Unity In Times of DisagreementI have a declaration to make this morning. A statement that I just can’t keep to myself. I have been pondering the possible repercussions my announcement could bring about. I have been considering the potential consequences of my disclosure. I’ve weighed the benefits of keeping it to myself against the cost of letting the cat out of the bag. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I’ve got to tell you this morning, I just can’t keep it to myself — I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m ashamed of a lot of things. I am ashamed of the things I have done and things I have failed to do. I am ashamed of seeing those who are hurting and yet my calloused heart allowed me to pass them by. I am ashamed of not taking the time to celebrate with those whose joy has overflowed around me. I am ashamed of failing to help the lost find their way. I am ashamed of the days I have wasted, the grace I have tested, and that I have failed to give God my best. Oh, there are a lot of things that I am ashamed of, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I am ashamed of my failure as a minister and the failure of many of those who share my call to be a shepherd. I am ashamed of how we preachers continue to preach about happiness and fun when we serve the One whom the Bible calls a “man of sorrows.” I am ashamed of the way we preachers validate our call by the size of the sanctuary we call home. I am ashamed at how we determine our value by the size of our check rather than the substance of His call. I am ashamed at how we determine our effectiveness by the applause of men rather than the approval of God. I am ashamed of how we fear those who sit on our Board and are bored with the One who sits on the Throne. I am ashamed at how we glory in the crowd rather than in the Cross. I am ashamed at how we tickle people’s ears and tear at the heart of God. I am ashamed at how we turn our backs on the poor and outcasts who can’t boost our budgets and instead, seek to boost our credibility with those who can. I am ashamed at how we twist and turn God’s Word in order to tell people how good they are, rather than telling sinners how good God is. I am ashamed of my failure as a minister and many of those I have been called alongside, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I am ashamed at my failure as a father today and the way others of us who have been called to be fathers are failing. I am ashamed at how patient we can be with those we don’t even know, and yet lose our patience with those who need it most. I am ashamed of how we pledge our lives to the company and yet walk away from our families. I am ashamed of how we willingly give overtime to our boss and yet tell our kids, “Not now, honey, I’m too busy.” I am ashamed of the high standards we hold up for our kids while lowering the bar of morality and holiness for our own lives. I am ashamed of how we tell our children how important it is to worship God and yet we rush out of worship to catch the latest sporting event on television. I am ashamed of how we teach our kids to have compassion on the poor and needy and yet lavish ourselves with more and more. I am ashamed of how we talk the good talk, but neglect our walk. I am ashamed of my failure as a father this morning, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I am ashamed of my failure as a husband and the way far too many of us who are called to bless our wives are failing. I am ashamed of how we pledged ourselves for better or worse, but now we want to renegotiate the contract. I am ashamed of how we promised to honor our wives, but we’ve brought dishonor to their name. I am ashamed at how we’ve been called to bless our Princess, created in the image of Almighty God, and yet we’ve cursed her as we’ve torn at His image. I am ashamed at how easily we shout, shutdown, and stomp off when they need us to stand with them through thick and thin. I am ashamed of how we will go through hell and high water for our job, but call it quits at the drop of a hat in our home. I am ashamed of the black eyes, bruised bodies, broken bones, and battered hearts we’ve inflicted on the greatest gift God has given us as husbands. I am ashamed of my failure as a husband, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I am sometimes ashamed of the Church today. I am ashamed of the way we build buildings while neglecting hearts and souls. I am ashamed of the way we cling to tradition rather than clinging to Almighty God. I am ashamed of the way we idolize the messengers instead of the Messiah. I am ashamed of the way we fixate on the budget of the Church instead of the blood of Christ. I am ashamed of the way we desire for our Church to be sanitized instead of sanctified. I am ashamed of the way the Church bows to the power brokers in her midst instead of bowing before the Power and the Glory. I am ashamed of the way we are incensed over broken things instead of broken hearts. I am ashamed of the way we are more willing to pledge our allegiance to our denomination instead of pledging our hearts to the Kingdom. I am ashamed of the way we celebrate our history with more vigor than we celebrate our destiny. I am ashamed of the way we have chosen to tolerate a lifeless existence instead of walking in the newness of life everlasting. I am ashamed of the Church from time to time, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I am ashamed of the United States of America. I am ashamed of the fact that this nation which declares “In God We Trust” won’t allow their children to pray in public school while other children are praying in schools in far away nations which at one time declared “there is no God.” I am ashamed of the way we celebrate the immoral and immortalize the celebrated. I am ashamed that we claim to be open-minded, but we’ve closed our minds to the teachings of Jesus. I am ashamed that we say everyone is entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and yet we’ve prevented millions of innocent lives from ever pursuing any of these ideals. I am ashamed that we give our kids condoms, but keep them from Christ. I am ashamed that we have more than 20% of our children being born out of wedlock, more than 50% of our marriages ending in divorce, and 50 million of our citizens walking around with some type of sexually transmitted disease. I am ashamed that we search for answers to our problems in the minds of men rather than the heart of God. Sometimes I am ashamed of the United States of America, but I am not ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I am ashamed of various aspects and elements of life, most of all my own life, but I never have been, nor will I ever be ashamed of the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.
