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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - The Heart and Soul of the Gospel

Skip Heitzig - The Heart and Soul of the Gospel

Skip Heitzig - The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
Skip Heitzig - The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
TOPICS: Heart and Soul, Book of Romans, Gospel

I've been looking forward to this series for a long time, and I'm happy to say this right now. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Romans, Chapter 1, book of Romans, Chapter 1. Every day, we hear news from a variety of sources, whether you watch the news or get it fed to your phone, or you read a newspaper. We hear breaking news, headline news, 24-hour news. But usually, the news is bad news.

In fact, I read a statistic that 90% of all news is negative. So that got my attention. And I thought, I wonder if that's true? So I decided to get some newspapers and look through them. So first of all, I looked at the Wall Street Journal, and I counted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal just how many of the articles that are posted are written negatively. The headline is negative. And I discovered five out of seven on this newspaper are negative.

Then I looked at The New York Times, another important newspaper. Six out of seven headlines are negative. Then I went to the USA Today Weekend. There's only three articles on the front page: two out of three negative. Then I thought, OK, let's get the old Albuquerque Journal. Actually, they're better than most. But three out of five are still negative.

So that got wandering... wondering, and wandering, why that is so. And so I found this little insider's tidbit from Industry Week. It's a monthly trade publication. Let me quote it. "Bad news is more likely to attract a casual reader's eye than good news. It's a secret journalists have known for years, that bad news gets more attention than good news, meaning more people are likely to read a story if the headline implies something rotten rather than something wonderful."

The article I just quoted from went on to explain that the article itself may actually be a good report, it's actually good news, but that the journalist will take some bad aspect of a good report and move it forward, usually in the first couple of sentences or in the headlines, to grab readers' attention. Because we're attracted to bad news. There was even one newspaper, I discovered, overseas that made a decision to run only good news for an entire day, positive headlines, encouraging, optimistic stories. And they reported they lost 2/3 of their normal readership on that day. Fascinating, isn't it?

Well, we're in the book of Romans, and Paul the Apostle headlines the book of Romans. His lead story is not bad news, but it's good news. We have bad news every day. He's here to say, God has some great, awesome news. That is found in a single word, the word gospel. The word gospel means good news. You know that probably. Good news, the Greek word is the Greek word from where we get evangelism, evangelical, good news. Paul uses the term gospel, good news, 60 times. that's 6 0 times in the book of Romans alone, and that's his headline. That's how he begins the book, with good news.

Now, in ancient times, emperors of Rome would give a gospel, a gospel, that is they would have a herald who would proclaim favorable news about the emperor. And the message that that herald would give was called a... a gospel. So you just got to picture it's Rome, and out comes a herald in the midst of the streets. And he says, good news, the emperor's wife has had a son. Or good news, his heir has come of age. Or good news, a new king has ascended to the throne. They were statements that were favorable about the emperor. They gave good news.

Our word gospel, our English word, derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word godspell. I don't know if you know that or not. Godspell is where we get the term gospel from in English. Godspell means good story. I like that. God's story is a good story. Now, some of you, in hearing this, might think, yeah, I've heard gospel before and Jesus before. And why do I need to hear this good news? Well, if you're inclined to think that way, I'll answer that for you. It's because you don't really know the bad news yet. And when you hear the bad news, it makes the good news awesome. You'll love the good news.

And the book of Romans is filled with bad news and good news. It just leads. The lead headline story is good news. But the bad news is also announced like this, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That's in Romans. And also, in Romans, Chapter 1, for the wrath of God as revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness. And so the bad news is we're all guilty before God, and we're going to pay for it ourselves. Or else, or, if we don't want that option, option number two is somebody else will pay the price for us. That's the good news. The bad news is you pay for it yourself. The good news is you don't have to, because God, good news, God sent somebody to do that for you.

