Be On Your Guard
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Our Scripture reading this morning comes from our good friend, Dr. Luke. Dr. Luke came to know Christ and the power of His resurrection through the Apostle Paul. Luke wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke is the only Gentile writer in all of the Bible. We’ve spent a few summers dissecting the book of Luke and the doctor has accurately prescribed some Good News for us.
Last week, I heard you had a visitor, Pharisee Phil! Pharisee Phil had a lot to say about woes and warnings. Jesus warned the Pharisees about washing the outside of the cup and not worrying that the inside was not clean at all. Jesus told the Pharisees that they really didn’t give their tithe from their heart and were more concerned about having the best seats in the Synagogue. Jesus called the Pharisees “unmarked graves” and that they were making the people unclean. Talk about woes and warnings!!! Then the woes and warnings went from the Pharisees to the scribes, the teachers of the law. Jesus told the experts of the law that they were loading burden after burden upon the people. Jesus warned the scribes that they were going to kill the prophets of God and that they were guilty of hiding the key to knowledge. As old Pharisee Phil said --- “ouai sy--- woe to you.”!!! We told by Pharisee Phil that from that time on, the Pharisees and scribes all plotted and planned on how to trap and kill Jesus.
Let us come to the throne of grace and seek God’s face and overflowing grace. God of all grace, we ask that You shower us with Your love and grace today as we open Your living Word. May Your Words be wonderful Words of life and grace to us all. Speak to us and encourage us. Amen
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Luke chapter 12.
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 8 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. 9 But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”[i]
After we are told about the woes and warnings that the Pharisees and scribes received, we read these words about many thousands gathering around Jesus. The Greek word for “thousands” is “myrias” which translates into “ten thousand”. Can you picture the scene? Jesus has offended the Pharisees and the scribes and they are trying to get away from him, yet thousands upon thousands are gathering around Jesus. We are told that the crowd was trampling on one another. Do you see the irony here? The people were not following the high and mighty Pharisees and scribes by the tens of thousands--they were following the one and only Jesus.
BE ON YOUR GUARD!
Jesus has their attention and he tells them, “Be on your Guard!” προσέχω (prosechō) ἑαυτοῦ (heautou) Be on your guard! This is one of those imperative active verbs that commands the disciples to continually be on their guard and to never stop being on their guard. “Guard” is translated: “to pay attention to, to be alert, to carefully consider, to be on the lookout for, hold to, give heed.” Jesus is commanding us to constantly pay attention, constantly be alert, constantly consider, constantly be on the lookout!
What is Jesus asking the disciples to be on their guard about? Be on your guard against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Greek word for ‘hypocrisy” means a “play actor.”
Isn’t it interesting that last week, we had a play actor here?
Jesus had just listed 3 woes for the Pharisees and 3 woes for the scribes and now he’s talking to the people: “Be on your guard against the hypocrisy --- the play-acting of the Pharisees. This hypocrisy is like yeast, it will keep rising and rising until it ruins everything.” The Pharisees had added 6,000 laws to God’s ten commandments—that’s a whole lot of yeast!
Jesus now gives two proverbial sayings to illustrate His warning! “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” ()
Talk about a frightening verse.
There is a story told by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used to playfully tell a bogus tale about how he sent a telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue, reputation, and considerable position in society. The message simply said: “Flee at once, all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, Doyle says, all twelve had left the country![ii]
When things go wrong, I tell myself that the truth will always stand. The things in the darkness will be brought to light. Lies won’t stand but the truth will stand.
After I became a Christian, this passage in Luke convicted me. I found myself talking negatively about a family member. The Lord spoke to my heart, “Whatever is spoken or whispered in the inner rooms of your house, will be shouted from the rooftops.” Talk about a frightening thought. I told myself then and there that if I had something to say, it would be worth saying to everyone. If you are guilty of talking behind other people’s back—pay attention here. The Holy Spirit is trying to convict us to speak words of life and not death. I always say that when I point my finger at someone, there’s one pointing to them and three pointing back to me. Yes—you already know what I’m going to say: One for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit! It’s really true what you learned as a child, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”
BE ON YOUR GURAD --- FRIENDS VS FEAR!
