“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)
There are certain verses in the Bible that give me a real long pause. This is one of them.
In this passage, Jesus is telling us how He will respond to the Father on our behalf. If we acknowledge Jesus “before men,” then there will be a positive acknowledgement on our behalf to God the Father. But if our witness for Jesus is shown as a denial, He will also “deny” us before God.
For me, there are a lot of questions that flow out of this:
- When do I actually acknowledge Jesus before men?
- How am I doing at acknowledging Him?
- Have I ever denied Jesus before me?
- Do I deny Him and not really know it?
- What about all of those times in the past when I may not have done my best?
- Does this relate to one big event where I have to acknowledge Jesus?
- And what if I blow it at that one big event?
The questions could go on and on for me, but what I really want to know for sure is that Jesus would give me a positive recommendations before my heavenly Father. So how can we be sure of this? To help, here are some things to consider.
First, we need so make sure that we actually have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10 helps to explain how we can have this relationship:
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)
As we can see from this passage, there appear to be two central things that occur. We see that there is something that changes in a person’s heart and we then hear an outward confession of Jesus Christ. A heart change can only occur from God’s gospel and His Spirit being at work and once that work has occurred, there is a willingness — and need — to confess what has happened.
The gospel is telling us that we are sinners and we are told that the penalty for our sin is death. Because of this we a need a Savior that can reconcile us back to God by paying our penalty on our behalf. We have this in Jesus. And when we accept Him by faith, we receive a pardon for our sins and the ultimate reward of eternal life with God.
Naturally, our response will be to tell the world!
Once we know Jesus, we are commanded to walk as He did. We are told this in Colossians 2:6:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. (Colossians 2:6 ESV)
Christianity isn’t simply a one-time decision. It’s a lifetime and lifestyle of following Jesus Christ. He came to give us life and to give us that life abundantly, but that life is found in Him. We can best live this life when we daily choose to follow Christ as we read in Luke 9:23:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)
Once we are followers of Christ, we will want to obey Him and one of the principle commands He gives us is to multiply His gospel message so as to make more disciples. We read this in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
Making disciples, by its very nature, would involve “confessing Jesus.” It would be very hard to simply show someone Jesus, as if painting a picture. Calling others to follow the Christ would obviously involve a “call” as we explain the need for a Savior and the purpose of serving Him.
Following Jesus Christ does not mean that we will be perfect. Hopefully, as we practice following Jesus there should some sort of change in our behavior. Hopefully, if we came to Christ while committing outward, egregious sins those would decrease. But…as we draw closer to Christ and as He continues His sanctifying work in us, we may actually find that we are even more aware of sinful practices in our lives, even though the world outside of us may not see them as we do! What I’m trying to say is that we will be sinners until we are called to be with the Lord and because of this, we should continually practice repentance until we see Him.
We are told how to do this in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)
Getting to Christ can be very difficult. The period in our lives before we understand the gospel can be dark and lonely with lots of damage done. We may have all sorts of habits and practices that make letting go and accepting Christ hard, but accepting Jesus as our Savior involves nothing more than reaching out, like a beggar, to take the crust of bread that is being handed to us.
Once we are His, the world will try to tear us away from Him. Satan will try to drive a divide between Christ and us. But once we are in Christ, nothing will snatch us away from Him as we are told in John 10:28:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28 ESV)
We aren’t promised an easy life in Jesus, but we are promised life in Him.
So what does all of this have to do with Jesus giving a positive witness for us? Everything.
We are called to the perfection of Jesus Christ, but we will never live up to it. Therefore, we are constantly called back to His gospel message. And when we constantly go back to His gospel, we are reminded to constantly confess Him.
If we are in Him we should certainly fear Him — because God has the power to destroy the body and soul in hell — but as long as we are truly clinging by faith to His gospel message we don’t have to fear that He will deny us before His Father. Instead, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.