Fear of Man- Shorter Version
Title: The Missionary Killer: Fear of Man Text: 1 Peter 3:13-17
Theme of Passage: Your willingness for suffering and your lack of the fear of man will be a testimony to the unsaved.
Interrogative: Do you fear God more than you fear men? Are you more concerned about looking stupid than acting sinfully? Is your fear of man preventing you from witnessing?
Proposition: Fear God not man!
Today, I am not going to tell you about the hundreds and thousands of people in this country and around the world that do not have Jesus Christ. I am not going to tell you that there is a huge need for Christian workers. I am not going to tell you about the Great Commission and the need to share the Gospel of Christ. Most of you already know about the huge number of unsaved people, about the need for Christian workers, and the need to share the Gospel. Today, I wan to focus on a problem that prevents many people from serving God and being an effective witness. We need to look at the disease, give the symptoms of the disease, give the cure to the disease, and then give the prognosis to the disease. Read 1 Peter 3:13-17
1. The Disease v. 13-14; Proverbs 29:25
The book of 1 Peter was written to encourage believers that were probably in Rome facing many trials and persecutions. Peter was trying to help the Christians understand that suffering was part of the Christian life and it should be used to influence others for Christ. In verse 13, we see that Peter asks a question: “Who is going to harm and hurt you if you are doing good?” Peter is saying, that if you are doing good, not many people are going to really want to hurt you or persecute you. He adds this idea, “However, if you do suffer for righteousness which is rare (the Greek structure indicates that suffering is rare), then you are blessed- privileged or honored.” This is exactly what Christ says in Matthew 5:10- “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake!” If you are persecuted for righteousness, then God blesses you. Persecution is not really a bad thing.
However, the fact is that most will not have to suffer greatly for Christ. In this country, there is great freedom to worship freely and there is very little persecution. However, I believe that the next statement is the real disease or problem that people have with suffering. The problem is fear. Peter goes on to say in verse 14, “Don’t be afraid of their threats and don’t be afraid of the things that they fear.” Peter is say, “Don’t fear men- don’t fear their words, don’t fear their actions, and don’t fear the things that they fear.” Often, the real problem that we have is not outside the church, but it is within the church. We have the disease of the fear of man! Turn to Proverbs 29:25. It says, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Fearing men is the disease or the problem that we have! Persecution is difficult, but often we don’t face persecution. Suffering is hard, but often we don’t have to suffer. Often, we make it a point in our life to fear man instead of God. I will prove this to be true in just a moment. First, let us define the fear of man.
Definition of the fear of man: Basically, it is being afraid of someone. However, it also involves holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshiping people, putting your trust in people, or needing people.
Illustration: Now, lets look at the illustration of the fear of man from Peters life. Do you remember what Peter told the Lord just before Christ was crucified? (Matt. 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:34, 39; John 13:37, 38) Peter said, “Lord, I will not stumble like others might stumble. In fact, I would give up my life for your sake!” Jesus Christ said to Peter, ““Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter probably thought, “There is no way that I would deny you!” Later, someone questioned Peter and accused him of being with Jesus. Do you know who it was? It wasn’t a centurion, a Pharisee, or someone in authority- it was just a servant girl. John says to the servant girl, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about! You’re crazy!” Then a little later, another asked him “Aren’t you a follower of Jesus?” Peter again and in an even more bold and forceful way said, “NO, I DON’T KNOW HIM!” Then, a servant of the high priest said, “Yes, I’m sure that you were with Jesus!” Peter then by cursing and swearing says, “I DON’T KNOW HIM!” Immediately after that, the rooster crowed and Peter knew that he had denied Christ- he ran out and wept bitterly for he knew that he sinned! Peter knew that he had sinned by fearing man rather than God, yet Christ forgave him. Peter had fallen into the snare of the “fear of man.” He denied His Lord because of his fear of man.
Appl: Many would say, “I would never deny Christ even if my life depended on it,” yet they never speak for or about Christ to their unsaved friends and relatives.” The fear of man might be gripping you. You can imagine Peter telling everyone in 1 Peter 3:14, “You need to fear God and not man; trust me, I know from experience!” Let’s look at some of the symptoms of the fear of man. Each one of us probably deals with the fear of man!
2. The Symptoms v. 13-14
In verse 14, Peter says, count it as a blessing if you suffer persecution. Most likely, you won’t suffer much persecution, but if you do your blessed, but either way, DON’T FEAR MAN! What are some of the symptoms of the fear of man? Let me give you a few Biblical examples of the fear of man and then we will describe common symptoms.
Abraham: Abraham is one of the greatest characters in the Bible. He is an excellent example of faith. However, he had a problem: the fear of man (Gen 12:12; 20:2) Twice in his life, Abraham lied to a king about his relation to his wife. Abraham told his wife Sarah, “Say to the king that you are my sister, because if they find out that you’re my wife, they will kill me!” Abraham was willing to tell a lie (or have his wife tell a lie for him) because he was afraid of what men would do to him. The fear of man was clearly present in his life.
