Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 1
We are most certainly in desperate need of a special visitation from heaven. The way the direction of our secular culture is going, we are desperately in need for an awakening. We need him to rescue us from the terrible spiritual condition that the nation finds itself in. You know, if the dark ages were blatant departure from biblical truth, and therefore God raised Luther and Calvin and the Reformation came to Europe. Our 21st century, we are facing a new Dark Age. It's a different kind of Dark Age. It's a different kind of departure from biblical truth. It is plunging us into a new and equally devastating departure from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We find ourselves in the culture at large where they have forbidden the name of Jesus from being publicly declared. The Bible is a forbidden book from many a government school, if not most government schools. Government officials, as we know, corporate executives would lose their job when they take a stand for biblical truth. Public prayer, they insist it must be generic. It cannot be in the name of Jesus. You can pray in the name of Gaia, the goddess of mother earth. You can pray to Allah. You can pray even in your own name and that's just dandy as far as they were concerned, but not the name of Jesus.
When you come to today's church, my soul and body, many a church abusing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They're making his gospel to be whatever it is you want it to be, It doesn't matter. A Hindu can still be a Hindu as long as he takes Jesus along the journey. A Buddhist can be still a Buddhist as long as he takes Jesus along the journey. A Muslim can still be a Muslim as long as he takes Jesus along the journey. Many a church today teaches that all sins and all immoral lifestyles are accepted, appreciated, and blessed by them in those churches, that there is no need to repent of sin, and take Jesus along the journey is all you need to do. And that is why I believe with all my heart that we are becoming so desperate in a desperate situation where we are in dire need for the true and genuine revival, awakening, call it whatever, or a new reformation.
It is not surprising to me therefore when you look at the whole epistle of Romans, verses 1 to 17 of chapter 1, that the key verse, that the foundational verse is verse 16 where the Apostle Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe." This verse is the core verse, not only of this chapter, but the entire epistle. And today, the reason so many so-called evangelical churches are blessing same sex marriage and transgender, all the way to blessing blatant and open disobedience to the Word of God is this, they are ashamed of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, so they change it, so they modify it, so they redefine it. They blunt the sharp edges of the gospel so that they may deactivate the power that is only in that gospel, the true gospel.
I know different people react to the word "power" differently. Some feel threatened by power. Others are intimidated by power. Others want to blunt that power. Others still want to put their defense mechanism up when it comes to the power, especially the power of the gospel. And because Jesus's name is power, power that demands repentance and submission, so they modify it in order to blunt its power. One of the great verses that has fashioned my public ministry life is Ezekiel chapter 3, verses 16 to 21, for it tells us, "If a watchman on the wall of a city sees danger coming and does not speak up, he will be held responsible for what happens next and the people's blood will be on his hands. However, if he speaks up and the people refuse to listen, their blood is on their head."
So as long as God gives me a breath, I will, I will, and I will speak up. So, why am I starting with verse 16? As I already told you, it is the cornerstone around which the epistle is built. It is the key. It is the key verse that unlocks the entire epistle. Now, you may know this. There are more commentaries written on Romans probably than any other book, and yet it is the most neglected in many a church. After all, it is the epistle, as I said, that has impacted Christianity for centuries. And when that died down, God used the same epistle to ignite the Reformation and bring transformation to Europe and the world. And it was the epistle to the Romans that ignited the passion of John Wesley, which gave us the Wesleyan Revival, simply because it is the complete treaties of the Christian faith.
Every doctrine that is necessary for salvation is in the epistle to the Romans. But here's today's problem, the reason the church of Jesus Christ has lost its power, lost its impact is because they modified the gospel itself. And the gospel, when it is modified, when it is watered down, when it is loosened, that power is lost. In fact, Oxford Dictionary gives us 18 major definitions of "power." The Greek language has eight, eight words, and every one of them get translated into English as "power." I wanna show you some of them. They have the word "kratos." That word means a power to dominate and a power to rule. And the Bible said that Satan exercises that power over those whom he dominates, over those who are in his camp. He exercises that iron rod power.
The second word is "exousia," which is the power of delegation or permission. In the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 12, it says, "As many as received the Lord Jesus Christ, he gave them power," or he gave them permission, "to be called the children of God." Then there is the word that Paul uses here in Romans 1:16, the Greek word "dynamikos," from which we get the word "dynamite" or from which you get the word "dynamic." And that is, beloved, the power of the gospel. It is different from the other powers. Today's many evangelical preachers are exercising their power because they've lost the power of the gospel, so they do the power of manipulation and the power of marketing and the marketing techniques. No wonder they mislead people into thinking that the gospel does not have power to change people into new creatures in Christ, that the gospel has no power to transform their mind from our sinful nature and make us holy, that the gospel has no power to make them what God wants them to be and created them to be, rather than what they think or what culture thinks they should be.
In the Roman culture, power was sharp sword. Power was an iron yoke. And Paul is saying that the power of the gospel is far superior, why? Because it breaks the iron yoke of sin, because it shatters the chains of addictions. Because it flings open the iron gate of darkness and sin. It is the power of God unto salvation. And beloved, I am not ashamed of it. Not only that, but he who is not ashamed of gospel, but when I don't allow the power of the gospel to work in me, when I don't submit to its authority, when I don't believe it with all of my heart, when I try to live by man's teaching, and man's interpretation, and man's methodology, I lose that power of the gospel. I lose my power with God.
I know another may call me narrow-minded, they may call be bigoted, they may call me every name in the book, but I am not ashamed of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. Not just to me, everyone who believes. Beloved, if there is no power in the gospel, why call yourself a Christian? Just be nothing or whatever else. And so, I wanna make a confession to you. Back yonder when I was in a different church, there was a temptation for me. There was pressure put on me to swim with the current of culture. The temptation was to seek the acceptance under the guise of relevance. I was tempted to rob the gospel of its power in my life just as many are doing today.
I need to explain something to you here of uttermost importance. You're not ashamed of something unless you've been tempted to feel ashamed of that thing. And he tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 3, he said, "I came to you in fear and trembling." And then in chapter 1:23 he tells us that he understood the message of the cross is a stumbling block. Are you with me? And I'm gonna be very bold here as to say not a single person at the sound of my voice who at some time, when they seek to serve God with all of their heart, when they seek to live for Christ, when they seek to witness for Christ, when they seek to proclaim Christ, who has not felt the temptation of being ashamed of the true gospel.
Listen to me, Jesus knew all about this power of temptation of being ashamed of him. He knows all about it. Here's what he said, "If anyone is ashamed of me," and not only me, "my words." Here's the thing, I'm not ashamed of Jesus, yes, but are you ashamed of his words? You see, the Lord makes it very clear, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes to his Father's glory with holy angels." There are professing Christians in this city and many other cities who are embarrassed to identify themselves with Bible-believing churches. You know and I know, we have friends who love Jesus, friends who know the Lord Jesus, and they torture themselves week after week by going to churches where they hear falsehood, where they hear untruth preached from the pulpits. Well, as usual, I got carried away with this key verse.
Now I've forgotten to deal with the text, but I will deal with the text. I hope you have the Bible open in front of you as we look at those first 17 verses. The reason the Apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, first in verses 1 to 7, because his identity is in Christ. And secondly, in verses 8 to 14, he had a vision for life, God's vision for his life. And thirdly, he knew his source of real power, verses 16 and 17. Let's look at those very quickly. First, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew who he is and whose he is. He knew that his identity is in Christ.
Beloved, listen to me. In a day when so many people are mixed up about who they are, in a day when it is fashionable to question your gender and even in churches, in a day when you have no sense of identity, in a day when so many following celebrities and superstars without thinking, in a day when so many church leaders want to be liked by the secular, sinful culture, it is refreshing to see that the Apostle Paul knew his identity and whose he is, that he is a bond-slave, or a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is refreshing. It is refreshing. I know this will not fly on Wall Street, it will not endure among the Hollywood elite, it will not be accepted by the secular media, but my beloved friends, this is the healthiest self-perception you can have. Once you know that all has been given to you by grace and has nothing to do with you, it's all given to you by grace, that anchors you in your identity in Christ. Don't miss this.
See, Paul saw himself as bond-servant or bond-slave of Lord Jesus as the greatest privilege as the greatest honor that he could receive in life. Now, there are all sorts of reasons why people serve, why they ministry. There are all sorts of reasons. I never question people's motive. There are some who serve and minister out of sense of duty. There are some who serve and minister in order to earn favor with God. There are people like Diotrephes in 3 John, verse 9, who liked to serve because of the prestige that the ministry offered him. Others serve for their own purposes and fulfill their own agenda. There are others still serve and minister 'cause it's good for business. Whatever it may be, here's the truth. Any service or ministry that is not done of a sincere desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ is not worth a half a hallelujah.
Secondly, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew he has a vision for life. The average person today just exists. The average person has no vision for life, and yet Paul had a vision in his life and ministry. And he tells us that part of that vision is to go and be with the Roman believers. He trusted God that this was God's vision for him, even though it took some time and was longer than he expected. And sure enough, my goodness, he took so many detours, ended up in prison in Jerusalem and in Caesarea, and then he went on a ship that took forever and got wrecked along the way. It was a disaster, and yet God fulfilled his vision for Paul and ended up going to Rome just as the vision that God gave him.
I beg every one of you to have a vision. It is God's vision for you, and if you ask him he will give it to you. Just stay still in his presence long enough so he may communicate it to you. I know, I know what I'm talking about. When I was 16, 17, God gave me a vision that I'm gonna be in the United States of America and I'm gonna have a global ministry. Can you believe that? I knew it. After the Six Day War, the embassy closed. I said, "Well, that vision obviously was not from God. It must be my own fancy idea." But God opened a door that took me through a detour. Oh, what a detour that was. It was a fabulous detour. The only place that was open for me was Australia. At the age of 19, I left Egypt and I went to Australia, and look what God did. He gave me the most fabulous wife, amen, amen, amen.
I had a great theological education. I was ordained. I had some godly friends. Three of our four children were born there. But in the end, God brought me back to the vision that he gave me back when I was 17. You see, when you ask God to give you a vision for your life, he will. And when you have God's vision for your life even when you experience detours, you will not be discouraged. When you have God's vision for your life, you will not have somebody else's vision. When you know that you are obeying God's vision for your life, you will not need to fret during the hard times, during the sharp turns. And Paul not only had that one purpose, and that is eventually going to Rome, you'll see it, verses 11, 12, and 13, but he also had a purpose that for going there he wants to be of mutual encouragement.
That's what he wanted. That's the vision. Beloved, you know this and I know this. When encouragement is only one way, it won't last. It won't last for very long. The great Apostle Paul was not only anxious to go there to give them an encouragement, but to receive their encouragement. You see, he was not arrogant as to think that he's the only one who can encourage them and impart encouragement to them, but they to him as well. He knew that he's going to need their encouragement. He's gonna need their support in order to send him on his way to Spain, 'cause that's the vision of God for his life.
Verses 14 and 15, Paul sees his service as an obligation, namely, not an obligation that God put him under. No, no, no, I'm gonna explain this. Because of God's saving grace in his life, he felt indebted to pass the good news to others. Who was Paul obligated to? God. To whom does he make payment for that obligation? The people. Beloved, I know many Christians give God an occasional credit. Many Christians give God the lip service. Many Christians praise God only with their lips and not with their substance. But Paul felt that he is in debt to God for saving him. God did not put him under that debt, he put himself under that debt. Then he said, "I owe the gospel to make it known to others."
Here's a fact, there are two ways you can get into debt, right? All the financial wizards in the church, you can say amen. There are two ways to get into debt, right? You go and borrow money from the bank or from wherever. You borrow money, that puts you in debt. But there's another way that you can get into debt. If Brother Mike over here gives me some money and he said, "I want you to give the money to Zack," as long as that money's in my pocket, I'm in debt, right, until I disperse it, until I take it to the person to whom it's designated. That's the second way of getting into debt.
That's the debt that Paul is talking about here. God entrusted him with the gospel to pass it on to others. Listen to me, Jesus gave you salvation, not so that you will sit in the pews of salvation for the rest of your life. No, he wants you to pass it on to others. Jesus entrusted you with some financial resources, not so that you might spend it all on yourself. No, that you may help others. Use it for him. You and I are debtors in the sense of stewardship. That's the kind of debt he's talking about, stewardship of God's salvation, stewardship of God's resources, the stewardship of God's blessings.
Hear me right, please. God used someone's time to bring you the message of the gospel for you to believe it. God used somebody else's talent to bring you the gospel so you can believe it. God used somebody else's treasure so that you may hear the gospel. And now he's entrusting us to make it possible for others to hear and respond to the gospel. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew who he was and whose he was. Secondly, he knew where he was going.
Thirdly, finally, Paul knows the source of his power, verses 16 and 17. The moment you get uppity... do people use the word "uppity" these days? You know what I mean by "uppity"? The moment you get uppity and you think that you got where you are by your sheet wit, by your sheer charm, by your own talent and hard work, look out, look out, look out, look out. You are in dangerous territory, you really are. Verse 17, this is the verse upon which 500 years of reformation has been built. This is the verse in which your life and mine ought to be built every single day, every moment of every day.
Paul actually here quotes Habakkuk chapter 2, verse 4, "The just shall live by faith." The just shall live by faith. Let's say it together. And the Bible often speaks about faith in three different tenses. They speak about faith past, faith present, and faith future. Past is the moment you came to Jesus Christ, confessing your sins, and saying, "Only your blood can save me. You died for me." That takes place. It took place somewhere back in the past. It took place in my life back in 1964. That's faith past. Then there's faith present in the present tense. This day, this moment, every moment of every day, I am exercising faith in the living God to strengthen me, to empower me, to pull me forward, to continue faithfully serving him.
That is faith in the present. But then there is faith in the future where I know but I know but I know that the moment my eyes are closed in death, I will open them at the faith of Jesus. Past, present, and future. It's all of God and it's all his power. It's all of his grace, all of his love. The power of God led you to himself in the past. The power of God strengthened you every single day. That's the present. And the power of God brings you personally to the presence of Jesus in heaven. That's future.