By Tony Miano
Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:26-31,
“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Polls over the years have shown that the second greatest fear for the majority of people is death. The greatest fear for most people is public speaking. That’s right. Most people are more afraid to do what I’m doing right now than they are of dying. However, if such polls were limited to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, I believe there is something that is a greater cause of fear than death and public speaking. It’s evangelism—the verbal communication of sin, death, judgment, and Hell; and the good news of salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. It’s evangelism—the declaration that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords; that He was and is fully-God and fully-Man—the sinless Lamb of God who suffered and died on the cross, shedding His innocent and precious blood for sinners, who then forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. It’s evangelism—the biblical and loving call of the Christian to Hell-bound lost people to repent (to turn from sin and turn to God), to believe the gospel, and to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Sadly, what many (if not most) professing Christians fear the most is actually the most loving thing they could ever do for another human being—evangelism—bringing glory to Jesus Christ by lifting up His name and telling people how they can come to know Him as Lord and Savior.
Of course it is loving to feed the hungry. It is loving to clothe the destitute, house the homeless, and provide medical car for the sick. The Body of Christ should do all of these things and more to fulfill Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, the horrific poverty rate around the world, while it is certainly an indictment against corrupt and/or ineffective governments around the world, such abhorrent levels of suffering is also an indictment against the very rich and sinfully indifferent American Church. With statistics showing that American Christians (and this would include all who claim the name of Christ—both true converts and false converts) give less than 2% of their annual income to further the work of Christ, which includes ministering to those in need, can the American Church really say with a clear conscience that she is truly loving her neighbor as herself?
But even if a revival of conscience and benevolence were to take place and the American Church gave 98% of her massive, even glutinous, wealth to meet the physical needs of others, it still would not be loving enough. Why? The reason is that while American Christians give only an embarrassingly low 2% of their wealth. More tragic still is the reality that less than 2% of those who claim to love Jesus will open their mouth to love even one person enough to tell them about Jesus—to tell them that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord—to tell them that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life; and that no one (absolutely no one) comes to the Father but through Him.
Don’t you see? If we feed the world, clothe the world, heal the world of disease, and bless the world with every other kind intention, but we do not warn them of God’s impending wrath against sin—the breaking of His Law as expressed in the Ten Commandments (lying, stealing, blasphemy, adultery coveting, and so on)—and present them with the good news of Jesus Christ (which is the Lord’s penal subsitutionary and loving sacrificial death on the cross and His glorious resurrection—the good news of forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ) then, in the end, all we’ve really accomplished is to make spiritually dead people more physically comfortable on their way to Hell. And that, my friends, is a tragedy.
Please, hear me. If we pass up and ignore with depraved indifference the opportunity to help others in need, then we’ve sinned against God. But the greater sin is to know and have in your possession the cure for mankind’s worst disease (sin) and intentionally withhold the diagnosis and access to the cure (Jesus Christ) from spiritually lost and dying people.
If you are not sharing the gospel with lost people (which means to open your mouth and speak about Jesus Christ and the way to eternal life), it is for one of two reasons. Either you are so young and immature in your faith that you did not know that God has commanded you, through His Word, to go and tell the world about Jesus Christ. Or, your fear of man and your love of self are greater than your fear of God, your love for God, and your love for people.
During the remainder of our time together this morning, let’s look to God’s Word for encouragement, hope, and instruction. In Matthew 10:26-31, Jesus makes it clear that we need not be afraid when evangelizing the lost, even in the face of the worst kinds of persecution. We need not be afraid because light conquers darkness. We need not be afraid because life conquers death. And we need not be afraid because love conquers all.
Light Conquers Darkness
The wonderfully encouraging passage we’re looking at today comes on the heels of a very sobering promise—the promise of persecution. Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to send them out among wolves (Matthew 10:16). He tells them that they will be drug into court and flogged like common criminals (Matthew 10:17). They would stand before kings and other political officials to testify of their faith in Christ (Matthew 10:18). Jesus promises that their closest relationships would be marred by betrayal, as once-thought loved ones would be among those calling for their heads on a platter (Matthew 10:21). Jesus goes as far as to tell his disciples that people all over the world would hate them because of their faith in Him (Matthew 10:22). Jesus even prepares them to be chased from town to town.
Then Jesus tells them not once, not twice, but three times to not be afraid; but He does not leave them with just a command to obey. No. Each time He commands them to not be afraid, He gives them a promise to believe. His disciples could go and make disciples of every nation, and they could go and preach the gospel to every creature because of these three (among many) promises given by their Lord and Savior.
