Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Ashamed of the Gospel?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Why Are We Failing the Great Commission?
Ashamed of the Gospel?

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel.”  This is much more than a statement of fact.  This is an affirmation of faith and a commitment to proclaim a message.  This statement is a declaration of war upon the binding forces of evil and the pervasive darkness of satanic deception (the “mystery of inequity”). 

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:8-17).

          I hope you have begun targeting people for the presentation of the Gospel.  I hope you have begun using your Soul Winners Prayer Journal and have listed several people you have begun to pray for.  I trust you have accepted your Commission from our Lord and have committed yourself to doing the work of an evangelist.  By that I mean you have committed yourself to present the Gospel of salvation to people, work to make those who receive the gift of salvation disciples of Christ and are beginning to teach them to be guardians of truth.

          As we read Romans 1:8-17, it is obvious these things were the focus of Paul’s life (vs. 9, “whom I serve with my spirit,” meaning with his whole heart).  Paul lived to preach the Gospel and make disciples for His Lord.  In fact, Paul’s fanaticism with the Gospel, and his compulsion to proclaim the Gospel, made those outside of the faith think that he was out of his mind.

“And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself {to what we refer presently as being out of one’s mind; i.e., a raving maniac}; much learning doth make thee mad {mania; crazy}. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:24-25).

          There was a young man I knew years ago.  He was just out of high school. I made his acquaintance through his brother who was a member of the church I was pastoring.  He professed to be a Christian, but it was obvious he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I shared the Gospel with him at every opportunity, encouraging him to accept Christ.  One day he said to me; You are never off duty, are you?

          I wondered about that statement for a long time.  Was I being too pushy?  Was I pressing to hard?  I had to stop for a moment and examine my motives.  In it all I concluded that my concern was for him.  At any moment he could step into eternity lost and condemned.  There was a real matter of urgency.  He needed to get saved and I needed to use every opportunity that God provided to bring him to Christ. 

          Years later, while reading Romans 1:8-17, I realized that in urgency was exactly the word that described the way the Apostle Paul lived his life.  Paul was never off duty.  He was always “ready to preach the Gospel” (vs. 15).  He lived for that end.  His life was literally being consumed with bringing people to know his Lord.  Anything less is “lukewarm” Christianity.  The purpose of living the Christ-life must become the exaltation of Jesus Christ through everything we say or do.
Why did Paul want to go to Rome (Romans 1:8)?  He had heard there were people like him at Rome.  The word “faith” refers to practice.  The Christians at Rome lived what they believed.  Every local church to which Paul went, spoke of the faithfulness of the believers at Rome.  This was an assembly of believers with the same passion for people that the Apostle Paul had.  

According to what Paul says in Romans 1:13, he longed to participate in their harvest of souls for Christ.  I wonder how many Christians have that kind of passion for Christ today.  The word “purposed” in Romans 1:13 tells us that Paul was a man who set goals for himself.  He certainly admonished and exhorted all believers to set spiritual goals for themselves and others.  Christians should want to be with other REAL believers.

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended {possess or attain; Paul did not think he had arrived as full spiritual maturity in either understanding or practice}: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind {yesterday’ successes and failures}, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect {equipped or spiritually mature}, be thus minded” (Philippians 3:13-15a).

People seldom arrive at a destination for which they have not set goals to reach.  We always end up somewhere, but do we end up where we want to be, or even where we should be? 

          Notice Paul’s motivation for his evangelism in Romans 1:14. Paul’s debt was to Christ.  He owed his life to his Savior.  It was a debt that could never be repaid, so Paul felt obligated to give everything of himself in serving Christ.  Paul’s debt to Christ burdened him to reach every person and class of people in the world with the Gospel.  Paul’s debt gave him a world view and that world view kept the Go in the Gospel for Paul. 

          As far as the ancient Greeks were concerned, there were only two categories of people in the world.  There were Greeks who were educated and there were the non-Greeks who were un-educated.  Paul was indebted to Christ to reach them all. 

          How many Christians sense a similar kind of burden of their debt to Christ?  A burden for souls will come when you understand your debt to Christ.  Understanding our debt to Christ will result in giving our heart to Him.  When our heart belongs to Him, the priorities of this life will fall into their rightful places.  We will never be anything but lukewarmites until our hearts belong to Christ.  

          According to Romans 1:15, Paul was “ready to preach the Gospel.”  What is the primary reality that qualifies us to be “ready” for this overwhelming commitment and this battlefield mentality necessary to engage the forces of evil for the cause of Christ?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

Today, few Christians are spiritually prepared to preach the Gospel.  What are the primary qualifications necessary in order for anyone to be prepared to preach the Gospel?

1. The heart must be surrendered/yielded to the Lord (Romans 6:11-14).
2. We need to be prepared intellectually and theologically to answer the questions of why and what we believe (II Timothy 2:15).
3. We need to be prepared psychologically to confront our own fears and weaknesses that Satan will use to keep us from confronting a lost world with the Gospel message (Jude 1:23; “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”).

According to Romans 1:16, Paul was “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”  Most Christians would boldly say they are not ashamed of the Gospel.  However, the degree that this is true is manifested by the action of confessing Christ before men.  If we are not ashamed of the Gospel, we will proclaim the Gospel. 

The word “ashamed” (Romans 1:16) refers to something that gives us a sense of dishonor or causes us to blush.  “Ashamed” can also refer to feelings which keep us from being public about identification with someone or something.  If we are unwilling to publicly speak of the sacrifice of Christ and His free gift of salvation, we are manifesting a shame of Christ.  By that definition, many Christians are ashamed of the Gospel. 

Why should we NEVER be ashamed of the Gospel?  We should never be ashamed because the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”  People cannot be saved without understanding the Gospel.  Yet the Word of God says very few will ever understand the very simple message of what Christ has done.

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that (both) heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

Why is it so difficult to communicate such a simple message of truth?  It difficult to communicate this simple message of truth, because there is opposition from satanic forces of evil.

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:4).

We cannot read the parable of the Sower and not see that the focus of Satan’s opposition to the Gospel is to confuse people about the simplicity of the message.  The Gospel is the greatest message of truth ever given to this world.  It details the accomplishments of the greatest Person Who ever walked the face of this earth.  God has commissioned us to communicate that story to everyone in the whole world and to keep doing it until they understand.  Unless we do it, people will not hear, and people will not be saved.  Evangelism is God’s ordained way of spreading the good news about Christ.  You and I (believers) are the only media God has ordained to broadcast and publish His message to a lost and dying world.

The Fear of Man

          God has built many defense mechanisms into the human psyche.  One of these defense mechanisms is fear.  Fear is a healthy response to abnormal, threatening, and dangerous situations of life.  It is normal to fear both physical pain and psychological pain.  However, fear is a defense mechanism that should result in caution when faced with threats of physical pain or psychological pain.  Fear should not control us.  We must learn to control fear.  

If we do not control fear, we will never move beyond our comfort zone.  In fact, we will develop a counter-culture comfort zone where we do not need to even encounter fearful situations any longer.  The local church we attend often becomes such a counter-culture comfort zone.  If this is the case, the local church environment becomes just another wilderness where we wander through life never engaging the forces of evil and never occupying the Promise Land blessings of God.

19 And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea. 20 And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us. 21 Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. 22 And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come. 23 And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe: 24 And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out. 25 And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us. 26 Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God: 27 And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us” (Deuteronomy 1:19-27).

          The fear of social ostracism puts constant pressure upon many believers.  The fear of social ostracism is the fear of rejection or exclusion, by general consent, from a group or from acceptance by a society.  When it exists, it can develop into the fear of man and a denial of Christ.  This results in an unwillingness to confront people with the Gospel and their need of salvation. 

