Peninsula Community Church
Fear Not – Fear of Where You Stand With God
December 21, 2014
This is the last installment of our three part series called “Fear Not.” As noted earlier, I have borrowed some of Craig Groeschel’s outline but have added my points to that. In the first installment, we looked at Mary and the fear of responding to God’s call in our life. Last week, we looked at the fear of people and this week, we will look at fearing where we stand with God.
To do that let us begin by looking at the proclamation given to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
At first glance this does not appear to be a big deal because when we interpret this passage through our 21st century lens we cannot comprehend the magnitude of this appearance to the shepherds. You see the religious leaders of the day held a negative and at times a hostile view of shepherds. What was once an acceptable profession, during the time of the patriarchs, had evolved to an unacceptable profession. Everything changed for the shepherd during the 400 years of Jewish captivity in Egypt. The Egyptians despised shepherds. They considered them to be the lowest class of citizen to ever live. This concept of the shepherd carried over to the Children of Israel when they were delivered from Egypt.
During Jesus time, the religious leaders of the day had a similar view of the shepherds. The religious leaders believed the shepherd was on the bottom rung of the social ladder. The shepherd’s status was a product of religious judgment and of society’s rejection of them. Thus they were an isolated group of people. The shepherds were mistrusted and were quite often considered to be thieves. Some of them earned this title while others were stereotyped this way. The shepherd was mistrusted to the point they would not be considered as a witness in a trial because of their perceived lack of trustworthiness. And yet, this is the very people God chose to send the angels to. How amazing is that?
There is another interesting note here worthy of our consideration. In those days, the wealthy would hire a herald who would go throughout the land to announce the birth of their child. It is interesting here that God chose to send a herald, by way of the angels, to the very ones who could afford it in the least. I believe this is in keeping with the first message Jesus preached. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus proclaimed these words. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
How awesome is it that the angels were sent to the least likely people on earth. The angel came to those who battled with whether or not they were good enough to find God. The shepherd struggled with their sense of being good enough to earn God’s favor and His love. Since they had been rejected by the representatives of God they assumed they had been rejected by God.
This applies to us as well as the one great fear that many believers have is whether or not they will be accepted by God. Let me ask you “have you ever felt that you were not good enough for God.” In preparing for this message, one of the things I remember about Vince is that in his latter days he dealt with this idea of being accepted by God. He felt that he had burned too many bridges, that he had done too much wrong for God to accept him. I was able to share with him that there is nothing that we can do that would prevent God from receiving us and bringing us into right relationship with him. Paul in Romans 8 reminded us of this truth in that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We have said this before, God does not just love us, He is love. We can certainly walk away from God and remove ourselves from His blessing but He never stops loving us.
The reason we question God’s acceptance of us is threefold. First, we feel unworthy. The shepherds’ experiences had taught them that they were not good enough for God. The religious leaders reinforced this emotional bondage. The problem, however, is that they were confusing religion with relationship. For example, in their day, the keeping of the Sabbath was a religious duty shepherds could not keep because they worked twenty-four hours a day. They could not offer sacrifices at the temple which was the requirement of the day. The result was that they could not be right with God because of their failure to perform their religious duties.
It is noteworthy that it was possible that they were watching the very sheep that would be offered in sacrifice. You see, while they were considered to be physically dirty, they were also considered to be spiritually dirty, so much so that a religious person would not even touch a shepherd because they would be considered unclean. You can only imagine how unworthy that made them feel. The reality is that many of us feel the same way. We try to come to church but we are faced with the things we have done or for that matter not done. Then we look at everyone else and think that they are so holy and righteous. The result is we feel unworthy of God’s love and grace.
Secondly, we feel inadequate. The shepherds were uneducated. They were dirty and smelly. They felt like they never measured up to society’s standard.. They were forced there emotionally by society and by the religious leaders of the day. They were comparing themselves to the religious leaders of the day and knew they could not measure up which was the worse thing they could do. The best way to feel inadequate is to compare ourselves to others. Perception is a powerful tool of destruction. We look around and we think that everyone else around us has it all together. But the fact is, we don’t know what the other person near us is facing. We do not know the emotional turmoil they might be in.
How about you? When you look around, do you see people who seem close to God. They have a Bible verse for every situation. They prayer prayers that are powerful and you are thinking that the last time you prayed was “God help me not to kill this person who took my parking place.” Too often we feel so unspiritual. This happens too often when we compare ourselves with others rather than to God.
In our society today, we believe that if we are only good enough God will accept us but the more we do the more we feel inadequate. Michelle and I love to watch Christmas movies, especially Hallmark movies. As I have watched this year, I have found that most of the movies fall into one of two categories. An angel appears and makes everything right or the theme is be good enough or do all the right things and you will be accepted. In real life however, we keep doing good things and nothing changes in our heart, we only find that we must do more things. This all leads to a greater feeling of inadequacy.
Thirdly, we feel unloved. The shepherds were not accepted so they felt unloved. Can you imagine what they may have thought? Here they are the hill side listening to the laughter and music coming from the city. They hear that the people are having a good time, but they have to be out on the hillside watching these stinking sheep. As they listened to the sounds coming from the town, their hearts would be effected and the sense of a lack of love would grow. I thought of the story of the Grinch. I remember the one with Jim Carey as the Grinch is at the top of the mountain where he lived and he was listening to the celebration going on in Whoville. You could witness in that moment his need for love but he was rejected.
I know many of us have so many different stories about life. Too often these events cause us to feel unloved and unaccepted. A spouse has left us or had deceived us. A child has rebelled. An employer has laid us off. For some of us it is not a matter of others loving us but when we look in the mirror and we do not love the person we see. You think if people don’t love me, and I don’t love myself how is God going to love me?
The religion of the day did not work for the shepherds and it will not work for us today either. You see Jesus did not come to offer religion he came to have a relationship with us. He came to set us free from religion and to give us something so much better. You see religion reduces Christianity down to a set of rules and a list of dos and don’ts. The more we try the worse things get.
But, here is the “Good News.” Righteousness comes from God alone as we commit our ways to His ways. He forgives and He leads us. You cannot earn God’s acceptance by observing the law. The purpose of the law is to show your need for a savior. Righteousness with God comes by faith in Christ alone and acceptance through a relationship with Him. That is the good news.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom