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The People, Power and Shameless Passion

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Opening Illustration

A recent survey stated that 48% of people are ASHAMED of their MOBILE PHONES .. it’s the accessory that DEFINES you .. yep people notice your phone!
What do you reckon you’d pay for that? .. Sotheby’s estimated $500-800K .. a Beatles fanatic doesn’t think twice about paying $1.2M to secure this precious piece of memorabilia
Passion is pretty obvious when you see it .. it’s amazing the things that press some people’s buttons .. some people LOVE rugby, or soccer, or the opera, or camping, or bush-walking or 5 star motels, some people are obsessed with music or movies or addicted to Coke-a-Cola, chocolate, exercise, coffee, anything but exercise, ; some love cats, dogs, barn owls (yep there’s a web site devoted to it!) some people love computers, gardening, art, cooking, stamp collecting, comic collections, coin collections, bottle-top collecting butterfly collections .. some have to buy clothes, shoes, hats, and normal people buy fishing gear!!
Beate had, until recently .. an iPhone 3s .. yep one of the original iPhones .. came out 10 yrs ago .. and people would say “Wow .. does that work? Never seen one like that!” .. it was a great phone .. it could do all sorts of cool things .. you could MAKE A PHONE CALL !!! You could TEXT. And it even took photos! Beate was NOT one of those 48% of people .. she was very happy with her phone .. and she would still have it .. if I hadn’t accidentally bumped into a pan of water
As good as it is to have hobbies and interests they shouldn’t consume us .. they are not worthy of dominating us .. we weren’t designed for greater passions than that
So .. do you hide your mobile phone when a friend plonks the latest Samsung Galaxy 8s on the table as you have your coffee? Can’t wait for that 24 month plan to expire so you can upgrade?
Let me ask you .. do you ever feel ashamed of the gospel? Embarrassed to call yourself a Christian? Ever been in conversation or with a group of people and there’s a perfect opportunity to declare your faith in Jesus or make a comment on the Bible .. but you felt too awkward.
Friends we are starting this series on the book of Romans .. there are some very very important ideas and teaching which can get a bit heavy in places .. but boils down to a very simple summary .. The GOSPEL is nothing to be ashamed of .. it is God’s POWER! Look at v.16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
Let’s take a look
The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

