Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes
For the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God
I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
This is a peculiar fear that rises within us. What stirs in us to be afraid of telling the truth? What rivals our inclinations to speak to another concerning sin and judgment, and righteousness and life? Fear grips our hearts with swiftness and holds us tightly, plaguing us with all sorts of evil imaginations were we to actually blurt out the truth. But a fear of what? It is a fear of none other than being ashamed. There is a keen difference between being shamed and being ashamed that must be made. To have shame brought against you is not always sinful. If on account of sin you have brought shame upon the cross, upon yourself, your family, or your church, the shame is evident from the disgraceful manner in which you acted. But, as with Christ, shame is not always a result of sin on the recipient of shame. I am sure that one of the allusions that Hebrews 12:2 has in mind is in reference to the shame that multitudes attributed to Christ as he was spread naked upon a cross. I do not think many of us have pondered this thought appropriately, that is, that our God who upholds all things by the word of his power lay naked before the whole world, exposed, so that nothing lay hidden from their sight. There is shame that is so deep that many humans who suffer deeply will not even know the depths of the shame that was heaped upon our savior in that moment. This may very well have been one of the contributing factors to our Savior’s distress in the garden. Knowing the manner in which he was to be killed, Jesus was confronted with two options: Be ashamed or despise it.
Here is our plight. Though we are not thrown into crucibles of such atrocities as Jesus was, nonetheless we are still confronted with being called shameful for what we preach, for what we believe, for what we live. There is a situation though that most poignantly highlights our feelings of being shamed on account of the cross. It is not simply telling the gospel, how ever difficult we may find it at times to speak of it to others. It is much more general than this. We are often fearful of being shamed for simply speaking the truth, speaking it confidently and speaking it clearly. Our generation is filled with a host of cowards. Men and women who are so fearful of confronting sin that we sit silently under the most perverse of conversations and situations, and we convince ourselves constantly out of the convictions that are stirring in those moments. This generation cowers in fear, preferring to maintain the status quo than to be cast out and shame heaped on their heads. Our interest is only toward our own concerns and whether those concerns will be maintained. It is on account of this that a feeling of being ashamed arises.
Shame is not altogether evil, as declared. But feeling ashamed is something that a believer should not dwell upon for too long. If you have dealt wrongly and sinned, being ashamed of your actions is appropriate, but only for a time. If you dwell indefinitely on your sin and shame it is evidence to you that you have forgotten the cross. But, if you have not dealt wrongly and have done right and sought the Lord about it, there should be no reason to be ashamed of what you have done. But so often this is not so. So often we are razed with fear of being shamed, to the point that we sit silent. It does not need to be this way. Why must we be afraid of speaking to another about Christ? Why must we be afraid of confronting another’s sin? Why must we be afraid of telling the truth? It is such an oddity. The only reason for such a thing is that there is something inside us warring vehemently against living in such an illuminated way.
Our enemy inside is yelling at us in all sorts of manners, conjuring every sort of excuse that it can think of to turn us from doing what our convictions have set at hand. It knows what a deadly thing we are setting out to do to evil and it will have no part of it, it will not go out without raising a fight. This is what we must constantly bear in mind when our convictions have grabbed hold of us and shake us awake to what must be done. The propositions that sin is giving to you, that you will be thought low of, that you will be disregarded, that you will alienate those you speak to may be true, but these offers are more costly than to not speak. Your silence puts souls on the line. Your speaking shows where they are at. But you must bear in mind: no soul was ever saved by remaining silent – “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15) – but sometimes the news is devastating. A doctor is evil if they tell a patient that all is well when all the while cancer is running rampant in the body, eating them alive. So then, we are evil if we remain silent when all the while sin runs rampant around us, rending all of their souls.
On what basis do we not remain silent? It is easy enough to say, “Do not be a coward, but speak up.” But that would leave you no better than before because your work would come from resting in your own ability to raise up in yourself the affections to do what is at hand. You would have trusted in yourself, which is just as pernicious to your soul as remaining silent. Your basis for not remaining silent rests on the fact that what you say, the words you speak, are bound with the power of God. Any word said to confront a sin, to encourage a brother or sister, to tell of the gospel, are infused with the power of God to transform any and all souls whom God wishes to renew – “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life…” (John 10:25-28). Therefore, your courage does not come from some latent ability that God has instilled in you to speak boldly and courageously. We have found the contrary from constantly failing – “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out”. We must understand that if a person is not convinced when we speak a message of truth or their heart does not change it is because God has not granted repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). Their heart changing does not depend upon a connection of the right things to say but on the sovereign grace of God. Bear in mind though, that the changing of the heart does depend upon being spoken to. If we speak, we have done all we can do and no more, except entrust it to the Lord. Saving persons does not lie in the power of men. We must also understand that to be shamed because we have called account to our God is no shame at all – it is all joy (James 1:2). We do not stand or fall before men, for what can man do to you, kill your body? Slander you? Curse you? We must take the advice of Christ to “fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28), and follow his example – despise the shame. We must loathe the shame that comes against us and look away from our own concerns and interests. We must look to the joy that sits before us.
Do not be afraid of what man can do to you because the words you speak are the power of God