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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Good News From a Distant Land - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Good News From a Distant Land - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Good News From a Distant Land - Part 1
Robert Jeffress - Good News From a Distant Land - Part 1
TOPICS: Grace-Powered Living, Grace, Gospel

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. As Christians, we often refer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the good news. But sometimes when we've heard the Gospel message over and over, we forget what the good news truly is. Well, today we're going to turn to the opening verses of Paul's letter to the Romans, and discover several significant truths about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My message is titled, Good News From a Distant Land. On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

I have always been fascinated with the empire state building since I first went to the top of that building when I was six years old. That building for many years as you know was the tallest building in the world. And that's why I couldn't help but watch a documentary on the discovery building, about our channel about the building of the empire state building a while back. And it talked about the construction of that great, great building. How is it that such a massive structure was able to stand under its own weight, was able to withstand the high winds that would be against it. It even survive in an occasional strike by an airplane against it. And yet it remains strong. The secret, the documentary said of that building, was its foundation. And in that documentary it showed some 1920s newsreel of the men pouring thousands of pounds of concrete and steel beams into the hole beneath the building. The secret of that building's greatness was its foundation.

How can you make sure that your faith remains strong in spite of the adversity, the attacks, even the doubts that beat against your faith? The secret is making sure you have a strong foundation. And that's what the book of Romans is all about. The book of Romans is that foundation for the Christian faith. And last week, we began by looking at an overview of the book of Romans. Today we're getting into the text itself. So if you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter one. Now remember, Romans was a letter. It was a letter written to a particular group of Christians in a particular setting. And yet the letter applies to all of us. But because it was a letter, it should be no surprise that it follows the form of a letter. Letters have a form to them.

Now, today, we don't write that many letters anymore, do we? We communicate through Facebook or texting or Twitter, but if you have something really important to send somebody, you'll send it in a letter. And a letter has a form to it. The most miserable summer of my youth was the summer after the eighth grade when my parents insisted I go to summer school to take a typing class. That is the last thing I wanted to do. I couldn't understand why a typing class would be of any value to me. But it certainly has come in handy in preparing sermons and books. But I didn't get it at the time. So I sat there day after day, but I remember one day in particular, the teacher showed us how to do a letter. And she said there was a form to it. You had the date, you had the address, you had the salutation, you had the body of the letter, then everything else that followed.

Well, in Paul's day, when you wrote a letter, you also followed a particular form, but it was different than ours. You started with the name of the writer, followed by the name of the recipient. It wasn't down at the end, it was right up there at the top. The name of the writer, the name of the recipient, and then you would have a word of greeting. Well, that's what we find here in the first seven verses of Romans chapter one. But far from being just a simple formality, these introductory words are packed with significant truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, let's look, first of all, at the sender of the letter, Romans 1:1. He identifies himself with one word, Paul.

Now I bet you've heard somewhere along the line, that before Paul was a Christian, he was Saul of Tarsus. But after he was saved on the Damascus road, God changed his name from Saul to Paul. How many of you have heard that before? That's absolutely wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul always had two names. From the time of his birth, he had two names. He was named Saul, his Jewish name that was given by his Jewish father, Saul. But because he was born in Tarsus, which was under Roman rule and he was a Roman citizen, he was also given the Roman name of Paul. He was both Saul and Paul from the beginning. That word Paul literally means small. Maybe it was given to him because he was a small baby when he was born. We know from extra biblical information that he was small in stature, even though he was mighty in faith. But I want you to notice the three ways that Paul describes himself in this introduction. First of all, he calls himself a bond servant of Jesus Christ.

Now that word bond servant could be translated slave. Remember when Paul wrote this, one-third of the Roman population was slave. But this wasn't just any kind of slave, this was a particular kind of slave Paul was describing himself as. It was the kind of slave that was described in Exodus chapter 21. If an indentured servant had his debt paid off and was free to leave his master, but chose to stay with his master anyway out of loyalty and appreciation for the master, he could do so. He would become what was called in the Old Testament an ebed, or in the New Testament a duolos. He was a bond servant, one who served voluntarily. And that's what Paul said about himself. I am a bond servant of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who paid my sin debt for me. But I am not free to do what I want to do, I am voluntarily pledging to follow my master forever, the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what he says here.

Now, we will pick up that theme in Roman six through eight, when Paul says, "All of us are slaves to someone or something. You're either a slave to Satan and sin, or you're a slave to Jesus Christ and righteousness". You get to pick your master. And Jesus is a much more benevolent master than Satan is. But Paul says, "I am a bond servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ". Secondly, he said, called as an apostle. Now this word apostle is used 80 times in the New Testament. And it's a word that means one who is sent forth.

Now, in a general sense, we have all been sent forth to spread the news of Jesus Christ. But in a technical sense, there were only 13 true apostles. That is, people who had witnessed the resurrected Christ, had had an encounter with him, and secondly were called by him as an apostle. You had the original 12, and remember one of them Judas betrayed Christ, died, and so he was replaced by Mathias. So you had the 12, the 13th apostle, was the apostle Paul. He is the only other man who has met the qualifications for the apostle. He had an encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and God specifically called him to be the light to the gentiles.

So Paul said, "I want you to know, I have been called as an apostle". He says that not out of pride at all. He says it to say to these people who had never met him before, you need to know this letter I'm writing to you doesn't come from my own authority, I'm delivering the message that comes from Jesus Christ. And may I stop here and say a word, about the whole idea of being called in the ministry today? Today, there's a great misunderstanding about the call to ministry. The fact is, we are all called as Christians to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter what our secular vocation is, God has left us here to be his ambassador. And there are many effective servants of Jesus Christ who are in a secular vocation. It's not a matter of where you get your paycheck from. It's like Tozer said, it's not whether... What a person does is sacred or secular, it doesn't determine what is vocation is, what is determined is his motivation for doing so.

And there are many people in a secular vocation who are powerful witnesses for the Lord, Jesus Christ. You don't have to be in quote, full-time Christian service or to get your paycheck from a church or a mission organization, to be a servant of Jesus Christ. But, God does still call men and women to Christian ministry. He does set apart certain men and women to serve as a possibles in a general sense, missionaries, take the Gospel where it's never been before, or he calls them to be pastor, teachers or evangelists. There is still a calling to ministry. And when somebody talks to me about that and they say, "You know I'm thinking about going into the ministry". I say, "Well, have you been called by God to do this"? And they kind of look at me like a deer caught in the headlights, "What do you mean, called"?

Look, if you don't know what it means to be called, then you're probably not called. Because those who have been called by God, who have been set apart for a specific ministry have absolutely no doubt that they have been called by God. They understand what that means. I think many of the problems in churches and in Christian organizations today is caused by people who are leaders who have never truly been called by God. They just awakened one day and thought, I can't think of anything else to do, this might be a good thing to do. Don't do it. I'm saying to those of you who are listening right now, if you have not been called by God, do something else and use your vocation to serve God. It's important.

I think about the story of an evangelist. And he went to a rural town for a series of meetings. And he preached, he was full of himself, he was proud of his rhetorical ability and skills, but his messages just rang hollow to the crowd. And finally after the third night, an old farmer came up to him and said, "Sir, can you tell me something, was you sent, or did you just went"? Well, Paul said, "I want you to know brethren, I did not just went, I was sent by God to be an apostle". That's what he's talking about here. Thirdly, he says, "Not only that, I was set apart for the Gospel of God". To be set apart, that word set apart comes from the same word we get pharisee from. The pharisees thought they were set apart from other people, because they were better than other people. Paul was a pharisee, but more than that, he said, "No, I've been set apart for the Gospel of God".

Now, remember when Paul is writing this letter, he doesn't sit down and write it himself. Instead he had a secretary named Tertius, Romans 16 tells us. And Tertius was his amanuensis, his secretary. So I want you to get the picture, Paul is pacing back and forth, in that second floor apartment that he was staying in in Corinth, Tertius was taking down the dictation, Paul is introducing himself. Now the next thing he ought to do is to say, to whom he sending the letter, to the saints in Rome. But when he said, I have been set apart for the Gospel, Paul couldn't help himself. When he heard himself say that word Gospel, he had to launch into a description of that glorious Gospel that he had given his life to promote. And so it's not down until verse seven that he actually identifies who is the recipient of the letter, the Christians at Rome. Instead, beginning in verse two, he begins a fourfold description of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, what do we mean when we say Gospel? Let's define that before we look at what the Gospel actually is. That word Gospel in Greek is the word, euangelion. It's a hard G. In English, we transliterate it to a soft G and we say evangelists. That's where the word comes from. Euangelion. Evangelist. Euangelion. The word simply means good news. That's what the word Gospel means, it means good news. And by the way, it was not originally a religious word at all, it was a secular word. Usually the word euangelion, Gospel, good news, relate into a message from the king or the emperor that was to be delivered to the residence of an empire. And so there would be a herald who would stand in the town square and he would blow the trumpet. And he would say, "I have euangelion, I have good news from the emperor, good news from the king". That's what Gospel is, it is good news.

I probably shouldn't confess this, but Amy and I have gotten hooked on this PBS series that everybody's been talking about. We never understood it, so we decided to watch ourselves, "Downton Abbey". Have you seen "Downton Abbey"? Well, don't start applauding, that just shows how secular we are. So let's not applaud. But anyway, if you're not familiar with "Downton Abbey", it's a soap opera set in England at the beginning of the 20th century. And it's about the triumphs and prevails of an aristocratic family upstairs and their servants downstairs. Kind of think of it as a British Dallas, that's what it is.

And so, but we've gotten hooked watching the show, it's very, very interesting. But what I've noticed is, the riders have a little device they use to signal a major plot change. And it is a telegram. And I've noticed this over and over again. If something big is about to happen, you have a telegram. And whenever you see the guy riding the bicycle, going up the gravel driveway to the manor, you know something is about to happen. Because that telegram arrives. But sometimes the telegram has bad news in it. A relative died on the Titanic, that is bad news. But sometimes the telegram has some good news. Somebody thought was dead, who has actually survived the battle. Or there's an inheritance that has been gained that was never known of before. In that sense, the telegram announces euangelion, good news. Well, Paul says, the Gospel is good news. In what sense is it good news?

One person, writer, says it this way. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he says, "Most of us don't really understand how good the news of the Gospel really is". Because we don't contrast our Gospel with that of other religions. If you understand what other religions teach, then you understand why the Gospel truly is good news. You see, there is no good news in other religions. Every other religion has bad new to deliver. And the bad news is, you must work your way to earn God's approval. You are under a heavy burden of guilt that you have to work and work and work to try to absolve. And you never know when you've done enough to earn your God's favor. And that's why all the so called holy men and monks and gurus of other religions walk around sad faced all the time. It is not good news, it is bad news, that they are under a system of works. Some people have realized that about other religions. So they have adopted what one person calls, the religion of no religion. They think the way to have good news, is just to shun religion all together. They think that is what frees you to enjoy life.

This last week on, I was on a show with David Silverman on Fox News who is the president of the American Atheist Association. And David and I have quite a few times before on television, but it was always by satellite, this was the first time I met him in person. And so we were talking in the green room and David's the one who had that billboard campaign for American atheist a few months ago that had pictures of me and Sarah Palin and the pope. And they would take my picture and then put some outlandish comment I had made and then say under it, doesn't atheism sound better to you every day? And that was their campaign, to do that all around the country.

So, David informed me that they've got a whole new billboard campaign ready to go. So I said, "Great, I'm sure I've given you enough material to work with". He said, "You certainly have". And so, anyway we had a very nice discussion there in the green room. And I said, "David, tell me something. Why are you so opposed to religion in general and Christianity in particular? Is it because you just think it's unnecessary"? He said, "Oh no, no. It's much more than that. I think Christianity is evil. I think it is evil because it oppresses people. It keeps people from experiencing the true joy in life we need to enjoy. That is why I'm so against Christianity".

That's the religion of no religion. They think that it is good news to share with people that there is no God. But let me ask you, is that really good news? Is it really good news that everything that happens in this world is simply by chance? Is it good news to say there is no benevolent Creator who loves us and has a plan for our life? Is that good news to say this world is all that there is, and that when I close my eyes for the last time in death, I slip into nothingness, is that good news? That is bad news. That is the worst news. We are the ones who have good news that there is a God who loves us. That there is a God who guides the affairs of our life. That that God, even though we've offended him, offers to forgive us through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the good news of the Gospel.

Now, I want you to notice here, the characteristics of that Gospel. He gives us four characteristics here. First of all, he says, "This Gospel was described in the Old Testament", look at chapter one verse two, "Which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures". One of the charges against the apostle Paul, was by the Jews that he was preaching a brand new message and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a new message that contradicts Judaism.

Speaking of my week this week, I got to visit with my good friend, Alan Colmes, who has really become a very close friend. And as you know, he's the token liberal at Fox News and he's Jewish of the Jewish faith. And so we had a discussion on his program, and he always likes to say this to me. He said, "Well, you know pastor, you wouldn't be here today with your message if it wasn't for us Jews". And I said, "You're absolutely right". And he said, "Then you know Jesus was a Jew". And I said, "That's right. He was a Jew, Paul was a Jew, Peter was a Jew, almost all the writers of the New Testament were Jews. There would be no Gospel war it not for the Jews". But I said, "Christianity is not a contradiction of Judaism, it is the completion of Judaism". And that's what Paul is saying here. He is saying this idea of a Messiah, a Savior, who would take away the sins of the world, it doesn't start in the New Testament, it was foretold told in the holy scriptures.

Remember even Jesus said that himself. Turn over, hold your place here, and turn over to Luke chapter 24. Remember when Jesus after his resurrection, appeared to his disciples, two of them on the road to Emmaus. And after they recognized him, he gently chided them for not recognizing him. And look at verse 25, Luke 24. "And he said to them, 'o foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?' and then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the scriptures". The only scriptures that had been written at that time, were the Old Testament scriptures. But Jesus went back and started with Moses, and showed them how all the truths about himself had been foretold in the scriptures. By the way, will you notice how God has revealed himself to us? He has revealed himself to us in the written word, through the scriptures.
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