I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Proverbs 29. Tonight we're looking again at another very vast subject, it has to be said, but we're going to try and do it justice tonight: 'The Fear Of Man'. Our text, though we will be looking at many scriptures, our first text is Proverbs 29 verse 25: "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe". We've already quoted this verse two weeks ago, 'The fear of man brings a snare'. The picture is of an entrapment, and basically what this verse is saying, and what we will unpack tonight, is the truth that whoever lives in fear - particularly the fear of man - will never be a free person. Now that is tragic, because it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. He died on the cross to purchase our freedom and liberty. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. So I want to ask you tonight: how has the fear of man robbed you?
Now there are two areas that I want to focus on tonight, there may be more, but for our purposes we're looking at first of all: the control that comes from others when we fear man - what I mean by that is, your personal freedoms can be encroached upon when you operate in the fear of man. Then the second area, which is a major one for us as evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, is the hindrance in sharing the Gospel or in evangelism. First of all we're looking at personal freedoms - I like that slide, 'I'm a recovering people-pleaser, is that OK?'. You are controlled by others, the fear of others, and when you fear something or someone you will allow that fear to control you - whether it's their opinions, their attitudes, or withholding love, a sense of rejection - that fear becomes your master. It is the fear of disapproval, or as someone coined it 'the disease to please'. Now we've all suffered from that at some time or another.
Then secondly, the fear of man can bring a hindrance in sharing the Gospel. We can have spiritual lockjaw. Jesus said: 'No man lights a candle and puts it under a bushel', and many of us have effectively put our light that Jesus has given us under a bushel, under a basket of fear. If I was to ask you: have you ever been in the slightest way nervous, or afraid, or ashamed to share the Gospel, because of fear of being rejected? I would suggest you're a liar if you don't admit that that has been the case at some time or another. Now it's the fear of being spurned, the fear of offending, the fear of being misunderstood - and some of those might be understandable fears to an extent, but nevertheless we want to tackle this tonight. We want understand, with the help of the Holy Spirit, how fear of man puts us into a trap, robs us of the freedom that Jesus wants us to experience.
Now, for your encouragement I want to spend a bit of time looking at several biblical characters who suffered particularly from the fear of man. Now we're not going to look in too much detail at all of them, but Abraham was a man who suffered from fear. I don't know whether you recall the story in the book of Genesis, but Abraham went down to Egypt and he was so scared that someone would pinch his wife, Sarah (because she was rather attractive apparently), that he made a pact with her that they were going to tell a lie. It was a kind of half-lie, because she was related to him somewhat, but they were going to say that she was his sister rather than his wife. That got him into trouble, God got him out of it, but it didn't stop him doing it again. A second time he lied, this time to the King of Gerar, Abimelech, the exact same thing, saying that Sarah was his sister. At the root of this was the fear of man. In Genesis 20 verse 11 Abraham seeks to explain himself to Abimelech, and he says: 'Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife'. Isn't that interesting, his fear that the fear of God was not there, led him to the fear of man! I don't know whether it was his example, or hearing of his example, but his son Isaac does exactly the same thing - it's recorded in Genesis again, chapter 26 - with his wife, Rebekah. He lies and says that she is his sister for fear that she is stolen from him. Fear of man.
Another character whom we see fear of man in is Aaron, Moses' brother. You will recall that when Moses is coming down Mount Sinai, having received the law, that there is a great commotion. He finds out to his horror that the people are now worshipping, in a kind of religious orgy, this golden calf. It says in Exodus 32:21-24, just listen to it: 'And Moses said to Aaron, 'What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?'' - he's getting blamed. 'So Aaron said, 'Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, 'Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him'. And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off'. So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out''. So, lest he should get blamed for this particular idolatrous predicament, he blames the people - points the finger back at the people - suggesting that they were set on evil, and 'They said to me'. It's farcical, isn't it? He says: 'We threw the gold into the fire, and this calf just came out'. It was fear of man that was at the root of Aaron's problem. He did fear the people, what they would do to him.
