Radical is NormalPastor Jerry Gillis - January 17, 2016
You never know what God might do with your bold obedience to Him.
Community Group Study Notes
- What fears, obstacles, or concerns do we allow to get in the way of us being messengers of the Gospel?
- How can you ensure that you pray for boldness more faithfully as it pertains to sharing the Gospel? Take time to pray right now for someone in your small group, your spouse, or a close friend to be given radical boldness; ask that they pray the same for you.
As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
So I'm a little fuzzy around the details because it happened in middle school, and in middle school the two hemispheres of your brain have not yet fully fused together. So it's hard to remember some of those things. But I do remember being a go-between between a buddy of mine, whoever that was, and a girl. And you know, that go-between where you're going to ask them whatever. He wanted to know if this girl would either, we called it back in the day "go with him". I don't know where they were going 'cuz they were in middle school and they can't drive, right? Maybe to class or to a locker or whatever but. So either that or it was something around you know the idea of going to some dance or something like that, you know. I don't remember what it was exactly. Has anyone ever been a go-between for like any of those conversations? Am I alone or have you ever done this? Okay, great. The rest of you, do you have friends? It's never happened to you? I mean, really. Or maybe your friends are just really mature and really cool ,and it's never happened to you.
So I went and did the best job I could to try and sell this girl on how cool my friend was and how you know, how she should go wherever they're going, to a dance or whatever they're doing. And so, I did my best, and she said yes. She was like yes. She agreed to whatever it was he asked. Now how quickly do you think I tried to find this dude on campus, right? I'm going everywhere looking for this cat. Do you know why? Because I have got some really, really good news and I knew upon his hearing it was going to be really, really great for him to be able to hear.
I think, I tell you that because I think that lost in the idea when we begin to talk about like in church life and faith living, and we start hearing words like gospel, and like how the gospel lays claim to our lives, and how the gospel you know, we should be people who communicate the gospel and those kinds of things. One of the things that happens is that we get kind of lost in a little bit of a theological mud-slide, and we forget that gospel actually means good news. That this is actually something that is really good news for people to be able to hear. They may not know that yet. They may not really not think that, but it is really really good news.
Now if you are like me, any of you who came to faith realized when you came to faith in Jesus Christ however old you were whether that was recently or not so recently, that when you came to faith in Jesus Christ, you realized just how good this good news is. Because there was bad news, right? The bad news associated with it was that we have sinned and we have come short of the glory of God, and we can never kind of earn our way back into God's favor. That none of those things can happen, and that we can't even help ourselves. We can't even save ourselves. No amount of showing up at some religious ritual, no amount of you know, walking people across the street, or cleaning your room or whatever. Even though I recommend all those things, you know that's good to clean your room and help people cross the street. But none of that earns you a place in terms of the Kingdom of God. It is really the work of God that does that on our behalf. And so we realize we're helpless, God's the only one who can help us, and in His doing that, that is the great news. The great news is so great because the bad news is so bad. And we realized that when we first came to know Jesus.
Now, when that happened for me, you didn't have to convince me of how good the news was. The news was fantastic. So much so, that I was quick like really after coming to a place where I really surrendered my heart to Christ, I was serious about telling my friends like right away. I mean like right away. I'm talking about within hours of coming to know Jesus, I had already talked to a couple of my buddies, Eddie Rhodes, PJ Novac, I could name them, told them to come to this thing that we were doing, you know, at this place. And you know, they're like what is it? And I was just like just come, there's girls, come on, man. Everything's cool, just come, right? And they came, and their lives were transformed, Eddie is a pastor today. I mean it's a, I haven't kept up with PJ, so I don't know what he's up to, but Eddie's a pastor today in the Atlanta area. I mean so, I was serious about this right from the very outset because I knew how good the news was.
And in fact, I was young enough and maybe bold enough I would say, as a young man to be able to realize that I'm willing to do whatever to be able to talk to people about Jesus. It was just something that was hot on my heart because I believed so seriously in the message that transformed me. And so we listened, me and some of my buddies that were in this kind of college class in our church and that had grown, that grew over a summer from forty to over a hundred in this college class in a summer, because all these young men and women started getting serious about the good news of Jesus and started telling friends about it. Well, in that particular meeting while we were there, they were teaching on you know, Joshua and the walls of Jericho, and walking around the walls seven times, you know ,and all that stuff. We were like right on, man this is cool.
So me and three other friends, their names were Jeff and Eddie, one of these other guys and Robin, a girl, and myself. We were like hey, let's go down to Underground Atlanta, it's this place, kind of a... at this time it was a reasonably new like shopping, nightlife club destination kind of place to go. Let's go down to Underground Atlanta, and let's walk around that thing seven times, and let's just start praying and see what God does. Now this is the twenty year old version of me, all right? And we were like, let's just, let's get it, let's go do it, you know?
