Thursday, August 8, 2019

Four Commands for Dangerous Times

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” – Luke 12:1

When it was launched in 1936, the Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans. Through four decades and a World War she served until she was retired as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach. During the conversion into a hotel, her three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. But on the dock, they crumbled. Nothing was left of the 3/4-inch steel plates from which the stacks had been formed. All that remained was more than thirty coats of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel underneath had rusted away.

At the end of Luke 11, Jesus rebuked some Pharisees and scribes who were a lot like those smokestacks. They were all painted up and looked really good on the outside, but on the inside they were wasting away. They were, in a word, hypocrites. Out of deep concern for what would face them on judgment day—and deep concern for the souls of the people they were corrupting—Jesus took a stand and called them out. And on the heels of calling out this hypocrisy, Luke records for us four warnings that Jesus gave to his true followers.

Jesus knew that the time of his crucifixion was fast approaching, and he wanted to prepare his apostles for the challenges they would soon face. The time was short for them, and, honestly, the time is short for us too. So, the four commands that Jesus gave his disciples in Luke 12:1-2 are four commands he also gives to his disciples today.

Command #1: Be on your guard against hypocrisy. In the first half of Luke 12:1, we’re told that “a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another.” And the second half of the verse contains Jesus’ warning to “be on your guard against the…Pharisees’ [hypocrisy].” How are those two statements linked? Because Jesus wanted to warn his followers that the pull of hypocrisy was coming from two directions: from the Pharisees AND from the crowds. Jesus was warning his disciples not to change their behavior out of a desire to please the crowd. And he was warning his disciples not to change their behavior out of fear of the religious leaders. They might be tempted to betray their own internal beliefs and character by behaving differently around the Pharisees than they did when they were NOT around the Pharisees … and soon they could end up being as hypocritical as the Pharisees themselves.

Command #2: Don’t fear people. Fear God.  Some of us go through life being so afraid of people. Why? People can only hurt us a little bit. And the hurt is always temporary. On the other hand, in recent years it’s become common for Christians to explain away the verses in Scripture that tell us to “fear God.” They explain, “God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him. The word ‘fear’ can also be translated as ‘respect’ or ‘honor.’ God wants us to respect Him and honor Him.” But show me a Christian who doesn’t have a healthy fear of God’s eternal consequences for rebellion, and I’ll show you a Christian who’s out of control. On the other hand, as we live out our fear of God by trusting and obeying Him, we don’t have to be afraid of anything, including God Himself. You see, fear of God keeps us in check so that we don’t have to live in fear. Try to wrap your mind around that one!

Command #3: Confess Christ openly, boldly and often. As Jesus puts it in Luke 12:9, “He who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” If you claim to have Jesus in your heart, but Jesus is never proclaimed from your mouth, then you really don’t have Jesus in your heart.  As Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So, if Jesus is really in your heart, let him flow freely from your lips. Your family, friends and community desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Command #4: Do not worry about how to confess Christ to others; the Holy Spirit will help you. Some of us are so afraid of confrontation, criticism and slander that we never, ever, ever bring up Jesus or heaven or church in our conversations with certain family members and friends. That’s sad. We don’t need to thump people over the head with the Bible, but talking about Jesus and heaven should be a natural part of our conversations. After all, Jesus is pretty amazing, isn’t he? And heaven is going to be pretty amazing, isn’t it? So, we should talk about it! And if you get tongue-tied, don’t worry—the Holy Spirit will help you find the words.

So, are you like the smokestacks on the Queen Mary—mostly paint and very little substance? Maybelline and Cover Girl are really good at making us look good on the outside. But Jesus Christ specializes in making us truly good on the inside. He specializes in eradicating hypocrisy from our lives. All we need to do is let him.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville and the author of "Holy Huldah: Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of." For more information, visit, and join us for our Worship Celebration Sundays at 10 a.m.

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