Another character - I think I may have mentioned him the first week when we looked at 'The Fear Of God' - who suffered from the fear of man is Elijah. This is incredible, because in 1 Kings 18 we read of him throwing down the gauntlet to the prophets of Baal, the servants of Jezebel the Queen, and there is this great demonstration that God who is the LORD, Jehovah, answers by fire and consumes the sacrifice, licks up even the water. Yet, because the prophets of Baal were subsequently slain for their idolatry, Jezebel makes this pronouncement in 1 Kings 19: 'Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'. And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there'. We eventually find him swooning beneath a broom tree in depression, wishing that he was dead, suicidal. What was at the root of it? Well, we might say that he was quite burnt out and run down, I think that's part of it, but certainly at the core of his problem was the fear of man - this time it was a woman, a very controlling, manipulative woman by the name of Jezebel.
You see, some of the greatest men that we know in the Bible suffered from this. But I want to spend a little bit more time looking at King Saul, King Saul and King David had beginnings and experiences in life that were quite similar. Yet, when we look at the end of each of their biographies, they couldn't be more different. I don't know whether you've ever thought about this or not, but both Saul and David came from families of little worldly significance. Both were keepers of animals, both were sought out and anointed by the prophet Samuel to become King - and not only were they Kings, but the Bible tells us they were also both prophets. We also know that they both sinned against the Lord, but it's on record that both of them confessed their sin. But God forgave one his sin, but rejected the other. We know that David was able to find restoration with God, and finally he died in the Lord; while Saul corrupted himself so much that he became demonised, he lusted after David's innocent blood, and he died having fallen so far away from God that he had to seek the counsel of God apparently from witches to find out what God's will was.
Now, what was the difference between these two generals of God? It's very simple, 1 Samuel 13 verse 14 says: 'The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart', that's David. His heart sought after the favour of God, however Saul's heart was bound by the fear of man. Saul's heart was set on pleasing the people and maintaining a good image before the people. As we look at Saul's story, we see that for the people's sake he regularly went against God's wishes. Let me show you this, turn with me to 1 Samuel chapter 13, this is an account of how Jonathan had stirred up a conflict with the Philistines, and it was the custom that before battle they would wait on Samuel the prophet to make a priestly sacrifice before they went into battle. In verse 8 of 1 Samuel 13 we read: 'Saul waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal' - watch this phrase - 'and the people were scattered from him'. He was losing control of the people. Down to verse 11, Samuel eventually shows up and by this time Saul himself, illegally, performs the sacrifice, and in verse 11: 'Samuel said, 'What have you done?'. And Saul said - watch the phrase again - 'When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, 'The Philistines will now come' - etc, that's why he made the sacrifice, because of the people. He feared the people!
Now come to chapter 15 here of 1 Samuel, we see this pattern again, this time concerning the King of Amalek. God had given clear instructions that this people were to be destroyed completely, and all their livestock. In chapter 15 verse 9 this is what we read: 'But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed'. Now look down at verse 20, Samuel is now asking 'Why have you spared Agag and the beasts?': 'And Saul said to Samuel, 'But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD'' - and may I just mention in passing, here is the danger of partial obedience. We can salve our conscience by those things wherein we are obedient, but ignoring and being blind to those things where we are wilfully disobedient. 'I have obeyed the voice of the LORD and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people', there it is again, 'took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal'. He is blaming the people again. Now, look at Samuel the prophet's response to Saul's explanation: 'Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king'. Game over! God is going to move on now to another King.
But look at verse 24, Saul's retort again: 'Saul said to Samuel, 'I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice''. You can see he's got a problem here, hasn't he? He's a people pleaser. Look down at verse 28: 'So Samuel said to him, 'The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbour of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent'. Then Saul said, 'I have sinned; yet honour me now, please, before the elders of my people'' - he still hasn't got it. Look at all he had lost, and still public relations is what he is interested in.
