By Ward Shope
“…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20)
Yesterday afternoon, I called Debbie on the phone. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m doing the dishes,” she returned. “Yes,” I said. “I saw the huge pile of dishes scattered all around the sink area this morning and felt a little pang of guilt about leaving them. But it was only a little pang, and I got over it.” Her laugh confirmed that she understood my comment to be an attempt at humor. Whew! I neither had to feel guilty about the dishes or ashamed of speaking to my wife so glibly.
I’ve been thinking about “being unashamed” ever since Jacob’s sermon on Sunday. God knows, I have much to be ashamed about. This morning as I read Ezekiel 43, God was showing the prophet the new and perfect temple he was building for his covenant people forever. He instructed Ezekiel to describe this temple to the people in exile, explaining that when they heard it, they might be ashamed of all their previous sins and turn to him in faithfulness.
Likewise, when I see the Lord’s goodness, his wisdom, his love, his holiness, I am aware of all the things I should be ashamed about. With C.S. Lewis, I confess that outside of Christ, “I never had a selfless thought since I was born”. I am self-promoting, self-affirming, and self-seeking. And when it comes to others, I quickly size them up, assuming I understand them and their inner motivations. In the light of God’s character, I am exposed as the posturing sinner that I am.
So it is amazing again and again that God has chosen to send His perfect Son Jesus to die on the cross for me, exchanging His righteousness for my corruption. He pardons it completely, removing forever what would keep me out of relationship with Him. The Bible tells me he is so intent on welcoming me into fellowship with him that He adopts me as His child and rejoices over simply having me in his presence. I hear his laughter and it confirms that I neither have to feel guilty or ashamed of what I have been. “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
It also moves me a step further. It gives me courage to not be ashamed of Christ: not to shy away from speaking of him, or not to tiptoe around those conversations where his grace and mercy apply to those who don’t know him. I live secure in his love. Now as I live my life, or I face the death that I know will come if Jesus does not return first, “…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”