Stop Being Embarrassed
Preventing shame over the Gospel–2 Timothy 1:8-11
Each and every one of you know what it’s like to be embarrassed. When you accept God’s calling to be a pastor-teacher, embarrassment is the norm. I was about to preach at another church. I came out of the bathroom behind the stage and walked out on the platform before service started. One of the church family came up to me, laughing, and asked, “So what’s this illustration all about?” I said, “What illustration?”
“How are you going to use that 20 feet of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe? What funny thing do you have planned?” I looked down and there was toilet paper stuck on the bottom of my shoe and trailing behind my left foot for 20 feet. He was laughing, thinking I was intending this to be a humorous illustration when in fact, I had no idea it was there. I was embarrassed and thankful the worship service had not started yet.
I genuinely could go on and on in so many different ways. Things I have said . . . tripping and falling . . . not paying attention to where I was going . . . standing up too fast . . . not paying attention to what clothes I have on . . . doing something goofy . . . an unintentional bodily noise (you know, burping). Al of them have led to unintentional embarrassment.
Some were funny, some were painful—but I’m confident of two things—1) more embarrassing moments are on the way for me, and 2) you have your own list of embarrassing stories. But the worst situation for a believer is to be embarrassed about the Gospel, over Christ.
My first year of marriage, Jean and I were super poor, but blessed to be able to visit Hawaii. We met this couple on one of our tours. I’m a little fuzzy about the details, but the husband kept asking me about my church and what we believed–yet the entire time, I kept avoiding an answer. I was a 25-year-old pastor, but at that moment honestly, I am ashamed to say it, I didn’t want to share the Gospel–I wanted to be on vacation. Jean confronted me later and she was right to ask me, “What are we here for?”
Will you admit it openly–have you struggled with some form of embarrassment over your faith? You were ashamed to speak up for Christ because you were afraid of losing your popularity in school, your social standing among friends, or your success in business. Will you raise your hand if you’ve faced a time when you didn’t speak up, or avoided a conversation, or missed an opportunity? Can I see your hands?
What that means is this–you and I need to develop a heart that’s not ashamed. And that heart is exactly what Paul is seeking to cultivate in Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8 to 11. Turn in your Bibles and follow along in your outline. This entire section of 2 Timothy focuses on not being embarrassed about the Gospel. Paul says, “Do not be ashamed,” three times in this section–in verses 8, 12 and 16.
This is the heart of Paul’s message to His beloved Son in the faith–do not be ashamed of Jesus Christ. Why? Christ wasn’t embarrassed to save you. You can’t convince anyone of the reality of Hell if you’re ashamed to tell them about the only way to be rescued. And you’ll never be able to minister to anyone or ever convince your children to become like someone you’re embarrassed about.
Being ashamed of Christ and embarrassed about the Gospel is a serious issue. You remember the Lord’s words in Matthew 10:32 and 33—“Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
The opposite of ashamed is a courageous, unapologetic attitude that leads to a bold, obedient life in service to Christ, no matter what the cost or consequences. Not ashamed is a Christian heart that refuses to equivocate, vacillate, or compromise and it does not hesitate to be confrontational when necessary.
No matter how gifted you may be, or how biblically literate or articulate, if you lack spiritual courage, you will not be fruitful for the Lord. Paul is calling for a level of commitment that says, “I don’t care what the world says. I don’t care if my friends reject me. I’m not affected by the pressure from my parents. I know what God has mandated for me to be and to do–and that is what I determine, by His power, to be and to do.”
Paul calls Timothy to have an uncompromising, unflinching commitment to proclaim Christ, regardless of the difficulty. Timothy faced physical persecution, imprisonment, and possible death. You face embarrassment–yet will you stand up for Christ? Before you’re too hard on yourself, remember my favorite apostle, the one with the foot-shaped mouth, Peter.
Pastor and commentator, Kent Hughes says, “Stronger men than Timothy had wilted when faced with shame and suffering. The iron-willed, sword-wielding Apostle Peter had loudly declared, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death’ in Luke 22 but soon was ashamed to admit he knew Jesus and denied him outright before the soldiers and ‘even’ a servant girl as Jesus watched.” Thankfully, filled with the Spirit in Acts 2 Peter was bold to preach–in Acts 4 Peter was bold against persecution.
