Choosing Faith in Jesus means Wisdom & Innocence at Work
Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and so far in this sermon series – CALLED CHOOSING FAITH – we’ve seen that real faith in Jesus equals doing practical things as Christians like Bible reading and prayer; like loving our neighbour and regular Sabbath days of rest. Today we will see that Christian faith also expresses itself in both shrewdness and innocence in our Christian witness.
Well today I want to focus on Jesus famous words be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Jesus tells his disciples they need to make choices that are both wise (or shrewd) and yet also innocent. But what does that look like IN PRACTICE, especially as Christians face growing and more overt hostility at work and among peer?
As we begin let me tell you about Sergeant Bruno Staffieri (a 62 year old Policeman) who recently lost his job in Victorian Police, after 36 years of service (Slide 2). Bruno is a Christian and this is his recent experience of discrimination in the workplace.
Victorian Police use a private social media platform called YAMMER for internal communications. It’s a bit like a Police Instagram. Anyway the Victorian Police Commissioner announced on Yammer that they had been awarded A SILVER MEDAL – by the LGBTQIA workplace equality committee. Silver award. A heap of Police people madepositive comments. But Sergeant Bruno said (Slide 3). The Police Deputy Commissioner then rebuked Bruno publicly on Yammer. So Bruno responded that while HE RESPECTED the Departments views on LGBTQIA inclusion, but he personally held different religious views on these matters and he asked whether his personal religious views were also respected in Victoria Police. The Deputy Commissioner then replied; (Slide 4).
Shortly after this Bruno was dismissed for stating on Yammer that there are only two genders, that correspond to the biological sexes.
Apparently, that is not acceptable speech. So the Human Rights Law Alliance are now defending Bruno (pro bono) for unfair dismissal.
The end of last year you may also have heard they story of Byron and Keira Hordyk in Western Australia (Slide 5). The Hordyks are Christians and they applied to become short-term foster carers – for children in need. During the interview process they were given a hypothetical scenarios of what they might do if a foster child in their care started to identify as a homosexual. The Hordyks responded in a gracious, but biblical manner. But because they weren’t 100% supportive of lgbtqia ideology – they were found to be “NOT SUITABLE” to be foster parents. Now the Hordyks case eventually went to court and they were awarded $6000 in damages for unfair discrimination.
Now what does shrewdness and innocence look like in both these examples. Were they wise as they could be? Did they remain innocent in their answers and responses?
Point 1: Choosing Faith means discerning Peoples Receptivity to Truth
Show: Matt.10:11-15 (READ)
Explain: Well in this passage today – Jesus has just chosen the 12 disciples and he is sending them out on their first mission trip – telling them to expect some HOSTILITY. Now the disciples are 1) only sent to evangelise the Jews AND 2) they are given the ability to heal the sick and raise the dead. So our Christian MISSION and METHODOLOGY today is a bit different. But Jesus’ warning 1) to expect hostility, 2) be wise and 3) remain innocent – all still applies. Whenever the Kingdom of Light engages with the Kingdom of darkness – we need to expect hostility (and be wise) because we’re in a spiritual battle.
Now if you look at verse 11 (you’ll see) they are told to search for some WORTHY PERSON. Now theologically, we know that no person is more worthy of the gospel than any other person. We are all sinners who deserve God’s wrath. But Jesus’ definition of worthy here seems to be about receptivity to the gospel. A “worthy person” is someone who is willing to extend to the disciple’s hospitality and let them stay in their house. So Jesus is telling the disciples to use some discernment in their mission. If people are receptive and hospitable towards them, they are to share the gospel with them. But presumably, if people are hostile and not hospitable they are to move on to the next house. So the disciples are to use discernment in measuring people’s receptivity.
Then Jesus tells the disciples that as they enter the worthy persons house they are to share their peace. Now in context the word “house” probably means – household. They are to share their peace with the members of that house. And that means sharing THE GOSPEL. (GOSPEL) The fact is non-Christians do not have peace with God because they have sinned, they feel guilty and they do not know about forgiveness in Jesus. So deep down all people carry guilt, shame and a knowledge of wrongdoing. This guilt then produces fear of God and fear of God’s judgment. There is no spiritual peace.