So we decided we would, we did. We were you know, one time around, two times around, we're just praying. And Eddie and Jeff actually got a little bit ahead of me and Robin. And after we'd gone around three times, like three and a half times we were at this, behind this kind of structure, behind this building, and we were going to come around kind of to the side where it would go out to the street, you know? And there's like an arch there where it said Underground Atlanta on it.
And so, when they were coming to the building, right before they turned the corner, Eddie and Jeff just stopped and they waited on us, I don't know, twenty-five seconds or whatever it took us to walk that direction. And as soon as we turned the corner, gunshots started going off. I actually saw the white of the gun going off. It happened to have been a drive-by shooting in Atlanta. By God's grace, they had actually waited on us for about twenty-five or thirty seconds, had they not, they would have been right I mean face to face with the gunfire. But when we turned the corner and the guns started going off, we were right next to this large concrete planter, and we dove right behind it, and we were in good shape. But three people got shot that night, one in the leg, one in the chest, one in the head. And as they are laying there, we ended up after they got shot and people drove off and before the ambulances came, we went and we started praying over them, asking God to do something. Because we had already been walking around praying at this point asking God to do something dramatic.
Then the ambulance came and they were working on a guy and they were there's no pulse no pulse, you know, and we're like okay, this guy's in trouble but we continued to pray over him, they got him back, he still lived, one of them died, the guy who got shot in the leg just ran, I don't know where he went. So, after all of that, the news crews show up and they start interviewing our group, I wasn't on camera, but Eddie and Jeff were on camera. And they're like what happened? And they're like, well, we were down here walking around this place seven times like Joshua did in Jericho, we were praying for this place. And we were gonna' be able to pray for this place, and maybe share the gospel with some of these people. And then all of a sudden the bullets started going off and I'll tell you what that is, that's just the work of the enemy because he didn't want us down here talking to people about Jesus. And so they're going off. Do you know how much of that made it on the newscast? Zero. Nada. Nothing because they thought these people are lunatics, right? Sure enough, then he's talking the whole time, he's like then there's this one guy, he got shot and they didn't have a pulse on him, they were working on him, we just stood over and prayed for him, then they got him back. And we just think it was the work of God showing him grace, and we want to be able to follow up, maybe talk to him in the hospital, blah, blah, blah. So we're telling this all to the news station and they're like, that's awesome. Cut, cut. Edit, you know I mean, so that was done.
So, I tell you all of that to tell you, that we kind of we just decided to do whatever God asked us to do. And it didn't matter if it felt like we needed to do something that was, we didn't feel like it was heroic or anything, we were just there doing what God told us to do. Sometimes in our life of faith, it is going to require us kind of stepping out and getting involved sometimes when we share the gospel. It can be little harrowing. At this point in my life, I've been literally all over the world, I haven't been to every country in the world but I've been to lots and lots and lots and lots of them at this point. And I've had an opportunity to preach the gospel all over the world, and I have been in a number of different situations that have been less than comfortable. I know what it feels like to be mocked, I know what it feels like to be misunderstood, I know what it feels like to be marginalized or mistreated. And I thought a time or two realistically, that I was going to find out what it meant to be martyred. Those are not really encouraging fun kinds of circumstances.
In fact, there was a time where we were in the country of Jamaica. And it was probably 1990, and I was with myself and another pastor, we were leading this group. I was, again, I was 22 I think at the time, 21 whatever I was. And I was to helping, I was kind of the assistant to the guy that I was helping lead, his name was Craig. And we brought a group there, and we were doing a bunch of open air meetings where you know, we'd kind of set up, and then when it got night, we'd show the Jesus film, we'd preach the gospel, we had a generator, you know, kind of a set-up, some electricity if at all possible. It was one of those deals. And this guy came out one time when we were in this meeting, and we were all standing there getting ready to do our thing, and it was night time and we were in a village in the middle of nowhere. And this guy who had smoked a bunch of the whacky weed had came out, and he had a machete and he started screaming that he was gonna' send us all home in body bags. And I was like wow, that's awesome.
