I AM NOT ASHAMED...
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."[b]
(My traditional introductory and farewell sermon at each congregation I served)
I. INTRODUCTION – Why *I* Am Not Ashamed
A. (Paraphrase Text —> my Confirm. Vs.)
B. My Sin
I didn't know the meaning of that Scripture on my Confirmation Day and chose to skip High School Religious class which could have helped me better understand God's Word and Will.
And so this casual, uncaring rebellious attitude, I entered a dark tunnel of years of wild excess, side-tracked by several mind-bending cults, and serving no one but 'Self Only' — while trying to nurture a foolish notion that (Ha!) I -must-be-'OK'-with-God (or He's weak or really doesn't exist), because I kept-on-going and getting-away with it! I was a true prodigal, determined to have a "good"-time and there was nothing stopping me.
In my private moments, though, I felt the nagging shame of such living. I feared that whenever a time -of-reckoning might finally catch-up with me the required 'pay-back' would be too immense to be able to make. I couldn't really fool myself about the deep-inside-emptiness and having no purpose, nor about the persistent suspicion that an Infinite Creator-Being IS out there and to Whom I am accountable! Yes, I was AFRAID and ASHAMED behind the 'devil-may-care' wall I had built!!
C. My Salvation
You can see, of course, that God's Power blew apart that wall and changed the scenery! – This He did by planting a friend into my miserable life — a fellow-GI who made me face myself, who made me thirst for what he had, and who spoke to me the clear words that Jesus Christ — by His Death on the Cross — has paid in full account for my useless waste!!! (No one ever personally told me that before — Jesus Christ, 2nd person of the Godhead ruling all time and space, TRULY loves and Forgives ME!!!)
Now, how could I be ashamed of something like THAT?!
Now this "Unashamed-ness" means several things to me that I never dreamed of 24 years ago at confirmation —
It means that what God says in Scripture concerning Himself, the human-race, and His involvement in human history — I BELIEVE! — Adam, Eve, the Garden, the Fall, Johah's Whale, Miracles, Healing Sick and Crippled, Rising from the Tomb — I am NOT ASHAMED to profess that I BELIEVE!
(2nd)This means I am eager to grab every opportunity to be involved in the study of God's Word – actively seeking His Truth! — Sure, teachers of His Word can seem weak and unbearably boring to our sinful natures at times, but 'NOT BEING ASHAMED' means that I will give my attention to getting every possible tidbit it from God's Word — because It's Light and Life and Love...... my Forgiveness and Salvation!!!
(3rd) This means that, though I still have much for which I am personally ashamed — Sins committed in thought , word and deed, , failures as a parent, neglect of things necessary or whatEVER, I may confess all that endangers and distresses my soul and know that God's-promis-to-forgive stands!
CHRIST DID NOT DIE FOR NOTHING!!!
.. and I may wash daily in His sin-cleansing Blood!
TO BE UNASHAMED MEANS FOR ME:
______ I believe God's Word
______ A commitment to actively dig in His Word, Constantly, willfully and consciously.
______ I know my forgiveness and Glory in Christ's Cross!
______His Love I will SHARE!!!
St. Paul coined the phrase! Writing to the Christian inhabitants of Rome he said:
"I am EAGER to 'Gospelize' (also among) you... because I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL..."
Let's consider his reasons:
BECAUSE IT IS GOD'S POWER TO SAVE
___Human-beings seek, accumulate, or are given 'Power' to be in control over others.
___(This, too was one of my former quests.)
___- Sadam Hussein seeks to influence Arab masses.
___-The U.S. claims to have more 'power' than he.
___-Gorbachev is losing it, apparently.
But here we are concerned to point-out the Gospel is a far different "power"! and it's GOD'S Power, not ours. — Human power is incapable of securing anyone's salvation. None can save another soul — none can save even his/her own! The "Power" is GOD'S!!!
Then, this kind of "Power" God has chosen to veil from the hearts of those set in unbelief. It cannot be stolen or usurped. I cannot be mimicked. It cannot be understood by sinful human nature. — the "Power" is exclusively in God's own domain, for "the pulling-down of strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4), unattainable by human flesh.
We may often mention God's "Power" to CREATE, merely by His speaking — or, His "Power" to Destroy. —But here is proclaimed GOD'S POWER TO SAVE!!!
___-The Gospel IS such explosive "Power"! (Of which I'm living-proof.)
___- Luther claimed that the GOSPEL is simply God's Word concerning
___ His own Son, Christ's perfect life, atoning death and life-giving resurrection!
(Today's Epistle reading notes St. Paul's thanksgiving because the Gospel came to the Thessalonian Christians in the POWER of God's Holy Spirit. Paul was eager to share it and NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel because it is God's Power to Save, but also...)
BECAUSE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED IN IT
Luther confessed that he despised that term found often in the Bible Book of Romans — Righteousness-of-God", because he had been indoctrinated to understand it as meaning "the (power by) which God proves himself righteous by His punishment of sinners and the unjust..." He understood the Gospel as revealing God's WRATH and PUNISHMENT!!
"BUT:, Luther wrote,
"In this tower, in which was a special place for monks, I once meditated on these words: 'Righteousness-of-God' and 'The just shall live by faith...' and I began to understand that the 'Righteousness-of-God' is that through which the righteous person lives by the GIFT of God – through faith... and as intensely as I had hated the expression.. I now loved and praised it as the sweetest of concepts.."
(See what I missed in High School Religion Class?)
In other words, "GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS" in Romans 1:17 does not refer in the first place to God's own infinite perfection and clout, but that which He declares US as having by virtue of merits and work of Christ— and which He tenderly invites us to receive for ourselves! ("come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.") Look up Hymn #362 some time — one of my favorites!!!
ALSO, ST. PAUL SHOWS THAT THE GIFT IS RECEIVED SIMPLY BY TRUSTING
It's God's Loving Will that ALL people be saved, and so His GIFT is revealed (not veiled) to ALL who believe! Such FAITH is also His Gift, worked by God's Holy Spirit as His Gospel is communicated.
Faith itself is not the Power, but the Gospel upon which it's based is all-important: The Word concerning the work of Jesus Christ!!!
Unbelief is ashamed to received that Word, to proclaim it to others or to take-up a Cross behind Jesus, but FAITH is equated by St. Paul as having LIFE!!! He was not ashamed of the Gospel because it's Faith means Life! All the church's talk about external life is REAL!
(He was NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel:
___- Because it is God's Power to Save.
___- Because in it God's Gift of Righteousness is Declared.
___- And because it is Life for All who Believe.)
Let me close by inviting you to JOIN St. Paul, Martin Luther and myself. Jesus likewise knows your hurts, cares and shame. He carried every bit of it on Himself at the Cross so that you need not any more!!
Join me in not being ASHAMED
___- Join me in believing God's Word.
___- In seeking and digging in His Truth.
___- In knowing with JOY how great is YOUR Forgiveness.
___- And in Spreading that Love AROUND!
I don't believe Christians have a choice about speaking the Gospel or not. Our own forgiveness makes it a HAPPY MUST!!! Amen.