People and the GOSPEL

I guess it is always easy to skip introductions. We tend to think of them as WASTED SPACE .. just some fluffy words.. like reading the introduction to your latest appliance .. Congratulations! You have just purchased the most reliable, easy to use microwave in the universe. You our valued customer (consumer) have joined thousands of other satisfied customers blah .. blah .. blah .. You are only reading the manual because you can’t set the timer on this “easy to use” gadget
Even though we know every word of the Bible is “God breathed” we can sometimes do the same thing .. skip the first verses of a book .. it’s the usual WRITER TO READER type thing with a cliché greeting thrown in
Well it’s pretty important to take a close look at what’s said in the intro because as we carefully read these 7 verses we are introduced to some BIG ideas that run through the whole book .. there are some teasers being put out to introduce us to the MAJOR THEMES that help us understand how we are SAVED
Y’see people matter to God .. He seeks a relationship with them .. BUT there’s a big OBSTACLE .. our REBELLION .. DISOBEDIENCE .. we are NOT right with God .. “all have sinned” .. so is that we can be RIGHT with God
Paul ..
Paul ..
We are introduced to a man who thought he was right with God .. but wasn’t .. an expert in the Jewish law .. Pharisee .. but actually, far from God ... 25 yrs earlier Paul becomes a Christian .. what we see is a man PASSIONATE about what is essential in life and death
Paul writes this letter to a Christian community that he did not establish .. that he had no personal dealings with .. we’ll see that he’s often wanted to come and share with them but every time he’s tried something has stopped him .. invariably some angry Jewish mob and some Roman soldiers .. where he looks at the four walls of a prison cell for a while
The introduction is more than “Hi .. I’m Paul I make tents .. what do you do?” He establishes his credentials. He writes to them with a privileged position .. special because of what God has done in his life .. and the privilege that has been given to him .. look at verse 1
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God (NIV) or …I Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ (Message)
Paul is : a servant (slave) of Christ Jesus …. called to be an apostle …. set apart for the gospel of God
This qualifies Paul to speak with the authority that he does. You can’t leave his letter on the kitchen table unopened .. to read this letter is to read what God has to say .. Paul has something weighty to say .. not his own words
NB his slavery was his APOSTLESHIP .. he was a GOSPEL MAN .. that’s what God had called him to
This was a bondage he enjoyed and rejoiced in and often had to defend.
Paul .. 25 yrs earlier he had that Damascus Rd experience .. he had seen the Lord .. and that was a vital part of being an apostle () He who had been AMBASSADOR for the Jewish High Priests, herding up Christians to be imprisoned or put to death, was now AMBASSADOR for the King of Kings
You see someone could ask me this morning .. what gives you the right to speak to us and I can get these out (degree ..& call document) .. my credentials I completed a course of study and YOU called me as your minister .. pastor / teacher
He uses this term set apart which might be a throw back to his Pharisee days .. Pharisee’s prided themselves on being “ set apart for the LAW” now he sees himself as set apart for something far greater … we’ll see Paul defend his authority and he will tease out how this calling impacts his passion .. the gospel of God
Gospel is a significant word .. it is the heart of Paul’s thrust and passion as he writes to these new readers .. people he’s not sure know the FULL EXTENT of the gospel impact
The Christians writers used a certain word because it hit the nail on the head .. let me put it this way .. if you were alive you will probably remember where you were on that July day 1969 .. Armstrong takes a step for mankind on the moon .. you’d never forget that first romance .. the day she said “I love you too”
