Song of the Drunkards


JESUS FACED A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF OPPOSITION FOR HIS HARD WORDS AND UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO YAHWEH. NO SURPRISE THEN IF WE FIND OUR NAME FESTOONED IN BARROOM BALLADS (CF. PS 69:12).


The Fear of Persecution

October 10, 2021 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Fear, Meditations

Philippians 1:27–28 

27Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 

Jesus warns in Revelation 20 that “the cowardly” will not inherit the kingdom of God but will instead be cast into the lake that burns with fire. As we meditated on His warning, we said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. And we have begun to explore the different types of fear that make us cowardly. Today let us consider the fear of persecution.

The Philippian church was facing opposition and threats from adversaries. The word that Paul uses to describe these people is the same word that Peter uses elsewhere to describe Satan himself: “Be sober, be vigilant;” Peter writes, “because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). So these folks who raged against the church in Philippi were acting like Satan himself, seeking to devour and destroy God’s lambs.

But though these adversaries endeavored to intimidate and threaten the Christians in Philippi, Paul commands them to be “not in any way terrified.” First, they are not to be terrified. The word means “to be fearful as the result of being intimidated—‘to be afraid, to be scared, to be intimidated’ (Louw-Nida, 1:316). Our natural response to intimidation, especially to intimidation by those who have power or influence, is fear. But Paul instructs them not to be terrified. Rather, they are to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” They were to serve the Lord together with unity of heart and mind and action; to stand strong and not cower in the face of this intimidation. 

Second, they are not to be terrified in any way. In nothing, not in anything. Nullo. Don’t be terrified when they drag your name through the mud. Don’t be terrified when they threaten your family. Don’t be terrified when they burn your home. Don’t be terrified when they arrest you. Don’t be terrified when they sentence you to death. Don’t be terrified in any way. 

So why shouldn’t we be terrified in any way by our adversaries? Paul writes, “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” When we refuse to be intimidated by opposition, when we refuse to be terrified in any way by our adversaries, we testify that our adversaries are doomed to be judged by God and that we shall be saved by Him. We notify the world, “God is on our side so we are not afraid.”

So Peter wrote to other Christians who were suffering persecution:

13And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 

We are not to be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. God promises to bless all those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. Hence, it is far better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

So what of you? Are you afraid of your adversaries? Or you afraid of those who rage against God and against His Christ? Is your fear causing you to distance yourself from Jesus and from His people? To be ashamed of the Gospel? To be silent when you need to speak? To speak when you need to be silent? Mine often is. And so reminded that we are not to be terrified in any way by Christ’s adversaries, let us confess that we are often terrified in many ways. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our fear to the Lord.  

The Fear of Man

October 3, 2021 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Fear, Meditations

Isaiah 51:12–13 

12“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 

Jesus warns in Revelation 20 that “the cowardly” will not inherit the kingdom of God but will instead be cast into the lake that burns with fire. As we meditated on His warning, we said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. And we have begun to explore the different types of fear that make us cowardly. Last week we examined the fear of death; this week, the fear of man. 

In Isaiah’s day there was much to fear. All Judah had been overrun by the Assyrians and the city of Jerusalem had only been delivered when God sent an angel and slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. While the Assyrians had now departed, the country was still suffering. Judah was weak, exposed to the competing influences of Egypt in the south and Babylon to the north. There was much to fear.

In our day there is much to fear as well. Eroding trust. Government overreach. New variants of Covid. Loss of employment. Inflation. Political turmoil. The rise of China. The corruption of the Church. The criticism of friends and family. The advancement of the LGBTQ agenda. The erosion of our historic liberties. The breakdown of the family. There is much to fear.

But in our text today, God reminded our fathers and reminds us that when there is much to fear from men we are to saturate ourselves with the fear of God. We are to meditate on the goodness and greatness of God. First, we are to meditate on His goodness. The Lord says through Isaiah, “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” The Lord is our Comforter and our Redeemer. In Christ, He has delivered us from our sin, reconciled us to Himself, and granted us access into His very presence through the blood of Jesus. At any and all times we have access to Him who loved us and gave His Son to die for us and who will, with Jesus, freely give us all things. So why are we afraid of a man who will die, and a son of men who will wither like grass?

Second, when we are tempted to fear man, we are to mediate on the greatness of God. “Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die…? 13And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth?” The power of man is as nothing compared with the power of God. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all. And since we are in the hands of Almighty God, need we be afraid of a man who will die? Does He fear the plots and schemes and actions of the wicked? No! Therefore, we need not fear. 

The way to fight the fear of man, therefore, is by feeding our souls on the greatness and the goodness of God. God is great – His power is beyond anything that any man can do to us. And God is good – He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Hence, we need not fear man. Jesus reminded the disciples:

28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

So what of you? Have you feared man? Have you neglected to meditate on the greatness and goodness of God? I have. So reminded of the greatness and the goodness of our God and of our calling to shun the fear of man, let us confess our fear to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Fear of Death

September 26, 2021 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Fear, Meditations

Hebrews 2:14–15 

14Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 

Last week we saw that Jesus warned “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars” that they would be cast into the lake that burns with fire. It is that first category that we studied last week – the cowardly. We said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. 

So today I want to explore one of the types of fear that drives us to be cowardly – the fear of death. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden, death has been a part of human existence. While there have been a couple who have escaped its sting – Enoch and Elijah – most have faced the horrors of death. David cried out:

3The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” (Ps 116:3-4)

Likewise, our Lord Jesus faced death. In the words of our text today, He partook of flesh and blood, He became incarnate, and then gave Himself over to death in order that He might conquer death. He sacrificed His life “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Death had been the devil’s tool to keep the nations in darkness and ignorance. So Jesus broke the power of death in order that He might release mankind from the fear of death. Jesus died and rose again so that we might live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Jesus died and rose again so that we might proclaim, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus died and rose again so that we might not be afraid of death.

Brothers and sisters, this is a message our culture desperately needs to hear, is it not? Family, friends, and neighbors are living in fear of death. The Covid pandemic has exposed this fear. Many have no hope beyond this life; others have vague notions of life after death; many Christians have lost sight of the Christian hope of the resurrection. The fear of death has prompted some to use the power of the state to curtail our liberties; it has prompted others to surrender these liberties. Jesus has come to free us from such bondage by freeing us from the fear of death. Death has no hold on us for our Lord Jesus has gone before us and broken death’s jaws. He has risen triumphant from the dead as the first fruits of the resurrection, the guarantee that we too shall rise.

So what of you? Have you meditated deeply on the sure and certain hope of the resurrection? Remember that death is still an enemy. Death would try to frighten and debilitate us. But, brothers and sisters, death is a defeated foe. Christ is Risen! (He is Risen, indeed!) So let us remind one another of this hope, let us speak of it to our children, our friends and our family. Let us share with others the reason for the hope that is in us. Or have you been afraid? Afraid of their censure? Afraid of criticism? Afraid of shame? For the fear of death is not the only type of fear.

Reminded that Jesus has died and risen again in order to destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and to deliver us who through fear of death were all our lifetimes subject to bondage, let us confess that we often permit such fear to dominate our lives and govern our actions. Let us pray that He would make us a fearless people. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.