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James Merritt - Unashamed

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    James Merritt - Unashamed

Why would we ever be ashamed of the gospel? I mean, why would we do that? And frankly, that's the question that a man by the name of Paul, whose life was personally, radically, and eternally changed by the gospel, addressed in the greatest single statement anyone's ever made about the gospel. And if you brought a copy of God's Word, I like to ask you to turn to a book called Romans. It's the sixth book in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans. I want you to turn to Romans chapter 1, and I want you to listen to these words. And by the way, when I put them up on the screen, if you're a believer, a true believer, I'm going to give you an assignment. You already, this is one verse every Christian ought to memorize. So this is your verse for the year. If you don't memorize any other verse in your life this year, I'm going to ask you to memorize this verse.

Greatest statement about the gospel ever said. Paul said, "For I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile". Now frankly, it's shocking to me that Paul would even say he's not even, he's not ashamed of the gospel because if what he just said about the gospel is true and what I'm going to tell you about the gospel is true, why would anybody ever be ashamed of the gospel? Now I want to get real honest, me included. Let's be honest. We have all at times been ashamed of the gospel, every one of us in this room. There's been times we had a chance to share, we didn't share. We had a chance to speak and we did not speak. And what grieves me is we seem to be living in a day where we are ashamed of things that are right and unashamed of things that are wrong.

I want to share a conviction. I believe more than ever, and I really believe this, I believe more than ever there is one thing we should never be ashamed of, not in private conversation or public discourse, whether you're preaching to the choir or proclaiming to the culture, whether you're in God's house or the courthouse, whether you're between the walls of the church or you're in the halls of the government. I believe there's one thing we should never be ashamed of and that is the gospel that bring salvation to everyone who believes. Why would we ever be ashamed of the gospel? So I want to share with you this morning three things the gospel always brings to the table, which we should never be ashamed, okay? Ready? Here we go. Number one, we should be unashamed of the simple message of the Gospel. We should be unashamed of the simple message of the Gospel.

Now Paul begins by saying, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel". Now we got to make sure we understand what we're not supposed to be ashamed of. Dwight W. Moody, the famous evangelist, who was probably the Billy Graham of the 19th century. Dwight W. Moody said, "I do not think there's a word in the English language so little understood as the word Gospel". So we got to define it. What do we mean by the gospel? Well, let's go back thousands of years when the word was first used, and originally it was used at a specific time at a specific-for specific reason, at a specific place. The place would be the Village Square where all the community would be gathered, the time would be after a great battle or after a great war had been fought, and the reason was so that the Herold could come back and could scream at the top of his lungs, "Good news, we have won the battle. We have overcome the enemy. Victory is ours. The war is over," which raises a question, so why would anyone ever be ashamed of good news? Why would we hesitate or equivocate when it comes to sharing the good news, which really is the best news anybody will ever hear?

Because, listen, I get it. I understand. I understand why we would not want to share bad news. I get that. I mean, no military officer wants to go to the home of some parents and share with them that their son or daughter has been killed in action. I get it. No police officer wants to go to someone's house and let the parents know your son or daughter's been arrested for murder. No doctor looks forward to walking into the room and telling the patient you got a tumor that's inoperable. But here's the problem. The gospel is not about bad news. The gospel is all about good news, the best news you'll ever hear. And you think about it, if the baby's healthy, the dad doesn't mind passing out the cigars or dipping snuff. When the tumor is benign, the doctor is not ashamed to tell the patient, "Hey, you're going to live".

When the sun's going to shine, the weather person is not ashamed to make his forecast. When interest rates are going down and the stock market is going up, stockbrokers aren't afraid to talk about the economy. Then why should we be ashamed to talk about the gospel? Why should be ashamed to ever share the best news you've ever heard? Well, there's a reason. If you go back 2,000 years, there are two words that may explain why Paul said, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel," and those two words are cross and Christ 'cause I want you to think about something. You know what the gospel is all about? It's about this poor Jewish carpenter, a no-name person who came from a hick country town, who was crucified as a common criminal.

Now Paul's going to Rome, which is the capital, the most powerful place in the world. He's going to be talking to the most powerful military commanders and the most powerful military leaders that the world could ever know, an emperor who's worshipped this God himself, and he's going to talk to this guy, and he's going to talk to these people about some Jewish hick carpenter that was crucified on a cross. And to add insult to injury, a crucified Jew because back in that day, in polite society, crucifixion was considered to be such a vulgar, realistic picture. You didn't talk about it in public because it was such a grotesque way to die.

So Paul says I'm not ashamed of a message that's about a lowly Jewish carpenter who died the most gruesome, ignominious death that was reserved for the most vile of criminals, and all beyond that, I forgot to tell you, he's also the only guy that came back from the dead. Oh, it gets worse because there's another reason you might be ashamed to share the gospel, particularly in this day and age of tolerance and political correctness. Because if the gospel is true and if Jesus Christ did what he said he did, he was what he said he was, he accomplished what he said he accomplished on the cross, and he did come back from the grave, let me tell you what that means. That means he's not only the crucified Son of God, that means he is the only way to God because he is God.

That's not a real popular message today, ladies and gentlemen. That's not the politically correct way to talk because the minute you share that, what do you hear? We're intolerant. We're narrow-minded. We're bigoted. We're arrogant. Who are we to say that he is the only way? But Paul said doesn't matter, I am not ashamed of the gospel. Now listen carefully. This is going to hurt, hurts me. The reason why he was not ashamed of the gospel message is because he was not ashamed of the gospel master. If I were to ask you right now, are you ashamed of Jesus? I don't think I'd get one person in this church to raise their, "Yeah, I'm ashamed of Jesus". We say of course, I'm not ashamed of Jesus. Then I want to make a proposition. If you're not ashamed of the gospel master, you won't be ashamed of the gospel message. And if you're ashamed of the gospel message, it has to be because you're ashamed of the gospel master. You don't get to have it both ways.

If you're not ashamed of Jesus, you're not ashamed of the message of Jesus. If you're ashamed of the message of Jesus, it must be because you're ashamed of Jesus. There was a man who went to prison in early life. It's a true story. He went to prison because he had done some terrible, I mean, unbelievably bad things. He served a fairly long sentence, but while he was in prison, somebody shared the gospel with him and he was wonderfully saved. He was born again and God called him into the ministry. While he was in prison, he went online, he got a Bachelor's Degree in Bible. He went over to get a Seminary Degree in Theology. When he got out of prison, he was called to a small little church. Well, he decided it would just be best for everyone concerned if he didn't share his past with anybody. Well, it just so happened that someone in the community that recognized his name, knew what he had done and they wrote him a letter because part of his family had been hurt by what this pastor had done to his family.

So he wrote this pastor a letter and he said, quote, "If you don't resign your church this Sunday, I'm going to stand up and I'm going to reveal everything you are and everything you've done, and I'm going to expose you to the entire church". Well, the man was crushed 'cause your sins will find you out. And he knew he couldn't run and he couldn't hide, so Sunday came, the pastor got up, not knowing where this man would be or where he was sitting, this pastor got up, he immediately told the church about this letter and then he confessed openly and publicly to everything he had ever done as horrible as it was that got him thrown into prison all of those years. And then with tears coming down his cheeks he said, "I am ashamed of everything that I have ever done to Jesus, but I am not ashamed of everything that Jesus has done for me, and I'm going to continue to preach the gospel".

We should be unashamed of a simple message of the gospel. He died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead so that we might be saved. But Paul goes on, he said not only should we be unashamed of the simple message of the gospel, we ought to be unashamed of the supernatural might of the gospel. He goes on to say this. He says, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is", say these words with me, "the power of God". He said it is the power of God. Now let me tell you something I bet you've never thought about, never heard this before. Read the entire Bible, you will find that except for Jesus Christ, except for Jesus, nothing else in all of the Bible is ever described as the power of God except the gospel. In other words, in light of heaven itself, the power of God in its greatest and highest intensity is found inside the gospel. And I'm going to make a statement you're going to find hard to believe. There is no power greater than the gospel, none.

You say, "Why do you say that"? I'll tell you why. Because there's no greater power than the power of God and the gospel is the power of God. So if there's no greater power than God and the gospel is the power of God, there is no greater power than the gospel. See, we're living in a world today that's just mesmerized by power. There is no power like the gospel. The world's never see it. It alone has the power to bring healing where there's hurt, to bring heaven where there's hell, to bring happiness where there's heartache, to bring peace where there's perplexity, to bring joy where there's judgment, to bring mercy where there's misery, to bring grace where there is guilt.

Listen, you take the combined messages of every other religion in the world, take them all: Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, take every one of the messages of all the religion of the world, put them all together, they don't have the power of the gospel 'cause here's what they'll tell you. They'll say, "You want to be right with God? You want to have eternal life? You want experience Nirvana? You want to get to where you're trying to go in the next life"? They'll say, "Okay, this is what you have to do. This is what you have to accomplish. This is where you have to go". And in the end, they will say, "Okay, you want to get there? It's all up to you".

And then the gospel comes along, and the gospel not only tells you to fly, it gives you wings. The gospel not only tells you to jump, it gives you feet. The gospel not only tells you to walk, it gives you legs because only the gospel has the power to do for us what needs to be done for us, only the gospel has the power to do in us what needs to be done in us, and only the gospel has the power to do with us what needs to be done with us. Dr. Billy Graham, who recently died... you know now that he's died, a lot of things he said people bring it out of the woodwork because we won't remember so much about this great man. I'll read something. I never heard this before.

Dr. Billy Graham said this. I thought, "Man, that's so good". Here's what Dr. Graham said. He said, "I wouldn't cross the street to talk to somebody about religion, but I would cross the world to talk to somebody about the gospel". The gospel is the power of God. We ought to be unashamed of the gospel, number one, because of the simple message of the gospel, we ought to be unashamed of the gospel because of the supernatural might of the gospel, and then here's the last thing, we ought to be unashamed of the saving ministry of the gospel, unashamed of the saving ministry of the gospel. Paul goes on to say this, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings," say that word with me together, "salvation". It is the power of God that brings salvation.

Now let me, I'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings, okay? But I'm going to be honest with you. I'm just, real honest message, okay? Can I tell you how I'm looking at right now? And I'm with you. I won't pretend I'm sitting out there with you, okay? You know what I'm looking at right now? I'm looking at a bunch of jacked-up people. I'm telling you. The best person in this room, I can tell you right now you're jacked-up. You are. You're jacked up because we live in a jacked-up world. 'Cause let me tell you something about everyone else in this room. We've all made mistakes in the past. We all live with failures in the present. We all face the uncertainty of the future.

I mean, everywhere you look, there's guilt, there's grief, there's gloom. We're like a swimmer in the middle of the ocean hanging on to a life raft. We're like a prisoner on death row facing a certain execution. We're like an astronaut entering the atmosphere, but the heat shield is gone. And everybody I meet and everybody I know and it's true about every person on this planet, we all need healing for our past, we all need help for our present, we all need hope for our future, so you tell me, and listen, I normally don't do this. I really want to encourage anyone here that has the courage to do it, if you can think of something better than what I'm about to say, please stand up and tell me 'cause I just want to know what's true. I'm serious about this.

So if you can think of something, tell me. Can anybody here listening to me right now think of anything that is more important than salvation? Anything? I'm open for business. Anything Yeah, it's true. You can die with wealth, a lot of people do, you can die with fame, people do every week, you can die with position, you can die with power, you can die with influence, you can die with popularity, you can die with notoriety, but what good is it if you don't die with salvation? There is nothing greater than salvation. That's why I can stand up here and tell you today, I'm so excited to say it, there is nothing sweeter, there's nothing better, and there is nothing greater than the gospel, nothing. You know why? You can give the Lord a hand.

Hollywood can make you famous, Wall Street can make you rich, Washington can make you powerful, the university can make you smart, the hospital can make you well, but only the gospel can get you saved. It is the power of God to salvation, and that's why the gospel is the greatest power in the world because it takes the greatest power to perform the greatest miracle. You say, "I don't believe that, I just don't believe salvation is the greatest miracle of the world". I'll prove it to you. To part a Red Sea, all God had to do, snap his fingers. To make something out of nothing, all God had to do was open his mouth and speak. To go from complete darkness to total light, all God had to do was flip a switch. But to bring salvation, God had to send his Son to die the death of a criminal on a cross and bring him back from the grave so we could experience the power of God in the gospel of salvation.

That's why I'm here to tell you, and you can think I'm exaggerating if you want to, I'm not. That's why at any given moment in time, the most important thing going on in the world, nothing more important than this, than whenever and wherever and whomever the gospel is being preached. There is nothing greater going on in the world right now, not politically, not diplomatically, not militarily, not economically, there is nothing going on the world right now than when somebody somewhere, somehow somebody to someplace is sharing the gospel, and the best news of all is this salvation is available for anyone who believes. So Paul goes on to say, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile".

Now let me tell you something. You know why Paul said first to the Jew and to the Gentile? See, we kind of complicate things. I've told you so. What Jesus said wasn't complicated. We complicate simple. So we got all these races, you know, he's this race, he's this race. We got all of these ethnicities. God says no, there's only two. I can tell you something true about everybody you'll ever meet in the rest of your life. They're either Jews or Gentiles. That's it. Doesn't matter whether they're black, white, yellow, red, doesn't matter what color their skin is, don't matter what their ancestry is, we're all either Jews or we are Gentiles. And what Paul was saying was the gospel is for everybody. It's for the Jew and the Gentile because if the gospel is not for everybody, it's not for anybody. But the gospel he said it is for everybody. You know why? Because everybody can believe to salvation.

If salvation were for sale, some people may be too poor to buy it. If salvation was for the smart, some people wouldn't be smart enough for have it. If salvation were due to effort, some people wouldn't have the strength to get it. But Paul says no, it is just for everybody who believes, and it is truly colorblind. It's for the Jew and the Gentile. It is amazing grace for every race, and that's why I agree with my friend, David Platt, who said, "Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell". Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell.

There's a pastor some of you, most of you probably don't know who he is. It's okay. His name is Bob Russell. But Bob Russell tells the story of, he was preaching in a church in California and he said he met a man after the service and the man was formerly a Jew but he'd become a Christian. And he said he became a Christian in the most unbelievable way, and the story is just fascinating because I kind of personally know the person involved. This man was a salesman. This Jewish man was a salesman, and there was a seminar going on in this city and it was led by one of my best buddies, who's gone to heaven, his name Zig Ziglar. If you know anything about motivational speakers or sales, he was a worldwide famous motivational speaker. Well, he wanted to hear Zig Ziglar. He listened to a lot of his tapes, he wanted to him so they went, he and some friends of his went to this convention and they heard him.

Well, after the convention was over, Zig said, "I'll wait around and if anybody wants to meet me, will meet me". He was so excited to get to meet this hero of his. So he goes up and he meets Zig Ziglar and spoke with him and he was so excited. When he comes back and his friends say, "How was it"? He said, "Man, Zig really likes me". And they say, "How do you know"? He said, "Well, he invited me up to his room". "No way". "Yeah, he invited me up to his room". Say, "What do you mean"? He said, "Well, he gave me his card, on the back of his card he wrote down RM. 1:16". He said, "He's in room 116". And one of his buddies who's a Christian said, "That's not a room. That's a Bible verse". He said, "It's a what"? "It's Bible verse". "What's a Bible verse"? He said, "It's Romans 1:16".

The Jewish man wrote it down. Jewish man goes back to his hotel room, opens his door, pulls out a Gideon Bible, looks up Romans 1:16, and he's reading this verse: "I'm not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes". And then he read these words, "to the Jew first". And this Jewish man said, "Well, I'm Jewish. I probably need to find out what this gospel is all about". So he did something most Christians have never done once. He read the Bible completely through twice, and when he got to the end of the Bible the second time, literally what happened, he said the light came on in his heart, not just his head, and he said he looked up to heaven and he said, "This is the best news I've ever heard in my life". And he got on his knees and he gave his heart to Jesus Christ. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.

So I just want to say this one close, one little exercise will be done. I don't know how I'm going to die and you don't know, either. I mean, you know, physically: heart attack, stroke, Dogs finally win the National Championship. I don't know how I'm going to die, okay? And God, please don't let me die before that happens, okay? I don't know how I'm going to die physically, but I've done some thinking about it. I wrote this in my journal one day. I said I know how I want to die. I want to die unashamed and I want to die unafraid. I want to die unashamed of the gospel and I want to die unafraid of death. And if the time comes, I get to do what some people do get to do and kind of took my coat, my toes and draw my last breath and say goodbye, I want to look death and grave right in the eye and I want to say, "Death, you have no sting, and grave, you have no victory," and every one of us can say that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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