This sermon was intended for a revival that I was having at my church, but circumstances prevented me from preaching it that night. It is directed towards youth, and I hope I get a chance to preach it soon and see how it goes over. It does, however, seem that whenever I preach to youth, I always inject something about my childhood into it. Go figure. As always, feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
The scripture this evening comes from the book of Romans, the first chapter, verses 8-17.
"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 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. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'"
The subject this evening will be:
Many times in our Christian walk, we come across people and things that question our devotion to God. They look at us, the way we walk, the way we talk, and they suspect that we have something that they don't.
Then there are others who do not understand being a Christian. They think that we have some sort of secret that we don't want to share with the rest of the world. They get this impression from those who do not accurately know how to handle their faith. They assume that because someone looks at them in a funny manner that something must be wrong or that they are doing something wrong.
Then we have the new Christians. The ones who are so new to the faith that they are bubbling over with the excitement of Christ. Everything is new to them, the feelings of comfort and satisfaction, the assurance that Christ is Lord. But, sometimes the new Christians, still holding on to a part of their former selves that was not saved, get tricked and judged by their non-believing or non-practicing friends. When the new Christian is more willing to go to church on a weeknight than hang out and party, their friends view them with suspicion. Comments like "He/She sure has changed" or "They so holy now, I can't hang with them."
Lastly we have the young Christians. The ones who have been brought up in the church. They often face the greatest problems because not all children are saved. We have so many kids out here now who have never really set a foot in church, yet their parents will claim that they are raising Christian children. But when a child does have a knowledge and belief in Jesus, often times they are made fun of by those who do not understand.
We all know that children will make fun of anything, and I can personally say that having a last name like I do, I was mercilessly teased for a very long time, and some of it hurt. But when children get on you for whatever reason, it causes you to question yourself and who you are, and what place you have on this earth and in this universe.
Now add to that a child who goes to church on a regular basis, who can't always come out and play on Sunday or some other night when they have to go to church. Consider the child who willingly says their prayers at night, but also when they prepare to eat. When the child has knowledge of the Bible, or will speak in kind terms about their pastor or other adult figure that they have encountered in church. This will all make for a sticky situation.
I remember that when I was in high school I did hang out with a lot of people who went to church, and at the time I was very active with the church I was attending. I went to our services on Sunday, I went to our retreats and special meetings. I was an officer of the youth church. I did everything that was expected of me as a youth member of that church. But rarely did I testify.
Partially because I was at a church where devotions were not really given. Sure, we talked about God, but we talked about God often in very general terms. Even though we were in church and were in a church setting, sometimes it was hard for us to let our hair down and just really be able to worship the Lord the way some of us felt we could.
We didn't want our peers to look at us funny. We played at church. We went through the motions, but seldom did we ever truly commit. Now, I know this does not always happen and at the time I was at a unique church where the rules of conventional Christianity did not factor into the equation. But I still believed in God, I believed in Jesus, and I believe in my faith. I knew who God was and what my relationship was to him. I just did always want everyone else to know.
Because when I was growing up, I downplayed church to a lot of my friends, and they did the same to me. Never in high school did we talk about the goodness of God and what God had done for us. If any of us blessed our food, we did it quietly and quickly, lest someone think we were some type of religious fanatic. We never brought our Bibles to school, we never talked about Bible study. When I took a class that was the equivalent of Bible study at that church, I told no one. After all, what would my friends think if the happy go lucky, partying, talking to all the girls, Chuck Smoot was actually spending time studying the Bible of all things. It would not have gone over well, or at least I thought so.
As I get older, I get the opportunity to watch a lot of teenagers. The ones at my home church I really respect and admire because they are not afraid to give evidence of their faith like I was. They worship and praise God in an open manner. They openly bring their friends to church and one of them was even doing a bible study at their high school. I never told them this, and maybe I should have, I was and am proud of them for their expressions of faith. I am proud of them because they have more guts than I did when I was their age. I am proud of them because they are not ashamed of the gospel.
But for every one like the kids at Institutional, there are 10 or 20 like me. Afraid and ashamed to admit their strong belief in the Lord. Afraid that they will be ridiculed and teased for being a self- professed Christian. Ashamed to give any evidence of their belief. And while as we get older we all get bolder in our faith, the main thing is that no one need to be ashamed of the gospel.
In the scriptures that we read, we have a letter of greetings and support to the church in Rome. The writer is attempting to bolster the faith of the church by giving them words of encouragement. He tells them that they are remembered in their prayers, and that soon, the writer will be able to visit and fellowship with them in person. The writer also says that by their upcoming fellowship, their faith will be strengthened with each other.