Saul is a lesson to us all concerning the fear of man. Coming into the New Testament, I think Peter is another example to us. He spent three and a half years with our Lord Jesus Christ, he was one of the leading disciples that's for sure - but we are all familiar with the scene in Matthew chapter 26, where he is in the courtyard in the early morning. Jesus is being tried, and before a little slip of a girl, a maiden who says 'Were you not one of them? Are you not a Galilean, one of His disciples?', he denies the Lord Jesus Christ with oaths and with curses. Now, I don't know how that went, or what he said, but you can fill in the gaps. Indeed, the fear of man is the reason why many of the Jews who Jesus came to did not openly confess Christ. John 12: 'Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God'. Wow! They believed that Jesus was who He said He was, they believed the miraculous signs and wonders that attested to His identity, and yet for fear of excommunication from the synagogue, of ostracisation, and of the shame and disfavour of man, they didn't confess Christ.
In fact, it was fear of not being Caesar's friend that caused Pilate to judge Jesus unfairly. The Jews said: 'If you let Him go, you're not Caesar's friend', and he caved in - fear of man from even a ruthless governor like Pilate. But getting back to Peter, we're familiar with what happened when our Lord Jesus was going to the cross when he denied Him, but even after Pentecost - and this is an encouragement to many of us who suffer from time to time with fear of man - even after Pentecost, after Acts 2, the Pentecostal sermon where 3000 were saved and some great exploits throughout the opening chapters of the book of Acts, even after the enduement of power from on high, Peter still struggles with entrapment with fear of man. In Galatians chapter 2 verse 11 we read: 'Now when Peter had come to Antioch', Paul says, 'I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles' - so whenever there was a posse coming from the Jewish wing of the church in Jerusalem, he wouldn't eat with the Gentiles, but previously he had - 'but when they came', look, 'he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy'.
Now this is incredible, because if you know the book of Acts you will know that in Acts 10 and Acts 11 you have the record of how Peter, on a housetop in Joppa, had a miraculous revelation, a vision from God of how God was going to open up the kingdom to the Gentiles. Jesus Himself in Matthew 16 had given the keys of the kingdom to Peter. So in Acts chapter 2, he opens the door of the kingdom to the Jewish people, all the people who were there celebrating the Jewish feast of Pentecost, he opens the door to those Jews into the kingdom of the New Covenant. But in Acts chapter 10 he is the one who goes to Cornelius' house, an Italian centurion who is a God-fearer, and he preaches words to him and his household whereby they may be saved, and Peter is the instrument of opening the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles - beforehand this was a Jewish thing. Yet the one who was used of God for the new thing lapses back into the old - because of what? The fear of man. So you see Peter mixing with the Gentiles, eating with the Gentiles, but then all of a sudden when James sends some of the Jewish brothers from Jerusalem, the Jewish church, he backs off from fraternising with the Gentiles and he becomes aloof and ostracised from them. His action is so stark that it even affects Barnabas (who is the son of encouragement by the way), it even infects him, the fear of man. It's quite serious, isn't it?
So we need to look tonight at how we get free from this ensnarement, how we get freedom from the fear of man. The first thing I want you to note is to recognise and confess the fear of man. There is no sense of sticking your head in the sand and saying: 'Oh, I don't fear anybody. This isn't a problem for me'. I think if all of us are honest, we are affected in some way or other - even the most seemingly bombastic or confident people. Incidentally, it's interesting, that's the way Peter looks in the Gospel, isn't it? Often people who are like that are trying to hide an insecurity, and he certainly was. You've got to admit that this can be a problem for you - it certainly has been a problem for me. So we've got to be real first of all, not be in denial, and say: 'Right, OK, this is a problem for me, or potentially a problem for me - where I am', as we began, 'controlled in some way, where my personal freedoms are taken away because of intimidation by other people, or I am hindered in sharing the Gospel, being a witness, evangelising for Jesus Christ publicly because of fear of man'.
