Fear of God or Fear of Man?

Exploring The Question, "What Does It Mean To Fear God?".

Ross Sawyers
Nov 1, 2020    1hr m
By exploring the question, what does it mean to fear God, we learn what it looks like to give reverence to God in all things in our lives. In contrast, when we talk about a fear of man, we think of who or what controls you. We are encouraged to develop a healthy fear of God and recognize where you may still fear man. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: 00:07 It's been our hope over these last several weeks to catch different glimpses of what it might be like if we were one of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ that are gathering in secret. When you come into the buildings, especially if you're newer, you may wonder what's in the hallway. And there are different rooms that represent places across the world where people gather for small groups, for Bible study, or where they might be imprisoned or in solitary confinement. And so I'd encourage you, if you've not had a chance, to read the placards and take a look, to just get an idea of maybe what it's like for people who don't have the kind of freedom that we have to be like this gathered, and then to be able to gather online so freely to worship as well.

Ross Sawyers: 01:01 And this is one more glimpse in the way their singing is, and in some places, they literally don't say the words, they just mouth it and it's completely quiet, but they're mouthing their praise to the Lord. And the creativity that comes out of people to be able to worship in places where it's suppressed is absolutely amazing, it's inspiring, and it's encouraging. I would encourage you maybe this week in your own time with the Lord, to hang onto this sheet with the songs, and sing these to the Lord. Just in your own time with him, the beauty of time alone with God, it's just you and God, nobody else can hear you singing. So if you're like me, that's a much safer place to sing like we just did, than it is in a gathering of people.

Ross Sawyers: 01:59 I also want to encourage you, if you grabbed the sheets on your way in, the scripture today we're in Jeremiah 37 and 38, those two chapters, and actually we'll touch into chapter 39. One thing that happens across the world in places where they can't get Bibles, if they have access to like one Bible, for example, they'll tear the Bible up and give parts to people. And if you were able to do the immersive experience that we did, we were given one sheet out of the Bible, and encouraged just to use that for a week as our scripture. And I actually found that to be one of the most impactful weeks in time with the Lord, in a funny way, it actually, it was less overwhelming. All I had was this sheet, and that's all I had, I didn't have anywhere I had to choose from in the scripture. And sometimes we just get overwhelmed by the Bible and think, where do I even go? And if you just have one page, it's really simple, I mean, this, this is what I get. And so maybe this week hide all your Bibles, commit not to using a device, and only take Jeremiah 37 and 38 and just hang out this part of the Bible this week, and see what God might do if you just have a real small piece. And it'll give you just a small glimpse of what some across the world, in reality, are able to do.

Ross Sawyers: 03:31 So I appreciate David leading us well this morning, and catching an idea of what that might be like. These past few months as we've thought about the underground church. And again, for those who are newer, we've just been focused on thinking about our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, the majority of whom are persecuted. And then the deepest levels of persecution, they might find themselves jailed, or killed, churches burned, their houses burned, cut off from work, employment, if you don't renounce Christ. And we've been thinking about them, and then in the scriptures, looking at Jeremiah. And Jeremiah is a prophet that for four decades proclaimed truth to the people of God, and 99% of them, probably more than that, we're not interested in what he had to say. And he suffered quite a bit of persecution over those four decades, and he's a great example for us to stand firm and to not waiver in our faith. And that's where we've been anchoring in, in scripture.

Ross Sawyers: 04:47 And then we've been thinking about in our smaller groups, our life groups, the ways that people across the world do discipleship. And I'm so proud of our church because you stepped out into things that are very difficult to do. We're actually asking people to do more obedient based discipleship, where it's not just absorbing a Bible study, rather it's being taught, and then turning around and teaching it yourself, and then turning around and doing that with someone else the following week. And people who have gone after it, I mean, it's been a game changers for people in their walk with the Lord. So I'm just, I'm so grateful that you've taken the challenge, and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead. And I just want to express appreciation for that.

Ross Sawyers: 05:34 One of the ways we want to simulate the underground church in the coming days, is with a scripture memory plan. And the way that people prepare, for example, in Iran, and it's one of the fastest growing places for Christianity right now, especially among the women. And what they're doing, because they're preparing to go jail, they're preparing to suffer for their faith. And they may not have a copy of the scriptures with them, and they're memorizing scripture. And we saw a plan a few months ago, it's a hundred verses in just a really small amount of time to memorize, because if they get taken away, that will be the scripture they have. And we just want to challenge anyone that would be game, and we have different plans we've laid out, will begin November 11th to choose one of those plans. And with the mindset of what if I didn't have a Bible by the end of December, how much of God's word could I get inside of me that would go with me, if I never had even a page. Not a Bible, not a page, not a device, what would I do? And that'd be another way that we can try to simulate what people are doing right now, for example, in Iran, in preparing for what might be a very difficult run for them, and yet there's a great joy in them.

Ross Sawyers: 07:06 I try to be careful each time we gather to explain the best I can, what we're doing. Because I know it would be a little disconcerting to walk in here, if you hadn't been with us from the outset. So I love that God continues to bring new people, and the love that God's brought you in, in what we're in now, it's a great time to be here.

Ross Sawyers: 07:27 We'll be, as I said, in Jeremiah 37, 38 and 39, and I'm going to do this in a slightly different way. And I'd like for us to look at different people in this story, rather than just tracking the story, and it's a study in different people of the Bible. And the way I want to think about it is under this question, a fear of God, or fear of man? A fear of God, or fear of man? And I think in the future, this will be a story that I lean back into again and again, when I think about, am I walking in a way that it's a fear of God, or am I walking in fear of man? And I'll explain that in just a moment for those who might not be familiar with that terminology. I want to illustrate it to begin from a movie, that maybe you've seen in the binge opportunities we've had over these last six or seven months to watch movies. If not, I'll give you one you can consider, it's called A Hidden Life. Just out of curiosity, has anybody watched that movie? All right, just a few of us. Maybe after I give you the overview, you'll take a look at it. It's an inspiring movie, especially thinking about what we're thinking about with the underground church and the persecuted believers.

Ross Sawyers: 08:53 A man named Franz Jägerstätter was born in Austria in 1907. In later years, Austria was pulled into Hitler's vision of a Nazi Europe, and every able-bodied man was expected to serve in the military and to swear allegiance to Hitler. Franz is a man of faith, and in the story they do, I think, an excellent job of depicting his character, his faith, his struggle in his faith, and thinking about what would happen if he was enlisted to fight in the war, and where he would have to raise his hand and swear allegiance to Hitler. He loved his wife, he loved his children, he loved the village, and the farming with which he was a part, but yet everyone lived under the specter and the darkness of Hitler's rise. He had come to a point in his faith where he knew that if he was enlisted into the army, that he would not swear allegiance to Hitler, his mother disapproved of his decision, the villagers pleaded with him. But in February, 1943, he was called up, he went and when he had to line up, and every person lined up had to raise their hand and swear allegiance to Hitler, he kept his hand down. He was thrown into prison for his refusal to do so, his wife had to take care of the farm, all the work, and you saw the struggles and what that put on her and the children. The villagers disapproved, and they were no help to his wife and children, they despised them for what her husband had done, yet, she was faithful to support her husband. He was tempted at times to waiver, especially as things got more difficult. And one of the things that just rang throughout, that I think speaks to us so well is he was told again and again, nobody knows who you are, nobody knows your name, it's not going to make any difference for you whether you swear allegiance to Hitler or not, it's not going to change a thing. And yet, he never wavered because in his conscience before God he could swear allegiance to no one else but God, and he refused to swear allegiance to Hiller, it would cost him his life. That's a picture of the fear of God versus fear of man.

Ross Sawyers: 12:03 The fear of God, the word fear, is not just a word for afraid., it has a wider sense in the scriptures, it's a reverence for. And when we talk about the fear of God, we're talking about a reverence for God, a fear of God, a healthy fear of God. And when we think about fear of God or fear of man, we're thinking about who or what controls you. And when we have a healthy fear of God, we yield to the control of God, we recognize that he's sovereign, he's overall, and we yield to him. The fear of man, is yielding to the control of someone else, of people. It's looking for the approval of another person, it is being controlled by another person. Who or what controls you? Franz refused to let anyone else control him, he was under God's control, and it cost him his life. He feared God, he didn't fear, man.

Ross Sawyers: 13:26 Ed Welch, in his book When People Are Big, describes this fear of man. And the way we can think about it as to look at some of the examples that he gives, this would be an example of people have a fear of man, just to kind of get us inside of what this might mean. He talks about every person in our lives have the potential to control us, and fear of man he said, could be when we replace God with people. Another term for this is peer pressure, or people pleasing. And recently in counseling circles, he describes, it's been called codependency. This is fear of man. In Proverbs 29:25, it says, "The fear of man is a snare." It brings a snare, "But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted." This is a verse, this is very clear about the fear of man, it's a trap, it's a trap when we allow ourselves to be controlled by other people.

