The Fear of Man
The fear of man brings a snare, it whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.(Proverbs 29:25)
Two paths extend before us: one of ruin, the other of salvation. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” The way of salvation is trust in Jehovah. Even if you do not believe another verse in the Bible, you know this verse is true. I don’t care how much of an unbeliever a man may be, he knows that the fear of what others will think brings a snare.
The fear of man ensnares Christians into denial of their Lord. It did Peter. He told his Lord, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”(Matthew 26:35) But when the servant girl accused him of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, he said, “I do not know the man!”(verse 72) A few minutes later, he repeated his denial, and an hour after, with oaths and cursing s, frightened by what a servant girl might do or say, he denied his Lord.(Matthew 26:69-75)
Many of you are doing the same every day. In your office or shop or factory, Jesus Christ is ridiculed. Hard things are said about the Bible, the name of the Lord who died upon the Cross of Calvary for you is taken in blasphemy, and are not man enough or woman enough to stand up and say, “I am a Christian. I believe in that Christ you are ridiculing. I believe in that Bible you are laughing at.” You are afraid to be laughed at, and the fear of man has ensnared you into a denial of the Lord who died on the cross for you.
Living as a Christian is in conflict with living in the world. Jesus said, “You are in the world, but not of the world.” In other words although we are of this earth, our citizenship is in heaven and our leader whom we follow is Christ Himself. Our standards of conduct and our values are set by Him and not the culture, opinions, or views of the world around us. Down through history, beginning with Christ and the first disciples, this different way of living has often brought persecution and suffering. In fact most of the time Christians were ostracized and mocked for their lifestyles and their biblical world view.
The strategy of the devil has always been to eradicate any human relationship with God. He does so through substitution as he did in the Old Testament by enticing the people of God to become like the other inhabitants of the land and worship idols. We may not have some carved or molded image on our mantle but nonetheless the devil continues his push for us to blend with and become indistinguishable from the world around us. We shy away from the call to be different, to live different and to act different that the world around us. Yet that is the call of God.
“Do not be unequally bound together with unbelievers [do not make mismatched alliances with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial (Satan)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said: “ I will dwell among them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people . “So come out from among unbelievers and be separate,” says the Lord, “ And do not touch what is unclean ; And I will graciously receive you and welcome you [with favor], And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
This is not to say that we have nothing to do with those who are unbelievers. As a matter of fact, just the opposite for we are called to be light and salt. Both light and salt affect their environment. Light dispels darkness and reveals what is hidden. Salt flavors whatever it touches. This is our call. We are called to separate ourselves from the ways of the world while at the same time we influence the world around us. To live as a Christian is to do so at great risk of being shunned by those around us and far too often the need to be accepted and the urge to “fit in” overwhelm our witness as a Christian.
As I reflect on all that’s taking place in our world today, I’m reminded that we as the people of God have been given the assignment of giving the gospel to those who sit and operate in darkness. It is the call for the people of God to love their neighbor, to do good, to act godly, and to take a position against sin. Jesus said we are to be a “city sat upon a hill.” This means our Christianity must become obvious. We can no longer afford to hide behind the walls of our buildings, to merely gather as a secret club on Sunday morning and practice our rituals. We as the church must shine our lights into darkness. We must become the visible model of Christ as His ambassadors. Those around us must see such a different approach to life that it begs the question: “What moves you to live this way?” We must understand that as the church we have not been called to be popular but to be a witness. We are not to “fit in” but to influence. We have not been called to conform to the standards and views of the world but to reflect the views and values of heaven. We must shake off this fear of being different and unacceptable by unbelievers. We ought not apologize for being Christian. Our churches ought not be the place where everyone feel comfortable but they ought to be places where sinners hear the gospel and are convicted of their sins and turn to Christ in repentance for salvation. We ought not apologize for naming biblical sin and we ought not try to water down the Bible and attempt to make it conform to social norms. We ought not allow the fear of man interfere with our trust in God. Rather our fear of God ought to influence our relationship with man. We can live fearlessly because of the promises of God.
“Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “ I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “ The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me ?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
You may say to me, “How do I come to this place of living a fearless Christian life?” In Romans Paul tells us just how to do so:
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” (Romans 12:1-2)
Begin today by asking the Holy Spirit to enable you to present yourself as a living sacrifice, to transform you by the renewing of your mind so that you will no longer be driven to conform to this world. Soak up the Word of God and let it fill your mind and heart. Spend time in prayer talking with and listening to God your Father. Let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit set the values and standards of living for you. Be willing to risk not “fitting in” and yet becoming known as someone who prays with results. I remember working in the corporate world some years ago. The coworkers- mostly men- seized every opportunity to make fun of me and my walk with God. Some of them went to church but had never yielded to Christ and often they were the worst in the mocking. There were days when I literally dreaded going to work and facing that pressure. The push to deny my faith and to conform was tremendous almost to the breaking point. At the point of caving in I heard a sermon on the willingness of Christ to be publicly humiliated and shamed and He did so without yielding to the devil and the world. In His case, He was crucified. I realized that as hard as being the butt of all the jokes I hadn’t been crucified. As I yielded myself fully to God and accepted the treatment something amazing began to happen. One day one of the guys who had been to most offensive asked me to walk with him. As soon as we were out of hearing of the others, he broke. His marriage was struggling, his life was in shambles and he needed help. I will never forget his words. He said, “When I first met you and saw the peace you had, I became angry because I thought nobody can really live that way. I set out to prove that it was fake and the more I pushed and you didn’t respond the angrier I got. Finally I realized that it wasn’t fake and I knew that if anybody could get a prayer answered it was you so I’m asking you to pray for me and my marriage. We found a corner that day and we prayed and God intervened for him. Over the next months and years, almost every one of those guys sought me out and asked me to pray for them. I’d like to tell you that the ridicule ceased but it didn’t. Because of fear some of the guys never changed their conduct in the presence of the others. I took comfort in the fact that though they were still making fun of my “religion” they respected my walk with God.
This is what it means to be Christian. The willingness to sacrifice personally so that Christ may be glorified. Let us be bold in our faith and living so that the darkness around us is dispelled by the light within us.
Dr. John Thompson