The second thing you need to do is acknowledge how fear of man is robbing you. It's all right saying: 'Well, I've got this', but not actually appreciating the damage that it's doing to you. You see, your significance is not in what other people think about you - and so often that's at the core of the fear of man. Even in evangelism, one of the reasons why we fear witnessing to someone that we don't know in particular (or even people that we do know), is that we're afraid of being rejected, isn't that right? Metaphorically or literally, we're afraid of the door being closed in our faces. Now, first of all let me say: that usually doesn't happen, isn't that right? Usually the ostracisation and the insults that we fear are going to happen is a lie of the devil that we believe to shut us down, keep us quiet. Now, we do get refusals, but not as many as you would expect. Not only does it not usually happen, rejection isn't as bad as you think, you know. You should try it, it's actually not that bad. I mean, what really have you lost if you approach somebody that you don't even know, they will have forgotten you by tomorrow - what does it really matter if they just politely refuse your advances, or if they're even aggressive, what does it really matter in the end? In fact, James 1 says: 'Count it all joy when you enter into various trials'. Really, we need a total psyche change concerning sharing our faith. Now I'm not talking about an aggressive, over the top, shoving things down people's throats - I'm not talking about that, but I think we're a long way off that, a lot of us. We're so intimidated with spiritual lockjaw that we're terrified of saying anything to anybody - and one of the reasons is that we are afraid of rejection. But we need a total psyche change, whereby - even when we are rejected - we rejoice, because we are bearing the reproach of Christ who was despised and rejected of men, who came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
So often in the past I have prayed: 'Oh, that I might know You, the power of Your resurrection, and the fellowship of Your sufferings' - eh? We want to know Jesus, we want to know power, but we don't want to suffer as Him - that's not in the deal, folks. We are to take up our cross and follow Him, and just in case you believed another lie - 'Oh, the cross I have to bear' - it's not your aches and pains, it's not your yapping husband or wife, it's not your job, your boss. That is not the cross that you have to bear, the cross you have to bear is the reproach of Christ - that's what it is! Suffering for His sake. We bypass that, don't we? Vance Havner once said: 'We are so afraid of being offensive that we are not effective'. I believe fear is not only one of the greatest weapons that the enemy has used to bind us in our own personal, emotional life; but it's one of his greatest schemes and weapons to bring the church to a standstill in evangelising the world and extending the kingdom of Jesus. How many of us here tonight are not sharing the Gospel because of fear of man?
Do you know what that means? You are at the mercy of someone else's affirmation of you. You are at the mercy of what an unsaved or a backslidden person thinks of you. Effectively, you are at the mercy of their mood, that means you're at the mercy of their dysfunction - and that is such a powerless place to be, whenever Scripture says: 'If God be for me, who can be against me?'. Psalm 27 verse 1: 'The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?'. You see, as Christian believers we are meant to get our affirmation, our significance and identity, from the love of God in our hearts. When I realise that God is for me, I realise that nothing can separate me from the love of God. You see, it really comes down to whether we believe this book or not, doesn't it? It does. We can sit in here in the cloisters our little cosy, sheltered church and rehearse these things, and 'Amen' them in the right places, but what really matters is what we do when we go outside. If 1 John 4:18, which we have recited in the past couple of weeks, is true - perfect love drives out fear! So if we have experienced the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, if we have a true appreciation of the passion of Christ for us to bleed and die, to be buried in come to life again, we will not let fear stop us sharing the Gospel. I'm not saying fear won't be there, it will be there, but we will not stop at fear - but when fear knocks our door, we let faith open it.
So we need to recognise and confess this is a problem, secondly we need to acknowledge how fear is robbing us - do you see that tonight? Thirdly, we need to repent and submit to renewing of the mind. Now this is vital, because if you have been obeying fear - to whom you obey, they are your what? Master. Jesus is meant to be your Lord, you need to repent. But you also need to submit to the renewing of the mind. What that looks like is: stop people-pleasing, stop living for the approval of others. In Ephesians chapter 6 verses 6 and 7, we read instructions to servants or slaves and how they ought to relate to their masters. Here's some of what it says: 'Do not serve them with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men'. Now isn't that a staggering phrase, 'eyeservice'? 'Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers'. So you've got to repent if you've been people-pleasing, or living for approval of others. You've got to renew your mind, and decide 'No, I'm not going to live for other's favour, but God's favour, God's approval'.
