Ready To Preach!
Paul writes the opening lines of his letter to the church at Rome.
Paul introduces himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel
Paul is writing to the "beloved of God, called to be saints."
Then from Paul comes this emphasis:
"So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone
Paul plainly says, "I am ready to preach the gospel."
Now a preacher does not get ready to preach overnight.
Paul says, by means of an unwritten, "Now": I am ready after training at the feet of Gamaliel.
I'm ready to preach after being temporary blinded on the road to Damascus.
I'm ready to preach after having my soul cleansed by Christ, and my name changed, and my identity altered.
I'm ready to preach after having escaped Damascus in a basket.
I'm ready to preach after being given this thorn in the flesh, this agent of Satan to buffet me.
I'm ready to preach after being in jail and, after having a prayer meeting with Silas that caused
an earthquake in Philippi.
After all of this -- after all my ups and downs, my trials and tribulations, my poverty, and my plenty,
my feasting, and my famine -- "Now," I am ready to preach the gospel.
Look at this word, and you'll discover that when Paul says,
"I'm ready to preach the gospel," he does not use the Greek, kerygma, usually translated, "to preach."
Rather, he uses the Greek, evangelizo, which means, not only "to evangelize,"
but also, "to proclaim the Good News concerning the Son of God."
The implication is that when we preach the gospel -- the evangelizo -- we become the evangelilon,
the messenger, who brings good news.
There is also another word directly related to evangelilon: "evangelos."
The evangelos is the soldier who comes from the field of battle with a leafy garland about his head,
races into the city with hands raised, and cries out, " Chaire, nikomen! "
Or, "Greetings! We have won!"
That's good news!
Paul is saying that:
"I'm ready to preach the gospel.
I am ready to be the evangelos.
I am ready to tell you that we have won."
What a tremendous message from an imprisoned preacher sitting in a jail cell sent to church people
hiding out in caves and catacombs whose condition and disposition are the very definition of doom
What a tremendous message: "We have won!
What a tremendous message from a limping, itinerant Jewish preacher on his way
to Nero's chopping block, along with those to whom he wrote: "We have won!
What a tremendous message from an almost blind, shivering, lonely, forsaken, worn out,
burned out, and stressed-out preacher given to those who would soon be taken into the Roman Coliseum
to become food for lions: "We have won!
What a tremendous message from one who had spent 23 years on three missionary journeys establishing
churches all over Asia Minor, and had seen churches divided over doctrine, fractured by jealousy,
hindered with pettiness and strife; set upon by Satan, infiltrated by preachers who were imposters,
rocked by the sexual scandal of incest in the church, and yet, could still declare Good News:
"We have won!"
Paul's life is the best definition of authentic preaching.
The preacher, the evangelos, is to tell those who have been: dejected and deserted, deceived and deflated,
defiled and degraded, demoralized and defeated that there is Good News: "We have won!"
There is power in preaching because the gospel has the ability to tell us where we are.
The activity in our world and the activity in our lives require that each of us stop and ask, "Where am I?"
To overstate the obvious is to suggest that, in order to find out whether you are lost,
you must discover where you are.
The gospel fixes for us our location.
We hear a sermon that describes our condition and our situation, and strangely enough,
it defines very clearly where we are and what we are experiencing.
Then, in response to the preaching of the gospel, we are able to say, "That's me!"
If you identify with the woman with an issue of blood, it probably means that, you also,
have been sick and unable to recover.
If you identify with her condition of loneliness and helplessness in your own experience,
you can cry out, "That's me."
That enables you to know where you are.
If you identify with the man born blind, and suddenly realize that there are some things
you cannot see -- when you become aware of blindness that causes you to stumble in the darkness
-- and when you find yourself feeling your way along the blackened corridors of a sunless society
-- and when you realize that, in every respect, you are the man born blind, and that helps you to know where you are.