Well, for the next 32 weeks, we're going to be in the book of Romans. We're going to be in there a long time. The book of Romans is not just about good news and bad news. It has a single theme throughout it. I'm going to tell you in a minute. But the book of Romans is the Christian manifesto of freedom. The book tells about how God, through Jesus, sets people free from the slavery of sin and old behaviors and sets us free to become, listen to this, slaves of Christ. We have a new slavery that leads to freedom, a slavery of freedom.

You should know that the book of Romans transformed the lives of people like a Augustine, Martin Luther. It sparked the Protestant Reformation. John Wesley, the book of Romans sparked the great Methodist revivals of the past through him. It influenced William Tyndale, John Bunyan. And the theme of this book, if you're taking notes, write this down, the theme of Romans is the righteousness of God. That's the theme of the whole book, the righteousness of God; or put another way, how to get right with God. Whether you're Jew, Gentile, religious, not religious, poor, rich, anything in between, it's how a human being can be made right with God in heaven.

There are four sections to the book of Romans. I'm only going to announce them. I'm not going to explain them today. I will through the series. There are four distinct sections of the book of Romans, and they're as follows. Number one, the wrath of God, that's one section; section number two, the grace of God; section number three, the plan of God; and section number four, the will of God, all of that under the righteousness of God that is headlined by this gospel, this good news, this opening story, this lead news item, gospel. Let's begin reading in verse one of Chapter 1 and read some verses down, just to get a feel for the book.

"Paul," verse 1, "a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God, which He promised before through His prophets in the holy scriptures. Concerning his son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, through Him, we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing, I make mention of you in my prayers, making requests, if by some means now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged with you by the mutual faith of both you and me. Now, I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you, but I was hindered until now, that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

Now, I'm going to confine my thoughts to the first six or seven verses alone today, because verses 1 through 7 are a summary of the rest of the book. Paul sums in a few verses what he is going to unfold and explain for the next 16 chapters about the gospel. So I want to share with you four facts about the gospel, its servant, its source, its subject, and its scope, those four things. Let's begin at the beginning. Let's consider its servant. Notice how the letter starts. "Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God."

When we write letters today, we begin letters like, Dear John, how have you been? I've been wondering about you. We say what we want to say, and then we end it, sincerely yours, Skip. Ancient letters reverse that. They put the guy who wrote the letter first and then, a few verses down, announce to who it is, which I find very convenient. Because whenever I get a letter from somebody, if it's two or three pages, the first thing I do is go to the last page, find out who wrote the thing. And then I'll go back and read the letter. So in antiquity, we have the person who wrote the letter first, Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ. I think you'll agree that Paul was one of the most unique individuals ever in human history. And apart from Jesus Christ, he is the most significant person in all of the New Testament.

A few years back, a Jewish author named Michael Shapiro wrote a book called The Jewish 100. It's a biographical sketch of 100 of the most influential Jewish people of all history. And I thought you'd be interested to just hear the top tier. Number one in his book, the number one most influential Jewish person of all time in Michael Shapiro's book, Moses. That makes sense. He's the law-giver. They're into the Torah, the law of Moses. That's their covenant.

Number two in his book, Jesus Christ. Now, this is Shapiro's list, not God's. God would rank Jesus number one. But Shapiro ranks him number two because of the impact He's made on history; number three, Albert Einstein; number four, Sigmund Freud; number five, Abraham, the patriarch; and number six, Saul of Tarsus, or Paul the Apostle.

Who was he? Well, he was born of Jewish parents in a town called Tarsus of Cilicia, which, in modern terms, is southeast Turkey. When he was born, his parents gave him the Hebrew name Shaul, Shaul, one who hears, probably named after the first king of Israel, also from the same tribe of Benjamin, Saul, King Saul, Israel's first King. But we know him by a different name. He decided to go by his Roman name Paulos. That's his Roman name, Paul.

