A word about law:
A member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), well-known for his irascible temper and sharp tongue, became so incensed one day that he leaped from his chair and shouted, “Half of this Parliament are morons!” There immediately arose angry shouts, catcalls and demands that he apologize forthwith or be ejected from the chamber. “All right, I take it back,” he grumbled. “Half of this Parliament are not morons!”
If you believe we should make the Gospel as easy and comfortable as possible, and shield people from its moral and ethical demands, then I’m warning you – you’re not going to like this message, because I am going to talk about the cost of discipleship.
I think most ministry leaders today would agree that the state of the body of Messiah is in many ways lamentable. It seems that we have an abundance of believers yet very, very few disciples. I suppose to a large extent that’s our own fault, collectively, as leaders. Perhaps in our desire to fill our pews and in fear of turning people off, we’ve adopted a flawed methodology, where we seek to soften the message of the Gospel and place as few demands on people as possible. After all, we reason, if we appear to have high expectations (such as honoring one’s commitments, evangelism, volunteering, financial giving), people will turn high tail and run like there’s no tomorrow.
And make no mistake, some will run, and seek out the church or congregation that affords them the greatest comfort, the most entertaining program, the most anonymity and the least amount of moral, spiritual or financial accountability. Candidly, if the uncommitted were to leave, the rest would be better off, but by having chosen the path of least resistance the one who leaves will be the worse for it. We grow and mature through the process of hardship, not through the hot tub.
Look with me at Luke, chapter 6, and let’s be reminded that there is a cost to discipleship. We’re going to read Luke, chapter six, verses 22, 23 and 26. There, Yeshua is quoted as saying, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets… Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23, 26)
These are familiar words, but let’s remember that these hardships are predicated on our confession of Yeshua as the Messiah. I mean, if people hate because you act like an ogre, or if people ostracize you because you haven’t bathed since the last election, it’s your own fault, so don’t bother with the gladness and the leaping. We’re talking here about hostility directed your way specifically on account of your being publicly identified with Yeshua.
A true disciple, therefore, must be willing to endure opposition, and to have yirat Adonai, the fear of the Lord, rather than yirat Adam, the fear of man. The true disciple of Yeshua consistently will act on principle, and do what is right, sometimes at the cost of society’s disapproval; sometimes at great cost; perhaps even the ultimate cost. A true disciple, therefore, eventually will have to develop a thick skin. Let’s review that list of hostilities we can expect to endure:
“Blessed are you when men hate you …”
You will be hated simply because of what you believe. There is nothing rational about this hatred; it is unreasoning, illogical and, furthermore, completely unjustified. After 23 years as a Messianic Jew, I have learned to not take the verbal abuse personally. After all, I’m just a messenger – It’s Yeshua that is hated. And Yeshua warned us, saying, “It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”
Please believe me when I tell you that you will frustrate yourself to no end if you try to understand and mollify that hatred with reason. There is a time to respond gently, but there is a time to just leave it alone. Be discerning. This kind of blind hatred is spiritual in nature, not intellectual, and its causal agent is the father of lies, who would love nothing more than to entangle you in fruitless debate with someone who couldn’t care less about the truth, but gets a perverted sort of ego-gratification out of frustrating believers with circular debate. Proverbs 26:4-5 reminds us, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
Be especially wary of the snare of thinking that maybe if you are gentle and kind and explain the Scriptures to this person, you’ll be the one to reach them. That is a subtle form of pride – a dangerous snare. You need to remember that this is not about you.
“Blessed are you when men … ostracize you …”
The disciple of Yeshua should expect that he or she will be singled out for exclusion and treated as an outsider; sometimes even by those they love. Jewish followers of Yeshua have, for over eighteen centuries, been systematically excluded from Jewish community life. This is due in large part to the rabbis’ successful campaign to perpetuate a climate of hatred and suspicion in the synagogues. It has been going on for centuries, and the result is collective Jewish hostility. Messianic Jews have been told in no uncertain terms that we are unwelcome.