King Saul: King Saul was told by God to go conquer the Amalekites. He was told to kill every living thing of the Amalekites. Instead, Saul spared all the best livestock, and he spared the life of King Agag. Samuel came to King Saul and told him that he had disobeyed! Saul lied and even blamed his sin on the people. In 1 Samuel 15:24, Saul even says that he feared the opinion of the people so obeyed the people! He was more interested in the opinion of the people than obedience to God. He feared man instead of God.
Rulers and Leaders in the New Testament: In John 12:42-43, we read about another instance of the fear of man. Some of the religious rulers and people in authority believed in Jesus Christ, however, they were not willing to publically confess Jesus and follow him because they were scared of the Pharisees. They were scared of being put out of the Synagogue. WHY? John 12:43, it says that they “loved the praise of man more than the praise of God.” Simply put, they were more worried about what men thought about them than what God thought about them. Sadly, the fear of men was strong in their life.
Application: The fear of man was prevalent in the lives of many people in the Bible. It had terrible consequences. We can find out from these examples many symptoms of the fear of man. Let me put the symptoms in the form of questions. Ask yourself if these following things are true in your life. If they are, then you are probably falling to the fear of man.
Ø Have you ever struggled with peer pressure?
Ø Do you have a hard time saying “No” to other people? You might be a people pleaser. You’re too concerned about what others think if you say “NO.”
Ø Is self-esteem critical for you? Do you try to cover up things with lies? You want to hide the truth so people aren’t offended or you look better that way.
Ø Do you try to justifying your sin? Do you try to blame others for things that are your fault? You want to look better in front of other people. Abraham did this.
Ø Do you show favoritism? Do you respect the rich more than the poor? Maybe you are showing that you fear them because you want something from them.
Ø Do you get embarrassed easily? You dread being embarrassed in front of others.
Ø Do you try to cover up your hidden sins? Would you be embarrassed and ashamed if someone unveiled your private life to the church? Do you ever feel like you might be exposed as an imposter?
Ø Do you second-guess your decisions because you think you might look bad in front of other people? You want everyone to like your decisions and like you.
Ø Do you look for the praise of men? Do you need praise to make you feel good about yourself?
Ø Do you worry about your kids not doing well in school or not obeying properly because others might think of you as a bad parent?
Ø Do you want to avoid people? A hermit are too afraid to be with others!
Ø Do you feel good when you compare yourself to others? Maybe you have “success fear of man” because you think you’re better than them- Pride!
Ø Are you more concerned about looking stupid than acting sinfully? Disobeying God is not so terrible, just as long as you don’t look stupid.
Ø Do you think that if you follow Christ or give your life to him as a missionary or servant of God, others will laugh at you because you don’t make enough money?
Ø Do you ever get afraid and too timid to share your faith with other people? Maybe you don’t want to tell your friends about Christ because they would think less of you. You don’t want people to know about your church and your Savior.
I’m sure that each one of us could say, “Yes, I do some of those things.” I want you to know that you have the sin problem of “the fear of man!” Please, do not deny your problem! Admit that you have a problem and confess it to God. Let me give you a few practical illustrations.
Ill/App: ~Maybe you are out with some of your friends or family, and they all start to drink a few beers. They ask you if you want to have a few drinks. You know that God would not want you to drink, but you do it anyways because you’re afraid of what others think. Maybe you say no, however, you tell a lie so you look better to them. You say, “My stomach can’t handle beer,” or “I’m on a diet,” or “I’m not feeling good.” You lie instead of taking a stand for what you believe about the Bible. You loose a great opportunity to share your faith!
~A friend asks you to watch a movie or if you have seen a certain movie. You know that the movie is bad, but you still watch it or act as if you think it is cool. You know that it has bad things in it, but you are too afraid to stand up for what is right!.
~You’re in the car with an unsaved relative and the Holy Spirit prompts you to tell them about Christ, however, you think that this would be embarrassing and maybe your friend wouldn’t like you for talking about Christ. Instead of telling your friend about the most important person in the universe- Christ, you don’t say anything because of fear.
Transition: Is the fear of man a problem with you? Are you afraid to tell others about Christ because you are afraid of what they think! The fear of man prevents many from becoming the missionary and obedient Christian that God wants! Don’t let the fear of man prevent you from telling others about Christ! Let’s find out how to get rid of the fear of man!
3. The Cure v. 15-16
What do we need to do to get rid of this problem? You must acknowledge that you have sinned against God by having the fear of man. Then repent of your sin. Once you have done that, you can start to change. Look at what Peter says to do in verse 15 to get rid of the fear of man. He says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts!” This means to set Christ up as the Lord in your heart! Peter is saying, “Don’t let men rule your heart, life, and decisions; instead, let Christ have control of your heart, life, and decisions.” Regard Christ our Lord as most holy; serve him with reverence and godly fear so you will not “be afraid of their terror.” The holy fear of God will lift you above the fear of man. Let me give you the steps to curing the sin of the fear of man:
Ø First, learn about God, His power, His love, His justice, His holiness, His anger, His hatred of sin, and His wrath. When you have a better perspective of God and who he is, you will realize that men have no power over you! To fear men when we serve a great God is foolish. You might be the only one to stand up for Christ and preach him, but you are in the majority. You and God make a majority!
Ø Second, Change your fear of man into the Fear of the Lord! You need to fear him! What does it mean to fear God? -reverent submission that leads to obedience. You are reverent and submissive because you know of God’s power! Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:4 should become part of your life. Realize that men have no power over your eternal status. Only God is worthy to be feared!
Appl: You might think, “Well, I’m I supposed to be afraid of God?” Well, yes, in certain ways. Let me explain. If you are a Christian, then you are free from the wrath of God, but you should still have a Godly, reverent fear of God. Think about all the people in the Bible that had personal, physical encounters with God; each one was “afraid” or “feared” the Lord! They knew that he was God and that they were wicked sinners that did not deserve to be alive! They realized that the all powerful, holy God of the universe was looking at them and they did not have a worthy life! They feared God with a deep respect and reverence.
Learn- God deserves our utmost fear and respect, so how do you learn about God, His power and how to fear him? Read and meditate on the Word of God! Deuteronomy 17:18-19; 31:13; 4:10; Psalm 34:9-11; all say to read and meditate so you can learn the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord can be learned! It cannot be learned from the world, but only from the Word of God! You need to read Isaiah 6 become like Isaiah the prophet! Realize your condition before God, acknowledge His greatness, humble yourself, and fear him! Obey his calling!
Illustration: Fearing God is not bad. Let me illustrate how you can have fear of God and joy in God at the same time. It is a lot of fun to drive a scooter or motorcycle. It is a joy to drive the scooter, yet during the same time, I am also fearful of what is in front of me. I am fearfully respecting the power of the scooter and fearfully watching the road knowing that at any moment, a person could walk in front of me, a car could cut me off, or an object in the road could hurt me. This is the same idea with a power tool. I love to use a skill saw or jigsaw because it is powerful and fun to build things; however, when I use one of those tools, I am carefully fearful of the power of that tool. I treat it with great respect. If I get careless, it could hurt me. I realize the same about God. He is loving and I have joy in him, but I also need to realize His power and might and intense hatred of sin! That will drive the fear of man from me.
Ø Third, think about yourself less and about loving others more. Peter says in verse 15 of this passage in 1 Peter, be ready to give an answer. You need to know God’s Word so that you can tell others about Christ and defend what you believe. If you don’t know what you believe, then you will always be afraid to tell people about Christ because you don’t even know much about Him yourself! If you start to learn about God’s Word, then you will show your love for others and think about others more. You must love your enemies, your neighbor, and your brother and sister in Christ. When you start to focus on obeying the calling of God to witness, then you will not be so prone to fear man. Instead, you will love them through the eyes of Scripture and realize their need for Christ. You will look at your brother and sister in Christ and realize that in John 17, Jesus Christ begged God to help believers to love each other in unity so that we could show the world His love. In this book, in 1 Peter 2:12, Peter says that the unsaved should see your good works and then they will glorify God! Love others and focus on yourself less; loving others properly will drive the fear of man from you.
Ø Fourth, Beg God for boldness and ask others to pray for you to have boldness. This is what Paul asked for in Ephesians 6:19 and Colossians 4:2-6! Even the Apostle Paul, the boldest and most outspoken Christian to live asked God for boldness and an open door to speak. He asked others to pray for him! Get a prayer partner in this church and start to pray for boldness. This will keep you loving each other and unified. Then you can keep each other accountable about fearing man and pray for each other to have boldness to witness! God can turn you into a great missionary right here in your hometown! Pray for boldness.
4. The Prognosis v. 16-17
In 1 Peter 3:16, he says that if people speak against you falsely, then that is ok, because if you have a good testimony and you don’t fear men, then they will be ashamed of what they have done. They might even come to Christ because of your great testimony and fear of God. Peter says that it is much better to fear God than to fear men. Therefore, even if you suffer, you will be suffering for doing good and not evil. Turn your fear of man over to God. Beg Him to help you fear Him alone so that you can obey and witness for him!
What is preventing you from being the missionary that God has called you to be? Is it the fear of man? God has called you to be a witness for Him wherever you live! Are you willing to be a witness for him? You need to stop thinking about yourself, start glorifying God, and start thinking about serving others! Paul and Stephen were willing to share their faith no matter where, when, or with whoever listening: whether in prisons, in palaces, in places of worship- in front of kings, beggars, soldiers, or friends! THEY DID NOT FEAR MAN! They died for their faith, but God blessed them for their fear of Him!
Let’s make Heb 13:6 the cry of our heart! “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”