The word Paul means little, short, which begs the question, what did Paul the Apostle look like? Well, the answer is we really don't know. But we have one source alone. It may be true. It may not be true. It's an apocryphal source called the Acts of Paul. It's not a biblical book, but it is an ancient book. And it may be true. We don't know. But it describes Paul the Apostle as a man of little stature, so a short guy, like his name, a man of little stature, thinned hair upon the head, crooked in his legs, with eyebrows joining. You never thought of Paul as a unibrow, did you? With eyebrows joining and a nose somewhat hooked, so you have to think sort of like Danny Devito, rather than whatever you had in your mind of this great apostle, not tall, dark, and handsome; short, squatty, unibrow. What we do know is Saul of Tarsus was a very religious man. He was a religious zealot, by his own admission, a Pharisee, who was educated by a very famous rabbi, who was also a very anti-Christian rabbi, by the name of Gamaliel.

The reason I say he's an anti-Christian rabbi is because some of his statements and prayers have survived from antiquity. And one of his most famous well-known prayer against the Christian heretics went like this. "Let there be no hope to them who apostatize from the true religion, and let these heretics, how many so ever they be, all perish in a moment." That's his prayer against Christians. I think Saul of Tarsus took those words to heart, because Saul of Tarsus became the chief antagonist against the Christian church, right? He hunted them down. He arrested them. He beat them up. He may have even killed many of them. He certainly consented to the death of Stephen, the martyr.

But one day, on the road to Damascus, 160 miles north of Jerusalem, Jesus knocked him off his high horse, literally, so that he was on the ground. And his life changed from that moment on. So Saul, Paul, had to begin his testimony something like this, you know, a funny thing happened to me on the way to Damascus. The chief antagonist now becomes the chief protagonist, in his own words, a bondservant of Jesus Christ. It's a title of surrender. It's I'm his slave. And I think that is the title of every single Christian, or it should be. What are you? I'm a servant of Christ. Because we call him Lord, right? Lordship implies servanthood. If there is a Lord, there is a servant. And Jesus even said to his disciples, why do you call me Lord, but you don't do what I say? So it's a title. It's a good title. It should describe every believer.

You may recall that when he was converted, Saul of Tarsus asked two questions. He's on the ground looking up at that bright light, and he had two questions. Number one, who are you, Lord. Right? Who am I talking to, Lord? Once he got that question answered, because the answer back was, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, he asked a second question. We should all ask this question. What do You want me to do? And when you ask that question, then you truly become a bondservant of Jesus Christ. What is it You want me to do? Paul then became a servant of Christ, a servant of the gospel. And now Paul, little Paul, little in his own eyes, in the eyes of God, there were big plans ahead.

Would you notice also, in verse one, that he says, "called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God." Stop right there. Saul called himself at one time a Pharisee. The word for Pharisee and the word for separated are the same word. In fact, the word Pharisee means a separated one. And Pharisees prided themselves in being separated from everyone and everything else.

They were so separated, that a strict Pharisee walking through the streets of Jerusalem would take his robes and tie them closely around his body, place them closely around his body, like this. Because he didn't want to even brush the hem of his robe against a Gentile, like you and me, lest he become defiled. No Gentile cooties are getting next to me. I don't want those cooties. So he was separated from everyone and from everything, but now he says, I'm separated to the gospel of God. I want to ask you a question. What are you separated to? What are you separated to?

Did you know that you can have a saved soul, but a lost life? You can know Christ. You've been forgiven. Your sins are forgiven. You're going to heaven. But between Earth and heaven, you're not doing anything. You have a saved soul, but a lost life. A lot of Christians state their testimony in a negative fashion. I don't do this, and I don't do that. I don't smoke. I don't chew. I don't go with girls that do.

Well, good. What do you do? What on the positive side of that equation are you doing? So you're to be separated from, but also separated to someone and something, sort of like a marriage. When a young couple comes to get married, they're making a statement of separation. I'm going to be separated from everybody else and separated just to you, honey, sweetheart, baby.

And so I begin by asking the young groom, and I say, I want you to repeat after me, forsaking all others, live only unto you as long as I live. So I ask him, will you do that? And I want him to say, I will. And I ask him to say it loudly, not I will, but I will. That's a big statement. I'm going to forsake everyone else and live only to you.

Now, imagine that young couple, after saying their vows, going to their honeymoon destination. And the young groom says, sweetheart, I have a girlfriend in this city. If you don't mind, I'd like to just go have dinner with her or coffee with her. Do you mind? How do you think that honeymoon or relationship is going to go? Probably not very well, right? No, he needs to be separated from everyone else and separated only unto her. Here's Paul saying, I'm a servant, I'm an apostle, and I'm separated to the gospel of God. So he is its servant.

Second, notice its source. It is called, in verse one, the gospel of what? You can say it out loud, the gospel of what? God, God, the gospel has its source in God. Aren't you glad it isn't of human origin? It's God's gospel.

I had a radio interview this past week. And the person who interviewed me was talking about belief and belief systems. And I said, no one would make up the gospel story. And I said that, because we get accused, a lot of times, of, well, Christianity is just a bunch of, the Bible is just a bunch of smart men who just made up a story. No smart group of men or women would ever make up a story that condemns the whole world forever except belief in one person. Nobody would do that.

That's not a man-made religion. No. A man-made religion would be something like, everybody's good. We're all doing the best we can. I'm OK. You're OK. We're all sincere. And no matter who you are or what you believe, you'll all go to heaven. That's human religion. Man-made religion is about what man can do for God. The gospel is about what God has already done for man. That is the gospel.

It's from God. The apostles did not invent it. They discovered it as it was revealed to them by the Lord Jesus. That's why Peter the apostle wrote these words. For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and the glory of Christ.

Look at verse two. He says it's the gospel of God in verse one. The thought continues, "which," that is which gospel, "he promised before through His prophets in the holy scriptures." What's he talking about? The Old Testament, right? That's where the prophets were hanging out, in the Old Testament. "Through the prophets in the holy scriptures", why is this important?

The New Testament is not an addition. It's not like another religion that is completely apart from the Jewish people and the revelation of God to the Jews. Christians weren't a bunch of defectors from Judaism who followed some renegade leader named Jesus. No, it is part and parcel of the same revelation from the Old Testament into the new. This is why Jesus himself said, I did not come to destroy the law and the prophets. I did not come to destroy them, but to fulfill them.

So there is a continuity. That's why Peter, on the day of Pentecost, as this church was born, and all these people are coming to know Christ, and the Jewish leaders said, what is this? Peter's answer was, this is that which was spoken of by the prophet. And he quotes an Old Testament prophet to prove that what they predicted is coming true before your eyes.

And this is why Paul, in front of King Agrippa, said, King Agrippa, I'm not saying anything other than what Moses and the prophets have already said, that Christ would suffer and be buried and rise again. He's saying all of this is part of the same revelation that was predicted in the Old Testament. So this isn't good news that was just sprung on people. It was anticipated for centuries.

And the clearest prediction of that, the clearest prediction of the new covenant, comes in Jeremiah 31, when the prophet said, "thus says the Lord, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not like the old covenant, under the law of Moses." So then the gospel, the good news, is part of a continuous progressive revelation that began back in Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 15, we covered in Bloodline series; is woven through Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah; is displayed at the Passover, with the blood and the lentils and doorposts; predicted by Isaiah, Chapter 53, Chapter 9, and Chapter 7; predicted by the Psalmist, Psalm 22; and, and, 300 other promises or predictions about Jesus, promises like where he'd be born, what he would be like, what he would go through, that he would die, how he would die, that he would be buried and raised again, 300 of them.

