Robert Jeffress - Shake and Shine - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Every person has an overarching goal that directs their life. Some people set their sights on getting rich. Others concentrate on getting famous. But for those who follow Jesus, there's a much bigger and better goal. Today, I'm going to remind you of your primary purpose in life. It's a challenging, but rewarding mission of eternal search and rescue. My message is titled "Shake and Shine!" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Sometimes, atheists have a better understanding of Christianity than most Christians. You may remember a few months ago, I was on a national television program with noted atheist Penn Jillette. Recently, Penn Jillette made an astounding comment about Christians who refused to share their faith with other people, or as he calls it, proselytizing. Now, you would think that an atheist would be all for Christians keeping their faith to themselves, wouldn't you? Not Penn Jillette. Listen to this insightful comment Penn Jillette made recently. He said, quote, "I've always said that I don't respect people who don't proselytize. I don't respect them at all. If you believe there's a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not have an eternal life or whatever, and you think it's really not worth telling them this because it would be socially awkward, what kind of person does that make you"?
An atheist may think you shouldn't proselytize. Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself. But how much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and then not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was going to hit you and you didn't believe it, even though the truck was bearing down on you, there's a certain point where I tackle you. And this is even more important than that. Isn't that an astounding comment from an atheist? And that atheist was only echoing the words of the apostle Paul and the passage we're going to look at today. Paul says, if Jesus Christ is really central in your life, then you're going to devote your life to attracting people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Colossians, chapter four, Colossians, chapter four. Now, remember, in chapter three, Paul is talking about how to become like Jesus Christ in our attitudes, our affections and our actions. And toward the end of chapter three, he says, okay, you wanna know how you're doing, if you're really becoming like Jesus Christ? Here are two ways to know. First of all, in your horizontal relationships, how do you treat other people, specifically, how do you relate to those in your home and those in your workplace? But secondly, he says, if you wanna know whether or not you're becoming like Jesus Christ, look at your vertical relationship, your relationship to God. If you're really becoming like Jesus Christ, then you're going to give your energy to the same two priorities to which Jesus gave his energies.
What did Jesus give his life to doing? One, he spent in communication with God. Communication with God was a priority. We talked about that last time, the importance of prayer in our life. Remember chapter four, verse two? Paul said, "Be devoted to prayer. Keep alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving". But Jesus said, there's a second priority to which you will give your life. And that is not only communication with God, but fulfilling the agenda of God. That is, you will realize God has left you here to fulfill his agenda. What is that agenda? Jesus said it very clearly in Luke 19:10. He said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost".
Now, if you are really becoming like Christ, that's your priority as well. You understand that God did not leave you here on earth to build a big net worth, to have a satisfying career, or even to have a happy family life. That is not God's purpose for your life. God's reason for leaving you here rather than taking you to heaven the moment you were saved was so that you could seek and to save as many lost people as possible with your life. That is the reason God has left you here. And if you're really like Christ, you have that same devotion to that same purpose. Now, look at what Paul says in verses three and four. He says, look at my own life. You know, Paul said, "Be imitators of me, even as I'm an imitator of Christ". So, if you wanna see that priority illustrated, look at the apostle Paul.
Now, remember he just finished talking about the importance of prayer. And he said in verse two or in verse three, he says, by the way, speaking of prayer, here's how I want you to pray for me specifically. Look at verse three. "Praying at the same time for us as well that God will open up to us a door for the word so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ for which I have been also imprisoned that I might make it clear in the way I ought to speak". Now, let me remind you of Paul's situation when he wrote these words. It'll help you appreciate the verses even more. Remember back in acts, chapter 21, Paul was in Jerusalem, and he was accused by the Jews of some trumped up charges that he had brought a gentile named Trophimus into the inner court of the temple there in Jerusalem.
