A Life Connected to God

I was hoping to post something every Friday. Last week I had the opportunity to speak at CBC Central campus and the preparation took more time than I thought it would. Maybe I’ll make it by doing two posts this weekend! I just wanted to share with you the message I shared with CBC.

The thesis was: A life connected to God is a life that is unashamed of the Gospel. I used Propaganda’s Life in 6 works: The GOSPEL video to communicate the gospel. [TANGENT: I love the way he does spoken-word. Every time I watch it, I hear new facets to the Gospel that I try to whole-heartedly accept and live out. I encourage you to watch it, even if you’ve seen it already!]

I wanted share my observations that we are a shame-based culture. Shame deals with rejection. Shame tells you that if you do something that the community (family unit, friends, or society) does not approve of, then you will be cast out. Guilt deals with justice. Guilt tell you that if you do something that community does not approve of, you will be punished. [TANGENT: I would love to hear your thoughts about on this.] When we are ashamed of the Gospel it diminishes our relationship with God. I find that we can be ashamed of the Gospel in two dimensions: inward and outward.

An inward shame of the Gospel keeps us from allowing God to unconditionally love us.

We are inwardly ashamed of the Gospel when we do not have faith that God will completely forgive us of our sins. Therefore, we place conditions on God’s love for us. We say, “God you can have these sins – my cussing, my lying, my cheating.” These are our “acceptable” sins – the ones that we know that God will forgive and is able to conquer in our lives. But then there are our “unacceptable “ sins: the dark feelings of lust that lead us to compromise our purity, greed that leads us horde our resources from the Church or God, or insecurities that lead to destructive behavior. We hide these struggles from God because we are afraid that God will reject us. Deep shame drives a wedge between God and us. Shame tells us that our sins are too substantial to be forgiven. So we hide from God’s presence (Adam and Eve hid from God). Or the opposite might happen. We feel like we’ve conquered our sin so that we have earned our way into God’s presence. This is pride. This is a rejection of Jesus as your savior; you have become your own savior. Deep inward shame of the Gospel leads to a conditional understanding of God’s love. A conditional understanding of God’s love leads to a dysfunctional relationship with God and is a false gospel that is powerless to free people from their sins.

An inward shame of the Gospel overflows to an outward shame of the Gospel that keeps us from sharing the Gospel.

I try to imagine how someone who has never been to church, would understand the Gospel. Everyone has sinned and is therefore guilty (depravity). Everyone is powerless to make up for their sins (atonement). If you have not submitted your life to God, then you have been living your entire life in rebellion (repentance). As much as the Gospel is a message of hope and forgiveness, it accuses each person of their guilt, their powerlessness, and their rebellion. It is not an easy message to share. So we are ashamed of it. We fear that the other (friends, family) will reject us instead of be transformed by the Gospel.

When we share the Gospel, we need to share the complete Gospel. It is true that we are sinful and powerless. Romans 3:23 tells that story, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But why do we stop there? Why don’t we include Romans 3:24? “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). It is the same with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The message of the verse is good. But why don’t we include John 3:17? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” But having a complete Gospel, we lead people to a conviction of sin but also the freedom (and celebration) of complete forgiveness.

We are outwardly ashamed of the Gospel because we are afraid that our friends, family, society will reject us when we share the Gospel. I have to acknowledge the risk of losing friendship over the message. But their salvation is worth the risk of pain. Also, we can more effectively share the Gospel when we have the complete Gospel (and the Holy Spirit)!

Ultimately though, without a full acceptance of the Gospel, we are unable to share the love and power of the Gospel with others. We cannot share the love and forgiveness of God when we have not accepted God’s love and forgiveness. So in order to be outwardly unashamed of the Gospel, we need to be inwardly unashamed of the Gospel.

We look to the life of Paul who penned the words, “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). The once persecutor of Christians and self-proclaimed “chief of sinners” was unashamed of the Gospel. God confronted his sins, all of them, and yet he was to have the deep conviction of Romans 1:16. He knew that God could and would forgive his sins. We need to allow God to confront our sins. We need to come before God with our authentic –selves.

Carol Wimmer’s poem When I Say I am a Christian, is an authentic step into God’s presence.

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not shouting, "I've been saved!" I'm whispering, "I get lost! That's why I chose this way" When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't speak with human pride I'm confessing that I stumble — needing God to be my guide When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not trying to be strong I'm professing that I'm weak and pray for strength to carry on When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not bragging of success I'm admitting that I've failed and cannot ever pay the debt When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't think I know it all I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not claiming to be perfect My flaws are far too visible but God believes I'm worth it When I say, "I am a Christian," I still feel the sting of pain I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name When I say, "I am a Christian," I do not wish to judge I have no authority — I only know I'm loved

She knows her sinfulness AND she knows what the Gospel has already and is accomplishing in her life and soul. Look at the poem and identify which statement tugs at your heart. Explore that thought in God’s presence. Listen to Propaganda’s sharing of the Gospel and declare to God you fully believe and accept his love and forgiveness.

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