December 14, 2009

Without shame

If it were up to God, none of His people would ever be ashamed or put to shame, but sometimes we do it to ourselves.

My sister told me of a time with her ladies Bible study group. They were talking about sharing their faith with others and some of the reasons why they failed to do so. My sister said, “Sometimes I don’t because I am ashamed of Christ.”

She was dismayed when the other women said, “Oh no, not you” — in great reluctance to let her confess or be guilty of it, perhaps because it was a reflection of their own excuses. Even as I think about it, saying that out loud makes me feel terrible. We love Jesus and do not want to admit anything that hints otherwise, even if it is sometimes true.

The Apostle Paul knew the promises of God about being ashamed. This is not part of His plan for His people. In these verses, Paul says the opposite of being ashamed is being bold.

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  (Philippians 1:19-20)
As I think about what it is like to “be ashamed” of Christ, it seems that for me it is not exactly the description of what is going on. When I do not want to share Him with others, I’m thinking more of myself and that I don’t want to admit how much I need Him. I am ashamed or embarrassed to confess that I am a sinner and helpless to do anything about sin without the saving power of Jesus. I am not ashamed of Him so much as I am ashamed of myself.

Yet all through the Bible, God promises that His people will not be ashamed. In most of those promises, He is talking about our status before others and how others think of us. 

Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”  (Isaiah 49:23)
I’m trying to wrap my head around the connection between being disillusioned, disappointed, or disgraced in the eyes of the world because I am a Christian, and being ashamed to tell others that I am one. Part of it is that many people think Christians park their brains at the church door and cannot think rationally. While that is not true, I don’t want to be thought of in that way. That is pride.

Other shameful accusations include stuff like, “Your religion is a crutch” and “The Bible is just made up by a bunch of men” and “Jesus was a good teacher, but no more than that.” People without faith cannot make sense of what Christians believe; therefore, Christians must have their heads on backwards. Such accusations put up my defenses.

However, the answer to all this is not a verbal defense before people without faith. Unless the Holy Spirit opens their hearts, Christianity will never make sense to them anyway, no matter what I say. Instead, I need to think like Paul thought.

He said, “For I know. . . .” His statements were not opinions but based on the revelation of God. The Word of God is true. It is safe to believe it, even when others cannot or will not. Also, knowing reminds me that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is knowing that God is true, that His promises are true, and that nothing can prevent His will from being accomplished.

Being ashamed is doubting all that. Being ashamed is more concerned about what people think than what God thinks. It is also a pride thing in that shame is being more worried about my own reputation than remembering that God is God. Those who mock Him will eventually find out their error and then they will be ashamed.

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