Now, to the Jews that was the crime of all crimes. It was deserving of the death sentence. And so, the Jews trumped up this charge. It didn't really happen, but they said it did in order to silence Paul, whom they hated for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only problem was the Jews didn't have the authority to execute the death sentence. Only the Romans who ruled over them could do that. So, they went to the Roman officials, and they said, Paul has sinned against the Jews by doing this. Now, we want you to execute him. Well, that put the Romans in a difficult situation. On one hand, they wanted to keep a good relationship with the Jews over whom they ruled. But on the other hand, Paul was not only a Jew, he was a Roman citizen, and they had to respect his rights as a Roman citizen.
So, Paul found himself caught up in the Jewish Roman legal system for a period of years from acts 21 to acts 28. And he kept making appeals to different Roman authorities. And finally he said, I have a right as a Roman citizen to take my case before Caesar in Rome. And so, Paul got on a boat, left Caesarea, remember. He went to Rome. In the middle of that trip, he had a shipwreck, but eventually, he made it to Rome. And when we come to acts 28, Paul is in Rome, awaiting his trial before Caesar. He spent two years in Rome waiting for that trial. And while he was in Rome, he was under house arrest. He was able to have his own apartment, but he had to have a Roman guard there to whom he was chained 24 hours a day, a different guard each eight hours. And while Paul was under house arrest, he was able to receive guests. He was also able to write letters, including those letters we know as the prison epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon, and the book we're looking at, Colossians.
Paul wasn't in some deep dark hole in the ground when he wrote these prison epistles. He was in his apartment, chained to a Roman guard, writing these letters to encourage the churches and us, as well. Now, he spent two years under house arrest. Guess what? His accusers never showed up. So, he was freed. He was able to make another missionary journey. He was arrested once again. Under the second arrest, he wrote what we call the pastoral epistles, Timothy and Titus. And then, he was beheaded. But that's a brief overview of Paul. Now, when Paul is writing Colossians, he's under house arrest in Rome, and notice again what he prays in verses three and four. He says, and this was his request, Paul's request in verse three. He said, Colossians, while I'm under arrest, "Pray for us as well that God will open up to us a door for the word so that we might speak forth the mystery of Christ for which I have been imprisoned".
Paul did not write, "Colossians, pray that the doors of justice might be open so that I can be freed". No, Paul prayed that the door of opportunity to preach the Gospel would be opened. You see, more important to Paul than being free was being faithful. Now, let me say a word about this concept of opening doors and shutting doors. Have you ever heard that expression before? You know, well, I'm praying God opens a door for me to get this job, or I'm praying that God will shut this door, open this door for me to be able to date this person or marry this person, you know. We talk about open and shut doors, but in the Bible, the only concept, the only time, open doors and shut doors is used, is in regard to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with other people. That's the only time you find this phrase used. Opening a door for ministry, that was Paul's priority, and that should be our priority, as well.
He said, "look, my whole reason for existing is in order to share Jesus Christ with as many people as possible". And that's why he wrote to the Philippians, the sister letter written at the same time. He said in Philippians 1 about his imprisonment, he said, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that my imprisonment has turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel. That's not why I'm upset. I'm happy. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice". He said, this is great. I'm having a chance to spread the Gospel, and the word of Jesus Christ is getting out through all of Caesar's household and all through Rome. It's spreading throughout all the praetorian guard, the secret service agents of Caesar.
Just think about it. You know, every eight hours, I get a new Roman guard I'm chained to. Talk about a captive audience. I'm having a chance every eight hours to preach the Gospel to a new Roman guard, and that Roman guard is sharing it with somebody else and somebody else. And it's made its way all the way up to Caesar's household. Hear me this morning. If your goal in life is the goal of most people, including Christians, peace, prosperity, pleasure, the avoidance of pain, then when tragedy comes into your life, it truly is a disaster. It's a detour from your life's purpose. But when you have a purpose that is bigger than yourself, the purpose for which you were created as a Christian, the purpose Paul had, and that is to share Christ with as many people as possible, then, even what some people think of as a tragedy can be a marvelous opportunity to spread the message of Christ to others. That was Paul's perspective.
