I'd Like to Speak to the Manager - Part 3
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
April 29, 2018
What comes to mind when you hear the word Gospel?
For me it was, for many years, …
- Give me that old time religion
- Southern Gospel singings
- Walking a straight line
I guess it was my upbringing in the Deep South. The Gospel was more religion, and especially more Judeo-Christian - American - Bible Belt religion, than anything. It was nostalgic. It was sentimental. It was also brutal and unforgiving at times.
It was something handed down from mama and daddy and granny and grandaddy. It was something preached from pulpits by men who yelled and sweated and wiped their brows with a hanky. It was about living right so God would not punish you, perhaps best expressed by Tammy Wynnette and Goerge Jones in a song that said:
God's gonna get 'cha for that
God's gonna get 'cha for that
Every wrong thing that you do
God's gonna get 'cha for that
Tammy Wynette - God's Gonna Get 'cha Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Thankfully, at the age of fourteen I realized the gospel wasn’t getting religion; it wasn’t about giving lip service to the faith of my fathers or keeping a set of rules. It was receiving into my life like a gift what Jesus had done for me.
Tim Keller writes...
“… the gospel—this eternally fascinating message craved by the angels—can change a heart, a community, and the world when it is recovered and applied. The gospel is life giving, because it generates changes that are received only by grace through faith.
This foundational truth, however, gets bypassed, obscured, and forgotten, because, as Martin Luther noted, religion forms the default mode of the human heart. It is essential, then, that we distinguish religion from the gospel. Religion, as the default mode of our thinking and practices, is based upon performance: “I obey; therefore, I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel, however, is… an about-face, one of unmerited acceptance: “I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore, I obey.” ”
The gospel isn’t getting religion, it’s being transformed and accepted.
What a glorious mystery! The gospel is about a God of love taking on human form in the person of his Son, Jesus, who lived the life we should have lived and died the death he should have died. It’s about God giving life and death to us when we receive it like a gift by faith and repentance. That is why gospel means “good news.”
That mystery is so great, so life-changing, it doesn’t just impact us when we first get saved, it affects every waking moment after, all the way into eternity. The gospel is not just the ABC’s of salvation, it’s the A to Z of all we are and do.
Ever heard the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility”? That was Uncle Ben, as in Peter Parker’s uncle, as in Spiderman. If that’s true of possessing superhuman powers, it’s even more true of possessing the gifts and blessings of being accepted by God through his son, Jesus, of being transformed by the glorious mystery of the gospel.
With great blessing comes great responsibility.
This is why Paul said…
1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (ESV) — 1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
God is the author of salvation. He is the sole and complete origin of the good news of the gospel. If he made it; he owns it. If he’s given it to us, that makes us stewards of it. So, in regards to the gospel, if somebody came up and said, I’d like to speak to the manager, who’d show up? We would.
We are stewards of our bodies. We stewards of our time. We are stewards of the gospel.
Being stewards of the gospel means we manage it the way the one who gave it to us would. And how would God have us manage it?
Donald Whitney, in his article “The Gospel and Stewardship” writes…
The gospel is infinitely more than a ticket to heaven. It is a message that changes not only a person’s destination in eternity but his heart and mind here and now. The gospel transforms more than a person’s relationship to God; it also transforms a person’s relationship to everything else.
That’s why one of the most reliable evidences that a person has been converted is that he begins looking for ways to use his time, talent, and treasure in service to the gospel. When a person eagerly begins to use his resources to serve and spread the gospel, it testifies to the value he places upon the gospel and to the fact that he treasures the God of the gospel above all.
Being a good manager of the gospel is looking for ways to use our time, talents, and treasure in spreading it as far and wide as we can. In other words, it means we actively share our faith with others in the hope they too, will not get religion but come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
We know this is our Father’s heart because Paul wrote that He…
1 Timothy 2:4 (ESV) — 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Ah, I see where you’re going with this pastor. You’re talking about evangelism. Dun, dun, dah! Here come the statistics on how few Christians share their faith. Get your passports ready because we are about to go on a guilt trip.
Nope. I’m not going to do that. That never works anyway. But I am going to share another text with you from the Apostle Paul’s writings where he gives his motivation for sharing the good news. I figure he’s good to pay attention to since he almost single-handedly led the civilized world to Christ 2,000 years ago.
In the book of Romans he’s writing to the Christians at Rome and at the beginning of his letter he greets them and tells them how he prays for them and how bad he wants to come and see them but hasn’t been able. Then he says…
Romans 1:14–17 (ESV) — 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 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.”
Note that Paul makes thee “I am” statements in this text. They are important for us today.
In verse 14 he says “I am under obligation.”
