We are living in a day of religious pluralism and theological illiteracy. On a very general level, many Christians have been told they need to share the Gospel with people. But why? What is it that motivates you to even engage the culture for the Christian faith? Or maybe you just don’t engage it all. Overseas, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. So don’t take it for granted that we have the freedom to share what we believe with others.
1. The Starting Point
If you don’t agree with the following syllogism, it makes it hard to want to share your faith: 1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence. 2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection. 3. Therefore, there is reliable historical evidence that Jesus is God incarnate.
So if this syllogism is correct, it leads to the next syllogism:
The Command to Make Disciples: Matt 28:19
1. Whatever Jesus teaches is true. 2. Jesus taught that we are to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19). 3. Therefore, Christians should desire to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).
This command does not mean we need to be sent to some far distant land to preach the Gospel. The command applies to every Christian no matter where they are located. God uses us wherever we are.
It is true that much of the Church has focused on the “go” part of this command. But we need to remember that The Great Commission is accomplished while we “go” about living our daily lives.
The context of Matt 28:19 is that in fulfillment of the Great Commission, we are to make disciples. We are to baptize new believers and we are to teach them. Unless there has been teaching and instruction about the commands of Jesus, there has not been any discipleship. So it is clear that people can’t enter into the process of discipleship without hearing about the Gospel.
“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)
Grammatically, the entire verse is in the present tense. There are three verbs: unashamed, is and believes. All are in the present tense. So Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel. He knew it was for the Jew and the Greek. He also knew the power of God was demonstrated in the message.
But now we need to ask ourselves whether we can make an application of this text. Do we as Christians actually believe the Gospel is Good News and are we ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Are there some visible signs as to whether we are ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Here are some signs that we might be ashamed of the Gospel. Please note the goal of this post is not meant to induce false guilt or condemnation.
#1: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are worried about offending people
One time I was a class on evangelism. One student said that one of the people they witnessed to were offended by the message. My response is the same as always: The Gospel is offensive. Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)
To summarize “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:
1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).
2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).
3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).
4.Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).
5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).
6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).
7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).
8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).
9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).
10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).
You could always make people less offended and preach a false Gospel such as “Jesus will meet all your needs.” In other words, Jesus is a buddy. But if you do this, you will have to answer to God for giving people the false Gospel. So always remember the power is in the message. And it will offend because the Holy Spirit does convict people of the truthfulness of the message.
#2: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are a man-pleaser rather than a God pleaser
This happens to all of us. In a day of political correctness, Christians are more worried about what their peers think than what God thinks. In the end, we will answer to God with what we did with the Gospel. We are stewards of the message.
#3: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are afraid we can’t answer objections
In this case, that’s why we have apologetics. There are plenty of resources that can help the Christian to be confident in what they believe.
#4: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t take the Lordship of Jesus seriously
This is a hot topic. As far as Lordship, I think the new believer needs to know about this early on. To make Jesus as Lord of one’s life is a lifelong process. It is a call to daily surrender. We are called to yield our time, bodies, goals and gifts to His Lordship. Is it easy? No, not at all. I struggle with this quite a bit. But we do have a Helper to give us the grace to do it (hint: study the ministry of the Holy Spirit). So in other words, we say ‘”Lord Jesus, have your way with me. I am relying on the work of the Holy Spirit to yield myself to you on a daily basis.”
There is no doubt that in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people walk away. A long-term commitment to our Lord, which involves self-denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for those that have been told The American Dream is the way of happiness.
#5: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t really believe the Gospel is true
In this case, perhaps we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. Do we really believe it is Good News?
#6: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t even know what the Gospel actually is!
You may say this is impossible. But there has been a slew of books questioning “What is the Gospel?” I have written elsewhere that the Gospel is presented in a variety of contexts.
Those are some of the checkpoints I have come up with. Feel free to think of some more.