Now, are you starting to get the picture? Jesus said, my whole reason for coming was to fulfill God's agenda, to seek and save those who are lost. Paul said, my whole reason for being here is to share Jesus with as many people as possible. Paul is saying, if Christ is central in your life, you will be intoxicated driven by that same purpose, as well. Paul says, "Pray for me that a door of opportunity might be open to share the Gospel, to speak forth". Notice here, the phrase, "The mystery of Christ for which I've been imprisoned". Now, that phrase, mystery of Christ, it can refer to the Gospel in general, the good news of Jesus' death for our sins, but in scripture, the mystery of Christ specifically refers to the mystery that Paul revealed, and that is that salvation is available not just to Jews, but to Jews and gentiles alike.
It was that mystery, by the way, that so irritated the Jews that they had him falsely arrested and thrown into prison in order to kill him. The Jews hated that idea, that gentiles like you and I could be saved. Paul said, but God has called me to speak forth this mystery. He said, pray for me that I can have the opportunity to speak and preach this irritating message to as many people as possible because that's the essence of the Gospel. And he said, by the way, not only pray for me that I would have opportunity, pray that when I get the opportunity, I could witness clearly. Look at verse four. "Pray that I might make it clear in the way I ought to speak". I like what the great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said one time. He said, "Jesus said, feed my sheep, feed my lambs. But most preachers put the food so high on the top shelf that neither the sheep nor the lambs can reach it. It is as if they had read the verse, feed my giraffes".
You know preachers like that? They make everything so complicated nobody can understand it. Somebody told me after the first service, said that their grandchild listens to us on "Pathway to Victory," and their 10 year old said, "Granddad, I can understand that guy". I can understand that preacher. You know, that is the greatest compliment I could ever receive, to hear that a 10 year old can understand what I'm saying. Bible says we're not to make things complex. We're not to try to impress people with our intellect. We need to speak clearly. It's not just preachers who need to speak clearly. We all need to be able to share the Gospel clearly. If a 10 year old came up to you, a child, a grandchild and said, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, how can I be a Christian? How can I go to heaven when I die? Would you know how to explain the Gospel clearly to lead somebody to faith in Christ? Paul said, pray for clarity when I speak.
Now, beginning in verse five, Paul makes the application to us. He says, now, just as I'm asking you to pray for opportunities and clarity for me, I'm praying the same thing for you. God not just want, God doesn't just want those of us who are apostles and pastors and evangelists to share the Gospel. This is something that we're all to be doing. And he makes that pivot in verses five and six of personal application to the Colossians. Now, remember their situation. The Colossians were living in a hostile world toward the things of Christ. They were living in a world when Christians were a distinct minority. They were living in a world that hated the message of Jesus Christ. That was 60 ad. Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years. Do you realize, ladies and gentlemen, we are still living in a world where Christians, true Christians, are in a distinct minority? We are living in a world that is hostile to the message of Jesus Christ.
40 years ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote about Christians living in a post-Christian era. He said 40 years ago, we are living in a post-Christian era. What was true 40 years ago is even more true today. Now, if you don't believe that, if you think that's preacher hyperbole, let me encourage you to go back and re-listen to the message Kelly Shackelford preached here just a few weeks ago about what is happening in our country and the hostility toward Christianity. Who would've ever thought that we in America would live to see the day when the courts would order a cross at the Mojave desert, at a war memorial, would shroud it so nobody could see it? Who would think we would've lived in America to see the day when school children would be threatened with jail time for handing out a pencil to a grade school child that said God on it? Who would think that high school students would be threatened with imprisonment if they dare mentioned the name of Jesus, God, or prayer in a high school graduation? Such a thing would have been unthinkable in our country 150 years ago, or even just 50 years ago.
Now, have you ever stopped to ask yourself, what has changed in the last 50 years? Why is it these things that once were permissible and a part of our way of life as Americans, why is it suddenly not permissible to share Christ, to speak the name of God, to hand out a pencil with the name God on it? What has changed? Has the constitution changed in the last 50 years? Has the first amendment changed in the last 50 years? Why is it what was acceptable is now unacceptable? Have these judges we now have, do they have some brand new, brilliant insight into the first amendment that their predecessors never had? What's changed is not the constitution. What's changed is not the first amendment. These judges don't have any fresh, new insight. What has changed is the culture in which we live. This culture has become hostile and hateful toward the things of Jesus Christ. That's what's changed, and the same environment these Colossians were called to share Christ in, you and I are sharing Christ in.
Now, here's the good news. Even though we are to stand up, as I've said before. We're to push back against this tide of Godlessness that is sweeping our country. We are to elect godly leaders. But when the godly rule, the people rejoice, the Bible says. Yes, we're to try to stop this or delay it as long as we can, but we don't have to become despondent. The fact is Christianity thrives during times of hostility. Do you understand that? It's not during times of prosperity. It's during times of persecution that the Gospel of Jesus Christ spreads rapidly. It was that way in the first century.
Just think about it. Here are 12 followers of Christ. One of 'em was a wash out and had to be replaced. 12 followers of Christ were so intent on sharing this message that they multiplied and multiplied and multiplied. And within 300 years, this tiny band of 12 people so multiplied that they ended up toppling the entire Roman Empire. How do you explain that? That is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And now, we're living in that same kind of environment where Christians are being persecuted.
Did you know, in the 20th century, there were more martyrs for Christ than there were in all the other centuries, including the first century combined? People are being slaughtered around 'em, the world right now for their faith in Jesus Christ. And I believe the time is coming when we who are true believers will be persecuted in this country, as well. I believe the time is coming more quickly than any of us can imagine when churches like First Baptist Church, Dallas, that preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ are going to be persecuted.
I think it's gonna start with the loss of our tax exempt status. I think that's the first thing that's gonna happen. People are gonna say, if you wanna preach that homosexualities are perversion, you are free to do that, but don't expect the government to support your church by giving you tax exempt status. We're not gonna support discrimination against minorities. Or if you wanna preach that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved, that's fine. We would never think of trying to stop you from saying that, but don't think you're gonna allow, we're gonna allow the government to support what you're doing. We're gonna take away tax exempt status. If you in any way degrade any other religion, no, the time of persecution is gonna start that way, and it's going to continue, and it's going to continue and it's gonna continue.
The good news is, when the church is pressed, it expands. Tertullian said, "It is the blood of Christians that is the seed of Christianity". We need to get ready. And instead of being despairing about it and despondent and woe is us, what is gonna happen, we need to be ready. We need to be ready to share the Gospel of Christ. Because, guess what? As this country becomes more and more hopeless, the hope of the Gospel shines that much more brightly. We're in the same situation as these Colossians. Paul said, be ready now to share your faith. How do you share your faith? Notice what he says here. He says you do it in two ways. First of all, through your conduct. Look at what he says in verse five. "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity". That word conduct is translated, walk in the King James version. He's talking about the way you live your life. He says, conduct your relationships, conduct your work, conduct your own moral life in wisdom when it comes to outsiders.
Now, who are the outsiders? Well, outsiders are unbelievers. See, the Bible says, we're not all God's children. We're not all headed toward heaven. Some people are saved. Some are lost. Some are children of God. Some are enemies of God. We're not all on one road headed to the same place. In fact, Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus never taught we're all on the road to heaven. He didn't teach that we're all on different roads that are all leading up the mountain of truth to God. No, Jesus said there are two roads that lead to two very different destinies.
Look at verses 13 and 14. Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads of destruction, and there are many who enter through it". Most people in the world are headed on the road that leads to hell, Jesus said. Verse 14, "But the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it". Relatively few people will ever be saved, Jesus said. Now, for those of us who are on the narrow road, leading to heaven, what's to be our attitude? Are we to be prideful and say, well, we're on the inside and you're on the outside, too bad for you? Is that the attitude?