Then fourthly, having repented and submitted to the renewing of the mind, you need to choose to confront the fear of man. It's easy to repent if we don't confront and make restitution, which often needs to be made - put things right that are wrong. So, if there is a true renewal of the mind and you're going to stop listening to fear and his compulsions, and you're going to obey the Lord, then you're going to have to confront the fear of man. That means you will become bold - did you know that boldness is not a personality type? Did you know that? You see, this is a lie of the enemy, and it's even perpetuated through the church - 'Oh, you are quite extrovert, so you must be an evangelist', that's the way people think, isn't it? 'You're quiet in your preaching, so you must be a teacher' - and the subliminal message is: 'If you're the quiet teacher type, then you're not required to go out and spread Gospel, because that's not your gift; but if you're the extravagant extrovert, you're the evangelist, you're the one we rely on in bringing the people in'. I'm sorry, there are people who are gifted as teachers and people who are gifted as evangelists, but actually Ephesians chapter 5 says that the people are the gifts of the church - and they are gifted to the church to equip the saints for the works of ministry. What does that mean? That an evangelist's first purpose is to equip the saints to evangelise, that's why we have to kick to touch this myth that has been believed for years, and sometimes perpetuated in our churches, that this man and men like him are paid to do the work. That's a lie of the devil. He might serve you, but you're not his master - he's not paid to do the work, he is equipped to fit you to do the ministry. He's not 'in the ministry' and you not - do you understand? So this myth that there are certain personality types - you know, the confident people who are bold - boldness is not a personality type. I want you to know here tonight that if you are quieter type of personality, there is nothing wrong with that, but there is a way for you to reach out that is critical. Not everybody responds to the bombastic person, to the overconfident extrovert, there are people who need someone who is quiet to come alongside them and witness to them quietly - and you could be that person. But boldness is not synonymous with decibels, or confidence, it is synonymous with what? Righteousness, 'the righteous are as bold as lions'!
I hope I'm getting across what's on my heart. Paul said in Romans 1 verse 16: 'I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek'. He wasn't ashamed. We are ashamed - there can be all sorts of reasons why we are ashamed. I'll be honest with you, I can be ashamed - not so much of the Gospel - but the way the Gospel has been preached over the years. I'll be honest with you, I cringe at times when I hear the Gospel preached in a certain manner - maybe I have done it even in the past. I cringe at times, when I walk down the street and maybe there is an Open Air - and I'm not against Open Airs, but I think there is a way of doing them today and a way of not doing them. I've got to convict myself over what I'm doing in place of what some people are doing, but listen: we're not trying to execute a sense of duty to go out and preach the Gospel, we're trying to win people! A lot of what is being done doesn't win them, it turns them off, it turns me off! I get into trouble sometimes - can you imagine that? - but I have gone to some of these people and said: 'What are you doing? What are you doing?'.
If you're going to confront the fear of man, here are three things you need to do. Get empowered by the Spirit, get empowered by the Spirit. I don't for one minute make the assumption that because you go to a Pentecostal church, you're empowered by the Spirit - because a lot of people aren't. One thing is absolutely sure: the disciples were told by Jesus after His death and His resurrection, 'Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high'. In other words, don't lift a finger - He has already told them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, but He saying don't move until you get this power that you need. If we're going to be as bold as a lion, we need to get empowered by the Holy Spirit. When the disciples were baptised in the Spirit, they were marked by boldness. Look at how many times in the Acts of the Apostles, the early chapters, you read about Peter and the other apostles with boldness preaching Christ and demonstrating His power. In fact, before Pentecost - do you remember the disciples were all gathered in the Upper Room? They were fearful, the doors were bolted, Jesus had to walk through the wall to get in - and you know what He does? He walks in, and what does He said to them? 'Peace be unto you' - in the midst of their fear - and then what does He do? The Bible says He goes and He breathes on them. Some think that He actually didn't breathe on the whole lot of them, but He went one by one to each of them and breathed on them, saying 'Receive the Holy Spirit'. Then we read that He commissions them, saying 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age'. So in the midst of their fear, He gives them His peace, and then He empowers them telling them 'I will be with you' - and that's what's key.