As I was thinking about that story, I actually remembered my buddy Craig, and he's now in Charleston, South Carolina. So what I did was I texted him because I was, let me see if I can find it here real quick. I'll read it to you. I texted him because I wanted to see if he remembered that deal. Because it was back in like, literally like 1990. So here's what I said: I'm speaking Sunday on radical boldness and was reminded of the time in Jamaica when the stoned dude wielding a machete said he was going to send us home in body bags. Remember that? Good times... He replied back: Wow, what a throwback. Yes I completely do remember - crazy situation - we definitely pressed forward - good times indeed. Then here's what I said: The way I remember it, you hid behind me sucking your thumb as I parlayed my ninja skills on that guy...or something like that. He responded: So that's how it's going down on Sunday huh - throw me under the missions trip bus...count on me tweeting out the real story :). Then I said: Ok, ok, I'll shine it up a little and make us all look like real Christians instead of the "we're gonna' die" leaders that we really were. Oh, man, yeah, we were a little nerve-wracked. I mean, we played the part you know and looked like okay, we're keep everybody behind us and if he comes he's got to go through us and all that stuff but we're kinda' looking at each other like we're gonna' die, we're all gonna' die.
You know, the funny thing is, we all want to be bold, don't we? But sometimes it's a struggle, right? It's sometimes it's a struggle. We all want to be bold in being able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it can be a challenge. But here's the good news. Even the apostle Paul, who was a stud, who saw Jesus face to face, even the apostle Paul asked people to pray for him to share the gospel boldly. We're in good company.
In fact, I want you to look at the very end of the book of Ephesians, it's in chapter number 6. And I want us to be able to take a quick look at what Paul actually asked, and what we can learn from that about people that are, that demonstrate kind of a radical boldness. And we'll talk about that, what that means in just a second. Listen to Ephesians 6 beginning in verse 19: "Pray also for me, Paul says, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
All right, so here's the deal. Paul is imprisoned in Rome when he's writing this letter to the church at Ephesus. And he's there waiting to stand trial before Caesar. Now that's just all by itself got to be a little bit of a harrowing deal. When I say imprisoned, it was kind of a house arrest deal with a soldier that was living with him, and we'll get to that in just a second. And some of you may remember how he got there. I'm not sure if you do or you don't. If you read from Acts 21 all the way through Acts 28, then you figure out exactly how Paul ended up in Rome where he's writing this letter to the church at Ephesus.
But let me just run through it real quick for you without calling attention to every verse and chapter. So Paul ends up coming back to Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit led him to come back to Jerusalem. While he is there he had with him a gentile named Trophimus who was an Ephesian, actually. It's interesting that he's writing to the church at Ephesus here, he had Trophimus who was an Ephesian, a Gentile. Well, while Paul was there, he went into the Temple but some of the Jews that were there accused him of bringing Trophimus into the Temple into the place where only the Jews go. And he didn't do that, but they accused him of doing that, and they got in a huge uproar about the whole thing. And so, what happened was Paul stopped them and began to share his testimony about what had happened in his life and the gospel that he was now a servant to and that he was preaching. And they were listening, the Scripture says all the Jews were listening intently, because they knew the kind of guy he was and that he had come out of Judaism and that he was kind of Saul who studied under Gamaliel and he was a stud when it came to the Law. So they were listening very intently like okay, okay, okay until the very end of his talk when he said oh yeah, and this good news, it's also for non-Jews. It's also for the Gentiles, and they were like oh wow, let's get this guy. So then they got the Romans involved and said you need to arrest this guy, he's a humongous trouble-maker. So the Romans snatched him up and they were about to give him the business and Paul went, hey, you might want to hang on a second. I'm actually a Roman citizen and they like oh, so we probably shouldn't have arrested you, this is probably going to be bad, we don't want to do that. So they kind of took him and they kind of held onto him, but they didn't punish him at that point.
Well, the Roman leaders figured out that the Jews actually had a plan to kill Paul in the night, and so they got Paul out of there and they moved him to a place called Caesarea. And he was staying and imprisoned there in a place that Herod had built right there on the sea and so while he was there he stood, had to stand trial before Festus, which was the Roman governor at the time. And before Festus he told him, he said hey, here's what I'm here for, I don't really know why I'm here, but I'm blah, blah, blah and he kind of told him the whole deal and even shared his testimony about how his life had been transformed. Festus listened, seemed like he was inclined, but he ended up not doing anything at all. So Paul languished for two years there in Caesarea, without really anything going on, and then ultimately after Festus was gone Felix took his place, Felix the governor. And when King Agrippa, who was king of the Jews, came and visited Felix they both together heard Paul give his kind of defense of why he was there, why he should be let go, and all those kinds of things and Paul ended appealing to Caesar. And so they said, well, okay, then to Caesar you will go. So they put him on a guarded ship, and that ship began to sail and make its way to Italy, specifically they were headed to Rome. There was a lot that happened in between when you start reading chapter 27 particularly in the book of Acts, a lot happened in between, including shipwrecks and other things, but then he finally made it to Rome.
And here's what happened when he got to Rome, Acts chapter 28 Luke tells us this "When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him". In other words, he was under house-arrest. So he's writing the book of Ephesians, and he's talking about the idea of the church, he's talking about the purpose and the nature of the church and then how practically that works out, and then at the very end of Ephesians he makes a personal kind of request for those that are reading this letter, that they would pray for him, that he would speak the gospel boldly as he should, because he knew he was awaiting an opportunity to be in front of Caesar.
