The Truth Unveiled ~ The Mystery of a Loving God
What Happens if we Deny Him?
26"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10: 26-31 (NIV)
I hear Jesus speaking to a group of intimate friends here. He sits on a nearby rock, leaning forward with his forearms resting on his knees. He whittles a piece of wood. These are men that he has made himself known to. Men that he has walked with, laughed with, cried with, triumphed with. They have lain with their head on his chest. They are his best friends. His mighty men.
Now he will send them out on their first mission without the comfort of his physical presence beside them, and he speaks to them with fierce compassion. He is inspiring his friends before they go out into battle.
He reminds them (and us) that he is speaking truth and mysteries to them in the secret places and is releasing them to proclaim what he has shown them. The truth that will usher in salvation to a lost and dying world.
He sees their fear and he laughs. Imagine His fiery eyes flash with loving passion as he says, “Why are you afraid of men that can threaten to kill your body? It’s meaningless! Empty threats. You serve the God of the universe. You belong to Him. The all-powerful, ever present, all knowing Father, who happens to be fiercely in love with YOU. He could wipe out the entire planet, including you and your would-be assassins, with a single breath. And yet, of course, He will not. Even a little bird that you wouldn’t give a second thought to, does not go unnoticed by Him. Nothing can happen to that little creature that is outside of His power. His love is that expansive. That magnificent.
“Because of Our great love for you ~ the love that I have shown to you ~ you never need to be afraid. Nothing escapes Our notice. Do not EVER be afraid.”
32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 10:32-33 (NIV)
The word translated here as “disown” is also translated as “deny” in the KJV and NASV.
1) to deny
2) to deny someone
a) to deny one's self
1) to disregard his own interests or to prove false to himself
2) act entirely unlike himself
3) to deny, abnegate, abjure
4) not to accept, to reject, to refuse something offered
For years and years, God’s children have read these verses and they have incited fear. “If I deny Him ~ if I do not tell all my friends, neighbours, and grocery store clerks about Him ~ He will deny me. I could go to hell! Or at least I will suffer.” And fear is a great motivator, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, it is also short-lived, isolates us from God, and leads to performance mentality and a misguided belief that we are saved by works and not by grace.
Did we forget what Jesus just finished saying? “Do not be afraid. You are infinitely valuable to me and to my Father.”
The very next place the word “deny” or “arneomi” is used in Matthew’s book is when Peter denied Jesus. Several times, and with vigor. And yet, does Jesus deny him? No! In fact, he is on his way to suffer violently in his stead.
And not only that, but after he descends into hell, defeats death, and rises from the grave, he seeks Peter out. He invites him again into a lifelong love affair. Three times Peter denied him before men. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”
Do you remember that Peter confessed to Jesus earlier that day that he would ‘die for him’? And Jesus looked at him and said, “No you won’t. Within the next 24 hours you will deny me three times.”
Peter loved Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah. With all of his heart, he wanted to die for him, just as with all our hearts we want to stand up for him in front of our peers. But works of the flesh are never enough. In fact, they are actually sin (“Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, NASV))
For all our failures and misguided attempts to earn our salvation, we are loved by a Good Father. A God whose love for us is unmatched, unrelenting, and has only been glimpsed briefly by a people who have been taught to fear Him and regard him from a distance.
So having established that it is not as cut and dry as we have thought, and that Jesus is not strumming his fingers, waiting for us to deny him so he can reject us, I wonder why he would use this language.
I wonder if this doesn’t have to do with independence. That the denial that Jesus is talking about, while pointing at his friends with the end of the whittled wood, one by one, has to do with them choosing their own path. Perhaps this is the reason NIV translators have chosen the word “disown.”
It is also of note that the literal translation for verse 32 goes like this:
“Everyone therefore who shall confess in Me before men, I will also confess in him before My Father who is in heaven.”(NASV)
I am reminded of one of my favourite places in scripture when John records these words:
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him . . .
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
(John 14:18-21, 15:4-5)
Perhaps these verses that talk about confessing or denying, acknowledging or disowning, speak of abiding. Jesus is always in communion with His Father. He is the Father. On a moment-to-moment basis, He communicates with the Father and Spirit about each one of us. They are one.
“Is Peter acknowledging Me right now in this moment? Is he ‘in Me’? Or is he in his flesh, trying desperately to please me?”
We can to nothing apart from Him, including “acknowledging Him before men.”
“Everything I have offered you: peace, righteousness, joy, empowerment ~ all of these things are yours if you choose to abide in me and enter into this marriage with Us. But it must be your choice. Just as a husband and wife stand up before men and choose one another openly, you too are given the choice to choose. I will honour your choice. I will deny you these gifts and this empowerment if you try to operate apart from Me, because of My great love for you. There can be no other way.”
The kicker is, we know from His response to Peter’s denial, that he looks directly into our souls and sees our hearts’ desires. Even if we have a moment of weakness or fear, He will find us. Even if, like a lost sheep, we wander away from the flock, He will find us. His love is relentless. He took on every consequence of sin upon Himself. He descended to hell in our stead. And He will never stop fighting for our hearts.