There are many things to talk about, but there is only one that weighs on my heart right now.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:7-12
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. Romans 1:16
I know you've heard these verses before. Why do you think the thought of being ashamed of the gospel was mentioned by Paul? What is there to be ashamed of? Do you think he was addressing the embarrassment we feel in talking to people about religious stuff? I don't think so, either.
But what could there possibly be to be ashamed of in preaching the gospel? I think you know, for you have sensed it just as I have. And the shame has often caused both of us to back off. And, I think, this is what disturbs us more than anything else even though we rationalize the shame and its results.
What is it that drives us to seek the favor of men? I know this personally ... more than you would ever imagine. It is what Paul spoke of in his letter to the Galatians. He knew the urge to be driven by trying to be a man-pleaser. Consider what he was up against constantly. What was happening to him because he stood on the freedom of Christ ONLY? Here's a short list of stuff I've come to realize that he had to deal with EVERY SINGLE DAY of his life:
- The religious-minded (believer and unbeliever) said he was encouraging sin by his preaching of the freedom of Christ.
- Those who had spiritual authority despised him for this gospel of freedom.
- Many believers were swayed by the opinions of the authorities.
- Because the Corinthians were holding to the mindset of the flesh they could not be honest with him.
- The Galatian believers saw him as an enemy because of the true gospel that he preached in view of the false gospel they were considering.
- Some Philippian believer's jealousy caused them to preach Christ, hoping to make Paul's jailors take it out on him.
- In the Corinthian group it was rumored that Paul acted tough when he wrote his letters, but really was just a light-weight in real life.
- Many believers were afraid of Paul because of his reputation.
- Many saw him as "arrogant" for his firmness in the gospel.
- They saw him as "narrow-minded".
- Many saw him as "wrong".
- He was constantly challenged by unbeliever and believer.
- His authority in Christ was mostly questioned because of appearances.
What do you fear? That fear is the thing that will make you ashamed of the gospel. If you are anything like me, then you don't want people to think you are narrow-minded, or to be thought of as arrogant. Nor do I want to be thought of as wrong. But standing firm in the gospel creates those impressions in the world around us. It's one thing to have unbelievers regarding us as wackos, we should expect it. But when believers judge by anything other than the new creation they will have the same opinions as the world.
The gospel divides the new from the old, life from death, the believer from the world, the power and wisdom of God from that of the world.
We have gotten so used to the Politically Correct mindset (It has been around for ages, we just gave it a title and made our laws revolve around it). If the Galatians had said, "I do not feel edified by Paul's letter", then was Paul wrong ... or had he stumbled? Is edified a feeling? The Corinthians were made to feel very bad by what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, but it shook them into the reality of Christ!