‘The Gospel of Luke: Encountering Jesus’
Message: ‘Fear God’ Text: Luke 12:1-12
Introduction: Generally, as Christians, we have lost our fear of God… let that sink in for a moment.
I know what some of you are thinking.. fearing God is an OT thing? I love Jesus, He loves me and besides, grace is the NT thing.
- Whether consciously or unconsciously, rather than hold the fear of God and the grace of God in tension,
- We’ve instead let go of the fear of God believing, hoping at least, that God’s grace is abundant enough to warrant no longer having a healthy fear of Him.
You see, somewhere deeply hidden away in the depth of our heart, we don’t want to fear God, because we know what it means… honoring Him.
- And we just can’t honor Him and live the way we want.
So we default to grace, and leave the fear of God behind.
And as a result, churches are full of weak, uncommitted, worldly, professing followers of Jesus Christ.
And we scratch our heads and wonder:
- Why the trend is that most churches are on the decline in attendance and giving.
- Why church leadership struggles to get people to serve in most areas of ministry.
- Why many Christian families are falling apart.
- Why a great number of children brought up in the church, no longer what anything to do with the Christianity of their parents.
And, we’ll see from our text today that leaving the fear of God behind in our lives leaves a vacuum that will be filled with what the Bible calls the fear of man. What’s that?
We fear what others think of us.
- Do they like what I’m wearing?
- Will they approve of what I say?
- Will I fit in with those I spend time with?
- If I don’t do something they expect me to do, will they think less of me?
That’s what Jesus starts off talking about in our text this morning.
- You see, when we fear man rather than fear God…
- and we profess to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus,
- we’re living in conflict with our new nature… In other words, we’re hypocrites.
PP: 1. Luke 12:1-3 Hypocrisy
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, He began to say to His disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
Let me set the scene:
- Jesus just left the house full of Pharisees and lawyers. He confronted them about their sin… and they didn’t like it much. In fact, in anger, they jumped all over Him with questions they hoped would trip Jesus up so they could finally accuse Him of a crime.
- The hostility inside the house poured out into the streets with a very large crowd, some estimate many thousands. It’s assumed that they wanted to know what went on inside the Pharisees home.
- Well, you know large crowds can often get unruly with impatience and egos leading the way to some form of violence.
- No different here; people in the crowd were knocking each other down tying to get closer to Jesus and the religious leaders.
Jesus had an opportunity to speak to a very large crowd, perhaps the largest thus far in His ministry. But instead, He uses this as a teachable moment with His disciples.
- Now, what Jesus will say is intended for His disciples ears, but because the crowd was so close, they too would hear what Jesus was saying.
- And I’m certain Jesus wanted it that way.
So, what does Jesus say? He calls the Pharisees hypocrites. And that His followers should take care not to be like them.
Jesus said: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. Leaven in Scripture is often used as a metaphor for sin. Jesus was saying be careful with the Pharisees, they’re full of sin and if you listen to them, follow them, you’ll take on their sin and you’ll become like them.
He tells His disciples that the leaven in the Pharisees is the sin of hypocrisy.
You’ll remember from last week, that was Jesus’ main criticism of both the Pharisees and lawyers in how they lived before God.
- They had a religion based on the works they did on the outside, but failed to have a heart for God, they had no fear of God.
- They only cared about what others thought of them instead of what God required of them.
Hypocrisy: Is related to acting. It’s someone who’s not genuine; something other than what they say and how they live.
- The religious leaders didn’t want the people to see that they were not God fearers, so they covered that over by their outward good works.
Jesus then tells His disciples that you can’t hide anything from God. He sees your hypocrisy.
Now, scholars are divided on who Jesus was talking to:
- Some say He was talking about the religious leaders and how the sin in their lives will be revealed. And that God will judge their hypocrisy.
- Others say Jesus was talking about His disciples and how they needed to profess Christ, both in private and in public.
The idea is this…
- The hypocrisy of the religious leaders; is trying to look righteous when they weren’t, in order to get the approval of the people.
- They hypocrisy of the disciples; will be trying to look unrighteous when they actually were righteous, in order to be approved by the people and to avoid being persecuted by them.
Jesus knew that persecution was coming for His 12 disciples.
- The 12 will be tempted to speak publicly very differently then what they say to each other.
Case in point: Remember when Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room the night He was betrayed? Peter said to Jesus Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away. (Matthew 26:33)
Then, just a couple of hours later, remember what Peter did in the courtyard while Jesus was being interrogated?
- He vehemently denied knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times.
Peters actions did not match his words. It seems it’s wasn’t just the religious leaders who didn’t get what Jesus was saying.
So who was Jesus talking to in this part of the text? Was it the religious leaders or the 12 disciples? I believe it was both!
- To the religious leaders and those today who have yet to place their faith in Jesus, understand that you can’t hide your sin from God. You will face Him as judge one day. And He will say depart from Me, I never knew you.
- To His disciples and those today who have placed their faith in Jesus, you are being warned to make how you live match what you believe.
PP: 2. Luke 12:4-7 Honor God
I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!
Jesus starts off saying don’t fear man and what he can do to you… man can only kill you. Once you’re dead he can’t do anything else to you.
