Sermon for June 20, 2021

Denied!

Matthew 10:32-33

Matthew 10:32–33 (NIV): 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

I love this portion of Scripture.  Billy Graham used these verses frequently when asked why he held an altar call at the end of his Crusade gatherings.  I think that was a beautiful way to use it.  If I may though, let me take you contextually deeper. 

At the beginning of Matthew 10 we have Jesus sending out the 12 disciples.  In amongst today’s Scripture are the instructions, the marching orders of Jesus.  But in amongst these orders Jesus prepares them for persecution.  Persecution from within their own families.  Persecution from village and city leaders, but not letting out the persecution from religious, dare I say, hypocrites. How do I know this? Well…

Matthew 10:25 (NIV): 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

Jesus uses an interesting word that has confused many biblical scholars.  I agree, this is confusing when you focus on just the one word (Beelzebul).  You see, we know who Beelzebul or Beelzebub is.  Translated from Hebrew, meaning “lord of the flies” actually, other Jewish wisdom literature refer to Beelzebub as the “lord of dung”, it was always associated with the worship of Baal, a fertility god of the Canaanites.  But in the New Testament, the use of the Old Hebrew was all but gone but transformed into Aramaic, a Greek/Hebrew hybrid.  Therefore, when you break down Beelzebul down into the language of the day, you have “beel” meaning prince and “zebul” meaning exalted dwelling.  In the religious climate of Jesus’ day, Beelzebul meant “the prince of demons”.  We know that in the New Testament, that prince has many names but for today’s purpose, we will use the Devil or Satan.  In the Old Testament, the word “satan” is always a Hebrew verb and not a noun.  It is different in the New Testament.  It is a name, more accurately a descriptive title, the prince of demons.

Now let’s go back to today’s Scripture.  Jesus tells them that people will call them, the disciples, the followers of the prince of demons.  In fact, is this not what religious leaders call Jesus as he performs miracles before them?

I find that this is an interesting truth that Jesus understood. 

John 2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.[a] 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

I find it interesting the mankind spends much time being the judge of anything.  Whether it be character, ethics, motivation, literally anything, if mankind is truly flawed as it says Jesus recognized to be the case, why do we give more weight to one area than another?  If we therefore preclude that the thoughts of God and the proper application by a flawed human understanding, it can lead to some very problematic positions.  So problematic, that perhaps, that God could be standing right in front of a group of righteous people, and they could call him the prince of demons.

I want to point out to the deep attributes of Matthew 10:32-33.  “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.  This means we must recognize our fallen thinking of what is right and good.  We can say “the Bible says this or that” but do we understand it the way God does?  Is it celebrated and practiced the way Jesus does?  When we are born into this world, we own the continual dysfunction of poor and terrible human behaviors.  We inherit what the world offers.  We celebrate what the world deems as “good” by whomever the majority is at the time.  Both Luke and Mark record Jesus saying this to the Rich Young Ruler:

Luke 18:18–19 (NIV): 18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

You see, Jesus had to come because mankind, even rich young rulers, believed they could inherently be “good” and Jesus, who was there as God in flesh, was the ultimate example of perfect good, without blemish or spot, and most of the mankind, even his disciples did not see that good!  Think of that, did not all his disciples deny him when Jesus needed them the most?

You see, at some point being a true Jesus follower means something quite a bit deeper than we ever really consider.  We are focused on being a powerful church with great fellowship and great influence on the community, yet we ignore what is still possible. 

 Matthew 10:16–18 (NIV): 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.

Snake, an ancient symbol of wisdom and still used today for those among us that have studied and learned to become a doctor.  A dove, a symbol of innocence.  But not the type of innocence, like “I am not guilty”, an innocence like “you don’t know any better”, like the innocence of a child compared to what an adult does.

It is exactly this type of thinking that led Paul to write this to the Romans:

Romans 8:31–39 (ESV): 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

      “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

      we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you see what Paul is saying?  Jesus is the only Conqueror.  Paul, who will spend a life fighting with both people and the government, wanted to reveal that it was not about who the supreme government was.  The nation of Israel was lost beginning with people fighting amongst themselves, then becoming Judah and Israel.  Then Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and then finally Rome came and conquered the people. It was not about fighting against Rome.  It is not about fighting with each other.  It about fighting what those influences have done to us!  All mankind has been a war with God since the Fall in the Garden of Eden.  At some point, the individual must choose NOT to be at war anymore and to be conquered by the love of God!

Matthew 10:32–33 (NIV): 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

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