Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the privilege of public worship yesterday. Praise God that he is a merciful God who deals with us in incredible ways, given our frequent refusal to accept his rule in our lives.
Confess the sin of not appreciating just how merciful God is, and not taking that in owning mercy in our lives in respect of others.
Who do you fear? Please read Luke 12:4-7
Seek the help of the Holy Spirit as you turn to read his Word.
V4. A choice of who to fear.
This is the only time in the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Jesus calls the disciples “friends”. That's interesting in that many in the church today want Jesus to be their friend, someone who will be there for them when they need him, regardless of what they do. John, in his only use of the term 'friends', says that Jesus used it in the following way – "You are my friends if you do what I command you," John 15:14, which places a slightly different connotation on the idea of friendship, at least with Jesus – it is conditional.
The subject that Jesus brings to his friends is “fear”. Which, when you think about it, is a logical follow-on from the topic of hypocrisy. Why do men behave hypocritically? It's either because they don't know the truth, and it is their default position in life, or it is because they know the truth, but when faced with opposition, they crumble out of fear. Fear is one of the drivers in our decision-making process in life. And there is only one of two options we can choose when it comes to fear, either we fear man, or we fear God.
Jesus' point is that you have to decide which option you are going to choose. But, on what basis should we make that choice; that's the question, isn't it? Well, why do you fear anyone? It is because of the harm they can do to you. So Jesus says, 'okay, who can do you the most harm?' If you can work that out, then that is the person you should fear. Well, to answer that question, you have to ask another one. Namely, what is the worst that can happen to you? You can be killed. True, but is that the worst thing that can happen to you? Remember, when we die, however that happens, our souls stay alive. So, the question is, who has the power over our souls? Fearing those who can kill the body is understandable, but fearing the one who determines the destination of our souls, well that is in a different league altogether. In fact, the difference is so huge, that when it comes to making decisions in life, the choice is simple; we need to fear the one who has the authority to determine the soul's destiny.
Ted Donnelly, in his excellent book Heaven and Hell, makes the following points about Hell. Hell is a real place created by God, Revelation 4:11. A place of just, terrible, and everlasting punishment; Luke 12:47,48, Matthew 11:21-24. A place for the devil, his angels and the unsaved; Revelation 20:10, Jude 6, Luke 8:31, and Revelation 21:8. A place ruled by God and existing for his glory. A place of absolute poverty because it involves everlasting separation from the goodness of God; 2 Thessalonians 1:9. A place of agonizing pain, Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 8:12, Matthew 18:8, Mark 9:46 and Revelation 21:8. A place where God's angry presence is active; Nahum 1:6, Hebrews 10:31, 12:29 and Revelation 14:10. Ultimately, Hell is an appalling prospect. Donnelly writes, "The fire is everlasting, the punishment everlasting and the destruction an everlasting one, Matthew 18:8, 25:46." 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Revelation 20:15. Donnelly then quotes from Johnathan Edward's famous sermon, The Eternity of Hell Torments. (I have lifted from the original sermon and not Donnelly's quotation.)
Edwards preached – "First, be entreated to consider attentively how great and awful a thing eternity is. Although you cannot comprehend it, the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever: to suffer it day and night from one year to another, from one age to another, and from one thousand ages to another (and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands), in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth — with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, your bodies and every member full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better.
Second, do but consider how dreadful despair will be in such torment. How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them. To have no hope: when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice if you might but have any relief; after you shall have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it. After you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day and night, or one minute's ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered. After you shall have worn a thousand more such ages, you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit nearer to the end of your torments. But that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries, incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend up forever and ever. Your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, will still exist to bear more wrath. Your bodies, which shall have been burning all this while in these glowing flames, shall not have been consumed but will remain to roast through eternity, which will not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past.
The more the damned in Hell think of the eternity of their torments, the more amazing will it appear to them. And alas, they will not be able to keep it out of their minds! Their tortures will not divert them from it but will fix their attention to it. O how dreadful will eternity appear to them after they shall have been thinking on it for ages together, and shall have so long an experience of their torments! The damned in Hell will have two infinites perpetually to amaze them, and swallow them up: one is an infinite God, whose wrath they will bear, and in whom they will behold their perfect and irreconcilable enemy. The other is the infinite duration of their torment.
If you wish to read the sermon, here is a link:
V5. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
Jesus' words should leave us in absolutely no doubt. God is to be feared. And as God is feared, so the fear of man will be driven out.
I know seventeenth-century Scotland seems a long way off, but it might be an encouragement to see that it can be done by reading some of the accounts of those who, out of reverent fear of God, stood for the crown rights of Christ and were killed for doing so. Just do a search for 'Covenanters'. Remember, they were ordinary people, living ordinary lives. There was nothing special about them, other than they feared God more than they feared man.
V6. Comprehend God's love.
We are to fear the Lord for what he can and will do to the souls of men, but we must also know how much God cares for those he loves. Sparrows were traded for almost nothing. So valueless were they that it was hardly worth the transfer of money. Matthew prices them at two sparrows for a penny, Matthew 10:29, so if you bought four for two pennies you obviously got another one thrown in for free. And yet not one of those almost worthless little sparrows is forgotten by God. Incredible, and then the points – 'you are of more value in the sight of God than many sparrows.' "Why, even the hairs on your head are all numbered." So, fear God, not man, and as you do so, have no fear because God knows and loves you intimately.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 91B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
"Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Truth for the Mind and Heart
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 86 - What is faith in Jesus Christ?
Answer - Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace by which we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that, by his grace, we can fear him.
Thank God for the warnings in his Word about the reality of Hell. Pray for the salvation of those you know who have not professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that God in his mercy and grace would save them from Hell.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC