The last few days I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters to Timothy. What captured my attention is his repetitive advice that Timothy, “not be ashamed” of the truth of the gospel or of Paul’s imprisonment for preaching the Gospel.
Have you recognized the tremendous pressure from the world we live in to be ashamed of the Gospel? The Gospel is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural (no matter where you live), and anti-self righteousness. The gospel condemns basically everything our world is built upon: moralism, reputation, image, temporary pleasure, amassing wealth, power, etc.
The Gospel is a condemnation of sin and sinners. It says that there is only one answer for both: A Cross and a bleeding Savior. Not politically correct – ever. At the end of His life, not only had the world rejected Jesus but all of His disciples also scattered. Peter was ashamed to admit he was one of Christ’s disciples and denied his association with Christ – even in the presence of a slave girl.
Paul told Timothy, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me…” (2 Tim 1:15) This apparently included many professing believers. When it came to the point of radically identifying with the Gospel of Jesus or keeping the respect of their communities and culture, the Asians apparently pulled back from Jesus…and Paul.
Like Paul, recently I was in Asia preaching. On a return flight I got a glimpse of what I’m talking about. There was a lady sitting next to my co laborer on the trip, Steve Hobeck. When she found out something of what we had been doing in Asia (church related work) she said, “You’re not some of those preachy-types are you?”
How do you answer that?
It depends on what your goal in life is. Is it to impress people and be affirmed by the world and to make sure you’re not confused with the extremists in your own religion? Or is it to make the truth of the Gospel of Jesus known to as many people as possible? By the way, an extremist is usually someone who is willing to stand alone based upon their beliefs, even if unpopular. Ouch.
Paul told the Romans: “So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom 1:16) Paul was not ashamed to represent the truths of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners. Even though this created suffering for him and often left him with no one to stand with him.
To be very honest, I’m not in Paul’s league. Because of misplaced shame (which is really false shame) I am often tempted to “follow Christ from a distance.” Just like Peter did. In hopes of not being tied too directly with the offense of the Cross.
How about you? Have you identified within your own thinking a tendency to distance yourself from a radical following of Christ? Have you experienced the temptation to be ashamed of the glorious gospel that has radically saved and delivered you from sin?
I think I want to follow up on this theme in the next blog.