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For I Am Not Ashamed

As a minister, I'm fascinated by the rise and fall of churches. It seems trendy that established churches wane, while church plants seem to thrive. Many of us want to blame this, that or the other, some of us wag our fingers and say "but they don't do it the way we do!" and we poo poo many newer churches without so much as investigating their theology. The problem isn't new by any means. IN the 1800s, we failed to make any heavy inroads in to missionary fields in Asia and Africa because, rather than giving Christ to the lost, we tried to plant replica churches of western design. Don't get me wrong, the Holy Spirit still moved, lives were still changed, but rather than preaching Christ and Him Crucified, we preached "This is the way you do church." This mentality has not left many churches, and so we're not producing missionaries in our own home towns, rather we're producing Pharisees and Sadducees who emphasize tradition and works over the power of Christ for salvation.

Paul opens his marvelous letter to the romans with some powerful words that sting if we do not understand them well: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to Salvation for those who believe, first to the Jew and then to the Greek."(Romans 1:16). He was writing to a church who was facing exactly this problem! The Jewish believers were looking at the Gentile believers, throwing up their hands in disgust because they were not following the traditions, and the Gentile believers were struggling against the Jewish believers because they were touting their new ways as superior; yet Paul wrote to both at the same time, establishing how each was saved, Christ died for all and was in all of those who worshipped Him in Spirit and Truth (A very, very basic paraphrase, read Romans and be fed by the great truth of God's word!). There was room for both the traditional as well as the new in Christ.

So what does this speak to us? We, like Paul, need to be peace makers and missionaries, correcting bad theology, raising up believers in Christ, and focusing on the Gospel. The power of God is in the Gospel, and that is where true power lies for and in the Church: when we champion the Gospel over our preferences, and seek to draw all men to Christ rather than simply inviting them to church. Romans 1:16-17

16 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

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