While reading Ezekiel chapter 11, the Lord reminded me of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon “(Matthew 6:24).
In this passage, Jesus is referring to a false god found in many pantheons of false worship around the world. His statement was part of a larger teaching, where he commands us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. The reason is that worry unchecked becomes fear, which can give way to panic. In that state, it is easy to say we trust God for our daily bread and provision, while running to serve mammon (or some other idol we have made). This practice had been adopted into Judaism as an acceptable practice.
Jesus is declaring God will have no competition with mammon or any God. We must trust him alone, because whatever we fear will eventually master us. If this is the fear of the one true God, Hallelujah! But if something else, we have a definite problem.
Why did this come to mind, while I was reading Ezekiel 11? Because of what we read in Ezekiel 11:8.
Ezekiel 11:8 You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God.
Ezekiel 11 is part of a more expansive vision given to the prophet, which begins in chapter 8 of the prophecy. A little background is necessary.
Many from the Jewish nation were already in captivity; Ezekiel among them. In detail, from chapter 2 to 11, God reveals the judgment to fall on His chosen people, because they feigned trust in Him and had whored after false gods (like Baal, Ashtoreth and Mammon among others). In Chapter 8 Ezekiel is shown abominable things happening in the Temple–in Ezekiel 9 the prophet see’s the marking of a faithful remnant, but the judgment to fall on those who walked in unbelief towards YHWH–Chapter 10 which is perhaps one of the saddest in the Old Testament, reveals the glory of the LORD departing the Temple–In chapter 11 we see His glory depart the city of Jerusalem.
Into this narrative we understand, that although God has called His people to repentance, in arrogance they had rejected His calling.
In the midst of this narrative we read the passage highlighted above, Ezekiel 11:8 “You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God”.
How does this tie into Matthew 6:24, making it not only a revelation to Israel, but also an admonition to the Church of the Living God, purchased with Christ’s shed blood?
Quite simply, the things Jesus commands us not to worry about, are the very things that drove Israel to idol worship. Throughout her history, Israel had feigned trust in the LORD, only to panic when God did not come through when they demand he would. In their immaturity, they missed the truth that delays do not mean God will not or is not able; it means He will bring what is needed, when He deems it the right hour.
Do we have a potential for trouble in walking out that characteristic of our faith (trust in Him with all… not being wise in our own eyes)?
Far too often, out of fear of what was to come, Jewish leaders would run to another country and pay tribute to a foreign God, in money or worship; then find they were still up the creek without a paddle. At times, they would get into bed with foreign powers that had once enslaved or abused them.
It was fear of starvation, or fear of losing favor, or fear of invasion or… you get the point, which drove them away from the LORD. Now the Lord was saying, your fear of destruction has led you to idolatry, now that which you fear will master you.
The lesson for us today is: Whatever you fear will dominate your life—it will become your master.
Should a person have the only fear allowed in scripture… FEAR OF THE LORD, their life will be mastered by the Lord Jesus Christ, as they are led by the Holy Spirit. Some want to redefine the fear of the Lord for the Christian as reverence only. That understanding is only partially true. Scripture clearly indicates that the Christian needs to reverence God almighty, but this is founded upon the truth that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God; because He is a consuming fire, who will strike at us, should we continually run afoul of His commandment and calling.
Some conjecture this point with no biblical support. Let us consider those who had little fear of the Lord and how they fared when forgetting He is a consuming fire.
- Ananias and Sapphire (Acts 5:1-11)
- Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25)
- King Herod (Acts 12:20-24)
- Bar Jesus, aka Elymas (Acts 13:4-12)
- 7 Churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2 and 3)
Should Christian’s serve the Lord in proper fear, they will have wisdom and His manifest presence to delight in. Should we fear other things, we fall into mastery by another.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.
The fear of man is not simply the fear of a man or group of men, but fear that is common and controlling in the lives of all men, women and children. The fear of man is the basis for all the things Jesus instructed us not to worry about.
My concern is that fear is driving and commanding much of what the church is pursuing in America. Let us consider for a moment the support for the current president of the United States, as received from evangelicals.
Though he may now have shifted some of his positions, concerning issues considered non-negotiable to Christians (abortion and religious freedom), he is no more Christ-like than the last president, no matter what famous evangelical preachers tell us. We need remember that politicians are politicians and as such, often have short memories when those who support them outlive their usefulness. Far too many believers have put their trust in a president’s ability to do their bidding, forgetting that earthly power does not work that way. If we are honest we may have to admit that we are guilty of what Israel was guilty of, when it comes to making men out to be our political saviors.
A little closer to home, we may find that much of our ministry, perhaps even our outlook on our own life of faith, is being driven by what men fear apart from fearing God. Sadly men and women of God can be driven and mastered by…
- The fear of failure
- The fear of success
- The fear of being passed over
- The fear of not having enough provision
- The fear of not getting the credit we feel we deserve
- The fear of loss
- The fear of being irrelevant
- The fear of not being good enough
- The fear of being found out a fraud
Perhaps there are more, but let me give you a practical example of how this fear creeps in and drives us from trust of God, very subtlely.
On September 27 ReviveOHIO in Seneca County began a 15 day run, that was truly God moving in mighty ways. Scheduled for 7 days originally, we began going out in teams comprised of ReviveOHIO team members and pastors and congregation members from 27 different churches of like minded faith around Seneca County. Over the next seven days, Baptists, United Brethren, Methodists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Non-denominationals, trained, prayed, ministered to the lost in evangelism, ate, worshiped and fellowshipped together.
The results were amazing… multitudes saved, many physical healings encountered, several public baptisms and several commitments for one year of discipleship occurred. In addition, we experienced God weaving together the hearts of dedicated Christ followers, from many different denominational backgrounds; all in the sweetness of the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace.
As we approached day five it was apparent we needed to extend, knowing God was only beginning. After another two days we prayed, seeking the Lord if we would extend again. We were all tired and agreed the harvest was plentiful, but had not enough laborers. As pastors and leaders from Seneca County and ReviveOHIO team members gathered together privately, we were told Time to Revive (the parent organization of ReviveOHIO), had been led to bring their entire organization to Seneca County should we extend, to aid in the harvest.
What did this mean? In the first place God answered our prayers. Secondly He answered them in a huge way; 67 more full time “Time to Revive” evangelists were coming to help for at least two days. We were blown away and speechless. Someone suggested we get on our faces before God, but the fear of man crept in and began to drive us.
“Where will they stay?”
“Where are we going to secure enough food?”
“How long with this continue?”
“Where are we going to host lunch?”
“Will this cost more money?”
This normal logistical questioning is assumed allowable, but is it in the face of God’s leading to humble ourselves? This banter lasted about five minutes or less, until a very humble and wise sister in Christ from ReviveOhio spoke up “Our brother said we need to get on our face before God; I believe this is God’s instruction”.
Without hesitation, we moved in unison. Without hesitation, the LORD moved on us. We did not rise for 45 minutes, as we cried out to God in praise, joy, humility and faith. Praise the Lord for her courage, because had she not spoke up, fear would have driven us from meeting God that day in a special and tangible way, as we pursued getting our ducks in a row like lost men.
As I reflect on this, I must admit that I have allowed fear to drive me hard in my life. It was a fear of losing my children to the world, that led me at times to be overbearing with my children, as I tried to protect the call of God on their life. I am grateful that Jesus has healed the hurt that led to this, and now I am enjoying a season of trust in the Lord, that I have too little experienced prior to the last few years.
Remember, what you fear will master you. Better to have Christ as your master, than the myriad of wealth, power and provision, a fear driven life may produce. The Lord has said it best for us…
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Ask yourself dear saint of God “What fears may at times be driving me?”