“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.'” Romans 1:16,17
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Can I truly say that in the same sense that Paul says that? But it really doesn’t matter what Paul said unless he meant it. And how can I know that he really meant what he said? What did his life show? Yes, Paul was definitely not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
What was it about the Good News of Christ that kept Paul, or anyone who believes, from being ashamed? Maybe first I even have to understand what the Gospel, the Good News is. This powerful truth, this miracle working power of God, didn’t just start when Jesus was born. This Gospel of Christ was there from the beginning of time. Adam and Eve were told of His coming. Noah was protected within His confines. Moses saw him raised up in the desert. David was looking forward to Him. We just got the more completed picture when You, Lord, came to Jerusalem and were raised up on the cross before all men and raised for all men and for all time. But understand, the Good News was already alive. The Good News was already at work. The Good News was already demonstrating His power to save through faith.
See, Paul was not ashamed, he was “ouk epaischunamai.” He was emphatically not ashamed, “absolutely not,” “under no circumstances.” Remember that part about “under no circumstances” because I’m going to remember that part too. Skip Moen shares that “Paul is telling us that there are never any conditions where he would cause himself to be ashamed because of the gospel. We remember that shame is not the inner self-condemntation popular in our Greek view of psychic balance. Shame in the Hebrew context is public. It is lost reputation, disgrace, and humiliation.” Let me think about that. When Paul was hauled up before the religious leaders and despised, it didn’t cause him to be ashamed of this Gospel he had to share. When Paul was beaten or imprisoned, it didn’t cause him to be ashamed of Jesus. When Paul was shipwrecked or chased out of a city, it didn’t cause him to be ashamed.
Wait, maybe I didn’t say that right. When Paul’s reputation in the world was stripped by men, it didn’t cause him to loose his reputation in Christ. He remained who he was in Christ by faith. When he was disgraced by men, it didn’t cause him to lose his position of grace with Christ. He remained who he was in Christ by faith. When he was humiliated by men, by the world, he remained valued in his position in Christ by faith. And we have this same promise available to each of us, whether we are Jew or Greek. We can be firmly rooted and grounded and placed in Christ by faith.
What is this faith, this believing, this pisteuo? It has everything to do with what we do with God’s word, with the righteousness of God revealed in what is written. And it totally stands in the face of everything else going on around us. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one of the most important lessons I will ever learn. And it will change everything.
Let’s go back to 1 Samuel Chapter 30. David was escaping Saul. He had moved in with the Philistines, of all people. While there, he had been sneaking off with his men and destroying the outlying people. One of these people groups were the Amalekites. Well, the Philistines were getting ready to go to battle against Saul and Israel, and his Philistine buddy was going to take David and his men along. Only the other Philistine lords thought that was a crazy idea because of David’s reputation. So they sent him back home to Ziklag. Only, when David and the men got back to Ziklag, they found it had been ravaged and their wives, and children taken captive by the Amalekites. So they all wept till they could weep no more. And this David that all these men had trusted and followed, this man after God’s own heart, well, the men were about to stone him for what had happened. How’s that for losing your reputation in one fell swoop?
But do you know what faith looks like? Well, it doesn’t look like screaming out to the crowd to rethink things out. It looks like focussing on the Lord. Even in David’s great distress, here is his reaction–“David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” Let’s stop and think about that. What does it mean that he “encouraged himself” in the LORD? See, that encouragement comes from the Hebrew word “chazaq” and it means “strong support.” So, when he needed strength and support and encouragement, he went to the One who had Him covered. David went to the One who could support him, who was his support. And the Lord gives him victory over the Amalekites and their loved ones and possessions are regained.
Now, there was this other king of Judah, named Asa. And for some reason, maybe pride or fear, Asa decided he needed to take a situation into his own hands. So he took the silver and gold treasures out of the house of the LORD and sent them to pay tribute to another king for protection against Israel. So the Lord sends someone to Asa to tell him how He feels about what Asa has done and what it says about Asa’s heart for the Lord. Here’s what we find about the Lord. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” But what had Asa shown? That he trusted in the strength of other men more than in the strength of God. Now, the Lord could not show Himself to be the strength and encouragement of Asa, because Asa’s heart was not for Him. Our strength comes from the one we put it in. Only One can guarantee strength strong enough to support in every situation. Asa chose the weak link when the strong One was right there all along.
Maybe I can empathize with the creative types out there, like Robin Williams and others. Not that I’m that creative or anything, but if you are talking about sometimes being bombarded with all kinds of thoughts, yes, I understand. Because sometimes our own minds try to shame us, or condemn us, or humiliate us. And whether it comes from inside or outside, it really doesn’t matter. It’s not the truth. The truth is that God is TRUE. He is my Strong Tower. Proverbs 18:10 tells me “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe.” If I run into anything else, it can’t withstand the pressure, but You, Lord, can defeat all, yes, ALL, my enemies, if only I will believe and live and trust in You.
See, it’s never been just about a creed of faith, or what I believe in my head. It’s always been about what I really believe and put all my weight in. It’s about what I establish myself in. Am I established in Your truth? What am I standing on? Am I standing on Your truth? Where are my feet set and are they set firmly? Are they “on the solid rock of [Your] unassailable character”? Faith isn’t just about my relationship with You. It’s about that strength and stability and power that come from You. Faith is recipricol. But I gain much more than I could ever give. Isaiah put it this way in Chapter 7, “Without firm faith, you will not be firmly established.”
Faith isn’t just about what I say or what I do. Faith is all about where I stand. It’s all about Who I’m standing in. Faith is the measure of You in me. I’m not ashamed, Lord, because You are MEASURELESS. Be MEASURELESS in me. You know what, Lord, I’m gonna let You be GOD. I’m standing firm in and on Your word and I’m so grateful that for every seeking heart, we WILL find the truth we need in You. It’s what You are looking to and fro over the whole earth to do.