You know what Paul and Timothy are facing. Nero blamed his redecorating of Rome, by burning it down, on Christians. As a known leader of Christians, Paul is arrested, tried and now awaiting death by beheading. Timothy is battling it out for truth in Berkeley California–I mean, Ephesus. It’s rough and Timothy is beginning to retreat from the doctrine battles on the inside of the church and now he faces the threat of beating, imprisonment or death from outside the Church.
Second Timothy is partly written to boost Timothy’s boldness. So how does Paul motivate Timothy–and you, to grow bold and not be ashamed? Last week Paul challenged Timothy to stir up his hotness by exercising his spiritual giftedness in ministry (verse 6) and rely on God’s strength to not be timid (verse 7).
Today in verses 8 to 11, Paul has three more attitudes to adopt and actions to pursue. And Paul’s main motivator for boldness will be embracing the power of the Gospel. When you realize it’s the Word of God alone that saves the lost and sanctifies believers . . . when you are convinced that it’s the Gospel alone that transforms lives, you will not be embarrassed to share it.
Consider the power of the Gospel, friends. When you realize, you hold in your hand the only pill that will save a man from a seizure and certain death, you will give it to him–no matter the risk. When you are convinced that unless you throw the woman who fell overboard the life ring she’ll drown, nothing will keep you from shouting at her, even in the midst of a crowd on deck, to catch the ring as you throw it to her.
When you are persuaded that the Gospel in God’s Word is the only way that a lost friend or family member will be rescued from Hell, then you will share it regardless of the cost. Embracing the power of the Gospel stops embarrassment of the Gospel. In verses 8 to 11, Paul shares with Timothy the keys to not being hesitant. You’ll not be reluctant with the Gospel when you are convinced the power of the Gospel is greater, more powerful, more life-changing, more supernatural, than any embarrassment.
So read verses 8 to 11, where Paul tells Timothy to not be ashamed, nor flee persecution, but fulfill your role in proclaiming the Gospel (verse 8). “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.”
Look at what I highlighted–there are only three verbs in this passage. Those three verbs are highlighted by blue font lettering in boxes. These three verbs make up the three points of this sermon, since they reflect the author’s emphasis. The repetition of the term, the Gospel, and placement of the term, the Gospel, demonstrates this paragraph is about not being ashamed of the Gospel.
Plus there are six participles, underlined in green, which describe the person and work of Jesus Christ, who’s the One who illustrates and accomplishes the Gospel. “Timothy, besides the incredible relationship your family and I enjoy together,” (verses 3 to 5). “And besides exercising your giftedness in service to Christ to the church [verse 6] and besides relying completely on God’s resources to not be timid [in verse 7], how else do we grow bold?”
#1 Embrace the CONSEQUENCES of proclaiming the Gospel Verse 8a
Verse 8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” The temptation for Timothy to be rattled over sharing the Gospel was not a figment of Paul’s imagination. The cross of Christianity was a scandal.
It seems incredible today that people back then viewed Jesus as shameful–but both Jews and Gentiles viewed crucifixion as a statement of disgrace. After all, the cross was a penalty reserved only for the worst of criminals. For Romans, a God-man dying on a cross for sins was a crude thought. And the idea of a Jewish peasant becoming the substitutionary atonement for sin was laughable in their minds.
Add to this, Christians were now suspects in radical ideas and violent behavior. Now the Church, and each believer, are the focus of a Roman government crackdown. So Paul reminds Timothy . . .
First Choose to STAND TALL for the Gospel Verse 8a
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner” (verse 8a). The verb “be ashamed” is passive, giving the idea of someone or something pressuring you to feel disgraced, put to shame, dishonored or embarrassed–over what, Paul? Two things—1) the testimony of our Lord, and 2) Paul, His prisoner.
