Friday 13 January 2012

I am not ashamed

One of the outstanding passages, and perhaps one of the most encouraging, is that in the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: the righteous shall live by faith’. 

Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, the mightiest city of the day, a city full of learning yet also full of immorality, where Christianity would not be appreciated, and he was ready and eager to go and preach the gospel no matter what the cost even though Christians were in danger of persecution; a sort of London of the day.  We need to look at particular words in the passage. 

Paul says he was not ashamed, in fact he glorified in the gospel and that is what all Christians should do.  But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe?  Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church?  How would we answer is asked to give our opinion on moral questions?   If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.  Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave.  Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

Preachers should be prepared to tell the Bible as it is written, telling people what need to hear rather than what they might like to hear.  Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably cause some upset. But let us take heart from Paul who faced all that could be put against him, and so caused Christianity to spread throughout the ancient world.

I have been to three service in recent times when there has been a child being baptised, with people who have not been to Church for a long time if ever.  What an opportunity of preaching the gospel, yet there has been a nebulous sermon meaning absolutely nothing.

Then look at what is meant by the gospel.  How many Christians I wonder would be able to answer if asked what the gospel is?  The gospel is a simple story of a baby born to a young Jewish girl by virginal conception, who lived a sinless life until God called Him to die on a Cross, so that all who truly believe in Him and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour, will have all their wrongdoings forgiven, so that one day they will live for ever with Him in heaven.

There is false teaching being given from within the Church that all will go to heaven.  It is said that God would not send anyone to hell, and that is right, but people choose to go there by there own neglect.  To believe as some do and preach that everyone will go to heaven is nowhere stated, nor can be found in the Bible. 

We Ministers are constantly meeting bereaved people who sincerely believe their loved ones are bound for heaven despite never having a religious thought or action in their lives.  We are too compassionate to make any comment in such a situation but it is a terribly sad feeling and situation to be in when you know the Bible’s teaching.   

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God.  Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?  We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable.  But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of. 

Righteousness.  We cannot make ourselves righteous before God, but we can be through Jesus’ atoning death.  Jesus acts as a bridge between God and us, putting us in good standing in God’s eyes, making it thus possible for us to be acceptable to God. This is God’s powerful way of bringing all who believe to heaven.  We are saved by grace (Great Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith.  The gospel is the power that gives us salvation. But the gospel is bad news for non believers, for it offers no future hope.

Faith. You must have faith and believe. We are prepared to place our faith in many people, but reluctant to trust in God.  We travel by plane and put our faith that the pilot knows what he is doing although we know nothing about him. If you go to the doctor for some illness and he gives you a prescription, you then get dispensed and take, trusting the doctor and the chemist, but you don’t just leave it in a cupboard if you want to get better.  So with the gospel. There is no point in just seeking a spiritual prescription; you have to take that by faith which means reaching out to God and accepting the gospel.

For all who believe. This power is for everyone who believes.  This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that; believing means making a commitment.  Too many say they believe but do nothing, which is why regular preaching of the gospel is important so that people may come to live by the Scripture.  . 

They are religious and even show some outward inclinations toward Christianity. They come from a Christian background. They think that Jesus was a great religious figure. But they have not believed in Christ. Though the gospel is God's power for salvation, because they have not believed, they have not experienced this power nor have they known the gospel for what it truly is.

The reason so many people are not willing to accept the Bible is because the message is too simple. We know there are many people who are not prepared to accept the Bible story as they find it too incredible to believe.  They are more ready to listen to the strident outpourings of nauseating, insulting, self indulgent secularists.  For others accepting the gospel would mean a change of hedonistic lifestyle.  It means accepting a standard of morality they are not prepared to accept. 

You will find theologians complicating matters by having all kind of discussions on who wrote this and that, and it is all very well for academics sitting in their common rooms to do this for their amusement, but it sends out a wrong message to the masses. 

Martin Luther was so inspired by this passage it caused him to start the Protestant Reformation and if all preachers were inspired similarly there would be less empty seats in Churches. 

Let us proceed by faith and never ever be ashamed

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