Jack Graham - Til the Whole World Hears
Take your Bibles and turn with me to the first chapter of the book of Romans. We’re calling this series THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL. There is a man in the Bible I believe who is the goat. The greatest of all time Christians. The greatest Christian of all time in my view is the Apostle Paul. The greatest Christian who ever lived. And what was the secret of his greatness? What made Paul the man in Christ that he became? The passage that is in front of us today, chapter 1, verses 13 through 16, we see this man baring his soul, just unleashing his life, showing us what propelled him to keep going and going and going and never stop for the glory of God, the greatness of the Gospel. A man who was willing to march off the map, to do whatever it takes to get the Gospel to the world.
He's writing in the book of Romans to people, Christians primarily, that he had never met. And yet in keeping with this man's passion and personality, he can't wait to get to Rome, yes, even almighty Rome to encourage the Christians there, the believers there, and as he would say to have a harvest among you. To bring more people to Christ. His words in this letter to the Romans were delivered, the very words that we read today, the Word of God that came through the Apostle Paul, breathed through by the Holy Spirit in his life. He wrote this letter from Corinth and it was delivered most likely by a woman by the name of Phoebe. If you want a job done, get a woman to do it. And Phoebe carried this letter to Rome. And it's all about the Gospel.
That’s why we’re calling this THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL. Because there’s nothing greater other than God Himself than the Gospel. There’s nothing better. We don’t graduate beyond the Gospel. The Gospel is everything because the message of Jesus is everything. Without the Gospel there’s no reason for us to be together. It would be like playing the Super Bowl without a football. Well, you can't have church without the Gospel. The light is out without the Gospel. And so we are committed to understanding always the Gospel of Christ. And the book of Romans is, you might even call it the Gospel according to Paul because this is Paul's magnum opus. It is this message that brought the world the message of Jesus, the Gospel which means what? Good news.
And so we’re going to read in the text beginning at verse 13 through 16 today. Chapter one of Romans, verses 13 through 16: "I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that (why?) I may reap some harvest (or bear fruit) among you". He’s talking about evangelism here; he’s talking about bringing people to faith in Christ, a spiritual harvest. "...as well as the rest of the Gentiles", meaning, the rest of the world. He says in verse 14, "I am under obligation (I am indebted) both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager (ready) to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 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".
You have in this passage three magnificent, mighty motivations that move the Apostle Paul, and the same motivations seen in three "I am" statements here will move and motivate us to fulfill our calling and God's commission on us as a church and as individuals, as Christians, to take the Gospel to the world. These three affirmations, they are simply put right here in the passage. "I am a debtor, or I am indebted", "I am not ashamed", and "I am eager, I am ready". Let's take them one by one. Number one, he said, "I am a debtor". Everyone who loves Jesus is overwhelmed with gratitude, a sense of deep indebtedness for the salvation that we have in Christ, that we have been so blessed to receive Christ and His Gospel, for all that He has done.
So we have this debt to pay. Not talking about a debt regarding the law. We're not saved by the law. Salvation is free. We are fully saved by Christ and Christ alone. Not by good deeds, or good works or paying God back in some way. But in the sense of love, not law, but love our love, the love of Christ compels us the Scripture says. Not our love for Him, but His love for us; it compels us. For example, as a husband, I love my wife and because I love her, I have a debt, I have a responsibility and an obligation to serve her. I got to tell you, after 50 years of marriage, I owe Deb Graham big time. And regarding this matter of the Gospel, it is for us an issue of allegiance and obedience to Christ who commanded all of his soldiers and witnesses to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel".
It's the Great Commission; it's not the great suggestion. God has called us all to go into the world and preach this Gospel and to make disciples. Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room, He said, "I have chosen you, that you would bear fruit in the world". "I have called you; I have commanded you; I have chosen you". This is not something we just have to do; it is something we get to do. Jesus, when calling those first followers, He said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men". If you have followed Jesus, you have this great sense of awe and yes, obligation. The word here can mean obligation. I have an obligation.
John Newton, slave trader, who became the dynamic Christian, ultimately a pastor, gave us the great hymn "Amazing Grace". In that hymn he said, "Oh to grace how great a debtor". We are indebted. Did you know that it is a sin not to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We think of sin primarily of things that we do that disobey God. But disobedience also includes those things that we don’t do, that we’re called to do. And if we’re not witnessing, if we’re not sharing our faith, then we are living in disobedience to God. That’s sin. I read just this week that 80 percent of American Christians believe they have a responsibility to share their faith. I'm pretty sure if I asked you do you have a responsibility to share your faith as a Christian, as a follower, you would say, "Yes, I know I do". And yet in that same survey 61 percent of Christians have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the last year. And for some, many years before. So how is it that we know what we ought to do, we affirm it, we say, "Yes, Amen! We're to take the Gospel to the world", and yet so many are not doing it?
I heard of a Youtube video by a magician, a comedian by the name of Penn Jillette. Maybe some of you have seen this particular video. Penn Jillette is online. He's pretty well known for I'm told his foul mouth and his advocacy of atheism. He is an atheist and proud of it. But in this video he tells the story of a man who came to one of his shows, who met him afterwards and gave him a Bible and shared a Christian witness to this man. And Penn Jillette tells this story of great respect for a man who was willing and come to share with him an atheist, handed him a copy of the New Testament. And although as of now it apparently has not changed Jillette's mind as to whether or not he would become a Christian or not, here is what he said. It's a profound, poignant statement. He said: "How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that"!
Because we love Christ, and the word of this Gospel, the testimony of Jesus, "We cannot help but speak of those things that we have seen and we have heard". And therefore, we keep praying and asking God to fill us and use us and take us ultimately to the ends of the earth, wherever He's called us to go. And let me remind you, Prestonwood, that the mission field is right in front of us.
I was talking to my friend Mike Goddard, I shared this in the message online last week. I was talking to Mike the superintendent of schools up in Lovejoy, deacon at Prestonwood. I was talking to him just about opportunities and obligations that we have to take the Gospel to the world, and he said it; he said it so simply but so beautifully. He said, "Yes, the mission field is right in front of us". We have a debt to pay. I can tell you I’ve never been more fired up, more passionate about this Gospel and the witness of our church than right here, right now. Paul said, "This is the power of the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, to Greeks and barbarians, wherever people live, wherever we go; the educated, the uneducated. No one is excluded from this Gospel". No one! And who is your neighbor, by the way?
It's the story that Jesus told about a man who was beaten on the road to Jericho. Beaten to within an inch of his life; bleeding and dying. And the religious crowd passed him on the other side, walked by, pulled up their self-righteous robes and walked away. And then Jesus said a man who was a certain Samaritan came by and he saw the man, he locked eyes, he looked at him. How many times do we just walk by people rather than looking and seeing? He had eyes to see what was right in front of him. And then he had this great heart to feel. He said he had compassion on him, which is love in action, not just feeling it but empathy to feel with it; it was deep within and he had compassion. And so not only eyes to see and his heart to feel, but hands to reach out and picked up the man and put him on his animal; carried him to a hotel, a hostel place there and took care of him, paid all the bills.
And Jesus is illustrating with this well, well known story what it is to be a neighbor, because a lawyer came up to Him and said, "Who is my neighbor? Who is it"? And the lesson of this great parable is anyone in need is your neighbor. Anyone who needs Jesus, and that's everybody, is your neighbor. It's an obligation. And with the obligation comes this great opportunity to share Christ and the Gospel. So we owe Him. He owns us. Remember that? We're bond slaves to Christ, like Paul, verse 1: We are owned and therefore, we owe Him our devotion and our debt of gratitude. One other quick thing about the indebtedness that we have. We have a debt toward those who have come before us in the faith. The family members and friends and mentors and fathers in ministry. O. S., you and I had a father in the ministry. O. S. Hawkins, Fred Swank, we owe that man. And others who walked in front of us.
I could go on and on. We owe people who invested sacrificially, financially, in these buildings! Many of you in this room have been a part of that. The financial support, the dedication that you have given. So why? So that we could just build buildings and mausoleums to ourselves to die in? NO! A building to live in, to be a soul-saving station, that we would be a light on this hill to share the Gospel around the world! That’s why. And we owe the people that are not only around us, but those people who are above us now in heaven. That heavenly witnesses. And one other thing. We owe not only those around us who need Christ and those above us who have gone before us, but we owe those who are ahead of us. Our children and our grandchildren and those we will never meet! To make sure we have a debt, an obligation, an opportunity to share this Gospel, to pass it on and to pay it forward. That would be a good place for an AMEN!
He then said also, not only am I obligated, indebted but he said, and let's take in this order. "I am unashamed"! Verse 16: "For I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ". How so? Paul was never embarrassed. He was always emboldened to share the Gospel. Why? What was his confidence? Why this courage to do everything, even to face martyrdom in Rome, to get to Rome, to get anywhere. To get on the next boat and go in the name of Jesus. Why? Paul was not physically impressive or attractive. According to traditions, and I quote: "He was an ugly little man with big beetle brows, a bald spot, and a hook nose and poor eyesight, and no great gifts of speech".
That was Paul. Though he was brilliant, intellectual giant, trained through Rabbinical schools of Israel, he was a powerful intellect, yet personally, physically, visibly not that much. Maybe an unlikely candidate. Oh, and a former terrorist and murderer! That's Paul. But something happened to this man. You know what it is; he met Jesus. The one of whom the good news says died on the cross for our sins, rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavenly places, now interceding, praying for us. And one day, one day, pray one day soon He’s coming again as King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus met Paul and Paul surrendered his life and said, "Lord, what would you have me to do"? And he spent the rest of his days doing what Jesus told him to do. He was not ashamed because he knew the power of the Gospel, the power of Jesus personally in his life.
How can we possibly be ashamed of Jesus? Jesus is not ashamed of you! He's not ashamed to call you brother, sister. Jesus is not ashamed of you; how could we be ashamed of Him! He said, "I’m not ashamed" because the Gospel is powerful, unstoppable, even as God Himself cannot fail, the Gospel cannot fail. You cannot contain it, you can’t censor it, you can’t cancel it, though people have tried through generations.
Ask Gilberto Corredera. Pastor of our Hispanic congregation, growing and exploding around the world. Not only here in Dallas-Plano area, but all across Latin America where the online services of Prestonwood Espanol are being watched all over the world. Gilberto grew up in Cuba. His mother was an avid member of the Communist party, Castro and all the rest, the dictator, the despots, the Communists that controlled Cuba. His father was out of it, an alcoholic, an addict. He had no chance apparently. But in the plan and the providences of God the Gospel, the good news got to young Gilberto Corredera in Cuba and he came to faith in Jesus Christ, grew as the church in Cuba is now continuing to grow.
A friend of mine was over in Cuba and was saying to one of the pastors there, "We're praying that all this persecution that you're under, this resistance, that it would stop". And the Cuban Pastor said, "Don't pray that", he said, "because the persecution is strengthening the resolve of Christians in Cuba". You can't stop the Gospel. Turtellian said, "The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church". The world's fastest growing evangelical movement, the Christian faith is not in the United States, it's not in Europe for sure. You know where it is? Fastest growing Christian movement in the world: Iran! Iran! Despite government suppression, the Christian faith is growing faster than in all of Europe: Germany, France, and all the rest! We have a program, our program is on Iran Alive through the Internet it's being shared all over Iran. And many people in Iran who realize the emptiness of religion, their religious tradition in Islam are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
I preached in Germany a couple of years ago and many of the refugees they had come to Germany were in a church where I was preaching. And they all came up to me and they had been watching our program, and they were thanking us, you, Prestonwood, for sending the program on Iran Alive into Iran because they had family members and friends and loved ones they were praying that they would know Christ. You can't stop the Gospel. Since the Communist government expelled Christian missionaries from China in 1953, the church in China has exploded with growth! And even the current opposition and persecution of the church in China right now is, that's not working to stop the Gospel and to stop the church.
Protestant Christianity is the fastest growing faith in China! There are more Christians in China than in France or Germany again. By 2030 there will be more Christians in China than in the United States or any other country in the world. You can't stop the Gospel! Why? "It's the power of God to salvation to all who believe, Jews first, also to the Greek, to the whole world". The Gospel means that sinners are saved! Saved from what? Death and hell and judgment! Saved from emptiness and loneliness and all the pressures of life. We’re saved Only the Gospel can save! Science can't save. Philosophy cannot save. Religion can't save! Psychology can't save! The false idols of pleasure and fame and fortune, none of that saves! Only Jesus saves! And He is the Gospel!
Never be ashamed of the Gospel. Wherever you are, live it, share it. Never deny it, never dilute it, never be ashamed of it in its simplicity, in its appeal, in its power. Don't compromise the Gospel, don't complicate the Gospel, don't deny it, don't delete it, but declare it! Because it's the power of God. You know, we've seen a little bit of the evidence of what power can do in this storm. It's the power of a mighty storm. And then, of course when all the power went out, so many of you were without electricity and power and lights.
I was just talking to a sweet family here this morning. For 4 days in their home, and many of you have had the same experience. And when the power goes out, the lights go out and it gets cold! You know what’s happened to so many churches today? No power! No Gospel, no power! No Jesus, no power! Just share the Gospel and stand back and see what God can do when you tell somebody this good news that Jesus saves. One last thing. He said, "Therefore," in verse 15, "I'm ready. I'm eager. I'm enthusiastic, I'm excited to share this Gospel because it's God's power. Can't wait to go. Can't wait to get up every day, find somebody who needs the love the God. Remember the mission field is right in front of us. Your family, your friends, your neighbors, your work associates. You know that. And it's been said many times the only ability that God really needs from us is availability. The French Foreign Legion used to have a motto I’m told that said: If I falter, push me. If I fall, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me".
Unfortunately, a lot of people ought to be shot. Our light is flickering; we’re not ready, we’re reluctant to share the Gospel. Stay ready. When I was trying to play baseball, I would always tell myself, be ready, stay ready. When I'm in the field where it was hitting, especially in the field I would say to myself just to psych myself up, I would say, "The ball's coming to me; it's coming to me". And then I would say, "Hit it to me". Because it was just building this confidence, you know.
If you're out there, scared: "Don't hit it to me". Well let me tell you something. The ball will always find you. It will. No, we’re in basketball season now and you shoot the ball. Jackson Shivers, how many shots that you don’t take do you make? That would be none! Brilliant Christian Academy coming up on graduation. Good basketball player, too. But you miss all the shots you don’t take! You’re open; shoot it! Take it! Make it! Because God has commanded us, God has chosen us, God has called us! I’m indebted! I’m not ashamed; I’m eager. Ready! Put me in, Coach. Hit it to me. May God help every one of us to be ready and stay ready to do what God has called us to do.