I AM NOT ASHAMED
October 31, 2004
Within the next seven days there will be two very important things on our minds as members of this congregation. One, of course, is the fact that our whole nation will be involved in an election this week. The other is that next Lord’s day we are going to begin a special effort to draw our attention to the gospel of Jesus and its importance in our eternal destinies. We will begin a meeting next Lord’s day with Frank Chesser as our speaker. Bro. Chesser will do a good job in reminding us of some basic things that are important to our souls.
In my daily Bible reading this past week I ran across a passage of scripture which I believe will help us to prepare for both of these things. It is found in 2 Timothy 1. This is a text where the apostle Paul, writing his last letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, writing at a time when he knows he is near the end of his journey through this world, urges Timothy to be so glad about the gospel that he lets it become his point of reference in all things. He is calling on Timothy to not be afraid to measure everything that he does and every choice that he makes by the message of the gospel of Jesus.
Please follow along with me as I read the passage beginning at verse 8: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (ESV)
I would like you to observe that there is a theme in that reading. It is not just a series of unrelated verses. You can notice that theme in the recurring phrase that is found in that passage. There is one phrase that Paul brings up three times. He says in verse 8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord nor of me his prisoner.” He is talking to Timothy. “Timothy, do not let yourself be ashamed of the gospel or of me as a preacher of the gospel.” Then, notice that he says in verse 12, regardless of his suffering (he was in prison at this time), “but I am not ashamed for I know him whom I have believed and I am persuaded of his ability to keep what needs to be kept.” Paul is saying that even when frightful suffering has been brought his way, he still has not hesitated to measure everything by the gospel. Then notice in verse 16 when he speaks of this kind brother in Christ, Onesiphorus, he said that even when everybody else forsook him, this man sought him out diligently and found him in prison and refreshed him and “was not ashamed of my chains.” He didn’t let that hinder him from loving Paul and caring about him.
The point is that there are some things of which Christians are to be “not ashamed.” To be ashamed, according to Vine’s Dictionary of N.T. Words, means “to have a feeling of fear or shame which prevents a person from doing a thing.” In other words, here is someone who knows what needs to be done, but he allows fear of ill treatment to keep him from taking that action. Or here is someone who sees the need but he allows embarrassment, or a fear of the stigma that might be attached, to keep him from standing up for the gospel and letting it be the rule of his life. Shame, or being ashamed, is that fear of being humiliated that paralyzes us and causes us to remain silent when we should speak and causes us to be inactive when we should take action. Being ashamed is a threat that all of us face in our spiritual lives at one time or another.
Not Just Here
Now I would like you to observe that this is not just a point made in this particular text, but this instruction to not be ashamed of the Lord or his way is a consistent Bible theme, both Old Testament and New. I am going to call your attention to just three passages from the New Testament. Notice Mark 8:38. In this verse Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels.” Do you notice there that feeling, that hesitating, that being embarrassed of the Lord, or being ashamed of his words would make the Lord unable to claim us as his own when that last great day comes?
In Romans 1:16 the apostle Paul applies what Jesus says with the great statement that is the theme of Romans. “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.” Paul in his statement in that passage is expressing his readiness and his eagerness to preach the gospel wherever he has the opportunity to do so.
And then if you will remember, in I Peter 4:16, the same apostle Peter who ended up denying the Lord, said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian (not for doing wrong), let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” This passage is saying even if we suffer as Christians, let us still be so proud of our Lord that we glorify God in the midst of our suffering in his name.
Many of the other passages on this thought that are in the Bible sort of show the other side of this point. They show that there is a way in which you and I can be loyal to Jesus and thus not ever need to be ashamed before any enemy or before any obstacle. The idea is here. If we will not be ashamed of the Lord and his word and his way, then God will not ever allow us to have to finally be ashamed. He will vindicate our faith. He will cause the whole universe to be able to see that we believed in and stood for what was right and true and good.
Why It Matters
Now if there are these consistent instructions in scripture to not be ashamed, why is this that important an issue? What is the problem of with being ashamed that makes it something that would be spoken of so directly as it is here in 2 Timothy 1? There are at least three reasons.
First, being ashamed in the manner in which Paul is mentioning it here hurts somebody every time. To illustrate this, suppose a pair of godly parents invest their lives, their money, and their efforts into raising a certain young man. Take my mother for an example. I could describe for you the kind of heartaches she went through trying to bring us up. What if I were to now act as if I were ashamed of her? What if I would not want anybody to ever let me be seen with her? What if word of that got around to her? How would it make her feel?
In this passage the apostle Paul is speaking of the attitude that people have taken toward him in his imprisonment at Rome. He was going to be facing another trial before the emperor. Many believe that what Paul has done is sent the word back to the region of Ephesus where Timothy was asking for some upstanding brethren from that area to come to Rome to testify that he had done nothing illegal or ungodly – that he had not been an enemy to society. Paul says in verse 15 that all of them have turned away from him. He names two of them - two men who are only known in all of scripture by the fact that they refused to be seen with Paul. Look how that has hurt Paul. In his hour of need they have abandoned him. They have been ashamed of him. They have not wanted to be identified with the humiliation that he was being subjected to, and it hurt.
Secondly, being ashamed of the Lord and of his word stops the progress of the gospel. In verse 8 when Paul talks to Timothy about not being ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, he is talking about being ashamed of the gospel. You will notice that by the end of this verse. And when he talks to him about not being ashamed of Paul as the Lord’s prisoner, he is also talking about hesitating to take further action in behalf of the Lord’s cause. When a person is not willing to share in whatever price might be involved in furthering the gospel, then, of course, the work will slow and the progress will stop. If you and I hesitate about supporting the Lord’s message of saving power through Christ, then that message won’t have any effect on other people. They can’t hear it. They will not be given the opportunity to respond to it. If we stop making efforts to further the cause of Christ because we are afraid of what someone might think, then in all practical ways the progress of the work ceases.
The third problem is that it in fact denies the Lord. Look at chapter 2:11-13. In that passage Paul says, “This is a faithful saying for if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we deny Him, he will also deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself.” Paul’s point there is that the Lord will be true to who he is, and he will be true to his word. He will be true to himself. If you and I are ashamed of him and won’t confess him, he will have to still be himself, and the effect of that will be that it will cut us off from him. You might also want to read Matthew 10:32, 33. This makes the point that since the Lord is who he is, if we deny him we cut ourselves off from him because he cannot deny himself.
How It Happens
Being ashamed in the way Paul is talking about it will hurt somebody, bring the progress of the gospel to a halt, and ultimately cut us off from the Lord. I look at that and say, “I don’t want that to happen to me.” So how can I discover if I am acting as if I am ashamed of the Lord? None of us are going to stand up and say, “Alright, I am ashamed of Jesus; I am ashamed for anybody to know that I believe the gospel.” That is not how it happens.
But there are some ways in which, in practical terms. it can happen. One way is when we have no word that we are willing to speak in favor of the gospel. When we are disinterested in our mission as a people of the Lord in this world, when we believe that it is always up to someone else to say something in behalf of the gospel, when we are not willing to let the gospel be the power that helps people and makes a difference in the world, then we have problems in this way.
I have noticed recent headlines in the news papers parties urging their voters to begin to ta lkpolitics.spanstyle='mso-spacerunyes' spanThereare people who see that the idea of a favorable word just by a friend is a powerful tool. The church needs to see that with regard to the gospel, too. Several years ago Bro. Woodrow Loveland was visiting friends in the southern part of Texas. He ran across Tommy Kelton. Tommy was preparing his congregation for a gospel meeting they were about to have, and Woodrow was impressed enough of the work that they were doing that he asked for some of the materials that Tommy had. He passed those along to me. Tommy says at the end of a letter he wrote to Woodrow in return, “Our experience has been that getting the brethren excited and busy bringing their friends is the best way of preparing for a meeting.” In other words, just to say something favorable in behalf of the gospel.
We may need to be rediscovering this point when it comes to our place as citizens in this world, too. Our friend Steve Tandy recently had a piece in his bulletin that I brought with me. After noting that the election will take place in this country, and after noting how fortunate we are to be able to express ourselves and to have a say, and after encouraging people as Christians to exercise that right, Steve said something that I believe needs to be said. He said, “The religious folks who have been mailing me their materials to convince me to vote are convinced that if they organize and lobby and run candidates and get involved, they can straighten out what is wrong with this country. Some churches emphasize a social gospel and get involved in demonstrating, lobbying, and voting to fix racism, violence, hate, discrimination, and hunger. There is a basic fatal flaw in putting trust in laws and governments to fix such problems. It is simply not God’s plan. Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ In one sense, the moral, social, or political state of a nation is irrelevant to a Christian. No, I don’t mean that we should withdraw from the world. We should be involved. We should vote, be grateful for religious freedoms, be civil servants, run for office and use the democratic process to protect our values. But we must understand that all of that is not vital to our spiritual growth, witness, or advancement of the kingdom.” And then Steve observed that “God has set up three institutions: the state, the church and the family. When we confuse their roles, things just don’t work very well. The family is the institution that is to establish basic values and shape moral conscience. The state is supposed to punish evil and protect the good.” Those two things don’t always happen. Families and governments sometimes fail at their basic roles. So “how do we fix it? Those who trust in government want to realign the Supreme Court. Those in trust in human political methods want to blockade, clinics and sway public opinion. None of that changes hearts. Working in a pregnancy crisis center does. Introducing a neighbor to the power of the gospel does. Here is the difference. Human politics believes that we must change society in order to change people. Kingdom politics believes that people must be changed,” and that that will never happen without the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I think this is a time when that needs to be said.
