2 Timothy 1:7-13:
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day [believed: or, trusted]. 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Young people, you are ashamed of the gospel. I am ashamed of the gospel. Paul says in Romans 1:16, the theme text of this year’s convention, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” But I say to you, you are ashamed. I am ashamed. There are many experiences I went through as a young person like you that confirm that in my mind, and here is one: About five years ago, I heard of a debate that would be between an atheist, Christopher Hitchens, and his believing brother, Peter Hitchens. Perhaps I should not have gone, but I did. From the mouth of this respected atheist orator, before about a thousand people, there spewed forth mockery of Christ and the Christian religion. And then came this: “Anyone here want to stand up and call themselves sheep?” Shame poured into my heart; shame delayed me so that I did not stand up when I should have. And even if I had stood up, the shame would have still been there! Young men, young women, you and I are ashamed of the gospel.
To understand that fully, you have to understand what the gospel is. When we think of the gospel, we often think, “It’s what Jesus has done in dying on the cross for our sins.” And yes, that is the heart of it. But really, every truth in the Bible is intimately connected to the gospel. When Paul says that he is unashamed of the gospel, he means that he is unashamed of all the Scriptures which are about the gospel. Every single word, every single page in your Bible in some way or another points to Jesus and what he has done for you. Don’t forget that! Mess with creation in Genesis 1, mess with the truth of the unconditional covenant, mess with the virgin birth, and you mess with the gospel itself. The Scriptures, all of them, are gospel writings. And you and I are ashamed of them!
Ashamed? Yes, ashamed. Shame is that complicated mix of fear, anxiety, and embarrassment in your heart that you feel when someone whom you respect disapproves of you. Rev. Herman Hoeksema described the Greek word as an “inferiority complex.” When another looks down upon us, that painful shame overcomes us, making us red in the face, hot, sweaty, with a racing heartbeat, and a desire to cover our face and to disappear from the situation. You have shame; I have shame toward the gospel.
What happens, young people, when you find out that your friends are doing something contrary to God’s word, this gospel? The weekend comes and the beer is flowing. You may say, “That’s dumb.” Or you may speak the gospel – “Our Savior has saved us from the sin of drunkenness.” Your friends gather to watch the latest popular drama of pretty little liars in high school committing the grossest of sins. You may say, “Let’s change the channel,” or, “I’m going home.” Or you may speak the powerful gospel: “The Word, Christ himself, says that out of thankfulness we are to flee these sins!” And there are other sins you can address with the gospel. But the shame is already creeping within us, simply thinking about saying something in these situations.
After church, you gather with other young people and have a society meeting. Why are there those awkward silences? Ashamed of the gospel? Then it’s time to pray, and it’s your turn to pray. Why the trembling? Why is it so hard to speak to God about your love for Christ in prayer before others? Ashamed of the gospel? After church, you stand in a circle of young people or by your cars outside. You know there is a sermon to talk about, but who is going to bring it up? Ashamed of the gospel? Your friends hop in the car. You could turn on the popular secular radio station, some country, or hip-hop. Or you could stick in the Hope Heralds CD. Ashamed of the gospel?
Perhaps you spend time with people from other denominations. There is talk about evolution and how it’s not a salvation issue. Are you willing to insist, even though you may not be able to explain it perfectly, “YES, the gospel is at stake!”? There is talk among young people of other denominations that the doctrines the Protestant Reformed people hold to—those distinct teachings of the unconditional covenant, particular grace, the unbreakable bond of marriage –are not that important. URC, CRC, PCA, OPC, PRC, we’re all the same, we’re all going to the same place anyway. Which young person is going to humbly but passionately defend the gospel? Ashamed?
Yes. As I began, you are ashamed and I am ashamed. Because of that old man still within our hearts, we have that shame and feel that shame. That ought to be something to grieve over and to be troubled over. But the gospel for those who are ashamed of the gospel is that Christ has blotted out our sins, covered them over when he “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).” However, there is more to the gospel for us. Not only is it forgiveness for our shame, but it is also Christ’s power, by his Spirit, to live unashamed of this gospel.
By his power we seek to do so.
We first have to address the problem. Why are we ashamed? It is because we are way too concerned about what other people think of us. Why was the apostle Paul tempted to be ashamed of the gospel when he wrote Romans 1:16? Why was Timothy tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? They both were among many who despised the gospel. And we are ashamed because others, even those in the church among us, will despise us…or so we think. Why not say it’s sin? Because what will my friends think of me? Why not use God’s name in daily conversation? Because that’s not what others see as cool. Why not bring up a spiritual conversation after church? It’ll be awkward. They’ll all look at me weirdly. Why not insist that those doctrines are essential? People will be offended and think I’m saying I am better than they. The problem is that we are too concerned about what others think. We have made an idol out of people. And really, we have made an idol out of self, out of our reputation among others.
We fight against this problem and live unashamed of the gospel by growing in love for God. The reason that we are ashamed is that we love ourselves and our reputation more than God. Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy1: 7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” How do we grow in love for God? There are many ways. But go back to the basics, young people. Do your devotions. Daily read that Bible, that gospel, and pray earnestly, “More love to Thee, O Lord, More love to Thee!”
Second, we must grow in faith, that is, a knowledge both intellectual and spiritual. Romans 10:11 says, “For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” You grow in faith by using the means of faith, and the chief means is found in God’s house under the preaching of the word, where you don’t just sit there, slouching, distracted, and sleeping, but doing whatever it takes to focus on every word of the worship service. Without faith strengthened in this way, you will be ashamed. You won’t know what to say when the opportunity comes to speak the gospel.
Third, we must grow in hope. Romans 5:5 reads, “And hope maketh not ashamed.” Meditate, young people, on heaven. You’re young, but the recent death of a young man in our churches should make you realize that life may end at any time. Meditate on, discuss, think on, sing about heaven. Yes, fill your life not with secular music, but with music that helps you meditate on your hope. See the greatness of glory and yearn for it more! If you have your desires molded by the hope of heaven, then that earthly desire to gain the approval of others diminishes, and you are able to live less ashamed of the gospel. Grow in faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Fourth and very practically, force yourself to talk about the gospel. Being unashamed about the gospel is especially using your mouths, breaking the silence, and witnessing to the gospel. That is what Paul is referring to in our theme text. He is talking about preaching, using his mouth to speak the gospel. That feeling of shame and awkwardness will arise in our hearts because of that old man, but that new man in us must fight that shame and force out those words of the gospel. No, it’s not just ministers who talk about these things, while the rest of the people listen, but all of us, as Christians are not only to live like Christians, but to speak the gospel as Christians.
It is very important that we do this, young people! It’s important simply because God’s word shows us that is how we ought to live in response to that precious gospel. It is important because it is how we glorify God.
It’s important that we work on it because the last days require it. We live in the last days. If you do not fight the shame in these last days, and boldly speak of that gospel in your own circle of friends, how will you speak of that gospel to the world when God requires it? If you can’t be unashamed before your friends right now, how can you confess your faith before the mockery of the world, its persecution, the burning stake, and the cross? By God’s grace, we must work against shame, preparing our hearts, so that we never deny him before men.
Pray, young people, for yourselves. Pray for each other as your parents pray for you. Pray for faith, hope, love, for the power of Christ’s Spirit to live unashamed of the gospel.