something unnatural, spiritual, other-worldly. They were rightly afraid.
Do Not Fear What Is Frightening
Do not be afraid. In John 14, when Jesus tells them that he is leaving and they cannot follow, he says:
Jesus commands us ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not fear.’ How? How do we not fear things that are legitimately frightening?
Sheep Among Wolves (Matthew 10)
Look with me to Matthew 10. Jesus tells us what’s coming. He says in verse 16,
If there is one wolf that gets in to the sheep pen, the sheep have much to be afraid of. But here Jesus says he is sending each of us as sheep into the midst of a pack of wolves. One wolf in the sheep pen and one sheep is likely to be torn and carried off, but the rest may hope to escape. But one sheep sent into a pack of hungry wolves has no chance. That’s what Jesus prepares us, his followers for.
You will be arrested. You will be beaten. You will be put on trial and testify. But do not be anxious. Don’t be afraid.
You can really trust no one. You will be hated. You will be persecuted. You may have to flee. You may be betrayed and even put to death. Endure to the end.
Jesus is the teacher, we are his learners. Jesus is the Master, we are his slaves. Jesus was misunderstood, maligned, mistreated, betrayed, taken into custody, falsely accused, beaten, executed. If you follow Jesus, you can expect the same. Encouraging? Frightening? Listen to Jesus’ conclusion:
Jesus prepares us for the worst, and our response is to not be afraid. There will be a tendency when under pressure to be silent, to go into hiding, to lay low. Jesus tells us that we should have no fear, that we should not be afraid, but rather boldly and openly proclaim. ‘So have no fear of them.’
The Freedom of a Greater Fear
In verse 28, Jesus gives us the ground for our freedom from fear in the face of mortal danger.
Jesus tells us both what not to fear, and whom to fear. Freedom from fear comes from a greater fear.
You understand how this works? Fear can be overcome by a greater fear. The Princess Bride throws herself into the water and begins to frantically swim, seeking to escape from her kidnappers. But when she discovers these are eel infested waters, she is willing to be brought back on board and risk her fate with Vincini’s band rather than be eaten by the shrieking eels. The greater and more certain threat makes her willing to endure the lesser threat.
Consider this; if you are deathly afraid of skydiving, your fear may prevent you from jumping out of the plane. But if you have a greater fear of snakes, and you discover that the plane is teeming with the slithering creatures, you may gladly take leave of the plane and entrust yourself to your parachute. Our fears can be overcome by a greater fear.
How many of you would jump out of the plane? How many of you would stay on board and face the snakes? Much of this is subjective, based on perceived danger. People perceive danger differently. But there is real objective danger.
Luke records Jesus’ words in Luke 12:
The fear of being killed is real. This is sobering when we consider the various ways the apostles were tortured and executed. But legitimate fears are overshadowed, overturned, overthrown by a greater fear. Those who can kill the body is high up the list of things to fear. But the fear of God should be greater. In fact, Jesus says we should not fear death, but we should only fear God.
Fear God the Judge
Our greatest threat is not disease, disaster, poverty, famine, or war. God is our greatest threat, the real, objective, all powerful and eternal danger. God has the authority to cast our souls into hell, and it would be right for him to do it! As the Judge of all the earth, it is what we deserve. We all have sinned and fail to give God glory. We were dead in our sins, in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, ...by nature children of wrath. We deserve hell. It’s what we have earned by our God rejecting, God ignoring, God belittling hearts.
It is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he took our punishment on the cross, that offers any hope of escape from what we rightly deserve. And if we would look to Jesus on the cross, God forsaken, crushed, shamed, abandoned, our jaws would drop in stunned horror at he price that was paid for us. A look to the cross should remind us to fear the Lord.
Re-Calibrating Our Fears
Throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to fear the Lord, and the wisdom literature tell us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Ps.111:10; Pr.1:7; 9:10; 15:33). We are commanded and instructed to fear God because our perception of danger is skewed and needs to be corrected. We naturally fear the wrong things. We must continually re-calibrate our fears by the truth of God’s word.
Jesus goes on in Matthew 10 to say:
We ought to fear the real possibility of deceiving ourselves, and one day hearing those terrible words ‘I never knew you, depart from me’ (Mt.7:23).
Flee to Jesus for Refuge
Jesus is coming back. He will judge the living and the dead (Acts.10:42). He will give to each person according to what they have done (Mt.16:27). As 2 Thessalonians predicts;
The Lord Jesus is to be worshiped, and he is to be feared. Recognize that he will surely punish every evildoer, and you are an evildoer. Run to him for forgiveness, for cleansing, for refuge. Hide yourself in him. Be found in him, not having a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, but the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Christ (Phil.3:9). Obey the gospel and be safe.
Back in Mark 4, where Jesus was asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm, when the disciples feared for their lives, when Jesus awoke and calmed the wind and the waves with his word, it says:
They had been afraid of the storm. But they began to realize the one in the boat with them was more powerful, more to be feared than the raging sea. The sea was now calm, and they were filled with great fear. ‘Who then is this?’
Hear this exhortation from the book of Hebrews.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org