But we Messianic Jews are not alone. Some of you, on account of having favored the word of God over family religious traditions, have likewise had to endure opposition. Some of you have been told not to bother showing up anymore at family functions. Others of you have endured exclusion in the workplace, when your co-workers conveniently “forget” to invite you to lunch with them, because you’re the “religious nut”. Whatever the arena, ostracism is to be expected, if we are going to openly follow Yeshua.
The danger (and this is crucial!) comes when we so desire the acceptance of others, particularly unbelievers, that we begin doing things we would otherwise never do, in order to gain their approval. Some have questioned and later cast aside sound doctrine and some have negotiated away their principles. That is when the opinion of men becomes an idol. The sooner we learn to live with the inevitable rejection, the better off we’ll be. We’ll get our sense of humor back, and our consciences will be the better for it.
And let’s be real about this. Yeshua gave us more than fair warning. He didn’t merely tell us that we might experience rejection; He told us we could bank on it! The question, then, is not whether we will experience rejection, but how much and from whom; and the biggest question is: are we are willing to endure it? Are you willing? That is the mark of a true disciple of Yeshua. And you won’t exactly need to go out of your way to find opportunities to be ostracized. Trust me, if you’re open about your faith, it’ll come to you!
Casting of aspersions
“Blessed are you when men … cast insults at you …”
That’s always fun. Here are a few samples for you:
“You must be brainwashed!”
“Did you have drug problems or something?”
“You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“You are finishing what Hitler started!”
“Drop dead, freak!”
We’re not to be surprised when people hurl insults at us. Yeshua was hated, and He told us we would be hated all the more.
If people were willing to equate our wonderful, righteous Messiah with Satan, what makes us think we’re going to get the red carpet treatment? I wouldn’t want the praise of a person like that! A word here about loyalty: Be careful never, ever to accept a compliment from someone who insults your brothers or sisters in Yeshua. If someone casts aspersions on your fellow Christians or Messianic Jews, but then says to you, “But you’re different, you seem alright – you’re intelligent!” don’t you accept that compliment! Let me suggest an alternative. Say to the person, “First of all, I’m not different. Secondly, I couldn’t care less what you think of me. And third, there is no way I’m going to accept a compliment from you at the expense of my brothers and sisters?”
But what is our natural instinct when insulted? Our natural instinct is to defend ourselves. We want to demonstrate to the name-caller that we really are decent people, not despicable. We want to explain that what we believe is rational and historically verifiable, and that we are, in fact, people of reasonable intelligence.
But that is the very thing we must not do. You see, when you try to explain or defend yourself, you allow the other person to shift the focus away from Yeshua and at the same time you allow yourself to become the issue, and you are not the issue. The Messiahship of Yeshua is the issue. You and me – we’re small potatoes.
Furthermore, you need to remember that those who ridicule do so because they are afraid. Someone once remarked that ridicule is the weapon of those who have no other. It is a sign that this person is unwilling to deal honestly and squarely with matters of substance. Trying to defend your sincerity or knowledge or intelligence is not only playing right into their hand, but making them feel “clever in their own eyes.” Again, for some people it is an ego-trip to get others on the defensive. Let such a person know that their little game is unworthy of your precious time.
But remember that we are to expect insults if we openly identify with Yeshua. And that is the mark of a true disciple.
Willful mischaracterization with the intent of harming reputation
“Blessed are you when men … spurn your name as evi l…”
The true disciple of Yeshua can fully expect to have lies told about him and his reputation besmirched. Character assassination is the last, desperate act of those who cannot successfully answer the substance of your position. We’ll see a lot of that kind of behavior in the months ahead in the political realm. But in the arena of faith, Yeshua tells us that we should not be surprised to have horrible lies told about us on account of openly declaring Yeshua to be the Messiah. What is particularly lamentable about this lashon hara (evil speech) is that people will uncritically accept those false reports, and even go on to spread them further.
For example, among the writings of the early church fathers, there is a document dating to about the year 230, entitled Octavius of Minicius Felix. It describes a debate between a Christian and a pagan at the Roman port of Ostia. In it, the pagan repeats a widely-held false report that Christians were cannibals (allegedly eating “the body and blood” of Yeshua), and another false rumor that Christians were incestuous (the intent of “brothers” and “sisters” greeting each other with “a holy kiss” willfully twisted).
Dirty lies told by those with dirty minds. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that followers of Yeshua will be falsely maligned.
Now, what is our response to all this? Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
The word for “glad” here is from the Greek word cai,rw, to rejoice. You have a choice, you know, about what kind of outlook to have in anticipation of being persecuted for Yeshua’s sake. You can be fearful, or you can look beyond it and know that you will be part of the great celebration in heaven. Yeshua says our reward will be great, and so we can actually leap for joy if we suffer hardship for His sake.
Consider those who went before us, and what they were willing to do for Adonai. If you think about it, we’re in very good company if we’re ridiculed for our faith. Here are a few examples of men and women who were willing to risk everything from ridicule to death in order to be faithful to God.
- Noah (builds ark, is the laughingstock of his neighbors)
- Abraham (leaves cosmopolitan Ur, to depart for who-knows-where, because an invisible God told him to)
- Hebrew Midwives (defied Pharaoh’s edict to slay Israeli baby boys)
- Joshua & Caleb (stood against the majority opinion & the multitude)
- Daniel & Co. (defied edicts to bow to idols, maintained faith & prayer)
Can you even imagine being considered in the same category with great prophets and men of God like Isaiah, Daniel, Noah, Abraham and Moses? The prophets of old were despised and treated with contempt by their own people. Their crime?: having spoken the truth and summoned our people to repentance, to turn back to God.
Consequently, when we preach repentance in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, we are walking a well-trodden path, a path blazed by righteous and godly men and women, and our reward will be commensurate. Personally, just being in heaven with my fellow believers and with Yeshua and the great saints of old is reward enough for me! But there will be great reward for those willing to endure hatred and exclusion and insult and character assassination for the sake of Messiah. Be glad when it happens. Rejoice and just know you’re in very good company!
But then there is the other side of this. You are blessed when you are mistreated for Messiah’s sake, but woe to you if the unbelieving world considers you one of its own. Yeshua went on to say, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.”
If the world thinks you’re the “cat’s meow” you are in big-time trouble, because the world stands in opposition to the righteousness of God. And if the world thinks you’re one of its own, it can only be because you have refused to take a stand for Yeshua of Nazareth. The only way that all men will speak well of you is if they are under the impression that you are in solidarity with them. How could they think that about a follower of Yeshua, unless that person is keeping his or her light hidden under the peck-measure; ashamed of being identified with the Messiah?
Lyrics to Petra song, “Chameleon”
You seem content to ride the fence, when you know which side is greener You compromise each word you say so inoffensively
You only want to hide behind your anonymity
You struggle for acceptance , and it takes you to extremes
The smile you hide your face behind is not all that it seems Some run hot, some run cold, some run from their Maker
Some run the risk of losing out with lukewarm friends and fakers Chameleon, you blend with your surroundings
Chameleon, no one knows where you come from
Chameleon, you change with every situation, compromising dedication
Can a true disciple of Yeshua be ashamed to be identified with Him? Can a follower of Jesus say, “I love you, Lord, but I just don’t want to be seen with you.”? Do people in your neighborhood or at work even know that you belong to Yeshua? Do your family members know? David Brickner, the Executive Director of Jews for Jesus (but more importantly to us, Martha’s brother) remarked in the last Jews for Jesus newsletter that he had had to turn down an application from a Jewish believer to join their staff. Everything looked good as far as this person’s schooling, their work record, their regular attendance at a Bible-teaching congregation – everything. But there was one problem. On one of the character reference forms (the one filled out by their employer) were these words, “so and so has worked here for x number of years, but in all this time I had no idea that they were either Jewish or a Christian”. David related that he couldn’t, in good conscience, hire for their missionary staff, a person who had not even said a word about their faith to their boss. Someone who is unwilling to share their precious faith with people they see every day at work are unlikely to share their faith with complete strangers on the street.
When the world pours out its compliments on you, something is terribly wrong. And I’m here to tell you what it is this morning: Yirat Adam – the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 states, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” There is a real dichotomy there. We either have yirat Adonai, the fear of the Lord (meaning reverence and respect), or we have yirat Adam, the fear of man (caring more about the opinions of men than about doing what is right).
Yeshua said that those who were well-spoken of by men were false prophets. What characterized false prophets? They said the kinds of things that people wanted to hear and attributed their false predictions to Adonai. False prophets liked to tickle people’s ears with sophisticated, comfortable, easy words. No moral demands, no calls to repentance. That same man-pleasing syndrome is at work in the religious realm today. You are not likely to attract a large following by preaching that man is sinful and in dire need of repentance. On the other hand, if you teach that we all are gods and have the potential for infinite goodness, crowds will flock to you because people want a loosely-defined “spirituality”, but recoil from the very idea of moral absolutes. Yet we are exhorted time and again in the Scriptures not to allow the opinions of men to influence our actions or our words, but to wholeheartedly obey the Lord.
Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed? (Isaiah 2:22)
Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, neither be dismayed at their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7)
You shall not follow a multitude (majority/crowd) in doing evil. (Exodus 23:2a)
Consider, too, the consequences of yirat Adam, of fearing the opinions of men; of tailoring our actions to pander to the prejudices of men; of following the majority in order to fit in. The Scriptures are replete with stories of men who compromised the truth in order to curry favor with others, or to avoid the disfavor of others. Consider, for example:
- Aaron (caved in to the multitude – golden calf, 3,000 men put to death!)
- Peter denies Yeshua (three times!)
- Peter turns his back on the Gentile believers in Antioch
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. (Galatians 2:11-12) You think those are bad? Consider the implications of the following individuals, whose fear of the opinions of men again resulted in tragedy:
A. Herod (caves in to dinner guests’ expectations, has John the Baptist beheaded) But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Thereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. And having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” And although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. And he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (Matthew 14:6-10)
B. Pilate (caves in to Jewish crowd, fear of Caesar, orders Yeshua crucified) Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the multitude any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they were holding at that time a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Yeshua who is called Messiah?” For he knew that because of envy they had delivered Him up. And while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes to ask for Barabbas, and to put Yeshua to death. But the governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Yeshua who is called Messiah?” They all said, “Let Him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” (Matthew 27:15-24)
The fear of man leads to cowardice. It prevents us from being decisive and from doing the right thing. A perfect example of this is when the Jewish religious leaders challenged Yeshua’s authority. They wanted to trap Him in a statement so they could condemn Him, and so they demanded He tell them by what authority He was performing miracles. Of course He didn’t fall for their ruse; instead He posed to them a question of His own:
“The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet.” (Matthew 21:25-26)
The fear of man is what causes politicians to never tell you what they really stand for. Every statement must be put to a committee to gauge how it will resonate with various interest groups. Every position taken must first be triangulated to determine how it will help or harm their personal aspirations for power. Popularity: A crime from the moment it is sought; it is only a virtue where men have it whether they will or no. – Lord Halifax
We had a perfect example of the fear of man this past week, as the overwhelming majority of our United States senators displayed their cowardice to the nation, refusing even to allow a vote for cloture on the Federal Marriage Amendment. These paid sycophants are so afraid of incurring the wrath of the homosexual lobby, that they wouldn’t even allow discussion of the amendment.
Yirat Adam, the fear of man, is what leads politicians to say things such as, “I am personally against abortion, but I also believe in a ‘woman’s right to choose'”. A woman’s right to choose What? That is like saying, “I personally believe it is wrong to violently dismember a living baby inside her mother’s womb, but I think the law should allow for that.”
