Not Ashamed of Christ
Text: Matthew 26:69-75
About 6-7 years ago my family was at Panama City Beach. I was preaching for a student camp that week and the whole family came. We were staying in a house on the main road, tons of vehicle traffic and foot traffic. One night after preaching about boldness in sharing our faith in Christ, we were winding down for the night in the living room when someone knocked on the door. I went to the door and a young man in his twenties, definitely drunk, was there needing to use the phone. He needed someone to pick him up. I got disconnected from his friends. So I let him use the phone, and stood outside with him while he waited to get picked up. As we sat there and made small talk, the Holy Spirit prompted me to share the gospel with him. I didn't. I avoided bringing it up. Within 10 minutes, he got picked up and left. My heart sank. I didn't obey what I clearly knew God was prompting me to do, not as a pastor, but as a Christian. And I had just preached a stinkin' message about it. I felt like such a hypocrite.
Why didn't I share? I was too concerned in that moment with being acceptable to him. I didn't want to confront the reality of his lostness. I preferred to keep it comfortable and keep myself likable. I was ashamed of Christ in that moment, and what it would cost me in this guy's eyes to be identified with him.
Can I ask you to search your heart with this question: Are you ashamed of be identified with Christ? Some folks overcompensate for pushy, mean Christians. If so, why? What are you ashamed of? If not, are you sharing about him with others? The goal of this message is simple: that we live unashamed of Christ.
Passage Exegesis: Matthew 26:69-75
In our passage, Jesus has been arrested by the Jews. They are lobbying to have an official (they don't care who) to sentence him to die. They are about to shuffle him from one ruler to another to get their desires. After Jesus' arrest, the disciples scatter in self-preservation. They're scared. You can imagine their position.
vs 69 -- Peter is staying close enough to the situation that he can monitor what is happening. He didn't run to the house and get under the bed. He lingered close enough to the action so that he could watch what was happening. But then someone recognized him. A servant girl identifies him as one of the people that travelled with him. This reveals the hostility within the crowds that in seeing Peter, and suspecting he was a disciple, she draws attention to the crowd about it.
vs 70 -- Peter denies the charge. Notice it says he denies the charge before them all, confirming for us it isn't just a servant girl, but a crowd of people who are now focused on him. So he lies and says he doesn't know what she's talking about. When is the last time you lied about your relationship with Jesus?
vs 71 -- Peter leaves the scene instead of staying under their interrogating accusations. But as he goes out of the entrance of the courtyard, another servant girl saw him, and said to all the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." The reveals Peter's identity to everyone. Again, all the attention turns to Peter who is trying to skirt away.
vs 72 -- Peter denies knowing Jesus a second time. It says "with an oath," which means Peter swore to God or to something else (maybe his life) that he didn't know Jesus.
vs 73 -- Some time passes, but not the pressure. A group of bystanders accuse him of being with Jesus because his Galilean accent betrays him. They knew he was with Jesus because they knew he was from Galilee.
vs 74 -- It says he invoked a curse on himself, swearing again that he didn't know Jesus. Think about this, Peter walked the roads of Israel and experienced many things over the three year period he was with Jesus. Now he denies 3 times even knowing him.
vs 75 -- After this third denial, he heard the rooster crow, just as Jesus told him would happen. He left weeping bitterly. Ashamed. It bothers him. There's contrition. Contrition of sin leads to repentance. Without contrition for sin, we'll never turn from sin.
Why did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Why not and shout it out for all to hear that believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (as he had declared already)? He was afraid. He was more interested in preserving himself. He was ashamed to be identified with Jesus. We cannot be effective witnesses if we are ashamed.
On Friday night, I listened as the ladies from the Hope Society stood before a full room and told people about Jesus' power to redeem and restore.
Paul says in Romans 1:16 -- 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.
Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel and he lives it! In our passage today, we see Peter is ashamed of being identified with Jesus because he fears it will cost him. Friends, this dilemna is one we will face constantly. Our flesh will war against our spiritual allegiance to Christ. Our flesh will seek comfort, preservation, and acceptance, making us ashamed of the gospel that could strip us of all of that. We can't be a blessing to the world if we are too busy blending with the world. We can't help the world if we keep the hope that is within us to ourselves. Peter, who failed on the occassion of Scripture today, later demonstrates that he too was unashamed. This is the work of the Spirit in his life. This is the dying to the flesh. Peter would later go on to say in 1 Peter 3:15 -- "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." Be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in you. Be ready to talk about the reason for the hope you have. Because if we don't share the hope we have, we rob the world of it.
Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher and pastor in London, preached a sermon in 1863 about how the church of Jesus Christ is the hope of all the world. In wondering aloud why God doesn't just remove us from the world upon our conversions, Spurgeon said this: "Why do we stay here, then, at all, but that we may be salt in the midst of putrefaction—light in the midst of darkness—life in the midst of death? The church is the world’s hope. As Christ is the hope of the church, so the church is the hope of the world." We are salt in the midst of rot, to preserve a remnant of order, truth, and grace. We are light in the midst of darkness and evil. We are the world's hope? Why? Not because we're perfect. We are the world's hope because we carry the message of the gospel. Christ is the hope of the church. We are the church. And the church is the hope of the world. If we fail to share that hope, we lose our saltiness. If we don't share the gospel, we snuff out our light in a world of darkness who needs us. The church is a vehicle for hope in the world. And we must do all we can to take that hope out.
We are wrapping up our 2 year initiative called Hope Multiplied today. In the summer of 2019, we laid out Hope Multiplied as a vehicle for further accomplishing our vision of reaching people who don't know Christ and discipling folks to follows Jesus in every sphere of life. We talked about initiatives like: launching an Apologetics ministry, relocating to a larger facility, developing our own curriculum for kids and students, increase our activity of local missions (For the City), support for church planting, engagement in global missions, launch of a recovery ministry, development of adoption, foster care, and abortion ministry, a residency program to train pastors (Bo, our first one, is launching Hope Beyond Abortion as a stand-alone ministry), and jail ministry. These were the things we set out to launch. By the grace of God, we've witnessed every single one of them accomplished. And that was with COVID gripping the nation 9 months after we launched it. In addition to these, Journey Worship Co. launched its first album and we launched Knowing Jesus Ministries.
This happened because our church refused to play church and remain comfortable. You guys have served and participated in the building of these ministries. It has also happened because of your commitment to financially give to the work of ministry here. This church is not bankrolled by a couple of wealthy donors. This church is fueled by the giving of the collective whole. Each individual or family tithing (some more than that) provides us everything we need to do the things God has called us to do.
Our plan now that we've finished this 2 year initiative isn't to launch a brand new one. We don't need a bunch of new things. Our plan for the next couple of years is to keep building these new ministries deeper and stronger. We anticipate needing to add parking at some point. We also know we have to expand our kids area. And we are exploring all the possibilities of that right now.
But here's the point, our church is committed to taking the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations. We are on mission locally and to the ends of the earth. As we heard recently, Wilson county has 180K unchurched and that number is growing rapidly. And we aren't going to stop at simply telling people about Jesus, but in discipling them to ground their whole life on Jesus.
In light of this work WE are called to do, do we have reason for confidence that God can do something with it if we are faithful? Absolutely! In fact, it is only because God has the power to convert resistant, cold hearts that we share. READ Ezekiel 37:1-14. The dry bones are dead people. The LORD asks Ezekiel if these bones can live. A great question. From a human perspective, and from human power...no. They can't. The bone themselves don't have the power to raise themselves. Ezekiel and no other man has the power to bring those bones to life. But God does. So God commands Ezekiel to call the bones to live, and they do. This demonstrates with great power the role we play in God's great story of redemption. He commands us to call out to the dry bones with the gospel. And God alone has the power to bring those dry bones to life. And He does. It's how Paul, a persecutor of the church, in route to persecute them further, is converted on the road as he travelled (Acts 9). It's how some in Paul's audience in Acts 17 as he preached about Jesus, and the resurrection, came to believe his message. What explains why some believed and others did not? God called out to the dry bones, "LIVE!!" And they did. It's how YOU are in Christ today! We must fight against our flesh, and die to being ashamed of the
gospel. Instead, we speak the gospel in our world today and we put it in the hands that makes dry bones live.
The aim of this series has been to help us not only understand the call to evangelize and make disciples, both to our neighbors and to the nations, but to engage in it. At the end of the day, that's how we as Christians and the church make the greatest impact on this world. We show Jesus as incomparably glorious to others. We must live intentional and be mindful of opportunities to engage people with gospel conversations. And when those moments come, we do not shy away with embarrassment or shame.
Imagine a church filled with people equipped and engaged in doing this sort of thing each week. Imagine individuals from our church, sharing about Jesus with folks, ministering to people, and testifying to God's faithfulness to us in our own lives. What will happen with this young woman who heard the gospel that day? I don't know. But can she live? Can her dry bones live? Can the Lord awaken her heart to the truth of the gospel and change her life forever? You bet. In fact, He is the only One who can. And that is why we speak with boldness and confidence. Our God saves. We He has called us to is to Go & Tell. Let's be the church who does that. Let's labor to see the hope of Christ we have received multiplied into the world.
I've taught three funerals this week. The time is urgent, the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. Let's pray for more laborers and let's go be the answer to that prayer.