On Monday night we took the evening to look at all the reasons, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, why (as he says in chapter 1 verse 16) there’s absolutely no reason to be ashamed of the message of Jesus. Here are the notes:
Paul says, He’s not ashamed. (Romans 1:16)
There’s never been a time, since Jesus, when Christians didn’t face pressure to be ashamed of their message. In the scriptures we find out that this is because there are spiritual forces that are opposed to the spreading of the message, and human forces that worth along with those spiritual forces. And so it’s just a logical plan—make people who think they want to spread this message embarrassed, or even downright ashamed of it—because really the only way to stop a message is to keep people from sharing it, and nothing makes people keep quiet like heaping shame on them.
So just think about how that applies to us today as followers of Christ. Today, Christians constantly told that our message is narrow. It excludes people. We’re told it’s (of all things!) unloving. We’re told it’s harmful—nothing messes up a person like telling them they’re a sinner! We’re told it’s offensive. And we’re told that people like us are ruining everything. Everything! And all that pressure has one huge effect—it can make us want to keep things to ourselves.
And every Christian knows what this pressure feels like.
So, Why was Paul not ashamed? Because the Gospel was “Power.” No one is ashamed of power.
Of course, the Gospel didn’t come in a powerful looking way—it came in the life of Jesus—who avoided any political or military power, and instead chose to be ordinary and to let himself look weak in front of the powerful people of his time. And then he died a common criminal’s death, in a way that was just not socially respectable. So there’s always been this tension for Christians, just like there was for the first followers of Jesus—that there are things about the packaging of the message of Jesus which make it look weak or unattractive. But if you embrace Jesus, if you hear and obey his message, you find out that he’s the most powerful man in the world, and that his message has the power to save.
And there’s more. One of the things you find as you read this letter is that Paul takes his time an unpacks verses 16 and 17 at length. So let’s move through Romans to see all the amazing things Paul says are part of the message of Jesus. These are things that, once you see them—I think you see that they’re obviously good news.
What was the “good news: Paul was not ashamed of?
1. Clear eyes and real talk about what’s really going on in the world. (1:18-32.) Part of the good news is an honest, fearless assessment of where we’re really at here on planet earth. When we let God make us look things in the face, it’s not pretty, but we can afford to do it, because the good news Jesus brings lets us do it without despair. But we can’t receive all the good he’s bringing until we get real honest about how bad things really are—with ourselves first, of course, and then with the mess humans have made of the world in general.
2. The settling of the real problem with the world—the breakdown in relationship between the human race and God because of our evil. (Chapters 3-5) See 3:23-24. Real righteousness given to us by faith because Jesus earned it for all of us. See also 5:1. We now have peace with God. This is the best possible news. Even though we humans lost the best possible relationship, and the one reality that actually makes human life on earth worth living—friendship with God; the nearness of his presence that gives everything meaning; open communication with him; his wisdom and fatherly care—even though our love of evil ruined that reality for us, because God is so big-hearted, he makes a way for us to get it all back—as a free gift, because Jesus earned it back for us all.
The loss of that relationship was, and is, the problem with the world, because of what it does to men and women when we don’t have God’s friendship. But God made a way—you could say Jesus pioneered a way—for us to get it all back. There can be peace now, with us and God. Jesus makes it all good.
3. Repossession of the world we lost the rights to because of our evil. (4:13)
4. Redemption of all suffering. (5:3-4) To anyone ignorant of the message of Jesus, suffering can only seem meaningless, unexplainable and tragic. But even suffering has been affected by God’s redemption—and the message of Jesus says that now, as we follow him, suffering becomes meaningful, and it becomes productive, and we have a promise that it will finally end forever. (See also 8:21)
5. Freedom from our “personal demons.” No more dehumanizing, enslaving sin ruling over us. (6:11-12, 14, 8:1)
6. We become people of “righteousness.” (5:17-19, 6:13). Righteousness is… When justice is done and everyone is taken care of. It’s when God, who is the source of all righteousness, is known and worshipped by everyone, so everywhere you go is full of his life-giving, personal presence, so no one oppresses anyone, everyone has everything they need, children are raised to flourish and everyone is nurtured to health and strength and no one ever conquers or oppresses or invades or steals and everyone is safe and everywhere is safe. When Jesus reigns this will happen globally. It will be a world of righteousness. We don’t expect it on any large scale until then. …But, we do expect it in people’s personal lives, in families, and even in communities of people who give their lives to following Jesus. We experience it in our own personal lives.
So the good news we preach includes the message that, even though nothing and no one is perfect in this present time, men and women can still by the power of God, become people who don’t ruin things, we fix things—we become wise and skillful about how to promote healing and safety and life and strength in our families and communities. Doesn’t the world need more people like that? Isn’t it good news if a message brings the power to create those people?
7. Eternal life. (6:22-23) Death becomes a passage way, not an end. No human wants to stop existing, or to be separated from the earth and bodily existence. It’s not in us to be ok with either of those things. And the message of Jesus says—good news, you can have eternal, bodily, earthly existence with the family of God forever.
8. Restoration of fellowship with the Holy Spirit. (8:9, 14-16) To know God…to really know him and be in relation to him…this is the essence of what it means for a human being to be alive. We talked about it last week—we aren’t meant to experience life any other way
9. The world will be totally fixed! (8:18-22)
10.Nothing can separate us from God’s love. (8:39) What better news could there be then to proclaim to the world that there is a love which can surround you which nothing, literally, in the universe, could ever take from you. And that this love is the love of the one who madness you and rules everything? And yet, even though the bible teaches us that a fixed world full of inescapable love is part of our message to the world, Christians still hold and preach a totally realistic view of life. God teaches us that for now, we should be people who expect sickness, and suffering, and even personal animosity from people who don’t agree with us. (See also 8:18, 35). What other view of life even comes close to this combination of stark, clear-headed realism and absolutely unshakeable optimism?
11. Redemption for all of God’s history. (chapters 9-11). The way God handles his people Israel shows us what kind of God he is—he doesn’t throw broken things away. He patiently waits and works and invites everyone back into his family. He loves to use messed up people to carry out his plans to fix things. Only evil and those who refuse to let go of it will be purged out of the world in the end, but all who release their sin and acknowledge God will be fully redeemed.
12. Purpose for our lives—all the way down to the details of our daily existence. (chapters 12-16)
Honestly—aren’t these things the kind of things that basically everyone wants—or at least, that they think they want? So what’s the big issue? Why is there always all this energy against the message of Christ? The bible gives us two answers.
First, there is the active Spiritual resistance to God and his good plan for humanity. In another letter, Paul writes: “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-5) Satan himself hates God, and therefore hates humans and wants to mess with the fact humans are included in God’s plan. So he “hides” all the glory in the message, especially the glory of Jesus himself.
Second, in John chapter 3 it tells us that “this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
So as followers of Jesus, we know this. There’s real opposition. But the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these things down to encourage us anyway—why should the opposition of Satan or people’s love of darkness make us ashamed? The message isn’t dumb. It’s veiled in the weakness of our Lord—who came looking pretty humble. It makes us look honestly at our own sin and love of evil. But just step inside it and look around for a minute. It’s huge and awesome, and there’s nothing else on offer that’s even remotely like it.
If you don’t have something like this… if this message isn’t your lifeblood and your connection to God—We want to invite you to see the world this way. We just listed more than ten things the message of Jesus tells us. And they’re all awesome.
So brothers and sisters in Christ—let’s follow Paul’s example. The Holy Spirit will give us power to see our message as the great news it is. He’ll help us see the world clearly, and hear the falseness in the world’s messages, and then to trust, and live out, and talk about the message of Jesus everywhere he wants it spread.