Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Not Ashamed...Well, Maybe Sometimes


               Have you ever been somewhere and the Lord has prompted you to speak to someone about Him? Perhaps you are standing in line waiting to check out with your groceries, and there it comes, that gently nudging to speak to the person in front of you. But you withdraw and just can’t seem to do it. I have been in that situation before, and sometimes I will speak and sometimes I will withdraw and I feel so terrible for not being obedient. I wage the war in my head, thinking to myself “How crazy would I look if I just started to speak to this person about Jesus?” Or, I find myself saying, “What would they think of me?”
                I think we all struggle with this. We can even struggle with this within our own families. If you are a Christian and your family is not, being obedient to the Holy Spirit can be a struggle when we are among them. I struggled with this myself as a new babe in Christ. My former life was one where I would have enjoyed a beer or two (or three) with my family, done things that were not very Christian at all, as well as curse like a sailor right along with them. But when I became a Christian all this began to change, but to those who knew me, they still looked to me to do the former things with them.
                There were times when I would give into their promptings, and there were times where I would deny and stand upon the firm foundation of Jesus. There were times where I found myself shrinking away, drawing away from the Lord because I was afraid of what they might think of me. As I thought about these instances this morning, a few scriptures came to me. The first was Romans 1:16 and the second was Galatians 1:10.
                “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.” (Rom. 1:16)

                “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
                To be ashamed means that you are distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness or disgrace, it is almost a sort of fear that we can get pulled into if we are not careful. Now, we know that no matter what we do, who we were, or who we are now, God is never ashamed of us. He hung on a cross to show the world how much He loves us. He has never turned away from us, even when we may have turned away from Him. He has never left us, even though we may have left Him. He is never ashamed, embarrassed or disgraced to call us His children. So why then, do we find ourselves shrinking back from proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to any and all who will listen? Why do we fall into the temptations of the unbelievers around us, and not stand for Him?
                Fear is the reason. Fear to me is the largest mountain I have ever faced. Every day I am faced with some trial or some trouble that causes me to shrink back in fear. Fear is not a fact, fear is a feeling. Our feelings have been tainted by sin, so anything that is a feeling, needs to be sifted and cleansed by the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us. God gave us feelings, but these feelings have been clouded by the fog of sin and death. We need to recognize that every time we find ourselves in “fear” that we are no longer holding firm to the promises of God.
                This fear that comes upon us can come from many different sources; one of them is the fear of what people may think of us. I believe (my opinion only) that if more and more of us Christians would stop focusing on what others think and seek to only know Christ Jesus, then the gospel of Jesus Christ would not be so held back as it is by the culture we live in. When did the Church become so afraid of what people might think?

                Peter had the same issues that we face. He had a fear of what people might say about him if he followed Christ wholeheartedly, if he followed the gospel without shame. In Galatians 2:11-13 Paul finds Peter there, eating and drinking with the Gentiles. Peter was a Jew before he was a Christian, so he was brought up with the same laws as Paul was, they did not eat nor drink anything unclean, and no true Jew would have sat down at the same table with a Gentile either. But there was Peter, eating a big, juicy bacon sandwich, having a chilled glass of red wine, and fellowshipping with the Gentiles. But then, some Jews (who still insisted on keeping the law) walk in and find Peter eating and drinking with the Gentiles. What did Peter do? He was too ashamed to stand up for what he believed in, so he went with the Jews, hurting the Gentile believers and throwing them into a state of confusion.
                We can be just like Peter sometimes. We are sitting down; enjoying our fellowship with one another, and someone we know comes in and looks down on us, or questions what we are doing. Instead of standing for our faith, and teaching them the freedom in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we shrink back, and we find ourselves ashamed of what they might think of us. The only one we need to seek to please in this life is Jesus Christ. If we seek to please Him, then we cannot be ashamed of Him. If we are ashamed of Him, then we do not seek to please Him.                        
                It is easy to get swept away into the culture of our world, into the temptations that are out there. But it is just as easy to stand for Christ. If more of us Christians were willing to seek Him instead of what others might think, can you imagine the impact we might have on our world today? There are thousands of Christians around the world who are living boldly for Christ and are not ashamed for His Name’s Sake, they are being killed, persecuted, their families torn apart, and imprisoned daily for their boldness toward Christ. Yet here we are, ashamed to speak to the person in front of us at the grocery store, or scared that our co-workers might label us “Jesus Freaks”. When we put what others might think of us ahead of what God desires for us, then we are no better than the unbelievers who deny His existence.

                Jesus said “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory and His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) If we are too ashamed to live for Christ today, what makes us think that we will be able to live with Him in eternity? Being a Jesus Freak is one of the greatest compliments I have ever received, and I do not want to be ashamed to live for Him today. No matter what happens to each one of us, no matter what others may think, we cannot say we love God and be ashamed of His Holy Gospel, which is the power of God to salvation for all who believe. Amen and Amen