************ Sermon on Matthew 10:32-33 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 18, 2012
"Acknowledge Christ Before Men"
Subtopic: Of Christ
When the Marquis of Montrose was sentenced to death in 1650, the judge ordered that his head and limbs should be severed from his body and hanged in public towns in the kingdom. The Marquis heard this sentence with a grim smile of pride and in defiance he cried, "I wish I had flesh enough to be sent to every city in Christendom, as a testimony to the cause for which I suffer!"
-- Illustrations of Bible Truths, (AMG International, 1995), p. 52-53.
Those of you who have confessed your faith this morning, do you realize that in many times and many places, this is what happens when you acknowledge Christ before men? The world will hate you. Your own family may disown you. Your earthly life may end up being filled with conflict rather than peace.
I Suffering For Jesus
A We are told this morning to acknowledge Christ before men. And, we are told this means we are take up our cross and follow Him. What is this cross we are to take up? I was visiting with someone in a lot of pain. Quoting from Jesus they talked about bearing their cross (cf Mt 10:38; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). Let me say this loud and clear: When Jesus talks about taking up the cross and following Him He is NOT talking about some physical pain, ache, or deformity. The cross we are called to bear is not arthritis, poor eyesight or hearing. It is not cancer, diabetes, a cold, or the flu. It is not a personal disability or a disabled child. It is not an unhappy marriage or a sick marriage partner. Instead, what is meant is suffering that has to do with our relationship to Christ. Let me emphasize this: the cross we Christians are called to bear is suffering because of our relationship to and with Christ.
From beginning to end, our passage talks about the suffering that happens to those who acknowledge Christ before men. Take note of the specifics mentioned by Jesus:
-(Mt 10:17) "Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues."
-(Mt 10:18) "On my account you will be brought before governors and kings ... [who will] arrest you ..."
-(Mt 10:21) "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death."
-(Mt 10:22) "All men will hate you because of me ..."
-(Mt 10:23) "When you are persecuted ..."
-(Mt 10:28) "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body ..."
-(Mt 10:34-36) "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- (36) a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'"
According to Jesus, the apostles will be persecuted at every level of government, from synagogues and local councils to Roman courts and royal palaces. They will be flogged and imprisoned. Furthermore, the Gospel will split even the closest of relationships. The apostles will be hated because of the message they bring.
In spite of this, they must clearly and bravely acknowledge Christ before men. The only person they need to fear is God Himself. This is a spiritual battle: evil is being challenged, secrets are being exposed, and eternal choices are being made.
According to Jesus, this is what cross-bearing is all about. Cross-bearing means persecution, suffering, and death.
It didn't take long for these words of Jesus to become reality. During the reign of Nero, many Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith. One historian says this about the treatment received by believers:
Topic: SufferingThese things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he acknowledged Christ before men.
The penalties which early Christians had to suffer were terrible beyond description. All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them in the skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to strengthen the agony.
B We are told followers of Christ can expect to be treated the same way as Christ Himself (Mt 10:24-25). Jesus, as we all know, took up His cross and suffered in the most horrible way. Jesus tells us this morning that this also happens to His followers. He wants His disciples – and us too – to realize that we must walk the same path as He. The Apostle Peter says:
(1 Pet 4:1) Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude ...Cross-bearing is very real. This is what happens when people acknowledge Christ before men. They become like Jesus.
(1 Pet 4:13) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
C Some of you might be thinking this kind of treatment does not happen in America. All I can say is: be thankful and be watchful. Throughout much of the history of the Christian church, persecution has been the norm. Maybe not in Europe and North America. But look at the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America. Groups like Voice of the Martyrs tell us more Christians have suffered and died from persecution in the last fifty years than in any other time of the history of the church.
We need to recognize that even here, in America, things are changing. Consider how the liberal media mocks us for our faith and our morals. Consider how we are branded as intolerant. Consider how it is politically incorrect and even dangerous to speak out against sins like abortion and homosexual practice.
Cross-bearing. To our self-indulgent culture this sounds odd, something that happens overseas or in a third-world country. It doesn't happen to us here in America, does it?! Jesus' point is that it does. Everyone who acknowledges Christ before men – the disciples, the first century believers, you, me, the six who professed their faith – can expect and should expect this. I think of what Paul writes to Timothy:
(2 Tim 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ...I think also of the words of Jesus to His disciples:
(Jn 15:18-19) "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (19) If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."