Ross Sawyers: 14:28 So part of questions he raises are you over committed? Do you find yourself being a people pleaser, and you can't say no? Do you need something from your spouse? If we're needy, it's difficult to love someone. Do we need our spouse to listen to us, to respect us? He said, think carefully here, certainly God's pleased when this happens, when there's good communication, mutual honor between spouses. But the desire for that respect, or the desire and the need for the spouse can be such, that we end up fearing them. It's a fear of man, and our spouse controls us, your spouse quietly takes the place of God in your life. Is self-esteem a critical concern for you, and do you reverence or fear the opinions of other people? Are you always second guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Do you need other people to fill you up? Do you get easily embarrassed? If so, people in their perceptions, and perceived opinions, probably define you. Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? Are you jealous of other people, controlled by them and their possessions? Do other people often make you angry or depressed? Are they making you crazy? Do you avoid people, that can be another way of being controlled by people. That's the fear of man. My hunch is we all fall into a few of those, one of those, some of those. And my hunch is we all struggle with that at some point.

Ross Sawyers: 16:14 When we see the fear of God, we see in Proverbs 1:7, that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. And in Psalm 111 verse 10, we know that the fear of God, the fear of the Lord, is also the beginning of wisdom. So when we fear God and we're under his control, his approval, that's where we actually gain knowledge and gain wisdom is in him. Now, when we think about this story, and the fear of God versus the fear of man, we see in Franz in A Hidden Life, a picture of a man who had a fear of God, he certainly struggled some with fear of man, but ultimately he leaned into his deep faith and it was a fear of God that led him. When there's pressure, that's when we really know what's inside of us. When pressure comes, then either fear of God will prevail or fear of man will prevail.

Ross Sawyers: 17:25 Certainly in these last few months, we've been under pressure. Between a pandemic, racial unrest, the war on police departments, financial challenges, the constant 24 seven bombardment of falsehood during an election season, it's a wonder any of us are still standing. But under all that pressure, what is coming out, a healthy fear of God, and we actually are stronger today than we were seven months ago? Or is a fear of man rising up and out, and that keeps us in a state of anxiety, and the kind of fear that's an afraid kind of fear? I hope you'll be encouraged from the scripture today, and that we might be more people who fear God, reverence him, and yield ourselves to him, rather than everybody else around us.

Ross Sawyers: 18:53 Quick overview of this story Zedekiah is now the King of Judah, this is the Southern half of Israel, we're in the later sixth century about 588 or so BC, and Zedekiah is the King. Nebuchadnezzar is the King of Babylon. And in this season of time, there's two super powers in the world, Babylon is one of those powers and Egypt is one of those super powers. Israel is in a strategic location, it still is today. It's a strategic trade route, it is even more so in those days. And it was a way to access other parts of the world, and people yearned for and desired to have that piece of land that God gave for Israel, it was a strategic piece of land. And in this season of time, these two world powers are interested in the land that Israel has.

Ross Sawyers: 19:54 Jeremiah, the prophet, has been speaking truth. He's been telling the people that judgment's coming because of their sin and rebellion against God. The people of God had actually ignored God, and they were walking after other gods. They were people that were fearful of man, fear of man, they weren't fearing God. Jeremiah was speaking to that, they didn't like it, and Jeremiah finds himself arrested, thrown in jail. And Zedekiah keeps coming to him though, because he's interested in what Jeremiah has to say, and he thinks that he has a word from God. But we see in Zedekiah, a man that's more a fear of man kind of guy, we'll see that unfold. Jeremiah ends up in really dire circumstances, and then one man comes to his rescue. Then we come into chapter 39, we find that Jerusalem actually is captured, and the remainder of people were taken into exile except for a few of the poor.