Biblical prophecy, these promises that Paul is writing about, is in a class all of its own. It's not like your weatherman saying, Thursday is going to be sunny, with a possible chance of rain. That's a good guess based on mapping and radar. Biblical prophecy, however, is so detailed, it has multiple contingencies and a multitude of features that no one could know, no one could control. And when they come to pass, they give proof. They give evidence that the authorship of scripture is divine, not human.

Think of it. It's impossible to humanly arrange what tribe of Israel you're going to be born into. If that is predicted, you can't control that. It's impossible to arrange who your mom's going to be. It's impossible to arrange what town you're going to be born in, and so forth. One scholar said, in 100 billion years, there's no chance that the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled could have been fulfilled without God.

Now, in hearing that, now, listen to this. You know it, but it's going to make more sense now. After the resurrection, Jesus said to his two disciples who were forlorn, he said, oh, foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not the Christ to have suffered and entered into His glory? And then Luke adds these words, in Luke 24, and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in the scriptures all the things concerning Himself. Its source is God. Its servant is Paul. Its source is God, promised through the scriptures.

What is the subject of the gospel? What is it concerning? What is it really all about? Verse 3, "Concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Hey, all those promises in the Old Testament, all those predictions that were made, 300, 330 of them, they all point to one person, Christ. He is the main subject of the Old and New Testament.

Yeah, I know there are other themes. There are other topics, subtopics, subjects. You might have one author talking about Israel's wandering through the wilderness or another one talking about captivity or post-captivity or one king doing this and another king being deposed. There is a number of sub-themes, but the grand theme, the big theme, the central theme, the overarching theme, is Jesus Christ. That's why Jesus said to the Jews, if you would have believed Moses, you'd believe me, for Moses wrote about me. Lo, I come in the volume of the book. It is written of Me.

So let me give to you your Bible in a nutshell form. Here it is. The Old Testament is the anticipation of Jesus Christ. The gospels are the presentation of Jesus Christ; the book of Acts, the continuation of the work of Jesus Christ; the epistles, the explanation and clarification of Jesus Christ; and the Book of Revelation, the consummation by Jesus Christ. That is your Bible in a nutshell.

Anticipated by the Old Testament prophets, some of you might be saying or thinking, well, how could that be? How could they have anticipated Him? Are you telling me that, when they wrote their prophecies, they knew who they were writing about? Not at all. That's the beauty of it. This is the beauty of it. They were clueless. They had no idea.

Peter makes this point. First Peter, Chapter 1, verse 10, "The prophets prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you, even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean." They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when He told them in advance about Christ's suffering and His great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all of this would happen.

Let me illustrate it. The Old Testament prophets were like archers, dudes with bows and arrows. So they shot their arrows of truth into the air, and they had no idea where those arrows were going to land. So Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Zechariah, all pulled back on their prophetic bow strings and launched those predictions. And they went into the air, over the horizon. But all 330 of them, written over 1,600 years, all happened to come true in one single individual. And that is Christ.

So then, let me give you the Bible in an even smaller nutshell. Here is the irreducible minimum. If people ask you, so what's the Bible all about? Here's what you can tell them. Bible is about one person and two events, one person, two events, one person, Jesus Christ; two events. Number one is first coming to deal with sin, a lot of predictions made about that. And then second event, His second coming, to rule and reign with those who have been cleansed from sin. That's the Bible, one person, two events; Jesus Christ, first coming and second coming.

Notice what Paul refers to Christ as. "Concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." in other words, Paul is referring to the dual nature of Jesus, fully man, seed of David; fully God, Son of God. As the seed of David, fully human, he could fulfill all those predictions of who this leader, deliverer, would be. And as the Son of God, He was fully God, conceived in a virgin womb, by the Holy Spirit, sharing the same nature as God the Father.

By the way, the term Son of God is a term of deity. That's why the Jews said, what other proof do we need? He said he's the Son of God. That's blasphemy. Let's kill him. He was claiming to be God in human flesh.

All of that to say this, that means the good news is not about a good man. The good news is about the God man. That's who Jesus was, not a good man. "He was a good man. He was a good teacher." No, He was the God man, different level.

Being man, he had the ability to substitute for mankind on the cross. Being God, he had the capacity to save all of mankind, because of that substitute on the cross. No wonder, when Encyclopedia Britannica wanted to post its article on Jesus Christ, they used 20,000 words to do it, 20,000 words in Encyclopedia Britannica on the life, ministry, and impact of Jesus Christ. That's more than they used in their article on Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Buddha, Caesar, Cicero, Confucius, and Mohammed put together; the Bible, too, its servant, its source, its subject, Jesus Christ.

Now let's take the last one as we close. What is the scope of the gospel? Verse 5, "Through Him, we have received grace", that means we don't deserve it; it's unmerited favor, "and apostleship", that means we're all set out, we all have a mission, "for obedience to the faith among all nations." Mark that. Noted that. "Among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints, grace to you, and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Here's the deal. This good news isn't just local news. It's breaking news. It's worldwide news. It's for all people. So what Paul is saying, if I can sum him up in these verses, is God sent us to tell everyone everywhere about this awesome news. It's not limited to one race, in one place, at one time, but it's for all people in every place, for all time. Its scope is universal.

Romans 3:29, which we'll get to, Paul asks, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles?" Rhetorical question, answer is yes, He is. Why is this important? Well, there's a false assumption out there. I've heard it put to me this way, especially when we send out missionaries to different parts of the world. Why are you doing that? An unbeliever would say, why are you sending missionaries? You have no right to impose your Western culture, a Western religion, on other cultures who think differently.

And anytime somebody says, it's a Western religion, I feel like saying, I think you need another geography course in school. Last time I checked, it originated in the Middle East town of Jerusalem. That makes us about as far away from its origin as you can get. It is not a Western religion anymore than it's a Middle Eastern religion exclusively. Jesus said to his disciples, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And Acts, Chapter 1, beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

Remember that angel, the Christmas angel, on Bethlehem, who made the announcement, who said, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to a few people, of you people, you little shepherds here in Bethlehem? It's just for you guys here in this little part of the world. Now, you know what it says, good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people, for there is born to you this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. It's for all people.

For God so loved the world, not for God so loved Western culture. He loved the world. It's a message for the world. If you have a disease. like lung disease or heart disease, there's medicine for that. It's important, it's true, that if you have heart disease, the same medicine will work for you whether you live in America or you live in Argentina. It's not like, well, that medicine won't work here. That's a Western medicine. It will work. It's called science. It is a universal cure. If somebody has the same disease in different parts of the world, it works.

Same with the gospel, the cure for sin is universally the same. And that is the blood of Jesus Christ. The world has many religions, but only one gospel. And it's God's gospel.

So not this, but this is God's newspaper. And in God's newspaper, he's got good news. It's good news for a couple of different reasons. It tells you, number one, God is there and knowable. And it tells you, number two, that you can know Him through the saving work of His unique Son, who was fully human. And He felt all of that pain on the cross, and also fully God, so He can save you.

Here's my question. Has the gospel come to you like that? Has the gospel come to you like that? What I mean by that is can you honestly say, at this moment, that this is the best news you've ever heard? Because I don't see a lot of Christians act like that. Their team won, that's the best news I've heard. Their candidate won, it's the best news I've heard. Yeah, just wait a few years.

Is the gospel the best news you've ever heard? Because if not, it could be that you are simply making a profession of faith, but there's no possession of faith in Christ. You're not really born again. It's a religious thing. It's a weekend thing. It's a cultural thing. But it's not a personal thing. The gospel is highly personal.

Father, as we close this service, as we close this opening salvo on the book of Romans, this great magna carta, magnum opus, of the apostle Paul, we understand it's not the apostle Paul. It's the gospel of God. It's the good news that He promised for generations, for centuries, anticipated by You for the right time, when You would send Your son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life, such grand news, that life doesn't have to be the same. It can be different. We can be changed men and women.

