Despising the Shame

“Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2).

Today we see the cross as a beautiful symbol of our Christian faith.  We wear it on necklaces, celebrate it in iconic art, and give it a prominent place in our church sanctuaries.  And this is as it should be.  The cross is a beautiful symbol of our rescue by Jesus, friend of sinners.

In Jesus’ day, however, the cross was anything but beautiful.  It was a symbol of death, and a vulgar death at that.  It was the epitome of shame.  A naked man being put to death on a stick of wood.  Oh the pain!  Oh the shame!

How did Jesus respond?  He “despised the shame.”  He rejected the shame.  He refused the shame.  He endured the shame for the “joy set before Him” of accomplishing the salvation of the world.  What Satan, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish leaders meant for shame, God turned into our good through Jesus’ obedience even to death on a cross.

Now, after the cross and the triumph of the resurrection, Satan still seeks to shame Christ’s children.  He holds a mirror up to our sin and reminds us of our moral failure.  His world system, at nearly every turn, mocks our belief as intellectually foolish and naive.  If Satan can’t have us, he seeks the next best thing, taking us out of service over our shame.

How should we respond?  By going to the accounting ledger, God’s Word, and believing what is written there about our sin; not only nailed to a cross and forgiven, but it’s power destroyed.  By recognizing our mockers not as our enemies, but prisoners of the Enemy, and staying grounded in the truth of God’s Word.  Don’t succumb to the shame.  Don’t believe the Accuser.  Despise the shame and press on to the reward.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).

The Thrill of Discovery – Epilogue

As a follow up to Josh and William’s comments on our last post, let me add this:  When I was in early elementary school, I dreamed of growing up to become an explorer like Christopher Columbus.  By about the fifth grade, I learned that the whole world had already been “discovered” so I changed my “what do you want to be when you grow up” to professional baseball player.  (That dream died as well when I didn’t go out for the high school team.)

The irony in my path to a career is that, in time, I did become exactly what my first dreams desired; an intrepid explorer.  My interest in geology and geophysics was never in identifying rocks and minerals or unraveling the geologic history of the earth or deriving partial differential equations.  My interest was always in the search for buried treasure.  And my working years have been spent in the hunt for underground deposits of oil and natural gas; literally buried treasure.

My exploration bent has colored my spiritual journey as well.  I have characterized my spiritual journey as “The Thrill of Discovery.”  And I am always interested in how people discover Jesus.  This is why I subscribe to the “all of the above” approach to evangelism.

We are told today to forgo western style rational arguments for Christianity because our society lacks a basic belief in absolute truth to use as a starting point.  Yet many nonbelievers are coming to faith hearing an apologist answer what turns out to be their last objection to Christianity.  We are told that randomly distributing Bibles and tracts is too old school.  Yet Gideons International and the Bible League are flooded with testimonies of seekers coming to Christ through the reading of a provided Bible.  We are told to abandon preaching because young people no longer want to be “talked at”.  Yet the “preaching of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved.”

What I am getting at is this.  Let’s not limit the means for getting the gospel message out.  Let’s not limit the giftedness of our fellow believers to spread the Word.  Let’s allow the church universal to use an “all of the above” approach and celebrate together, just as the angels in heaven do, every life that discovers Jesus.