A FULL SERMON - A Call For Courage In The Cause For Truth
February 20, 2009
SERMON FOR COMMUNION
- A CALL FOR COURAGE IN THE CAUSE OF TRUTH -
(Matthew 10:24-31) (by Apostle Homer)
My desire this morning is that God would use my words to inspire you with courage in the cause of truth. My prayer is that he will grant you to overcome all fear of speaking the truth of Scripture, and that you will have the boldness to speak it openly and clearly when it is unpopular or even dangerous.
As I have prayed and meditated over the last week on what I should say today I have come to distill it into one sentence.
“Jesus had love, to suffer for me, that I might have faith, to suffer with him”.
There are at least two reasons I feel this burden this morning. One is that Paul had this burden for his younger apprentice, Timothy. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:3, "The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth." In other words, "Timothy, it is likely that you are going to have to say some unpopular things that do not scratch where people itch. I want you to know this in advance so that you are not shaken when the truth you preach is rejected. It will take courage to press on in the face of that opposition, Timothy. So be courageous and take your share of suffering for the truth (1:8; 2:3; 3:13-14)."
The other reason I feel this burden today is because subjectivism and relativism permeate/saturate/flood into our culture and threaten to destroy churches and schools and denominations and movements. By RELATIVISM I mean the assumption that there is no such thing as absolutes. What is true or right or good or beautiful for you may not be for me. It is all relative. By SUBJECTIVISM I mean the assumption that in this relativistic atmosphere I, the subject, have the right to determine what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly for me without submitting my judgment to any objective reality or any objective authority outside myself. This is the air we breathe in today’s world.
Which means that it is extremely unpopular today to take a strong stand on anything except tolerance. The claim that you know a truth that everybody should believe or that you know a behaviour that everyone should avoid -- that claim is enough to earn for you the name, Sadam Hussein or Ayatollah or Fascist or Fidel Castro – a dictator.
If you commend a truth with confidence, and make a case for it on the basis of objective evidences, and call on people with urgency to change their minds and believe it, you will be viewed by the average person as arrogant and even dangerous. But if you avoid talking about truth or give the impression that truth is unattainable, and if you avoid words like "should" and "ought" and "must," then you will signal to people that there is no objective truth and there are no moral absolutes. And then people will see you as humble.
Confidence that you know some things that all people ought to believe is seen as the essence of arrogance today. On the other hand, a sense of uncertainty about what is true and about how one ought to live, accompanied by a kind of open-ended ethic and an absence of judgment on controversial issues is seen as the essence of humility. This is one of the primary ways today that people with itching ears gather for themselves teachers to suit their own liking. It is not easy to be called arrogant and dangerous, and it feels very good to be liked as humble and open and inoffensive. And therefore the temptation to lose your theological and moral nerve is tremendous and the need for courage is immense. In our daily prayers we say “lead us not into temptation.”
The text for my exhortation is Matthew 10:24-31. The aim of Jesus in these verses is to give us the courage to speak the truth of God's word with clarity and openness no matter what the cost.
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
The main point of this text is plain from the three repetitions of the command not to fear. Verse 26, "So have no fear of them." Verse 28, "Do not fear those who kill the body." Verse 31: "Fear not therefore; you are of much more value than many sparrows." So Jesus' aim here is to overcome fear and instill courage.
But courage to do what? Can we make the point of this passage sharper? Yes we can! The point is made very sharp in verse 27. Jesus has something very specific in mind that is threatened by fear and advanced by courage. He says in verse 27: "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear . . ." In other words the real danger of fear in this passage is the fear to speak clearly (in the light) and openly (on the housetops) when that speaking might get you in trouble.
So here is the point of the passage: Do not be afraid to speak clearly and openly what Christ has taught you even if it costs you your church, your friends, and your life. Or to put the point positively, Be courageous to speak the truth of Scripture clearly and openly for all to hear even if it is unpopular and dangerous.
The rest of this text is motivation: five reasons are given for why you and I should have courage to speak all that Jesus taught -- the popular parts and the unpopular parts -- no matter what. Here they are (far too quickly, I regret):
1. First, notice the "so" or "therefore" at the beginning of verse 26: "So (therefore) have no fear of them." In other words, fearlessness flows from what Jesus just said, namely, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more (will they malign) those of his household." Therefore have no fear of them. Does that help make you fearless?
It should. I think the sense is this: Jesus is saying, "Your mistreatment for speaking the truth clearly and openly is not some unexpected, accidental, random, meaningless experience; it is just the way they treated me, and so it is a sign that you belong to me -- you are part of my household. So do not be afraid of the names they call you when you speak out plainly, those very names bind you and me together."
2. Second, notice the word "for" in the middle of verse 26: "So have no fear of them; FOR (here comes the second reason not to be afraid) nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." How does that help us overcome fear and be courageous in the cause of truth?
It helps us by assuring us that the truth we are speaking will triumph. It will be vindicated in the end. People may reject it now. They may call it the word of Beelzebul. They may cast it out. They may try to bury it and hide it from the world and pretend that it does not exist. But Jesus says, "Take heart in the cause of truth, because in the end all truth with be revealed, all reality will be uncovered. And those who spoke it with clarity and openness will be vindicated. Do not fear.
3. Third, Jesus says, Fear not, you can only be killed! Verse 28: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." In other words, the worst thing your opponents can do to you when you speak the truth is to kill your body. And that leaves the soul untouched and happy in God for ever and ever.
But if you keep silent, if you forsake the path of truth and fall in love with the praise of men you could lose your very soul. And that you ought to fear. But do not fear what man can do to you. All he can do is dispatch your soul to paradise. Fear not.
4. Fourth, do not fear to speak the truth, but be courageous and speak clearly and openly because God is giving close and intimate attention to all you do. Verse 30 means at least that much. Jesus says, "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered." In other words, the suffering you may undergo in speaking the truth is NOT because God is disinterested in you or unfamiliar with your plight. He is close enough to separate one hair from another and give each one a number. Fear not; he is close; he is interested; he cares. Be of good courage and speak the truth come what may.
5. And the fifth reason, fear not because your Father will not let anything happen to you apart from his gracious will. The logic of Jesus is plain and precious. Verse 31: "You are of more value than many sparrows." Verse 29: "Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will." The courage-giving conclusion: No harm will befall you but what God mercifully wills. As the young missionary Henry Martyn said, "If [God] has work for me to do, I cannot die."
So I appeal to you, do not yield to the spirit of this modern age. Love the truth. What you learn of Christ in the closet speak in the light. What you hear in the Scriptures proclaim from the housetops. And do not fear the face of any man. Amen.
The Bible commands me and you to believe and stand for truths that are so offensive to radical feminism/lesbianism and to homosexual rights groups and abortionists and the pornography industry that we could easily be assaulted by hired assailants or taken to court for conspiring to deny rights or even shot by a fanatic who believes he is serving God.
John 16:2 says, "Indeed the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God."
John 15:20 says, "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you."
The more clearly your life shows what God demands of people the more dangerous will be your life. I think that is what Paul meant when he said in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The greater your desire to be godly the more you will offend people committed to unbelief and sin and relativism.
Jesus said, in
So I have been thinking a lot about the price of being a Christian and a Biblical teacher with strong convictions in these days. And the Lord has been good to me. He has made me to feel deep in my soul...
That "the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life."
That losing life is saving it. That I must suffer with him if I would be glorified with him.
That everything in this world is as nothing compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
That pain and prison and death are not the great dangers after all, but fear, and disobedience and conformity to this age are the really great dangers.
And that even if we were being killed all day long and counted as sheep for the slaughter, we would be more than conquerors through him who loved us, because neither life nor death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When I ask how I might press on in the face of possible and actual persecution I come back to these things. And I sum them up in the sentence I mentioned earlier:
Jesus had love, to suffer for me, that I might have faith, to suffer with him.
When he suffered for me, he gave what I needed to suffer with him. He gave me forgiveness for my sins (Matthew 26:28), "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.") So my guilt before God is gone. That means God is on my side as long as I am trusting Jesus. And if God is on my side, what can man do to me?
Repeat after me…Jesus had love, to suffer for me, that I might have faith, to suffer with him.
So my prayer today is that when you eat the bread and drink the cup at His table you will be so full of faith in his surpassing worth that no danger would ever hold you back from the fullest and most radical obedience to all that the Lord has commanded us.
I concluded my teaching to the pastors and leaders with these words,
I believe with all my heart that the secret, of teaching well and living well - when the guns are pointed, will be whether we have learned to love the taste, of the BREAD OF HEAVEN far above the taste of life in this world. "Thy steadfast love O Lord, is better than life."
So savour, brothers and sisters, savour! Jesus and I love you all. I am glad that we will be together in the kingdom for ever! AMEN and AMEN
(COMMUNION SERVICE) Stand and let us bless the Lord’s table.
ASK A PASTOR TO READ.
(1 Corinthians 11:23-29) “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this , as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.
I am not aware of anyone who says that the cup is literally the covenant. Nor is the wine in the cup the covenant. The new covenant is God's commitment to save to the uttermost those who trust in Jesus. The cup of wine (or grape juice) represents this covenant because the blood of Christ bought the covenant for us. It does not become this covenant, but a symbol representing the covenant.
So, in a few minutes, when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we may nourish our souls by faith on the spiritual presence of Christ.
When we remember and proclaim his death, he manifests himself to
us as infinitely precious. He shows us all that God promises to be for us in Christ. This is the food of our souls. With this we are nourished and find strength to live as Christians.
The Lord's Supper is worship because it expresses the infinite worth
of Christ. No one is more worthy to be remembered. No one is more
worthy to be proclaimed. And no one can nourish our souls with
eternal life but Christ. So let us come and remember, and proclaim
and eat. AMEN.
Before we come to the table I invite you all to confession and absolution.
CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION:
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith, firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments and to live in love and peace with all. The Apostles and the Saints were faithful unto death and now live in the heavenly kingdom for ever. As we celebrate their joy, let us bring to the Lord our sins and weaknesses, and ask for his mercy.
PLEASE STAND AND BOW OUR HEADS
“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned against thee and against our neighbour, in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We are heartily sorry and repent of all our sins. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive us all that is past, and grant that we may serve thee in newness of life to the glory of thy name. Amen. May the Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent, have mercy upon you all and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal; through Jesus Christ Our Lord” – AMEN.
Now let us all accept Our Lord’s invitation (everyone, young and old) to come to His table and receive Communion – the Lord’s Supper.
“Draw near with faith. Receive the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which he gave for you, and His blood which He shed for you. Eat and drink in remembrance that He died for you, and feed on Him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
Choir to Sing or play appropriate Song(s) during communion.
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION:
“Almighty God, we thank thee for feeding us with the Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ. Through Him we offer thee our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Send us out in the power of thy Spirit, to live and work to thy praise and glory.” Amen.
May the Lord Jesus Christ, who has nourished us with himself the living bread, make us one in praise and love, and raise us up at the last day; may He give us grace to follow His Apostles and Saints in faith and hope and love; and the blessing of God Almighty be upon us and remain with us always – AMEN.
I pray that you all have been truly blessed.