Sunday, December 27, 2015, 2:50 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “To Be Like Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 10 (Selected NASB). As Sheep Among Wolves (v. 16) “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." In scripture, Jesus’ followers are often depicted as sheep, and him as their shepherd. Wolves are enemies of sheep. They represent false teachers and/or leaders (shepherds) of the people, some of whom outwardly present themselves as followers of Christ, and/or as sincerely devoted to us, but who inwardly are ferocious wolves who come in among the sheep in order to kill and to destroy. So, Jesus counseled his followers here that we need to be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. What this means is that we need to be wise, quick-thinking, perceptive and discerning of the enemy, so that we can quickly flee danger and not fall into the devil’s trap. Yet, we must couple this shrewdness with purity, love, righteousness, and truth, being unmixed with the world and its trappings, and unadulterated in our relationships with Jesus Christ, not engaging in sinful practices. Sheep are also depicted in scripture as those who are easily led, either by the Lord or by false shepherds; either into the right way or along a crooked path. So, the danger here is that we might, as sheep, follow the wrong shepherds if we are not shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves. We need to be wise and discerning of evil, and we need to test everything we hear, see or read against the Word of God, in prayer, with the witness of the Spirit giving us counsel and direction, and against what we know of God’s divine character and will for our lives. What this means is that just because we see it on TV, or the media tells us something happened, it does not mean it really happened, or that it happened in the way they depict. Just because we are told there is a right and left does not mean it is true. Remember that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, as do his followers. Just because a preacher tells us something is in the Bible doesn’t mean it is, or that it is in the way in which he is presenting it. Not everyone tells the truth, so be wise, and be discerning. They Will Hand You Over (vv. 17-22, 24-25) But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved… “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” We do have to be wise and discerning, but we also need to show love, kindness and mercy to people. Sometimes, in showing love and mercy to others, we might become prey to the enemy and he may falsely accuse us, hinder our work for the Lord in some way, persecute us severely, and/or even put us to death for our testimonies and witness for Jesus Christ. Yet, we can’t go around distrusting everyone and everything, and living in paralyzed fear, afraid to do anything. That is what Satan wants. On the other hand, we must not trust everyone and everything, and thus end up following the wrong path, or wind up walking into the devil’s traps because we failed to be judicious and prudent. I believe that is why we must combine “shrewdness” with “innocence,” and discernment with mercy. Yet, because we are out in the world, and we are being lights for the gospel of Jesus Christ, Satan is going to come against us, so we should expect that we will be treated much the same way Jesus was treated. We have to be prepared, though, that our own family members, and our closest friends may turn against us, betray us, and may turn us over to our enemy to be persecuted. The US government, and other world governments, already have programs in motion where they are recruiting private citizens to spy on and to report on their family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, etc. As well, many of our leaders within our governments and in the church are daily deriding those who hold firm to their convictions and who believe we are to spread the message of the gospel of salvation so that others may come to know Christ, too. Their interpretation of “mercy” is to accept all religions and all walks of life as viable, and for all people to unite as one voice in calling for world peace, which means we must get rid of all which divides us, which includes the gospel of salvation, for it divides the believer from the unbeliever. Do Not Fear Them (vv. 26-31) “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” One of Satan’s biggest weapons waged against us is his lies, some of which are intended to instill within us much fear. Being wise and discerning does not have to translate to living in fear. We have to keep trusting God in every situation, believing him to give us the wisdom we need to make the right kinds of judgments in individual circumstances. We also must not be afraid of the enemy being temporarily successful in his schemes against us, for he may be able to kill the body, but he can’t kill our souls. He can do nothing but what God permits him to do, and that God has allowed it for a purpose, so in all things we must commit our way to the Lord, and trust him with our lives and with other people, too. It is essential that we continue to follow our Lord, obey him, and keep sharing the messages he gives us to share. And, we must keep loving and forgiving others, even when they severely mistreat us. The Cost of Discipleship (vv. 32-39) “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” To be a follower of Jesus Christ means that we will be hated and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Nevertheless, we should not ever allow fear of what people will think of us, say about us, or do to us to keep us from sharing Christ’s love, his mercy and his gospel of salvation with as many as who will receive it and/or who will listen. Jesus did not come to bring world peace, as many would have you believe. The sword he brought was the Word of God which confronts sin in sinful human beings, warns of divine judgment, and which calls people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This sword of truth turns even family members, one against the other, because those who refuse to believe do not like to be around those who do, or because the unbeliever is offended by the message of the gospel. Yet, we should not ever compromise our faith to be liked by others. The Christian life is a crucified life, i.e. it means daily we die to sin and self and we live for Christ’s righteousness. To Be Like Him / An Original Work March 16, 2014 / Based off Scripture Crucified you are with Jesus. To be like Him, oh, you’ll be, Because He died at Calv’ry, So from sin you’d be free. Oh, what joy He brings into your life, Giving life with Him endlessly. Oh, what plans He has for your life. Share the gospel faithfully. Show the people He loves them. Now His witness you’ll be. Tell the world of sin about Jesus, How He died for them on a tree. Purifying hearts, He saves them, Who believe on Christ, God’s Son. Turning now from their idols, New lives they have begun. Jesus saves from sin; we’re forgiven. Over sin, the vict’ry He won! When He comes again to take us To be with Him evermore, There will be no more crying. Gladness will be in store. Heavens joys will now overtake us: We’ll be with our Lord evermore.