For it is by grace you have been saved...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Are You Ashamed of the Gospel?

Are we ashamed of the gospel?  How many of our neighbors, our coworkers, have no idea about our claim to know Christ?  How many could look at our lives, watch how we live day in and day out, and they would be shocked when they learned that we claim to be followers of Christ?  How many of us act embarrassed to be Christians by not sharing Him, and act as if we’re ashamed of Him by not living according to His will day in and day out?  How often do we just want to keep it to ourselves?

In Romans 1 Paul is writing to the church at Rome, telling of his desire to visit them, to minister to them, to share Christ with them.  And in the process he writes these very well known words about not being ashamed of the gospel.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
(Romans 1:16-17, ESV)     

 I am not ashamed of the gospel.  I am not ashamed.  Remember, Paul didn’t gain much in this world by his association with Christ, did he?  In fact, quite the opposite.  His preaching of the gospel led to so much suffering, and so much hardship, and so many trials, figuratively and literally, that it would be easy to see how some might think he’d just start keeping it to himself.  Easy to see why many had done just that.  But Paul says, I am not ashamed, for the power of God is in this gospel; the righteousness of God revealed in faith, by faith, and for faith.  Like Peter and John before him, Paul testifies that he can’t help but speak of what he has seen and heard in Christ.

How does that differ from our own life and testimony of Christ?  I know that most of us would say that we are not ashamed of Christ.  We know this verse, have repeated it, would say that it’s our confession as well.  But does the evidence of our lives match up to that?

The truth of the matter is that we can act as if we are ashamed of the gospel in more ways than one.  In fact, just looking at what Paul says here about the gospel message and the power of it, I think we can see at least three ways that we can act ashamed of the gospel.

I. Number one, we can do that by a LACK OF FAITH.  We lack faith by sometimes acting like we have to add something else to the gospel for salvation.  We say salvation is by faith alone, but then we act as if faith isn’t sufficient.  We think we have to add to it.  Salvation is by faith and baptism; faith and church attendance; faith and good works. Baptism and church membership and good works and all sorts of other service to God; those are all good.  Those are commanded. But they are not necessary for salvation.

All you need to be saved is to be dead, because Christ came to give life to the dead, to redeem those enslaved to sin.  His work on the cross was sufficient to accomplish that.  His blood is sufficient to save each and every person for whom God sent Jesus to die.  His sacrifice was enough; He paid the price in full.  Nothing needs to be added to it.  If we suggest otherwise, it’s as if we’re ashamed of the gospel of free grace; embarrassed by it.

We can lack faith by acting as if there are those God can’t save as well.  The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women and children.  But sometimes we lack the faith to believe that God can save that person.  We act as if the gospel isn’t strong enough to save those radical Muslims, or that pagan Hollywood star, or even that total pagan next door.  So we don’t pray for them, we don’t reach out to them.  

We lack the faith to believe that Christ’s grace is sufficient even for them.  We forget the simple truth that if God can forgive me, He can forgive anyone.  If the gospel can save me, no one is beyond reach.  And a lack of faith in that is the same as being ashamed of the gospel.   The gospel is sufficient; sufficient for me; sufficient for you; sufficient for all those whom God would save.  So let’s trust it and proclaim it.
II. Number two, we can act ashamed of the gospel through a LACK OF OBEDIENCE.  Paul says that we are to live by faith.  That means not only trusting in the sufficiency of the gospel for our salvation, but trusting in the sufficiency of the gospel for our entire lives.  That means living in obedience to His commands, living according to His Word, living as light in this world of darkness.  But so often we act as if we’re ashamed of this life we’ve been called to, and so we just ignore it, and we choose instead to live like the world so we fit in and don’t embarrass ourselves.

Folks, if you truly live for Christ, I’ve got news for you.  You will stand out.  Charles Spurgeon once said, “If we be true to our Master we shall soon lose the friendship of the world. The sinful find our conversation distasteful; in our pursuits the carnal have no interest; things dear to us are dross to worldlings, while things precious to them are contemptible to us.”

And yet how often do we act like what’s precious to them is precious to us as well, and how often do our conversations so resemble those of the world that the sinful would find nothing distasteful in them at all; our pursuits are the same; our desires the same.  The truth is that our lives are often so much like the world that they can’t tell the difference.  Our lack of obedience to the Word of God, our lack of conformity to His righteousness, our lack of living by faith, causes us to look so much like the world that we just blend right in.

Whether you realize it or not, those very actions demonstrate that we are ashamed of the gospel.  Just remember this one thing.  Jesus Himself says in Matthew 10:22 that “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  And that’s not just a reference to our words.  We can deny Him by a lack of faith, and we can deny Him by a lack of obedience to His Word, His will and His way.  But of course, it most certainly does apply to our words, doesn’t it?

III. So, number three, we can act ashamed of the gospel through a LACK OF TESTIMONY.  Back up one verse here in Romans 1 and look at what Paul says there.  Verse 15: “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”  I can’t wait to come and tell you about Christ.  I can’t wait to tell you what the gospel has done for me and continues to do for me.

Remember this, Paul is writing to the church.  He’s writing to folks who have already heard and believed the gospel message.  Yet he’s still eager to come and preach the gospel to them, the remind them of the power of the gospel, to remind them that the gospel is by faith, from faith, and for faith.  That means it has an ongoing power in our lives even after that initial justification.

The gospel isn’t just for lost sinners out there.  It’s for saved sinners in here.  It reminds us that our lives are indeed by grace through faith in all aspects.  We live by faith each day, we live dependent on the gospel each day, and so we ought to be eager to preach it to one another, to share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as to share it with those around us.  We ought to be eager to share Christ with anyone and everyone we can.

Yet so often we keep silent.  So often we act as if we’re ashamed.  We don’t want folks to laugh at us, we don’t want them to think we’re fanatics or anything.  And so we keep our mouths closed.  Again, Jesus’ words whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.  Of course the verse right before that tells us the opposite as well: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”

 How often have you acknowledge Christ before men in the last week, or the last month, or the last year even?  How many times have you stepped out in faith, knowing that the power is in the gospel; stepped out and lived in obedience to the word of God in spite of what others thought, stepped out and spoken openly and boldly about the good of Jesus Christ and what He’s done in your life?  Are you ashamed of the gospel?  Here’s an idea.  Why don’t you get offline right now and go share Christ with someone!

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