Take a Stand

  • in their heart of hearts, I think all of us here want to declare openly that we identify with Christ
  • but if you’re like me, the word “evangelism” strikes fear in your heart
  • somebody did a study a few years back, and found out the top five reasons people don’t evangelize:
  • 1.Perceptions of TV preachers
  • 2.Too busy
  • 3.Fear of rejection
  • 4.Too difficult to share
  • 5.Too timid
  • (source: Christianity Today, Dec. 16, 1991)
  • the Bible talks about two men who were too timid to take a public stand for Christ
  • their names were Nicodemus and Joseph
  • John 3 tells us that Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews
  • he would also have been very well off and respected by people
  • we read that Nicodemus came at night
  • it was very possible that the reason Nicodemus came at night was that he was afraid to come during the day
  • and of course, evening hours then were much darker and more secretive than what we experience now with the benefit of electricity
  • it’s also possible that he might have become a believer later
  • but he appears to have been a secret disciple of Christ
  • Joseph was the same, a member of the Sanhedrin
  • Luke writes that Joseph was good and righteous
  • but John 19 tells us that he was a secret disciple of Christ, because he feared the Jews
  • now probably in no culture has the pressure to conform been greater than among the Pharisees of Jesus’ day
  • the Jewish compliance knob had been turned from hot to hottest
  • so for Nicodemus of Joseph to declare that they were seriously considering the teachings of Jesus was to insure being ostracized by the religious community, their friends, neighbors, and quite possibly their families
  • it seems apparent that they would also have felt negative pressure business-wise
  • so he kept the secret
  • they were undercover Christians
  • later, in John 7, the Pharisees ask some officers why they failed to carry out their orders to arrest Christ
  • the soldiers reply, “No one ever spoke the way this man does!”
  • the Pharisees respond angrily, “You mean he has deceived you also? Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No!”
  • and Nicodemus, reluctant to let such a statement go by without some kind of protest, ventures, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
  • but his colleagues retort, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
  • such a rebuff is enough to keep Nicodemus silent
  • after all, who enjoys being embarrassed?
  • what Jew wants to be thought of as non-kosher?
  • no one likes being a misfit
  • with most of us, the thought of bucking the opinions of others elicits great fear
  • but something changed
  • we read that in Mark 15, Joseph and Nicodemus finally went public
  • (Mark 15:43) Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
  • maybe Joseph’s mastering of the moment was the encouragement Nicodemus needed, because in John 19:39 we read
  • (John 19:39) He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
  • (John 19:40) Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
  • Joseph and Nicodemus were no longer undercover Christians
  • they now openly declared their association with Christ
  • Charles Finney, the famous American lawyer/preacher of 160 or so years ago, wrote these words in his Revival Lectures:
    • Prevalence of the fear of man is evidence of a slidden heart. If the heart is full of the love of God, the Lord is feared and not man. A desire for the applause of man is kept down and it is enough to please God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when the love of God is abated, “the fear of man,” that “bringeth a snare,” gets possession of the blackslider. TO please man rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state he will sooner offend God than man.
  • almost without exception, historians agree that mass communication has made conformity one of the givens in modern society
  • present citizens of North America are much more alike in their thinking than in previous generations
  • to state it differently, it’s increasingly difficult to be different
  • and it’s my conviction that this flaw permeates the church today as well
  • so Christians don’t like to share their faith with others
  • they don’t want to run the risk of being classified as “fanatics”
    • among friends, believers often refrain from taking a stand on matters they feel are wrong because they don’t want to embarrass anyone socially
    • at school, a silent prayer is not said in the lunchroom before eating because others might poke fun!
    • to avoid upsetting anyone in the neighborhood, church people don’t take a stand on blatant matters like racism, so such evil continues
    • due to social pressures, the call of a young man or woman to a life of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom remain stifled
    • even in the church when opportunity is given to share with the body of believers what Christ is doing, you can be sure certain people will not speak out
    • why? Well they say things like, “My thoughts aren’t profound,” or “Nobody is interested,” but the more likely reason is “I don’t want to risk looking foolish”
  • there are people today who have been graciously touched by God’s Spirit, but that fact has not been expressed by their lips even once
  • and it may never be if their present pattern continues
  • they fear what others might think
  • am I talking about you?
  • the Bible says that there is a price to openly declaring your allegiance to him
  • what is this about a price? how high is the price? what will the toll be?
  • here are Jesus’ exact words
  • Mat 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Mat 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
  • Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  • to summarize Jesus’ words, heaven will make whatever price you had to pay on earth worth it
  • he does not promise an easy road here on earth, quite the opposite, he guarantees a tough one
  • but he says it will be worth it in spades in heaven
  • maybe you say, “We don’t hear about price-paying today”
  • “The days of Christians being fed to the lions is over, aren’t they?”
  • well, no, not entirely
  • what Jesus was saying then he would say today
  • my followers will pay a price for believing in me and living for me, they always have and they always will
  • I’ll give you a quick overview of why they will pay the price
  • the first reason is the value system of Jesus and the value of contemporary society, are always in constant conflict with each other
  • there are collisions between those who approach life from a biblical Christian perspective and those who don’t
  • these fender benders happen every day, even more in recent days
  • take the problem of irresponsible sexual expression that’s causing unwanted pregnancies by the tens of thousands, sexually transmitted diseases in the tens of millions, suicide rates going through the roof
  • the culture says, “It’s a condom problem with a condom solution”
  • Christ-followers say, “It’s not a condom problem, it’s a character problem”
  • “The solution isn’t for sale in vending machines on gas-station walls”
  • we have to realize we all have a self-destructive gravitational pull south in all of us called sin
  • it distorts our entire understanding of life and sexuality, and the only way to conquer sin is through Christ
  • when a Christian goes on public record with a statement on this, they’re going to feel some heat
  • the battle lines are drawn
  • when we’re asked about our views on homosexuality or abortion, even if we explain as honestly and gently and non-judgmentally, the temperature can drop 15 degrees Celsius
  • it’s not very politically correct to be a dedicated Christ-follower these days, if you haven’t noticed yet
  • your polls take a dive in many circles, your overnight Nielsen ratings take a beating
  • when you express views culture finds narrow and parochial
  • somebody will say, “You’re not the type of Christian who believes in the Bible, in heaven and hell, are you?”
  • people will roll their eyes, and think “you pathetic person, your naivet? is only eclipsed by your ignorance”
  • but what is a Christ follower to do? what do you do?
  • Jesus tells us what to do
  • first, stand firm
  • don’t run scared, don’t cave in, don’t shrink back, stand firm
  • second, smile on the inside, rejoice and be exceedingly bad
  • why are you smiling? because it feels good? no, you know Christ is going to make it worthwhile for you someday in heaven
  • heaven will make our battle scars on earth worthwhile
  • last week’s assignment was to challenge something that you thought was offensive to Christ
  • I wonder how many people took this assignment?
  • Christ’s system and the world’s system are always going to be at odds
  • so don’t get too comfortable in this world
  • another reason why we will take hits in this world is because Christ-followers unwittingly become moral irritants in this world if they follow Christ diligently
  • you had a real smart person in grade school, and people hated them because they messed up the curve
  • they made the rest of us look really bad
  • she wasn’t trying to be, she just had a good brain and wanted to apply herself
  • so you, or me, we froze them out
  • this happens to a Christ-follower, especially in the marketplace
  • they aren’t trying to bug anybody, but because they play it straight and refuses to play politics, refuses to plunder the perk chest, because they put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, they get hit
  • they are pains and moral irritations
  • somebody eventually says, “Would you get off your high horse? You Christians are all alike, trying to make us look bad”
  • what’s going on here?
  • whenever somebody messes up the moral grading curve, the curve-buster is ostracized
  • Jesus says to this person, stand firm and smile knowing that great will be your reward
  • imagine a married women
  • she becomes a Christian
  • she doesn’t fall out of love with him, just with parties and rooms full of inebriated people
  • and she doesn’t want to watch pornography any more
  • she doesn’t shame her husband, but he says “I’ve had it up to here with all your pressure”
  • in reality, she isn’t preaching
  • her lifestyle is causing moral irritation and his moral backside is exposed
  • what did he do? In Jesus words, insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
  • she could go back to the parties and pornography, she doesn’t want to lose her husband
  • but if his terms are the parties and pornography, what’s she to do?
  • but Jesus says, stand firm, grow in integrity and, I know it’s tough, but smile in the inside knowing that the price of standing firm may be very high on earth but I’ll make it worthwhile in heaven in spades
  • this is not Christianity 101, this is industrial strength
  • one more reason
  • you are probably going to be lumped in with somebody’s worst experience with a religious group
  • you’re going to take hits you don’t deserve
  • lumped in with Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, David Korresh and the fellows
  • it’s uncomfortable, but it’s inevitable
  • people can be very suspicious of us because they’ve been beat up and ganged up by other Christians
  • and some of them have been burned by preachers who have had affairs and messed up
  • not all Christians are alike
  • but we get stereotyped and lumped in together
  • what do you do? when you’re lumped in unfairly with fringe elements of Christianity
  • stand firm, and whenever you’re lumped in with Christian crackpots, smile on the inside
  • but don’t shrink back
  • don’t put your light under a bushel
  • in the unlikely event that we wind up living in a culture were there’s overt hostility and persecution, can we play out in our minds what we’d do?
  • there are places right now where people are gathering doing what they’re doing at the risk of imprisonment and death
  • if the threat of imprisonment hung over this, would you come?
  • would you come to the communion table, share your faith, read the Bible?
  • Jesus knew what was going to unfold, the single most brutal time of persecution against Christians
  • people were going to be tortured, fed to lions, for admitting they’re Christ followers
  • Jesus knew what was going to happen, and said stand firm when you’re thrown into the Coliseum
  • he also said, smile on the inside
  • families were thrown to the lions singing praises to God
  • and Jesus says to us, stand firm, take the hits, don’t shrink back, because whatever the price you have to pay on this earth, great is your reward in heaven
  • Luke 9:26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
  • some of us are ashamed of Jesus
  • the Bible tells us that if our faith is a secret from our co-workers, friends and neighbors, Jesus Christ will be ashamed of us
  • we are God’s Plan A, and He doesn’t have a Plan B
  • the great commission applies to all of us, not an evangelism committee, not the pastors
  • it’s not a matter of whether it’s practical or not, it’s a matter of obedience
  • so I’m going to ask you to take a public stand this next week
  • I’m going to ask you to declare openly in some way that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, no matter what the reaction
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada