I AM NOT ASHAMED
Our world has gone mad! Watching or reading the news can be depressing, even overwhelming. A few weeks ago, as I scrolled the news on my phone, I saw these headlines: Border Bombshell, Marathon Melee, Plane Pandemonium, Spring Break Chaos, School Board Absurdity . . . And those were just the milder ones. Shortly thereafter, the dangers of AI commanded the headlines, along with more mass shootings, debt default fears, gender insanity, etc. Surely, we all wonder what’s next.
What world is this, anyway? Surely not the one our parents and grandparents knew. Yes, they had serious issues. Today, however, is unique in our nation’s history. Can anyone remember a time when the Christian faith and values have been so widely assailed and sin so joyously celebrated? Increasingly, we have become a corrupt culture, filled with moral confusion and perversion. We are well past our sins finding us out. With loud and coercive champions of so-called “rights” winning battlefields both left and right, it’s easy to see the trajectory: biblical worldview --> toleration of sin --> celebration of sin --> scorn for the Christian faith --> debilitating chaos under the weight of our guilt and God’s displeasure. The Book of James says that such a sinful trajectory ends in death. (See James 1:13-15) Will “the land of the free and the home of the brave” soon collapse as did the Roman Empire? Perhaps.
How has this cultural demise happened on our watch? No doubt, there are many reasons. But one thing is certain, we Christians haven’t made much of a difference. We haven’t been the salt and light needed for these times. Not long ago, the American Church seemed to shine like a beacon in the world. We felt good about ourselves, and many of the world’s believers looked to us with admiration. Unlike a good percentage of the world’s believers, we felt satisfied with our spirituality and were prospering in a prosperous land. But, as Keith Green warned us through song, over time we became “Asleep in the Light.”
The downhill slide has been quick, and the Church is bewildered. Not only is the culture rife with corruption and in grave danger, but much of the Church has been tarnished, weakened, and ill-prepared for making any real difference. Not only that, but rising persecution has caught us off-guard.
Of course, there are positive signs, too. Despite this very difficult season, we can praise God for those who unfalteringly have kept their lanterns lit and lifted high. These can inspire and move us forward. Also, we can be grateful for many who are being stirred to renewed life and fervor. The souls still being won to Christ in our land are enough to keep the angels rejoicing. Prayer and worship movements are being birthed and revival meetings and stadium events spawned. Truly, the Holy Spirit is at work; good things ARE happening!
That said, in the escalating war, where the “terrible times” Paul warned of are upon us, God’s Kingdom needs its entire army activated. Yet, a huge swath of the Church is otherwise preoccupied! As the task is too great for a few, this is unacceptable.
Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.” Note that between the righteous triumphing and the wicked rising, there is a great battle for the nation’s soul. And that’s where we find ourselves today.
Will the righteous triumph or join those who "hide themselves"? The time to withdraw from the public square may come, but it is not now. God still offers us all the resources we need for storming the gates of hell and demolishing enemy
But our archenemy is determined to squash all threats to his rule. This deceiver easily convinces far too many of us that we cannot and should not even enter the fray. He offers us diversions and excuses; he even helps us to spiritualize the void we leave. That’s how the wicked can rise and keep rising – because the righteous so often give heed to lies and tolerate evil.
To be an effective army, all the scattered dry bones of His people must hear and respond to the prophetic summons – “Come to life!” (See Ezek. 37:1-10). It’s time! We must stop being bullied into the corner that wicked powers designate for us. We possess the greatest hope for humanity ever offered – The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ -- full of eternal love, grace, truth, power, and freedom! The world desperately needs the Truth that we alone offer!
What exactly should we do? Instead of trying to answer this question, I want to drill down on one of the devil’s great tactics against dedicated Christians. We may not be in sin at all; yet, in many ways, we find ourselves hamstrung. In this pivotal hour, we must, as Esther did, overcome the resistance, and step up to the plate. We must embrace the fact that we too are here “for such a time as this.”
So, what is the devil’s scheme I want to single out? It is called Shame. It has nothing to do with godly conviction or sorrow but with an enemy assault. I am reminded of a conversation between Christian and Faithful in The Pilgrim’s Progress allegory. While the two pilgrims recount the challenges of their individual pilgrimages, Faithful describes the troubles he had with one called Shame.* He says that of all his encounters thus far, this one with Shame was the most difficult. He says that, unlike his name, Shame is a bold-faced villain who attacked everything related to Faithful’s pilgrimage. Others may have backed off but not Shame. He kept shaming Faithful, accusing him of a tender conscience that made him miss out on life. He deemed those who choose the pilgrim life cowardly, inferior, ignorant, and useless to society. They are but laughingstocks.
Unable to reason the bullying foe away, Faithful finally commanded, “Go away, Shame! You are an enemy to my salvation.” Yet, the influence could not so easily be broken. It took a long while, but the pilgrim finally prevailed.
In the story, Shame may either represent a personal inner weakness or an afflicting spirit attacking a believer’s life. Either way, until this malady is dealt with, it impedes our progress as God’s “pilgrims.”
Isn’t Shame everywhere in today’s culture, shaming us over things long forgiven, over things we never participated in, over being a particular ethnicity, for being a biblical believer? Shame will attack us for lacking integrity or for exercising it. Shame will create stumbling blocks and then shame us for stumbling. He’ll shame us for not being good enough or for thinking we are too good. It’s hard to win with Shame!
“Tolerance” is a weapon Shame uses against believers. He bludgeons us with accusations – “Intolerant, hateful, narrow-minded, bigoted, religious extremists!” -- until we weaken and find ourselves bending over backward to clear ourselves. But surrendering to Shame’s demands means tolerating what God abhors and deadening our souls. And mere tolerance is never enough for our enemy who wants the full endorsement of evil.
In Shame’s world, it’s plain and simple: evil is good, and good is evil; darkness is light; and light is darkness; God and His ways are shamefully intolerable and must be vanquished. Beyond a doubt, once Shame has us tolerating evil rather than fighting it, he gains strength until what Isaiah prophesied in 59:14 takes hold: “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, and honesty cannot enter.”
Can you see that there’s no middle ground? Looking for one is pointless! This leaves us with a choice – fight or flight. While many believers choose flight, it is the worst possible option. The Book of Revelation emphatically insists that God allows no place for cowardice, only for overcoming.** What a dangerous foe is Shame!
Isn’t it high time we recognize the impact that Shame’s caricaturing, stereotyping, rumormongering, name-calling, slandering, and bullying have left on us? We must face it and choose: Will we find our footing and stand for righteousness, or will we succumb to the enemy’s increasingly intimidating demands to keep Jesus and our beliefs and values to ourselves?
Let's remember that we are on the eternally victorious side. When we pray, believe, receive His power, and stand in faith, we can expect miraculous breakthroughs. We CAN and WILL make a difference! That should infuse us with hope, confidence, and joy. Praise the Lord!
I leave you with a few Scriptures to ponder and pray over. May they encourage us all to make the right choices as we face the challenges before us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, DESPISING THE SHAME, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -- Hebrews 12:1-2
Whoever is ASHAMED of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ASHAMED of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. – Luke 9:26
For I AM NOT ASHAMED of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. -- Romans 1:16
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So DO NOT BE ASHAMED of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. -- 2 Timothy 1:7-8
*The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory. Characters like Shame represent inner battles common in the Christian life. If you are interested in learning more or in purchasing my award-winning version, please go to this page on my website: https://www.cherylford.com/books **Also see Revelation 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21, and 21:7
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