I have come to the conclusion that since we are fallible, sin-scared people, we will experience shame from time to time. There are things that we have done in our past that we do not want anyone to find out about. If the truth got out we would be covered with embarrassment and shame. There are things others, who are close to us, have done which has brought shame upon us.
Shame is real, my friend. We hear people say today, “Is there no shame?” suggesting that shame may be obsolete in our sophisticated day. Some of you may be led to believe that shame is an archaic, outdated state of being that only applies to politicians and preachers who commit shameful deeds and then act as if nothing has happened. I will tell you that the appearance is not always the reality. Though a person may be smiling and shrugging it off on the outside, on the inside a different reality is draining the life from the perpetrator. Why, when we work so hard to dismiss and discard shame is shame still tracking us? I will tell you why. Shame tracks us like a relentless hunter refusing to give up the hunt because he has been sent out from the throne room of Almighty God to bring us to our knees. There are several Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “shame” or “ashamed” in the Bible. If you do a search on “shame” in English you will find 128 occurrences of the word. Let me give you a few examples.
35 The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame. (Proverbs 3:35)
15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. (Habakuk 2:15-16)
25 “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 3:25)
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! (Romans 6:20-21 NIV)
What do we do when the circumstances of our lives bring shame on us? What do we do when our convictions and actions bring shame on us? What do we do when others indiscretions and sin bring shame on us? What do we do when shame engulfs us, grabs us by the throat and drains the life from us? What do we do? We learn from life’s lessons, God’s lessons, that other’s actions affect us and can even bring dishonor and shame on us when we didn’t do anything wrong.
We also recognize that our actions bring shame on ourselves. Hopefully we learn that when we set out to chart our own course and do what we think is best it is going to result in a train wreck. After we recognize that we are bringing about our own ruin apart from God, we then turn our faces toward heaven and realize that we have absolutely nothing to offer, nothing to be proud of, in and of ourselves, and we place our confidence in Almighty God!
I have come to the conclusion that the remedy to my shame is found in the Cross. Jesus will take away our shame; He will clothe us in His righteousness, and give us a new life. That is good news, church. All of my best efforts have never proven to be lasting, they have always been tainted with my sin, but His efforts are sinless, they are pure, they are holy.
Shame will pursue us until we are exhausted. When we’ve run out of energy we will be confronted with two options – create a fictitious existence trying to hide, justify, or explain away our shame, or we can bear our soul before the One who already knows our ways and accept His forgiving grace which takes away our shame and covers us with His holiness.
If God says that we will be put to shame if we continue to trust in ourselves, our abilities, our confidence, our strength–then what are we to do? We are to trust in Jesus. The Bible says,
6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6)
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:8-11)
80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees, that I may not be put to shame. 81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:80-81)
The first step in putting our faith and trust in Jesus is to believe what He said. Jesus came pointing those around Him to the problem of sin and the solution of His sinless life which would be offered for the forgiveness of their sins. This is the Gospel, the Good News of God, for you and me. In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul speaks about shame in another way–he says that he is not ashamed of the Gospel. Read along with me.
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 NIV)
What does Paul mean by this statement? What is there to be ashamed of in the Gospel, the Good News that God has sent His Son to die for our sins and restore us to fellowship with the Father? When we think about shame we think about all of the things we do which bring about shame, but what has the Gospel got to do with bringing shame on you and me? Great question.
At the same time we believe that the absence of shame would cast you and me in the best light with those around us. If I had never done anything wrong to cause me to hang my head then I would be looked at as someone of noble character, a man of integrity in our community. Right? Paul had done things wrong. He persecuted Christians before he became one, but his shame, the distaste those in society had for him was not because of his moral failure, but because of his message. The Gospel, the message that Paul shared at every turn of his life, brought him scorn and shame in society and yet he was not ashamed of the Gospel.