But the good news of Jesus is that when he died on the cross – he took the punishment for all our wrongdoing. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. APPLY So if we believe Jesus died for us and we repent as best we can – God forgives us of all wrongdoing. This forgiveness from God – then restores our peace with God. We know we are forgiven. Now do you have this peace? Do you know God has forgiven you? If not, call out to Jesus today in prayer. Thank him for dying for you and ask him to forgive you. This is the only way to be saved.
But if you are a Christian Jesus wants you to share this peace with other people who are receptive to us and our faith. Now if people are then receptive A) not only of us, but also B) the gospel message – we are told to let our peace rest upon them. I take this to mean – we assure people who believe in Jesus they are forgiven – so they have peace. But if the household rejects the message of Jesus – the disciples are to SHAKE THE DUST from their feet and move on. The Jews used to shake the dust from their feet after going through a GENTILE TOWN because the Gentiles were unclean. So the disciples doing this to Jewish people was saying – you are unclean like the Gentiles. Just as we might talk about wiping our hands clean of something – to say – your blood is now on your head. So the Jews wiped the dust from their feet. BUT PLEASE NOTE the disciples aren’t told to BIBLE BASH – the unreceptive household into submission. Nor are they told to engage in endless APOLOGETICS trying to convince the house
Apply: My point is that the disciples are meant to be using some basic DISCERNMENT and WISDOM in their evangelism. They are looking for people who are receptive to them and the gospel. Where people are not receptive to them or the message of peace they are simply moving on. Now in our WORK SITUATIONS and SOCIAL NETWORKS it’s not always possible to physically move on. We need our jobs and these days good friends are hard to find. So we don’t always move on physically, but sometimes we need to move on spiritually.
On the one hand the Bible says we should ALWAYS BE READY to give an answer for the hope we have as Christians with everyone who asks (1Pet.3:15). THIS MEANS being proactive and courageous in our evangelism. But on the other hand Jesus also tells not to give to dogs what is sacred or throw our pearls to swine lest they turn on us and devour us (Matt.7:6-8). THIS MEANS being a little bit discerning of the reception we are getting. If people are hostile (and unresponsive) don’t keep pushing…
There are points and sometimes moments in time, where people become so anti-God – that they enter the realm of becoming like animals. THEY ARE NOT CAPABLE of hearing or processing the gospel. Now this saddens me deeply – but I think lots of people in Sydney (especially among the affluent, intellectual and powerful) are becoming like this. They are so proud that until God humbles them in some way – they will not and cannot process the gospel. This is simply a sad reality for some people. They’ve hardened themselves to God.
Now of course, I want to see all people saved. But there are points where we need to recognise our boss, or a particular work colleague or a friend, is so hard that you need to stop talking There comes a point where if you keep pushing with the gospel – your actually beginning to disobey Jesus words about giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls to swine. There is need for DISCERNMENT. Pushing unreceptive people is just inviting persecution and martyrdom.
NOW IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? Are you looking for persecution and martyrdom? That is a serious question. In the past some Christians have worn persecution and martyrdom as a badge of honour.
Illustrate; Around 280AD a Roman Caesar named DIOCLETIAN started to persecute Christians across the Roman Empire. Diocletian demanded Christians pay homage to all the different rainbow gods of their day OR suffer the consequences.
So a lot of Christians (especially in the more affluent, established Churches) started to be so shrewd they basically committed apostasy. Under the pretence of wisdom they engaged in false worship. Under the pretence of shrewdness they verbally supported what was grossly immoral. They were not innocent as doves. These so-called Christians were so shrewd they actually started to speak with a forked tongue like a serpent. They’d preach Jesus on Saturday and Sunday and worship Zeus Monday to Friday.