When the emperor had an heir born to him .. or when they had won a major battle .. the greeks had a word for such occasions .. EUANGELION … which we tritely translate GOOD NEWS .. pretty bland! … Did you hear the good news? My headache is gone .. the toaster is fixed .. it should be fine tomorrow … the budgie is better ..
To the greeks this was a weighty word .. EUANGELION was MOMENTOUS NEWS .. SENSATIONAL NEWS .. I-CAN’T-CONTAIN-MYSELF-I JUST-HAVE-TO-TELL-SOMEONE NEWS
That’s Paul passion that overwhelms him .. he’s a messenger of this momentous event .. this fantastic news .. so good he shamelessly shares it with all he can
The letter to the Romans is all about this gospel .. in your reading of Romans see if you can identify a KEY VERSE for the book .. I’ll give you a hint .. it’s in the first chapter .. in these first 17 verses
That’s the man .. Paul a passionate man a servant (slave) of Christ Jesus …. called to be an apostle …. set apart for the gospel of God
Application
It’s that passion that we have to capture ourselves .. devotion to the gospel
There’s just one Paul of Tarsus true .. and .. we might say .. that’s OK for APOSTLES in the 1st century but a bit over the top today or we might think that it’s just extroverts that have passion .. that’s NOT true … Paul knew the depth of his rebellion .. and was overwhelmed by the GRACE of God .. and so he is happily ENSLAVED to Christ .. When we understand the depth of the FORGIVENESS and LOVE of GOD .. the horror of our sin .. plucked from the pathway leading to HELL .. we REJOICE .. now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (cf. )
When we see ourselves as TOTALLY DEVOTED TO CHRIST .. enslaved to Him .. when we get an understanding of the PASSION of Christ and see that we have been BOUGHT WITH A PRICE .. When you know you have been FORGIVEN MUCH .. you LOVE MUCH .. we see that being in His service is not drudgery .. we want whatever our Lord wants .. His focus is our focus .. we have a sense of INDEBTEDNESS
OUR passion will grow as we understand the GOSPEL
The Romans ..
The Romans ..
We see in the intro just who it is that Paul writes to
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ
These are Christians in Rome .. the capital of largest Empire around
There is no mention of CHURCH (ekklesia) .. it could well be that Jews were meeting in house groups with other Christian Jews and growing gentile converts got together in other home groups .. Christians were thrown out of Rome in AD 49 by Claudius … too many disturbances due to “Christus”
Paul writes this letter to a Christian community that he did not establish .. that he had no personal dealings with .. we’ll see that he’s often wanted to come and share with them but every time he’s tried something has stopped him .. invariably some angry Jewish mob and some Roman soldiers .. where he looks at the four walls of a prison cell for a while
There’s a STAND OUT feature of the Christians at Rome .. v.8
because your faith is being reported all over the world. they are on fire! Faithful. devoted. Noticed.
I don’t know what the WORLD thinks of our church .. I don’t even know what the rest of Wollongbar / Alstonville think about our church .. would be great to think that they say “Wow have you had contact with those people at CRPC .. they are warm and friendly .. they seem to really have a caring heart and even though I might not agree with them .. they certainly are confident in what they believe and really keen to share it with people”
Paul thanks God for them .. And .. has wanted to catch up with his fellow brothers and sisters for ages .. Paul is OBLIGATED to his gentile brethren and he has wanted to impart .. some SPIRITUAL GIFT .. ie an opportunity to teach them .. AND .. to be MUTUALLY encouraged by them .. and wanting to see a GREATER HARVEST vv.12-13 .. people are the focus .. Jew .. Gentile .. WISE .. FOOLISH .. Barbarian .. the GOSPEL is for ALL .. and Paul will seek to reach ALL .. not just sophisticated Jews .. his fellow countrymen … but all NATIONS

