Summary: Though there are plenty of things in the world that worry us, Jesus shows us how to overcome fear: by trusting him!
You know that your company is downsizing, and your boss asks to see you in his office.
This is the first year that you fill out your income taxes by yourself, and the I.R.S. informs you that you are going to be audited.
You go into a routine check-up at the clinic, and the doctor drops the "C" word on you, cancer, and gives you a very short time-table to get your affairs in order.
Knowing that your teenage child is out with their friends, you get a 3:00 a.m.call from the police requesting you to come down to the Coroner’s Office.
What do all these situations have in common? Fear. Our sinful and unstable world gives us a lot of reasons to fear, and we are filled with feelings of fear, and fear’s close cousin Worry, probably more often than we care to admit to ourselves. And what makes us fearful is that we cannot control every aspect of our lives. I mean, you can be the most careful driver in the world, and all it takes is one nut to run a red light and plow into your car, possibly injuring you, possibly killing you, possibly killing your family. And because we cannot control everything, knowing that there is an element of danger in everything that we do causes us to have some worry, and if we worry about it too much, it gives birth to full-blown fear.
Our text for this morning gives us a different way to live. A much better way. It’s a way that is free from fear. Impossible? Is it impossible to live without fear in this crazy world of ours? Absolutely not! Our text for today is all about fear, and overcoming fear. And it’s about making fear something that isn’t even part of our lives anymore. Yes, today we are going to see that Fear is Foreign to the one Full of Faith.
Do you notice how many times in our text it talks about fear and being afraid? And given the theme of our sermon, we might expect that there’s nothing at all that we human beings have to be afraid of. But that’s not quite the case, is it? We do have that rather onimous verse, "be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." And then our text finished with Jesus’ words, "whoever disowns me before me, I will disown before my Father in heaven." And we also have in the beginning of our reading that God expects his followers to be persecuted in this world.
Of course, we have nothing to fear, right? I mean, we are such good people. I’ve often thought how lucky God is to have a person like me on his team. Because I’ve been that perfect student of Jesus. I’ve made sure to live my life in such a way that I don’t care what other people think of me. I have always put the Lord first in my life, and I have taken advantage of every opportunity to proclaim from the rooftops my beliefs to this world.
I guess if that were all really true about me, I wouldn’t need a Savior. But really, can any of us not read the last verse of this reading and not be filled with anything but fear? When Jesus says, "whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven," that really terrifies me. The picture is that if there is ever a time when you try to hide the fact that you are a Christian, if you are not the absolute best faithful witness of Jesus to the world, well, Jesus is going to hide the fact that he knows you when you are standing waiting to get into heaven. And that scares us, because not one of us has been able to do that.
It seems like I goofed coming up with a theme for this text, "Fear is Foreign to us...?" On the contrary, when I see what God expects of me and then compare that to how I’ve been living my life, I’m plenty scared.
If you feel a little twinge of guilt as well, if you are tired of the way that you are, if you are sick of carrying around your sins and feeling bad about them, Jesus has some good news for you. At one time Jesus made this open-ended invitation, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Notice whom Jesus is inviting, the weary and the burdened, those feeling bogged down by their sins. Jesus doesn’t say, "Come to me, you proud, you people who don’t think you need a Savior, you people who don’t want to give up your sins." Christ’s invitation is not for them. Rather, it’s for the ones who have been crushed by the Law, who beat their chest and humbly cry out to God like the tax collector, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." And then we hear Jesus’ words and promise, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Jesus lifts that burden of guilt off the sinner and makes it his own. Jesus gives the person who hasn’t been the most faithful witness a full pardon from their sins. And so we see that the full theme is actually true: Fear is Foreign to the One Full of Faith. For us who believe in Jesus as the one who died on the cross for our sins, we have absolutely no reason to fear the wrath of the Father.