SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The One Great Divide Among Mankind
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Sunday, August 26, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1586
Pastor Don Horban

Matthew 10:16-42 - “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. [17] Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, [18] and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. [19] When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. [20] For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. [21] Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, [22] and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. [23] When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [24] "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. [25] It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [26] "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [27] What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. [28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. [30] But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. [32] So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”[34] "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [40] "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.[This is the reason for the bold, faithful proclamation from the rooftops in verse 27.] [41] The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. [42] And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple,[different from mere humanitarianism. Furthering the spread of the gospel in 40-41] truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."

What does the man on the street think of Jesus? Some will give a basic creedal statement ("Jesus is the Son of God"). Others will cite some passage from the Sermon on the Mount ("Jesus was that prophet who taught us about the Golden Rule - to do to others as we would want them to do to us").

But not many would say "Jesus is the coming Judge before whom all the world will stand. He will decide who will enter the Kingdom and who will not", or "Jesus is the only way men and women can be made right with God - without Him everyone is eternally lost!"

In other words, very subtly, the activity of Jesus is described in inclusive terms rather than terms that separate the crowd according to their response to Jesus. I mean, Jesus said those things in the Sermon on the Mount to whoever would listen - atheist and disciple alike. The Golden Rule is available to anyone today who can read. And the miracles of Jesus are on record for whoever chooses to study them.

But once I define Jesus as the coming Judge of mankind, or as the Savior of those who put their faith in Him and follow Him as Lord, I am describing a Jesus who distinguishes and separates mankind. So we usually don’t define Jesus in those terms.

But the New Testament consistently does. If fact, this is the only way the New Testament describes Jesus. So what has happened to the way the world thinks about Jesus? How did we get so woefully unprepared for the real deal about who Jesus really is and what He really does?

Why does the world love the Jesus of the Golden Rule and reject the Jesus of the Second Coming? Why do we love the Jesus who says "Love your neighbour," yet aren't too crazy about the One who says "No man comes to the Father but by me"?

The answer is found in what really is the key mark of the fallen mind. It is found in the relativism and pluralism of today's thinking. Tolerance is the watchword for the day. And by that I mean, not simply recognizing that diversity is a legal right (which is a good thing),but rather defining truth in such an open, floating way that no one can possibly assess anyone else’s view as incorrect. Relativism has become the unquestioned absolute (see the contradiction?) mind-set for the modern and post-modern mind.

Consider these examples:

Think about the abortion issue. Note the name abortionists have given themselves - "pro-choice." It’s a cleaver move. They’ve already claimed the “pro” ground. That means if you disagree with them you have to be the “anti” or “against” group. And the moral tone of our age doesn’t embrace people who are against things. So we’re on the losing side before we even start.

And all they’re in favor of is choice. And that resonates with people who like human rights. Everyone should have the right to choose. The whole issue of what is being chosen - the killing of a pre-born child - is neatly swept off the radar. All we are left talking about is a woman's right to choose. You don’t have to have an abortion if you don’t want. Just let me do what I want. Live and let live (except for the pre-born child, who gets no say and no life whatsoever).

Or consider the issue of homosexuality. It’s all framed around the issue of "Gay Rights." "You can be heterosexual if you want. I can be homosexual if I want." What you don't have is the right to tell me that I shouldn't be homosexual. Or worse yet, you can’t tell me that God doesn’t allow for homosexual activity. I leave you alone. You leave me alone. What works for you works for you. What works for me works for me.”

Or consider the issue of absolute religious truth. The idea that doctrinal truth in religion is like truth in mathematics is virtually non-existent in the media today. Religious people are all lumped together as people of faith. The content of their faith isn’t the issue. You worship your God (if you need one) in whatever way you want. I'll worship mine in whatever way I want.

The result of all of this is there's really not a person in this world who minds you committing your life to Jesus. What the world hates is you proclaiming all people must commit their lives to Jesus if they ever want to be ready for heaven. That’s totally unacceptable.

This has tremendous appeal to a whole generation, even in the church. More than once Paul cautions the church about framing what we say about the gospel and our Lord in terms already acceptable to the unregenerate mind. The boom of “red letter” Christians is easily explainable. Most of the “red letters” in your New Testament and mine fit in perfectly well with the social agenda of our day. Without the rest of the “black letters” in the New Testament it’s easy to give the impression that as long as you’re loving and forgiving and care about the poor you have nothing else you need to know about following Jesus. And it’s very easy to ignore or explain away the few red letters that talk about hell and eternal judgment and dying in one’s sins.
This pluralistic world with its truth-numbing tolerance has enormous appeal. Where tolerance trumps the existence of absolute truth it is always easy to appear more generous and loving. This makes it easy to paint evangelicals as narrow-minded prudes.

But then strangely, if you attack the basic premises of the world's system like Jesus did, it suddenly gets extremely intolerant to any who won’t buy into their relativistic mind-set.

All of this background is to magnify the importance of our text. These verses are very important because in them Jesus predicts what will happen when His people try to penetrate this kind of world with authentic Christianity.

1) THERE WILL BE PERSECUTION FROM THE WORLD

Matthew 10:22-25 - “....and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. [23] When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [24] A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. [25] It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

Jesus tells us what’s to be expected. We're to be braced for persecution and rejection. He's sending us out "like sheep among wolves." He doesn't want anybody to have bleary-eyed, romantic notions about what it means to live for Him in this world. Paul was flogged 5 times in the first 20 years of his ministry.