- Remember, persecution is on the horizon for the disciples. Jesus is starting to warn them about it.
On the other hand, Jesus says, fear God because when you’re dead, He can also destroy your soul. How? By casting you in Hell. (Not going into it here, but yes, Hell is a real place and it’s real bad. And you don’t want to go there.)
Twice in verse 5 Jesus says fear Him. How can I say it’s God when it didn’t say God? Good question. It means you’re listening. Verse six was not written in a vacuum…
- it tells us not only who to fear
- but why our fear of God is different than our fear of man.
PP: Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
God is mentioned, then Jesus tells us something that seems contradictory, but is actually complementary. He tells His disciples fear not.
Wait, first Jesus says to fear God, then not to fear God. Did I miss something? Yea, the same thing the religious leaders missed…
- When we honor God with our lives (fear God) we have nothing else to fear (meaning no fear of people)
PP: Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.
Fear God, honor God with your life
- because God is with you, God is for you, God knows every detail of your life, God loves you, God cares for you, God watches over and protects you.
- Nothing can touch you.
- Nothing can threaten you.
We fear God, by honoring Him with our lives.
PP: 3. Luke 12:8-9 Honor Jesus
And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
I don’t believe Jesus is saying that if we ever deny Jesus publicly, we’ll lose our salvation (Remember Peter)
That takes what Jesus said out of context. So what does Jesus mean?
- Remember, while Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples, He’s always within hearing range of a lot of people in the crowd and the religious leaders.
So, what Jesus is doing is actually stating a fact:
- Those who fail to honor Jesus, by publicly denying and rejecting Him here on earth (like the religious leaders) will not be recognized, will not enter heaven where the angels are.
Sidebar: This is HUGE, especially to the Jewish people. Jesus is saying:
- You can’t honor God, and not honor me.
- You can’t believe in God and get to heaven if you don’t believe in Me.
Remember what the Apostle John recorded Jesus saying about this:
PP: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
Jesus was clearly stating He was God here…
and they all missed it. So yes, Jesus was speaking to the crowd and the religious leaders. But He was also talking to His disciples:
- Those who honor Jesus, by believing in Him, and by displaying that belief publicly in how they live, will be welcomed in heaven where the angels are.
Look, the emphasis here is on recognizing and acknowledging what Jesus has been revealing since He began His ministry:
- That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
- That Jesus is the Messiah, promised by God in the OT.
- That belief in Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the only way to be accepted by God.
Something the religious leaders refused to do… But something His disciples not only will do, but must do.
- We’re hypocrites, we fail to honor Jesus when we live as if our Christianity is a secret.
Months before this event in Luke, Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:16
PP: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
That’s Jesus fleshing out what the Jews would have read God say in the OT. Psalm 107:2a
PP: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…
In other words, If God has saved you, let people know.
PP: 4. Luke 12:10-12 Honor the Holy Spirit
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
This text is thought to speak about the unpardonable sin. The idea is this:
- There’s a sin, that God won’t, can’t forgive.
And while there is some debate on what blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is, in this context I don’t think it can be anything other than the final rejection of Jesus as God, Savior, and Lord.
Gene Brooks rather concisely explains it this way:
- Jesus’ comment here appears to be the final rejection of the Spirit’s revelation through Jesus, resulting in the certainty of judgment.
- The Holy Spirit provides the authenticating evidence of the truth.
- It is turning to the darkness in the face of the greatest light.
Light and darkness… that’s the context here. Remember Jesus had told the religious leaders in chapter 11, to be careful that the light they think is in them isn’t actually darkness…sin.
Jesus continued by saying
PP: And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
Going back to warning His disciples about the persecution they’ll soon be experiencing, Jesus tells them that by honoring God, by honoring Jesus, by honoring the Holy Spirit with their lives, they won’t have to fear what to say, or what to do, when persecution comes.
In the Apostle John’s Gospel, he uses the word Paraclete in reference to the Holy Spirit in John 14:26… a very familiar verse to perhaps many of you.
PP: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
We rightfully understand this to mean that when we’re presented with an opportunity to speak for Jesus and our brain has become mush from our fear, the Holy Spirit, will be our helper (paraclete) and give us the words to say.
- And I bet there are many of you here this morning who could testify to that… many times over.
But here in Dr. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will help us in times of persecution.
- Let me say that it’s common for Christians to wonder what we’ll do if we’re ever faced with the kind of persecution Christians around the world experience.
- Would we deny Christ and face death or perhaps the death of one of our loved ones?
- Or, would we stand firm with Jesus?
Let this text be a comfort… don’t worry about that, don’t be afraid of what you think you might or might not do.
- Honor God, honor Jesus, honor the Holy Spirit with your life, now, and trust the Holy Spirit to help you, if, the time comes.
Conclusion: I’m not going to give a long closing statement, because I think the application for all of us is quite clear: We need to get the fear of God back into our lives.
- We’ve become far too casual in our relationship with God these days.
- We’ve become inauthentic followers of Jesus Christ because who we are in Christ doesn’t often affect how we live for Christ.
- We’ve become far too silent about our faith, about our salvation, about our Jesus.
- We’ve become far to concerned about how people feel about us, and not concerned enough about how God feels about us.
Let’s instead be like the Psalmist who wrote:
PP: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)