And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
— Matthew 10:26
A couple of years ago Matt Bennett introduced me to a book that I had never heard of before, even though it had profoundly shaped church history and even western civilization. This old book had unleashed revival leaders like George Whitefield and John Wesley. If it weren’t for this little volume written by a German professor of divinity, one could legitimately wonder if the 18th century revivals in Europe and America would have happened to the extent that they did, if at all.
What sort of book was it that could inspire such a bold generation of Christian leaders? The learned scholar did not pen a sophisticated tome or introduce an ingenious theological thesis. In fact, the author apologized at length in his introduction for writing such a simple book. Simple it may have been, but more importantly, it was mighty. The book’s simple subject was the fear of man.
It was said of Professor Augustus Hermann Franke’s Nicodemus; OR, A Treatise Against the Fear of Man: “Franke’s short work on the Fear of Man inspired many to break free from social pressure to become all that Christ expected of them. … Many key leaders referenced this short book as notable in helping them overcome the fear of man.”
The fear of man is like a dam that holds back our full obedience to God and our unashamed proclamation of God’s word, and therefore fear of man blocks the flow of God’s Spirit in the world. God used Franke’s words to release the barrier of fear of man in the hearts of Whitefield, Wesley, and many others. These brave souls instead placed the fear of God in their minds, led holy lives, and preached the gospel with thunderous conviction.
Franke’s Fear of Man merely reiterated Jesus’ message to His apprentice preachers. In Matthew 10, when we observe the Teacher preparing His disciples to spread the gospel, the Lord expounds more on the opposition they would face than the actual content of their message. The Savior counseled them to “beware of men” (Matthew 10:17) because people would hate them, slander them, physically harm them, and even kill some of them (Matthew 10:16-25). The messengers of the greatest news in the world would be seen as the scum of the earth (1 Corinthians 4:13).
Jesus knew that He must instill in the apostles, and all subsequent disciples, resilience against all opposition. Three times he reminded them not to be afraid (Matthew 10:26, 28, 31). One of the greatest obstacles to the spread of Jesus’ message was that the disciples would succumb to the threats, mocking, scorn, shame, and persecution of their enemies.
In order to see the national revival we seek, let’s pray that the Spirit of God would burn away social concern from our minds and set the church in America ablaze to live and speak wholly for Christ.
Lord Jesus, take away our concern for what others think, say, or do to us because of Your name. They are not our judge. They are not the one who has given his life as a ransom for ours. We owe them nothing but to tell them the truth in love. You, on the other hand, are the One before whom we must give an account. You are the One who has purchased our freedom by Your own blood. You are the One whom we love with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In this one life You have given us, give us also the strength in our generation to live completely for You for all the world to see.
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