“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
I could feel the blood rush to my face. We have a term for this in the Marine Corps: “Good initiative, bad judgement!” In this case it wasn’t even good initiative. I’m sitting on the end seat of a four-hole outhouse (we had a more endearing term that I won’t use), in the dark, in our artillery battery position along the Marine Expeditionary Airstrip at Chu Lai, Vietnam. I was bemoaning the fact that I had been brought back from serving with a Vietnamese Ranger unit as part of a Forward Observer team. I didn’t have the designation — I was learning it OJT (On the Job Training), as my predecessor had been killed in action. I obviously was not speaking favorably of my commanding officer to the shadowy outline on the other end of the bench. As he finished his business and started out the door, he told me to “come see him” in the morning. With that, my commanding officer exited the outhouse. Embarrassed and ashamed, I reported the next morning to receive my “additional duty” assignment for the next two weeks — burning the barrels from the outhouse! That was a lesson learned the hard way.
Fast-forward 56 years. I’m a Christian living in Houston, Texas, and I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed! I say, along with the Apostle Paul, “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, ESV). Frankly, it’s relatively easy to hold that position in Texas. Unlike many states that shut down churches during the pandemic as “non-essential,” Texas did not pursue that course of action; however, we began to see what our increasingly secular society would do to Christians if they had the authority to do as they please. We read the headlines of bakers, florists, and, yes, even a football coach who experienced persecution for taking their faith into the public square. Those cases that make it to the Supreme Court have all been overturned, but it’s evident that the animus is there. Should the balance of the Court ever shift to the left, I’m not sure these success stories will continue.
The Apostle Paul, who made this brazen statement about not being ashamed of the Gospel, held that conviction through beatings, imprisonment, stoning, and ultimately beheading. Do you think that was then, but things are different now? If so, then you’re not paying attention, my friend. My story about burning the outhouse barrels reminds me of another “fire” story, this one in the Book of Daniel. Daniel’s three friends were called before King Nebuchadnezzar and told to bow before his idol. Failure to do so would result in their being thrown into a “fiery furnace.” I love their response: “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). Even if God did not deliver them, they were not going to bow down! That’s faith! If you know the story, God did deliver them in a miraculous fashion. He gave these guys some impressive “street cred” when they walked out of that furnace!
Where does this faith come from? It comes through the intimate fellowship that we have with our Father in Heaven. There are no shortcuts or self-help books for this. Hebrews 11 is the biblical “Hall of Fame,” replete with stories of faith lived out. Not all were delivered, but all had a testimony. The early church grew and was strongest through persecution. At least in this country, the Church today is pathetically weak in comparison to the first- through third-century believers. The Church is growing more in foreign countries where persecution is fierce than here in North America. The evidence that we’re moving in that direction is all around us. How will you prepare? In Daniel’s final vision, the angel Gabriel said to him, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Daniel 11:32), followed shortly by this comment: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (12:3). All wisdom comes from God, and He gives it to all who ask in faith (James 1:5-8).
I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ! What say ye, Man of Valor?
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