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Shame, Fear, Pride... And the Gospel

History tells us that whenever there are results on a large scale, there is shame, fear, and/or pride involved as the primary motivator. All except for the early Christians who were motivated by the gospel, the good news that brought rich and poor, outwardly and inwardly broken, and Jews and Gentiles together despite harsh persecution. Suddenly, the “sinners” could break bread with the “religious.” Shame had been broken. When persecution occurred, Christians rejoiced “…in the hope of the glory of God” Romans 5:2 (NIV). They had been set free from fear. Centuries of traditions of ethnocentrism that created divisions between race, socioeconomic class, and gender suddenly didn’t matter under Jesus Christ as their head (Galatians 3:28). Pride no longer controlled their actions.

If shame, fear, and pride are all things that entered this world as a result of disobedience to God (sin), then how can they be the way to the gospel? The answer is they cannot. As we saw in the early Christian church, the gospel was meant to shatter such things that have strongholds in our lives.

And so for practical purposes, if we wanted to commence a church giving campaign to feed the hungry children in Africa, what would that look like? Well, if the results are all we really care about, here are the quickest ways to get them:

Shame-based motivation would say something like, “We aren’t doing enough as Christians! We simply need to do more! We have so much and they have so little, how can we just sit here on our comfortable chairs and do absolutely nothing while these poor children starve? We need to give now!”

Fear-based motivation may go something like this, “When we get to the gates of heaven and see the face of God, aren’t you worried about what you’ll say when He asks you what you’ve done for Him? We need to help feed these poor children so that you can confidently tell God that you did His work when you see Him face to face!”

 Pride-based motivation may possibly say, “Let’s be the church that actually makes a difference in this world, let’s lead the way! Let’s show others how it’s done so that when they see our church they’ll be amazed at all the good work we’re doing for God’s kingdom!”

But gospel-based motivation is unlike any of these three, because the church-wide results may actually not set in as quickly. You see, to be motivated by the gospel, one cannot just have some transient moment of shame, fear, or pride, but he/she must be genuinely transformed by a message such as this, “See these poor starving children? What we need to realize is that because of sin, we were once poor and starving spiritually and destined for death as our punishment. But Jesus Christ had tremendous compassion on us, he picked us up out of our own helplessness, and because of his (undeserved) love we are now clothed with royalty. That is why we should now have compassion on others. Let’s help these poor children because he has first helped us!”

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The Advocate

A young woman walked into a church on a Sunday morning. The sanctuary, which was a modest size for a place of worship, was empty except for the older man who was sitting quietly in the first row. She slowly made her way down the aisle to greet him.

“Excuse me sir,” she politely said.

He looked up and smiled. “Why hello there!”

“I’m sorry, but is this church still open?”

“Yes it is,” he replied, as he motioned his hands towards the space next to him. “Please, have a seat.”

She sat down. There were a few seconds of silence as she looked around. She then asked, “I’m sorry to ask so many questions, but where is everyone sir?”

“Ah, they’ve all moved on a while back.”

“I see.”

“But now I have a question for you. What brings you here this morning?”

She chuckled. “I was hoping to meet someone.”

“Meet someone, eh? And who might this be?”

“The Advocate.”

The man raised his eyebrows. “And what makes you think he’ll appear here of all places?”

“I don’t know, but I wrote him an invite to meet me here. Wishful thinking I suppose.”

“Funny you mention him, because I once knew a group who wanted to meet him very badly,” the man reminisced. “So badly they met together in one of their homes, tiding it up to the best of their ability, hoping that he would someday be their guest of honor. However, they were utterly convinced he would never appear at such a modest place. And so they held off their invitation.

“And instead, they pooled their money and purchased a building. And they gathered every Sunday, but they did not believe he would come for such few people. And so they spread the word to their friends and family.”

“And did others come?”

“Oh yes, many others. But they did not feel their guest of honor would be entertained. So they hired a leader who would give inspirational messages, a man of great talent and charisma. They thought, surely a man who could make the masses laugh, cheer, cry and smile could do the same for their guest. And their leader knew quite a bit about him, even wrote and published books.”

“That would’ve been a great opportunity for the group to invite him then!” she exclaimed. “Especially if their leader knew him.”

The man shook his head. “I said he knew quite a bit about him, I did not say he knew him.”

“Oh,” she said, and then giggled.

He continued, “And so many, many more flooded into that building week after week, but they still believed they were not yet ready to invite their guest. They needed more attraction. And so they purchased a larger building, this time a hundred times the size.”

“But they didn’t feel it was enough?

He chuckled. “But they didn’t feel it was enough. And so they hired musicians, the best musicians, put them on the stage, and surrounded them with lights and all kinds of fancy devices. The music was breathtaking. Tens of thousands would attend. Then came the social media platforms, websites, internet advertising, high quality videos, pictures, and music albums. They multiplied sites, dozens of locations, and now, the whole world knew about them.”

The woman frowned. “Let me guess, even after all that, it wasn’t enough?”

He shook his head.

She laughed.

“What might be so funny?”

“We’re sitting in that first building, aren’t we?”

He nodded.

She looked around. “So this is all it took?”

“No,” he answered.

“Then what?”

He smiled and replied, “Only an invite. That is all.”


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