Do not allow anyone or anything to cause you to be sheepish about Christ being our Lord. Whoa–did you get that? Never be hesitant to call Jesus, “Lord”, and not Caesar as Lord. Never be ashamed to tell anyone that Christ is the sovereign master of a Christian’s life. Never be embarrassed to describe Jesus as God in the flesh, who lived a perfect life, then was put to death by Roman Leaders, hated by the Jewish religious elite, but chose to die as a substitute for the sins of His children, rose from the dead and now stands as the only way anyone, anywhere can be made right with God. That’s the testimony of our Lord.
Paul also urges Timothy to not be ashamed of himself–Paul, a prisoner in Rome. It’s striking Paul refers to himself not as Rome’s prisoner, but as the Lord’s prisoner. “Or of me His prisoner”–Paul’s imprisonment is for no other reason than that Paul serves the Lord. And that the Lord has willed, chosen, and pre-determined Paul to be a prisoner in Rome.
Paul is in Caesar’s dungeon—but Nero is not his captor, Christ is. The apostle is blessed, not shamed. Therefore, Timothy ought to stand up for Paul and the truth. Paul gives Timothy a clear declaration of who is always in control, who is always in charge, and who is always calling all the shots—verse 8, Christ, the Lord.
Don’t be ashamed of me, Paul–no, Christ is the sovereign Master who put me here. Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of Christ–Christ preplanned his birth, life, death, and resurrection to provide salvation. If you’re embarrassed about that Gospel or me in prison, you’re distorting God’s will and maligning God’s sovereignty. Therefore . . .
Second Be willing to SUFFER for the Gospel Verse 8b
Negatively, stop being ashamed. But positively, join with me in suffering, Timothy. Verse 8b, “But join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” This is crazy–the verb, “join with me in suffering,” is the main verb of this passage and a command–not an option . . . to literally suffer evil with me, endure injustice with me.
Rather than being ashamed of Paul’s suffering, Timothy must be unflinchingly bold and freely choose to courageously suffer with the great apostle. Oswald Chambers was right when he wrote, “To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Paul did, whether it means suffering or not.”
Suffering is part of God’s Gospel blessing. When Jesus called Paul on the road to Damascus, He immediately sent Ananias to him, telling Paul what awaits him in ministry. Acts 9:15 and 16, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
As the years passed, Paul would describe his ministry in terms of suffering in 2 Corinthians 4:8 to 10, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
Those of you who are comfort lovers, those of you addicted to convenience–God promises His children suffering for following Christ. And if that were not enough, God promises Christians persecution for following Christ. Read these two verses aloud. Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Second Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
What should you suffer for and be persecuted for? Paul says in verse 8, the Gospel. Gospel is mentioned three times in 2 Timothy, and two of those references are in this passage. The Gospel is the message that God saves sinners. God did the work in order for His children to be saved. The Gospel is the message that God alone saves His children alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Peter declared in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” How do we rejoice in suffering, and endure persecution?
The answer is at the end of verse 8, “according to the power of God.” The Greek “according to” is used in the sense of in or by–in God’s power or by God’s power. He is telling Timothy he can rely on God’s power to stand up and speak up. To not be ashamed, embrace the consequences of submitting to the Gospel message.
Jesus said you’d be hated, persecuted, and suffer in this world–accept it, embrace it. And rely on God’s power in order to rejoice during persecution or suffering, embracing the power of the Gospel stops embarrassment of the Gospel. Then point number 2, celebrate God’s power to transform lives.
#2 Embrace the POWER of the Gospel Verses 8c to 10
Verse 8 concludes with “the gospel according to the power of God.” Then, in order to motivate Timothy to trust in God’s power through the Gospel, he reminds Timothy what Jesus did and what God’s power accomplished through the Gospel. Under the worst circumstances, look what Christ’s suffering and death accomplished.
Here is the breakdown of verses 9 and 10. Paul reminds Timothy, only God through the Gospel has the power to save sinners, make them holy, abolish eternal death and bring them eternal life. The power to save (verse 9, “who has saved us”), and the power to live holy (“called us with a holy calling”).
Accomplished not by works (“not according to our works”), by God’s purpose and grace (“but according to His own purpose and grace”). By Christ in eternity (“which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity”), by the work of God in becoming a man (verse 10, “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus”).
