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1. In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
3. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
4. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
6. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
8. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
9. But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
10. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
11.And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
12. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
13. And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15. And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18. And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21. So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
22. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25. And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26. If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27. Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29. And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
32. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36. And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
37. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
38. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
40. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
41. Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
42. And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
45. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46. The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
49. I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
50. But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
51. Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
52. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
53. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Chapter twelve is filled with a series of special instructions of warning and also of encouragement to the disciples and to others, as well. They have to do with warnings against the danger that Christians face in following the Lord, Jesus Christ and developing real relationship to the Lord in discipleship. There are always challenges that we face as we follow the Lord. In particular, if we make any attempt to draw nearer to Him and have His marvelous grace at work through us, then there are attacks that come, there are dangers that come, there are temptations that arise and Jesus names many of them in this chapter. I reading verses 1-12, this will include three of the paragraphs and statements of warning and instruction that Jesus gives to His disciples.
I want to talk to you about the “Dangers of Discipline.” As I have said, in this chapter Jesus sets out upon a series of statements and teachings to His disciples what they can very well expect as they follow Him in this world. The kinds of challenges and dangers they will encounter. Jesus gives warning and He gives encouragement and He gives instructions to the disciples in regard to these things that they and indeed, all Christians must face as they become disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and live a life of following Him and believing on Him. Let’s look at three of things that I read in verses 1-12.
The first one is the danger of hypocrisy. Last week we talked in chapter 11 about six woes upon the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ day. It was kind of a heavy word that the Lord delivered to the religious leaders of his time. We saw in categories the principles of hypocrisy that Jesus was condemning. He said to His disciples ‘The first thing that you want to keep in mind as you follow Me and as you live the Christian life in this world, you want to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ These people have such subtle ways to teach and talk about hypocrisy that before you know it, they may have you trying to follow their style in being what you really are not, and pretending to be more than you are. In hiding behind certain acts and certain things while at the same time you do not measure up within.
One of the great dangers that faces Christianity even in our time is this danger of substituting the outward form of ritual for the inward reality of God’s presence and power, which is indeed like the leaven of the Pharisees. Hypocrisy. I don’t intend to name those six things we talked about last week, but here Jesus is saying to them just understand this one principle that God has set forth and that is everything that is covered over is going to be exposed. What you say in a closet in the darkness and you think it is hid will be shouted and magnified from the housetop. Jesus is saying to us that there is a divine principle at work that God has established in His spiritual order and that is sooner or later people have to come face-to-face with whatever they have tried to cover in their lives and they have failed to get it under the blood of Jesus Christ.
The positive side of that is when we come to the Lord and we confess to Him and our lives are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, then those things are cast from us never to be remembered against us anymore. That is a marvelous thing! That is a glorious thing! But when people try to cover things in their lives and they pretend and they live a life of double standard and they say one thing publicly and do something else secretly, when they cover their lives to cover up deficiencies and times of disobedience and even sin and still try to make the platter and the cup clean on the outside as Jesus said in chapter 11, the He said that God has a principle at work through His glorious knowledge and understanding and His Spirit that one day the cover is pulled off and there is the exposing of all that is deep within the inside.
Then He continues. In verses 4-7 He talks about the danger of fear. I want you to look on in your Bible as we talk here because it is helpful for you to look at the Word as we talk about it. He said don’t be afraid of people who can kill and cause you harm. Don’t live in a state of anxiety and fear because of enemies. Don’t even fear Satan himself. He said if you want to fear, you need to have the wholesome, pure, holy fear of God – the One who can not only kill, but can cast your soul into hell fire itself. The One who controls your life, the One who has the power to be the judge and to bring condemnation, He said that is the One that you are to fear. The fear of God, as taught in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, is the most healthy attitude that a Christian can have in his life in this world. That humble, holy reverence to come into God’s presence is a kind of paradox. When you have the fear of God, you don’t have to be afraid of anybody or anything else. When you have the fear of God, you can come right into His presence without fear and without condemnation. When you have this holy reverence and respect for Him, it does something to you within so that there is indeed a boldness to come into His presence. You enjoy coming into His presence. People who are filled with condemnation, they are miserable in the presence of God. I have seen people in church services when the power of God would fall and the fire of God would burn and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit would be at work and there would be some people to get very uneasy and very miserable because of the very presence of God in such a powerful way. But when there is no condemnation and you are standing with your heart open and clean before God, oh how you welcome the visitation of God’s presence. How you rejoice in the moving of His Holy Spirit. How you rejoice in worshipping Him and seeing the manifestation of His glorious power. Nothing like it in the world, is it folks?
So, His last word there is fear not. He said God keeps up with you. He keeps account of you. He knows all about you. He takes care of the fowls, the birds and flowers and everything. And He keeps up with you, too. Even the hairs of your head are numbered. Now that’s getting pretty close attention to you and your life, wouldn’t you think so, that God Almighty keeps you in clear focus all the time, wherever you go and whatever you do, He sees you. He is watching over you. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes we may wonder where He is. But He has His eye upon you all the time. Thank God He is there with His glorious presence and His glorious protection and His glorious power and His glorious provision and His great peace. He is there. Thank God, He is there! So you don’t have to fear.
I think that is a message that we need to hear again and again and it is a passage that we need to look at again and again in these days because there are many, many fears that plague people in their lives. There are all kinds of fears; fears of growing old, fears of what is going to happen to us physically, materially, spiritually. But Jesus is saying here ‘Fear not, therefore: for you are of more value than many sparrows.’ Amen.
Then He continues and He comes to a very, very serious kind of danger that would threaten the people of the early church in a very serious way. The gospel writers knew about the extreme pressures that were being placed upon Christians of their time. The persecutions that came, especially in that transition from the time people were being weaned away from the temple and the synagogue, and especially after the temple was destroyed and people were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue. They went through a time there of great jeopardy when at times, if you stood up as a witness for Jesus Christ, it might very well mean the giving of your life. There were people who were fearful and there were people who would deny the Lord Jesus Christ. He starts, first of all, by talking about the positive confession of faith that we are to make in Him. He said ‘Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:’
Sometimes I get to imagining things and this is one of those pictures that I like to think about. You have lived your life in this world. You have confessed Jesus Christ wherever you have gone. You have been a witness for Christ. You have been a witness of His saving grace and power. You have told other people about it. And then one day you come into His presence. He calls you home and as you go walking in, there are the angels standing. He says ‘I want you to look. Look at this one coming in now. I want to tell you, angels, this is one who confessed me before men in the world. This is one who did not lose his testimony nor his witness. This is one who was not silent nor backward. He stood up and out in his day and confessed My Name and confessed Me as his Saviour and Lord. Now I want to confess to you, angels, that he/she is one of My own redeemed, one of My flock. Welcome in!’ Oh, my Lord! What a welcome sight. What a welcoming event that would be for the Lord Jesus Himself to say “Come on in! This is one of Mine!” Oh, hallelujah!
Then He gave a negative side of that. He said ‘But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.’ That is the gruesome, awesome scene, especially for people who may have tried to cover their lives and they come up before Him and He says ‘Depart. You don’t belong to Me.’ Some, He will say, even after they have tried to in a sense present their own case and they say ‘Didn’t we do some great things in Your Name?’ And some He will say ‘Depart from Me. I never knew you.’ Oh my God. To think of being denied before the angels of God and being sent away disappointed and broken hearted all because somewhere on this earth there was that failure of lifting up Jesus, being turned away because of the denial of His name. This was a danger and Jesus knew that His disciples would face it.
Simon Peter himself would deny the Lord three times. You say ‘No, I would never deny the Lord Jesus.’ I think all of us would have that kind of testimony and determination, but I would say to you that greater people than we have fallen into that danger and into that temptation. In time of stress and sorrow and disappointment, Simon Peter being the great example, but oh thank God there was restoration for him. And the time came when he would not deny Jesus when it really counted, even if it meant his life and he gladly gave it and he learned what suffering was all about. He learned it so well. As a matter fact, he learned it so well that when he wrote his first great letter, he mentions the word to suffer, pasco, where we get the pascal lamb, the suffering lamb. He mentions it fourteen times in the book of 1 Peter. Seven times it has to do with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Seven times it has to do with the sufferings of Christians. You can put up these sufferings in categories. Some of them are voluntary and they show examples to others. Some of the sufferings that Peter writes about are vicarious. They are in behalf of others to bless others and some of them are victorious because they look toward the great reward of being faithful to the end. Simon Peter knew that well about suffering and what it took to stand up with boldness and not deny the Lord Jesus Christ.
