Boldness for Jesus
I've just been working through the Gospel of Matthew in my devotions recently, and I came this morning, 15th of December, the Year of our Lord, 2018 (some four weeks ago now!), to 'Five Reasons for Preachers to Maintain Holy Boldness' in Chapter 10:24-33. The instruction Christ gives here, applies not only to Apostles or ministers of the Word, but to every disciple in his (or her) witness in the world.
Matthew has proclaimed Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah who has fulfilled all God's promises (1:1-4:25). Having presented His instruction to disciples, as to the true interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures (5:1-7:28), Levi records a series of miracles and subsequent responses. He then proceeds to depict how Jesus selected His twelve apostles: He then sent them out on mission, with stark warnings regarding persecutions they would face. These sufferings, however, were not to make them stop: instead they would motivate them to move on quick, itinerating from place to place, in the cause of Kingdom truth. In the grand scheme of things, this would prove to be the chief means of building the Church. Instead of being ashamed of His Cross, which is part and parcel of the Truth, they should think of their stripes for the Saviour as medals from their Master. Thus the dark, gory, painful, missionary backdrop is set - now Matthew sets out 5 reasons for unstinting bravery in Israel's evangelization.
First - Likeness to their Lord
How honorable it will be for the Apostles to proclaim Christ and suffer for His sake! They should count it the most noble privilege in the whole world to be identified so closely with the Realm of God and His Messianic King. The least those most like Jesus in faithfulness can expect will be to be branded 'the devil incarnate' or worse for
"...a disciple is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master ...if they called the master of the house Beelzebub how much more will they malign those of his household," Matthew 9:24-25.
Of course we must remember the counterbalancing truth - when the Shepherd speaks true sheep will recognize His voice. Yet we must ask the searching question which sifts out wheat from chaff: 'Have you been so bold as to be branded Beelzebub?' Could it be time you stopped being mealy-mouthed!
Second - Priority of Proclamation
Much had been mentioned in private to the disciples. There were many things that had yet to be made public. Now the time had come for bold, open, declaration - particularly after His death, His apostles must go out and, from high rooftops, shout: no matter what manner of persecution they should face, the wonders of God's grace should not be hidden: the Word of Life in Christ must be made known clearly and diffusely, without any fear or favor. As Jesus elucidates:
"So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be made known," (Matthew 10:26-27).
It is true, of course, that pastors are not Apostles; and the summons Christ gives to church members is, generally-speaking, to engage in settled, local-church, witness not authoritative itinerant work. Yet having said that, how easy it is for us, in cosy armchairs in the West, to retreat inside church buildings and fail to make the message public. I wonder if one chief explanation for such dreadful sloth is that we are afraid to count the cost or be branded 'religious cranks!'
Third - Awe of the Almighty
Fear of man, says Scripture, is a manifold snare: it is serious for evangelists when fear dams-up sluicegates on the flow of Gospel witness. Over-worrying about what others might think, or do, to damage our popularity, character or reputation, may prove problematic. Anxiety over what might transpire to endanger our health or destroy our physical life, can have a crippling effect on disciples by silencing their voice. When a plethora of social media, or P.C. governmental bodies, seize on every 'forbidden' phrase, what others or rulers might think can nullify or neuter preachers. These present difficulties that we all have to face remind a faithful servant to take his eyes off earth and seek only heaven's glance. The antidote to anxiety is to stop fearing mortal enemies who are only 'flesh and blood': instead, be deeply and reverently mindful of the Judge of all men who determines our final end - it appears, after all, that the doctrine of Hell is not reserved just for unbelievers but used to motivate negligent Christians! Jesus states it bluntly:
"Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell," Matthew 10:28.
Fear God who will righteously damn rebels who never heard the message - the message which we refused to preach to them, for fear of men's reprisals or love of personal ease! Fear God who will fairly assess - and richly reward in grace - the work of all called servants - make sure that His divine forensic tests won't find hemoglobin on hands for which a preacher must account!
Fourth - Faithfulness of the Father
Some years ago, while on vacation in the French alps, our kids came running in with news of 'Boris the Bat.' A tiny, baby bat had fallen from the eaves of the chalet where were stayed. The poor creature struggled and was clearly in distress: we tenderly and slowly 'un-concertina-d' and unfolded his black, but broken, membranous wing. He was so cute and fluffy! We then gave little Boris some food to revive him - or tried to. Alas poor Boris was not long for this world. We did all we could in the time that remained to show the love of our Heavenly Father to this one now fallen from flight.