You keep your head bowed for a moment. Keep your eyes closed for just a moment. And you think about that last question. Can you honestly say, at this moment, the gospel is the best news you've ever heard? If it isn't, maybe a change needs to happen. Maybe you're hearing it, and you're going, man, that does sound like good news, if it were only true. Because Skip, I've experienced so many things so far. I've done different experiences in life, and I've had many relationships in life. And I've made money here, and I've tried this as a career. But I'm not satisfied deep inside. And you've wondering, is there something more to life than what I've already experienced?

Why don't you come to Jesus? Why don't you become a servant of Christ? Invite him to be your Savior and your Lord, and see how radically he'll change you and put peace in your heart, and fill you with hope, and give you direction and change each morning, when you wake up, from what it used to be. If you want that, that's good news for you personally. If you want that, with your head bowed and your eyes closed, I'm going to keep my eyes open, but I want you to raise your hand in the air if you want that life change, if you're ready to accept Christ.

Keep that hand up just for a moment, in the front row, thank you, and right there to my left, in the middle. Anyone else? Raise that hand up, if you don't mind, so I can acknowledge you. Anybody else? Just raise it up. You're just saying, today's the day. I'm going to surrender my life to Christ. Whether you're in the balcony, raise that hand up, or in the family room. God bless you and you, over to my left, in the family room, with three of you, a few of you. Anybody else here, just raise it up high, so I can spot you. Thank you. God bless you, sir; in the back.

Father, for these all around you, you know them intimately. You love them deeply. Behind that hand is a heart, a personal life, a story, several of them, anticipations, failures, hopes, broken dreams, fulfilled dreams, each uniquely made in your image. Thank you for each one. I pray you would do a transforming work in the life, the present and the future, of each person. Let them know their past will be gone as they give their life to Christ. Fill them with hope. Settle them, Lord, with purpose. In Jesus' name, amen.

Would you all stand, please, to your feet. We're going to sing a final song, and I'm going to ask those of you who raised your hand, whether you're in the family room or in the auditorium, you're up front, so you can just come a few steps. But just come right up here to the front, where I'm going to lead you in a prayer, in just a moment, to receive Christ. This is the day. We're going to encourage you as you come. You're going to hear our applause, and we want to celebrate with you.

But we want you to make it public, because Jesus, when he called people, called them publicly. And I think it'll just settle something in your heart if you make a public decision to follow Christ. If you're in the family room, and you raised your hand, you come right through that door. Come right up here. If you're on the outside, a pastor will bring you in. If you're in the back or in the middle of a row, we'll make way. But you come right now and stand right up in the front. It'll take just a moment.

"Come unto the breakthrough, oh, where every fear is shattered by the one truth, because You are near. Come unto the breakthrough." Come on. So good. "Good, so our love come unto the breakthrough." God has way better news for you than right here, way better news for you. God's so awesome. Hi, guys. "Come unto the breakthrough. Oh, just one touch is strong enough to make you, so I run, come unto the breakthrough." I love this song. You want a breakthrough in your life? You want to break through all the pain, all the misery, all the past, be forgiven, get a reset, a new start? Come on up. Welcome. God bless you. "To the breakthrough. Oh, just one touch is strong enough to break through. So I'll run, come running to the breakthrough."

All right, those of you who have come forward, I'm so glad you did this, and I'm glad to see you here. And I believe that things are going to be different after today. I think you're going to leave here and wake up tomorrow completely thinking differently and feeling differently. And your life's going to be different. But I'm going to lead you in a prayer. I'm going to ask you to say these words after me, out loud. It's not some kind of formula or incantation. It's simply praying to God and saying, take over from now on. OK, let's pray together. Say:

Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. That he came and died. He shed his blood for me. He rose again from the grave. He's here right now. I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as my savior. Help me to follow him as my Lord. I ask it in Jesus' name Amen.

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