Going Against Fear

Monday, January 25, 2016, 7:17 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Weary of Heart.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 28 (NASB).

Go and Tell (vv. 1-10)

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his closest companions, disowned three times by another and abandoned by all twelve of his closest disciples. He was falsely arrested, given a mock trial, spat upon, beaten, mocked, and scourged beyond recognition. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, and men hid their faces from him. Then, they hung him on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong. Yet, he did not remain dead. He was resurrected from the dead on the third day, just as he had said he would.

These women, who were followers of Christ, came to the tomb where Jesus had been buried, fully expecting to see that their Lord was in the tomb, but he had risen. The angel told them not to be afraid, but to “go quickly” and tell his disciples. While they were on their way to tell the disciples, Jesus appeared to them. He also told them not to be afraid, but to go and take his word to his brethren.

Jesus is still giving his followers today this same message: “Do not fear. Go quickly. Take my word and tell it to those to whom I have sent you.” He may send us to those who have never heard the gospel of salvation. And/or he may send us to those who profess the name of Jesus but who need a word of encouragement, urging, comfort, edification or counsel. Yet, there may be many reasons why we may feel fear and have to go against our fears in order to do what our Lord has instructed.

For one, these women had just witnessed the brutality with which Jesus had been treated by his opponents. If they went and told others, and word got out that this is what they were doing, they risked being treated in like manner as was Jesus, because they were following him and they were taking his message to others. They were also saddened by the loss of their Lord to death, and most certainly confused and bewildered by the appearance of this angel telling them Christ had risen. Sometimes we might be tempted to withdraw in fear because we don’t understand what is happening to us or to those we love, and we may fear moving out into the unknown, not knowing what awaits us. Yet, we must not be afraid!

As well, these were women, and women were not often given the value and esteem a woman of today, in particular in America, might receive. So, most certainly when they chose to obey their Lord and take his message to men whom may reject them and even scoff at them, they had to go against their fears and accept whatever response they may receive from the men in order to obey Jesus. Yet, times haven’t changed all that much. Although women are not to have authority over men, and they are not to be elders within the church, they are gifted equally with men of the Spirit of God and have been called of God, too, to prophesy, i.e. to take God’s word to whomever the Spirit directs, and to proclaim the word of God in all practicality in application to our lives today. And, because they are women, they, as well, may meet with opposition from men (and women, too).

Make Disciples (vv. 11-20)

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Another possible cause for fear is that there are those who not only may oppose us in one way or another for speaking out the word of God to people, but who are working against the message of the gospel itself by spreading lies about what Jesus and his NT apostles taught. They make up their own version of the story of the gospel for the sole purpose to deceive and to try to discredit the true story so that it will not be believed by people. And, they try to convince others that those who are giving out the true (full) gospel message are teaching works-based salvation, are liars, are false teachers, are legalists, and/or are intolerant, bigoted, hateful and fear mongers. Yet, they do this through the twisting of truth and a diluted gospel message which ignores the bulk of scriptures on salvation and centers around a few select passages of scripture, often taken out of context. So, when we face such strong opposition, we may be tempted to fear their rebukes and to retreat. Yet, we should not!

Another possible cause for fear is our own doubts. Sometimes when things don’t go the way we expect, or when God operates outside the box we have put him inside, or when his actions don’t fit with the theology we were taught from early on, we may doubt what we see, and find it difficult to trust and to believe. A lot of people are afraid of the Holy Spirit, for instance, because they can’t control him, and they don’t understand how he works, and so rather than learn from the word, and grow in their understanding, they quench and grieve the Holy Spirit by shutting him out and trying to control things with man’s logic and reasoning. Certainly we must be diligent about testing the spirits to see if they are of God, but we must guard against putting out the Spirit’s fire by our own doubts and fears.

Yet, we must not be afraid. We must have courage and speak the words God gives us to speak from his word to whomever he sends us no matter what kind of reception we may encounter. We must be students of the Word ourselves so that we know the Word of which we speak, and so we can discern error from truth. And, we must not fear what humans might do to us, for God is with us. He will not leave us or forsake us, but he will give us strength, courage, and empowerment from on high to speak the Word of God with boldness, and to persevere in giving testimony for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of grace.

The Word of God teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). It teaches us that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a blood sacrifice for our sins so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who no longer conduct our lives according to the sinful flesh, but who now walk (live) in accordance with the Spirit of God. If we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). It teaches us that God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin once we profess to have received Christ as Savior of our lives, but God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14).

The Word of God also teaches us that it is by grace we are saved, through faith. It is the gift of God and not of ourselves; not of works lest we should boast that we somehow earned or deserved our own salvation (See: Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, the Word also says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And, James said that faith, if not accompanied by works (action) is dead (See: Jas. 2:14-26). As well, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, and yet we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). Paul said that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means death to our old lives of living for sin and self, being transformed in heart and mind away from sin to God, and being given new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Ro. 6; Ro. 8; Gal. 2:20; Ac. 26:16-18; Lu. 9:23-25).

So, if we are going to make disciples (followers) of Christ of people of all nations, we must teach them to obey what Christ commanded his followers when he walked this earth, unless the instructions were obviously intended for a particular group of people for a specific period of time. If the NT apostles taught the same things Jesus taught, and they taught them to the church for them to follow, then we know these are instructions we must follow, too, unless they are obviously cultural or intended only for a specific period of time. The fact that the NT apostles taught we must die to sin and live to righteousness, and that continuing in a lifestyle of sin after we say we “believe” means death, whereas following Christ in obedience and in lifestyle according the Spirit means life, which is what Jesus taught, it means we should believe this, and we must follow this.

Paul’s commission was to open blinded eyes, so they may turn from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus, purity, righteousness, truth), and from the dominion of Satan (the power he had over our lives) to God (to come under his control - the control of his righteousness), so we might receive forgiveness of sins, and have a place (inheritance) among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (Ac. 26:16-18). So, although we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, but it is only by the blood of Christ shed on the cross for our sins that we have been given such a great salvation, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness; no longer conducting our lives after our sinful flesh, but now walking in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, and not in the power of our flesh.

Weary of Heart

An Original Work / January 23, 2016
Based off Isaiah 40

You who bring the Good News,
Lift up your voice.
Do not fear. Shout it out:
“Here is your God!”
The sovereign Lord comes
With power and strength.
He gathers His tender lambs
In His arms.

Lift up your eyes and look:
“Who made all things?”
God, our creator knows
All about you.
Your cause is not
Disregarded by God.
He will not leave;
He’ll not abandon you.

When you are troubled
And weary of heart,
Trust the Lord with your life.
Do not despair.
He will empower you;
Strengthen within.
Soar on wings like eagles,
Walk and not faint.