The power to abolish death (“who abolished death”) and the power to bring life (“brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”). What is Paul saying here? God through the Gospel has the power to save–verse 9, “God who has saved us.” Paul wants Timothy to remember his God, whose Gospel Tim is asked to suffer for. That God has saved him, forgiven him, restored him to relationship, made him right with Himself.
What did it require for Christ to cleanse a leper, raise the dead or still the storm? Christ only needed to speak a command. But to forgive sins, Christ had to go to Calvary. To heal was a matter of power. To save was a matter of choosing pain–and not mere physical pain, but choosing the agony of bearing wrath for sin. God saved you.
God, through the Gospel, also gives the power to live holy–called us with a holy calling. This is not merely a holy calling because it is from a holy God, but this phrase describes the very power of God to make you holy before God. God’s choosing you is before the foundation of the world, but God’s calling you is God saving you in a moment of time on Earth–God called you and you were saved.
At salvation, when God justifies you, it’s as if God puts a pure white robe of holiness on you so you’ll be dressed properly, accepted into his Holy presence, because you wear Christ’s robe of righteous perfection. At salvation, when God regenerates you, He also transforms your inner man, so that by nature you love holiness and want to please God and obey His Word. God has the power to make you holy–He called us with a holy calling.
How else did God demonstrate His power in the Gospel and accomplish all of this? Verse 9, not by works. Paul adds in verse 9, “not according to our works.” I read about a monk who sat on top of a pillar for thirty years in order to get right with God. But Paul says there is nothing you can do, give, sacrifice or say which will save you. No, God alone is the author of salvation–you have nothing to do with it.
You’re only saved, verse 9, by God’s purpose and grace. I love this phrase in verse 9, “but according to His own purpose and grace”–not our own effort. Then Paul adds the strongest single word of contrast in Greek—“but by his own purpose and grace.”
The word “purpose” means that which is put before someone. A resolve–His will. The Latin equivalent is where we get our English word “proposition”. God resolves to make believers holy. The means of this accomplishment is His divine will and remarkable grace. God decides, then graces you. God’s purpose and God’s grace.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, God’s divine purpose is also linked to His love, His mercy and here His grace. You do not become holy through your own self-effort or resolve. You become holy because God purposed to make us holy, then by grace washes us in the blood of Christ and indwells us by His Holy Spirit.
How’d you get salvation? Verse 9 continues, by Christ in eternity, “which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” God brought us grace in salvation through the person and work of Christ before time began. God is so powerful, so in control, your salvation was God’s decision before the world began.
Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” How did it come to pass? Verse 10, by the work of God in becoming a man—“but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.” Paul moves from God’s eternal plan and grace found in Christ’s character, to the manifestation of that grace in time with the appearing of Christ as Savior in Israel.
Notice the word “now” (but now) combined with the Greek verb “revealed”, meaning made visible. Plus, “by the appearing” is used throughout the New Testament to describe the first and second comings of Christ. God’s grace in salvation was made visible when God become a Man in Christ. God is powerful, God is in control and God has no challengers–not Nero, not Rome. His work is so powerful and so effective, that through Christ, God manifested the power to abolish death.
Verse 10, “who abolished death.” In the Greek construction, death is partially defined in contrast to life and immortality. The life that is brought is not physical but spiritual life. And immortality itself speaks of life beyond physical death. Therefore the death here is not physical death, but it must be the spiritual death associated with sin–the second death, eternal death, which is eternal separation from God in torment in Hell.
And Christ is so powerful, He did away with the eternal death in Hell for his children. And when those who belong to Christ are resurrected, the last aspect of death–actual physical death itself will also be abolished forever. Verse 10 concludes with the power to bring life, “and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
The power of the Gospel, the message that God saves sinners through Christ, also brings life and immortality to light. Like a 100,000 lumen light brought into a pitch-black room, Christ has brought spiritual light into spiritual darkness. Life is brought to those who are dead. And those headed for immortal death can now enjoy life eternal. How? Verse 10, through the Gospel–the good news about Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
From death to life for Christ in order to bring death to life for you. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel or of those who proclaim the Gospel, Timothy–because this message is the most powerful message from the all-powerful God.
Think about what Paul is telling Tim–God rescued you, transformed you internally, made you ready for Heaven, and you had nothing to do with it. But God determined to save you and did so by His graciousness, decided this before the world was created, accomplished it with Christ becoming a man, and did away with eternal death through his own Son. And gave them life now and they will live forever with Him.
That is a powerful God you can trust. Embracing the power of the Gospel stops embarrassment of the Gospel. Don’t be ashamed–the ministry of Christ accomplished a powerful work. And Timothy, you and I have the honor of being involved in the Lord’s ongoing ministry and watching Him change lives through the Gospel we preach, teach and uphold. Therefore . . .
#3 Embrace your specific part in the Gospel MINISTRY Verse 11
Paul is constrained to mention his own part in the ministry for the Gospel in verse 11, “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” The Greek verb “I was appointed” literally means, God put me in my place. God made me to function as a preacher, apostle and teacher. Paul says, God made me to teach the Gospel to the saints and God made me to proclaim the Gospel to the ain’ts.
And I have the authority to demonstrate the power of the Gospel and the person of Christ to all. I think Paul was saying to Timothy, we have the same gifts–fulfill your ministry, Tim. Verse 6, like a fire, stir up those gifts in you, Tim, and get after your God-given function.
Now Timothy was not an apostle, but Paul just told us in verse 6, he laid his hands on him–meaning Timothy was given some apostolic gifts in some manner like Paul. Also, Paul may mention his apostleship here because other apostles have died already–James, possibly Peter at this point have died. Paul will die soon. God’s will is not frustrated by Paul’s death nor will God’s work be stopped, Timothy, if I die, even as an apostle.
Don’t be ashamed, Timothy–God’s message is powerful and God’s gifts through you are powerful. Don’t be on the defense, don’t be afraid, be on the offense. Go after it. As Paul marvels at his privilege to serve Christ in this manner, he is also thinking about his current suffering and will go on to say in verse 12, “That is why I am suffering.”
I am suffering because the Gospel is so glorious. I’m suffering because the Gospel is so powerful. I’m suffering because the Gospel is the only hope for the lost. What Paul is doing through this letter is extending his apostolic hand out of his Roman prison, across the boot of Italy, across the Adriatic Sea, across Greece, across the Aegean to Ephesus–beckoning Timothy to join him in standing unashamed while suffering for Christ.
His hand still reaches out through the centuries to you, all of Christ’s followers. Embracing the power of the Gospel stops embarrassment of the Gospel. So take some additional truth home with you today.
1 You have the greatest need–turn REPENTANTLY
You are not saved because you prayed a prayer once. You are not forgiven because you go to church, serve and like Christians. You are not going to Heaven because you have a spouse or parents who follow Christ. You are only going to Heaven because God decided to awaken your dead heart, give you a brand new heart that wants to depend on Him by faith and turn from sin in repentance. Are you genuinely saved?
2 You have the sweetest Savior–live INTIMATELY
John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Salvation means you don’t merely know about Christ, you actually know Him personally, follow Him diligently, serve Him faithfully, adore Him worshipfully. Don’t lose your first love, spend time with your God through His Word.
3 You have the most needed message–live OUTGOINGLY
Choose to pay the cost of sharing the Gospel by daily remembering the cost He paid for you to be saved. Think through the life-transforming power of the Gospel to change lives. Recognize the power of the Word to sanctify Christians, and live under the umbrella of God’s absolute control of every element of your life and you will share more boldly.
4 You have the amazing appointment–live LOVINGLY
Just like God made Paul to serve him as a teacher, you have an amazing giftedness designed to show off Christ and impact Christians to become more like Christ. Love the body of Christ and serve them faithfully, weekly in ministry. That is God’s normal expectation of every born again believer–are you loving others?
5 You have the most powerful God–live UNASHAMEDLY
Refuse to be embarrassed of Christ or the Bible or the Church or the Gospel–even if it costs you. God wants to take your suffering and turn it around as an opportunity to proclaim to others that they too can come to Christ, and to instruct believers that they too can become like Christ.