Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ashamed of the Gospel?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"
Romans 1:16-17

Paul says that he isn't ashamed of the gospel. The gospel, of course, is the good news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem us from our sins. What we could not do for ourselves, Christ has done on our behalf! Good news, indeed.

Paul isn't ashamed of this good news. My initial thought is, "Well, why would he be ashamed of it?" But think about that. To the Jews, this message was confusing because they were under the impression that they could become righteous by obeying the Law. They could be good enough to get to heaven. But the gospel says you can never be good enough. You need the righteousness of another. This left the Jews puzzled (1 Co. 1:23). On the opposite side were the Gentiles who thought this message was just stupid. God came in the form of man, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and then rose from the dead? C'mon... that's just silly. No reasonable person would buy into that. So the gospel left the Gentiles of Paul's day thinking it was just a bunch of folly (1 Co. 1:23). Thus, the vast majority of the people in Paul's day dismissed the gospel as either confusing or foolish. See how early Christians might be ashamed of the gospel?

When we're tempted to be ashamed of the gospel, we begin pulling other tricks out of our hats.

Oh... you think the gospel isn't cool. Okay. Well how about a concert? Will you come if we offer free pizza? How about if we all dress in Hawaiian shirts?
Oh... you're offended by being labeled a sinner. Okay. How about we just call sin a mistake? Let's just say Jesus came to free us from our low self-esteem... is that better?
Oh... you're uncomfortable with talk of blood and crucifixion. Okay. We can leave that out. No biggie. We'll just say Jesus loves you; is that better?
Oh... you think it's arrogant to say Jesus is the only way. Okay. Do you mind if we say He's the best way? Don't like that either? Umm... how about we just say Jesus is how we experience God? Maybe other religions experience God in different ways.

In our modern culture, it's easy to be ashamed of the gospel. It's easy to think, "This stuff won't grow our church. This talk of sin and a bloody cross won't attract people. John 14:6 & Acts 4:12 just seem arrogant these days." So we're tempted to tweak the message, soften it up a bit, improve Jesus' PR a little. Jesus is cool... just look at our rock band style worship. Jesus is inclusive... see, we affirm gay marriage. Jesus is fun... just look at all the trips we're taking.

Without realizing it (I hope), we're replacing the gospel with something else. "No, no, no," some argue, "We're not changing the message; We're just changing the method." But what they don't realize is that the message (the gospel) is the method. The bloody cross, the reality of sin, the wrath of God, the exclusivity of Christ is the power of God for salvation. People get saved only when we tell them about this stuff. They can only understand God's love for sinners when they understand God's hatred of sin. The gospel - and only the gospel - powerfully sets sinners free!

That's why Paul wasn't ashamed of it. It was for that glorious gospel that Paul worked tirelessly, was mocked, threatened, imprisoned and eventually killed. And here we are... afraid of being labeled 'arrogant' or 'mean-spirited' or 'judgmental.' So we back off. We change the subject. We adapt the message. We try another method. Rather than defending the gospel, we try to improve it. We try to make the truth of the gospel 'acceptable' or 'simpler' or 'more relevant.' And as we do, we're stripping it of its power to save.


1 comment:

Jason Vaughn said...

Amen, Amen, and Amen brother.

I know I told you about our phenomenal cam meeting last month, but one message is very encouraging on this very manner that you and your readers will love. It is by Paul Washer and entitled "The Gospel Call" I pray it blesses you.