Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are You Ashamed?

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.
Romans 1:16 NKJV

ashamed: feeling shame; distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness, or disgrace.
unwilling or restrained because of fear of shame, ridicule, or disapproval

Have you ever been ashamed to share what you believe with someone else? Have you ever found yourself talking about God with a fellow believer and then change the subject when someone else walks up? I think it is fair to say that at one time or another we all have suffered from feelings of embarrassment when trying to share, and also been afraid that we would be ridiculed or made fun of because of what we believe.

I find it interesting that Paul even brings up this subject considering his personal experiences as an apostle. I find it hard to believe that he ever suffered from an acute case of embarrassment while sharing the gospel with others. Yet he does choose to address it, so I think it might be beneficial to examine this passage and see what we can learn to help us avoid the possibility of being ashamed.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the word ashamed is that the focus is on what other people think. In other words I am not worried about what I think, or what my convictions may or may not be, but rather I am worried about what others might think. Yet the Bible makes it clear that as believers our first and only thoughts should be about what God would want us to do, and pleasing Him.

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
1 Thessalonians 4:1 NKJV

Not only has God commanded us to share Him with an unbelieving world, it pleases Him to see us do it! Are you concerned with pleasing God, or is your focus on what someone else might think of you? I believe Paul is reminding us that we need not be ashamed to share what we believe if we remember we are following the instructions of our heavenly Father. The disciples were in this position right after Jesus commissioned them and returned to Heaven, and their response to the high priest was this;

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.
Acts 5:29 NKJV

I think this makes it perfectly clear where they placed their priorities; they were much more concerned with what God would think than what the people might think. I somehow think as well that they were remembering something Jesus said during His ministry when He was sending them out to share the gospel for the first time.

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:32 NKJV

So it would appear that what Paul want us to know is that there is no reason to be ashamed when we are doing the will of our Father in heaven. Yet Paul goes one step further in this verse which not only sends a message to the people of Rome, but to those who choose to listen today. Notice if you will the reason Paul says he is not ashamed; it is because of the power of God! Paul was writing to the Romans, who at that time in history were the most powerful people and nation on earth. Yet what does Paul say to them but that as powerful as they were, there was a greater power that they did not possess and that was the power to give eternal life!

If you stop to think about it, how many different ways can you think of where people are trying to exercise or obtain power? It shows up in practically every situation you can think of from who gets the best toys to play with in preschool to the person who cuts you off in the parking lot trying to get to the empty spot before you do. The world seems obsessed with the idea of power, and who has the most. From athletics, to business, to politics, to your boss at work, everyone at one time or another likes to exhibit their power. So when Paul takes his ministry to the most powerful nation on earth, rather than being ashamed as if he were representing a weaker authority, he boldly states there is a greater power than even Rome could wield. Only God has the power to give eternal life, and this is the message of the Gospel of Christ which Paul, and we the church, are commissioned to proclaim. The world needs to know, however, that this is only one of the ways God has chosen to exhibit His power.

It comes as no surprise that the events of this past week have produced questions concerning the nearness of the rapture of the church. Many have asked me for my thoughts on what occurred and if these are indeed signs of our impending departure. One of the subjects I have discussed in the past with others who share my convictions is when the rapture might happen in relation to the start of the tribulation period. In other words, does the rapture itself start the tribulation, or is there a period of time, long or short, between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation? My personal feeling is that there is a short period of time between these two events, and that it occurs for a very specific reason. What is that reason? I believe so that God can begin to demonstrate who really has the power in this universe.

Most often when studying or considering the subject of the tribulation, many would look at it in light of God's “judgment” on an unbelieving world. I would certainly not disagree for the Bible makes it clear that it certainly is all of that. But something that often gets lost in the discussion is just what else God might be trying to accomplish at the same time. My firm belief is that He chooses to shake the foundations of the earth in order to show the world exactly where the ultimate power of the universe lies. Does that sound so strange? Consider this;

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
Romans 9:22 NKJV

We find here that Paul suggests God has a plan to show the world His power in just this way. I believe that God's plan is to first demonstrate His power through those who believe, and as we approach the time of tribulation begin to show His power through the shaking of His creation. Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of what occurs during the tribulation understands that God is going to exhibit His power through natural catastrophes that devastate the earth. Are we seeing the beginnings of that process even now? Is the rapture of the church imminent? Many of those who choose to watch faithfully as Jesus commanded would answer that question with an emphatic “yes”!

As disturbing as the images we have seen this past week in Japan are, we know from the Bible that it is nothing compared with what is to come. As even more events such as this begin to occur, will you boldly proclaim the power of the Gospel or be ashamed and afraid of what others will think? Pray for boldness with the knowledge that more is to come, and we will have even more opportunities to share the message of Jesus in the short time we have left. Remember what Paul said; only God has the power to save.

Keep Watching.