If you identify with the prodigal son and come to the realization that you have spent your inheritance
in riotous, unproductive, and unredemptive living -- if you're able to honestly admit, after hearing
this old, old parable, that you have also let money run through your fingers -- if you're able to see,
even though you may live in a physical palace, you actually reside in a spiritual pig pen -- if you're able
to see what you have become -- you may not like it, but it helps you to know where you are.
The gospel will enable you to know where you are.
It is important to know where you are.
It's extremely important to know when you are lost.
It's obviously true that no one can appreciate being found until he has first been lost.
It is precisely in the process of discovering where we are, of moving from our lost condition to being found,
then, there comes to us new meaning to these old words:
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found,
' Twas blind, but now I see."
The gospel has the power to make people whole in a broken world.
The preaching of the gospel is designed to take the fragments of human life and bring new meaning
and new life out of the old, broken life.
Ask the newlyweds of Cana, what happened to them, and they will tell you that Jesus took water and turned it into wine.
Ask the man with a withered hand what happened to him, and he will tell you that Jesus straightened out
his hand, and then straightened out his life.
Ask the 10 lepers what Jesus did to them, and they will tell you to look at their hands for they are now new
and they have no more leprosy.
Ask the man at Bethesda pool, what Jesus did for him, and he will tell you that He enabled me to stand
on my feet and walk.
He will tell you that his bed no longer carries him, but that he carries it.
The preaching of the gospel has the capacity and the power to make persons whole and complete.
The Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter was not just healed -- she was made whole.
The centurion's servant was not just healed -- he was made whole.
Jairus' daughter was not just raised from the dead -- she was made whole.
The woman with an issue of blood didn't simply stop bleeding -- she was made whole.
The gospel makes a person whole!
Jesus said: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
When one is free, one is whole!
Jesus said: "I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly."
When a person comes to know the abundant life, that person is whole.
Jesus said to those whom He healed: "Go in peace, thy faith hath made thee whole."
The gospel is the answer of God for a bad reputation.
Isn't it amazing, as you read the Bible that many people whom the Bible mentions are themselves faced
with a problem of a bad reputation?
Isn't it strange how the Bible, which points people to righteousness, has as its primary examples men
and women who are noted for their unrighteousness?
All through the Bible there are people with bad reputations:
Cain killed Abel.
Jacob cheated Isaac.
Moses killed an Egyptian.
Noah got drunk.
Baalam was disobedient.
Sampson chose the wrong wife.
Solomon had too many wives.
David stole another man's wife.
Peter was unpredictable.
Matthew was an extortioner.
James and John were hotheads.
Simon was a revolutionary.
Mark was a copout.
Timothy was a failure.
Judas was a cheapskate and a thief.
The gospel is God's answer to a bad reputation.
The gospel lets us know that no one is:
Too lost to be found
Too low-down to be lifted
Too far out to be brought in
Too dirty to be washed
Too hungry to be filled
Too thirsty to be satisfied
Too soiled to be saved
Too repulsive to be redeemed
Too far out and too lost to be rescued.
God knew about reputations, when He came down one night in Bethlehem.
He came down through 42 generations.
He came down into a manger filled with hay.
"... Made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2: 7)
God knows about bad reputations.
That's why He reaches into pig pens for prodigals.
That's why He visits death row where criminals sit in their cells.
That's why you find Him where men have been beaten and left for dead.
The gospel is God's answer to a bad reputation.
Paul says, "I am ready to preach the gospel... for I am not ashamed of the gospel Christ."
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God.
It is not a power; it is the power.
The gospel is the dunamis -- the power to bring salvation to everyone that believes in Jesus.
It is with this power that we must be obedient to His ultimate and final command
-- Jesus saves!
"Go preach my gospel, saith the Lord,
Bid the whole earth My grace receive;
He shall be saved that trusts My word,
And he condemned who'll not believe.
Teach all the nations My commands;
I'm with you till the world shall end.
All power is trusted in My hands;
I can destroy, and I defend.
He spake, and light shone 'round His head;
On a bright cloud to Heaven He rode;
They to the farthest nations spread
The grace of their ascended God."
Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White