Preaching and the Gospel

What IS this gospel what is the CONTENT that Paul is so UNASHAMED of? What is this MOMENTOUS NEWS that Paul can’t stop talking about? It is all summed up in ONE PERSON .. Jesus Christ! The SON of God. Christianity is about BELIEVING and LOVING and TRUSTING and OBEYING Jesus Christ. It’s not about keeping some moral law.
That might sound like a NO BRAINER but most people we talk to think like that guy in WA who found out he was an ENGLISH EARL .. he said: “I’m honoured .. and I know I live up to it .. I never do anything I’m ashamed of .. I treat others as I treat myself .. so I’m as good a Christian as anyone” … there’s nothing about Jesus .. it’s about being GOOD .. keep the golden rule .. The BIBLE tells us the IMPORTANT GOOD NEWS is about a PERSON .. Jesus Christ. CHRISTianity!
BUT .. what particularly is it about Jesus that we need to know?
v.2 underscores that all this was PROMISED …the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son,
The Holy Scriptures are the OT .. the prophets speaking and throwing out the clues .. there was an EXPECTATION of God’s great and final act .. PROMISES had been made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon .. the prophets talked of the Lord’s anointed .. the messiah .. the suffering servant .. all the way through trying to put the pieces together .. coz this is GOD’S KING
It’s like the final scene as Inspector Hercule Poirot identifies the most unlikely suspect as the murderer of the Agatha Christie who dunnit
People were reflecting on the clues .. And Jesus is born .. a big SIGN .. the final clue. The MOMENTOUS NEWS is all about Jesus.. and notice the stress on He who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (vv3-4) Paul is saying “Look no more. God has revealed His final answer .. the final solution .. the mystery is solved in the GOD-MAN Jesus .. 100% God & 100% man .. we need to centre on the issue .. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JESUS CHRIST .. he’s the ONLY mediator .. the LORD’S MESSIAH .. Son of God
And Jesus is born .. a big SIGN .. final clue The message is all about Jesus.. and notice the stress on He who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (vv3-4) Paul is saying “Look no more. God has revealed His final answer .. the final solution .. the mystery is solved in the GOD-MAN Jesus .. 100% God & 100% man .. lot’s of people might want to talk about GOD .. SPIRITUALITY .. BUT we need to centre on the issue .. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JESUS CHRIST .. he’s the ONLY mediator
It was God’s plan and appointment that Jesus comes … not a last minute appearance .. this theme of Adam’s failure giving way to a second Adam .. identifying with our humanity is a strong theme in the letter to the Romans
This is important SON OF GOD teaching that Jewish readers needed to be especially aware of … Jesus did not come into being at his birth .. he already pre-existed .. He took on flesh .. the seed of David .. Jews looked for great David’s GREATER SON ..; .. the messianic HOPE focussed on a second David and the way of salvation .. God’s KING coming to the HOME TOWN of the greatest pagan KING in the world at that time .. God’s EMPEROR is far more important .. far more influential than this inferior Emperor
The SON OF GOD rode up to David’s city it was superficial praise for the messiah .. He only found REJECTION .. ultimately a cross .. Jesus who is BAPTISED INTO OUR DEATH and then RAISED FROM THE DEAD a powerful demonstration of God’s work .. that power that is released in the Spirit .. the Spirit of holiness .. a major idea through the book (e.g. Ch.6-8)
.. the prophets wildest dreams had simply not been wild enough ..
We’ll have a closer look at the specifics of what Paul is so passionate about in the gospel next week

