One of the more popular rallying cries in my generation is “116!” It’s based in the Christian hip-hop collective 116 Clique, based out of Reach Records. It comes from Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” There’s even a really popular song about it.
I was thinking about this verse yesterday. So often in Christianity, we rally around verses or statements – often in that ever-confusing language of Christianese – that we may not fully understand what they mean, but they sound really good, and people usually know the general idea of what we mean when we say them. Well, Christians do at least. I speak in a lot of Christianese around Christians.
But lately I’ve been asking myself this question a lot – “What do you/I mean by that?”
Applied here: When we say “116,” what are we really saying?
If we’re not ashamed of the gospel, I reasoned yesterday, it would make sense that we’re not ashamed of each and every part of the gospel. So what are the parts of the gospel? God is real. We’re sinful. God offers grace. We’re called to live for Him and make disciples. What does it mean to be unashamed of each of those things?
Unashamed of God’s existence.
God is real. God exists. God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17). “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me” (Psalm 116:5-6). And God has established the possibility for mankind, who He created, to have a relationship with Him. All we must do is be called righteous before Him. And because He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, what He says is true and right and must be obeyed.
To be unashamed of God’s existence means I acknowledge His existence before others. I do not deny there is a God. I rely on the fact that God is everywhere. And that can be really encouraging! Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. If I’m unashamed of God’s existence, I recall to mind that He is with His children, He is with me, and will never leave me. He does not abandon my soul to death. He stays. He loves.
Unashamed of your sinfulness.
I struggle at this thing called life. I fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) every single day. There’s jealousy, bitterness, doubt, lust, sin in my heart. I naturally rebel against God and His Word. I am not faithful to His commands for my life. And that’s from the beginning – “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11).
To be unashamed of my sinfulness means that I acknowledge my sinfulness before others. I don’t pretend that I have it all together. I don’t act like I don’t mess up. But I also do not get discouraged because of my sinfulness or beat myself up because of it. It’s a natural thing for me to sin. I should desire to not sin, but so often I find myself overly frustrated. It’s an important part of following Jesus that we are OK with the fact that we are imperfect, because that makes the next part 100 times better.
Unashamed of God’s grace.
God gives grace for our sinfulness. It’s the only way we can be restored to a right relationship with Him. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). We deserve death for our sins, but God offers, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, forgiveness of those sins and a right relationship with Him because He loves us. This is the most desperate need of mankind: to be forgiven out of love, not out of convenience or obligation.
To be unashamed of God’s grace means that I preach it, I teach it, I proclaim it! It’s the most important thing I could ever believe. If I don’t believe this, I am hopeless. To be unashamed of God’s grace also means that I don’t think I am beyond it, either pridefully or disparagingly. I must not think that I am too good for God’s grace, but I must also not think I am too bad for God’s grace. As Jerry Bridges writes in his excellent book The Discipline of Grace: “Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
Unashamed of your calling.
The Christian is called to do a lot of things, but I think they’re all wrapped up in two statements, one by Jesus and the other by Paul. First, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). Second, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That is the crux of our calling.
To be unashamed of my calling means that I seek ways to live this out. Am I serving in my local church? Am I growing in my faith by reading my Bible, praying or spending time in spiritual, intentional conversation with Christian community? Am I doing things to make God look better me? What is my attitude when I approach work/ministry/personal time? Am I embarrassed to live this way?
I hope this has been encouraging to you as you seek to live the 116 way, completely unashamed of the whole gospel. Not just unashamed of who God is, or the fact you’ve been forgiven, but the whole gospel, each and every part of it. I know this has been challenging to me.
My generation (early high school to 20-somethings), let’s live unashamed! All believers, live unashamed. Of EVERY part of the gospel.