Then Jesus tells us how we’re to respond to the persecution we will receive for our loyalty to Himself - Matthew 10:16b - “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

There is to be a proper mixture of wisdom and gentleness. First, we must have the wisdom of knowing what to say and when. We need to recognize which type of soil we're dealing with and where our efforts will be the most effective.

And then we also need gentleness. We need to be constantly at prayer that our attitudes are meek, loving and Christlike - that we never respond in kind to our enemies. This is why we need people to rub us the wrong way in the church. This is where we are trained to respond to mistreatment in a Christ-like way. We don’t know how to do this without training. We need divine gentleness because it takes special grace of the Lord not to just see how miserable they are making life for you, but to see with the love and patience of Jesus.

2) WHERE CHRIST IS FOLLOWED THERE WILL BE DIVISION AMONG FAMILIES

Matthew 10:21,34-39 - “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death....10:34-39....Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If those words sound shocking to us, imagine how they sounded to a world where family ties were far closer than they are in the world today. The central idea is not that Jesus came to wreck homes. We know this from the way Jesus treated His own mother at the foot of the cross.

The real point of these verses is forming an accurate understanding what conversion is very likely to bring into many people’s lives. Apparently it would alter life so totally and drastically that there was bound to be a clash with the old values and environment in which those old values were formed. The convert’s life really would be that contrary to its pre-conversion condition.

Matthew 10:37 - “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Commitment to Christ is tested in households. There is no greater test than this. Those words are striking, to be sure. But the real point is Jesus spelled this all out before the fact of conversion. In other words, Jesus is broadcasting the news that this is what conversion would entail. He’s calling would-be converts to anticipate this - to think all of this through. I've thought about how rarely I've explained it that way to somebody at the altar.

3) THERE WILL BE THE CONSTANT BATTLE WITH SELF

Matthew 10:38-39 - “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

In a way, Jesus has already talked about this in Matthew 9:17 - “Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."

Picture that crusty brittle wine skin. There's the ongoing resistance to the stretching influence of the Holy Spirit in my heart. The life of Jesus isn’t just different from the mind-set of this age. It isn’t just different from my own inclinations and desires. It’s contrary. It pulls the old world-view apart. It won’t fit with it. It wars against all that was previous to it in terms of conviction and loyalty. And authentic disciples sense this battle. They’re engaged in this battle daily - Galatians 5:17 - “....the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other....” That’s Paul’s way of saying the same thing. This is the tug and tear between the new wine and the old wine skin.

We need once again to hear Jesus say to each one of us, "You're called to move into a world that is going in the opposite direction. Don't allow your heart to settle, to compromise, to wander from my tender love for you"

4) WE MUST LIVE IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNAL REALITIES

Matthew 10:26-33 - “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [27] What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. [28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. [30] But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. [32] So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus spells out specifically what He means:

a) We don't need to be afraid -Verse 26 - “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

Father God can be trusted both to protect and reward. Christians stand up better when they remember the shortness of trials and the justice of eternity. This is what the Apostle Paul was picturing when he said, "our momentary afflictions don't even compare with the glory that is before us"

b) To be converted at all means to confess Jesus before men - Verses 27, 32-33 - “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops....10:32-33....So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Flat roof-tops in first century Judea were the best pulpits. They were the most visible, public place readily available. And you get the impression from Jesus that He saw no difference at all between asking someone, "Have you accepted Jesus?" and "Are you confessing Jesus?"Those were different ways of saying the very same thing.

5) A CHALLENGE TO TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS OF PEOPLE

We’ve seen that the theme of this whole chapter is the great divide Jesus brought into this world. He constantly speaks to two different groups of people. And Jesus says both groups must count the cost of their decisions.

First, to those who want to follow Him in authentic discipleship, they must understand all that it entails. Jesus did absolutely nothing to encourage loose, short-term commitments. Be thoughtfully and fully engaged in following Christ in a hostile environment.

Second, to those who refuse His Lordship and grace, He warns of terrible coming danger - Matthew 10:14-15 - “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

Those words in 10:14-15 aren't just for dramatic effect. Look at 10:28 - “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

We do the world no favour when we emphasize only what we feel are the positive and uplifting elements of the faith. Notice the two commands in that eighth verse. They’re both about fear. First, “don’t fear,” and then “fear.” Only the person taking seriously Jesus’ warning about future eternal judgment can obey the first command about not fearing anything else. If the church minimizes the ultimate danger of eternity without Christ, people will be left fearing anything that threatens earthly existence. Only a solid footing in Biblical truth about future judgment and how to escape it frees an individual from those things that bring eternity that much closer.

I’m to learn daily to make temporal decisions against an eternal backdrop. Jesus was constantly putting eternal reality in front of His disciples temporal vision. Apparently we lose this vision of reality.

Paul did the very same thing - 2 Timothy 4:1-8 - “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.[5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. [6] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

What will keep this young pastor proclaiming the Word to people who get angry listening to it? What kept Paul faithful while enemies of the gospel beat the life out of him? Paul doesn’t say the crown of righteousness is for the people who work the hardest. Or it’s for the people who are the most faithful. He points people - not just Timothy, but all people - to the Second Coming. The crown of righteousness is for all who have loved His appearing (8).

So what is at stake right here in a service like this? People are thinking about summer being almost over, the circumstances of the week, the new job this fall, or where they’re taking their last few weeks of holidays. But what’s a stake right here? Why does it matter that we all proclaim this message from the rooftops?

Jesus is coming back. Let that fill your vision. Let that be the framework for every decision. It’s His appearing that matters! It’s that final judgment that matters. That will be the greatest division of mankind the world has ever seen.