Jesus teaches us this morning that if we faithfully acknowledge Him before men the world will sooner or later offer us a cross to bear. Just as Christians are in the business of following Jesus so the world is in the business of offering crosses.
D When we acknowledge Christ before men we can expect to bear a cross. You realize, I am sure, that there are churches and pastors who say the exact opposite. They preach a Health & Wealth Gospel. They preach a Gospel of Success. "Follow Jesus," they say, "and yours will be success, prosperity, fame, freedom, a great marriage, and a wonderful family!" Who can ignore a come-on like this? Jesus, however, makes no such promises; He wants people to acknowledge Him, but He also wants them to know that acknowledging Him means taking up a cross.
II Acknowledging or Disowning Christ
A "Acknowledge me before men." That's what Jesus wants all of us to do. It starts with what we see this morning: six people standing before God and His people to confess faith in Christ; six people standing before God and His people to confess that they love the Lord; six people standing before God and His people to confess that they seek life not in themselves but in Christ Jesus their Savior.
This is not an ending point. You cannot pat yourselves on your shoulder and say, "Well, I have done it. I have finally confessed Christ before men." Profession of faith is only a starting point.
"Acknowledge me before men." Not just before fellow Christians. Not just before church members who approve of this. Not just before family and friends who have been waiting and praying for this day.
B "Acknowledge me before men." Do you remember what happened with some of the Jewish leaders?
(Jn 12:42-43) Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; (43) for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.Isn't this about the saddest text of Scripture? These Jewish leaders believed in Jesus. But they did not acknowledge Christ before men. Why? Because of fear. Because they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
C "Acknowledge me before men." Don't be scared to talk about Jesus in front of unbelievers. I was conducting a wedding. Someone sarcastically said, "There sure is a lot of talk about Jesus." My response? I made sure to say even more about Jesus.
"Acknowledge me before men." Don't be scared to witness to Christ. Don't be scared to pray in public. Don't be scared to tell complete strangers about the Lord.
"Acknowledge me before men." It is also a question of lifestyle. Do you acknowledge Christ in the way you live? The language you use? The way you spend your money? Your goals in life? The way you raise your kids? Do you acknowledge Christ in your faithful attendance at worship? Do you acknowledge Christ in how faithfully you do Bible reading and prayer? Do you acknowledge Christ in how you conduct your business affairs? Do you acknowledge Christ in how you perform your work? Do you acknowledge Christ in what you do for entertainment? Do you acknowledge Christ in your marriage relationship?
III Acknowledged or Disowned by Christ
A "Acknowledge me before men." Notice the promise that Christ adds to this:
(Mt 10:32) Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.And, notice the threat as well:
(Mt 10:33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
(Cf 2 Tim 2:12)
Wow, isn't this a little harsh? You need to realize what is at stake here. When "acknowledge" stands in contrast with "disown" it means to accept the claims of Jesus presented in the Gospel. Those who acknowledge Christ accept His claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, the conquering King. Those who disown Christ reject His claims.
You see, don't you, what is at stake here? When it comes to acknowledging Christ – even at the cost of cross-bearing – you don't have a choice. It is a case of life everlasting or death everlasting; it is a case of Christ acknowledging you or Christ denying you. At stake is your soul and my soul and the souls of those who professed their faith this morning.
It is costly to follow Christ but it is even more costly not to follow Him. That's the message we are all to hear this morning.
Now, don't misunderstand this. Jesus is not teaching a work's righteousness. Because salvation is always by grace. But salvation is also through faith. Those who are saved are those who, by grace, confess Christ. Those who are saved are those who, by grace, acknowledge Christ.
B What, exactly, does it mean to be acknowledged by Christ? It means Jesus says, "She is mine. He is one of my sheep. I died for him. I know her from eternity to eternity."
What, exactly, does it mean to be disowned by Christ? It means Jesus says, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Mt 7:23). "I never knew you. I did not die for you."
(Mt 10:32-33) Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Remember, this comes with a cost. Remember, this requires cross-bearing. Remember, the world will hate you. But great will be your reward and rest in heaven.
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