Now if anybody, Paul knew exactly what it felt like to be mistreated, and he knew what it felt like to be marginalized, he knew what it felt like all of these things, right? In fact, he was ultimately gonna know what it felt like to be martyred. But do you know what Paul realized before all of those things? That he was a messenger of the mystery of the gospel. That's what he says in here, because he knows what that looks like for him.
Now, even though you and I are not Paul or Paulette, and we have a different context, what's important for us, ladies and gentlemen, is that we realize that we can learn some things based on the life of the apostle Paul, and based on the call that God has placed on our own lives. Because all of us, in some sense, are messengers of the mystery of the gospel. If we have put our faith and trust in Jesus, if we have been born from above and changed, we are messengers of the mystery of the gospel.
Now, what does that look like? Well, I'm going to show you what it looks like for Paul and what it should look like for us. The first thing that we see is that a messenger of the mystery of the gospel will boldly embrace their assignment. Now listen, here's what Paul did. Paul knew that his assignment was really clear. That's why he was asking for them to pray for him. He was gonna' have to speak to Caesar. He knew this was something that he was commissioned to do, and that he was assigned to do. And so, it was even seen by the way, he's writing this to church at Ephesus, right? The book of Ephesians. Well, Acts tells us that when he left Ephesus, he met with the Ephesian elders. And do you know what he said to the Ephesian elders? He told them about his assignment.
In fact, listen to what it says in Acts chapter 20. Paul said to them when he was leaving them, he said: "And now, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing me. However, I consider my life nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." This is the task. You know what he knew about his assignment? It was gonna' be tough. The Holy Spirit told him every city you're going into you're gonna' face hardships and persecution. It's gonna' be tough. But Paul said, this is about testifying to the gospel the good news of God's grace to everyone. And this is an assignment that I am boldly accepting, and he did.
In fact, it should be known to those of us who've read the scripture, that when Paul was converted, do you remember how he was on his road to Damascus where he was going to persecute some believers, and Jesus stopped him cold in his tracks. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And then remember that he was blind for a brief period of time, for three days, and then Jesus told Ananias I want you to go to Saul and I want you to lay your hands on him and he's gonna' get his sight back, and you're gonna' encourage him and treat him like a brother. And Ananias was like, umm, Jesus, about that you know this is Saul, right? The one who is actually showing up to kill all the people that are like me, that people that like you, he wants to kill them? He's like, no, no, everything's okay.
Do you know what Jesus said to Ananias about Paul? He talked about his assignment. Listen to what He said in Acts chapter 9. "But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man Saul, (Paul) is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." So we even know when we read the Scripture that Paul had a very specific assignment from the very time that he was converted, and Paul began to understand that more and more and more. In fact, when Paul was on that ship from Jerusalem - I'm sorry, from Caesarea all the way to Rome, and remember there was bad storms and all that kind of stuff and shipwreck and all of that? You know an angel showed up to Paul and told him about his assignment, and that Paul used that to comfort everybody on board?
Listen to what the angel said - Paul recounts it in Acts chapter twenty-seven. The angel said, "Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you." In other words he said this: Hey fellows, we're going to be o.k. Do you know why? Because I've got an assignment. And my assignment means I'm going to be speaking in front of Caesar. We're not there yet and I know it's a bad storm and you think we're all going to die. We're not. We're going to be fine because I've got an assignment from Jesus and he's going to fulfill that and I'm headed there. So what Paul did is he boldly embraced his assignment.
Now, let me say this to you. I know that your context in terms of the life you lead, you're not going to be necessarily put on ships and be shipwrecked, and all that kind of stuff - that's probably not everybody's calling here. I got it. But you are - listen to this - you are on assignment wherever you are. That wherever God has you in your life, you are on assignment. If that's at your school, or if that's at your place of work or if that's at the rotary club, or if that's in your book club in your neighborhood, or if that's because you live in a neighborhood or an apartment complex, or if that's at your workplace or if that's with all the other families that you play baseball with or you do dance with or you do any...gymnastics with or soccer with or hockey with or whatever - whatever it looks like, wherever you are, you are on assignment.
You see, that's ultimately the commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew twenty-eight when he said, Go. Go and make disciples. Now, that word go is not the command. The command is to actually make disciples, but that word go means as you're going, wherever you go, wherever you find yourself, here's your assignment. Make disciples. That's your assignment. So ladies and gentlemen, I want to say to you that you are on assignment just like Paul was. It's a different context, but you are also on assignment wherever you are. This is the genius of the body of Christ. This is the genius of God in the church, that everywhere we go we are mobile temples walking around with the glory of God residing in us. That wherever you go, God goes, because he lives inside of you as a transformed believer in Jesus, so that you can bring the reality of his glory and the reality of the gospel into whatever context, even normal context that you're in, wherever you find yourself, you're on assignment.