Ross Sawyers: 20:59 That's the big picture, I want to hone in on three people, and finish with a fourth. Let's talk about Jeremiah for a moment, and I would say Jeremiah, we can describe him as a courageous messenger. Jeremiah is a courageous messenger one who had a fear of God. How does that unfold in this story? And this, by the way, if you're ever going to do character studies in the Bible, that's what we're doing this morning. We're doing a character study of scripture, where just looking at different people, and studying the person, and we're looking at multiple ones in these few minutes. So Jeremiah, a courageous messenger in chapter 37 verse three, "Yet King Zedekiah sent ( I ain't saying names) sent him to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Please pray to the LORD our God on our behalf.” So Jeremiah is a courageous messenger, he's been bringing the truth to the people, even though they don't want to hear it. And what's notable here is, Zedekiah is coming to him for prayer. People who are courageous messengers of the truth, others, even when they don't like hearing what they hear, we'll lean to them, and go to them, when they're desperate and need prayer.

Ross Sawyers: 22:19 Who do you go to when you need somebody to pray for you? Who do you go to, and you know they really will? I think it's a fair question, because this gives us an idea of how people might see us, do people come to you to ask you to pray for them? Jeremiah was a courageous messenger, and people came to him seeking prayer, that they wanted him to pray for them. My wife is someone that I know spends intimate time with the Lord, she prays, and I love being able to take to her things to pray for me because I know she will. And there are many other men in my life that I know I can go to, that will pray when I ask them to pray. Who do you go to for prayer? Jeremiah, courageous messenger, one that people went to for prayer.

Ross Sawyers: 23:33 In verses 6 through 11, we see that God trusted him with his message. He had a message that Babylon would come and capture Jerusalem, and God trusted Jeremiah with his message. And that leads me to a question for us, can God trust us with his message? Will we courageously speak the truth, in a culture that's not interested in the truth? In these eight ways, one of the challenges, and this has been one of the things people have struggled with, is we're asking not just to hear the truth, but to hear the truth and turn around and go speak that truth to someone else. Can God trust you with his message? Will you just internalize it and keep it, or you be like Jeremiah, who said, it's like fire in my bones and I can't shut up, even though I know it's getting me in trouble? Jeremiah had a fear of God, and God trusted him with his message.

Ross Sawyers: 24:59 In 37:14, Jeremiah said, he had a man come up to him who was going to arrest him. And he said, "Jeremiah said, “A lie! I am not going over to the Chaldeans”; yet he would not listen to him. So Irijah arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials." So Jeremiah now is being arrested for a lie. He's a man of prayer, he's a man who can be trusted with God's message, and yet, in spite of that, now he's being arrested on trumped up charges for a lie. They're saying he's going to desert to the enemy, to the Babylonians. Did you know that happens all over the world with our brothers and sisters in Christ, they're being arrested on lies. For many there'll be arrested, and the charge will be, that they're trying to convert people to a Western religion, Christianity. There's an irony in that, Christianity is not a Western religion, it started in the East. But arrested on trumped up charges, on false charges, all over the world.

Ross Sawyers: 26:13 They were angry at Jeremiah, they beat him, they jailed him. He's under immense pressure, this would be a time where he might choose to recant what he's been saying for truth, because it would get him out of the jail and the conditions he was in. But he speaks the truth in verse 17, "Now King Zedekiah sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, “Is there a word from the LORD?” And Jeremiah said, “There is!” Then he said, “You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!” That is a tough moment. Here's the King, do you have a word from the Lord? You've been in miserable conditions in prison, you've been beaten by an angry mob. Yeah, there's a word from the Lord, I've got one for you, you're going to be handed over to the King of Babylon, you're about to lose this whole deal. He spoke it, and then as someone described in a rare moment of self-interest, Jeremiah then pleaded with the king. And he said, please put me somewhere else than where you have me currently in jail, because I'm going to die in the conditions that I'm currently in. And Zedekiah obliged, and allowed him to be in a court of the guard house. Under pressure. Jeremiah's still spoke the truth.

Ross Sawyers: 27:41 In chapter 38 verse 6, "They took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud." He was taken out of the prison, he was a threat, they said he was discouraging people in the war effort. So they didn't like him just being in jail, he kept speaking the truth, now they've dropped him in a cistern. It would have a deep well where they catch a rainwater, there wasn't any there, there was just mud, and he began to sink in the mud, all this for speaking the truth. He would be rescued out in verse 13, and then in verses 20 and 21, Zedekiah would call for him again. And this is what Jeremiah said in verse 20 of chapter 38, “They will not give you over. Please obey the LORD in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live." What he was telling him is, you need to just surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, and you and your family will be okay, Jerusalem will not get burned and captured, everything will be okay, if you'll just surrender. Please obey the Lord, he's pleading with him. Verse 21, “But if you keep refusing to go out, this is the word which the LORD has shown me." And he tells him it's going to be disastrous for him if he doesn't surrender. Jeremiah continues to speak the truth out of a fear of God, not what would happen to him, he's what would happen to the others, he's a courageous messenger.

Ross Sawyers: 29:17 I've thought about some things I've said the last couple of weeks, and I wanted to make sure and come back this week from a real positive side, with what's going on with teenagers and college students. Because I believe we live in a day where we'll see more and more of teenagers, and college students, and 20 somethings, that will be going totally against their parents because of the buy-in to the cultural lies. And if we hold on to truth, then there'll be, there's going to be a lot more heartache than what they're currently is. I still believe that, I also believe that there are teenagers today, and college students, that are standing firm on campuses where it's incredibly difficult to stand firm. Can you imagine, just this think back for a minute, I know we have teenagers in the room, but if you're not a teenager, just think back to the pressure there is to be in a teenager, or on a college campus, and to know what the cultural wave is right now, and to be willing to stand against that, that's a lot of courage to do that. And we have teenagers and students from 121, from all over the country, people that are standing firm on their college campuses, standing firm on their high school campuses, are loving students well, and they're not giving ground.

Ross Sawyers: 30:45 I read a story the other day about a young lady, I don't know how old she is now, her name is Laila Rose. And when she was a teenager, she came across an abortion handbook, and she saw the violent taking of a life when she read that handbook. At age 15, Laila started a pro-life organization called Live Action. She actually believes that more people are uninformed, more than they are decidedly for abortion. I think that's the case with a number of crucial issues, people were more uninformed, they hop onto the few snippets and the emotional way people try to get you on board with something, without really working through what it is that's going on. Right now, she is one of the leading voices for pro-life movement, has close to 5 million followers. She started this when she was 15 years old, she said, truth is powerful, and she's hopeful. She said when she started to learn, when she started looking into this issue, that the media bias was so big, that numbers were made up again and again in the abortion industry, leading abortionists were giving numbers and then the media would inflate those numbers greatly, so that somehow we're to believe that this is what most people actually believe about it. And she said part of what we hear in the media, the risks are minimized, they're not honest about it ending a human life. The science says that a heartbeat starts as early as three weeks, and the other vital organs are forming. By nine weeks, the heart has four chambers, a baby can suck, it's thumb, stretch, and even sigh. Now we're told again and again today, that the science settles it. It's funny, isn't it, it's just whichever science is convenient for the philosophy or view we want to propound, that's the science that settles it. Because the science has settled a long time ago, that that's a full on baby and human life inside the womb. I'm proud of young ladies, young men, like Laila Rose, who are willing to stand up against the tide to be a courageous messenger for truth.

Ross Sawyers: 33:32 In chapter 39, Jeremiah is taken care of by Nebuchadnezzar. They captured Jerusalem, and Nebuchadnezzar says to his captain, take care of Jeremiah. God honored his promise that he gave to Jeremiah on the outset in chapter 1 verse 8, "You take what I have for you, and I'll deliver you." Jeremiah, courageous messenger, fear of God.

Ross Sawyers: 34:05 Let me show you a different person though, that's more fear of man. Zedekiah is a faithful self-preserver, that's what we find in him. Zedekiah is a puppet King, Jehoiachin had been exiled, and Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, places Zedekiah as King of Judah. He's a puppet King, he's just going to do what Nebuchadnezzar wants him to do, for 11 years he does this. Interestingly, Zedekiah his dad is Josiah, Josiah was a reformer king. Zedekiah grew up in a home with a dad who feared God, and followed after God, and yet here's the son of Josiah who now has a fear of man, he's controlled by people. In chapter 37 verse 2, it says that he didn't listen to the words of the Lord, so there was a failure in him to listen to what God had to say. He was more interested in the approval of other people, than he was in the approval of God. And yet, I mentioned earlier, he still sought out Jeremiah to pray for him. When people are desperate and under pressure, even in our culture, when there's a dire situation, all of a sudden it's okay to pray.

Ross Sawyers: 35:37 After 911, we were one of the most prayerful nations in the world. People, because there's something in us, as Timothy Keller said, that there's the part of the divine image starts to come out when we're under the deepest pressure, and we seek somebody to pray for us. So even though he didn't listen to the words of the Lord, it's just we see the back and forth of Zedekiah, it's dizzying to watch what happens in a person who has fear of man issues. Now he's seeking prayer, after he won't listen to the Lord. Zedekiah pulls Jeremiah out of prison, when he's in prison, because he wants to hear what he has to say. And yet, in chapter 38 verses 4 and 5, some of Zedekiah's counselors, they come to him, and this is what they say, "The officials said to the king, “Now let this man be put to death, inasmuch as he is discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people, by speaking such words to them; for this man is not seeking the well-being of this people but rather their harm.” Now, Jeremiah is seeking the wellbeing of the people by speaking truth. These men are speaking that which is false, they're coming to Zedekiah and saying, hey, Jeremiah is not interested in the good of the people. Now here's a glimpse into Zedekiah's character, "So King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you.” He's the King for goodness sake, he has sought Jeremiah out for his advice, now he's selling out on Jeremiah. Because these guys come and say, Hey, Jeremiah is causing trouble, we got to do something about that, and the King throws up his hands and he says, you know, I can't do anything about this. It's like he forgets he's the king, that's because of fear man, seeking the approval of these guys that are his counselors. You don't want counselors like that.

Ross Sawyers: 37:40 In Proverbs 13:20, it says, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Who are we surrounding ourselves with? It reminded me of when I was reading of Pontius Pilate, Jesus was brought before him, and they were yelling they wanted to crucify him, Pilate couldn't find anything wrong with him. His wife comes to him, you should listen to your wife if she has a dream, his wife comes to him and says, don't have anything to do with this man. And here's what Pilate does, he gives people a choice between a violent criminal and Jesus, he says, one of these can be released. Well they choose Barabbas, the violent criminal? And then Pilate wipes his hands and says, I'm innocent of this man's blood. How? You're the leader of that area for goodness sake, lead. Fear of man, he was afraid of the crowd, and he refused to stand up for what he knew standing before him was truth. That is what Zedekiah did.

Ross Sawyers: 39:09 In verse 10 of chapter 38, somebody comes and asks Zedekiah, and said, hey, we need to get Jeremiah out of that cistern or he's going to die. The King just a few minutes earlier, a few verses earlier, said he can't do anything about it. Now, all of a sudden he can. So he tells this guy, yeah, you go and get him out. It's just like, whoever is around the King in the moment, he adjusts what he says to that person. That's fear of man, that's what that means, whoever I'm with is controlling me, because it's controlling what I'm choosing to say or not say, what I'm choosing to do or not do, based on what I think you want me to do.

Ross Sawyers: 39:56 And then in the remainder of chapter 38, Jeremiah is pulled out, Zedekiah calls him again, he says, Hey, I want to know what God's saying. It's not changing, and Jeremiah says, if I give you the advice, you're not going to listen to it anyway, but he does. And here's another fear of man verse in 38:19, "Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I dread the Jews who have gone over to the Chaldeans, for they may give me over into their hand and they will abuse me.” He's afraid that if he does what Jeremiah says, that he's going to be taken advantage of by the people. Fear of man, self-preserving, he's doing everything he can to preserve himself, and ultimately it doesn't end well for him. In chapter 39 King Nebuchadnezzar captures Zedekiah, he has Zedekiah's sons killed in front of him. So Zedekiah watches the death of his sons, then he takes the eyes out of Zedekiah and blinds him, so that the last thing Zedekiah would have seen is the death of his sons, and then Jerusalem is captured. Fear of man does not end well, Zedekiah is not someone we want to emulate, he's someone we want to learn from and not be about.

Ross Sawyers: 41:48 As followers of Jesus Christ today, even this week, as things unfold with the election, will we go silent? Will we shape the way we think about something based on who we think we're talking to, and what will be the safest for us in that conversation? Or will we speak truth, regardless of how someone responds to me, graciously, winsomely, confidently, but not concerned about their response, and changing the way I see it because of who they are. Zedekiah, under pressure, fear of man. Probably, before there ever was pressure, a lifetime habit of fear of man, and it only just comes out strongly in those pressure moments.

