Day 29 – Not Ashamed
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
To be ashamed (ἐπαισχύνομαι = epaischunomai) carries the idea of evidencing dishonor, feeling uncertain, having doubts, being disgraced, being personally humiliated, feeling misplaced confidence, let down by someone or something.
Why might I be ashamed of the gospel (or good news) about Jesus?
- I assume that others don’t want me to talk about “religion”.
- Others might think I’m a fanatic or reject what I have to say because they have had negative encounters with others who claimed to be Christian.
- The gospel includes the message that all are sinners and who wants to hear that?
- The gospel is so simple – faith alone – that people tend to reject that for a self-works kind of approach
- Today’s world is intolerant of a message that says there is only one way to God
- I’m an introvert and find it hard to talk to strangers.
- I’m unsure of how to go about sharing the good news.
The author of an entry on this verse in the website “GotQuestions.org” explains it this way: “The word can refer to being dishonored because of forming the wrong alliances. So, when Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel, he is saying his confidence in the gospel is not misplaced. There is no disgrace in declaring it… “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11; cf. Isaiah 28:16)…To live unashamed of the gospel means we proclaim it, but it also means we apply it to our lives and show we believe it. Paul’s life choices supported his message. He did not preach one thing and live another. We are “ashamed of the gospel” when we allow sin in our lives to go unchecked (Matthew 3:8). When we indulge in worldliness and carnal desires or blatantly disobey scriptural standards, we indicate that we lack confidence in our own message (1 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Peter 2:11). When we “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners, and sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1), we are being ashamed of the gospel. We are not allowing its truth to penetrate our lives so that others see its changing power. To live unashamed of the gospel means that we, like Paul, allow it to dominate our lives to the extent that everyone within our sphere of influence can see that we have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).”https://www.gotquestions.org/not-ashamed-Gospel.html
Contrary to any of our squeamish feelings or hesitancy in sharing the gospel, the Apostle states that we have a message of great power. “It is the power [ δύναμις = dunamis] of God” – meaning the dynamite power of God. And it leads to “salvation” [ σωτηρίαν = soterian ] – i.e., the rescue we need from sin. This reason alone should shake us away from reluctance in telling others about Jesus the Saviour.
- Are you clear about what the “gospel’ is?
- If you have trusted in Christ as Saviour, do you struggle with sharing the good news about Him to others? Why?
- Do you really believe that the gospel can be powerful in the life of someone else who needs to hear its message today?
Day 30 -The Exclusivity of Jesus
Jesus said to him, “I am the way,and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
There is an exclusivity about Jesus. This is not a popular thing to say in today’s world of “tolerance” and “inclusion”. Sometimes the cry for tolerance comes across intolerance in the sense of a denial of particular points of view – like the viewpoint of Jesus Christ that there is no other way to God than through Him.
Repeatedly, the Bible asserts that Jesus is the way to God and the only way. Jesus Himself said He was the way to the Father and the only way (John 14:6). He also stated the following:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.(John 3:36).
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me,he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3
32 So everyone who acknowledges me beforemen, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 butwhoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33
On this question of the exclusivity of Jesus as the way to eternal life, perhaps it is best to let the Bible speak for itself. The New Testament writers add to Jesus’ own claims the following:
Acts 4:12, “12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
I Timothy 2:5-6, “ 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
I John 5:10-12, “10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Such statements may be untasteful to many, but they are there and we can’t ignore them.
- Read John 14:1-7.
- In your opinion, how does one find God?
- Does your view agree with what Jesus Christ said and what is said in other places in the New Testament?
Day 31 – A CLEAR EXPLANATION
Romans 4: 4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Romans chapter 4 offers the clearest explanation possible of salvation by faith, not works.
The Apostle Paul discounts “works” right away, in verse 2, when he dismisses works as a means of self-boasting that doesn’t hold water with God. By “works” he means religious rites and ceremonies (like circumcision, as he further explains in verses 7-12). He also, no doubt, means those acts of good deeds we do from time to time for other people, but in Romans 4 the example of works he gives is a religious ceremony, namely circumcision.
Paul also identifies the need for something to be done about our sin. In verse 7-8, he quotes David from Psalm 32:1-2. So, we need righteousness, but can’t manufacture it ourselves. We obtain it only as a free gift (a gift defined in 4 as something you don’t work for).
The blessing of forgiveness of sin and of righteousness bestowed upon those who believe is a blessing available to all people – Jews and Gentiles alike (verses 16-25).
All of this is presented in the clearest, most logical fashion, supported by the evidence of Abraham’s life. We have a need for forgiveness of sin and for righteousness. We cannot obtain these by doing good works or religious observances. God offers us His righteousness as a free gift.
- Read Romans 4:1-8.
- Are you enjoying the freedom of God’s forgiveness, having received it as a free gift?
- Read on into chapter 5 of Romans to learn about how God could offer the gift of righteousness – namely, through Jesus Christ who died for the ungodly, for us as sinners, thus paying our penalty and making peace for us with God (Romans 5:6-11).
Day 32 – No Other Gods
Exodus 20: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house ofslavery.3 “You shall have no other gods beforeme.
This is the first commandment.
All over the world people give recognition to gods – various gods. When you research the question of how many gods are worshipped in the world today, you find lists sorted by geography (gods of Asia, Africa, the Americas, etc.), sorted by nature (gods of water, trees, etc.), sorted by living creatures (fish, animals, birds, etc.), sorted by celestial bodies, sorted by mythologies (like the Greek mythologies), gods classified by religions, and more. Most of these kinds of gods have names, but there are also the non-anthropomorphic gods of money, sex, fame, and the like. Seeing that human beings have a tendency to fixate on someone or someone to worship, it is no wonder that the one true God gave as the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The ten commandments begin with God. The commandments are often organized into two parts – the ones about our relationship to God (beginning with “no other gods”) and the ones about our relationship to other human beings (beginning with “Honour your father and mother”).
The Lord first reminds the people that He is the one who brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. What other so-called god could do that? They were freed from 400 years of bondage, from an overbearing, demanding ruler, and delivered by miraculous means (the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea). Remembering this, there is really only one God worthy of worship. To worship another god is to step down and to step backwards. Why serve the lesser when you can serve the greater?
All the other commandments grow out of this one. That is why Jesus could say later on, “37 And he said to him,“You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38). After all, if you love God, you will love no lesser or competing God and you will not diminish Him through idolatry, disrespectful use of His name, or failure to honour his set-aside day. And you will show respect and care for parents, life partners, fellow human beings, and particularly, neighbours. If we get this first one right, the others are no problem.
- Read Exodus 20:1-21 and Deuteronomy 5:1-27.
- Notice how this commandment is stated as a negative (“You shall have no other gods”) – what not to do – while Jesus stated the same truth positively (“You shall love the Lord your God…”). To do one things precludes the refusal to do the opposite.
- What in your life might be competing for god status?
Day 33 – No Images
Exodus 20:4, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, of any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on earth beneath, or is in the water under the earth.”
I was surprised when I began to think about the ten commandments and to prepare devotional readings on them, that this one would be so difficult to discuss. It seems that within Christianity as a whole, there is some difference of conviction about the use of symbols, pictures, icons, images, etc. Some are uncomfortable with even the wearing of a necklace with a cross on it. Others use religious icons prominently in their public and private worship.
In II Kings 18:4, we read that King Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and that included removing places and objects of idol worship, and also breaking into pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made “for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it” -the reference is to Numbers 21:8 where the people complain about the “worthless food” (the manna) God had provided for them in the wilderness. God sends “fiery snakes” among them and many die. They ask Moses to pray for them and God instructs Moses to raise a brass serpent on a pole and have the people look at it and live. Apparently, by Hezekiah’s time (a thousand years later) this bronze serpent had become venerated to a degree that was spiritually unhealthy, with offerings made to it rather than to God in the manner He had commanded.
Knowing this was a danger, God said in the second commandment that they were not to make such images and not to bow before them as if they were godlike in themselves. God is “jealous”. Since there is only one God, there can be no others. There are unwanted consequences to future generations of false worship, just as there are negative effects to our offspring if we abuse our bodies or minds, or allow our anger and selfcentredness to dominate family relationships. Instead, if we worship God alone, if we love Him and keep His commandments, there are positive benefits of His steadfast love that follows those around us and after us.
So, the problem with idols is that they can become replacements for the one true God. We may begin using them to remind us of God or some provision of His. But in time we become superstitiously attached to them and dependent on them. Either there is one God or there isn’t.
- Read Exodus 20:4-6.
- Can you worship God without a religious support (be it an object, a place, a practice) of some kind?
- Meditate on the following verses: John_4:23,24, “but the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Matthew 15:7-9, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
Day 34 – God’s Name
Exodus 20: 7, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
This is the third commandment.
How might we use God’s name “in vain”?
- by using His name in a disrespectful manner; i.e., as an exclamation when surprised or angry or in a curse
- by lying – either casually or under oath; e.g.,‘I swear by God that…[here is where the lie is said]…’
- by holding oneself in a higher opinion than we hold God (where “vain” means “proud”)
- by speaking blasphemously of God – speaking against Him, or lightly of Him
Lisa Harper, in a Christianity Today website, says, “The Bible is quite vocal on the subject [of tempering our language], as evidenced in these key verses: “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21, NIV); “Those who are careful about what they say keep themselves out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23, NCV); “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37, ESV); “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (Ephesians 4:29, The Message); “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26, ESV).” [ http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/personalconcerns/swearing.html]
Thinking about this leads me to the broader subject of use of offensive language in general. I find that oftentimes an otherwise good story on television or film, well-directed, and well-acted, is ruined and made unwatchable by bad language. I am ashamed of myself when I watch such a show through to the end in order to “find out how it all turns out”. When I hear a lot of foul four-letter words coming from someone’s mouth, I can’t help but think of how limited that person’s vocabulary is. Such language is an offence to the God who created us with much greater potential.
One evidence of submission to God in the area of one’s speech habits is to hear a co-worker or neighbour or associate apologize to you when he or she uses such language. Of course, better still would be for that person to apologize to God
Dishonouring God can take many forms, including the words we use.
- Read James 3:1-12.
- James says that from the same mouth can come blessing and cursing. What characterizes your speech?
- If someone apologizes to us, we ought be careful that we not fall into pride, for even if we avoid speaking the name of God in vain, we might nonetheless find ourselves offending through negative speech, a critical spirit, or other “deadly poison” (James 3:8). Let’s be careful.
Day 35 – Remembering the Sabbath
Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
It is often pointed out that the fourth commandment is not repeated in the New Testament, but religious tradition in the world’s major religions, plus the practice in secular, even atheistic, regimes require a day of rest from regular labour. In the Old Testament, Saturday was that day in honour of God’s rest day following creation, and in the New Testament, the day became Sunday in honour of the resurrection. In Exodus 20 it says God made this rest day “holy” and “blessed” it.
I once worked an outdoor summer job that required me to be available Sundays. The good thing for me that summer was that it rained practically every Sunday, thus cancelling my work shift and freeing me to attend church with my family! Wonderful.
We need rest. Fitness sources argue for such days, when you reduce or change your fitness regime. Julia Malacoff in an October 10, 2016 post for Shapemagazine reports this: “John Mayer, P.D., psychologist, and president of the International Sports Professionals Association, explains why they’re so crucial. “Not getting enough rest leads to burnout,” he says, which could potentially lead you to give up things in your life that you care about, like your workout program. “Burnout can hinder your attention, memory, and focus, and reduce your concentration, motivation, and energy.” https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/why-rest-days-arent-just-your-body
God made the day “holy”, i.e., set it apart from other days. It is also holy in the sense that it reminds us to connect with God who Himself rested upon completing the creation. It is a strange concept that God rested. Surely it was not rest from weariness for His is the infinite, all-powerful God. Rather, He rested in the sense of stopping or finishing His work of creation. It is like Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished.” God finished something important and this seventh day puts an exclamation point on that. We should reflect on His creation and what it tells us about Him.
He also “blessed” this day. There is benefit in taking a day to rest. This benefit is connected with worship. The biblical pattern is one of Jewish Sabbath worship, then of the early Christians meeting on the first day of the week to remember the Lord, receive teaching about Him, and enjoy fellowship. These are some of the blessings of the day.
So, on one day each week avoid the hurry and pressures of the days before, change your routine, and meditate on the wonderful world God made, on the life He has given us, on the resurrection, and on the family of faith He makes us part of, and in these ways make it a day to “remember”.
- Read Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
- Consider how you can best use the day of rest to honour God and find refreshment for your body and soul. Are your current practices accomplishing these purposes? Without becoming legalistic, what changes can you make to allow for rest?