But there is more GOOD NEWS to consider ... look at vv.5-6
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
It’s not entirely clear what the make up of the Christian community at Rome was .. it would seem that it was mainly gentile (1:13) with a significant minority of Jews .. themes in ch.4 & 9-11 need a pretty good Jewish understanding.. highly probable that the first believers were those Jews who responded to Peter’s preaching at Pentecost ()
NB Paul is calling all the gentiles to obedience that comes from faith … underline that .. but what does it mean? … obedience to King Jesus .. most obedience to kings is because you fear the consequences of disobeying the king .. but this is obedience because you have FAITH in Him .. this is a BIG IDEA in Romans .. highlight it .. and we’ll move on , obedience that comes through faith .. Paul is a big tease! More later so lets move on

The Power of the Gospel

There is no mention of CHURCH (ekklesia) v.7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: it could well be that Jews were meeting in house groups with other Christian Jews and growing gentile converts got together in other home groups .. Christians were thrown out of Rome in AD 49 by Claudius … too many disturbances due to “Christus”
The Jew / Gentile issue weaves all the way through the letter .. as usual in the first century the implications of the gospel on mixed congregations was a sore point .. the issues are integral to understanding the context of Romans
Paul’s passion is his calling .. as I said earlier .. Paul’s the sent one to the GENTILES ..
v.14
14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (ESV) the CULTURED (Gk) and the UNCULTURED (barbarian)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The apostle that knows that God’s vision is for ALL PEOPLE .. Jew / Gentile .. and every sort of Gentile .. learned and unlearned
To enjoy a relationship with the living God .. salvation for all people .. it is focused in understanding Jesus .. His work on the cross .. the resurrection
Paul’s mission was to the NON JEW .. to go where no one else had proclaimed this gospel .. this guy who was a Pharisee among Pharisee’s, went to the UNCLEAN .. he who had breathed out MURDEROUS THREATS … was to winsomely persuade pagans to embrace the Lord Jesus .. BUT .. NB where the POWER to transform lives is seen
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.
The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
AND .. that’s why Paul is NOT ASHAMED .. because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
ILLUSTRATION
Paul saw people through the grid of the gospel .. it’s hard for us to get our mind around this Jew / Gentile tension .. We can get some idea when we think about Jew / Arab hostilities .. or the problems we have at our cricket matches at the moment .. sledging of South Africa. Sri Lanka …
I heard of some Spanish scientists who are working on changing leukaemia cells back into normal cells .. rather than destroy the cancer cells with chemo or radio therapy
They are excited about this news and are doing press conferences .. writing articles .. telling as many people as will listen .. this is ground breaking news .. of course you wouldn’t be ashamed of news that could save so many people
Paul is NOT embarrassed about the the message of the Lord Jesus .. because people are saved with this message … and there’s another reason .. v.17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
NB .. the righteousness of God is revealed … NOT .. the righteousness from God
It’s not a righteousness that we receive from God .. it’s talking about the righteousness of God Himself .. the goodness of God .. how the rightness of God is revealed through the gospel .. it’s by FAITH .. first to last .. God’s goodness is NOT displayed by us doing good works .. or keeping religious rules and regulations .. God is seen to be in the right and good by saving us through faith
Jews thought “Why bother with NON JEWS .. Gentiles?” And Christian Jews who were still pretty wary of how gentiles could be loved of God .. surely they need to become Jewish first
People matter … Paul saw them as people made in the image of God .. people who need Christ ..
Don’t worry if that’s not as clear as you’d like it .. Paul is going to spend another 15 1/2 chapters explaining all this .. teasing it out in more detail
What Paul relied on .. where he put his confidence .. was in the MESSAGE empowered by God .. He is NOT ASHAMED of the GOSPEL .. it saves people
This is the start of the letter .. big themes are being laid down .. no worries
And that draws out this expletive from Paul: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Application
You see most ANE letters would start with a “Joy and prosperity to you from the gods” type of greeting .. Paul emphasises again 2 big ideas in Romans GRACE & PEACE .. a peace with God and with each other (esp Jew / Gentile) and all by grace
Application
The mission is ALL IMPORTANT .. that what God has called us to as well .. we need an urgency and a expectant attitude .. people are lost without this message .. and we have responsibilities .. at whatever level .. to be a part of this mission
If this is ONLY our work then it’s time to forget it
But .. here is our confidence .. I’m NOT ashamed of the gospel BECAUSE it is the power of God .. it’s God USING HIS MESSAGE … His gospel working in people’s hearts and CHANGING them .. from hearts of STONE to hearts of FLESH
Think about what we are called to do .. go to
ILLUSTRATION
A friend of mine was talking about a Chinese pastor who went to the leaders of his congregation and said “If you spent half as much on wedding receptions as you do and gave that to the church we could double our mission budget”
That’s passion .. when the purse strings are loosened .. when Jesus is LORD OF ALL
It’s a magnificent .. momentous message that we have to declare to people .. we need to have it clear in our heads .. there are helpful ideas just in these opening verses. I reckon it revolutionises our thinking when we share our beliefs with others when we see gospelling in terms of God’s call to repentance .. the gospel sets out the reality we can be right with God .. and it’s that which is vital to understand .. we come to God on HIS TERMS .. not ours .. the gospel isn’t about fixing all our pain and suffering, making everything happy and pleasant .. depression free, no more loneliness, all joy .. the “gospel” then is this Panadol for the soul .. some of the gospelling I hear is more about ME .. my needs, wants, hopes, aspirations, BUT the Bible has more to say about my need to confront my selfishness, my pride, my ignoring the one who ALONE deserves adoration .. the call is for us to be OBEDIENT because at the moment we are REBELLIOUS
Now we need to be WINSOME and SENSITIVE and think about what we say and how we say it to people but non the less it’s really helpful to be clear that what we present to people is a way of escape .. a rescue because yes we can take it or leave it in one sense BUT the consequences of leaving it are ETERNALLY FATAL … and I hope we share that with TEARS
Conclusion
Friends .. Paul’s passion has to be our passion … the GOSPEL .. a love for CHRIST has got to move our thinking .. the KINGDOM has got to motivate our decision making
JI Packer .. KNOWING GOD .. pg, 256 says “do we understand ourselves? .. our real identity .. our real destiny? .. I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too
That’s all that matters .. if things have been disappointing, frustrating, disastrous .. when people reject you, when a relationship fails, when you are criticized, .. one thing doesn’t change .. you are always God’s child .. loved redeemed .. because of God’s FAITHFULNESS to you .. His grace if it has truly met you, means nothing can sever the relationship you have with Him .. he doesn’t just see you performance .. he sees Jesus in you . our PERFECT SUBSTITIUTE .. praise His Name
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