Welcome to one of the most practical and profitable passages in all of the Gospels.
As you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus’ words hit us right where we live. I mean, this goes right to the heart of who we are as Christ-followers, how we interact with our world, and how the world consequently perceives us.
Given the positive responses of so many of the people at Safe Haven where this message was taught, I know that you will find this most helpful in your own Christian life.
I must admit that I approach this passage quite frankly with a fair amount of fear and trembling. This because Jesus’ words here in Matthew 10 have, at least in my experience, been misinterpreted, misused, and misapplied in a way that has caused enormous damage to the cause of Christ in our world, and unnecessary angst in the hearts and souls of far-too-many sincere and precious Christ-followers.
Yet, at the same time, I do not want to overreact to an extreme by becoming extreme myself. So this is an exercise in a balancing act on my part. I am most happy to have you come along for the ride. One that will be most beneficial, instructive, and inspiring to you. Of that I have no doubt.
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 10:32-33
32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
You see, I have heard many a sermon that said that any time we chicken out of an opportunity to seize a divine encounter and proclaim the Word of God, then we are as guilty as Peter when he denied Christ. Therefore, by my denying Christ, He will deny me when I stand before Him in heaven.
I don’t agree with this.
But it doesn’t matter what I agree or disagree with, the question is what did Jesus say about it?
Well, immediately following these verses, Jesus said:
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
So, there it is, right?
Jesus said, “Don’t deny me, or you will go to hell. You will lose friends and family members in the process. There will be inevitable blowback. It’s going to be good, old fashioned, garden variety persecution.”
But is that what Jesus really meant?
First off, if we look at what Daniel said (one of the prophets Jesus invoked in Matthew 5:11-12), we learn that he lived in an extremely toxic and God-defying climate. It was one of the toughest times and places in history to take a stand for what is Godly, and Daniel and his friends did… not unlike the climate Jesus and His friends were about to enter, and not unlike the climate we live in today.
Yet, Daniel and his friends stood strong in their faith, did not compromise, and did not remain silent. They did exactly what Jesus said to do, in the exact way that Jesus said to do it.
Yet they weren’t offensive, but persuasive.
And still, they were persecuted.
But they weren’t persecuted for their methods, they were persecuted for their message. There’s a big difference there.
So, what does it look like to persuasively confess Jesus before men?
Let’s look at Daniel 1:1-16
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. 4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” 5 The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. 7 The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego.
8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. 9 Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
Imagine if in the face of today’s persecution, we patiently and gently offered a “Please…” just like Daniel did. What if we approached those who persecute us as learners not accusers and try to understand their intent instead of assuming that they are merely out to get us.
And then say, “Please”.