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Sent Out by Jesus

October 20, 2019 Preacher: Lyndon Shook Series: Matthew

Scripture: Matthew 10:16–20

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:16–20)

I have said many times before, I really appreciate how God lays for us truth in rich honesty and clarity. So many evangelists in our day and in days past have tried to woo converts be describing salvation in terms that are simply either not true or that do not give an accurate picture of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Here is the truth:

To be a Christian is to move into a tremendously wonderful relationship with God. To be a Christian is to have access to God through the Holy Spirit who will lead us through life making it more abundant that it could be otherwise. Being a Christian is being able to understand the Word of God through His Spirit. Being a Christian is finally understanding the meaning of life. Being a Christian is being set apart unto God for ever. Being a Christian is having peace with God and a new ability to experience true joy. Being a Christian is having a Savior who knows the future and does not allow us to be crushed by circumstances but instead regulates our circumstances for our good. Being a Christian is being loved with an unmeasurable love, the love of God. Being a Christian is being assured that this life is not all theirs is but there is a life to come that will be so glorious that we cannot really comprehend it with our current knowledge and experiences. Being a Christian is having a solid rock in Christ to give stability to our lives.

All of these things are included in what we know as being a Christian. Wonderful things! It is never being alone, never being abandoned, always protected and loved and cared for.

All of these things are true and fully supported and understood from God’s Word to us.

But what we see today is another aspect of being a Christian. Being a Christian is also being sent out as sheep among wolves.

Here is the balance. Life as a believer is not trouble and conflict free. Some claim it should be but that does not come from God’s Word to us. That comes, the idea that a believers life should be trouble and conflict free that comes from people who are more influenced by Satan than influenced by God. Now, being a Christian though it is not a trouble free life it is a life with troubles but only troubles that God allows and that God carries us through.

Let me show you this:

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus says, in the world you will have trouble. Don’t be surprised by trouble, don’t think God has abandoned you because you have troubles. He says we will have trouble. This is how life is, not just for the unbeliever but also for the believer. Cancer strikes believers and unbelievers. Difficult relationships are a part of believers and unbelievers lives.

But for the Christian we have another promise, an encouraging and comforting promise and that is the Lord only allows certain troubles into our lives and not more than we can handle as His child.

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Temptation is also translated trial. The promise is that for the Christian, your trial will not be more than you can bear, you personally, specific trials that come into your life, not everyone else’s but your trials will not be beyond what you can bear as a believer. God is faithful, to see to it that this is true for you.

So troubles…YES, God’s regulation of those troubles so as not to be too much…YES.

I talk to believers, and I’ve been here too, where there is a sense in which God has left them because they have difficult, very difficult troubles in life. The truth is, if you are a believer He has not and he is with you.

Psalm 139:5 says it like this:

5 You hem me in behind and before, (Psalm 139:5)

We sometimes ask God to be with us or to act on our behalf. But all the time God is all around us, behind us and before us. We cannot move without Him being right there.

At the end of verse 5 and verse 6 in Psalm 139 God’s Word tells us:

and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, \ntoo lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:5–6)

The Psalmist expresses His wonder then with a question in verse 7:

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? \nWhere can I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)

So yes, we will have troubles God is upfront with us about that, but we are never alone in our troubles God is there caring for us and loving us through them. That is the difference in a believer who faces troubles and those who do not believe. One has the power of God, the other is on their own.

Now in our passage for today, it is interesting how we move from what we looked at last week where the primary problem was with how people may greet them (seems like a relatively minor problem) to today’s passage which talks of being like sheep in the middle of wolves.

Being a sheep in the middle of wolves raises the bar significantly on the problem scale.

Most of us have not raised sheep and have not been around wolves. But we do know that sheep are rather docile animals and wolves are very fierce, We also know that wolves enjoy eating sheep. Tammy and I were recently at Yellowstone National Park. it was getting near dark and as we were driving through the park there were many dozens of cars pulled over and people everywhere with binoculars and cameras. Everyone was looking in the same direction. We stopped to ask what everyone was looking at and as it turns out there were wolves attacking buffalo. Buffalo are really big and can be fierce, they are not a docile animal. But the wolves could take one down. Wolves are fierce animals, they are hunters. Sheep are pretty helpless. This is why when we read of sheep in the Bible there is always a shepherd. The sheep needed protecting from wild animals.