The first command/promise couplet is in verses 26-27. Do not fear because light conquers darkness.
We live in a world that calls evil good and good evil. While condoning, endorsing, and, at times, even applauding evils such as abortion, homosexuality, fornication, religious pluralism and ecumenism, and a host of other sins, the world condemns the good news of Jesus Christ as bigoted, intolerant, narrow, and unloving. Sadly, there are some false Christians in the world who lend credence to such opinions of Christ and Christianity by their unchristlike behavior.
Many Christians are fearful of being lumped in with the unflattering parodies of Christianity. They are afraid of what others will think of them if they were to open their mouths and make a verbal stand for Christ. They are afraid of being mischaracterized. They don’t want the world to see them as evil. Sometimes this cycle of fear causes Christians to pursue worldliness so as to make themselves acceptable to the people around them.
Jesus commanded His disciples, and us, not to be afraid when persecution of any kind comes our way—including persecution that comes from those who hold godless, anti-Christian worldviews. Jesus said not to be afraid of those who claim to be tolerant while flaunting their hypocrisy by judging the Christian as intolerant because of his love for Christ and the desire to see others come to know Him.
Jesus gives good reason for not being afraid, because in the end light will conquer darkness—that which is true will conquer that which is false—and true righteousness will be seen for what it is: good and from God. As Jesus said, “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
It doesn’t matter what the world says now about your faith in Christ. What matters is what God Almighty says in the end. With fearless love for Christ and compassionate love for the lost, we must let our light shine before people.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The only thing that will overcome and defeat the darkness of the world’s lies is the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops,” (Matthew 10:27). The gospel is not a hidden message, one that is only to be whispered to people if they come into the church. No! The gospel is a message that is to be proclaimed publicly to the whole world, and every Christian is to take part in that all-important mission.
In Jesus’ day, Rabbis would train their disciples to speak publicly by whispering what to say in their ears. If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you know His gospel. You cannot be saved by a gospel you do not know. If you are born again, then the Holy Spirit is in you. And if that is true of you, listen to what the Word of God says!
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15-17).
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…” Do not be afraid! Light has conquered darkness! Don’t be afraid of what people might say about you or to you, or what they might do to you. While God calls us to pray in quiet, solitary places and not on street corners to be seen by men, He has commanded us to come out of our prayer closets and announce from the housetops, the street corners, the classroom, the boardroom, the break room, the living room that Jesus is the Christ—the Son of the Living God who came so that people may have life—forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Heaven with Christ.
Life Conquers Death
The second command to not be afraid and its associated promise is found in verse 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.” (Matthew 10:28)
Everything that happens in this life is temporary. Every hardship, every trial, every temptation, every persecution—even if it lasts a lifetime—is only temporary. This life is not all there is, of course. Eternity awaits everyone. Here in America there are relatively few Christians who have experienced, or who are experiencing, real persecution. I do not say there will be few American Christians who will experience persecution in the future because I believe the day is coming—and likely coming sooner than any of us realize—when it will actually begin to cost something to be a Christian in America. That being said, most of what American Christians might consider persecution is looked at as little more than inconvenience to the Body of Christ in other parts of the world.
We are gathered here today with virtually no fear of the military, the police, or vigilantes breaking down the doors, carting us off to prison (or worse), and torching the building. None of us took circuitous routes to get here this morning, fearing the possibility of being followed and our corporate place of worship being discovered by people who want to kill Christians. Yet even a cursory look at Christian news sources, or reports by organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs reveals that millions of Christians in other parts of the world live with real fear of imprisonment, torture, and/or death for their faith in Christ.
Yet even though by comparison American Christians suffer and sacrifice very little to practice and share their faith, many of the Christians with whom I speak cite fear as the reason why they do not publicly share their faith with others. And what are some of the most common fears? They are not imprisonment, torture, or death. No, they are fears like:
I’m afraid I will be made fun of. I’m afraid I might be asked a question I can’t answer. I’m afraid I will look like a fanatic or a fool. I’m afraid my friends won’t like me anymore. I’m afraid it might cost me the promotion at work, for which I’ve worked so hard.
Notice the fears are not for the unbeliever. The fears are of the unbeliever and for the Christian. Certainly, if Jesus tells us not to fear those who can kill the body, there is no reason for us to fear those who might make fun of us, stump us with a tough question, remove us from their Facebook friends list (talk about a place filled with sophomoric drama-spend a little time on Facebook), or not give us the promotion we want.
I mean, seriously, in the United States today what’s the most likely negative reaction you will receive from someone if you try to hand them a gospel tract? They may give you a nasty look and curtly say, “No!”