So, I got to take a breath. So he shows a bold embracing of his assignment, but there's a second thing. Messengers of the mystery of the gospel show a bold allegiance to King and Country. Now let me explain what I mean when I say that. Paul said in verse number twenty, he said for which I am an ambassador in chains. Paul actually said, I want you to pray for me that I will declare the gospel fearlessly, because I am an ambassador in chains.
Now you know what an ambassador is, right? An ambassador is a representative of a leader and the country from that leader. So we have ambassadors in the United States all over the world. We have embassies oftentimes where those ambassadors are in the world, and what they are there for is they are there representing the president and representing our country and the interests of our county in that particular place. They're at an embassy, and they're an ambassador.
Now here's the thing. Paul says, I'm an ambassador, and even though Paul was ethnically Jewish, his first priority was not representing Judaism. And even though Paul was also a citizen of Rome, his first priority was not the empire. Paul's first priority was King Jesus and the kingdom of God. This is what he was showing his allegiance to. In fact, if you remember when that great disturbance happened in Jerusalem that I told you about before he got shipped out to Caesarea and then shipped out to Rome, during that disturbance, it's interesting what the Lord showed up and said to Paul in Acts twenty-three. Says, "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"
You know what's interesting about that? The two countries and the two places that could hold his allegiance are actually places that his new king, King Jesus, was assigning him to be able to communicate that he was an ambassador of the message of the mystery of the good news - that humanity can be reconciled to God through Christ. He was going to do that for the Jews and he was going to do that in the empire. So, he recognized that his allegiance was to his King and to his Kingdom, not to his ethnicity - Jewish - and not to his citizenry which was Roman empire.
Now ladies and gentlemen for us, I think it would help us to understand that the first priority representative that we are in our lives is not, as the people of God, is not as citizens of the United States. We're delighted to be citizens of the United States. We want to be good citizens of the United States. But sometimes for people - listen closely - sometimes for people, their nationalism trumps their thinking regarding the Kingdom of God. That's a mistake. That's a mistake. And, your priority representation is not about the class of people that you are, whether you're a particular socioeconomic class or your ethnicity or any of those kinds of things. That's not the first priority for the believer. It doesn't mean that we're grateful for that. We are. We're all grateful for that, for whatever our backgrounds happen to be. But our priority is the Kingdom of God and the King himself, the Lord Jesus. That is our priority.
I wonder what would happen in our lives, sir, ma'am, I wonder what would happen if you actually viewed yourself as an ambassador of Jesus. That you have actually been commissioned by King Jesus and he has said, here are your credentials. Your credentials that you have are all because of me, but here they are. I'm giving them to you. And you are now having the opportunity on my authority to be able to bring the message of the mystery of the gospel to the world that you live in. You may not have to cross the sea to be able to do that. You see, being on mission doesn't necessarily mean crossing a sea. It means being able to see a cross. That's what the mission of God is - that we can help people to see the cross and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we can proclaim that good news to the world wherever we might find ourselves.
What if you looked at your life as an ambassador? It would change the boldness and the fearlessness and the freedom that you have in the process of being able to share the gospel. It wouldn't be so weird to us anymore, because we would realize, this is what I'm supposed to be, this is what I'm commissioned to do. It would seem odd if an ambassador of the United States was fearful to talk about the United States, wouldn't it? That would seem odd. And it seems odd that people that are supposed to be ambassadors in the Kingdom of God are somehow scared to talk about the King and his Kingdom. We are ambassadors.
But let me give you a third thing here. Messengers of the mystery of the gospel boldly proclaim the message. Now, when Paul uses this term boldly, it's translated in the NIV fearlessly. Same term in Greek, and it's fair to translate it boldly or fearlessly, and another way of looking at that word in the Greek language is also freely, without hindrance. That's also another way to look at that word. That you can communicate and share the gospel freely. Now I'm not talking about how we puff our chests out and have to raise our voices louder than everyone, or be obnoxious or stand on a street corner with a bullhorn. I'm not talking about any of those things. What I am talking about is this. When we are free to share the gospel, it's because we understand the message.