Do you know why we are constantly urged by Christian leaders to call and write our elected officials? It is because the majority of our elected officials operate out of concern for popularity rather than principle. The only way they’ll do the right thing is if they think that enough people care that they do the right thing, lest they be voted out of office. For the most part they are men-pleasers; and concerning the Federal Marriage Amendment, let me just say that all of society suffers when a tiny handful of special interest activists employ strong-arm legal maneuvers.
And we are all too often afraid to say what we really mean, lest we be perceived a certain way. Did you know that in Canada a law was just recently passed making it illegal to say anything negative about homosexuality? By law there, you may not even cite the Scriptures in what they say about it; and pastors in Canada now risk going to jail for saying what I have said this morning. Thankfully at least we still have a vestige of that right here in the United States. So concerning this issue, let me say three things:
- Homosexuality is a grievous sin, and a gross distortion of the created order.
- The homosexual lobby, in order to gain permanent legitimacy, has as their goal the reorientation of people’s thinking, to where there is a complete demolition of natural gender distinctions, and they intend to implement that reorientation through the public school curriculum.
- God wants to save homosexuals just like He wants to save the the rest of us sinners.
Because of the fear of man far too many followers of Yeshua are afraid to take a stand against the evil of abortion, the murder of multiplied millions of the most defenseless members of our society. We’re so afraid of what others think of us that we refuse to get involved in what are supreme moral issues because of the controversy. We seek the applause of men rather than the applause of heaven. Let me again go on the record as saying. So on this issue, let me also say three things:
- Abortion is the murder of defenseless babies in their mothers’ wombs.
- Decrying the sin of abortion is to our generation precisely what slavery was to our ancestors’ generation; a heated, divisive issue, to be sure and the slaughter of unborn children will not stop overnight. We’d like to legislate the cessation of this heinous practice, but, as with slavery, the real battle is in the consciences of men.
- God wants to forgive and save those who have had or who have performed abortions, just like He wants to save the rest of us sinners.
The fear of man is the worst form of slavery. And it is so unnecessary! Psalm 118:6 says The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
Nevertheless, far too many people who identify as Evangelical Christians or Messianic Jews are unwilling to incur the disfavor of others by decrying in clear terms the sins of our nation. Even some of our religious leaders, fearful of being labeled “backwards” or “bigoted and intolerant” or “elitist” have compromised theological truth, and have adopted the view that there are ways other than Yeshua of being saved. Some have gone on record as saying that Jewish people are the exception – that Jewish people need not believe in Yeshua in order to be saved.
The fear of man is nothing new, and its consequences are potentially devastating. And while inevitably we will see the fear of man at work in the world, we have a choice about how we will conduct ourselves.
Are you willing to be openly identified with Yeshua – even if it invites persecution and insult? The true disciple is willing to endure these things for Messiah’s sake. The true disciple needs to have thick skin. If we are more concerned with people’s opinions of us than of being pleasing to God, we will invariably compromise the truth, and will have to answer for it on that Day.
We have a choice: yirat Adonai – the fear of the Lord, or yirat Adam – the fear of man. One will set you free – free to speak the truth and not fear unpopularity. The other will enslave you, and you will have to calculate everything you say and do so as not to offend. One leads to life, the other leads to death.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets …”
This is yirat Adonai – contempt from men for Yeshua’s sake, but a blessing from God.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.”
This is yirat Adam – compliments from men, but an eternal curse from God.
Will you take your stand? Will you publicly and unashamedly identify with Yeshua. Yes, it will cost you something in this world, but this world, ultimately, is not our home. The writer of Hebrews expressed this idea so simply and clearly with these words, with which we’ll conclude this morning:
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (Hebrews 13:11-14)
 “Chameleon” written and performed by Petra, Words and Music by Bob Hartman