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WARNINGS AND ENCOURAGEMENTS (Fear God, not men)

Luke 12:1-12:12
Key Verse: 12:5

Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel has the background in chapter 11. Because Jesus did not first wash before the meal, the Pharisee who invited him was surprised. Then Jesus poured out woes against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the experts in the law. It was to help them to repent and restore the right relationship with God. But what was their reaction? According to 11:53-54, they began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.

Look at verse 1. ”Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another…” what is the circumstance of Chapter 12? At the beginning of the Chapter, we see the crowd of many thousands who gathered around Jesus. The crowd of people was so many so that they were trampling on one another. Probably, they were so inspired by the word of Jesus spoken with spiritual authority and compassionate heart. Maybe, they came to Jesus for his healing touch for their own sicknesses and their loved ones’. Outwardly, the popularity of Jesus was soaping to the peak. But Jesus knew the growing opposition of the religious authorities in proportion to his popularity.

In this situation, what did Jesus do? Look at verse 1b. “Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Jesus turned to his disciples first and gave them warnings and encouragements written in today’s passage. These warnings and encouragements would guide Jesus’ disciples to overcome upcoming hardships and grow as future spiritual leaders for the gospel ministry. I pray that these words of Jesus to his disciples may be also be his warnings and encouragements to each of us as we follow Jesus and grow as future spiritual leaders in this generation.

First, “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees.” Look at verse 1b again. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” What is the yeast? It is the living organism used to bake a bread. Even though very small amount is put into the dough of flour, it grows powerfully and spread to the whole dough. In the same way, the bad influence of the Pharisees will be spread powerfully among the disciples if they are not on their guard against it. Jesus knew that the disciples are also vulnerable for the bad influence due to their sinful nature in the tempting environment. The bad influence of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy. In what sense, are the disciples vulnerable to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? It was easy for them to live before people when the popularity of Jesus along with theirs were growing. Hypocrisy starts when a person began to live before people and seek people’s praise and recognition.

Look at verse 2 and 3. “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.” It is easy to ignore what is done in secret because no one can see. But God can see everything that is hidden in our heart and life. Also, in the end everything hidden will be revealed, if not in this life, in the final Judgement seat of Christ. Therefore, the disciples of Jesus must concern on hidden things in their heart more than what is seen to the eyes of the people. In other words, we can overcome hypocrisy when we live before God who can see even what is done in secret. We must come to the light of Jesus. So Paul said in Romans 13:12. “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Second, “Fear God, not men.” In order to live before God and overcome our hypocrisy, we must know who God is. So Jesus told his disciples who God is. Look at verse 4 and 5.”I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid to those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” First, we must know who men are. Men are very limited. What men can do their worst is to kill the body and after that can do no more. But many people fear men when they seek men’s praise or recognition. The best example is King Saul. He feared people even though he was a king with higher authority over anyone in his kingdom. Out of fear, he listened to people instead of obeying God. We must know that the fear of men is at the root of hypocrisy. We must overcome the fear of men if we want to grow as a man of God who seek God’s honor and recognition. Then, how can we overcome fear of men? Jesus gave us clear answer. “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Who is “him” here Jesus was talking about? Of course, it is not men. It is not even the devil. Even though the devil holds the power of death, he has no power to throw anyone to hell. Instead, the hell is prepared for the devil and his angels along with the unbelieving sinners. It is God whom we should fear. Then why should we fear God? It is because God is different from men. He is the only One who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. It means that God is the Final Judge of all men, and even spiritual beings. That is why Eccl 11:13,14 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” It is the constant teaching of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God is the Judge of all. God is real, the devil is real. In the same way, as the kingdom of God is real, hell is real. As we studied last week though the gospel key verses, Rev 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” That is why we must fear God. But this fear is different from the fear of men. This is the holy fear of God that leads men to repentance and faith in Jesus, who is our only Savior and our only Mediator. In 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” to a congregation in Connecticut. In his sermon, he described the imminent danger of hell awaiting every man, woman and child. He urged them to accept Jesus as their Saviour and turn from sin. Sinners are lost without the grace of God. This sermon sparked the fire of the revival during the Great Awakenings in America. Jesus is our only hope. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and turn from sin, we become children of God. So Jesus said in Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” God does not only has power to throw us into hell, but he also has authority to give us eternal life in the kingdom of God. When we fear God, we cannot live hypocritical life. When we fear God, we truly live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus. Heb 12:28 and 29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” When we fear God, we can truly love God and serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness. When we fear God, we are full of wisdom because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov 9:10). Most of all, when we fear God, we can overcome the fear of men.

I was a man of fear. I suffered with all kinds of fear, including unknown fear. Because of fear I could not function as a normal man. But when I accept Jesus as my Savour and became a child of God, the holy fear of God came to me. I could overcome my sinful habits and challenge my life with faith in God. But I still find my lack of fear of God that makes me sensitive to what people think of me and become hypocritical. I newly accept that God is the only One I should fear, and live before God with repentance and faith in Jesus.

Third, “You are worth more than many sparrows.” Now Jesus gives the words of encouragement to his disciples after warnings. Look at verses 6 and 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 is numbered. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” These verses tell us that our God is the Sovereign Lord of our life. The sparrows are of little value among all birds and are sold with a few pennies. But not one of them is forgotten by God. How much more does God remembers his own precious children? From time to time, we feel that we are forgotten by God when we face hardships that seems beyond our control. But God never forget his children. He knows everything about us. He even knows the number of our hairs of your head and my head at this time. No matter how hard our situation might be, we must remember that God is in control over our life with full care and protection, and in all things he works for the good of those who love him and who has been called according to his purpose. We will fear nothing or no one when we when we fully trust in God.

Fourth, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” What God wants us to do, instead of being afraid? Look at verse 8 and 9. “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” We must acknowledge Jesus before men. It means we must boldly identify ourselves as Christians before our family, friends, colleagues and even before enemies, and turn the persecution into opportunities to bring the gospel of salvation to the unbelieving world. It is easy to be ashamed of the gospel in this godless and hostile environment where Christians are persecuted everywhere. But we must not be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. When we live as witnesses of Jesus in this world, we have wonderful promise of Jesus. Look at verse 8b. “The Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” Jesus will acknowledge us when we stand before God at the final day. He will give us the crown of righteousness before the angles of God. This hope motivated St. Paul to run the race of faith to the end despite many hardships and sufferings in the course of preaching the gospel of Jesus. Jesus also gave us wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit being with us. Look at verses 11 and 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 would soon go away from the disciples through his death and resurrection. But he will send the Holy Spirit who will be with them as their Wonderful Counselor and Great Comforter. The Holy Spirit will teach them at that time what they should say. This promise should not be used as the excuse for lack of preparation of Bible teaching or message delivery. This means that the Holy Spirit will be with us and tell us what to say at the time of persecution. According to his promise, the Holy Spirit told Steven what to say when he stood before the religious leaders. While he was being stoned to death, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw in a vision the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. His message was heard by Saul who later became Paul the Apostle for the Gentiles. Therefore, we must not fear men nor fear death, but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit and live as witness of Jesus in this generation as the disciples of Jesus did in their own generation. Thank God for giving us the glorious mission to evangelize all of the major cities and campuses of the world in this generation. May God bless us to serve God’s purpose in our own generation with faith in God and the glorious hope of the kingdom of God.

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