A Ministry with No Regrets
By: The John Ankerberg Show
December 7, 2014
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
We are continuing on with our Bearing Fruit Sermon Series and the title of the message today is “A Ministry with No Regrets.” A Ministry with No Regrets.
Washington State, an Everett High School Senior is suing the school district for being suspended three times in which he says was unconstitutional. A man by the name of Michael Leo, an Everett High School student was handing out tracts on this final time and they suspended him for a third time at his high school. I have to take you back to the story because it happened on a number of occasions.
The first time it happened, Leo was at a bonfire and he got up and started preaching the gospel. He began sharing the Ten Commandments and he started handing out tracts. Some of the teachers told him to be quiet, which he did, and then about twenty minutes later, he started sharing the gospel again and they told him that he is going to be suspended. He gets back to school and he is suspended for preaching the gospel.
On another occasion, he goes to a volleyball game and he is handing out tracts again at the volleyball game and the principal of the school, Kathy Woods, approaches him and says to him, you need to stop telling people about Jesus because you are breaking the law by proselytizing students. Leo, confused, responded with this question. “If you allow me to hand out tracts and talk about Jesus, then I am breaking the law?” And she said, with a resounding response, “Yes.”
He went back to school. He was sharing the gospel in the hallway handing out tracts. They suspended him for a second time. You would think that he would shrink back from this, but not Leo. The third suspension happened when he was in math class, of all things, and what did he get suspended for? Cheating on a test? No. Causing fights in the playground? No. Smoking pot behind the school? No. Drinking alcohol? No. Using foul language? No. Handing out a tract from the Billy Graham Association to a friend in math class. For the third time and he is facing expulsion.
His lawyer said, I quote, “It has been well established by court precedent that students do not leave their Free Speech rights at the school house doors.”
Did you ever think we would come to this in America where students are being suspended and expelled for preaching the gospel and handing out tracts? Praise God for this man’s ability to not shrink back in the face of persecution.
What is interesting about Leo, he has gained a lot of media attention. Some favorable, much in criticism. But regardless, you would admit that his faith is being talked about all over the world. For sure it is being talked about at Brainerd Baptist today to you guys. And it reminds me of what happened in Paul’s day in the book of Romans when Paul begins his letter by saying, “Your faith is being spoken about all over the world.” Wouldn’t that be cool for that to be said of Brainerd Baptist Church. Not the pastor, not the choir, not the orchestra, as good as those groups are, but the faith of the people of Brainerd Baptist is being spoken about all over the world.
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Romans Chapter 1. Romans Chapter 1 and my goal this morning with our time together is that you would hear this message, understand these scriptures and not be ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now you would not shrink back from sharing the gospel with a lost world and that your faith would be spoken of all over the world because of the courage you have to stand up for Christ.
When you get to Romans Chapter 1 Verse 8, say “word.” The Word of the Lord. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about His Son, is my witness that I constantly mention you, always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I want very much to see you, so I may import to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Father, we pray today that we would be mutually encouraged by one another. More importantly, that we would be edified by the Word today. We pray that we would leave this place differently than the way we came in because we want to be conformed to the image of Your Son because we have heard about Him. Help me today as I peach to Your people, that they would leave this place and say not what a great sermon or a great pastor, but they would say, “What a great God we serve.” We ask it in Your name and everyone said, Amen.
Although this is the first section I want to highlight, it is actually the theme of the entire passage and that is the bearing of fruit in the text. Paul shows us that the fruit that is being produced is the faithfulness of the people of God in Rome.
Paul starts off by saying this, “First.” Now that is interesting because if you read the book of Romans, Paul never gets to a second. The whole book is the second, I guess. Paul says, “First, I want to than my God because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Now, what Paul is using here is hyperbole. There is no way Paul knows if their faith is being reported all over the world. Why? Because there was no Facebook back then. There is no Instagram. There is no Twitter. What Paul is saying is this, he is saying, your faith in Rome has made it all the way back to Asia Minor where I am. People are literally talking about what God is doing among the Roman believers.
Paul says, my desire it to go be with you. Well, why would you want to go see those Romans believers? Here is why. He wants to impart to them a spiritual gift.
Now, lets pause for a moment right there. A lot of people have misinterpreted this section as to mean that Paul wanted to give them some spiritual gift, like the gift of speaking in tongues and impart that to them. Unfortunately, it is easy to get to that place if you take that verse out of context. And we all know at Brainerd that a text out of its context is a pretext for a proof text. Right, and it basically means you could just make it whatever you want it to mean.
So lets put that text back into its context and lets take the words first and then lets look at the context. That word “gift” is the Greek word “charisma.” It is easy to get there if you just take the word charisma without looking at the passage. Charisma is where we get the English word “Charismatic.” That is where you get this idea of gifts. We that in I Corinthians Chapter 12. We see the gifts in Romans Chapter 12 as well. God gives gifts of prophecy. He gives gifts of healings. He gives gifts of tongue and miracles. Paul even puts on this adjective to describe the gift. He wants to give them a spiritual gift. He emphasizes his point here.
But we all know that God gives gifts to every Christian, right? Every Christian has been given gifts by God. Turn to I Peter Chapter 4 and let me show you. Just go to the right, after Hebrews. Lets go to I Peter Chapter 4 Verse 10. When you are there, say “word.”
Peter says, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” And what he is saying here is this: in this text, God offers gifts to all believers. So the question is, what is Paul talking about by saying he wants to impart to them a spiritual gift? Well, he tells us in the text. Let’s read it. Romans Chapter 1, “That is,” so he says, let me explain it, “That is, that you and I would be mutually encouraged by what? One another’s fellowship.” Paul is saying, I want to come to you and give you the gift of me, not that Paul was holier than thou, but he is saying there is something to be said when Christians get together and mutually edify and encourage one another.
Friends, don’t minimize the importance of encouragement, fellowship and accountability in the Christian life. This time you are spending here, the time you will spend in your Life Group, is paramount in your life for your week. Paramount in your life. Particularly for the Roman believers who are in the face of suffering by pagan leaders of Rome. They needed encouragement. They fed off encouragement.
You know, that is why we do missions. It is one of the main reasons we do missions. And when you do missions, it is not just at Brainerd to go build buildings, although that is great. It is not just to give to an offering, although we appreciate that. It is not just to go teach or train or equip leaders overseas. We need that. But the greatest gift that we can give to our partners overseas is our presence…not presents, as gifts…but our presence, right? Us. The fact that we go to them shows them that we care and we love them and we are listening to them. The greatest gift that you can give to them in the spiritual gift of listening. And what you are showing them by going is, hey, we appreciate you guys. We are going to lock arms with you.
Now, you may not be able to preach, I get that. You may not be able to sing. But everybody can listen. Amen? Everybody can pray. Everybody can encourage.
So let me ask you, what is your excuse now for not going overseas? You don’t have to explain it to me, explain it to God. Don’t tell me, tell God. Now, don’t miss this, not just your encouragement overseas, it would be a miss for us to bypass those who God has entrusted at your church to tend to your souls. When was the last time you encouraged one of our pastoral staff here at Brainerd Baptist, people who care for your soul and pray for you and encourage you? You know, sadly, many church staff members only hear form people when there is a crisis or their life falls apart, right? When was the last time you wrote an encouraging note or sent a card to one of our staff members? When was the last time you made a phone call, hey, I appreciate you. When was the last time you gave them a gift card, right? That is encouraging. When was the last time you took them out to lunch? That is encouraging. When was the last time you just stopped in the hall and said, hey, listen, thank God for you. God planted me here. Thank God for your encouragement in my life. Don’t underestimate the importance of Christian encouragement and fellowship.
Paul said, I want to come see you because I want to encourage you. I want to edify you. I want to give you myself. I want to listen to you.
But then he goes on. He says, “I want to impart to you a spiritual gift to make you strong, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one other’s fellowship. Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented from doing so up until now).” And so here is the question we have to ask: Did Paul ever make it to Rome? Good Bible trivia question, huh? And the answer is yes. He made it in chains. Acts Chapter 28. He got his wish. But he was handcuffed. He was chained and shackled, led by Romans guards to the Roman Empire. He made it alright, but not the way Paul wanted. It wasn’t first class on Delta with frequent flyer miles. He made it though, right?
And as we see in the text, not only is Paul excited about the bearing of fruit or the faithfulness of the believers, but secondly, Paul displays for us in this text the burden of his ministry. The burden of his ministry. Now that word “burden” is not a negative term, it is actually a positive term. He was compelled by two motivating factors.
“I want you to know, brothers,” Verse 13, Sisters, “that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am obligated both to the Greeks and the barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel, the good news to you who are also in Rome.”
Paul tells us about this burden he has for people. Now we don’t know why Paul was prevented from going to Rome, but you can write it down. He had this burden for people. But we do know that he wanted to go to them to have this fruitful ministry among them. That word “fruitful” is another way to say he wants to see a harvest among them. In essence, what Paul is saying is, I want to come pick fruit. There is low hanging fruit, the fruit of faithfulness in your life, the fruit of the Spirit in your life, the fruit of generosity. And I want to experience that with you. I have heard about it.
Have you ever been around somebody who is just passionate about the things of God and their attitude is contagious? Have you ever been around somebody like that? Maybe you were like that at one time. I know I was, right? Just passionate. They used to call me Ignorance on Fire. I don’t know if I would go back to there, but I would probably take the Fire without the ignorance. But I was just passionate about the things of God, right?
Now in this context, fruit is more than just the Fruit of the Spirit. In this context, Paul is saying that the fruit is the conversion of people from paganism to Christianity. That is what he is saying. He is saying, I want to put my eyes on some people who have been born again, who are filled with the Spirit of God. I want to meet those people. I want to hang with those people.
You see, for Paul, his legacy was not written in the pages of books. For Paul, his legacy was written on the hearts of men. You see, Paul knew in this world that there are only three things that are eternal. Write them down. Three things in this world that are eternal. God, His Word and the souls of men and women. God, His word and the souls of men and women. Notice I didn’t say stock, retirement funds. Notice I didn’t say mutual funds. Notice I didn’t say cars or houses or resources in the world. I said none of that. God, His Word and the souls of men. And Paul knew that. And Paul was about the business of investing his life in each of those categories.
Turn with me to II Corinthians Chapter 3. I want to show you the fruit of Paul’s ministry, which was people. II Corinthians 3 Verse 1. When you are there, say “word.”
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?” Paul says, here we go again, bragging on ourselves. “Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you?” People were saying, prove your status, prove who you guys are, prove what you are doing, prove you are from God. “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone.” Did you know you are a letter to a lost world? Paul says “It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God — not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” This is a great scripture to memorize as well, by the way.
Paul says, I am obligated to people. He has a burden for people. That word “obligation” in Romans Chapter 1 is another word for someone who is a debtor. It is another word for someone who is obligated to someone else. Now he says in the text, “I am obligated to the Greeks and the barbarians.” All he is saying here is this, I am obligated to those who speak Greek, who are fluent Greek and I am obligated to those who are not. I am obligated to those of all races, all colors, all tribes, all tongues. And then he goes further. “I am obligated to the wise and the foolish, to the educated and the uneducated or the simple.”
Now the word “obligation”, don’t miss this, although a person is a debtor to someone, they are not in debt to someone, particularly Jesus Christ for our salvation. You are not in debt to God where you have to pay Him back for something that He has done to you, or done for you. For we know, Ephesians 2:8, “for by grace you have been saved through faith. It is not of your own doing, it is a gift from God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast.” I mean, think about it. What are you going to give back to someone who owns everything anyway? Have you ever tried to shop for someone who has every present? It is pretty difficult. What are you going to give to God? God not only owns everything, He created everything! And what he says is here, we don’t owe God something and we are trying to pay God back. Our service to God is in response to something He has already done to us because we love God. Right? We are not trying to earn something from God. We do it because we love God. What more could you give God for salvation. Listen to me, I have said this before. If God never blesses you with another thing, He has blessed you enough with salvation in His Son. Think about that for a moment. Your service to God is a response to the grace of God, for the glory of God.