Ross Sawyers: 42:56 But there's one character in here, that's a pretty cool character, besides Jeremiah, his name is Ebed-melech. If you've been thinking about a name for your grandchildren that you might suggest, or for a child that's in the womb right now, and you haven't named him, Ebed-melech, it means servant of the King. Ebed-melech, servant of the King. And I'd like to call him in this story, a bold advocate, a bold advocate. We're introduced to this story, and this is what his name means, he's an Ethiopian, he's from Africa. He's a black skinned man. he's a foreigner in Israel. He has no legal rights, and he's described as a Eunuch, meaning either physically or as an official in the court. He hears about Jeremiah, and he goes to the gate, and the gate is where the king would be settling issues of justice. And while he's talking about different issues of justice, Ebed-melech, servant of the King, one of his officials comes to him in the open, and he pleads the case of Jeremiah. Ironically, the king is talking about justice issues, when he had done an injustice to Jeremiah. Now here's a foreigner coming in and going to his defense, chapter 38 verse 9 , “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet whom they have cast into the cistern; and he will die right where he is because of the famine, for there is no more bread in the city.” And we find in verses 7 through 13, a man who has a fear of God, not a fear of man, and he's a bold advocate. We have Jeremiah who is a courageous messenger, fear of God. Zedekiah, a fearful self-preserver, cowardly, weak, the fear of man. And then we have Ebed-melech, a bold advocate.

Ross Sawyers: 45:11 A name that most of us, prior to today, probably have not heard or locked into. Kind of like Franz in A Hidden Life, a name we'll barely ever know or remember, a bold advocate. And he goes to the defense, there's pressure, he knows the other men that are the counselors for Zedekiah, yet he doesn't worry about that, and he comes and he goes to the defense of Jeremiah. He has a compassion for Jeremiah, perhaps he'd heard Jeremiah speak before, and knew that he was speaking the truth of God. And we see a man who then takes 30 other men to help him get Jeremiah out of this deep cistern, where he was sinking into the mud. Ebed-melech is compassionate, and he's resourceful. He takes worn out rags and worn out clothes, he lowers them down to Jeremiah and said, here, put these under your armpits. This is going to be tough, pulling you out outta here, and that'll give a little comfort, and then they hoist him out of the cistern. Ebed-melech, a bold advocate.

Ross Sawyers: 46:33 It reminds me of Martin Luther King, Jr., we talked about this this summer, when Martin Luther King said, as Christian, we need to have a tough minds, and tender hearts. To walk in the fear of God requires a tough mind, and it leads to a tender heart, one without the other is not good. It's a tough mind, and a tender heart. This reminded me of the story of the good Samaritan. See none of the people of God came to Jeremiah's help, it's this Ethiopian man that came to his rescue. In the good Samaritan, it's not the Jewish people who came to the rescue of the man who was beat up on the side of the road, it was the hated outsider. The Samaritan, the one that's a mixed race, he's the hero of the story. Compassionate, willing to risk, seemed to have a fear of God, not worried about what somebody else thinks. Do you remember what Martin Luther King Jr said about that story? He said the Samaritan came and he said, he didn't ask the question, what will happen to me if I help this man? His question was what happens to this man, if I don't help him? That's the difference in the fear of God and the fear of man, I'm not worried about preserving me, I'm worried about him.

Ross Sawyers: 48:16 We've been thinking about the underground church, there are advocates for those who are persecuted all over the world. And I have a few of those on the screen, Voice of the Martyrs, they are advocating for the underground persecuted followers of Jesus all over the world. Open doors, it's another ministry advocating for those who are persecuted all over the world. 21 Wilberforce, they are politically advocating for religious freedom all over the world. China Aid, Bob Fu was here just a few weeks ago, they're advocating for those who are underground all over the world. In December, we're going to have a prayer and fasting chain to pray for, and advocate for, persecuted believers all over the world. We're going to have a drive for, to raise money for, Bibles. So that people all over the world who can't get copies, can. Those are two ways we can advocate for our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

Ross Sawyers: 49:32 Ebed-melech, a name we don't hear often, fear of God, a man we want to be like, bold advocates for whatever cause in God's justice. We have to be careful today, I'm gonna use these terms, there's a difference in social justice that you're hearing about, and God's justice, it's different. We can't just jump onto all the social justice bandwagons, they're not all God's justice. We want to jump on what is God's justice, get in on those things.

Ross Sawyers: 50:19 But I said there was a fourth person that I want us to think about just briefly, it's Jesus Christ. He's the perfect advocate, he's not a bold advocate, he's not just a courageous messenger, he's not even close to being a fearful self-preserver, he is the perfect advocate. And in First John chapter 2 verse 1, says, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Jesus lived a perfect life, went to a cross, died on that cross to take your sins and mine, to spare us from God's wrath and judgment. God raised him from the dead, he conquered death, he broke the chains of sin, guilt, and shame, he actually broke the chains of fear of man on that old rugged cross.

