Boldness In Practice - Sermon 9/23/2018
In last weeks message, we learned that as Christians we are called to boldness.
Solomon said in Proverbs 28:1 that, "the righteous are as bold as a Lion." The Apostle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that "in Him (in Jesus) we are the righteousness of God" so if we put those together, the whole counsel of God's word tells us that in Christ we're called to boldness.
We also learned that boldness is God-given. Psalm 138:3 God gave boldness to David when he asked. In Acts 4 God gives boldness to the believers under threat when they were in need. And throughout the rest of the New Testament, boldness is given as a recurring gift. Whether to new believers or seasoned veterans facing persecution, God gives and re-gives boldness, and He does so abundantly.
Lastly, we discovered that this boldness is needed both inside and outside the church walls. We need boldness to call a lost world to repentance, but we also need boldness to call a saved church to holiness.
Knowing all of that is one thing. Right? (understand the principles) But what about the practice? What does boldness look like? And when we walk in it how do we deal with the response of the world and even those in the Church?
Practice is the everyday struggle of the Christian. I've said it many times our "want to" is there, it's our "how to" that's broken and that, of course, represents practice. So these are the things I want to talk about today; boldness in practice.
First, we're going to define the terms (what boldness is and what it's not), then we'll jump into some scriptures to see boldness in practice. And after that, we'll talk about how people respond and what we are to do about it.
Define The Terms:
Boldness is defined as a willingness to take a risk. In the Christian life, it looks like leaving everything to follow Jesus. It looks like abandoning those thoughts and behaviors that once characterized you (1 Cor. 6:11) and embracing the higher ways of God (Gal. 6). Both are risky! But where I'd like to stay focused is Gospel declaration: boldness here looks like speaking the truth in love!
In a culture like ours where truth is "relative," and love is defined as that which necessarily leaves all our positive feelings intact, this is going to be a risk. This is going to be BOLD.
Now, if either truth or love is missing from this equation, we no longer have boldness. Instead, we have poor imitations. We either have brashness. Which would be something like wielding truth without love (hasty, rash, impetuous - without thought or care). Or we have cowardice. This is when we conceal the truth and call it love; often out of the fear that it might offend.
This manifests itself in ideas like "live and let live"...
"I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward... how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"
Boldness is speaking the truth in love. Brashness is speaking the truth without love and cowardice is concealing the truth and calling it love. That last one I would argue is the more common today.
So what does true Christian boldness look like in the scriptures?
We're going to look at six passages. The first three are going to result in an amen. The last three, however, are going to challenge us deeply. And here's what I'd like you to consider as we go through them, I'd want you to consider that maybe in light of the final three, we don't understand the first three at all. In light of the last three, we might need to broaden our definition of truth, love and therefore boldness.
I'm not saying that the final three need to replace the first three, just that all of these scriptures are God-breathed and useful for instruction and teaching. In many ways what I'm about to share is going to go against modern sensibilities. I'll just say it up front it's probably going to go against many of OUR sensibilities.
[2Ti 2:24-26 NASB] 24 The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses [and escape] from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
[Tit 3:1-2 NASB] 1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
[Mat 5:39-46 NASB] 39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous.
These verses fit with most of what we've been taught. We all need to be bold, we need to speak the truth to others, it needs to be done in love, AND love is defined by ideas like: patience, gentleness, not maligning anyone, turning the other cheek, etc.
So being bold (truth in love) looks kind of like Mother Theresa meets Gandhi.
But what about passages like these:
[1Co 16:22-24 NASB] 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[Gal 5:11-15 NASB] 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only [do] not [turn] your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the [statement,] "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
[Act 13:8-10 NASB] 8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also [known as] Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, 10 and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?"
As I said at the outset, both of these are scriptural. The final three are only strange to us because we have been taught how to think by today's culture, not the Word. Again, love according to the world is that which leaves all of our positive emotions intact. Otherwise, you are unloving. If anything causes me to feel uncomfortable in any way it simply cannot be love. Trust me on this church, the area where this is most common today is inside the four walls of the church.
What I would propose is that we 1. don't rush to judgment on what is "brash" and 2. allow for what pastor and author Doug Wilson calls, "sanctified ridicule." Let me explain.
In Matthew 23 Jesus seems to model this approach. From verses 13 to 33 Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, lawless, serpents and a brood of vipers." Sounds brash, doesn't it? But look with me at verse 37:
[Mat 23:37 NASB] 37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
Now some will say, "yeah but that's Jesus, and you're not Jesus." And of course, they're correct. But if that's the game we're going to play, then I'm absolved of my responsibility to love my enemy too. Paul should never have called us to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Doesn't he know, "that's Jesus" you can't do what He did?
As you'll see in the rest of scripture, this approach was modeled by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Stephen and this doesn't bring up the people of God in the Old Testament.
What we say matters (content). The heart with which we say it matters (humility, Godly love). But how we say it, tone, wording, etc., doesn't matter at all, at times.
In the end, boldness comes down to matters which no human eye can see. I could look you in the eye and say the same phrase twice. The first time saying it with hatred in my heart and no care for your eternity whatever. This would be brash. However the second time I could love you from the bottom of my heart and want what is ultimately best for you, and that would be bold. True Christian boldness!
At some point, we've got to stop being so stinking sensitive. Otherwise, we won't be able to hear the bold words of scripture itself without offense.
Last thing before we move on; I am not advocating for Christians to be careless with their tone or their words. We merely need to stop allowing the culture to define our terms otherwise we will eventually venture entirely into the cowardice end of the spectrum.
OK, so, how do we deal with the response of the world or those in the Church for that matter? What do we do when our boldness is rejected? What do we do when it's called out as brashness or decried as being too abrasive?
1. We accept at the outset that boldness can and will be offensive at times. The very message of Jesus resulted in Him being crucified on a Roman cross. Jesus told us that if they hated Him (and they did), they would hate us also.
I think we can all agree that Christian boldness is not yo momma's boldness. It's not what we've been taught and it can and will offend. We must refuse to allow the culture to redefine our terms (boldness) so as to render us impotent.
2. We soldier on in obedience because pleasing God is more important than pleasing man.
[Act 4:17-20 NASB] 17 "But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."
3. In the face of resistance, rejection, and persecution we live to fight another day.
[Act 14:1-7 NASB] 1 In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. 3 Therefore they spent a long time [there] speaking boldly [with reliance] upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided, and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe, and the surrounding region; 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
(Paul employs the same method in Act 19:8-10)
So what does it look like for Christians to be bold, to call a lost word to repentance and a saved world to holiness? Especially in a culture that believes whatever feels good is love. The answer is that we must appeal to that which is concrete and not our feelings. We must look to God's word. We can't afford to make this stuff up. Boldness, love, truth all these things have to be taken from God's word otherwise we are no different from our culture.
We speak God's truth, in Godly love, even if it employs sanctified ridicule. We accept that boldness can and will be offensive to some. We care about what God says over what man says and rather than losing our love for others we live to fight another day.