The reason, of course, why little Boris the Bat had fallen to the ground, was the permissive will of God. Our Loving Creator and Provider cares for every creature: perhaps He wanted teach us a lesson in love for this little creature of His. God's own, most-wise, sovereign purpose, largely remains a mystery to us. Yet, we are sure of this - our kindly Father in Heaven orders each event. If He cares for the bat, He also cares for the bird, and if He cares for the bird He will, without a shadow of a doubt, in a far more intimate way, care for the believer who is intent on making known Christ. Each hair enumerated! Each believer purchased! The price He sets on the head of loyal, faithful, disciples is only truly costed in the price of the blood of His Crucified Son - what infinite, inestimable, wondrous, worth of blood of the Son of God, poured out in amazing grace for all His fore-loved elect! As Jesus makes clear, it is the incalculable value of every hair of each disciple that ought to inspire and infuse confidence and boldness in God - we are brave and bold because we are dearly loved as precious in this world:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows," Matthew 10:29-31.
Are you filled with fear as you open your mouth in precincts? Are you tempted to dumb-down sermons as you tip-toe into the pulpit? When someone launches a mouthful of sour phlegm in your face, or buffets you, blindfolded, brutally with fists (as they surely repeatedly did to Him), are you tempted to dilute doctrine? At a funeral, when others are saying an infamous atheist is plucking harps above, does God's microscopy of your scalp assure you sufficiently so that, maintaining ear-drum bursting silence on the deceased, and offering exclusive hope in Christ, if acrimony is stirred you will be cared for by your Lord?
Fifth - Recognition of Redeemer
The final reason why we must be bolder than we probably, currently, are is the giving of account on the Last Day to our Lord. If we continue to stand firm and declare the doctrines of grace, King Jesus will own us before the Father's face. There will be praise, glory and honor to the God of our salvation, the Holy Father, Son and Spirit! There will be irradiating, Lamb-like, glory and joy unspeakable for us, with thrones on which to sit, and final kingdom assignments to take for keeps. We will marvel through the ages at the power that Christ put forth - how he used the faltering, quivering, bold, words of disciples, clinging to these five truths, to create miracles of light-life faith in hearts to raise sinners from the dead. For those, however, who unashamed, unrepentant, and fearing man denied the Saviour in this life - for those who refused to be broken by their failures or be restored to fruitful, faithful, sheep-feeding of Christ's flock (or godly witness in this world) - there will be deafening denial that they were ever truly fore-known and so-loved.
"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven," Matthew 10:32-33.
It is such solemn thoughts, of that momentous event, that, if all else fails to stir, should make us repent and believe. Join me in tear-filled sorrow for every silent lapse! Believe His testimony was unstained and complete for us! In union with Christ, draw courageous from His heart! By grace, through faith, pray to stay on track, according to our gift, as He gives opportunity, in our testimony to Christ.
These five reasons given to the twelve apostles are a means of grace to us: take them and use them, to humble you in confession, to expose the weakness of your flesh - and any natural carnal cowardice - before driving you to Christ! It is His gracious Spirit that gives all the more needed grace. The heart of our faithful, obedient, courageous, glorified King Jesus reigns in power to pour out mercy on His realm. He never flinched from faithfulness. He refused to court human applause. All Messiah wanted was the approval of His Father. He never doubted for a second the provision of God's care - to the measure we have His Spirit, neither will we! That is why His blood can wash us of each stain - He was the perfect, unblemished, pastoral offering for sin. That's why His throne is the place to obtain grace - by virtue of Covenant blood, He has all the mercy we need to be bolder than yesterday as we await our Coming Head.
As you let the weight of this warning-encouragement, to be bolder with our witness, sink into our hearts, please cry with a contrite heart! Wait upon the Lord for renewal of your heart, washing away of 'silent' stains, filling up with the Spirit, and fresh urgency for spreading truth! Brother or sister, the Son of Man may come at any hour which you do not know - be aware, stay awake, always alert: on that day you will be acknowledged or denied!
Jesus, our Saviour and Master, we cast ourself at Your feet, in light of the merit of Your death on the Cross for us - We plead and cry to You, Exalted Christ, for help! O Lord, let us speak!