Christian Character Part 8

Not Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ

The title of the message comes from Romans 1:16, another true measure of Christian Character is whether or not we are ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s read Paul’s words, beginning in Verse 15, “So, as much as it is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith : as it is written (Hab. 2:4), ‘The just shall live by faith.'”

Let’s break this passage into its moving parts: (i) “as much as it is in me”; (ii) ready to preach the gospel; (iii) not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; (iv) the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for he who believes, and in it the righteousness of God is revealed , bringing forth lives of faith and justice. What more could you ask for?

The first question is what is the gospel of Christ? Professor Vines, in his Expository Dictionary, gives us the Greek word “EUANGELION” for gospel. In English, we translate this word to gospel, meaning “good news”, as the equivalent of “EUANGELION”. In the New Testament, it denotes the good news of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Jesus Christ, to be received by faith. Thus, according to Professor Vines, an evangelist is a messenger of good news, a preacher or missionary of the Gospel of Christ. As we just read in Romans 1, Paul explained this Gospel of Christ as being the power of God to salvation for those who believe, as being the place in which the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Implicitly, Paul is here acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), as we who believe go and live “from faith to faith”.

Now, the first part of our focal passage, Romans 1:16, says, “as much as it (the gospel of Christ) is in me”: How does the gospel of Christ get into you: Paul has an explanation of this too: First, in his case, he had a special revelation from Jesus Christ himself, who put that gospel into Paul (Acts, Chapter 9, and elsewhere). But, also, in Romans 1, Paul wants us to know that God is visible to us, all around us, in the created world: Romans 1: 20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” The proof of the truth of God is all around us, but many refuse to believe it, (verse 22), refuse to let that good news get into them, professing to be wise but becoming fools. In addition, the Holy Spirit (John 16:1, 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11) provides us with guidance in the way of all truth, conviction in regards to sin, righteousness and judgment, as well as words of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, etc.)

All this brings us to the Great Commission, Matthew 28: 19-20, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. . . .” This passage, this call to “Go” is a call to evangelize, to preach, a call to discipleship and teaching for the purpose of bringing the power of God to salvation to those who professed to be wise, but had become, or were becoming, fools, because they do not recognize or glorify God, nor are they thankful to Him and for Him. In other words, the people that don’t get it, that don’t get the Gospel of Christ, by direct revelation from Jesus (like Paul), nor from the creation around them, are only going to get it by evangelism, and that requires two things: readiness to preach the Gospel, and not to be ashamed of the Gospel and its preaching.

So, how do we get ready to preach? In Acts 9, Paul was ready to preach within a few days of his personal, transforming experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In Acts 9: 9, 19 and 20, we get the timeline: Jesus confronted and blinded Paul and he was three days without sight; then, he spent some days in Damascus with the disciples he had come, and them there is this great word for a timeline, verse 20, “Immediately, he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” That was pretty quick; he preached what he knew and what he had experienced and that was enough to share the Gospel of Christ, and he was ready and not ashamed.

Paul explained this issue of readiness in two other places for us: in II Corinthians 3: 6, he explains that God has made us “sufficient as ministers of the new covenant” and in II Timothy 4:2, he says, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” So, how do you get ready: First, you know Jesus Christ, and Him crucified; second you know what that means to you (forgiveness, salvation and eternal life); third, you embark on a life of obedience and repentance in all humility; fourth, start preaching without shame; fifth, continue to learn as much of God’s word as you can. That’s it!

Now, we finally come to the meat of the matter for today: shame. Why is that such a big deal? It is because it is that one human frailty, shame, which keeps us from being fully obedient to God, from following His commands, including the commandments of Jesus, to evangelize to spread the Gospel. Shame comes from a fear of lack of ability, or from a fear of offending someone or breaking some law, or from fear of suffering and/or dying as Christ and so many others, including Paul, did. That’s it, so we have to overcome shame. Paul did it – once he met Jesus as Savior and Lord of his life, he never looked back and was never ashamed.

On the other hand, we can learn from the lesson of the dear Apostle Peter, after the Crucifixion: At first he was ashamed to preach the Gospel of Christ, even to acknowledge that he was acquainted with Jesus. In all four of the Gospels is recorded the story of Peter denying Christ three times before morning when the rooster crowed. Those denials were from shame, and we can understand, because we are under those same pressures, those same fears of unreadiness, of embarrassment, of reprisal and consequences of pain, suffering and death.

We usually find that the fundamental expression of our fears that stops us from obedience is found in nervousness. When we are nervous, we know that we know that we have gotten out of our comfort zone, or that we are being called out of it, and guess what, our flesh does not want to go, does not want to get out of comfort. It is because we are trained to be prudent, to avoid risk, and to stay comfort. Although I don’t think it takes a lot of training to prefer to stay comfortable. On a camping trip we like to rough it, but we also like comforts of home, so we try to pick the right season to go – not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry: a dry shelter, a warm sleeping bag, a fire, good food, nice weather, freedom from mosquitos and gnats, and from snakes and bears, and even from two-legged villains, as well. Yeah, we like those comforts, and we can often obtain them, because we manage the risks with equipment and planning, leaving as little left over for God to manage as we can.

Yet, the call on our lives is to preach the Gospel, in season and out of season (i.e., all the time), and for this we must let God manage all of the risks, being prudent as and when the Holy Spirit dictates, but otherwise throwing all risk-management on God, because we are merely His bondservants, bid to do His calling, when, where and how He calls. So, in His calling, we give up risk-management and in faith, trust God to use us so that, in Heaven and on Earth, His will – not ours – shall be done, by us and through us as He directs.

But we know, now, to be of good cheer, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the challenges and opportunities, no matter what He directs and calls us to, no matter what risks we see, because we who are saved do know the Gospel of Christ, and we are ready to preach it, and all we need is the faith to have the will to preach it, to share it with the person next to us that we don’t know, with our friend or family member who resists. Each of us has been given that measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and it is sufficient for all of God’s purposes in us. That readiness, that faith and its sufficiency, that commitment to be obedient to God and His call to evangelize, to share the good news of Christ, all the days of our lives, are the things that empower us to break through the barrier of shame, of being ashamed.

As always in matters of Christian Character, we have choices to make. We can choose to be like Peter the night after Jesus’ crucifixion, or like Paul after his conversion. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, our failures, our shortcomings, when we confess we gave in to shame over the Gospel, when we let our nervousness control us instead of our faith. Like Peter, we can pick up the pieces, pick up our cross again, and follow Jesus through death because that is the road to life, to eternal life. Remember, It does not matter what happens in consequence of our obedience, just that we obey, for as Paul said, “I die daily.” (I Corinthians 15: 31) and “For to live is Christ, to die is gain!” (Philippians 1: 21). In such a life is a life well –lived, well-spent, one not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, the power of God to salvation for all who believe. Don’t’ be bashful; help out your neighbor today – share the Gospel of Christ, without shame.

God bless you+