Whatever happens, whoever wins, this world will not get better unless the hearts of people are changed by the gospel of Jesus. If we fail to use the gospel as that fixed point that determines our views on all these other things, we are not acting like Christians. I don’t care how you vote, if you fail to use the gospel as that fixed point that determines everything else, you are acting like you are ashamed of the gospel.
Secondly, I want you to notice that being ashamed begins to show when we have no association with servants of the gospel. We are not willing to support efforts to promote the gospel in this world. Paul is thought to have been a prisoner in the so-called “Well Dungeon” at the foot of the capitol in Rome at that time. It was a dark and damp and chilly place. To be seen with somebody imprisoned like that might be to be regarded as a person who is a problem yourself. Paul saw that some people were afraid enough of this that they were not willing to be seen with him. When we are ashamed, we hold ourselves aloof from people who are trying to follow the Lord.
And then being ashamed occurs when there is no risk of self interest for the sake of the gospel. In other words, when I am not willing to put myself out any or to inconvenience myself any. I am not going to change my schedule. I am not going to risk being laughed at. I am not going to risk being left out. I am not going to put anything on the line on behalf of the gospel because I just don’t care that much about it.
In working on this I ran across an old cartoon. In the first frame, Theophilus has a neighbor who is talking to him. He says, “What this world needs is more Bible preaching. It has the power to improve our lives and save our souls. I wish everyone could hear the truth.” Another fellow walks up and says to these two, “Don’t forget our gospel meeting begins in two weeks.”span style='mso-spacerun:yes'> And then the fellow who has been doing the talking puts his hand to his forehead and says, “Oh, no, not another one already!” I think maybe the heart of the man who said he believed in the gospel so strongly wasn’t quite there – he wasn’t quite what he should have been.
How do we overcome these tendencies to be ashamed? The way we overcome involves having a courageous spirit. The “therefore” of verse 8 harkens back to verse 7. In verse 7 Paul had said, “Timothy, God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.” It takes courage to stand up for the gospel in a world that may not believe it.
Secondly, we overcome by being proud of the gospel, by boasting in the gospel, by seeing the wonder of the gospel and by relying on it and being enthused about it and by believing that it is the power of God to salvation.
Third, we overcome by knowing the God of the gospel. Paul didn’t say, “I know what I believe.” He said, “I know him whom I have believed.” He believed that God was able and that God was faithful. You will notice there is some difference on how the end of verse 12 is to be taken. It talks about “the deposit.” The phrase “what I had committed to him” means “my deposit.” There is a question about whether it means what Paul has committed to God or what God has committed to him. I think both of them are involved in this. God can keep Paul’s soul. He can keep the ministry in which Paul has been engaged. And he can make both of them be alright in the end.
Fourth, overcoming involves following noble examples of service for the gospel. Onesiphorus is the example here. Onesiphorus’ name means “help bringer.” Look at the kindness this man has shown. While other people were abandoning Paul, he, on purpose, went, looked him up, found him. And when he found him either chained to a wall or his feet chained together, it didn’t embarrass Onesiphorus to encourage him, to stand with him, to provide his needs and to support him.
Fifth, overcoming involves meeting personal responsibility to the gospel. Verse 14 mentions that good deposit that had been entrusted to Timothy. That was the gospel. Timothy was a steward of the gospel and he was to guard it and see that it was used properly all along.
Here is the instruction to not be ashamed, the way it fits with the whole Bible story, the danger of being ashamed, some ways in which it might happen, and then some steps toward overcoming.
It was the gospel of Jesus Christ which had saved Paul, a former blasphemer and persecutor. It was the gospel of Jesus which had saved Timothy, a young man whose father was apparently not even a believer. And it is the gospel of Jesus that can save you and me and make this world the place it needs to be. This morning, if you would commit yourself to depending on it to the point that you are not ashamed to stand up and confess that and then to put the Lord on in baptism, being buried with him and being raised to walk in newness of life, we encourage you to take that action.