If you think about it, Jesus is a pretty popular figure. The Muslims like him, as well as the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. His name is used quite a bit in various movies and the occasional country song while he is still making appearances in cartoons like Family Guy. He was in a lot of people's yards just last month, and hey, even Oprah Winfrey has poured forth her accolades.
Of course, any discerning reader will quickly see that there's a big problem with the above Jesus(es). And that is, how can the Jesus of Oprah, Peter Griffin, and Joseph Smith possibly be the same person?
And then, we haven't even gotten to the Christian Jesus yet. The actual Jesus. The only Jesus. But I've got to start with the above illustration to establish my premise that the minds of men are capable of creating a false Jesus. And if pitiful cults and popular culture are able to invent their own version of Jesus, it doesn't seem too implausible that those sitting in the pews of what we consider orthodox churches can do the same thing, does it?
The reality is, particularly in the Bible Belt, everybody loves Jesus. In fact, I'm not sure that I can think of more than 1-2 people (if that) I've ever encountered who openly admit that they hate Him. And yet, did we catch what Jesus said in the above text?
...whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
Jesus doesn't let us choose here. He and His words are a take it or leave it package. We can't be unashamed of Jesus and ashamed of His words (or the other way around). To put it very plainly, if you are ashamed of Jesus' words, well you may love Jesus, but it's absolutely not the Jesus of Scripture (who, remember, is the only Jesus who matters). Let me go ahead and drop another bombshell here: the words of Jesus aren't just those red ones you find in the gospel accounts. The words of Jesus begin in Genesis 1:1 and end in Revelation 22:21, and encompass every jot and tittle in between (we'll just have to leave it at that since this concept in itself is enough for a whole separate post). Here's about as simple as I can put it:
You can't love the Jesus of the Bible without loving the Bible of Jesus.
To be ashamed of the words of Jesus is to be ashamed of Jesus. Here's a few ways to be ashamed of Jesus' words (NOT what we want to do btw):
1. Love what He hates -
To redefine sin or diminish it or excuse it is to be ashamed of the words of Jesus
2. Hate what He loves -
To disdain righteousness, holiness, His church, etc is to be ashamed of the words of Jesus.
3. Willfully neglect time in Scripture -
None of us spend as much time in the Bible as we should. We all need to grow in this. But to fill our time with other things and to not include Scripture day after day, week after week, year after year, is to be ashamed of the words of Jesus. (Essentially, to neglect time in the Bible is to say Scripture is unnecessary - the height of folly and arrogance)
4. Dismiss parts of Scripture -
So you think "Hey I love the words of Jesus!" but then you dismiss the Epistles, or the Pentateuch, or any portion of Scripture that you consider "not nice" or "too judgmental." To do this is to be ashamed of the words of Jesus.
5. Live as though the Bible is not authoritative -
Many professing Christians I know say the Bible bears highest authority but when it comes to practical living they let their own standards, or cultural pressure have the final say. Jesus didn't run a vote on what we thought about His words. This isn't a democracy. It's a Monarchy. To disobey the words of Jesus is to be ashamed of them.
6. Live as though the Bible is not sufficient -
Scripture is sufficient for us knowing God and His will. To live as though you need extra revelations of God or to trust in your experiences over and against Scripture is to be ashamed of the words of Jesus.
I'm sure as you go through that list you see at least an area or two that you need to seriously think about. Is the Jesus you love the Jesus of Scripture? If so, you will not be ashamed of His words. Why? Because if we are ashamed of His words, we can be sure that He will be ashamed of us in His coming Kingdom no matter how many times we've sung Oh How I Love Jesus on Sunday mornings.
Ultimately then, the most important thing isn't what we think of Jesus, but what He thinks of us. We can think we have love for Jesus that's as pure as the freshly fallen snow, but if we are ashamed of Scripture (see the enumerated points above!) it's not the Jesus of the Bible that we love. It's a figment of our own imagination, and that Jesus can't save.
Let me close with one final application. I think one thing that keeps so many from seeing these truths is neglect of the Bible. So many rest their head on a pillow each night with a false peace in their hearts simply because they won't open God's Book and read it. Because when we read the Word, we find that it actually reads us! Therefore, my final application can be summarized in this: get in the Book.
Open my eyes that I might behold wondrous things out of your Law