For my sake and the gospel

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16)

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

As I set aside some time to read the gospel of Mark, I took notice to a rather obscure phrase that went previously unnoticed, “for my sake and the gospel” (Mark 8:35).

Honestly, I did not even give it much thought until I read it a second time in Mark 10:29—“for my sake and for the gospel.”

These days, there are many people who claim to be down with Jesus. From Jesus apparel to Sunday-to-Sunday church attendance, people tend not to have too much of a problem embracing the title “Christian.” What seems to separate the wheat from the tares, however, is the attitude people take toward the gospel.

At one time the foremost priority in the Church’s infancy, the gospel has seemingly become a secondary notion. Actively testifying to the foundational message of the Church—“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—has, for many, become reduced to a five-minute altar call given once a week.

Heck, there’s even a whole branch of the Church deemed “Evangelical.” Isn’t the Church as whole supposed to be evangelistic in nature? Why is there even such a thing as the Evangelical Church?

According to a 2012 study by LifeWay Research, in which 2,930 American Protestants were surveyed, 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent had not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.

What seems to be lacking in the Christian experience of today is the preeminence of the gospel in our personal lives, as well as in our fellowships. We must ask ourselves, though, can we really be the Church with such a lack of emphasis on the gospel? Are our churches littered with unconverted (cultural) Christians because of the absence of gospel-centered preaching?

I find it hard to believe how easily we can neglect Jesus’ last words before his heavenly ascension: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Having been empowered for the mission, it seems as if we have a truck load of dynamite but no matches. Instead, we find other uses for the dynamite, like as a door stopper or perhaps to replace that broken chair leg. There may be a lot of talk of power, but not necessarily of directing that energy in the direction of the unconverted. Instead, we talk about having power to achieve your dreams or make it through a tough financial stretch. While I am not so dogmatic as to say that God does not care about these things, this was certainly not his intention in empowering the Church.

It should be noted, as well, that Jesus’ words in the opening of Acts were not just for the apostles. By rule, the commission to be the Lord’s witnesses is given to anyone who receives the Holy Spirit. After having been convicted by Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle exhorts the vast crowd, saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).

Anyone who genuinely turns from a life sin and trusts Christ for the forgiveness of their sins is, then, simultaneously charged with testifying of the grace of which they are a beneficiary. The first church understood this, so much so that they banded together as a community, sharing whatever resources they had in order to promote God’s saving message (2:42-47; 4:32-35).

Yes, those believers truly gave of themselves for the sake of the gospel, and in some cases they gave their very lives (Acts 7:59-60; Acts 12:1-2). What we tend to deem as exceptional, though, is in actually what Christ requires. Revisiting the gospel of Mark, Jesus has this to say to a crowd of hearers in the eighth chapter:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his lifewill lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

Jesus, clearly, lays out the requirements for following him. Being his disciple means bearing a cross—the same one that he bore. Persecution is a reality in the life of a disciple (2 Timothy 3:12), because those who oppose his message will always be in the majority. After all, if they rejected him, we as his followers will certainly be rejected (Matthew 10:24-25).

It is only in submitting to Christ’s Lordship and embracing his mission to the world that one finds life. Having a segmented life by withholding Jesus’ influence from saturating every part of it, for the sake of gain or to avoid persecution, will only result in the loss of life in the end.

People who do not lose their life for Christ’s sake and for his gospel do so because of a desire to gain the world. James 4:4 tells us, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

The fact that James addresses his audience as adulterers means that they pledge some form of allegiance to God. With God, however, it’s either all or nothing; he’s either Lord or enemy. In a day where people claim to follow Jesus, but blatantly ignore his words, Christ makes it clear that to be ashamed of his words is to be ashamed of him.

As James also points out, it is useless to profess belief in God (2:19) without being a hearer and doer of his word (1:21-22). Putting Christ’s endorsement on things that his word deems as sinful is subject to judgment, and those who embrace the gospel need to be willing to take a stand for what is right according to Scripture.

I think we really should take Christ’s warning to not be ashamed of him and his words more seriously. We really have no excuse not to know more than we do as a society about God’s word with all the resources and technology we have in this part of the world.

Unfortunately, because of apathy or maybe arrogance, people are forsaking the Bible but somehow still try to claim Jesus, creating an abstract form of unbiblical spirituality. As a result, people say things like, “I don’t need to go to church, I have my personal relationship with God.”

A Christianity devoid of the gospel, however, is not Christianity at all. Where there is a lack of commitment to missional living, there is quite obviously a lack of Christ. That is not to say that everyone is going to be D.L. Moody or Billy Graham, but should at the very least be part of a church committed to Christ and his mission—much like those in the Jerusalem Church.

If Christ is just as adamant about the gospel as he is about his own person, then certainly we should prioritize this mission all the more during our time on earth.


~ by christianballenger on January 10, 2013.

One Response to “For my sake and the gospel”

  1. Thanks for your perspective….See “My utmost for His highest”…March 12th for Oswald Chamber’s perspective on “My sake and the Gospels”
    Rick Cober

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