Instead of fearing man who can do nothing more than take action against us with temporary results, Jesus tells us who we are to fear—God and God alone. While the command may sound ominous, it is actually one, for the true follower of Christ, filled with promise—the promise of hope that’s eternal, a life that is free from the chains of sin and death, and existence where fear has no place in the presence of a God who, at the cross, allowed justice and mercy to kiss.
The One to be feared is not the created being, but the Creator. The One to be feared is not the finite being, but the Infinite One. The One to be feared is not the slave to sin (the unbeliever), but the Sovereign Lord—the Master of the Universe. For the unbeliever, for the persecutor of the Church, for the one who has the ability and desire to take a Christian’s physical life, they should fear God as a righteous judge and the executioner of the wicked. But for the Christian, for the born-again follower of Jesus Christ, for the one who (by God’s grace) has received the precious gifts of repentance, faith, and eternal life through Christ Jesus, they should fear God the way a loving child fears disappointing and the associated discipline of a loving Father.
The Christian’s attitude, therefore, should be this: “I would rather be killed by someone who hates Jesus than to do anything to disappoint Jesus. My fear of the good and loving discipline of Abba Father is greater than my fear of the sinful persecution of man.”
If you are in Christ, there is nothing in this world to fear. I do not say that as one who has conquered all fear. Far from it. No, I say it (and if you are a Christian you can say it with me)—I say it because as a Christian I know the One who has conquered sin, fear, and death—Jesus Christ the Lord. Even more important is that He knows me.
Surely, with these great truths in mind, with these amazing and true words of our Lord (“do not fear”) in our hearts and in our minds, we can muster the courage to take a gospel tract out of our pocket, hand it to a family member, friend, or stranger and say, “Did you get one of these? There’s a gospel message on the back.”
Surely we can muster the courage to engage family members, friends, or strangers in conversation with the intent of sharing the Law and the Gospel because we care about them, we love them, and we don’t want them to go to Hell.
And maybe (just maybe) some of us will muster the courage to go to places like Cal State Northridge (or Cal State Fullerton or Fullerton JC), as my friends and I have done, and stand in the middle of a crowd of students and professors—students who are being lied to by humanist, agnostic, and atheist professors (some professors—not all, of course)—and love them so much that we’ll risk looking foolish to the world, climb atop a box, and say, “I have come here this day to declare to you the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the one and only living God!”
To some of you this may all sound outrageous, uncouth, and even foolish. If this is you, please listen and take heed to what the apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth:
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
If evangelism, in any or all of its biblical forms, seems like little more than foolishness to you; if you have already decided in your heart that this message is not for you—that evangelism is something other Christians do; if you are going to allow your fear of man and what man may do to you or think of you be greater and more controlling in your life than your fear and love for God and your love for people; then I strongly and lovingly urge you to heed another admonition of the apostle Paul—one found in 2 Corinthians 13:5:
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
You need not fear evangelism because light conquers darkness. You need not fear evangelism because life conquers death. And this brings us to our last great truth this morning.
Love Conquers All
You need not fear evangelism, my friends, because love conquers all. Jesus tells us as much in Matthew 10:29-31.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Sparrows were, in a sense, a dime a dozen in Jesus’ day. According to Pastor John MacArthur they were a cent, which was an assarion, the smallest coin at the time. It was equivalent to 1/16th of a denarius, which was the average daily wage of a laborer. An assarion would purchase two sparrows, which were often cooked and served as finger foods—the buffalo wings of the day.
Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, that God is sovereign over the most common and least valued animal in their culture. Not so much as a sparrow falls dead to the ground outside His sovereign knowledge and will. He is Lord of all!
As I meditated on these profound words of Jesus, I was reminded of the psalmist’s affirmation of God’s sovereignty over every day of my life. In Psalm 139:13-16, we read:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
And I was also reminded of another place where Jesus uses the seemingly most insignificant members of his creation—birds, grass, and lilies—to encourage His disciples not to be anxious, worried, or fearful. In Matthew 6:25-34 we read:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
We live in a very unsafe world, during a very uncertain time. Places like China, Nigeria, India, and Colombia are places of Christian martyrdom. The 20th Century saw more Christian martyrs than in the previous 19 centuries combined. But persecution is no longer relegated to the Third World. Persecution of the Church is creeping out of the Third World and into the first. It has reached places like the United Kingdom and Canada, where pastors are being jailed and prosecuted for daring to publicly read passages of Scripture and expounding on the same—passages deemed intolerant and hate speech by a godless, Christ-hating world.
If I were to tell you that I was detained, handcuffed, and issued a citation for doing nothing more than standing on a public sidewalk, opening my Bible, and reading aloud from John Chapter 3; and if I were to ask you in what city and what country you think I was standing that day; what would your answer be?
Well, it really happened, and it wasn’t in some foreign land known as a nation closed and hostile to the gospel. It wasn’t in the 10-40 Window. It was on Hollywood Boulevard, in Los Angeles, CA, in May of 2010. The officer who issued me the citation, himself Korean by descent, told me to go to North Korea to preach the gospel because it wasn’t needed in the United States.
Did you hear what the officer said? He didn’t tell me to go to South Korea. He told me to go to North Korea. He knew what he was saying. He told me to go to a place where the life expectancy of a Christian is one year after conversion. As a retired 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, it was difficult to stand there leaning against the trunk of a patrol car—what used to be my office on wheels—with my hands cuffed behind my back. It wasn’t easy to see the officers’ looks or hear their words of disdain and contempt.
As Officer Park wrote my citation, I pleaded with him—not to let me go, but to repent and believe the gospel I was sharing with him.
On November 20th of 2010, I returned to Hollywood Boulevard—this time carrying a wooden cross. Written on the crossbeam is a three-word question: “Are you ready?” The Lord has used that simple cross to initiate countless conversations about Christ and His gospel on street corners and college campuses around the greater Los Angeles area. Within 30 minutes of arriving on Hollywood Boulevard, two officers contacted me. Minutes after that, I found myself surrounded by no less than a dozen officers.
I was told that I could not carry the cross on a public street. I was told that if I did not leave immediately I would be cited under an ordinance that banned the carrying of picket signs over a certain size. The sergeant readily admitted that one man holding a cross and sharing the gospel was not the same as a large demonstration of angry picketers during which signs could be used as weapons. But the sergeant said my cross was a potential weapon. An interesting side note is that in the almost half-hour I spent talking to the officers, not one of them ever asked me to put down my cross—you know, the potential weapon.
I can share dozens of similar stories with you from around the country—stories of Christians who dare to love God and love people enough to stand on street corners, go to malls, even go to work and share the gospel with lost people.
You have to get outside the four walls of the church to see what America is becoming and has become for Christians who are out on the streets and in the public square proclaiming the gospel to the lost.
But “fear not,” my Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus tells us that we “are of more value than many sparrows.” Our fears regarding evangelism, our fears regarding anything at all, have been conquered by the love of God. To Him, to Abba Father, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to our helper the Holy Spirit, to the one true God in three Persons, we are of great value. We are precious to Him.
Our value is not seen intrinsically; that is to say our value is not in ourselves. Our value to God is determined by the price God the Father was willing to pay to secure our salvation. The One who is priceless determines our value. The One who is more valuable than every human being that will ever walk the face of the earth, combined—past, present, and future—determines our value.
Jesus Christ is the priceless and matchless one. Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price. Jesus Christ is of greatest value to the Father. And those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, those who have been bought with the greatest price—the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of God the Son—those who God has caused to be born again, who have received the precious gifts of repentance and faith and have been drawn to the Father by His love; these are the ones who are precious and of great value to God the Father.
Fear not! The same God who clothes the grass of the field; the same God who feeds the birds of the air who neither sow nor reap; the same God who has numbered the hairs of your head and knit you together in your mother’s womb; is the same glorious, gracious, loving God who will help you conquer your fears—even the fear of evangelism. Love conquers all!
So, what will you do today with these words of Jesus? What will you do with His command to not be afraid? What will you do with His promises—the promises that light conquers darkness, life conquers death, and love conquers all? If you are in Christ can you not, will you not, love God and love people more than you fear evangelism? Can you not, will you not, love God and love others more than you love yourself? Can you not, will you not, place a lost person’s salvation over your own fearful need for self-preservation?
Fear not my friends! Fear not, for the light of Jesus Christ has conquered the darkness of this lost, sin-stained world. Fear not, for the gift of eternal life—by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone—has conquered the fear of temporal death in all its forms.
Fear not, for the love of God and such great love made manifest through His people by their love for others conquers all!
So, go now. Do not be afraid of evangelism. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Give someone a tract. Initiate the conversations you know you should have initiated long ago. Go, stand, and speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. May His name be exalted not only in your life, but also with your lips. Shout it from the rooftops. Write it in an email. Take the hand of someone sitting across from you at the dining room table and gently proclaim the gospel to him. Do not be afraid, Christian. Do not be afraid.