The writer also laments that he had not been able to come to them previously, but that he was obligated to take the gospel to all people, Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers, the smart and the unwise. The writer continues by explaining that he is excited to bring the gospel to them. He goes on to say that he is not ashamed of the gospel, because the gospel is power (there goes that word again) from God and salvation for all those who believe. For, he tells us, the gospel is a righteousness by faith (that other word again), from the beginning to the end, as it is written, "The righteous will live by faith."
The writer explains to us that there is no need to be ashamed of the gospel for it is the gospel of salvation and of faith. It is a means by saving ourselves, not just the believers, but the non-believers as well. That just as the faithful are entitled to be a part of the gospel and to hear it's soothing words and tones, so are the unfaithful, those who feel they have no reason to believe.
It is not unfair to say that sometimes we as Christian act as if we are a part of some country club. But the writers states plainly that he is taking the message to everyone who will hear it. He is obligated to take the message to those who even though they are of different faiths, still have a desire and need to hear the words of Christ.
There are people that we come across that have needs that we can only imagine to understand. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to treat them in a manner which will bring them to the full understanding of Christ and the full understand of what we are here to do. Often while we may not be ashamed to bring the gospel, out actions will make other people ashamed of their situations.
Therefore, as the writer is not ashamed to take the gospel to all who will listen, neither should we be ashamed of that same gospel that might bring someone closer to Christ. In our efforts of outreach and missionary works, we need to understand that while we may be firm in our belief, there are others who may need a kind word, a smile, a scripture of uplift and encouragement.
And while we may get to the point that we are not ashamed ourselves of the gospel, we do become ashamed of those who we may be worshiping with, thinking somehow that in order to worship properly we have to wear the right clothes, drive the right car, say the right things, have the right amount of money in our bank account, and all sorts of other things. Then when we run into people who do not have those things, we want to silence them or drive them out of the church. But Christ tells us to come as we are, that there he came to save the Jew as well as the Gentile, that he came to save all people no matter what their place or station is in life.
And I think our attitudes about these things are what cause our children to be ashamed of the gospel. They feed off the judgmental nature and the non-tolerance that we as adults have, so therefore, they channel it into other areas. But the scripture says that there is no condemnation in those who believe in Christ Jesus. Therefore, if someone believes, no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what they may have done in a past life, if they have said, Christ is my savior, then that should be enough for us.
And we need to teach our children that while they may be mocked and they may be scorned for their faith, that while some may not understand why they do what they do, and that some will not accept a young person in Christ, that is not their problem. Micah 6:8 tells us "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
We are required to act with justice and fairness of those who are not ashamed of their faith, or in some cases, their lack of it. We are required to love with Christian love in mercy and to walk humbly with our God. We are not walking humbly when we make people feel ashamed of their walk with God. We are not acting justly when those who are around us are made to feel ashamed because we they are doing right by God. And we are not walking humbly when those around us get the impression that somehow we love the Lord more than someone else does.
If we are to save people, if we are to save our children, if we are to instill in them the values that are present in the Bible, then we need to impress upon them that they have nothing to be ashamed about. We need to impress upon them that God loves us and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to impress upon them that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, because he loved us, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to impress upon them the fact that Jesus is ever present in our lives, there for us when we call upon him and there is nothing wrong with. For with everything that goes wrong in this world, the least of them is believing in God.
So we teach our children, our relatives, our friends, the stranger on the street, the drunk on the corner, the harlot in the alley to not be ashamed of being a child of God. To not be ashamed when people look at you funny because they don't understand. To not be ashamed when people ask you "Why do you go to church?" To not be ashamed when you are walking humbly with the Lord. To not be ashamed when someone asks you if you believe in God. To not be ashamed when the whole world may judge you, the whole world may look down upon you, the whole word may try you and test you, when you think that no one supports you in your walk, know that there is nothing to be ashamed about.
There is nothing to be ashamed about because Jesus was not ashamed to get on that cross. Jesus was not ashamed to take the time out to comfort the thief that was hanging next to him. That Jesus was not ashamed to ask the Father for forgives of the ones who were persecuting him. That Jesus was not ashamed of giving up his life so that you and I might have life. That Jesus was not ashamed to rise from the dead three days later. That Jesus was not ashamed to continue to perform miracles upon miracles upon miracles. And that Jesus was not ashamed to save you or me or anyone else who wants to be saved, no matter what they look like, dress like, sound like, even smell like. That anyone who comes to Jesus can come.
So I tell you this evening, do not be ashamed. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, fast or slow, be not ashamed. Be not ashamed when people don't understand you. Be not ashamed when people cannot relate to you. Be not ashamed when people walk away from you. Be not ashamed when everything is going wrong and the only person that you can call on is God. Be not ashamed when you have no place to turn and the only person you can turn to is Jesus. Be not ashamed when you think all is lost because Jesus is right there.
Be not ashamed.
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