Ross Sawyers: 51:36 In acts chapter eight, we see the story of another Ethiopian Eunuch, this man is reading the book of Isaiah, he has no idea what he's reading. Phillip comes to him and he says, hey, do you understand what you're reading? He goes, how can I need somebody to guide me? The scripture says that Philip preached Jesus to him, and that man received Jesus, and then looked for water to be baptized in.

Ross Sawyers: 52:09 Do you know Jesus Christ, who has advocated for you, and for me, on the cross? We needed an advocate, and he's done that for us. He's done the work, we receive it out of gratitude to him, now we become courageous messengers, like Jeremiah, bold advocates like Ebed-melech. And we ask God to kill in us, anything that looks like Zedekiah, as a fearful self-preserver, whose fear is of everyone around him that controls him.

Ross Sawyers: 52:53 One way I'd like for us today to advocate for the underground church today, is the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, today and next week, so two Sundays, November 1st and 8th. And I'd like for us just to close our time, one, I hope you'll really contemplate whether you know the one who is your advocate, Jesus. If you know Jesus as your advocate, that we might more and more become people who advocate for others. And it may be that God puts certain things on our hearts, different people, different scenarios to be advocates for, more so than others. We can't do everything, but as we seek God out, we can advocate for the things he wants us to advocate for. And David's going to play over us, and I'm gonna pray, and then I want to give you just a little bit of space yourself to be able to pray.

Ross Sawyers: 53:57 And then, I want to encourage you on that Voice of the Martyrs resource I gave you, they have a global prayer guide for 2020. And if you go to Voice of the Martyrs and just look for this global prayer guide, and it has the nations that are the most persecuted across the world, what's going on in that nation, and then it's a way that we can pray for them. Sometimes we don't know what to pray, this would be an easy way, just to put this on your kitchen table, or in your living room. Or put it next to your TV, so that every time you flip the TV on, maybe pause for a moment and pray for those who are across the world.

Ross Sawyers: 54:44 So let's do that, I'm going to pray, and then I'll give you a little bit of space to do the same. Father, thank you for the morning. And Lord, I just couldn't be more encouraged by you and just your goodness, God, and your mercy, and your grace, your love, and your kindness. Lord, I thank you this morning for letting us experience just a really, really small taste of what so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world experience. Thank you for their zeal for you, and their love for you, and their worship of you, God. To gather in a small cramped spaces for hours to pray, to study your word, to quietly sing your praises, how pleasing that must be to you. Their healthy fear of God, and not a fear of man father. Father, will you inspire us today to have that same kind of fear, God, of you, the fear of God that brings knowledge and wisdom? And Lord, kill that fear of man in us, and I personally ask you to kill that in me. Father, today where people have had their houses burned, the places where they worship shut down, where they've been run out of villages and are wandering, trying to find places to live, those who are imprisoned this morning, for those who've been separated from family, God, those who have been castigated and thrown out of their families because of their faith in you, God, I pray this morning, that in a way only you can, that in your grace that you would meet them. And Father, that their joy, that they would have joy this morning that comes only from you. God, we just really can't even imagine what it's like to be in their shoes, will you help us to be faithful to pray on their behalf? I pray, you'll bring scripture to their minds this morning that will encourage their souls. I pray, that you'll bring Jeremiah to their minds, God, a man who was faithful to you over decades, and suffered greatly. Show us, Father, each what our part is to be, and how we give, or serve, or prayer, or go, when there's opportunity to go to really hard places and to bring the gospel.

Ross Sawyers: 57:42 And then, Father, I pray for our own nation today. I continue to pray, God, that our nation would bend her knee to you. More than anything, God, we ask, just as Jeremiah pleaded with Zedekiah to obey you, God, I pray and plead with you today that our nation would bow before you, and quit resisting you, and rebelling against you, and choosing things against you, and hating you. God, will you help Christians to burn bright. On Wednesday morning, I pray Father, that we would arise and find great confidence and trust in you. The we'd head off to school, and to work, wherever we are, and that our light would burn brighter than it's ever burned, no matter the outcome of the election. Our confidence is in you, our trust is in you, we sang, our hope is built on nothing less than you. So Father, I pray we'll walk like it, and think like it, and live like it. So if there's any ways that God is encouraging you to pray in these moments quietly, we give you that space to do so.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051