It is a very poor sort of Christian discipleship (if, indeed, it has any right at all to the name) that is sought to be carried out in secret. There were some in the days of the Lord who believed on His name, "but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42, 43).
They were able to listen quietly to the malignant plottings that were going on among the priests and rulers against the person of Jesus Christ. They carefully repressed every sign of emotion when foul calumnies and vile aspersions reached their ears against the name and character of Him Whom they believed to have come from God as the Messiah of Israel. They studied to avoid every word or look that would cause any of the other chief rulers to charge them with being followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
They were anxious to stand well with their fellows. And in their circle it was not considered a respectable thing to have any dealings with the Nazarene. They feared therefore to confess Him; for the Jews had agreed that if any man did confess He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22).
I suppose you will allow that it would not be a commendable thing in a son to stand by in silence and hear the name of his mother spoken lightly of, and false accusations brought against her. You probably think a son's love for his mother, would, under such circumstances, send the blood tingling through the body of the most timid young man so that he would be bound to speak. The son that silently acquiesced in what was thus falsely declared in his hearing even nature itself teaches you to condemn.
Nevertheless it is not an unheard-of thing that there are young Christians who are sufficiently craven-hearted to hear the name of the Lord Jesus traduced without so much as uttering a word of protest. They permit the sneer or jest against Christ to pass without remark. Nay, they even appear to join the unholy mirth, lest they might be charged with being disciples of Christ, and the laugh raised against them as well as against Christ.
If I am addressing one who has been guilty of such unworthy conduct, I beseech you to consider what a wrong you are doing the Lord. Think of His love unto death. Think of His tears and blood for you. You know how He loves you. You know from what He has delivered you. You know He is the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One. And yet though you know all this you have not a word to say for Him. The Lord Himself said, "whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32).
I have thought that some mistake the real meaning of confessing Christ. Merely to tell others in so many words, or to give them cause to think, that you are a Christian, is to fall short of what is due to the Lord. As the apostle wrote, "we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord"; so is it far better for you to speak of the Lord than to speak of yourself. It is of small use for you to mount a pedestal, as it were, and look down upon others who are unbelieving, with airs of lofty superiority. If you display such a spirit you will have no influence for good whatever. It is testimony concerning Christ that is blessed of God.
No, no; it ought not to be necessary for you to inform your companions you are a Christian; they ought to be able to see it in your ways. If you have to label yourself, it must be because you are rather a doubtful specimen. Depend upon it the world knows a Christian when it sees one. Make it a rule therefore to talk as little as possible about yourself, and as much as you can about Christ. Always seek to say a good word for the Master. That unintelligent pieman witnessed a good confession before men who is reported to have been in the habit of reiterating, "I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all; but Jesus Christ is my all in all." The desire of his simple heart was to exalt the Lord.
Do not be ashamed to own Him. Remember the scripture has said that whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. It is the unbelieving that will know everlasting shame and contempt. What have you to be ashamed of?
The Spirit of God closely connects confession with the lip and faith in the heart: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9, R.V.). It is not enough to own the Lordship of Jesus when, in your chamber, you bend before Him as Lord of all and your Lord. Do you also tell the unbeliever that He Who died is risen and glorified? Are you prepared to maintain the perfect purity and holiness and glory of His name and person against every adversary?
I should like you to read the following extract concerning a clever medical student in one of the London hospitals not a great many years ago. "His hospital career subsequently was a most successful one; and the combination of his acknowledged attainments with the simple fearless witness he bore to the name of Christ made the presence of such a man among the students a conscious power for good. Everyone soon got to know that S—'s Christianity was of a different stamp from that which was professed more or less by those around him. It had a true 'ring' about it. His heart was full of the love of Christ; and he was not backward in speaking of that love to others, when he could wisely use the opportunity of serving the Master."
Here then is the secret of bold confession of Christ. Get your soul saturated with a sense of the excellencies of the Lord. Let Him be before you ever as the One Who loved you and gave Himself for you. And out of the abundance of your heart your mouth shall speak.
"Jesus, and shall it ever be
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?
Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On Whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No, when I blush be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name."
J. Grigg and B. Francis.