Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Message for Outreach - Romans 1:16-17

Romans 1:16-17
The Message for Outreach

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

ALL of us have a story… one that matters.

If you are a Christian, if you know Jesus personally - you have an important message people need to hear.  One of forgiveness… new life ...hope.  

Yours might have started long ago… when you were too young to remember all the details, but what Jesus did for you has shaped you into the person you are today -
  • from the choices you’ve made
  • to the manner in which you’ve conducted business.  
  • From how you've raised your family
  • to your reputation in the community.
All that you ARE… all that you ever HOPE to be, you owe to Him!

Your story might have begun only recently - and the memory of your radical transformation is still fresh. While you are FAR from perfect, you probably wonder… “WHAT was I WAITING for???”

If we had time, I’d bet we could hear some pretty awesome stories in this church:

  • Some could tell how their marriage was all but dead, but in a moment of complete and utter desperation, you invited Christ to take control… and He ⇒ changed your lives!  

  • Others might tell of addiction and shame, and we’d be amazed at how far you’ve come in your walk with Christ.  You are so CLEARLY not that person anymore!

ALL of us - have a story - a message
that must be SHARED

As Paul thought of what he’d say to a Church he had never met, the Church at Rome, I doubt his goal was writing the magnum opus of Christianity.  Oh, I’m pretty confident he had an outline of the significant topics he wanted to address - but I doubt he understood that his letter to the Romans would become one of the most significant works on Biblical Christianity EVER written.

He just shared his story.

And for Paul… his story begins and ends with the Gospel:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  

In just two short verses, Paul offers a summary of everything he would say in the following 433 verses - 7,111 words that make up the Book of Romans.

But these aren’t just words about HIS story… no,

there are 3 truths here that we need to remember as we consider sharing our story with lost friends and loved ones:  

What are they??

1. First, Paul reminds us of the Supremacy of the Gospel.  

The Gospel has NO rivals.  

He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.…”  Though the Gospel be ridiculed by intellectuals and mocked by sinners, He was NOT ashamed.  

Just like us, Paul’s passion to share the gospel was challenged by three cultural influences:

  • Jerusalem, representing religious dogma.  Paul’s world was NOT anti-religion.  To the contrary, it was inundated with it. And he found, that, some of the hardest people to lead to Christ are “religious” - because they struggle with the fundamental call of the Gospel to ‘REPENT!’  They refuse to see themselves as sinners in need of salvation.

  • Athens, with all its Philosophy - man and his wisdom, intellect and cultural refinement.  To them, the whole premise of the gospel was flawed… they saw no need to follow a Savior with men like Socrates and Plato as their guides.  They thought they could be “good” without God.

  • And Rome, with all its power and wealth.  They scoffed at the very notion that a crucified carpenter could save the world when He couldn’t even save HIMSELF.

Though the Gospel was opposed by all these cultural influences, Paul could say with conviction, “I am not ashamed!”  

“I have no reason to feel embarrassed or to be intimidated by other beliefs …the message of Christ is second to none!”  

Paul’s confidence in spite of those three powerful challenges, helps us see…
First, that

the Gospel is superior to Man’s Righteousness.  The Jewish religion, with all its rituals and sacrifices could never make a man right with God.  Human righteousness has ALWAYS failed to please the Lord – that’s why the prophet Isaiah wrote, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”  

In spite of man’s rigorous attempts to be moral, he remains fatally flawed - sin contaminates even his most noble actions.  That’s why Paul said, “I am NOT ashamed of the Gospel.”  Man’s only hope of good standing before God is found in the Gospel.

the Gospel is superior to Man’s Reason.  Though the Greeks were great thinkers and often gathered to debate the complex social issues plaguing mankind, they could never contrive a way to handle man’s greatest problem - the problem of sin.  Oh, they found many ways to make man COMFORTABLE in his sin, (blaming his failures on his environment or poverty or lack of education) but they never found a way to CLEANSE him of it.  

That’s why Paul dared debate the great thinkers of his day.  He was “not ashamed of the Gospel,” because it was the only teaching capable of making one “wise unto salvation.”

And third, Paul was not ashamed because it is superior to Man’s Riches.  Rome, with all its affluence and influence, could never redeem the soul.  Money might buy a LOT OF nice THINGS, but it cannot buy peace - and it certainly cannot buy salvation.  Only the blood of Jesus can purchase the soul.  That’s why Paul was not ashamed!  

Are you ashamed???  

A great convention of the world’s religions convened in Chicago many years ago.  There were many great speeches given.  Though scholastically brilliant, they were powerless.  

During the session when Christianity would be represented, a preacher rose and said, “Gentlemen …I want to introduce you to a woman of great sorrow.  Blood stains her hands and nothing she has tried can remove her guilt.  It is the blood of murder.  And she has come HERE with a burning question:

“Is there ANYTHING in YOUR religion that will remove her guilt and give her peace???”
A hush fell upon the gathering as the speaker turned from one religious leader to the next looking for an answer.  Not ONE of those great minds could offer a solution for sin.
Lifting his eyes toward heaven, the preacher cried, “John?!?!  Can YOU tell this woman how to rid her soul of the awful stain of sin???”  

The preacher waited as if hearing a reply… then said, “Listen!  John speaks!  ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from ALL sin!”
Not a sound could be heard.  The representatives of the world’s great religions sat dumbfounded.  When faced with the problem of sin, they were without an answer.  

The Supremacy of the Gospel.

2.  THEN he describes the Sufficiency of the Gospel, when he says, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  

The gospel IS sufficient.  There is not an obstacle too great for it to overcome.  Regardless one’s education or experience, race or nationality, whether rich or poor – makes no difference… the Gospel is Sufficient.  

One can be rigidly moral and do many praiseworthy and sacrificial things. OR he can be a convict on death row … the worst of the worse – makes no difference… the Gospel is Sufficient.  How so???  In three ways:
First, the Gospel is Sufficient to

Change the Mind.  It is the “power of God.”  Nothing can impact the mind ⇒ like the Gospel.  It confronts those who are lost, it creates an attitude of repentance, it sparks faith and obedience.  Why?  Because the omnipotence of God is wrapped up in the Gospel. He said “it is the POWER of God” - (the Greek word “dunamis”… from which we get the English word “dynamite” - explosive power… that can change the mind!
Second, the Gospel is Sufficient to

Change the Heart.  It doesn’t just reform a man, it transforms him… it doesn’t make him better- it makes him NEW.  It saves him from the guilt and penalty of sin.  It saves him from the power and dominion of sin.  For He is able also to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by him.  The Gospel changes the heart.
And third, the Gospel is sufficient to

Change the Will.  Before the Gospel, I lived for self and sin.  But the Gospel created within me a new desire to live for the Lord.  

Ask any Christian and they will tell you the same, the Gospel gave me a new “want to” – I now WANT TO serve the Lord, learn of Him, and PLEASE HIM.  WHY?? Because the Gospel changed my will.
No other message is sufficient to change the mind, heart and will but the Gospel.

3.  And then finally, after showing us the Supremacy and the Sufficiency of the Gospel, Paul refers to

the Simplicity of the Gospel, when he says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  

While there are many things in this world that people struggle to understand, the Lord saw fit to keep the Gospel simple enough even a CHILD can understand.

Man has a way of confusing the important subjects…  

Ask him ‘how to be saved’ and he will tell you:
  • which church to join
  • how many candles to light
  • what prayers to recite
  • he will take your money and send you away with a list of rules to keep

Religion confuses things.  Ask religious people how to be saved and you’ll likely get 10 different answers.
Philosophy confuses things.  Philosophy says, “look within for the answers.”  “There is no such thing as absolute truth… your opinion is all that matters.”
Science confuses things.  Science says, “There is no God… you were not created, you evolved.  You live.  You die.  And that’s that.”  And while Science may teach a man how, it can never answer the fundamental question WHY?

Man confuses things.
But God made the Gospel so simple a child can understand.  

Here it is in all its simplicity...  

I am a sinner.  It doesn’t matter how likeable I am… or how moral I try to be… whether I successful  – makes no difference.  I am a sinner.  And because of my sin I am under judgment… separated from God.  And should I die in my sins, I will die lost, condemned to eternity without God.  

But God loved me so much that He provided a WAY for me to escape that judgment.  He sent His Son Jesus Christ, who lived a perfectly righteous life… NEVER SINNED in anything He ever thought, said, or did. And God placed my sins upon Him, sent Him to the cross to pay for those sins, and raised Him from the dead triumphant over hell and the grave.  

If I place my faith in Christ ALONE, I will be saved!
I can’t get there on my own – my righteousness falls short. So God provided a righteousness for me.  A righteousness received by Faith.

Not by by works - FAITH - from start to finish.

When you receive Christ, you become a child of God.  

That’s what the BIBLE says... “But as many as received Him, to THEM gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that BELIEVE on His name.”  Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should NOT perish, but have everlasting life.”  Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
If YOU will receive God’s gift of salvation by faith, then you will be forgiven of your sins, your life will be made new, the Spirit of God fills your heart, adopts you into God’s family, and EMPOWERS  you to live the Christian life..
THAT is the Gospel.

Not only ought we to receive the gospel by faith, we are told to LIVE the gospel by faith.  He said, “The just… shall LIVE by faith.”  

Christianity isn’t a one-time decision where we walk the aisle and get our ticket punched. No. It is a way of life.  Living for Jesus, following Him... THAT’s what it means to be a Christian.  Not simply repeating a prayer and walking out the door to live like you did before – no. Being a Christian requires you to be a Christ FOLLOWER!

It’s THAT simple!  

Near the Church of St. John in Rome is the famous staircase called the “Scala Santa” or “Holy Stairs.”  

It is believed that this was the stairway Jesus walked when He left the judgment hall of Pilate on His way to Calvary.  

People believe that if they can crawl up these stairs on their hands and knees, praying, that it will somehow improve their standing with God.   

Remember what I said?  “Religion confuses things.”

Over 400 years ago, a monk named Martin Luther, climbed these stairs on his knees, begging God to forgive him of his sins.  Knees bleeding, soul pleading – Luther thought this might make make him right with God. BUT all at once the Spirit of God brought our passage of Scripture to his mind, and he saw the error of trying to EARN his own way to heaven.  He realized God would save Him only on the basis of faith in the finished work of Christ.
Friend, you need to realize that too.  You can’t save yourself.  You can’t be good enough.  Only Christ can save you from your sins.  THAT is the Gospel…

  • its supremacy (we have no need to be ashamed when challenged by the teachings of man)
  • its sufficiency (converting heart, mind, and will),
  • and its simplicity – become like a little child, BELIEVE become like a little child, BELIEVE …and you – will – be - saved.
THAT is our MESSAGE.  What are YOU gonna do with it???
For one,

We need to believe it!  Maybe you came to this building today, looking for forgiveness and a new start.  All of us have at one time or another. Why not trust the Lord to save you today???

And for TWO - We need to share it!  It is the ONLY message that matters.  Don’t be ashamed of it!  Make it your goal to share your faith at least once per week.  And PRAY for those opportunities ahead of time!

Maybe you need to do one of the two tonight?  Maybe you need to step across the threshold from seeker to believer.

OR, maybe you feel particularly moved to start SHARING your story.  And you want God to not only give you opportunities to share, but you need Him to give you the confidence to share?

Whatever your need, we invite you to come.  Let’s stand...