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TEXT: Proverbs 29:25
SUBJECT: Baxter on the Fear of Man #2
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll complete our study of Richard Baxter on the Fear of Man.
The fear itself is not wrong. At times, the Lord permits it and even commands it. It becomes wrong when it's run to excess--when we pass from "caution" to "cowardice". Applied to witnessing, your fear is sinful if it keeps you silent when God gives you good opportunities to speak up for Christ. When you have the chance; when you know you ought to--but don't--because you're scared.
The problem is serious and nearly universal. Spurgeon said he never met the man to whom he was afraid to witness. Can you say that? I can't. "The fear of man brings a snare".
To help us overcome this fear, Baxter has quite a bit to say. Last week, we looked at these: If you want to stop fearing man, you must:
1.Value heaven more than earth.
2.Believe in God.
3.Remember how weak the man is you fear.
4.Remember that every man is under God's control.
5.Remember that suffering is not as bad as you think it is.
6.Remember that your Master suffered and no disciple is above his Master.
Let's pick it up from there. If you want to overcome the fear of man, please
REMEMBER, YOU WILL SUFFER MORE FOR NOT WITNESSING THAN YOU WILL FOR WITNESSING.
"To [remain silent] because of fear is to leap into hell to escape a little pain on earth...Remember, you will suffer even here from God if you sin to escape from the displeasure of man".
This is capital observation. Baxter says you'll suffer whether you witness for Christ or not. If you speak up for Him, you'll have the anger or contempt of man. But if you don't, you'll have the chastisement of God--and maybe more.
In this life, the fear of man produces a bad conscience and robs you of many blessings. What David meant in another connection, we can apply to this one,
"When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me. My vitality was turned into the drought of summer".
Haven't you missed chances to witness--only to hate yourself for it later? I have. And who's to say if our sicknesses and debts and family problems are not the result of our sinful and cowardly silence? Cf. Revelation 3:19.
When we won't hear God's Word, He has other ways of getting our attention. And they're not pleasant, cf. Micah 6:9.
Baxter doesn't leave it here, with chastening. He goes on to remind us that cowardice is a sin--which if not repented of--sends a person to hell.
"Remember that the fearful and unbelieving will be shut out of heaven (Revelation 21:8), that is those who fear men more than God and cannot trust Him with their lives, but would rather suffer his punishment than the wrath of men".
This is strong medicine! And good for the soul. Make your choice: Witness for Christ and face the wrath of man. Remain silent and suffer the judgments of God. "Choose you this day..."
REMEMBER, ONCE YOU GIVE INTO FEAR, THERE'S NO TELLING WHERE IT WILL LEAD YOU.
If you'll disobey the Great Commission out of fear, what else will you do? Will you deny the Lord to avoid man's contempt? Will you mock the Bible to "fit in"? Will you commit fornication so guys won't laugh at you? Of course you wouldn't do thse things! Or would you? If fear will make you disobey one commandment, then why not another?
"Think of the dangerous effects of your immoderate fear. It is the way with Peter to deny your Lord...Oh, how many have been drawn by the fear of men, to wound their consciences, neglect their duties, comply with sin, forsake the truth, dishonor God, and undo their souls!"
The only way to overcome your fears is to face them. The devil wants you to negotiate with your conscience. You'll be brave and firm on this, but quiet on that. It's better to obey conscience than bargain with it.
REMEMER, THE FEAR OF MAN GREATLY DISHONORS GOD.
"Think of what a vile dishonor it is to God to have His creatures--even breathing dirt--more feared than He is! As though He were less powerful than they and not able and willing to secure you...How did Daniel and the three [Hebrew children] honor God but by fearing Him more than the flaming furnace and the lions!"
Sometimes we use the word, "witnessing" too narrowly. As though it meant nothing more than presenting the Gospel to the lost. That is central, of course, but it also includes how we live Before a Watching World.
When people know we're Christians--and also know we're reluctant to speak up for Christ--what does that tell them about the Lord? It tells them there is something embarrassing about Him! Is there? Has He got "a dirty little secret"? Are there "skeletons in His closet"?
We don't blaspheme Christ with our words. But maybe we do just that with our guilty silences. Would you stand by while someone tore into your wife or husband? Or kids? No self-respecting person would do that! Then why do we let sinners get away with mocking our Savior? Without lifting a finger to protest.
Hebrews 2:11 says Jesus Christ is not "Ashamed to call [us] brethren". How can we be ashamed of Him? God forgive us for that one. I can't think of a more hideous sin. Can you?
TURN YOUR FEAR INTO PITY
"Turn your fear into pity and compassion to men in such lamentable misery...When you are afraid of them, suppose that the Day of Judgment has come, and you see how they tremble before God".
What kind of person mocks at God and mistreats his servants? A lost person. And the word, "lost" means utterly ruined. "Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked". That person's life is an awful mess now. And can only get worse.
But what about his death? How terrible that will be! To be turned away from glory and consigned to hell. And the Day of Judgment must be worse still! As hell is thrown into the Lake of Fire where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched!
When men mistreat us for Christ's sake, we should fear and tremble, and feel our stomachs knot up. But not for ourselves. It is for them that we should fear!
And surely someone this lost should be pitied. And witnessed to. And prayed for.
CLOSE AND APPEAL
Baxter has a lot more to say on the subject. But that's enough for tonight. Now, what do we do? We become "doers of the Word and not hearers only".
Let us confess our fear to God and ask Him to forgive us and to give us a new courage for Christ.
Let's pray for opportunities. And when they come, take them.
When people laugh or persecute, give thanks for this brings you into fellowship with Christ who has counted you worthy to suffer for His Name's sake.
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