Why was this so? Why did Paul suffer so much ridicule and scorn because of the Gospel, the best news that has ever been delivered to the world? Read along with me from 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, where Paul writes,
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 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. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24 NIV)
The Greek word that Paul uses for “foolishness” here in 1 Corinthians is the word, “moria.” The word means, “foolish, mental dullness, or stupid.” The world doesn’t get it. They think that the message of the Gospel is foolish, it is just plain stupid. To display initiative, determination, and intestinal fortitude is a plus in our society. If you want something you go and get it, but this doesn’t apply in the realm of holiness or salvation. Telling someone to set their mind on gaining salvation is like asking them to jump across the Grand Canyon. No matter how hard you try you are going to fall short. What we can’t do God has done for us in Jesus. That should be news worth celebrating, yet the world despises this news. They don’t get it. Paul told the Corinthians some of the things he had faced because of the cause of Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 NIV)
Nobody hoisted Paul upon their shoulders because of the message he preached. As a matter of fact, we are told in Acts 14:19 that Paul was stoned because of his message and left for dead outside of the city. The Gospel brought scorn to Paul’s life and yet he was not ashamed of the Gospel. Why did Paul continue to preach? If someone finds out we are a Christian and they mock us because of our beliefs, then we keep our mouths shut and change the topic of conversation. In the case of Paul, those around him may not have appreciated the message or the messenger, yet Paul was compelled to continue to preach the Gospel. He says,
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 at Rome. (Romans 1:14-15 NIV)
Paul wasn’t sharing the Gospel so that he would become popular. He wasn’t sharing the Gospel so that others might herald him as the next big thing. Paul was “obligated.” That is an interesting word. The word “obligated” is translated from the Greek word, “opheiletes.” The word means, “one who owes another, a debtor.” Paul felt obligated to share the message of the Gospel. What God had done for Paul, he believed God wanted to do for others. God had forgiven Paul of the greatest debt, a debt that he could have never repaid. The best illustration of this is found in one of Jesus’ parables where Jesus was teaching Simon Peter about forgiveness. Turn with me to Matthew 18:23-35.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35 NIV)
The servant owed more than he could repay in ten lifetimes and yet he was forgiven his debt. Because of the great gift of forgiveness that the man had been given, he was indebted to forgive the small debt that his friend owed him. He owed it to the King who had forgiven him to do this and yet he failed miserably. Jesus wanted Simon Peter to know that trying to determine the intricacies of how, when, and under what conditions forgiveness was necessary was missing the point. Forgiveness is a gift from God–a gift that should cause us to stand in awe and wonder.
Paul understood this fact and that is why he felt “obligated” to share the message of the Gospel with all people. Paul had been forgiven a great debt. He had been given a great gift–A gift he was unworthy of, but of which he was most grateful. Paul didn’t try to gloss over his past sins, he was upfront to the end of his days that he was unworthy. Paul said,
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV)
Paul was the worst of sinners in his own eyes. The worst of sinners? Would you classify Paul as such? The words that I think of most when I think of Paul are missionary, teacher, committed follower of Jesus, not the worst of sinners. Paul’s right understanding of the depravity of his soul and the glorious gift of salvation kept him on the move, sharing the Gospel, regardless of what may come. Paul writes,
9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13 NIV)
Paul’s ministry brought him insult and scorn in the eyes of those in society and yet Paul was unashamed of the Gospel! How could he be so committed? How could he feel so passionate about something that brought him so much pain and suffering? He answers the question for us. Paul says,
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 NIV)
The Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” The Gospel is THE power of God, the only power capable of saving you and me my friends. In light of this Paul could say,
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18 NIV)
Any and all of the “shame” that those in society heaped upon Paul because of his message, he wasn’t about to turn back or second guess the power of the Gospel to transform lives. Paul was ashamed of many of the things he had done throughout his life, but he was never ashamed of the Gospel. He would endure whatever scorn and suffering society would throw at him because he was convinced that the Gospel was the only power to change the human heart.
I have tried everything known to man in the past to alleviate my guilt and my shame for the things that I’ve failed to do and the despicable things I have done, but none of them has worked. When I’ve tried to explain it away, the haunting voice of Truth shouts at me. When I’ve tried to diminish its effect on my life, it has drained me of strength. Shame has, in the past, paralyzed me, incapacitated me, and drained me of life. I’ve tried it all and none of it has worked so I’m through trusting in myself. I no longer want to lie down with shame; I want to walk with the Savior! I want to trust in His power to take me out of my grave of shame and lift me up to newness of life everlasting. Today I want to announce that Mike Hays is dead. His power is powerless. His strength is impotent. His wisdom is foolishness. Oh, but his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. His faith is in the Savior. His life is everlasting. His shame is taken away by the One who bore his shame on the cross. I am no longer a member of the fellowship of the shameful, but:
I am a member of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have Holy Spirit power.
The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of His.
I won’t look back, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, side walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, same visions, mundane talking, chincy giving, and dwarf goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, promotions, positions, plaudits, or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, regarded, rewarded, or praised.
I now live by present, lean by faith, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gate is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, lured, manipulated, enticed, or bribed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the Adversary, negotiate at the table of the Enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I’ve stayed up, prayed up, and preached for the cause for Christ.
I am a disciple of His.
I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, work till He stops me.
And when He comes back He will have no problem recognizing me.
For I have forgotten all that is in the past, I’m pressing on for the prize, the high calling of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My colors are clear.
I am a disciple of His!
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
July 8, 2007