Monday, June 29, 2009

I Am Not Ashamed

Have you ever thought to ask a Christian whether or not they were 'ashamed' of the Gospel - you know, the birth, life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Think about it, you'd have to be selective wouldn't you? Who came to mind? If anyone did, why them in particular? You wouldn't think to ask the question of someone who was obviously unashamed, right? So, let's say you actually decided to ask the first person who came to mind - do you really think they'd admit to it, if in fact they were ashamed of any part or all that is associated with the 'good news?' I'd guess probably not.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God (Romans 1:1) wrote, 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ...' (Romans 1:16). By itself, Paul's definitive statement 'I am not ashamed' to the church in Rome implies that it is possible for a someone who has 'believed' to be ashamed. The fact that he made such a statement is sufficient evidence that there must have been believers who were presently struggling with the issue Paul aptly pivoted upon. The fact that Paul's statement was recorded and included in our Holy manuscript means that there is also definite, hermeneutic, life application for us today.

If then it is possible to be 'ashamed', and there are 'believers' among us who are ashamed - what is the evidence? How can you tell? Who could blatantly confess being 'ashamed' and at the same time profess to be a 'believer?' Sure, a new believer might be uncertain and even unstable - but that's the result of a lack of knowledge, depth and confidence that only comes with discipleship, devotion and time - not the result of being 'ashamed.'

I propose that those who are 'ashamed' - those who are embarrassed to be at once a servant of Jesus Christ, sent and separated unto the Gospel, as Paul was - do not believe. Ultimately, it is those who do not believe the full gospel that are subsequently ashamed of the gospel. I know people in this sad condition; some of them were close friends, some of them are still in full-time 'ministry', others have 'backslidden' and made absolute wrecks of their lives altogether.

Of course, they won't admit it. It is not what is said, but what is done that speaks volumes - actions speak louder than words.
The behavior of the 'unbelieving' and sure signs of the 'ashamed' are attempts to reason tradition away with new, progressive revelation (and ironically, new traditions), to question longstanding, culturally appropriate and principled standards and convictions (and replace them, ironically, with new standards) aimed towards undermining and eventually eroding away core, seminal, foundational and transcendent, doctrinal truths. Afterall, if you aren't ashamed, you don't have a problem believing. It's rarely the new convert who second guesses giving anything up for the new found joy - it's usually the coddled blue bloods who've been around, handed everything, and know relatively little else. Many times, it is the same entitlement mentality, and the assumption that they 'know more' and 'can't be taught anything' because of their heritage or the bitterness stemming from personal encounters with hypocrisy and inconsistency in ministry that is their folly.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Paul instructed the church in Thessalonica to 'know them that labor among you - and are over you...'(I Thess. 5:12). It is easier said than done, easier discussed in seminary and preached from a pulpit than lived during the week - but that's where the true test is passed. Are you ashamed or not? It's not about what is easier, more convenient, or generally accepted in the community. It's not even really about our preference, what is relevant or relative - it's about carrying the cross daily. Jesus said, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily , and follow me.' The way of the cross is a reasonable service that requires sacrifice of self - not accommodation of self.

There are those who are not willing to do that. Knowing this, Jesus said, 'whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged , if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away ? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.'

Our unwillingness to carry our cross, and make the necessary sacrifices of self is connected with 'shame.' I'm not looking for a lighter cross. Yes, the load may be heavy to bear at times, but that suits the Christian posture well - especially the believer who is following for a trail - a trail traced in blood, the spotless blood of the Lamb Who gave His life for me.

'For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth...'(Romans 1:16).

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