That was before Pentecost, and then Pentecost happens and we see this marvellous boldness exhibited by the apostles. I often think of Acts 4:29-30, they had been threatened because there was a man healed at the gate of the Temple, a lame man, and everybody was after their blood; and it says they prayed to the Lord out of persecution: 'Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus' - and the very house that they were praying in was shaken. 'Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak'.
Are you afraid to witness for Jesus? You need an empowerment from God by the Holy Spirit. I heard someone say recently: 'You mightn't be the best evangelist, but your best Friend is' - eh? You mightn't be the best preacher, soulwinner, but your best Friend is - and He lives within you. So it's not just boldness that we need - and I know that many believe that speaking in tongues is the primary sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but the first thing that is mentioned in the book of Acts is: 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world'. Do you understand? The sign that the Holy Spirit has empowered you is that you want to go and witness, even against your fear.
But it's not just boldness that the Holy Spirit will give, but love. This is why we need a continual infilling of the Holy Spirit. What is the first mentioned fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5? It is love, and everything else follows after it. You can do great exploits, 1 Corinthians 13, great giftedness, great sacrifice, you can even give your body to be burned and martyred, but if you don't have love it's all nothing, and you are nothing. You need to be motivated by love. Paul says the love of Christ constrains, compels us. You see, it's whenever your love becomes greater than your fear - we're not saying we don't have it, I've got it. Every time I go to witness to someone there is that fear that whispers in my ear. There's many a time I'm in the car, and then I have to get out of the car, walk back to the place to surrender to the Holy Spirit's voice. But when my love is greater than my fear of rejection, then I will obey. Do you believe the Holy Spirit lives on the inside of you? I hope you've been endued with that power from on high, and you're living a Spirit-filled life. Well, if the Holy Spirit lives and presides completely over you, you have within you the answer for this world, and you ought not to be intimidated. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. You have the answer to every problem in you!
So, to confront the fear of man you need to get empowered by the Spirit, but the second thing you need to do is re-evaluate your obedience to God, re-evaluate your obedience to God. It Acts chapter 5, the apostles were commanded not to any longer speak in the name of Jesus, but it says that Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men'. Just imagine for a moment if our evangelism wasn't so much about results, but simply about obedience to the Father - eh? We just do it because He asks us to do it. Now, we are compelled by love, don't misunderstand me, as I said we do understand that we're wanting to rescue people into the kingdom of God - but it isn't about the results. Now, of course God wants more saved than less, I want to see multitudes saved rather than dribs and drabs - that figures, doesn't it? But the motivation must not be the results and success, but the willingness to go again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, even if we're spurned in our advances, just because it is the Father's will and we love the Father.
In Galatians chapter 1 and verse 10 Paul says: 'For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ'. Now please don't use verses like this to say you can ignore the leadership in the church, some people do that: 'Oh, I don't obey men, I obey God' - well, you also have to recognise what God has set in order, and He has set headship in order, He has set authorities in order, even in the land, you know. Even where I come from, up in my jurisdiction, there was a lot of things done over the years in apparent protest and civil disobedience that goes against what Scripture teaches about respecting the authorities. Remember, we are talking about a biblical world here where Caesar was god, and these Christians are operating under it and they didn't start riots or civil disobedience. So you can't use it for that, but we do need to re-evaluate our obedience to God especially in the light of how often we obey fear.
In 1 Thessalonians 2 verse 4, we read that we are not trying to please people, but God who tests our hearts - what a verse! But we are trying to please people, aren't we? God is with you, and that's all that really ought to matter. In 2 Timothy chapter 4 verses 16 and 17 Paul says, listen to this: 'At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me'. Now, that's incredible. I mean, with retrospect, everybody thinks Paul's wonderful, but in Paul's day it says everybody - this is people in the church now, Christians - forsook him! He said on one occasion that 'all in Asia have forsaken me' - all the churches in Asia! He says: 'May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion'. So, even when everybody - his support, people he had led to Christ, he was their father in the faith - they disowned him and deserted him, he was confident in this assurance that God was with him.