Obligation here means indebtedness in the Greek. Indebtedness means to owe money or to owe service. We know Paul didn’t owe anyone money, so he owed them service. Why?
Listen to what he said to the Christians at Corinth…
1 Corinthians 9:16b–23 (ESV) — 16b Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Paul himself had been radically transformed by the gospel. You know his story. He went from being religious as a Pharisee (where he murdered Christians) to being in relationship with Jesus (where he joined those he persecuted).
The change was so radical, he felt indebted to share the good news he found that day on the way to Damascus.
Imagine if you had cancer and discovered a cure for it. Your discovery would be so radical, so life-changing, not only for you but for countless others suffering, that you’d be obligated to share it.
Folks, that’s the heart of evangelism. We all are under obligation to share the good news of Jesus with others because it first changed us.
In verse 15 Paul says he is “I am eager to preach the gospel.”
If you’d had cancer and discovered it’s cure, you wouldn’t just be obligated to share it, you’d be eager to, excited. Why? Because you experienced healing and couldn’t wait for others to know it as well.
Listen to Paul’s words to young pastor Timothy about his salvation experience…
1 Timothy 1:12–16 (CEV) — 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given me the strength for my work because he knew that he could trust me. 13 I used to say terrible and insulting things about him, and I was cruel. But he had mercy on me because I didn’t know what I was doing, and I had not yet put my faith in him. 14 Christ Jesus our Lord was very kind to me. He has greatly blessed my life with faith and love just like his own. 15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all! 16 But since I was worse than anyone else, God had mercy on me and let me be an example of the endless patience of Christ Jesus. He did this so that others would put their faith in Christ and have eternal life.
Finally, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” in v. 16.
NT Wright, in his commentary on Romans writes…
But why should Paul say he is ‘not ashamed’ of the gospel? In today’s Western world, people are often ashamed of the Christian gospel. It is so often mocked, sneered at and dismissed in newspapers, and on the radio and TV, that many Christians assume they had better keep their faith secret. That, of course, is just what is wanted by the triumphalist secular world around us. But in Paul’s day there was a different challenge. As we have already seen, his world was dominated, and the Roman church in particular was to be dominated, by a culture focused on one city and one man. Caesar claimed to rule the world; God’s gospel claimed that Jesus did. What was a Christian to do? Practise the faith in private in case it offended someone? Certainly not. Paul may have had in mind a passage like Psalm 119:46: ‘I will speak of your decrees before kings, and I shall not be ashamed.’ That was what he intended to do. ‘At the name of Jesus,’ he wrote in another letter, ‘every knee shall bow’ (Philippians 2:10). That included Caesar.
Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel because in it was the power of God to save a lost world from sin and darkness.
These days we think not being ashamed of the gospel is demanding businesses say Merry Christmas or putting prayer back in school. But the greatest way we show we’re not ashamed of the gospel is living it and certainly sharing it.
I’m going to keep my promise of not using a guilt trip on you today. But let’s be honest. We all fall way short of being good stewards of the gospel, specifically when it comes to sharing the good news with others.
We Baptists in particular have tried everything in the book to bring up the baptisms.
We’ve used guilt of course. Enough said on that.
We’ve set goals. I can’t find anyone doing that in the NT.
We’ve instituted and promoted programs. EE, CWT, FAITH, GROW, Share Jesus Without Fear, and many more (I’ve done them all). They always fall flat in the end because they focus too much on us and not enough on Jesus.
So, what do we do?
Paul gives us the answer. It starts with…
Realizing our indebtedness.
This means regularly meditating on the goodness of God in saving us, intentionally focusing on what Jesus did for us in living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died.
This is preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.
As we do that, we begin
Cultivating a spirit of eagerness.
Years ago I was sitting with a pastor friend. He asked what I was up to that day. I told him that evening I had to go and share the gospel with a guy who filled out a card the Sunday before.
He stopped me, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “Son, we don’t have to share the gospel, we GET TO.”
As our eagerness gets stoked we find we are…
Developing a strong sense of confidence in the gospel.
Because within it is literally the power of God to transform lives. It doesn’t just makes us better; it makes us children of God.
John 1:12–13 (ESV) — 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Conclusion: We could spend way more time here. And we will, in days to come. But for now know the true, lasting motive of evangelism is found in our understanding we are stewards, managers of the gospel.
Repeat after me…
The gospel is given us from God. That makes me a steward of the good news. Therefore I must share it with others.
I really like the way the CEV translates our main text today…
Romans 1:14–17 (CEV) — 14 It doesn’t matter if people are civilized and educated, or if they are uncivilized and uneducated. I must tell the good news to everyone. That’s why I am eager to visit all of you in Rome. 16 I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 17 The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.”
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