When Jesus is teaching the disciples, He calls them friends. What a powerful promise! What a beautiful blessing! “What a friend we have in Jesus --- all our sins and griefs to bear!!!” Jesus tells the disciples that they should not be afraid. In fact, if you count them, the words “do not be afraid or fear” is used five times in 3 verses (4-7). Jesus is telling His disciples not to be afraid of what others say or do. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
The listeners of Jesus teaching would understand this specific teaching because the valley outside of Jerusalem was called Gehenna, or “hell”. Gehenna was the city garbage dump that had continual fires burning. Jesus was encouraging His disciples to be on their guard, to be strong and not to fear. Jesus is telling the disciples not to be afraid of the one who can kill the body (man) but to fear the one who has the power to kill you AND throw you into a valley of continual fires--hell!
Jesus illustrates His message with two more phrases. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Medical scientists have computed that a blonde person has about 145,000 hairs, a dark-haired person 120,000, and a redhead 90,000.[iii]
The very hairs on our head are counted by God. We are valuable to our maker—who has the time to count hair? God does.
BE ON YOUR GUARD --- CONFESS CHRIST
I know a woman who did an entire word study on “fearing” God. This woman was a very fearful person—she was afraid of her own shadow. When I asked her what she learned about fearing God, she gave me the short version of her study: Fear has to do with loving what God loves and hating what God hates. Jesus is saying that we should not fear man…man cannot send us to an eternal destination of fire. God can. It’s a smart person who loves what God loves…and hates what God hates. God loves goodness and God hates evil.
Jesus issued two warnings in order to urge his followers to confess him. First, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”
When I was the pastor at a church in Texas, I had several powerful illustrations of this. An elderly woman, in her late 80’s asked me if she was going to heaven. She said that she had never confessed Jesus out loud to her pastor. I told her about Paul’s teaching in . says, if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. What Paul is teaching in Romans is that true faith always moves from your lips to your heart and from your heart to your lips.
I sat with this elderly person that day and had her read and repeat asked her when we were done, “Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” She smiled and said, “Yes! Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” Her fears were put to rest that day and she now rests in heaven.
Your fears can be put to rest today, too! Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? If you have never believed in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confessed with your mouth Jesus as your Lord and Savior --- there is no better time than right now! Our simple confession that “Jesus is Lord” is our saving grace!
The second illustration that I think applies to these verses comes from a time when I was teaching on grace. I was teaching that God’s grace is sufficient to forgive us of our sins. After the teaching, a man in his late eighties came up to me and asked if he could come and talk with me. When he came to talk, he said that he had done the unforgivable sin. He told me that he had been a bombardier pilot in WWII and he had dropped bombs in the war. He was sure that those bombs had killed innocent people.
First, I told him that if we are ever concerned that we have committed the unforgivable sin, we have not done so because the Holy Spirit is still at work convicting us and challenging us. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The unforgiveable sin goes way back. The Jewish nation had a history of rejecting God as Father, and was now rejecting God as the Son. Jesus is stating here that the unforgiveable sin is that of equating the Holy Spirit’s work as being the work of Satan. The unforgiveable sin is the sin of deliberately and intentionally rejecting God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit--on a daily basis.
Luke has packed a power punch into these 12 verses but the good doctor leaves us with the best news of all: don’t worry about what you will say—trust the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will tell us the truth of what to say in any and every situation.
Our “so what?” for today is a laundry list of 4 do’s and 1 don’t. Repeat after me:
1. Be on your guard—constantly
2. Watch what you say—constantly
3. Fear God—constantly. Love what God loves and hate what God hates
4. Don’t reject God—constantly.
5. Trust the Holy Spirit to tell you what to say—constantly.
Finally, JESUS IS LORD—CONSTANTLY! When our mouths confess what our hearts already know—that Jesus is Lord—we are saved. Period. There’s no 6,000 rules and regulations. There’s no one religion with all the answers. There’s only thing: relationship.
Do you want to know that you know that you know that you are saved and that you are destined for heaven? Then say it with me:
JESUS IS LORD.
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701
July 23, 2017
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
[iii] Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 165.