And then He goes on. In this same vein, very sober moment He begins to say in this denial, in this falling away, in this apostasy a person is most likely to start speaking a word against the Son of man. He said that is alright in the sense that he can get forgiveness for that. To speak a word against Jesus, to fail to honor His Name, He said you can get forgiveness for that. But He went on to say if you blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven you. I think Matthew adds in this world or in the world to come. When the other gospel writers talk about this blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, it is in the context of the critics of Jesus seeing Him cast out devils. They said He cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. That horrible name ‘Beelzebub’, is really a rendition of ‘Ba’al’, which means “lord” and ‘Zebub’ which means “flies.” They are accusing him of being the lord of flies that he operates in the power of this unclean spirit. It was in that context that Jesus in Mark and Matthew said if you blaspheme the Holy Ghost you cannot be forgiven because when you attribute the work of God, the work of healing, casting out devils, whatever you do through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, when you attribute that to the work of Satan that is blaspheming. That is apostasy in its worst sense. Why can’t you be forgiven of that? Because when a person has gone that far, he has gone to the place that he cannot even receive forgiveness. He is not even wanting forgiveness, neither can h e receive it and he is out of touch of the mercy of God. Because, you see, you might talk about God the Father, or God the Son, but when you blaspheme God the Holy Spirit you have reached the end of your blaspheming. There is not another name coming that you could talk against. That is why there is such a penalty placed upon this as Jesus talks about.
Then Jesus one again turns the thing right around. I’m glad that He presents both sides of the issue, negative and then the tremendous positive. That’s what I want to end with tonight, this great positive message of the power of the Holy Spirit. He is saying in the time when there is a danger of denial, in the time when you might be so pressured that you would start speaking a word against Christ or even blaspheming the Holy Ghost, He said the other side of that is in that same time if you will look for it you will receive tremendous help and authority from the power of the Holy Ghost. He says as a matter fact, when they bring you up in the synagogues – and oh my, the Bible has some examples of how they brought Christians and put them through the third degree of persecution and trial. I think of the man who was born blind in John 9 and how by himself he had to stand up and do his own testimony, right by himself. Even his parents who were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue wouldn’t stand and help their own son. You would think that the woman who had carried the shame upon her and her husband all these years, that perhaps they sinned a great sin, the reason their son was born blind and deformed, and now then he is healed and that is lifted from off her. You would think that they would stand with boldness with him, but no, he had to do it all by himself. But in that very process of them putting him through the mill and grilling him three times saying, “We know. We know. We know.” And three times he says, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.” You don’t have to know everything. When you are in the middle of trial and trouble and tribulation the Holy Spirit will come to you there and teach you and show you the way. This man rose in levels of faith and enlightenment and understanding. He started out talking about Jesus, just a man called Jesus told me to wash. The next time you see him after they pounded on him, he said, ‘Well he must be a prophet.’ He moves a little higher and said, ‘He is a man of God. Are you going to serve Him?’ And they get so angry at him that they cast him out of the synagogue. But Jesus came to him. The last time we see that man who was healed of blindness, he is on his knees before Jesus saying, ‘My Lord and my God’ and he is worshipping Him.
In the time of trial and persecution when they bring you up, you can rise to top-level faith. You can rise to top-level enlightenment and understanding of the gracious will of God. Jesus said don’t worry about it. When they bring you up that way, don’t try to figure things out. Take no thought, don’t even try to prepare your own defense. Don’t try to prepare any speech. Don’t try to prepare any argument. But what will happen in that time when you just lean on Me, the Holy Ghost will teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.’ How many of you have ever been in a tight spot and the Holy Ghost revealed to you the right thing to say and the right thing to do? Thank God for the guiding power of the Holy Spirit! Thank God that the Holy Spirit can come into our hearts and lives and can give direction. He can lead us. He gives us the words of wisdom to say. All kinds of gifts and fruits can come from Him. Jesus said when you come up against tight spots and troubled times don’t worry about it because the Holy Ghost will teach you in the very same hour what you should say. I thank God tonight for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, don’t you? Thank God for the guiding power of the Holy Spirit. I’m going to ask you to stand to your feet and praise Him tonight. Let’s give glory and honor to the Lord!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We thank You. We praise You, oh God. We magnify Your Holy Name. Oh Holy Spirit, we thank You. Thank You, oh Lord, for the Word of the Living God, for the power of the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
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