I love the hymn writer when he said, “Nothing to the cross I bring…I mean, nothing in my..nothing to the cross I bring, that is true. Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”
General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, believed the same thing as Paul. He lived with the passion for people. One day he was standing before Queen Victoria. She was impressed with his ministry. She was about to give him an offering. She was about to do something for him. And she said, “Please let me do something for you. What do you want?” And he responded to the Queen by saying this: “Your Majesty, some people’s passion is money. Some people’s passion is fame. But my passion is people.”
Do you have a passion for people to see Jesus and know Jesus? Paul did. And not only a burden for people, Paul had a burden to preach. Write it down. He had a burden to preach. “I am eager,” Paul says, “to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.”
That word, “ready” or “eager” is translated in the King James Version in two places with two options as to how we can translate it. The first one is in Acts Chapter 21 Verse 13 when Paul was given a response to that Roman leader when he said, “What are you doing weeping and breaking my heart, for I am ready, not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul says, I am about to go speak to these people. This is my heart. I am ready to die. I am prepared to die.
But in this context, Romans Chapter 1 Verse 15 when Paul says “I am eager to preach the gospel,” it means to be ready in mind. Paul was ready to die. We get that. But he was not eager to die because there was so much work to be done. But Paul said, “I am ready, at a moment’s notice to preach the gospel.” This wasn’t a negative burden for Paul to preach the gospel. He was excited to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was eager to go to Rome, not as a sightseer but as a soul winner. There is a big difference. Paul is not going on mission trips to check the proverbial boxes of places that he went so he can go back home to his American friends and tell them, hey, I just got back from blank. Paul was putting his life on the line for the gospel, to go win souls, that some may believe in Jesus Christ. And that burden for people was an outflow because of his burden to preach to people. And so that is the burden of Paul’s ministry. The fruitfulness of Paul’s ministry was people. The burden of Paul’s ministry was preaching and people.
Finally, let me share with you how it ends. Paul gives us this boldness he has in the gospel, should be boldness in the gospel. Verse 16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation for everyone who believes, to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
Now, Paul begins this section with an interesting three letter English word, “for.” Don’t miss that. Why in the world would Paul have to put that word “for” in this section, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Isn’t it amazing that even the people of Rome needed a disclaimer by Paul to justify the gospel? Because what they were doing is they were looking at the gospel as being too simplistic. You mean to tell me that we put faith in a dead man who died on a cross, persecuted by Rome, condemned by the government and we can be saved? Now Paul warned those in Corinthians that this would happen. Remember what he said, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, I Corinthians 1:18, foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. There it is, the same word.
That word “power” there is the English word dynamite. This is not a firework that you get at the fireworks stand for New Years or Fourth of July. This is dynamite. Dynamite power. Paul warned the Corinthians again, I Corinthians Chapter 1 Verse 22, “for the Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”
Have you ever preached the gospel to someone and they looked at you like what you were saying was foolishness? Well, you haven’t preached the gospel if you haven’t had that happen. I mean, you have to admit, it is pretty foolish, from man’s perspective. You mean to tell me, you guys are believing in a crucified Savior? That is exactly who we believe in. Paul said on one occasion, “I knew nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him (what?) crucified.” Paul says, I am not ashamed of the gospel.
That word “ashamed” is the key word. That word “ashamed” is to shamed or another way to say it is to be humiliated. It is to have undeserved shame put upon you. Now there is a big difference, as we know in life, between deserved shame and undeserved shame, right? I have experienced a lot of deserved shame in my life, prior to coming to Christ. Maybe you have as well.
The difference is, undeserved shame or deserved shame is something that you do and by your actions and as a result of your actions, something is done to you that humiliates you. For example, if a man commits adultery on his wife, his wife graciously takes him back after he comes back home and he makes amends. He experiences shame, not only from his family but from the world, right? And rightfully so because of his actions. On the other hand, undeserved shame is when you experience humiliation, not because of something you do but because of something someone else does. In this case, it is on the basis of your belief in Christ. It is not because of what you have done, it is because of what Christ has done for you, right? And so people have humiliated you, people have shamed you because of that.
Now we all know that this humiliation in this world will turn to vindication when Christ returns, right? Because He will make all wrongs right. He will wipe away every tear and all the pain will be gone. But until that day, Paul says, don’t be ashamed. He even tells Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of me as the Lord’s prisoner or His gospel.”
Jesus said it this way in Mark Chapter 8. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of Him when he comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
If you have never been ashamed of the gospel, the probable reason according to Martin Lloyd Jones is this, “It is not that you are an exceptionally good Christian, but rather that your understanding of the Christian message has never been clear.” That is pretty deep. Let me say it again. He is saying, the reason you have never been ashamed is not because you are just an exceptionally good Christian. That is not the reason. It is because your understanding of the Christian message is unclear.
You have to admit, when you look at the Christian message, it is kind of foolish to the world’s standards, right? I mean, you mean to tell me you are going to put your faith in a man who was condemned by Rome, tried by the Roman government, placed on a cross, put in a tomb. We can’t even find His body now. You believe in that? That is exactly what we believe in.
And Paul says, that is where the power is. It is foolishness to the world, but it is power to those who believe. The gospel is not advice, my friends, to help us pull up our spiritual selves by our bootstraps in order to feel good about ourselves. The gospel is not a self-help system in order to recover. It is not a feel good series of messages so we like the way we are to have our best life now. Friends, your best life is not now, your best life is in the future.
As John MacArthur said about that phrase, he said, “The only way we are living our best life now is if we are going to hell at the end of it.” The only way we are experiencing our best life now is if we are going to hell at the end of it. The gospel is dynamite for new life in Christ Jesus. It causes dead men to come back to life. It gives hope for the hopeless. It gives peace to the restless.
Do you remember the day that you were radically saved? Paul doesn’t say, the gospel brings salvation. Paul said the gospel IS salvation. It IS the power of God. It is not just words that you utter to people about a dead man who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. It is the dynamite of God. Don’t underestimate that, folks.
Do you remember the day that Christ came into your lifeless body? Man, I think about that day often. Ladies, I think about that day often. The day that Christ took up residence in my hardened heart. He gave me a new heart. He gave me a new life. He gave me a new plan. He inhabited my body. Can you imagine the God of the universe inhabited your body! He forgave your sins! He washed your past sins away! In essence, what happened the day you were born again is, you collided with the God of heaven. And every time you and I come in contact with the God of heaven, there are always visible marks, visible scars in your life from that collision.
Let’s say for example, I arrived today 15 minutes early…15 minutes late, I am sorry. And Bryan or Collin had to stall for me to get here and I just run up on the stage just like this and I say, folks, I am sorry. You are never going to believe what just happened to me. As I was driving to church today, I had a flat tire. I told Kandi and the boys, stay in the car. I am going to get out and change this tire. I went to the trunk. I undid the spare and as I was rolling the spare around, it got away from me and got into oncoming traffic. I went into oncoming traffic to try to retrieve the tire and the first two cars, with catlike reflexes, I dodged. But not the last. Unfortunately for me, it was the biggest of the three. It was an 18-wheeler that smacked me into the ground, leveled me out. After picking myself up off the cement, I hobbled back to the car. Miraculously, I put the spare on the car. I drove in here. I know I am late, but I apologize for being late.
Now you have two options at this point. Robby, you are either a liar or you are a lunatic. Why would you say that? Why would you say that? Because there are no scars. There are no visible signs that I just came into contact in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler truck, right? When you come in contact with a truck of that magnitude, there are going to be dislocated bones. There are going to be fractured limbs. There are going to be injuries, right? There are going to be marks in your life.
Come in real close. When a person comes in contact with the God of heaven, there will be marks in their life. This isn’t one of the false gods, this is The God of Heaven, the God who spoke the world into being with His voice. The God who breathed life into man. The God who created every living thing. He is the One that knows every star by number. He created them. He placed the planets into place. He is the One that caused the sea to part. He is the One that stopped the mouths of lions. That is this God. He is the One that took men out of burning fire. That is this God.
Don’t you think if a person comes in contact with that God there will be visible signs of their life, of that collision? Friends, if you don’t see spiritual indications of that encounter, then I would check the root if there is no fruit. If you don’t see fruit, listen to me, check the root, because you might not even be saved, because every time you come in contact with the God of Heaven, there will always be fruit in your life. We say it all the time here at Brainerd. The fruit of one’s life reveals the root of one’s (what?), one’s heart. The gospel will always leave a mark and the mark will be fruit.
And the gospel always leads to salvation when a person repents and believes. Conversion, when a person responses in repentance and belief. Now Paul show us in Romans 1 that salvation is not reserved just for certain classes of individuals or a particular race or a particular group. The gospel is universal in scope. Aren’t you glad? He said, First for the Jew then for the Gentile. Now don’t misunderstand what he is saying here. He is not saying that the Jews have superiority to everyone else. He is not saying this in priority but in time. Get this. First for the Jews. Why? Because the message came to who first? The Jews. And then to the Gentiles. Aren’t you glad God let us in? Aren’t you glad God said no, it is all races, all tongues, all tribes, anyone and we all are saved the same way. There is not a dichotomy between the Old Testament saints and New Testament believers. Some people try to say that the Old Testament saints followed the Law, New Testament believers, we believe by faith. No, friends, listen. It has always been faith, always. The Old Testament saints had faith in the promise of a coming Messiah. They looked ahead to the One whom God would send for them to redeem them.
As New Testament believers, we look back to the cross of the One who already came. His name is Jesus, right? Did you know that Moses himself looked forward to the Messiah’s coming? Even Moses. Well, prove it. Go to Hebrews Chapter 11. Let me show you what the author of Hebrews says about the faith of Moses. It is pretty interesting.
Hebrews 11:26. When you are there, say “word.” “Moses considered the reproach because of the Messiah.” He was persecuted because of the Messiah. Moses, I don’t know if you realize this, the Messiah wasn’t around back then. It was the promise of the Redeemer whom God would send, “to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since Moses’ attention was on the reward.”
I think as we close, we have to answer this question. Why is the gospel good news to us? Paul tells us. Look at Verse 17. “For in the gospel, God’s righteousness if revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
Now what he is saying here is, in the gospel, when we are saved, God’s righteousness is imputed to us. Why? Because human righteousness will not do. What he is saying in this text is this, there was a time in our lives when we were unrighteous, right? Because of the sin of Adam, God said you can eat of any tree in the Garden. Don’t eat of that tree. They disobeyed God. God called that sin. That sin has plagued the human race from the beginning of time. And because of that, subsequent generations have been infected and infested with sin and the ramifications of it.
The Bible says there is no one righteousness. No, not one. No one seeks after God. They have all turned away. They have altogether become meaningless. No one is righteous, no, not one. The Bible says all have sinned in Romans 3:23 and fallen (what?) short of the glory of God. Ephesians 2:1, “You were dead in your trespasses and sin in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the Prince of the Power of the Air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom you all lived, carrying out the desires of your body, mind and the flesh and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Jeremiah 17 says, “The heart is deceitful and above all things, desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” Apparently God because He sent His Son. He knew that the only way that sinful human beings could ever have a relationship with a holy God was through a perfect sacrifice. He wrapped Himself in human flesh. Jesus Christ came to earth on a rescue mission, to save us from our sin. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He became the perfect sacrifice. Listen to me, He went to the cross that was prepared for us. Why? Because it was His sin, not ours. And He took your place on the cross so that you may live through His death. Aren’t you glad for the gospel? Aren’t you glad for the fact that One came on your behalf and did what you could never do? And those who put their faith in Christ and turn from sin will ultimately escape the wrath of God to come. You will escape the effects of sin. You will escape the influences of the world. The gospel also removes separation from God in your life, separation from impending danger from sickness, from a wicked generation, from death and ultimately from unrighteousness.
Now that righteousness that comes through faith is a righteousness given by God, not by works. Look at what Paul says. “It is from faith to faith.” What he is doing is he is quoting Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous or the just shall live by faith.” Don’t miss this. It is all faith. You don’t begin by faith and finish by works. It is faith to faith, right? It is not by merit. You don’t earn it. It is not by good deeds or works. It is not by keeping on until you keep on until you keep on. It is faithfulness in God. You begin by faith. It ends by faith. And then one day our faith will become sight when we see Jesus Christ.
Now this is not blind faith, but it is faith based on (what?) the facts of the Word of God. So if you faith is fickle, I would submit to you that you don’t know the facts of the Word of God. Want to strengthen your faith? Read the Word. Read the Word. Why? Because Jesus Christ IS the Word of God.
Now I have asked myself the question this week, why is it that people are unashamed of the gospel. Why is it that Christian, born again believers have been unashamed of the gospel at times in their life and I think the reason for that is this. I think we don’t understand the scope of our salvation. We truly don’t understand what Jesus saved us from. I really don’t think…I don’t think I understand that to the level that I need to as well.
I want you imagine someone gives you this Christmas an Alaskan cruise. Anybody ever been on a cruise before? How many people have been on an Alaskan cruise before? That is where Kandi and I want to go next…not in the winter, in the summer hopefully. And lets say you go on an Alaskan cruise and you are on the bow of the boat with your spouse. You are having a wonderful time. It is steaming hot in Chattanooga. It feels great in Alaska, if you can imagine. You are taking in the scenery. That breeze is blowing against your face. You are standing on the bow of the boat and you are taking it all in. And all of a sudden BOOM! The ship hits an iceberg. You are immediately catapulted out of the boat into the frigid waters. Your spouse, as you look up, many stories up, is frantically screaming. There is no way she can get you, you are too far down. And your spouse is running around saying, Can anybody help me? My husband is in the water. And you are trying to tread water, but your limbs are starting to lock up and you slowly start to descend under the water. At that moment, miraculously, a man in a scuba diving outfit comes out of the boat, swan dives over the edge into the water, goes under the water and you can’t see him. You are looking over the boat and all of a sudden, a few seconds later, he comes up with you. Now you don’t remember this because you are completely unconscious. He swims back to the boat, lays you on the deck, administers CPR. You miraculously spit out water, wake back up and you are alive. Can you imagine?
Now at that moment when the boat docks back into land, news reporters who have already been notified are waiting at the dock to interview who? You, right? They can’t believe it. They head this miraculous story, how you were put into the water. You were at the doorstep of death. You are about to die. And you were brought back to life.
Now, who do you give the credit to at that moment? You should have seen my backstroke I was perfecting! No. You don’t do that. You should have seen the finesse of that doggie paddle I was doing in the water. No, you don’t do that. Why? Because you were dead. You say, you shout it from the rooftops. It is not because of anything I did. I was done. I was dead. It is this man, right here. This man saved my life! If it wasn’t for him, I am gone! I am dead! You go on television. You go on radio. You go on Oprah. You go on Jimmy Fallon. You will say it to anybody and everybody who asks you about why you are alive. They don’t even have to ask you. You just tell them, listen, I just got back off a cruise and I am alive! Well, what happened to you? I almost died! Wow!
Why is it with no problem we could tell people about someone that saved our physical lives and yet born-again believers have a difficult time talking about the One who saved our souls? Which is infinitely greater! Which is eternally significant!
You know, during this Christmas season, it is good for us, as we say, to remember the reason for the season. But how about we start reminding people around us of the real reason for the season! Friends, you may be the only Bible your lost co-workers ever read! And you are going to have to speak up for them to hear it. And I just want to challenge you as we go through this season, lets not just remember, lets remind people about the reason.