          Satan has used the fear of rejection as an effective tool to hinder the spread of the Gospel through personal evangelism.  This fear must be understood, recognized, and confronted in our lives in order to have continual victory over it.  Victory will come when we have a proper perspective and understanding of our God and when we begin to see the circumstances of life from an eternal perspective. Courage is not what we do in the absence of fear, but rather is defined as doing what is necessary in the midst of danger.  

Fear is the opposition to faith.  The degree fear of rejection keeps us from doing what is right manifests the degree of our unbelief.

28 Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there. 29 Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; 31 And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. 32 Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God, 33 Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day (Deuteronomy 1:28-33).

Let me ask you, if the fear of rejection keeps you from telling others of their need for Christ, what does that say about your faith in God and your love for Christ?  If the fear of rejection keeps us from obeying the Great Commission, is our failure any different then Israel’s failure at Kadesh-barnea? 

The fear of rejection and social ostracizing can be crippling to our evangelistic efforts.  The fear the rejection will motivate us to silence to the people who need our witness the most.  We all want acceptance.  The fear of rejection is common to all of us.  None the less, it is very selfish of us to allow that fear to determine our action.

People must hear AND understand the Gospel in order to be saved.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher {herald or proclaimer}” (Romans 10:13-14)?

If our fear of rejection keeps us from telling others of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, Satan has defeated us as a witness.  Satan will use our fear to its fullest extent when our lives are governed by fear rather than faith. 

          Wanting to be accepted by individuals that reject Christ shows a severe lack of loyalty to Christ.  Who are we seeking to please, God or men?  If we displease God, does it matter if we are accepted by men?  If we please God, does it matter if we are rejected by men?

Overcoming fear with faith

God expects believers to overcome fear by trusting in Him (with faith).

“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

Habakkuk overcame his fear by confronting it with his faith and by rehearsing in his mind his knowledge of God’s power.

2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. 3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. 6 He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. 7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. 8 Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation? 9 Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. 12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. 13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. 14 Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. 15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. 16 When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. . . 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places . . .” (Habakkuk 3:2-16 & 19).
If we are ever going to accomplish anything for Christ, we must teach ourselves to overcome the fear of rejection and social ostracism and establish the willingness to bear reproach for Christ in this world.  We must recognize that doing so will cost us some friends and perhaps many other things as well.  Failure to do so puts others above the Lord and reveals a shame of our relationship with Christ.

“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:11).

Overcoming fear with love

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18).

There is no fear in love.  We have all watched a telecast of a person being held back by four or five people to keep him from running into a burning building to attempt to rescue a family member.  Why would a person do such a thing?  The answer is simple.  His love for the person in danger completely overwhelms his fear of death.  “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

          The same is true of those that truly love Christ, His Gospel and those He died for.  If the fear of rejection keeps you from telling others of what Christ has done for them, you do not love Christ or them.   Love and fear are two opposing, but powerful forces in our life.

1. Fear is always selfish.  The degree that fears cripple us is the degree we focus on the consequences of our actions to ourselves.
2. Love is always sacrificial.  The degree that love frees us from fear is the degree we can focus on the consequences of our actions to the benefit of others.

          The fear of man both questions and tests two central aspects of our profession of Christ.

1. Fear tests our faith.  Can we really put our life into the hands of a Carpenter Who lived 2,000 years ago and Who claimed to be the Son of God?  We can only do this if we really believe He is Who He says He is.
2. Fear tests our love for Christ and others, by what we are willing to risk or sacrifice for their benefit.  Our love for Christ and others is a tangible, measurable reality.  If we are not willing to tell others of what Christ has done for them and risk their rejection in hope that they will be saved, we love neither Christ nor them.

          By these two tests, how does your Christianity measure up to what it ought to be?  Are you going to spend the rest of your life wandering around in the wilderness of sin and disobedience to the great commission because your fear of men surpasses your faith in God? 

          Every Christian at one time or another has failed to tell someone what Christ has done because of the fear of rejection.  Overcoming fear begins with a decision to trust the Lord and to love Him with all our heart, soul and might.   

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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