Shame and the Gospel

I think it was my freshman year in college when I was asked to go out to preach the gospel. I walked around my campus with a very enthusiastic brother, approaching people and being rejected as soon as they heard we wanted to talk about Jesus. The more we were scoffed at, the happier he seemed to be. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I disliked being approached myself, how I could tell when someone I didn’t know had marked me out to ask for money or a signature on a petition. If only, I thought, it wasn’t so impolite. 

Several years later, a good friend of mine asked me about God. It was late at night, and our conversation had drifted toward the Big Topics of being. He knew that I was a Christian, and admitted that he didn’t know much about the Bible, about Christ, but he wanted to learn. At the time, shadowed as I was by profound doubt, I said something noncommittal and the moment passed. It never returned. The techniques or particulars of preaching weren’t the problem. I was ashamed of the gospel.

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Paul’s Worship Service

Before his conversion, Paul had much experience in serving God. He passed many in his zeal for the law, and even considered himself blameless in his effort to please God.1 However, something was wrong. In his misguided desire to do God’s work, he persecuted Christians, approved of their killing, and directly opposed the Son of God.

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The Wonderful Son

But what kind of gospel, what good news, could cause a persecutor of Christians to call himself a member of Christ’s Body? Paul writes that he was called according to the “gospel of God” in Romans 1:1. This gospel was promised in the Scriptures (v. 2), and is:

Concerning His Son, who came out of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1:3-4

Christ is first! Christ is preeminent! The gospel of God begins with a wonderful, mysterious Person. He is the seed of David, implying genuine humanity, and the Son of God with divinity. This is a deep answer to Matthew 22:41-46, where Jesus silenced His questioners by asking them the question of questions:

What do you think concerning the Christ? Whose son is He?
Matthew 22:42

I remember clearly a moment of confronting the deep mystery of a Person who is at once a genuine man and the complete God. Continue reading

From Breathing Murder to Breathing Jesus

Shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, a young man named Saul threw himself into the effort to stamp out what he saw as a blasphemous group: those who said that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. After participating in the stoning of Stephen,1 Saul was not content to persecute Christians in Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 tell us:

But Saul, still breathing threatening and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to Damascus for the synagogues, so that if he found any who were of the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

What Saul breathed out, what was in him, was murder.

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