Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NOT ASHAMED

Luke 9:26, “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Sad but true—there is sometimes a temptation to be ashamed of Jesus and His words. The Apostle Peter himself fearfully denied Jesus, three times. Later he was forgiven, transformed, and Spirit-filled to boldly proclaim that which he previously denied. The Apostle Paul, recognizing our tendency towards timidity, exhorted Timothy: “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” (2 Timothy 1:8). “I am not ashamed,” he added, “for I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).

J. C. Ryle commented on this text: “There are many ways of being ashamed of Christ. We are guilty of it whenever we are afraid of letting men know that we love His doctrines, His precepts, His people, and His ordinances. We are guilty of it whenever we allow the fear of man to prevail over us, and to keep us back from letting others see that we are decided Christians. Whenever we act in this way, we are denying our Master, and committing a great sin.”

I am encouraged today by recent examples of those who have unashamedly acknowledged Christ. Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor, sentenced to death for converting to Christianity, has nevertheless refused to recant of his faith in Christ. The account of Jeremiah Small’s ministry to a school full of Muslim’s is likewise encouraging in this regard. Go to this link to read this wonderful testimony from World Magazine: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/19280.

I was reading yesterday from the book, “War and Grace: Short Biographies from the World Wars,” by Don Stephens. The book includes a brief biography of Louis Zamperini’s life (as does the wonderful book, “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand). The briefer biography in “War and Grace,” includes an account which records Louis’ refusal to deny Christ in a specific circumstance.

Louis Zamperini led a remarkable life. Rescued from teenage delinquency he became an Olympic class runner. Adrift for 49 days at sea he was rescued by the Japanese. Imprisoned by them for 2 and ½ years, he was rescued by the allied forces. Enslaved to alcohol and bitterness, he was ultimately rescued by Christ Himself, and wonderfully transformed. He eventually made a trip to Japan to meet his former captors and express his forgiveness to them.

Don Stephens wrote about what happened next, “Soon after his return from Japan, he received the chance to make some honest money. An organization employed lecturers who travelled around the country giving talks on a regular-salary basis. ‘Your story is thrilling,’ he was told. ‘You think it is all right for your audiences?’ Zamperini enquired. The payment would be $50,000 a year with a seven-year contract. ‘What happens after seven years?’ Zamperini asked. The answer was: ‘We start all over again.’ He was amazed—such a large salary for so little effort! His mind contemplated the good he could do with that sort of money. Then came the catch. He would have to make some minor changes. He could talk freely about God, but they said he couldn’t mention Christ by name. Zamperini’s response may sound dogmatic to some people: ‘The least I can do for Christ is to turn down your offer. If I can’t mention Christ, I can’t speak at all. I don’t want your contract.”

There are countless examples, throughout Church history, of those who have refused to deny Christ in difficult circumstances. In Jesus and His words we have nothing to be ashamed of. There are countless other things to be ashamed of or embarrassed by, but never Jesus. There is no one more deserving of praise than He. Others may blaspheme Him and mock His gospel—may the siren song of His devoted followers lead them to His cross and forgiveness. Heavenly Father, tune our hearts to sing your grace! Grant us courage, by the power of the indwelling Spirit, to boldly proclaim Your wonderful Name and glorious gospel no matter the consequence or threat. Help us to be not ashamed (Cf. Romans 1:16; Galatians 6:14).

Pastor Jerry

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