So you need to re-evaluate your obedience to God, just obey God and believe God, and disregard the fear and choose faith. Thirdly, if you want to confront the fear of man you need to get empowered by the Spirit, re-evaluate obedience to God, and you need to take risks. Do you take risks? We're wired not to take risks. Someone said: 'Faith is spelt R-I-S-K'. I don't like that phrase that 'Faith is a leap in the dark', it's not a leap in the dark, it's a leap in the light - but there is a leap, or else it wouldn't be faith. Faith is the evidence of - what? The unseen. So we are wired not to take risks, to always take the road and route of least resistance, the easy road. But, do you see if you want to be set free from the fear of man, you're going to have to make choices with calculated risks - but to do that, you need to keep perspective. Here's what Jesus was doing when He said in Matthew 10:28: 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell'. Who do you fear more? William Gurnall, the Puritan, said: 'We fear men so much because we fear God so little'.
What is riskier? Which is riskier: offending men or running the risk of offending God? I'm not suggesting for one moment that we would be in trouble with God, but what I am saying is: if you love Him, you'll not want to let Him down. We play things too safe, don't we? We've had it so easy for so many years in our Western civilisations, where there has been a measure of liberty and freedom. We play it safe, when Jesus died, when the apostles were martyred, and we're afraid of getting our feelings hurt. Now, please don't think that I'm heaping condemnation or judgement on you - I'm not doing that, really I'm not. I mean, I have shared with you my struggle over the years with fear, and I've told you that whenever I'm called upon to witness to others - which is more often now that has been - fear is there, but I'm choosing to obey God. I'm choosing to step out of my fear in faith, to believe God and to obey God. I'm going to take risks, because I'm going to believe God. You see, that's what Paul said, that's why the apostles did what they did, that's why they went through all the turmoil and the threats and the danger, because they believed in the resurrection of the dead! He says this would be a miserable life, we would be of all men most miserable, if there was no resurrection of the dead - that's why we're going through what we're going through, because we believe are going to be resurrected; and 'I want a good resurrection', Paul says, 'I want a resurrection to reward because of how I have lived for Jesus'. You see, that makes for a risky Christian. You see, you can't threaten a Christian with heaven, can you? But we don't live in the light of heaven, do we?
I heard someone say recently: 'If you never move out of your comfort zone, why would you need the Comforter'. Oh, we're good at our comfort zones, aren't we? We're good at saying: 'Oh, that's not me. Oh, he can do that, ach, she's so good at that - but that's not me'. That's maybe not the way you would do it, or God would want you to do it, 'That's not my gift, I show by my life' - yes, I agree with that. There is no sense speaking with your mouth when your life is saying other things, which is often what happens when we try to witness, our life speaks louder than our words - but that's not an excuse not to say anything. Please don't get me wrong, there is a whole other sermon, maybe a whole other series on how to witness today, how to witness and how not to witness - but that's a big one. But I think the church generally now is not erring on the side of witnessing aggressively and in a wrong manner, but erring on the side of not witnessing at all. Do you know something? You need to take risks, even to the extent of the point of no return - do you know what I mean? Backing yourself into a corner so that if God doesn't get you out, you're cooked! You say: 'What on earth do you mean?'. What I mean is, we believe in a God of the supernatural, that's what you're testifying here - and you do it more than a lot of the churches in the town - but there comes a moment when we need to put our money where our mouth is, and we need to go to people who are sick, go to people who are disenfranchised, go to those who are broken in society and say: 'We've got the answer! We've got Good News for the poor! Jesus has come to heal the brokenhearted, to set at liberty the captives, and my Jesus is able to help you - would you just allow me to pray with you for what you need right now?' - and trust God to do something. Do you know what I'm going to tell you? God does heal - but even when it doesn't happen there and then, the very fact that you took time to love on somebody is enough to speak to many. Think about that.
