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Renouncing the Fear of Man

May 14, 2023

Teacher: Phil Sasser
Scripture: Proverbs 29:25


Today we will be considering the topic of the Fear of Man and the problems it produces in our lives. Our opening text will be Proverbs 29:25 so please turn there now. Josiah will give the public reading of that verse and a couple of others that are pertinent to the topic. Stand if you are able. Some of us will be sitting with our bodies but standing in our hearts at the reading of God’s word. Josiah…

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

You may or may not know this but the most common command given to us in the Bible is: Fear Not. It occurs over 200 times in the Bible if we add to it commands like “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear,” “be anxious for nothing,” “Do not worry,” Do not be dismayed”. Again it is the most repeated command in all of the Bible and perhaps the easiest to fail. Now a close second to that is the command to “fear the Lord” which, we shall see, is the all-important replacement for the fear of man.

I believe the reason that “fear not” is repeated so much is that we’re all afraid sometimes. That is human condition after the fall. But it is just because fear is so prevalent that we must learn which fears are “wise fears” and which are “unwise and/or sinful fears.”

What this text in Proverbs 29 teaches us, along with a myriad of other scriptures is that the inappropriate/sinful fear of man must be replaced by a trust in God with whom there is safety. I think this sermon is relevant to every person, no matter your age or station in life. The Bible speaks to our fears and it brings clarity where there can be confusion.

This sermon will have four points:

  • What is the fear of man?
  • Why is it a snare?
  • How can we avoid these snares?
  • Living Coram Deo

Before we dive into the text, allow me to pray for us: Pastoral Prayer

Book Recommendation: When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch

Our first point is:

I. What is the Fear of Man?

First let me say what I don’t mean. This text and the other texts we’ll read today aren’t speaking primarily about any king of fear. Or phobia. There are a great many kinds of fears that people have.

Some people have had personal tragedy in their lives or the lives of their loved ones, and they carry that with them sometimes all their lives.

I’m not saying God cannot minister to those fears and help people to experience his comfort and healing. He can and does.

What Solomon seems to have in mind here is a fear that is chosen. Decided upon. Fear of a person or people instead of choosing to fear God.

Second, let me say that we are called by God to “fear” and obey certain people.

Parents are to be honored, respected, and obeyed by their children. That is an outworking of the fear of the Lord.

Civil Magistrates: think law-enforcement officers.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)

Church Discipline

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. (1 Timothy 5:20-21)

Partiality in judgments is one of the manifestations of the fear of man. God hates unjust judgments.


Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

But: Never obey someone who tells you to sin. Whether King, or magistrate, or pastor, or parent, or friend, or teacher. Be careful that they’re really asking you to sin, but if you they are, don’t obey. For conscience sake before God you must not obey.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Definition of the fear of man: To revere and obey people rather than honoring and obeying God. When we fear man, people become really important to us. More important than God.

Whenever we make too much of man, inevitably God will become small and distant in our eyes. The people before us will dominate our attention. We will fear them.

You obey the one you fear. God clearly commanded Israel to fear him, and not the nations around them.

If you say in your heart, “These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?” you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. (Deuteronomy 7:17-19)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

And it’s not just an OT thing. Consider these words of Jesus:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

To fear a person or people more than you fear God. You want to please them more than you want to please God. It means that you fear their disapproval more than the disapproval of God.

Why would we do that? Why do we have fear of man. Inappropriate fear. Sinful fear.

For one thing, people can seem to be so much nearer than God is. And, in one way of thinking, fear of man works. People commit as many crimes as they would have otherwise because of the fear of going to prison. But God is near. He is nearer to you than any human could possibly be.

Secondly, and related to that, the supposed rewards for fearing them are seemingly immediate. They like you, sort of, right now. They accept you, only of course that you continue to play by their rules. They accept you, as long as you play by their rules. And they will make much of you as long as you allow them that kind of power over you.

If you need people’s approval, if you need their acceptance, you allow them to have a kind of power over you. And when you yield that power to them you will, sooner or later, forget God and his call on your life. Your true purpose gets distorted or abandoned and you will compromise your Christian convictions.

Thirdly, and related to the last point, we fear other people because they can hurt us if we don’t please them. Your boss can have you fired not because you underperformed at your job but because you’ve gone public with your Christian beliefs which run directly counter to the prevailing cultural winds. When those winds become institutionalized, then persecution becomes inevitable. This persecution was predicted in the NT and we have no reason to think it won’t happen apart from God’s mercy. Will we be prepared for that day? Will you be prepared for that day.

Finally another possible reason for your compromise is that you do know that God is near but you think he really doesn’t care what you say or do. The fear of man will cause you to become a functional atheist. You say you believe in God but your belief has nothing to do with the way you live your life.

I have alluded to why the fear of man is wrong, let’s go to the second component of this text.

II. Why is it a snare?

Let’s first consider what a snare is. A snare is a trap that the victim doesn’t see coming. At least he doesn’t see the deadly part. The snare is made to look appealing. It may entice you with something you want like the cheese in the mouse trap.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (Proverbs 13:14)

In this proverb death is personified as one who tries to entrap the naive and those that refuse to listen to the teaching of the wise.

It is similar to Peter’s warning in 1 Peter:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

And the devil is still snaring and eating the unsuspecting.

Why will the Fear of Man prove to be a snare?

It will not deliver as advertised. It promises help and reward and happiness and all it delivers is hypocrisy, guilt, and weakness, destruction, depression, addiction—all manner of pain.

It will make dependent upon other people’s approval. You become a people pleaser. But the price will keep going up. You will have to keep performing. Seeking their affirmation

It causes Christians to compromise their Bible-informed consciences. It will lead you to sin.

It keeps people from following Christ. I have a good friend that I have known for over 50 years. I was able share the gospel with him and he was genuinely affected. But finally he said, “if I were to become a Christian my entire family would disown me.” That was it. The determining factor, humanly speaking.

I had a similar experience with a man who, because of his wife, refused to even talk about it anymore.

It will compromise your usefulness for Christ. And that’s bad. You can’t serve two masters.

Biblical Examples:

Pontus Pilate – He committed the worst misadministration of justice in the history of the world. His wife, who had suffered in her dreams because of Jesus, told her husband not to have anything to do with trying Jesus. And he publicly said that neither he nor Herod could find any evidence that Jesus had done wrong. But he commanded the crucifixion of our Lord because of his fear of man: the Jewish mob and ultimately Caesar. Fear of man can be powerful. And this is easy to see with political figures, how easily they compromise in order to stay in power.

King Saul – He forfeited his throne because he fear the people.

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. (1 Samuel 15:24)

Peter – He betrayed Jesus, his master for whom he had sworn his loyalty. He wept bitterly when the cock crowed. Guilt with a capital G.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearingthe circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:13)

Some Jewish leaders:

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:41-43)

The fear of man, in this case the of the Pharisees, kept even those who had some believed in him (at some level), too afraid to confess it. They loved the approval of man more than God’s approval. The glory of man.

Abraham deceived Abimelech into thinking that Sarah wasn’t his wife and was available to the king. Fear can tempt you to do terrible things. It doesn’t matter what you spiritual pedigree is.

How can we avoid this snare?

Consider Jesus

I do not receive glory from people…How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:41, 44)

Jesus is rebuking the religious leaders of his day. He had just healed a man who had been lame for 38 years and they were besides themselves because they were searching for glory for themselves from men and they weren’t searching for the glory of God. They thought they understood the OT, but they didn’t because if they had they would have understood that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus, on the other hand, only sought the glory of God.

Even the Pharisees recognized his integrity and his rejection of the fear of man.

And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Matthew 22:16)

The only voice that matter to Jesus, was the voice of the Father. Whether it was the voice of the masses or the voices of his enemies, or the voice of his friends, still the only voice that mattered was the voice of the Father.

Examine yourself.

Are you controlled by the fear of man?

Do you need other people’s friendship in an unhealthy way? Unwise. Sinful.

Do you crave their approval and affirmation more than God’s?

How do you feel when you don’t get that attention, love, acceptance, or approval?

“All experiences of the fear of man share at least one common feature: people are big. They have grown to idolatrous proportions in our lives. They control us. Since there is no room in our hearts to worship both God and people, whenever people are big, God is not. Therefore, the first task in escaping the snare of the fear of man is to know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people” – Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small

Embrace discipleship. Becoming a follower of Jesus.

Jesus often confronted those who feared other people to the extent that they refused to identify with Jesus.

We already read John 12, where there were those who believed in Jesus, but would confess him because of their fear of man.

Jesus could say some hard things to those who be his disciples.

The rich young ruler. “take and sell all that you have and give it to the poor and come follow me.”

There was the time when a guy wanted to follow Jesus, but wanted to bury his father first. To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9)

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27)

What do you think when you read these verses? Do they really land on you? I hope so. I hope that the young people (and everybody) in this church will be an uncompromising disciple of Jesus Christ. Hard-core.

I talked to a couple recently (not in our church) who has been cancelled by some of their children because the parents took a biblical stand against homosexuality. My heart saddened for them. But I said, you know this situation is in the Bible.

The baptism:

Gird your loins church. Satan is coming down with great wrath knowing his time is short. (Revelation 12:12)

And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:12)

It’s always been this way, and probably will be until the return of the Lord.

According to Proverbs 29:25 the antidote for the fear of man is trusting in the Lord.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Prov 29:25)

When John preached on Proverbs 3 a few weeks ago, he was contrasting trusting in the Lord and not trusting in yourself. A wonderful word we need to hear.

In our text today, trusting in the Lord is contrasted with the fear of man. The fear of man leads to a snare, but trusting in the Lord is safe. Just meditate on that word safe. You are safe with Jesus. You are safe in the arms of Jesus (Fanny Crosby)

III. How do you get loose from the trap? Trust in the Lord.

He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He delivers on what he promises. He will always be with you and though you walk through the valley of death you don’t have to fear evil for he will be with you.

He knows everything about you, and he loves you. And if you come to him in simple childlike faith he will accept you and he will never reject you.

This is the antidote for the poison of the fear of man. In a very real sense, you’ve taken poison and you desperately need an antidote for that poison. Trust in the Lord and you will be safe.

This will bring your relationships to other people into God’s intended order. If you don’t need people to supply what God can provide, then you don’t “need” them and you are then free to love them.

Need them less, love them more.

Conclusion: Living Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a Latin term used a lot by the 16th century reformers and it means Before the Face of God

I said earlier that one of the reasons why we are intimidated by other people is that they are right in front of us and we can see them, even if it’s on a screen. God, on the other hand, is not visible to us. He has chosen to reveal himself in other ways. Through his Word and by the Holy Spirit. And many of us can testify to fact that we do experience the presence of God by those means. Remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was after Jesus had vanished and they said, to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” That happens. And then there is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that testifies to our spirits that we are children of God.

But, still, if we are not attentive to reading the Word and engaging with the Holy Spirit, God can seem very far away compared to the nearness of other people. They get big in our eyes and God gets very small.

Living Coram Deo means that we are intentionally are aware of God. We are proactive in thinking about God first. It means that we develop a spiritual sensitivity to God that brings him into focus in every relationship.

Living Coram Deo means living in the presence of God.

It means living under the authority of God. That doing his will takes precedence over the will of others. That we fear him, more than we fear other people. It means we long for his approval and not the approval someone who wants you to sin. It means trusting God and not fearing man.

This is a hypothetical situation to illustrate a point. What if God spoke in an audible voice and said to you, “you are my son, or you are my daughter, and I am pleased with you.” Do you think that would affect you? Would you then care what anybody thought of you.

Do I think that will actually happen to you? No, probably not. But I have experienced God speaking that to me in my heart. And many others have, too. It comes from knowing what God’s will is in a situation and then responding appropriately. You can sense the approval of God.

And once you know in your heart what God wants you to do, you become very dangerous to the devil. If you’re not sure what God’s will is you’re in weak position. But if you know for sure, then you’ll be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Living Coram Deo means living for the glory of God. Not for the glory of man. You were made and redeemed for this very purpose: to Glorify God. To live your life for his glory.

Let us determine to live our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, for the glory of God. Amen?


O God most high, we acknowledge today that you are the only God and God over all. Father, grant us the strength to resist the temptation to sin, to fear man instead of you, and give us your grace that might trust you in everything because you are worthy of our trust. O faithful God, we take refuge in the safety of your arms.

Now the God who is mighty, the Lamb who is worthy, and the Spirit who is near, strengthen you to live faithfully in these evil days and all the days until Jesus comes. Amen.

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