So other Christians, often from the poorer, less educated churches started to react. In North Africa the Donatists emphasized that Christians were meant to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev.2:10). Apostasy was not wisdom, it was sin. But sometimes these Christians became so focussed on proving their faithfulness to Jesus, that they stopped being wise. The final outworking of this among poor Christians in North Africa was a Christian sect called the “CIRCUMCELLIONS” or “AGNOSTICI”. In order to prove their innocence to each other – they intentionally taunted their employers, taunted the courts and even attacked the Roman authorities – in the hope that they would then be persecuted or martyred. Persecution and martyrdom became BADGES OF HONOUR that proved you were a real Christian.
So in the context of hostility A) one side of the church – so emphasised being wise and shrewd – that it was committing blatant apostasy; while B) the other side of the church so emphasised proving their faithfulness to Jesus that they were literally inviting discrimination, persecution and martyrdom – upon themselves. That’s far from wise. Sadly, I think we are seeing similar things emerge n our modern context. Again, the established affluent church is being so wise and shrewd – they are dancing on the edge of apostasy AND meanwhile some poorer, non-conformist, fringe Christians are little bit too keen to pick a fight and prove their faithfulness. I’ll let you decide which way I naturally lean. But here’s the thing – you don’t want to lose your job before it’s actually time to lose your job.
Point 2: Choosing Faith in Jesus means Wisdom and Innocence
Show: Matt.10:16-17 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see Jesus tells us to be SHREWD as snakes and INNOCENT as doves. The word shrewd has to do with judging a situation correctly. It means determining the right response in each and every circumstance. Now this is why – we read Ecclesiastes 3 today – about a time for everything. There is a time to voice your opposition to vaccines, or gender fluid ideology or abortion and there is a time to remain silent. There is a time to go to war with your boss because he is doing something criminal and there is a time to maintain peace – because you need a job to support your family. Shrewdness is knowing the right response for each and every circumstance of life.
Now as sinners we’re going to sometimes get this wrong. We’re going to HATE when we should love. Maybe we’ll LAUGH something off when we really should lament. We’re not always going to get this right.. So we’re going to need to show one another some grace in this regard. Its also worth remembering that n the evil days of Ahab and Jezebel – the prophet Elijah believed it was time for WAR, but the prophet Obadiah was still working for PEACE. So we need to be SLOW to judge others and SLOW to become self-righteous.
Meanwhile the other word is INNOCENCE means pure in the sense of uncompromised or unmixed or unadulterated. It means we are to be wise, but not worldly. Obviously, if you’re a Christian and you’re asked by your employer to 1) organise an lgbtqia event or 2) promote acceptance of a religion like Islam or Buddhism in the workplace – that’s compromising your witness and your sending out mixed messages. In order to remain INNOCENT and PURE you have to say no to certain non-Christian activities and beliefs. So your options are A) “say no” or B) be extra shrewd and take a sick day on the day of the activity. For the last 5 years my kids have always been sick on Purple Day in their schools.
There are some things Christians should simply not participate in or verbally support. However, this is on A SPECTRUM that has to do with our conscience and Christian maturity. If a company I worked for decided to put my preferred pronouns on my business card – I might not like it, but I might put up with it. But if I was asked to include a footer on my email that said “I am a proud supporter of the lgbtqia community” I would feel compelled to say no – because I can’t support what the Bible calls sin. The reality is that many of us have been working for companies that openly worship the idols of GREED and POWER (and we’ve never denounced our boss for these sins). Now I know A) the idols are changing and B) the demands on us to endorse the idolatry are perhaps increasing. But I think we still need to exercise some wisdom and grace with each other as we move forward.
Another good example is indigenous cultural and religious activity. With the VOICE REFERENDUM coming up and “WELCOME TO COUNTRY” becoming an expected norm – some companies are now bringing Aboriginal smoking ceremonies into corporate events. Now I know some aboriginal Christians – who say most of it is just cultural, don’t worry too much. But I also know other aboriginal Christians who refuse to participate in these ceremonies because of its links to spiritual animism and false worship. PERSONALLY, I would not be involved in an aboriginal smoking ceremony. But I think Aboriginal Christians have to work out for themselves what parts of their ancestry are cultural and what parts are spiritual, JUST AS Anglo Christians have to work out whether Christmas trees are just cultural or have religious roots in European paganism.
APPLY: This is wisdom and innocence. When the Egyptian Pharoah told the Hebrew midwives PUAH and SHIPRAH to kill all the baby boys – they didn’t argue with Pharoah ort accuse him of genocide. They bit their tongues and perhaps that was wisdom. But they also maintained their innocence through quiet non-compliance. They didn’t fight, but neither did they obey Pharoah’s order. Wisdom and innocence.
Similarly, when KING DARIUS OF PERSIA issued a decree forbidding the Jews from praying to God – Daniel still bit his tongue. He was one of the highest officials. But he did not oppose the law to the Kings face or enter into a big fight with those trying to trap him. Daniel simply and quietly refused to obey. Of course, this led to Daniel being thrown into the lion’s dens. But in the face of unjust laws or demands – we often see God’s people simply engage in QUIET NON-COMPLIANCE. Now when it eventually gets to this point and push comes to shove…
Point 3: Choosing Faith in Jesus means Reliance on the Holy Spirit
Show: Matt.10:17-20 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see Jesus tells the disciples to be ON THEIR GUARD. They are not to be naïve about the hostility of the world towards them and their message of peace. INSTEAD, Jesus disciples need to be on their guard against Satan and his attacks.
But at the same time – BE ON YOUR GUARD – is probably harking back to remaining shrewd and innocent. Satan is trying to lure all of us into A) non-shrewd and B) non-innocent conduct. Now some of us who see freedom of religion under attack respond with anger and. want to come out swinging. We want to prove our loyalty to Christ. We want to tell the idiots why they are wrong and why we are right. But if we speak too soon or in too angry a way – it may be foolish. If we lose our jobs too soon – 1) we stop providing for our families, 2) we become a burden on the church and 3) we stop being good stewards. So the application is – be on you’re guard, pick your fights carefully and don’t be lured by Satan into a foolish response. And remember – if push really comes to shove – the biblical response to unjust laws usually seems to be quiet, non-compliance; not all out battle with those in power. THE FACT IS – by God’s grace – you may get away with QUIET, HUMBLE NON-COMPLIANCE for a long time – while still providing for your family and remaining innocent before God.
But others of us are more prone to fear, worry and anxiety, than anger. So under threat our natural response is to stay quiet, keep our heads down and avoid confrontation. But remember that in this position – Satan may also lure you into foolishness. There comes a point – where quietness and compliance – actually becomes apostasy. So when PUSH COMES TO SHOVE (and you are being asked to participate in something you know is wrong) you also must be willing to engage in either vocal or quiet non-compliance to maintain your innocence That’s scary. Will it be the fiery furnace or the lion’s den?
So in that moment you have to rely on God’s Spirit to look after you. IN THAT MOMENT when you HAVE TO ACT to preserve your innocence you have to trust the Holy Spirit with everything. You have to trust the Holy Spirit to 1) give you the words to say and then 2) to also look after you in the consequences of choosing innocence. But if God calls you (and I mean really calls you) to suffer for His kingdom in a significant way – remember God will look after you – because God loves you He sent His Son to die for you while you were a sinner. So how much more will God be pleased with you – IF AND WHEN you choose innocence for Him. IN THAT MOMENT – you just have to trust “God loves me, I’m being as faithful as I can and I trust God will look after me.” But don’t get on your soapbox too early or be lured into the wrong fight because that is not shrewd. But equally, if and when the fight comes don’t worry, about what you’ll say or the consequences of your actions – because Jesus promise the Holy Spirit will be with you. God promises He will never leave you or forsake you. So the application is be shrewd and be innocent – and do so without PREFERRING the one or NEGLECTING the other…