Fear in Evangelism: Why Can’t Jesus Lighten Up?

Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to our faithfulness in evangelism. In Mt 10, Jesus talks a lot about fear. He cares about fear quite a bit. The question is, why? Why doesn’t he lighten up? Why is he so serious concerning these commands on fear in Mt. 10:26-31?

One reason is because the messenger represents the message. And what is the message we spread? “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 10:7). John the Baptist preached this message (Mt 3:2), Jesus preached it (Mt 4:17) and now the disciples do (Mt 10:7). The apostles spread it in Acts (1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; and 28:23, 31). It’s the message about our King and his authority over all things – including men’s souls.

At the end of Mt 7 we read that “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority” (7:28-29). In Mt 8 Jesus displays his authority over leprosy, and over paralysis. Interestingly, the centurion displays his faith saying, “I too am a man under authority …” (Mt 8:9). In Mt 8 we also read of his authority over sickness, demons and nature when he calms the storm, which causes the disciples to ask, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”(8:27). He is a man of ultimate authority.

In Mt 9, Jesus heals the paralytic saying, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (9:6). And the crowd “glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (9:8). Before the end of the Mt 9, Jesus’ authority over death is displayed (9:24-25). Matthew shows us that Jesus is reversing the curse. He has all authority and power to do so. He is our only hope! He has the authority to forgive your sins! So this is the message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” This is the message we are to spread – a message about the reign and rule of God’s appointed King, Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all and who came to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21) and will return to judge the world (Mt 25: 31-46).

Now, in light of the message, if we fear man more than the King we represent, what are we communicating? Nothing less than a mixed message. We are supposed to be talking about King Jesus who has all authority, especially to forgive sins. But if we fear man more than God, we betray the truth of our message. We are not fearing and trusting the one who has all authority, but we are calling others to. This is a mixed message.

However, when we’re fearless (fearing God, not man) we serve those we speak to. Yes, our fearlessness will illustrate, confirm and reiterate the message we preach. No wonder Paul writes to spread the gospel “not [being] frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God” (Phil 1:27b-28). Our fearlessness bring clarity to the message we preach. This is part of what it means to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27a).

All that being said, shall we beat our chests and muster up the courage? Not exactly. In Mt 5:3 we learn that it’s the “poor in spirit” who are kingdom citizens. It is those who humble themselves and become like dependent little children who are in the kingdom (Mt 18:3-4). Indeed, the kingdom way is one of humility and dependency expressed through ongoing asking, seeking and knocking (Mt 7:7-11). So let us, like little children, come to our heavenly Father to find the courage we need to preach this glorious message with our fears in the right place.

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One response to “Fear in Evangelism: Why Can’t Jesus Lighten Up?

  1. Hey Paul,

    Great post…and great sermon that went along with it!

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