February 25 & 26, 2017 Mission Festival
“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Three weeks ago the Super Bowl took place at NRG Stadium in Houston. If you watched the game, you saw a stadium filled with people, nearly 71,000 of them. Some were fans of the Patriots and others fans of the Falcons. There were others there just to be there. Maybe, as you saw all the people, you began thinking, “Who are all these people? Where do they live? What are they all about?” Well, these are people for whom Christ died. But do they know about Jesus? Do they know that Jesus is their Savior? It’s a question with an answer that is eternally important. All those people in the stadium need to know that answer.
Jesus felt that same way. There were no Super Bowls when he walked the earth, but there were crowds. Jesus went through towns and villages preaching the good news, healing, and driving out demons. He was drawing crowds. When he saw them he had compassion on them. He wanted them to know that he was there to save them. He wants everyone in Phoenix metro area to know that too, all 4.5 million of us. Now he is asking you to tell them. Today Jesus urges you to, Speak Fearlessly! Because God defends you, God owns you and God knows you.
I wish I could tell you that speaking about Jesus was easy, but I’d be lying if I did. Make no mistake about it. Speaking about Jesus is a tough business. It’s not tough because you have to study much and for a long time before you know the right things to say. You already know the basics. We’re sinners heading to hell. Jesus saved us by living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and coming back to life. What makes speaking about Jesus tough, are the other people. You never know how they are going to take it.
Jesus doesn’t set our expectations too high as he urges us to tell others about him. He lowers them dramatically. “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” They called Jesus Beelzebub. Beelzebub is the name for the chief of the devils, Satan. They called Jesus, Satan. What irony. God comes to earth to fight the devil and he gets called the devil. Do you think you’ll fare any better when you speak about Jesus? You won’t.
“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” We, the students, will be like Jesus, the teacher. We, the servants, will be like Jesus, the master. So what expectations should we have when we speak about Jesus? Expect to be called names. Expect to be laughed at. Expect to be ignored and maligned. Jesus was. It would be nice if everyone to whom you spoke about Jesus hugged you and jumped up and down for joy because you just opened heaven’s gates for them, but Jesus teaches us that it is enough to be just like him.
But do we believe him when he says that it is enough, that it is sufficient, to be called a devil? Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes God helps us to give a great and glorious confession of Jesus as grandpa lies there dying of cancer. Sometimes we boldly tell that co-worker that Jesus is his Savior. Then sometimes we don’t. Instead of talking about Jesus to our grieving friends, we give them hugs and tell them that everything will be okay, and stop there. When a business contact brings up religion, we say all the right things and try not to offend. And we sweep Jesus out of sight where he can’t upset anybody.
We’ve all done it. All too often we’ve been ashamed to speak about Jesus. That shows our deep sinfulness. Jesus gave his all to save us from our sins and we feel ashamed to speak to others about him? God should be so ashamed of us that he can’t stand to look at us, that he turns his back on us in disgust forever. That we deserve.
But God was not ashamed of you. He didn’t turn his back on you, but on his own Son, Jesus, on the cross. And Jesus has given you the greatest honor by being your substitute before God. On the cross he took your punishment for your sins. He paid for them with his death. Then he said, “Here. Take my perfect life. Put it on. Father, look at my beautiful, perfect disciples. They are forgiven and loved by me. They are holy and innocent because of me. I’m not ashamed of them. I’m proud to call them my brothers and sisters because I’ve given them my perfection.” Jesus is not ashamed of you. He’s proud to call you his own because he has given you the greatest honor and highest gift, his very life.
Now listen to the Lord who loves you. “So do not be afraid of them.” It is so easy to be afraid of the sarcasm, the potential loss of business, and the destruction of various relationships when we speak about Jesus. It is so easy to miss opportunities, to keep quiet, to stay off in the corner of the lunch room rather than put our faith on the line. We need to listen to our Lord and let him comfort us. He says, “So do not be afraid of them.”
Why not? God defends you! “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” You might say, “Pastor, I don’t hear God defending me in that verse.” Listen more carefully. There is nothing concealed, nothing hidden that will not be made known. What is concealed right now? What is hidden? It is what you suffer when you speak fearlessly about Jesus. Hardly anybody knew when your friend turned up her nose at your faith. It was a secret to most of the world when you neighbor heatedly called you arrogant and cocky for thinking you knew the truth. What you suffer is often hidden and concealed right now, but not forever. Jesus says that it will be made known. God will let your truthfulness shine for everyone to see on the last day. God will defend you.
So go ahead and speak fearlessly. Tell everybody about Jesus. “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” Jesus spoke things confidentially, secretly to only his disciples. That’s how he was “speaking in the dark.” Now Jesus wants his disciples to take what he has taught them and proclaim it from the rooftops. Jesus is simply saying, “Tell it publicly. Talk about me to as many people as possible.” Go ahead and do it. God defends you.
Picture yourself sitting at a coffee shop with Jesus. You’re sharing your deepest fears with him, your best friend. You say, “Jesus, I’m still scared to talk about you. I don’t want to be rejected.” He answers in that caring, straightforward way of his, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” He’s got a point doesn’t he? You want to be afraid of something? Go ahead and be afraid, but don’t be afraid of speaking about Jesus. Be afraid of God. Be afraid of the one who can hurt you forever.
You see, God owns you. He has every right to make demands of you. He has every right to do with you whatever he wants. God owns you. People don’t. They can hurt your feelings. They can take away your job. They can kill you, but they don’t own you. Only God does and God wants you to speak fearlessly.
You’re still sitting across from Jesus at the coffee shop. You see his expression soften and his tone change. He says, “You don’t have to be afraid of my Father. Let me tell you why. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” In Jesus’ day, you could buy two sparrows for so little. These inexpensive, relatively useless birds don’t fall to the ground without God knowing about it and letting it happen. Jesus goes on to tell you, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Basically he is saying, “Look God cares about sparrows. He really does. Are you worth more than sparrows? Yes or no? Of course yes! Then God cares about you.”
And get this, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” God cares about you so much that he has numbered the hairs on your head. Now it would be one thing to say that our Father has numbered your eyes or toes. We all know how many we have of those. Yet look at what God does. He knows and he cares about arguably the most insignificant, unimportant part of our bodies, our hairs. If he cares about sparrows, if he cares about our hairs, is it fair to assume that God cares about us when we speak fearlessly? Is it reasonable to think that God will help us when we proclaim Jesus? Can we expect God to protect us when there is opposition? Yes, we can! God knows you and he cares for you, inside and out. Let that encourage you to speak fearlessly about Jesus.
The person who has faith in Jesus can’t help but talk about Jesus. Sometimes it will be weak, mumbled and short, but what lives in your heart will come out in words, words like, “Jesus died for me and for you.” You know what to say about Jesus, so speak fearlessly. Amen.