Listen, we don't often talk about things that we don't know much about, do we? Unless you're that guy. Right? We've all run into him at a party. That's awesome. They're talking about everything. They're an expert on everything. You can bring up anything, right? You can just say a word and they're an expert on it. Endoplasmic reticulum. Let me tell you about endoplasmic reticulum. Let me tell you a little something about that. Man, I was just, ah, you know, I just watched this...Let me tell you about movies. I know something about that. You know it's like, I don't understand it but some people just are like that. Edie and I know someone just exactly like that from our past. I mean this dude knew everything about everything. He was an expert on everything except for he's not really an expert on most anything and you know it when he's talking but you just don't have the heart to tell him because this just makes great theater. And you just enjoy it while it's happening, right? Yeah, this guy has no idea what he's talking about, but just let him keep rolling. Keep rolling. In fact, I'm going to send out another biscuit, and let's see what he does. Right?
I don't have tendency to do talk about things that I don't know, right? Which means that I don't talk about a lot of things. Period. Because there's a lot of things that I don't know about, right? Like when I got some guy who's talking to me about cars...I try to look the part. But dude, I know nothing about cars. Yeah, I put a little, ah, put an engine in there, put a twin overhead cam, dual exhaust hemi with some back burners and what...you know I'm just like, I'm listening going yeah, um-hmm. Yes. I'm like, yeah, that sounds good. Sounds like that thing will go. Yes, sir! I drive a Hyundai Sonata. Yes sir, yes sir. I get in that thing, I crank it, I drive it. That's what I do. Occasionally, I stop and I got to backup. I put it in that R. You know, the R, right there on the dashboard? And I go backwards. Yeah. That's right. I can go pick things up. Can drop people off. I got a lot of experience with cars. I don't know what I'm talking about, right? So I just let it go. I just look at him like, yeah, man, tell me all about it because I don't know what you're talking about. But it's great. I'll listen nicely.
Here's the thing. What does damage sometimes in our world is that even though we are ambassadors who have been given an assignment, we don't know the message. We don't know the message and so we don't feel free to be able to talk about it, because we don't really understand the message. And when Paul uses the term he actually talks about the mystery of the gospel. That he is a messenger of the mystery of the gospel. And I want us to see this in a least a couple of frames real quick as I begin to start landing this plane a little bit. When he uses that term mystery, he's used it before in some of his other writings. In first Corinthians he uses the word twice. In Colossians, he uses it four times but in Ephesians he uses the term mystery seven times. He's actually saying quite a lot about this idea of mystery, and when he says this mystery of the gospel, we need to understand how this mystery unpacks - how this message unpacks. And I don't want you to miss this because this will help us - you and me - to be able to be people who can communicate the gospel and be a messenger of the mystery of the gospel.
See, the first thing you have to understand is that the message is a "He" message. By that I don't mean it's a message just for dudes. I mean that it's a message about God. That the very first thing about the gospel that you have to understand is the gospel, listen closely, the gospel is not about you. It is for you, but it's not about you. It's about God. This is a "He" message before it is anything else.
Listen to how Paul begins to unpack that with his use of the word mystery in Ephesians chapter one. He says, "With all wisdom and understanding, he (God) made known to us the mystery of his (God's) will according to his (God's) good pleasure, which he (God) purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ."
In other words, this whole story, from the very inception of it, the whole good news, starts with God. It doesn't start with us. It starts with God. And what God does is he initiates, and had always known he was going to initiate a rescue plan for humanity even before we actually failed. God knew this already. God had initiated this process and this plan because Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. This is a plan that God had in place all the time to rescue the world through Jesus, so that when we put our faith in him, we can be reconciled to God. You see, it's a "He" message before it's anything else. And we had a tendency to try and make it about us before anything. It's actually about God. It reflects God's character and God's nature and God's graciousness and God's mercy.
And so we need to understand the gospel is first of all a "He" message, but then secondly it's a "We" message. Listen to how Paul used the terminology of mystery in Ephesians three. He says, "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery," - listen to this - "this mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."
Do you know what the reminder is here? Paul says here's what the mystery is. The mystery - is that there used to be just one people of God and that was ethnic Israel. Chosen by God to demonstrate his glory in the world. But do you know what the mystery of the good news is, the gospel? Is that when Jesus came, and he died for sinful people, that it was not just for Jews, but it was for non-Jews as well. Anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus can be transformed and can become a part of a people of God.
In fact, you've got to remember what people before Israel - people who were Gentiles - what they felt and what they experienced. Paul wanted them to know. He wanted to make sure they understood. Listen to what he says in Ephesians two. "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands) - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, you were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you once who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility."
Here's what he's saying: He's saying even though you were without hope, you were not a citizen, you were not a part of the people of God, now you can be. Because of what Jesus has done, now you can be. This is a part of the mystery of the gospel that we are now sharers, or heirs together with Israel and sharers in the promise. That we have been grafted in, and we are now a part of the chosen people of God called the Church, which is made up of both Jew and non-Jew - whoever put their faith in Messiah Jesus. That is who makes up this group of people.
