Sunday, June 22, 2008

Proper 7 June 22, 2008

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838
June 22, 2008
Proper 7
The Conquest of Fear
Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus’ words of our text are quite clear to us. Though the world may persecute Christ’s followers, the Father knows and cares for His people. Jesus has called His disciples and sends them out to preach and heal. As He was persecuted, His disciples could expect no less. They are not to fear those who can kill only the body. It is better to fear God who can kill body and soul.

In spite of their hardship, the heavenly Father knows them as intimately as knowing the number of hairs on their heads and cares for them as He cares for even “worthless” birds. As they are faithful in their witness to God, He will be faithful to them. Let us pray to the Lord…

O God, our defender, storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear and preserve us from unbelief.

According to Jesus, Christians are not to fear “them.” Who are “them”? In the foregoing passage Jesus defines and describes “them” as those who persecute His followers, who in your own family betray you for being Christian, who are hated because they follow Jesus, and who are persecuted as Christians.

This points to the fact that Christians live in a hostile world which does not tolerate Christian teachings and practice. The darkness hates the light. Evil is a reality and is not neutral or tolerant of an opposing force or righteousness. This raises the question; why so few, if any, Christians are persecuted in America? Is America so Christian as not to oppose Christianity, or are “Christians” not that Christian as to arouse hostility?

Introduction: Fear is not easy to overcome. One can reason it through and arrive at the conclusion that there is no good reason to fear. One can argue himself into agreeing that fear is unnecessary. All the thinking and talking about the futility of fear does not take it away. It seems to rest in one’s feelings that are deeper than any rational arguments. Thus, faith that deals with basic feelings is the cure for fear. We need to be reminded that the Gospel lesson deals with fear of our enemies who oppose our Christian faith.

Outline: Faith conquers fear because

1. Faith is certain we shall overcome — Jesus tells us; “Whatever I tell in the dark speak in the light. What you hear with your ear preach on the housetops.” (Vs. 27)

A. Faith is able to overcome fear because Christ has overcome. Says St. John: “greater is He who is in you then he who is in the world.”[1] Who is it that is in you? It is God, the Holy Spirit. He has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified, and keeps you in the one true faith.

B. What are you able to overcome? Faith can conquer any barrier, any obstacle, and any stumbling block which would rob us from fellowship with God’s Son Jesus Christ our Savior. What are such besetting sins? Each person has particular sins which the yare susceptible. The devil knows us better then we know ourselves. Each is at risk. Each is vulnerable. Each is disposed to certain behaviors. Satan can used this for his purposes. How can we overcome? Satan’s powers and schemes are removed as Christ gives us His Holy Spirit.

Transition: Faith is certain that we shall overcome fear. Faith places its focus in Christ rather then man.

2. Faith is in God rather than in man — v. 28. “Do not fear those who kill the body and can’t kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy soul and body in hell.”

A. Those who can only kill the body but who can not kill the soul are of human origin. They are not of God they are of man. They are of a human source. What is the worse someone can do to you? They could kill you – they could take your life. But they can not harm the soul. Thus we are encouraged to pray: According to Your will, grant us to trust wholly in You and not fear life’s circumstances. Grant that we may remain steadfast and faithful to You at all costs, even unto death.[2]

Every Christian on the day of their confirmation vows to remain faithful to Christ to suffer all, even death, rather then to fall away from it. What is the encouragement for us this day? “Be thou faithful until death and I will give you the crown of everlasting life.”[3]

B. The one who can destroy both body and soul in Hell is Christ – We might feel quite uncomfortable speaking about it – in fact, Bible teachers such as Martin Luther refers to this thought as Christ’s alien work – He doesn’t want to do it, He would rather do something else- yet - those who reject Jesus Christ loose their salvation.

God’s alien work is performed by His law. When God sees us as filthy sinners, He therefore gives us the law so that we see ourselves the way God sees us. The law reveals an angry and wrathful God who punishes unrepentant sinners. The Bible shows this angry God in such instances as the Flood, Israel’s forty years of desert wandering, and the rich man who walked away from Jesus because He had been revealed to be a sinner.

The culmination of God’s alien work is the sending of Jesus to suffer on the cross on our behalf (Luther 19). Thus, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him having been crucified.”[4]

Jesus’ crucifixion happened in the past, but the event is still influencing the present. The crucifixion of Jesus happened a long time ago, but the forgiveness and redemption that Jesus purchased on the cross is still effective, still powerful, and is still influencing our lives to this very day. With the Holy Spirit directing you He keeps you faithful to the end. “Be thou faithful until death and I will give you the crown of everlasting life.”[5]

Transition: Faith conquers fear. Faith is certain we shall overcome. Faith is placed in God rather then man. Faith trusts God to care for you.

3. Faith in God’s care of us — vv. 29-31. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny and not one falls to the ground apart from Your Father’s will. But the very hairs on you head are all numbered. So do not fear you are of more value than many birds.

A. A question could be asked. Does God really care? Does He, will He, provide? In His Word Jesus assures us of the Father’s intent (which is always for your good) and His direction for your life.

B. How does He provide for you? Consider this morning the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer.[6] Give us this day (give us today) our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband, a devout wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, a good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Conclusion: Our salvation is always linked to Christ’s suffering on the cross. St. Paul tells us: For if we died with Christ, we will also live with Him. [7] As disciples of Jesus Christ we need not fear our enemies. Though the world may persecute Christ’s followers, the Father knows and cares for His people. These are not mere pious words – this is your reality. May those words of that much loved hymn be your certainty; “Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come. His grace has brought me safe thus far, He is grace will lead me home.”[8]
[1] 1 John 4:4
[2] Grant it O Lord 21st Century Martyrs
[3] Revelation 2:10
[4] 1 Corinthians 2:2
[5] Revelation 2:10
[6] The 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House pg. 324
[7] 2 Timothy 2:11
[8] Amazing Grace LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, Hymn 744 stanza three

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