Thesis- A reminder that the Christian is to be “bold as a lion”, even in these times where we are so often pressured to be silent.
Base text-Proverbs 28:1
In the second century A.D. there was a Christian by the name of Polycarp. Polycarp was a writer, theologian, and acquaintance of the apostle John. However, what he is best remembered for is not his accomplishments in life, but his death. Polycarp lived during a time when the Roman Government was violently pushing the idea that the Roman emperor was God on earth, a time when Romans had grown intolerant of Christians speaking out against them in the name of the one, true God. The Roman empire decided to offer an ultimatum of sorts to the Christians of that day; they could either come and burn incense to the Roman emperor, acknowledging him as God and thereby renouncing Jesus Christ OR they could stand by the Truth and be burned at the stake. When Polycarp was faced with this decision he did not go back on his convictions but stood by the truth; that there is one God and He was not the Roman emperor. He was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The day of the execution came and, as he was being tied to the stake, he was once more offered the choice of renouncing God or dying. He replied “Eighty and six years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou wilt.” he died that same hour. Polycarp was just one of thousands who were bold enough to stand by the word of God, even if that meant death. I think that is why it so surprising to look at the state of things today. It seems that, over the years, we Christians have forgotten that we are to be “bold as lions”, Proverbs 28:1, and become timid. Whereas we used to stand in front of thousands proclaiming the truth (Acts 2), many are now scared to discuss their Lord and Savior with even one lost soul. Whereas we used to take any and every opportunity to discuss the gospel with someone (Acts 8) many now let opportunity after opportunity pass them by. In a sense, we have become afried and forgotten our God given mission to “preach the gospel to every creature”, Mark 16:15. This task is not one we can accomplish with a spirit of fear. We Christians have got to become more bold. We need to be more like Jesus.
Was Jesus nervous and timid? Did He hide behind His disciples, waiting for someone to do His work for Him? No, He was quite the opposite. Jesus, facing persecution unto death, was bold. He stated the truth without fear. Take, for example, the “I am” statements of the book of John.
- “I am the Bread of life” John 6:35
- “I am the Light of the world” John 8:12
- “Before Abraham was, I am” John 8:58
- “I am the Door” John 10:9
- “I am the Good Shepherd” John 10:11
- “I am the Resurrection and the Life” John 11:25
- “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” John 14:6
- “I am the True Vine” John 15:1
These statements are reminiscent of one found in Exodus 3:14
“And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”
I am. With these two simple words, our Lord Jesus boldly asserted His divinity and nailed down His eternal existence to all those around Him. He knew that this would anger the religious leaders of that day, to the point where they would seek His death, but that didn’t cause Him to hesitate or waver. He proclaimed the truth even when surrounded by men eagerly waiting to take His life, Matthew 26:59-65. Jesus spoke boldly and we must do the same today. Of course, it’s easy to say that we need to be bolder, but how do we, who are often so fearful in nature, change? I have five suggestions to consider as we pursue Christ like courage.
1. Remember to Pray
In the fourth book of Acts, Peter and John are confronted by some of the Jewish high priests and elders. These leaders threatened Peter and John, telling them not to preach the word of God, v. 18. After they were released, Peter and John went to some of their companions and informed them of the events that had transpired that day. In the face of hostility from entrenched and powerful enemies, they prayed
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,”
And that prayer was answered, because it says in Acts 4:31
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
The church prayed for boldness and they received boldness, and if we pray as they did we can receive the same reward, James 1:5
2. Remember to Read
I’ve done theater for a little over three years now and had the privilege of teaching it for a semester. One thing that every actor knows is that you don’t wait until the performance to read your script for the first time. A good actor will study his or her script meticulously until they know their lines and when to say them. If you don’t do that, you will never be able to give a good performance. Christianity is similar in a way. If we are going to teach the gospel to lost souls, we must first know the gospel ourselves. Before we speak with boldness, we need to study, 2 Timothy 2:15. Being bold is worthless if what we say is false. Look at the example in Acts 18:24-26.
“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
Apollos was not ashamed of his faith, and he obviously was not scared to talk to people about the good news, but even though his heart was in the right place, Aquila and Priscilla could not allow him to teach false doctrine. Good intentions did not forfeit the necessity for truth abck in the day of Apollos, and they will not now.
3. Remember to be Compassionate
Matthew 23 contains what some refer to as”the seven woes”, spoken fiercely to the scribes and pharisees. Jesus boldly lays out the failings of these religious leaders, referring to them as hypocrites, blind guides, fools, white washed tombs, lawless, and more. He is especially blunt in v.33
“Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?”
However, the story doesn’t end there. Following this verbal lashing, Jesus weeps for the fate of the people of Jerusalem, v. 37. The boldness of Jesus was accompanied by compassion. He was emotional because He loved His countrymen and He could see they were in the process of committing spiritual suicide. Boldness alone is not enough. It requires the proper motivation of love in order to be meaningful, 1 Corinthians 13:5.
4. Remember You are Not Alone
One of my favorite hymns is “Night with Ebon Pinion”. There is one phrase in particular that really hits home with me. “He, for our transgressions, had to weep alone; No friends with words to comfort nor hand to help was there”. Imagine what that must have been like. Not only are you, a totally innocent man, about to die, but you are having to face death alone. Thinking about His night in the garden like that makes me all the more grateful for the promise of Hebrews 13:5.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Personally, they’re no words that I find more comforting. These that tell us no matter what our lot in life, we are never alone. We are always accompanied by the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”, James 1:17, and “we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?””, Hebrews 13:6. Whenever you are scared or feel like you can’t be bold, remember who is on your side.
5. Remember the Seriousness of Sin
What happens if you or I fail to speak? Author C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“The safest road to hell, is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
You and I are the metaphorical signposts. We are the warning to lost souls to turn back before it is eternally too late. But what if we don’t say a word? What if that road to Hell has no signposts? Than a soul might be forever lost in the “unquenchable fire”, Mark 9:43-44.
During the time of King Henry the VII, there was a preacher named Hugh Latimer. One Sunday, Latimer preached a sermon that greatly offended King Henry. Henry ordered Latimer to preach again the following Sunday and apologize for his offense, saying “Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest a word that may displease.” The following Sunday Hugh Lattimer took the pulpit once again and preached the exact same sermon as the previous week, only this time with more zeal. When push comes to shove, will you possess boldness like Lattimer, the apostles, and Jesus Himself?