“The Gospel of Christ”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Throughout history, lots of amazing speeches have been given. Some were made by presidents. Some were offered by special dignitaries or other famous people. Leaders of companies and motivational speakers have made speeches that will not soon be forgotten. Perhaps you have said something that made a lasting impression on many. Yes, speeches are important, especially those which convict somebody to do something meaningful and worthwhile. Well, the Bible contains several speeches that changed people's lives. The words of Moses and Joshua, in the Old Testament, come to mind. Obviously, the messages from Jesus caused people to think about their relationship with God. Today on “Key to the Kingdom,” I want us to look at some excerpts of a message given by the apostle Paul. He shared his words with people who were interested in hearing about Jesus Christ. They were words which changed their lives. It was a speech that helped them consider how they needed to respond to what Jesus had done on their behalf. For the next few minutes, we will consider this same message. We will think about the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross, His burial in a tomb and resurrection from the grave. And as we are reminded of Jesus’ great sacrifice and love for each of us, we will see that Paul's message is still worth our consideration. I trust you will stay tuned to this station as we open up our Bibles and study a lesson entitled “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Is there one person in your life who has influenced you more concerning Jesus Christ than any other? If that is true, it might be a parent or another family member; it might be a preacher or a spiritual leader. And perhaps the reason you like that particular person is because of the way he or she shared the story of Jesus Christ with you. Maybe that person retold some other biblical stories and made some great application, or perhaps he or she lived out, in their own lives, the things they taught to you. Oh, whatever it is. We appreciate those who devote their lives to sharing and to living out the story of Jesus Christ. I know one man who has led thousands of people to faith and obedience in Jesus. For over 50 years he has gone all kinds of different places telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ and His salvation; and, no doubt He is a spiritual hero to many people. Well, from the beginning to the end, the Bible focuses on the story of Jesus. We see it in the messages of those who wrote the Psalms and also in the messages of those called the Old Testament prophets. People like John the Baptist and the apostle Peter had something to either write or say concerning Jesus Christ. And those messages have still impacted the lives of people, today. They have lasted over a number of years and they have stood the test of time. Well, there is one who had more to write and to say about Jesus than any other. His name was the apostle Paul. Some consider Paul to be the greatest evangelist who has ever lived outside of Jesus himself; and perhaps that is true. At one time, however, Paul was known as Saul; and maybe you remember his story. When the growth of the church was taking place early on, Saul realized that, “Hey, this isn't what I want to see happen;” and he took it upon himself to stand in the way of those who were belonging to the way of Jesus. He received permission and authority from others to go to and persecute those people. In fact, he would go to different places of worship and different people's homes and he would persecute them. He would put some into prison and even was guilty of perhaps putting some to death. Well, one day Saul, along with his friends, was going to the town called Damascus to do that very same thing. And as they were traveling along, a great light from heaven shined down up on them, and no doubt it came from God. It knocked Saul to the ground. He was blinded for three days and three nights and he did not eat. And in that light, the voice of God spoke to Saul. God had Saul’s attention and He told him that he would be going specifically to non-Jewish or Gentile people. And his purpose would be to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God; and that would lead them to receiving the forgiveness of sin. Well, his friends helped him up and Saul went into a town called Damascus. There he learned more about Jesus. There he was baptized into Christ. His sin was forgiven and God empowered him with the Spirit. And from that time on Saul, or Paul as he would then be called, began to go and share that Good News story with many people. For the next 30 years he traveled everywhere telling people about what Jesus had done for him and how He had done the very same thing for those people, also. One example of that is found over in Acts chapter 26. Paul was standing before King Agrippa, on trial for his life. He did not know for sure whether or not he would live or die, but he was giving his testimony of the task God had given to him. Listen to these words that he told Agrippa: “I was not disobedient to the vision I received from God.” No doubt, Paul was referring to that time back in Acts chapter 9 when God told him, “I want you to be My spokesman to the Gentile people.” Yes, Paul took that responsibility and that task very seriously. Here's another example of that. Paul had a commitment to sharing the story with people, even whom he had never met. We find that in the letter called Romans. He did not know these people, but he did know they were followers of Jesus; they belonged to The Way. And in his opening remarks to those Christians in Rome, he wrote this, in chapter 1 verse 16: <I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.> Paul was not ashamed. He was not embarrassed. He did not shy away from telling other people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News message of salvation. I think about Paul having a great love and appreciation for the spiritual leaders in the church called Ephesus. He has spent quite a bit of time there and he was about to leave. He did not know for sure if he would ever see those men again, and so he offered some parting words of encouragement for them. He wanted them to be aware of the potential dangers that might come into the church, and so he offered some advice and counsel. But then, he closed with these words, in Acts chapter 20 beginning with verse 20. <And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.> Paul's task was to testify, to share with others, the Gospel of the grace of God. That was his responsibility. That was his duty, and he took it very seriously. Let's notice one more passage; 1st Corinthians chapter 9, verses 16 and 17. <When I preach the Gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel. If I preach voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.> Again, God had entrusted Paul with a very important responsibility. This was his duty. This was his job description, and he took it seriously. Oh, the salvation Paul received changed him completely. It so convicted him that he spent the rest of his life sharing that same Good News message of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. Yes, that story was important and it consumed his life. In Acts chapter 13, Paul and his friend Barnabas were selected by the Holy Spirit to do mission work. And they went on that mission trip, or that mission journey, ending up in a city called Antioch. And while they were there, one day Paul was invited to share a message of encouragement with the people who were meeting in the Synagogue. No doubt Paul was excited and happy to do that, and according to verse 16 he spoke to both Jews and Gentiles. He began by summarizing God's work in the past. He highlighted how God had delivered the Israelites from Egyption captivity. He mentioned the fact that God set kings and rulers over the people to guide them in the way they were to live. And then Paul referred to something that was a little bit more current for these people, and that being John the Baptist. We remember how John was the one who announced the arrival of Jesus into this world. John went everywhere encouraging people to soften their hearts and to change their lives, to repent of their wrongdoing so they would be able to receive the message and the ministry which Jesus came to give. And so there in Acts chapter 13, after laying that groundwork, listen to the words that Paul shared with them beginning in verse 26. <“Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning Him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have Him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now witnesses to our people. We tell you the Good News: What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”> In this message, Paul emphasized the death of Jesus Christ, His burial in a tomb and His resurrection from the dead. And that was the primary point Paul wanted to emphasize to the people there in the Synagogue, but he wasn't done. He continues on with these words, starting in verse 36. <“For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his father and his body decayed. The One whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.”> Well again, Paul shared that part of the story revolving around Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; that Jesus came to offer the forgiveness of sin and to provide a way for people to be right in their relationship with God. Obviously, this was good news for those who were seeking forgiveness. This was the ultimate answer for those who were in need of God's salvation. Well, the story goes on there in chapter 13 to state that people believed in Jesus. They received the forgiveness of sin. They were made right in God's sight and they gained the promise of eternal life. There are some 20 other speeches here, in the book of Acts, very similar to this one. Many were shared by the apostle Paul, some by the apostle Peter, Stephen and others who were great evangelist and proclaimers of God's news. But all of those messages had at its core the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. That was important and those people recognized it, and that is why they shared it over and over again. And for the most part, in all of those 20 different messages, the people responded favorably. And the result was that many were added to the number of those who were being saved. The apostle Paul presented the Gospel in a way where people could recognize their need for Jesus and for His free gift of salvation. He was an effective communicator. And by understanding the needs of the people to whom he spoke, Paul made the message of Christ come alive. He applied it directly to their lives, and he invited them to receive God's free gift. Paul did not hide from what God had done for him. He was not embarrassed about the message he proclaimed. Paul's life had been changed by Jesus and he wanted others to experience the same thing. Tradition tells us that Paul died somewhere around AD67. And if that is true, then Paul wrote a letter to a group of people living in Rome; we referred to it a minute ago. It's a letter called Romans. And even though Paul had never met these believers before, he wanted to remind them of some things that were important. He reminded them how they became a part of God's family and true disciples of Jesus. In fact, he wrote something that corresponded to what Jesus did. He wrote something that corresponded to Jesus' death and burial and resurrection. Oh, he did not know if he would ever have the opportunity to meet these people firsthand. And if that was the case, then, he wanted to put something before them that they could never forget, of how they became a part of God's family and received the forgiveness of sin and the free gift of salvation. And so listen to what Paul wrote to them, beginning in chapter 6 of Romans, verse 1. <“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him.”> You know, those verses seem to repeat themselves in a variety of ways, don't they? But verses 3 and 4 seem to be the key of what Paul is trying to communicate. He says, “Don't you remember, don't you know that you died to the sin in your life? You were then buried with Jesus Christ in baptism and then you rose up to embrace a new life. You died to sin, you were buried in water and now you rose from that water grave.” And no doubt that was symbolic to what Jesus had done, and these people, there in the city of Rome, could very easily make that connection. Paul reminded them how they had participated in the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ symbolically, and now they were united with Him. They were a part of God's family and they could experience every blessing and promise that God had in store for them. Oh, the Gospel story of Jesus Christ made a difference in Paul. It made a difference in all who heard and responded to it, and it is still relevant and important for us to consider today. Yes, we are united with Christ and we become a part of God's family, the very same way the people did in the day of Paul. Nothing has changed concerning that life changing message. It is the “Good News.” It is the Gospel story of Jesus Christ, and it still brings salvation. Over 40 years ago, I did what those people in Rome did. In fact, I remember the day of my conversion to Jesus Christ. I remember where I was and what city. I remember what I was wearing. I remember the man who baptized me into Jesus Christ, in that water grave. Oh, that was an exciting day for me and it changed my life forever. And I reflect upon that from time to time; I am reminded of what Jesus has done for me, and for so many others throughout this world, as well. And I have tried to make that conversion to Christ make a difference in my life, so that I could be a blessing and encouragement, not only, to others but also to be assured of my salvation with the Lord. My prayer for each and every one of us today is that we all can hear and respond to what Jesus has done for us, that we recognize the great love that God has shown by offering His Son as the ultimate sacrifice to remove the guilt and the burden of our sin so that we could be right with Him. Oh, my great desire and prayer for each and every one of you today is that you, also, will hear that Gospel message. That, you will allow it to make a difference in your life and respond to Jesus, by putting your faith in Him, turning away from that sin, and being immersed in Christ and rising to walk in a brand new life with your eternal salvation.
Many people enter into a church building like this one on a regular basis. They do so for a variety of reasons. Some people come to fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Some come to partake of the communion or the Lord's Supper and to remember Jesus. Others come to hear the Good News message of Jesus Christ. And that is typically done on a regular basis. Someone will stand before those who are gathered and recount the story of Jesus. He will refer to various passages of Scripture and then make some comment on them. And that is done for two primary reasons; first of all, to remind those who belong to Jesus Christ of who He is and what He has done for them. That is done to remind people of the great sacrifice He made and the wonderful privilege and opportunity we have to be a part of God's family. The second reason it is done is to tell people who have never heard the story about Jesus Christ. It is done to remind them or to share with them the great news that God sent His son, Jesus, to this earth to die for the sake of all mankind so that we might have the opportunity and the privilege to be a part of God's family. I hope and pray that you have received that Good News message, and you have responded to it in faith and obedience. Oh, the Good News message of Jesus Christ is important. It needs to be shared on a regular basis, because it can change our life, not only now but also for all eternity.
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