Let’s be honest. Some of us are embarrassed by the gospel.
I don’t mean the report that “belief in Jesus comforts me.” That doesn’t really embarrass us because we love talking about ourselves, and that little sort of report is all about us, because it is about what we did and the feeling we got.
I don’t mean the stories about how “believing in Jesus helped me stop… (taking drugs, yelling at my kids, drinking too much, looking at porn, picking my nose, etc.).” Personal testimonies don’t really embarrass us either, because even if we talk about the bad stuff we used to do, we also get to talk about how we are so much better now (and, by implication, better than other people).
I mean the real gospel– the account of what Jesus did 2000 years ago by leaving Heaven, living a sinless life, dying on the cross in place of doomed sinners, and rising from the dead for their renewal of mind and (one day) body.
That message is not about us; it is about Him.
The real gospel is treated in some churches like the drooling cousin who can’t be seen a the dinner table for fear that he will offend the visitors. Oh, maybe those in the family know he is in the house somewhere, but we sure are not going to trot him out for everyone to see.
On Sunday, some churches preach or teach good morality or good conduct. Some teach good feelings or love. Some preach on happiness or some other good thing. They may have messages that make people feel good. They work to have good music. They strive to have a good Sunday school program. They have a great youth program or an outstanding seniors group. They have an active singles group or a loving program for divorced people.
Indeed, all of those things can be good. But to the extent that they replace or displace the gospel, the church is showing its embarrassment. We hear or think of so-called explanations like…
“oh, that’s so old fashioned”
“oh, we believe it, so we don’t have to talk about it”
“oh, that won’t get anyone in church”
“oh, that isn’t relevant to people’s lives”
“oh, that doesn’t connect with people”
“oh, that sounds so intolerant, to say that there is only one gospel”
A pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States defended himself recently on the charge that he never talks about the gospel:
“Every week in our services we deal with people that are — have children that have cancer, people that have a husband or a wife that left them. We deal with the real issues of life. I talk about forgiveness and how to have faith when bad things happen and, you know, how to overcome and, you know, love your enemies and things like that. So when they say it’s ‘gospel lite’, I think, you know, we’re helping people where the rubber meets the road.”
In contrast to that, here is what Paul says
“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 he is eager to preach this to those in Rome, even those who have already heard it. Then for the rest of the book of Romans, he tells us what the gospel is.
Now, when Paul tells this gospel, this “good message,” he starts with the bad that contrasts with the good.
In Romans 1:18-2:12 Paul lays out the bad news:
We are told that God’s wrath is coming, and is revealed from heaven.
We are told that all people are ungodly and unrighteous, which simply means that all people reject God and reject His idea of goodness.
We are told that God has shown His power and His nature to everyone in His creation, by the things He created.
We are told that all people rejected what they saw of God, failing to honor Him or thank Him.
We are told that all people grew in their self-deception and became more and more foolish.
We are told that people worshiped and honored all kinds of things, but not the true God.
We are told that God then let people grow increasingly disobedient and self-absorbed, engaging in all kinds of hideous behavior with their bodies.
We are told that God also let people grow increasingly thoughtless and selfish, justifying all kinds of hideous attitudes and ideas in their minds.
We are told that God will punish all of this evil, and that He is justified in doing so.
And, we are told that WE are storing up punishment for ourselves– punishment that will be revealed at God’s judgment.
But then, (in Romans 3:21-26) Paul tells us that the guiltlessness we all lack comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ.
We are told that being made good in God’s sight (righteousness) is a gift of God’s grace to all who believe in Jesus.
That gospel is the POWER of God. It saves us from God’s wrath and it saves us from purposeless lives. It saves us from being used by satan. It saves us from being given over to the lusts of flesh and debasing of our minds.
So, how do we overcome our shame in the gospel and the POWER OF GOD?
First, by believing it.
Second, by declaring it to one another over and over.
Third, by declaring it over and over to all those who need to hear it.
We must not forget that Jesus said, “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)