Sheep are not good at defending themselves so what do they need? They need a shepherd. I sheep are just out in the open where there are dangerous predators around, they need a shepherd who is capable of protecting them. We are sheep, we too need a shepherd. it is good to see ourselves in this light. We can get really caught up in thinking we are really tough and capable, but the truth is we need help, we need a Shepherd and we have One.

Jesus said, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.

They, Jesus disciples are being sent out into a hostile environment. A dangerous environment.

Before we move on, it is worth mentioning here that what Jesus begins to describe as consequences that they will face in this hostile world, that these things mentioned don’t happen to them immediately. These consequences happened later on for them, after Jesus death and continue to happen throughout the church age. I say this to say that what Jesus describes has continued to be true even to our generation. Persecution is alive and fierce in our world today, we may not feel it here for now but it is all around our world. Jesus wants us to know what we can expect as He speaks to these men.

Since they will face danger from a fierce enemy Jesus tells them how to face it.

Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Jesus did not envision his people as a power-group. But they are not to be like sheep in their attitude. Their vulnerable position demands that they be wise (phronimos is better ‘sensible’, ‘prudent. Cf. Luke 16:1–8 with its commendation of the ‘prudence’ (phronimos again) of the steward. Christians are not to be gullible. But neither are they to be rogues. Innocent is literally ‘unmixed’, i.e. pure, transparent; it demands not naivety, but an irreproachable honesty. The balance of prudence and purity will enable Christians both to survive and to fulfill their mission to the world. France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 185–186). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Now Jesus gets very specific as to how trouble will come to them as they go out into a world that does not understand them and for the most part do not want to understand them.

17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, (Matthew 10:17–19)

Be on guard. They will be handed over to local councils. This is most likely in the synagogues where will also be flogged.

Flogging in synagogues would be for disobedience or for disrupting the peace. It was not usually for heresy but for disturbing the traditions or the culture in the synagogue. Floggings was a beating, a whipping.

This is a big deal, a beating for the sake of Christ but it goes even beyond the synagogue to the civil authorities.

18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:18)

It will be like for them they are wanted as criminals. These disciples are called to bring good news to the lost, to heal the sick, to reach out in love to the hurting and suffering and what will be some of the consequences of these things? Hatred, beatings and arrests. This is the word Jesus has for them.

And so the question for many will be…is this what I really want in life? Is it worth it?

Don’t miss the first words of verse 18. Jesus said all this will happen on my account. it is on account of Jesus that these troubles will come. There troubles and trials as Jesus talks about here will come to them for 1 reason, because of their relationship with Jesus, because they are Christians.

But they will not go it alone. God’s grace will be with them.

19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

The Spirit of God will be with them and speak for them and testify truth before the world. So don’t worry Jesus says, you have nothing to worry about!

So trouble comes because of their relationship with Jesus.

Here is the truth… not trouble, no trial is to ever seem greater than you and I having a relationship with Jesus.

Is it worth it? If we really love Jesus and if He is really our treasure then yes. Paul helps us to see this.

Paul got into all sorts of trouble for loving Jesus. Paul was able to realize true joy in the midst of his hardships in the name of Christ. In fact, he desperately tried to teach and preach so that others would experience the joy that he did in difficult ministry.

In 1 Cor. 1:24 Paul said this:

24we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. (2 Corinthians 1:24)

And in Phil 1:25:

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, (Philippians 1:25)

Paul wanted people who were experiencing hard times to experience joy in a much greater measure.

In fact Paul once described himself as

10“having nothing and yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:10)

Our relationship with God is to be a joy filled relationship that does not wane during hard times.

Philippians 3:8 gives us a godly perspective:

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

And so what is Christianity?

It is a life lived with God on His presence, under his loving care, both now and forever in difficult times and in easier times, always in His loving care. Experiencing His grace and kindness with joy.

And so as Jesus sends out His disciples He also sends His Spirit with them, to lead, to direct, to guide and to love.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:16–20)

More in Matthew

December 1, 2019

Unity and Serving in Christ

November 3, 2019

Following Jesus at All Cost

October 27, 2019

Boldness in Christ part 2