Sunday, September 30, 2018

180930 The Power of God

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
In the very beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul presents his reasons for writing. The first, we touched on last week, he longed to see the Roman Christians so that they could encourage one another. His second reason was presented in verses 14 and 15. He wrote the letter because he was under obligation. Not a writer’s deadline but a debt to be paid. Paul was obligated to everyone he could meet in order to be sure they had the opportunity to hear the gospel. He pointed out that his plan was to go to Spain! To fulfill his obligation all the way across the Roman Empire. He was not obligated to people — he was in debt to God. His third reason for writing was a holy boldness in presenting the gospel — which is the power of God!
Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. Paul prayed constantly for him and his ministry. He reminded Timothy that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Based on that…
He encouraged Timothy to be bold. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 1:8. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,
A side note here: Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of the Roman government. He was Jesus’ prisoner! He knew what we need to continually remind ourselves. Nothing comes into our life, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that does not come under God’s authority!
There was a time when Paul, himself, had felt a need for a holy boldness. By then he had arrived in Rome as Jesus’ prisoner. During that time he wrote a letter to the churches in Ephesus. In it asked the Ephesians to pray for boldness in his life (Ephesians 6:19).
He was not ashamed of the Great Good News that he had been given on the road to Damascus. However many things had happened that caused him to need encouragement and boldness. Most of us have a need to overcome shyness because of the social pressures around us. We should be ashamed! In writing to Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:34b) Paul wrote “For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
Paul’s hesitation, if I can use that word here, likely grew out of what he had experienced along the way. He had been imprisoned, badly beaten so many times he could not count. He had come close to death many times. He had been stoned and left for dead. He had been in three shipwrecks. All of this, and much more, had occurred to allow him to preach the gospel!
Today many preachers often feel persecuted if the zoning board, or the church board, doesn’t give them what they want. These modern preachers (I do not call them pastors) often want to be honored as Paul was without paying the day-to-day price Paul had to pay.
In his inspiring hymn, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?” Isaac Watts asked and answered the question about 400 years ago.
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follow’r of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.

As for Paul…
He knew why he was not ashamed. Let’s read what he wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12. I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.
He was not ashamed! Even though he had often suffered imprisonment even as wrote he faced execution. Paul knew where his faith was deposited. The Lord Jesus had personally stopped Paul on the road. He had no trouble believing in Jesus. He had seen him face-to-face. He was able to be unashamed because he was so convinced that he did not have to work up confidence. He knew Jesus and he knew Jesus as being able to guard the trust we have put in him. Jesus is the caretaker! We don’t have to work up the courage in order to be successful in the Christian life. We need to rest in the arms of our Lord and Savior. Our love for Jesus should be seen in our obedience to him. Jesus himself said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And also, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21). We certainly are not ashamed of those we love. Paul intensely loved the Lord Jesus and was faithful to follow him even when it cost him pain and imprisonment. No matter the difficulty we need to remember…
We are not to be ashamed. Look at the words of Jesus found in Mark 8:38. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
These words were spoken by Jesus after Peter had tried to turn him aside from the cross. Jesus had told them that after they arrived in Jerusalem he would be turned over to the Jewish leaders and be killed. He added that he would rise again in three days. Peter rebuked him and Jesus responded with, “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter, the one who had just testified that Jesus was the Christ!
Then, Jesus called on the crowd that followed him to deny themselves and take up the cross! The cross! One of the most demeaning instruments of execution was what awaited him down that road. Giving up one’s life for Christ and the gospel is salvation. Losing one’s life is the highest form of testimony. It is called being a martyr! My heart goes out to our brothers and sisters around the world who are called upon to give their life to prove their faith!
We should be concerned about our level of witness for Jesus. I’m not calling for you to go out into the streets unless that is what God leads you to do. The gospel needs to be presented in a way that people will receive it. We should always be prepared to tell anyone who asks why we believe what we believe.
It would be a horrible day if Jesus returned only to say, “I never knew you; depart from me”. I am only slightly relieved that Jesus added, “you workers of lawlessness.” I do hope — though I am not totally free of sin — that I am not a worker of lawlessness. (Matthew 7:23) Peter, later in life, wrote, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord is holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asked you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Undoubtedly, he remembered his experience when he tried to turn Jesus aside from going to the cross!
Don’t worry, we do not have to depend on our own strength…
The gospel is dynamic! Look at 1 Corinthians 1:18. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians remind us that people the world around think of the cross as being foolish. In fact, God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men. The weakness of God is stronger than men.
The Greek word for “power”, found in verse 18, is the root word where we get our word “dynamic”! It is also the root word for “dynamite”! The foolishness of the gospel is the power of God being worked out on the cross. That power is found in the work that Christ did on the cross. It’s not a gold ornament on our clothing or a decorative piece on the wall that counts. It is not even in the heavy wooden instrument of execution that Jesus carried to Golgotha!…
The gospel power is found in Christ. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:23-25. But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Many people who claim to be Christian, even who claim to be pastors, reject the necessity of the cross. Paul was very clear in his writing to the Corinthians. He tells us that he preached Christ — CRUCIFIED — even though it would be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles! But to the called, those who are born again, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God!
Jesus on the cross set us free from sin and death by being our sacrifice. We must understand that…
God’s righteousness is released in it. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I recall Miss Bertha Smith when she said that second Corinthians 5:21 was the dirtiest verse in her Bible. What she meant by that was, in her years in China, she had learned to follow her reading with the moving finger which transferred to the paper a little bit of dirt each time. She read this passage so many times that it became her “dirtiest verse”! He (God the Father) made him (God the Son) to be sin even though he did not commit sin or ever give into temptation. Since he had no sin of his own he could bear our sins before the throne in heaven. When he entered the throne room in heaven with his own blood he enabled us — through faith — to become the righteousness of God in him! We have no righteousness of our own.
We depend on Christ to set us free from sin and death because of the power of God’s righteousness which is released by Jesus’ substitutionary death for us. Therefore, everyone who places their faith in him has the privilege of becoming children of God. Children born of the Holy Spirit! Therefore Jesus is our Lord and Savior but also our elder brother. Have you been adopted into the family of God? That, my friend, is a serious question! Believe the gospel!
“Gospel” means “good news”! When the baby Jesus was born it was good news! In fact, the birth of every baby should be good news. Paul was not ashamed of the Good News because it is the dynamic, unharnessable power of God to make salvation available with all its benefits for everyone who believes. We must never be ashamed. Paul concludes with a quote from Habakkuk. “The righteous will live by faith.” The great Good News proclaims that it is possible to stand sinless before a holy God. It is possible to know that one has eternal life. It is possible to be free from the struggle to be righteous. The sole requirement is faith! This is the greatest news ever proclaimed! Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? This can be your day.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

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