Guest post by Justin Lyttle.
Romans 1:16-17 “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revelaed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
What does it mean to be unashamed of the gospel? How do we apply this in a country largely void of persecution? Have we ever really taken the time to think about what that statement meant when Paul said it? Paul wrote these words as a man who would eventually be exectuted by beheading for the message he was proclaiming. It stands as a testament in history that 11 of the 12 of the originial apostles were martyred. The apostle John, the only one who did not die as a martyr, was boiled in oil before being exiled to the island of Patmos because it didn’t kill him. In truth, the message of the cross is just as hated by the world today as it was in the days of the early church, but the true gospel of repentance and faith has been lost amid proclamations everywhere in the Western world that God is love and love alone, that your self esteem rather than holiness and obedience is at the top of God’s priorities. Make no mistake God is love, there is no possible way to diminish that wonderful fact, but He is also just, and in His justice men are judged by their actions and condemned. Yet God in His mercy, provided a sacrifice through Jesus Christ as a propiation. This is why the Gospel is so regularly diminished by people who want to skirt around the things in Scripture which are more difficult to digest, in order to play down the message. The biblical gospel is not a readily accepted easy to believe message. As John MacArthur said about the gospel in an interview regarding the book Hard to Believe:
“But I think most notably what makes it hard to believe is that in order to truly believe the gospel, a person has to overthrow their whole sense of self. In other words, they have to literally come to the conviction that they are not what they think they are. In other words, it’s the fact that instead of accepting yourself as you are, instead of being proud about what you are, instead of feeling that you need to fulfill yourself and you need to raise your self-esteem, the gospel really says you have to deny yourself. You have to literally kill yourself. Jesus actually said, “You have to hate yourself, everything you are.” That’s what makes it so hard to swallow the gospel. And that’s what is, I think, very carefully being omitted from the gospel because that’s such a scandalous and offensive message. I mean, after all, Jesus comes to a synagogue, and I point this out, deal with it in the book, first time He has ever preached He preaches one sermon in His hometown synagogue to His family, His friends, people He grew up with and they try to kill Him after one sermon. Talk about making people mad. And it wasn’t heaven that made them mad, and it wasn’t forgiveness of sin that made them mad, it was the indictment of their true wretched spiritual condition that infuriated them. And that is the part of the gospel that the natural man can’t swallow.”
This is what drove Paul and the other apostles; they were not ashamed to the point of it costing them their lives. God’s love and grace drove them with all their being because they understood their sin and the greivous fate from which they were saved. Not only were they saved from eternal wrath in hell, but saved to knowing, savoring, loving, and pursuing the most worthwhile, most holy, most perfect and only God. There could be no greater message. Heaven would not be worthwhile if it didn’t offer the presence of our Creator. We could never understand the depth of God’s love if we fail to understand our position without Christ. We must think of this every time we come into an opportunity to share the message of the cross. Whether it be sharing the gospel with a coworker who is living with their significant other outside of marriage, or drunkenness, or any multitude of other things, all of these actions come from the fallen sinful heart of man. We have a great opportunity to share with these people the message of forgiveness and love found in the cross of Jesus Christ that has paid the penalty of God’s wrath on their behalf. We do not have to degrade and demean in order to share with people how God views sin, but we must never be afraid to call sin sin, and to share that He does require an account of every person when they come before Him in judgment. If we leave this out then we do a great disservice to the people we would want to be saved. We must be crushed by the weight and gravity of our sin before we can repent and turn to faith in Christ. The world may hate us, we may even be hated by those closest to us, but the most loving thing we can do for someone is to show them that their sin has separated them from God for an eternity in hell unless there is repentance and faith. Though in America we may never have the opportunity to give our lives for the sake of Christ, let us, just as Paul, the Apostles, and so many others who have given their life throughout the centuries for the sake of the gospel, never be ashamed. Let us always strive to share the full counsel of the gospel found in the Scriptures, by this the righteous shall live by faith.
Grace to You. Is the Gosepl Seeker Friendly? An Interview with John Macarthur & Phil Johnson, http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/GTY87_Is-the-Gospel-Seeker-Friendly-An-Interview-with-John-MacArthur–Phil-Johnson?q=gospel+seeker+friendly