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Christian Union: The Magazine
April 8, 2024

This April 19-20th, Christians around the country are joining Christian Union America from the comfort of their own home for a weekend retreat to better understand the Christian view of fear: the fear of man and the fear of God. In light of this upcoming event, Christian Union desires to encourage all Christians to seek the Lord wholeheartedly to find freedom from the destructive forces of the fear of man and to find their security in God alone. The following excerpt on fear, originally published as part of a 2014 CU Fast, examines Jesus' words, as recorded in the Book of Matthew.

 We live in a culture dominated by fear. At its best, fear can be a helpful and beneficial thing, but at its worst fear can become a cruel and unmerciful slave driver, dominating and dictating what we will do and what we will not do; what we will say and what we will not say.

One of the clearest examples of this can be seen in the fear of man. The fear of man is characterized by a willingness to do just about anything in order to avoid pain, shame, disgrace, and the disapproval of others. It has been said that "the excessive need for approval and fear of rejection is the opium of our age." That is, it is the thing that subtly creeps into our lives and enslaves us. 

In Matthew chapter 10, we find the disciples on the verge of their first short-term missionary journey. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to prepare and instruct His disciples to take the message of the Kingdom to Israel, and then later to the nations.In preparing these men, Jesus pulls no punches but tells them plainly to expect that this work will be long, hard, and even deadly. He warns His disciples that warm welcomes, wide acceptance, and standing ovations will not be the norm. The disciples were to expect to face hatred, hostility, beatings, arrests and betrayal. In verse 16, He says, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." Then in verse 23, He tells them to expect all men will hate them because of Him. In verses 24-25, He remarks that because they have identified with Him they will experience what He had experienced. Jesus had been slandered, and they will be verbally attacked as well (Matthew 9:34).

At one level, the disciples had plenty of reasons to fear. Yet Jesus emphatically calls them not to do so. In Matthew 10:26-33, Jesus gives them (and us) four reasons not to fear those hostile to the gospel:

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 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. 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. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

You will eventually be vindicated (v. 26).
Jesus says everything will be revealed. In other words, every lie and mischaracterization will one day be exposed and overturned. The disciples could rest assured that they would eventually be exonerated of every slanderous charge leveled against them.

Your opponent is limited (v. 28).
Secondly, you should not fear hostile people because your opponent's capacity is curbed. Even if empowered to do their very worst, the worst they could do is take your life. Jesus argues they can only kill the body. This implies that there is a worst kind of death to be suffered. Jesus refers to this as the killing of soul and body in hell. He says rather than being terrified of the one with limited reach and capacity, fear the One who has the ability to utterly destroy.

Your Father is meticulously attentive (vs. 29-31).
Thirdly, Jesus reminds His disciples that the Father cares about even His most seemingly insignificant creatures. He argues that not even a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father. So the disciples can be confident that the same God who is concerned for the single sparrow is concerned and attentive to them.

Your confession will be reciprocated (v. 32-33).
Lastly, Jesus reminds His disciples that He will reciprocate their confession. If they confess allegiance to Him, they can be confident that He will likewise acknowledge them before His Father. However if they should deny Him, He will likewise, in some way, do the same.