I'm almost finished, but was it last week I put that slide up? What would you do if you had no fear? What would you do if you had no fear of man? Do you remember that other slide: 'Fear killed more dreams than failure ever will'? What was Jesus' dream? You understand what I mean when I say that, what was His dream? 'Go into all the world and disciple nations' - have you ever heard a sermon on that one? Disciple nations! Nations! 'Bring My kingdom to nations, whole people-groups!'. It's time for the true church of Jesus Christ, which is not a denominational animal but every blood-bought, born again child of God, to rise up in fearless devotion to Jesus Christ with a love and compassion for people, not in condemnation or judgement, or religion. What does love look like? Laying down your life.
When you get set free - and I'm being set free, I don't know if I'm completely free from the fear of man, I imagine not, I'm pretty sure I'm not, but I'm getting free - but do you see as I'm getting freer, do you know what is happening? The joy is getting greater, and the joy of obedience is wonderful. One moment your heart-scared of speaking to that stranger that you feel God is putting on your heart - and I want to tell you something: do you see when you, in faith, step out in obedience to God and do it, you will dance your way home for the joy of obedience.
The fear of man brings a snare, would you break free from it tonight once and for all? Let's pray. Let's just take a moment, and I'm not going to go over an assessment of all that we have considered in the last couple of weeks, but if you've been here you can evaluate it - things that you have maybe dealt with in previous weeks, or left undone but you want to deal with it now, the need for the fear of the Lord in your life, the need to overcome - by the power of Jesus - unnatural fears, or supernatural demonic fears. But tonight, the fear of man, this is before you - it was Aristotle who said: 'There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing'. Eleanor Roosevelt said: 'Do what you feel in your heart to be right, because you will be criticised anyway' - it's true. Do you know that people are talking about you ready? I don't want to depress you. It's not me or anybody I know, but I guarantee you people are talking about you already. Don't think if you start doing this, people are going to all of a sudden start talking about you. Do you see the lies we believe?
I want you to do would you need to do: admit and confess and repent of the fear of man. Submit to a renewal of your mind, over the lies that you have believed that have shut your mouth, or that have entrapped you to the control of another person. Then confront the fear of man, you must confront it. Seek God and ask Him to endue you with that Holy Spirit power; by faith ask Him, and receive, and believe. Reevaluate your obedience, and be determined - no matter what fear arises within you - that you will obey God rather than men. Determine tonight, resolve to take risks, to step out of the comfort zone. Just think what could happen in this town of yours if every single one of you here tonight decided: 'Everyday I'm going to take the risk. I don't care if I get shot down, ridiculed, talked about - I will smile, and I will love, and I will laugh for Jesus' sake'. This is what we need, if we're going to see our communities changed for Jesus Christ, this is what we need. Ask the Lord to endue you not only with the Spirit's power, but boldness and love - that agape, all-consuming, all-sacrificial love.
Father, I thank You for being with us these weeks. I thank You, Lord, for what You're doing in these people in this church. Lord, I believe there are people tonight who really have confronted a reality that they didn't realise was as constraining and restrictive in their Christian experience. Lord, I pray now, in Jesus' name, that You will release the bondage that is on their mind, on their heart, on their mouth, on their lips. Lord, set them free, like Lazarus who came from the tomb bound hand and foot with the grave clothes, we want You to cry out tonight to these living believers: 'Loose them, and let them go!', Lord. Set them free so that they might walk, and leap, and praise God; that they might say: 'Come, see a Man that will be all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ?'. Like the demoniac who was told to 'Go into the Decapolis and tell what great things the Lord has done for you', Lord, let us not be contrived or have some kind of religious pretense. Lord, deliver us from religion, but help us to be naturally supernatural, help us to be ourselves, just ourselves, but with the Spirit of God upon us - to just love people, Lord. Lord, people are dying for love, literally they are dying for love. There are people in this town lonely, even to say a word to them at the checkout - oh, dear God, help us Lord, when we look at the beggar, to look into Your eyes. For as much as we have done it to the least of them, if we have given a cup of water in Your name... Lord, get us back to the basics, we pray; let us not complicate this thing but, Lord, set us free from fear of man, from men-pleasing, from people-approval. Set us free from the lies into the glorious liberty and freedom of the Gospel. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Monaghan Elim Church in Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Fear Of Man" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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