So it is a story, ladies and gentlemen, this gospel, this mystery, is first of all a "He" message. It is about God and then it is about what God has done with a people. It's a "We" message. But then, it's a "Me" message, right? You knew where I was going, didn't you? It's a "He" message, it's a "We" message, and then it's a "Me" message.
Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians three. "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things."
You know what's great? Even when Paul talks about himself, he still can't help but say, you know what the gospel's about? It's about God. It's about what God's done. But do you know what that...what God's done? Is that he is rescuing the world through his Son Jesus, and that he is creating a people for himself made up of Jew and non-Jew that put their faith in Messiah Jesus, and do you know what that's done Paul says? It's changed me! I'm now a servant of this gospel. I've been transformed because of this gospel. You see, ladies and gentlemen, ultimately, this is what helps for us to understand the boldness that Paul is talking about because he understands that the mystery of this gospel is a God message, and then it's a people of God message, and then it's a me or an individual message.
You see, the reason that we need all of that, ladies and gentlemen, is because the "He" message brings credibility. We're not just some - listen - when we go out and start running our mouth about us and this and us and church and blah, blah, blah - we're not just another infomercial lost in the noise of everybody else's infomercial. We are first and foremost a people who are testifying to what God has done in the world through Jesus. That's why the "He" message brings credibility.
The "We" message yells out accessibility. You don't have to be in a special class of people anymore. Anybody, anywhere - every man, every woman, every child has an opportunity to be reconciled to God through what Jesus has done on our behalf, dying for our sin, rising from the dead and by our faith in him everybody has access. This shows accessibility.
And then what does the "Me" message part of the gospel say? Relatability. Where we can say, you know what? This is what God has done in the world. This is what God has done in opening the door for a people to be called his own. And guess what? It has changed me! It has shifted everything about who I am, and what I do and I'm transformed as a result.
So I tell you that to help us round out the idea that when we are people who are people who share our stories of grace, we aren't just sharing our story of grace, we're sharing the story of grace. It is about God. It is about a people and then it is about us. This is important for us, ladies and gentlemen, to understand because this is what we know and when we know it, we will more freely communicate it. When we know it, we will be more fearless in our opportunity to talk about it.
So what I want us to do is I want us to pray and ask God just like Paul did to give us boldness to share the mystery of the message of the gospel. Just like Paul did. Now you know what? Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him, right? He's standing trial. He thinks he's going to stand trial in front of Caesar, and he wants the boldness to proclaim the gospel. And so he said, would you pray for me about that? Have you ever wondered sometimes like, did God answer that prayer for Paul? Do you think God answered that prayer? Well of course you do. You're like in church. I'm asking you a silly question, right? Of course you think he did. But do you know so? Like did you sit down with Paul at Starbucks or Tim Horton's or whatever his favorite was and ask him about it? No. But do you know what? I think we've got a hint in the Scripture.
Do you know that Paul's last - probably his last letter that he wrote he was writing to Timothy, and in second Timothy he's still writing being under some sense of imprisonment. Listen to what he says in second Timothy chapter four. He says, "At my first defense,"...huh. That must mean he stood in front of somebody. "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth."
Do you know what Paul's saying there? Very likely he's talking about having stood in front of Caesar Nero and proclaimed the message of the gospel boldly and fearlessly, and he was kept from the mouth of the lions, and God answered the prayers of the Ephesians who prayed on his behalf that he would proclaim fearlessly the message of the gospel, so that - here's what Paul knew - Paul knew that in his proclamation to Caesar and the halls of power that the gospel would run free in the Roman Empire. Even though eventually it would cost him his life under Nero, he knew that he had the opportunity because he was on assignment, he was an ambassador, and he did what God called him to do. And do you think that that impacted other people? I guarantee you that that impacted other people, because you never know what God is going to do with your boldness through obedience. You never know what God may do.
Let me take you back to Underground Atlanta for just a minute. After we got...this whole thing happened, right? I had to take the young lady home because she was freaked out after we were praying for these people, had been shot up and stuff - she's freaked out. I took her home. But Eddy and Jeff stayed, and after everybody cleared out they finished walking around and praying to make sure we got seven times in. Then after that, the next day or the next day after that - I can't remember if it was a Friday or a Saturday that this happened, but we were back in church, and we shared with our college group what had happened. We told them all about it, told them about sharing with the news, talking on the news station and blah, blah, blah, and they didn't show any of it, and talked about the guy who got shot and prayed over him they said, we went back and finished walking around all seven times and then that was that. We told everybody and that was that.
Little did we know but a different group of about six to eight of those college students that were in that group they got really what they felt like was God impressing on their hearts to go down the next weekend. We didn't know this. They went down the next weekend and didn't walk around the place. They just went there to share the gospel with people and led more then ten people to Jesus at Underground Atlanta - right in that place. Now here's why I tell you that. Here's why I tell you that. Because boldness catalyzes boldness. When people are bold for God, fearless for God, it actually gives other people a reminder that I can do this. Do you think that happened in Paul's life? I can guarantee you it happened in Paul's life, because not only when we act in boldness and we share our faith - listen to this - God will not only start to work in our own hearts to show us his faithfulness in the process, and as a result it will make us continue to be bold - because we all get nervous, we all get scared, we all get freaked out, right? But it will also impact other people around you to remind them that they are to be about the business of being an ambassador who's on assignment and who can fearlessly and freely proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, if you look at the very end of the book of Acts, you find Luke relating what Paul was doing while he was under house arrest. Listen to what - his words - listen to Luke's words by the inspiration of the Spirit in Acts twenty-eight. "For two whole years," (this is how the book of Acts ends). "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ - with all boldness and without hindrance!" This is what he did in the Roman empire. Paul - every day with a guard in his house, had people coming by and he continued to proclaim the kingdom of God in the heart of the place that was persecuting and killing people for this very message. Do you think that that impacted the people who were small in number, who were coming to see him? I can promise you it did because it was these groups of people that the Scripture says turned the world upside-down because they chose to sell out to the boldness that only the Spirit can give and share the message of the mystery of the gospel.
So, I am for you, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrating the gospel by your deeds. Your life needs to match your talk because you know how that looks when it doesn't, right? I am for that. I am for you serving people and doing all those things. I am for all of that, but the words have got to come. The message of the mystery of the gospel has to be articulated by the people of God. We've got to show them with our lives, but we've also got to declare with our mouths that this is a story about God and about how God has called a people and how God has transformed our lives, because when we do that, it will give us even more boldness and when we do that it will catalyze people around us to be more bold. Because this is the mission of God for our lives, that we can demonstrate to every man, every woman, every child the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what we are on earth to do.
So, you're on assignment, and you're an ambassador and you've got a message. And I want to say this to you about the gospel, because I'm running out of voice. The gospel is not just the best news that people will hear that have never met Jesus. It is the best news they'll ever hear, but it's not just that. It's also the best news that you that are followers of Jesus will hear today, because the reason that you have to just kind of drink in and saturate yourself with the reality of what God has done in Christ for the world is because when we really saturate ourselves in that, that's when we have the opportunity to be able to freely share this with people that are around us and our lives are transformed in such a way in our relationships, in the way that we forgive, in the way that we treat other people, in the way that we look at the world - everything's transformed because of this. That's what God's called us to be and to do.
So, pray that God will allow us to be that kind of people. Would you put your heads down for just a moment as we pray? We're walking out in just a minute. If you're here and you're in this room or in the East Worship Center, and you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus. I mean I've walked you through the reality of the gospel - that God loved the world so much that even while we were sinners, Christ came and died for us, because God's holy and we've made mistakes. We can't earn our way into his presence. It's he that has initiated showing us sacrificial love through the giving of Jesus, who came willingly to a cross on our behalf to pay for our sins and to rise from the dead, conquering our sin. And that when we put our faith in him we can be transformed. We can be made new. And so if you've never come to a place where that's happened in your heart I want to encourage when we dismiss in just a moment for you to come by the Fireside Room. It's out in the Atrium on the backside. It's clearly marked. Just come by and speak to one of our pastors in there, one of our prayer partners in there. Just say, you know what? I want to give my life to Christ. I want to know what it means to be transformed. We'd love to take a moment with you.
And Father, for those of us that claim to know you, I pray that you would write on our hearts that we all have an assignment. That we would not just kind of try and think to ourselves, oh, my life's so normal. I could never be on assignment. God, you do the radical in the midst of the normal. This is exactly where you want us. Whatever our assignment is, wherever we find ourselves, would we be a people that would live life on mission showing the beauty of the gospel in the way that we live and proclaiming lovingly, graciously, and without hindrance the gospel that we believe because God, we know it testifies about you and about what you've done in the world. And God we don't want to be ashamed of that. We want to be empowered by your Spirit to effectively share that with the world that needs it just as we do. We're just basically beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. And so help us to be that kind of people, God, that in humility and grace and love we share the message of the gospel with those around us. And Father I pray that you would empower us as Paul prayed for people to pray for him, he asked for prayer, God we ask for you to empower us to be a people that represent you well that share the gospel with those that are around us. And God, we know that we can't ever fully understand what you'll do and how you'll do it but God, we never know what you might do with our willful obedience to fearlessly share the beauty of the gospel with the world around us. We trust that you'll use us. In Jesus' name, amen.
God bless you folks. Have a great week.