Cruciform Priorities: Living Like Apostles Today

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:32-34)

Jesus wants these first apostles to have their priorities set ahead of time about Him. When Matthew writes this Gospel, the reality of persecution of early Christians was real. Like Daniel’s friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—the early followers of Jesus regularly had to decide if they were going to hold to their faith in God publicly or not. Would they burn incense to the Roman Emperor and confess Caesar as Lord or would they refrain from this and confess Jesus as Lord? They may not have been thrown into a fiery furnace, but many early Christians were thrown to the beasts in gladiatorial coliseums.

In a culture increasingly hostile toward Jesus and Christianity, what about us? Even as Christians may be mocked or ridiculed, are we willing still to acknowledge Jesus as Lord?

Jesus says those who acknowledge Him before others, He will acknowledge before God in the heavenly throne room. But whoever disowns Jesus publicly in our lives will be disowned by Jesus before the Father. These are such strong words here. What are we to do with them when we fail in our dedication?

Biblical scholar R. T. France offers Peter as a stark example of disowning Jesus under pressure. Peter felt the weight of his denial, but he also was rehabilitated by Jesus after his denial.

Peter’s denial was a failure along the line of his life which was lived under the lordship of Jesus. The overall direction of his life was about acknowledging Jesus as Lord. In fact, church tradition tells us that Peter was martyred for his faith. So, too, with us. The overall direction of our lives makes the difference here. We can ask ourselves: am I steadily walking with Jesus and acknowledging Him before others, or have I turned my back upon Him? 

It’s not only in relation to the anonymous public and crowd that Jesus calls for priority, but also closer to Him in our family and friend relationships. While we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, there are times when we must make a decision, even between following Jesus and following our families.

When a young man in another part of the world where persecution of Christians is normal became a follower of Jesus, he knew it would come at the cost of his family rejecting him. This is exactly what they did, and he was cast out upon the streets to survive. God has been faithful, but his path of following Jesus has been arduous.

This text is so relevant for us today, even in the wake of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Although this may sound strange, the church of Jesus Christ is not just about building happy families. Of course, we hope that does happen, but, even more importantly, we exist to develop strong disciples in Jesus Christ. When everything is put under the lordship of Christ, then our family relationships, our friendships, and all other things find their right place and priority in relation to Jesus.

We may have moments when our family members will look down on us or not invite us to things because of our commitment to Christ. We may have friends who will turn away from us, labeling us as one of the problems in our society or seeing us as close-minded because of our commitment to the teaching of Christ. While we don’t want to unnecessarily put stumbling blocks in peoples’ way by being stubborn, self-righteous, or foolish, we will have moments when we encounter a strong conflict of priorities. And the question will arise, “Do we love Jesus more than anyone or anything else?”

All of this sets up one of the most memorable and significant statements of Jesus about following him as disciples. Let me read it again.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39)

Our priority as disciples must be to live a cruciform life; a life that is conformed to the Cross of Christ. The cross was a symbol of humiliation and execution, but through Christ we realize that this Cross is also the symbol of life and love. Here we have the most amazing picture of what it looks like to be a disciple. We yield all our life to God, we let go of our own power and self-rule, and we die to ourselves. Simultaneously, the Cross is liberation from sin and the darkness of an upside-down world. It is the doorway into real life with God through the loving embrace of Christ. What is it worth to us to pursue Jesus?

Living with the Right Kind of Fear

“Do 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.” (Matthew 10:28)

What are you afraid of? For me, one of my main fears over the years was the fear of heights.

For years I did what anyone would normally do when afraid of heights. I avoided leaning too far out from the side of cliffs and didn’t necessarily go to the viewing areas of tall buildings. But then my friend, Dale, was celebrating his 40th birthday and invited anyone who wanted to join him to go skydiving.

What better way to conquer a fear than to jump out of the side of an airplane thousands of feet above the earth? What could really go wrong? Well…a lot…but here I stand before you…a lot less afraid of heights than before.

Jesus says His people need to have the right kind of fear. Some of their fears, like the fear of physical suffering or fear of those in authorities, need to be reduced and put into perspective. Physical suffering is not good. Those with authority do often misuse their authority, and none of that is good. Jesus is not saying such things are good or even that they’re trivial. But He is saying that such troubles are not nearly as bad as facing not only physical but spiritual destruction in hell. In a sense, he’s saying we need to be afraid of the right things.

One theme throughout the Bible is that there is wrong fears and right fears. And the most important fear to have is an appropriate fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is not terror of God smiting us, but fitting reverence for who God is. Fear of the Lord should motivate us more than fear of suffering. To put it another way, our reverence for God should be stronger than our reverence for our own safety or for preserving our physical bodies.

When I consider this, I think of believers we are connected with who live in other parts of the world where religious persecution is real and regular. There are believers we know who are right now imprisoned for their faith. The outcome is unclear and the timing is undefined. They have endured hardship, sickness, and hunger while imprisoned. It is risky for others to bring them supplies, even in this situation. They trust themselves to God even in the face of their fears because God is bigger than their captors and their suffering.

And what about us? What do we fear in relation to our faith? What do we fear about sharing Jesus with others? What anxieties hold us back from asking someone if we can pray for them?

Jesus says that God knows us, even down to the number of hairs upon our head. Jesus says that God knows the sparrow, even when one drops dead to the ground.“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). We need to fear the right things and trust the right things. Jesus says to the apostles, and through them to us, that we can rest in God’s care and focus our lives on appropriate reverence for God. This will help us have the right focus as we live our lives on mission for God in this world.

The Messiah Sends, part 2

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” by looking at Matthew 10:26-11:1. This is the second part of Jesus’ commissioning discourse which followed His calling of the twelve apostles. You may want to take a look at Nic Fridenmaker’s message from last week, which explores the first part of this teaching by Jesus.

Here, I talk about how Jesus sends His people out with the right focus, the right priorities, and the right end-goal.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Sent with the Right Kind of Fear (10:26-31)

  • Do not fear physical suffering
  • Do have appropriate fear of God
  • Living with real reverence and trust

Sent with the Right Kind of Priorities (10:32-39)

  • Acknowledging Jesus publicly in our lives
  • Loving Jesus more than anyone else
  • The reality of suffering in the disciple-life
  • Living to find real life

Sent for the Right Kind of Reward (10:40-42)

  • The reward of welcoming Jesus
  • The reward of welcoming Jesus’ people
  • Living for a real reward

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ call to mission in one or more of the following ways:

  • Consider memorizing Matthew 10:38-39
  • Take some time in prayer this week to consider what it means for you to take up your cross in pursuit of Jesus. What competing loves and allegiances do you need to lay down or put in their right place? In what specific ways might you need to step forward into true discipleship with Jesus?
  • In order to reflect more deeply on this passage, select one or more of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 10:26-42 to sketch, ink, or paint. As you do that, prayerfully reflect on Jesus’ calling on your own life.
  • Pray for yourself, your friends or family, your small group, and Eastbrook Church, that God would strengthen us as His people to walk with Him and join His mission.

Eastbrook at Home – June 20, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM.

Today is Father’s Day, so send some love to all those who have served as father figures in your life in some way.

We also continue our preaching series, “The Messiah’s Mission,” as I preach from Matthew 10:26-11:1 on the second half of Jesus’ commissioning discourse for the Twelve.

This series continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes previous series “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” and “Becoming Real.”

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, and you no longer need to RSVP ahead of time.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

The Messiah Sends

This past weekend at Eastbrook, Pastor Nic Fridenmaker continued our series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” by looking at Matthew 9:35-10:25. This is the first of two messages on Jesus’ extended commissioning discourse after calling the Twelve Apostles.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

The Disciples called (9:35-10:1)

  • Jesus’ Heart
  • Jesus’ Focus
  • Jesus’ Need

The Apostles formed (10:2-15)

  • Jesus’ Servants
  • Jesus’ Message
  • Jesus’ Way

The Apostles warned (10:16-25)

  • Jesus’ Reality
  • Jesus’ Insight
  • Jesus’ Family

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ compassion and the Gospel: