Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
Five Reasons for Loyalty in a Hostile World
I want to first start with the definition of hypocrisy. “Hypocrite” was used in Greek society to describe an actor who gave performances to make money. It means acting like someone who you really aren’t in order to get people’s approval. The opposite of hypocrisy is integrity— being consistent with your convictions regardless of what people want or think of you.
There are two kinds of hypocrisy in this passage. The Pharisees’ were hypocrites because they acted like they were committed to God even though they weren’t in order to get people’s approval. We saw last week that Jesus blew up a meal by exposing and rebuking them for this. The result was a vicious counter-attack by them which drew the crowd we read about this week.
But Jesus is warning his disciples of a different kind of hypocrisy, acting like they are not committed to Jesus even though they are in order to keep society’s approval and avoid their hostility. Maybe some of them who nodded their heads as Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees were now changing their response as they felt their hostility.
The disciples faced this form of hypocrisy from here on out. They faced it when Jesus was arrested, tried, and executed. They faced it after Jesus ascended and they experienced the hostility of a Jewish society that rejected Jesus as Messiah, and a Roman society that rejected Jesus as the only way to God. All but one of the twelve disciples were martyred for their loyalty to Jesus. We too face this form of hypocrisy in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to the claims of Christ. The whole idea of “absolute truth” is offensive in a relativistic culture. Spirituality is in but truth is out. The idea of commitment to truth or to Jesus to the point of sacrifice (i.e. career, relationships) is ludicrous in a totally self-absorbed culture.
1. Because the Truth Will One Day be Clearly Revealed (2-3)
Here is a promise that the truth about Jesus, though now hidden and repressed by a hostile world, will one day be unmistakably manifested. This is increasingly prevalent in our culture; there have been a number of books recently attacking Christianity. Think about this, the same scriptures that accurately predicted Jesus’ first coming and crucifixion also predict his second coming and world-wide rule. The day is coming when everyone will see and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. It will be too late for those who refused to bow in their lifetimes—they will bow as vanquished foes rather than as grateful friends. On that day everyone will know the truth about Jesus and it will seem very strange to all of us to have kept quiet about him. Since this is the case, it only makes sense to be forthright about your commitment to Jesus now—even when you get flak and criticism for it. We need to trust and embrace the promise of Gods reward if we are to be steadfast and loyal.
2. Because we are Answerable to God not to Man (4-5)
How can he say “Do not fear?” There is a good reason to be afraid to stand for Jesus—people can really mess up your life if they want. They can reject you and ridicule you, make your family life miserable, damage your career, etc. In many places, they can imprison you and even execute you. We saw some of this today. It is important for us to understand this for two reasons: so we will pray for them and we will be grateful for our freedom. We have suffered very little in comparison.
Jesus doesn’t deny this but he reminds us that this is not the worst that can happen to us. If we were not spiritual creatures, physical death would be the ultimate loss. But since we are spiritual creatures who will ultimately answer to God, death is only the gateway into the eternal destiny that God decrees. Persecution is a blessing in that it has the capacity to hasten your entering the presence of Jesus.
Now I don’t think Jesus is threatening his disciples with hell. He says we already have heaven bound up. The worst that people can do to us is hasten our entry into heaven, where God will more than make up for whatever loss we have suffered in this life. If we believe this, trust this promise, then it has the power to free us from the crippling fear of people to be faithful to Christ even if this means death.
3. Because God will Care for us in the Midst of Opposition (v. 6-7)
This does not mean he’ll spare us from opposition, but that he will care for us even in the midst of that opposition. God is not only the great ultimate Judge who rules the universe; remember he is also the loving heavenly Father who is intimately aware of you and your circumstances and is not absent from them. God’s knowledge of both the sparrow and the hair emphasize his intimate involvement and concern with his children, and implies that his sovereignty is tempered by his love. This means God won’t permit more than we can handle, he can comfort us in the midst of it, that his Spirit will enable us to respond to our opponents in a way that honors Christ, and that he will work through our situation for our good and his glory.
4. Because Eternal Issues are at Stake (vs. 8-10)
The emphasis here is on confessing Christ before people, acknowledging your belief in him and sharing his claims and offer to those who don’t know him. Jesus will one day present us to the angels of God which probably refers to eternal reward. You have heard me say that salvation is free but God motivates us toward obedience by rewards. This includes the reward for sharing him with others. We should share Christ with others even if we take flak for it because we love others more than we love our own safety and comfort. He is motivating us to be more concerned with their eternal destiny than saving face.
The denial he speaks of does not refer to a lapse under pressure. Peter denied Jesus three times and still inherited eternal life and reward. It refers rather to one’s ultimate decision to reject Jesus and his offer of salvation. This is why Jesus makes a distinction between speaking a word against him and blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Peter said, “May God curse me if I ever knew that guy!”—yet he was still a follower of Christ. To blaspheme the Spirit means to totally and permanently reject the Spirit’s witness of the truth of the gospel and your need for Christ. This is not so much a sin of the moment as of one's entire life, a persistent rejection of God's message and testimony.
It is a serious thing to harden yourself against the Spirit’s conviction. You don’t know when or if you will have the opportunity to respond again. Each time you say “No” to his conviction; it hardens your heart a little more, and makes it easier to say “No” the next time.
5. Because the Holy Spirit will empower us (11-12)
Then he gives us the icing on the cake, the means or power by which we can be bold and not hold back. God the Spirit will fill your mouth. He will teach you what to say. In the moment you do not need to rely on a program for sharing or a method but trust the Sprit. He is not saying not to study or not to prepare but in that moment, rest in the promise that the Spirit will teach you, give you the words to say.
This text has taught us three simple truths. First, if we wear our Christianity, not in an obnoxious way, we will suffer persecution. For us it is not physical, but it is raising eye brows, intellectual disdain, rejection of friendship, or maybe a job. Second don’t worry about your defense ahead of time. Don’t prepare what to say or defend yourself, trust the Sprit. Third, there is great reward in heaven if we suffering for sharing our faith.
God gives his presence under duress. Ie Acts 7:55-56. Unless you’ve found something worth dying for, you don’t have anything worth living for.