Summary: The Church today has no reason to cower or shrink. Our moment for strength and service is at hand!
Usage Note: Fellow pastors and teachers – you are welcome to use and distribute this message freely; I have myself learned and borrowed from many Christian leaders in the course of my ministry. If my work is helpful to you, please do me the honor of following me on twitter – @tsbreen – and checking out my website – www.telosblog.com
Life offers us many opportunities to feel sheepish or bashful. But gang, our Christian faith should never be the cause of timidity or self-consciousness. In Mark chapter 8, Jesus teaches his followers that whatever happens to them, they should not be ashamed of the Messiah.
Never should we feel embarrassed, never should we allow ourselves to be intimidated, never should we feel out of place because of Jesus Christ. Our cause is too important, our King is too great, our witness is too important to be locked up and put away because we feel self-conscious or reticent.
Now, more than ever, in an age where so many have no shame, we must be steady and settled about our faith. We exist in a time when gratuitous sex and vulgar language appears before the eyes of our children on the television screen. We live in a world where racism and hate peppers our online discussions. Nobody’s blushing about that anymore. And yet we, as the people of God, worry about offending people?
No, church, the time has come for us to break out of our privacy and our timidity. The time has come for the unashamed to make their declaration. For the people of the Messiah to stand with him, boldly and eagerly.
In the course of history, there has been one document that has repeatedly spurred on that kind of quickening in the church. It’s actually a letter, penned some 2000 years ago. It’s a letter that begins like this:
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ…14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[e] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[f]
These are verses 1-7, and 14-17 of a letter that has come to us as the Book of Romans. It was composed around 56 AD in the Corinthian living room of a man named Gaius. The author was a Christian convert named Paul, the scribe was a man named Tertius, and the total impact of this letter has still to be measured.
It was these verses from Romans that prompted Martin Luther to begin his work of reformation 500 years ago this fall, bringing changes that, among others, raised the idea that all believers share in a priesthood, put the scriptures in the hands of all believers, and undergirded the enlightenment.
Luther said that after reading Romans 1, “I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
And it’s not just Luther. An archipelago of brilliant Christian minds from St. Augustine to John Wesley and John Bunyan has approached upon the beaming light of Romans and have come away transformed. Newly illuminated. As another pastor once put it – reading Romans repeatedly results in revival.
My hope is that in studying these words this morning, we, too, will be revived. We will be less discouraged, less intimidated, less inert, less drowsy, less embarrassed, less afraid. We are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God!