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The People of God Doing the Work of God
Scripture: Romans 15:14-33; 16:1-27
Track 14 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 34 minutes, 24 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, August 31, 2003
"The People of God Doing the Work of God"
(Romans 15: 14-16:27)
C. Sackett

58,325 names. The replica of the Vietam wall was in Lincoln this past week. Each wall is 246, nearly 247 feet long, 70 panels. 50,000 enlisted men's names, 8 women, 2,933 from the state of Illinois, 14 with Quincy addresses.

As I was standing out there among those who were visiting the wall at various times during the week, I overheard somebody say, Chapman, we're going to find his name on the wall. It really is a moving sight. I've not had the opportunity to see the one in the National Capital, but I intend to get there.

It's intriguing to me that this particular person who made that comment wasn't interested in 58,324 other names, just one.

There's another list, maybe you have seen the movie, after which it was named, 809 men, 297 women, 1,098 names in all. They got to survive because of Schindler. An interesting book out, that details the history of the survivors, I don't know, four or five hundred pages of chapters that are no more than two or three, four pages long. Each one about a particular person who survived the holocaust because of Oscar Schindler. Roman Ferber, Victor Lewis, the list is nearly endless.

Well, the list we have in Romans Chapter 16 isn't nearly as long, but in my opinion, is every bit as interesting. Seventeen men, ten women, four of them very obviously Jewish, five of them very clearly slaves– in that list is the son of Simon of Cyrene--remember the one who carried the cross of Jesus--after he couldn't carry it any further, his son, Rufus, is in the list. People who are called those of Herod's household--remember Herod?--his family lineage is the one that tried to kill all of the children two years old and under who were born at the same time Jesus was born. This Herod's family, in whom the murderer of Jesus is found, his family is numbered among the Christians in Rome. There are sisters, the beloved, fellow workers, fellow sufferers, fellow prisoners of war. Oh, but it's not the expanded list that interests me, it's those individual names, Phoebe, Priscilla, Aquila, Rufus, Epenetus. It's never just a list. In fact, one of the most famous sermons preached, at least those recorded by preaching today, has Fred Craddix (??) saying please don't call it a list. It's not just a list. I don't suppose it's ever just a list--never just names--has something to do with people, doesn't it?

Well, that's our text, Romans Chapter 15 and 16. It's about people. For example, people who respond to God's call. People who have a God-sized dream, if you will. Look at Romans Chapter 15. We come to the end of the book and usually when you get past all that theology stuff, you get into those final moments of one of the writings in the New Testament, then you begin to hear the closing and sometimes if you're not careful, you cut off the closing. You don't think through the closing.

I'm just going to read a couple of verses here starting in Chapter 15. The paragraph actually starts in verse 14. I want to come down to the middle of verse 19 and just let you hear Paul's heart. So in the middle of verse 19 he says,

So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written:

"Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand."

This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul, on his way to Jerusalem, to deliver the offering from the Gentiles to the Jews, says, I'm on my way to Spain. I want to go where the gospel has never been preached before and I'm going to stop part way there and hopefully you can become my base of operations. He's raising funds. That's what he's doing. Getting ready to go to a church that he's never visited before, in order to go beyond where he has been and to preach the gospel where it has never been preached before. This vision of unreached, untapped places and people who have never heard the gospel. God-sized dream. . .a call that comes. . . and Paul responds.

I've met folks like that. Among the first that I met was Edgar Nicholls, about the size of a pencil, used to frighten me when I'd see him walk around, ‘cause he just struck me as so feeble. Decided in his mid-thirties that he was going to become a missionary. Decided to go where nobody had ever gone and so he went to Tibet, back in the days of communist control and they learned he was there. And so just prior to the dead of winter, Edgar and his wife and his children and two Sherpas started across the Himalayan mountains to escape the communists. He picked up malaria along the way. When they got to India, he sent his family on home and he stayed in India for two years before he could get home. When he got done, actually got better and had established a work in India, he came back to the United States, got restless and decided, this isn't where I want to be--so he ended up going to Ghana and beginning a work in Ghana and when that was done, he went to Hawaii. I suppose somebody's got to go there. Started a church in Hawaii and then when I met him, he was an eighty year old man teaching in our school, telling us stories. God-sized dreams!

I took over the office of Max Ward Randall, who tromped all over central Africa--who started missions in nearly every central African country--pioneered South Africa for the Christian church mission. I remember sitting, as a Bible college student, in chapel one day, and a big, tall fellow by the name of Gene Dulan stood and told the story of, what was then called Toronto Christian Mission. . . .about how they would go in to these Eastern European communist countries and they would deliver Christian literature and how they would pray to cross the borders, less they get discovered to have Bibles in their van. . . . and I thought to myself. . . I would love to do that. And 25 years later when it was no longer called Toronto Christian Mission, now called TCM, International, I got my first opportunity to visit in Eastern Europe. Gene Dulan was a man with a God-sized vision who was responding to the call of God. You know some people like that. Benjamin and Colleen Matthews, for example, who went from this congregation to Africa to fly for AIM. Out mission team has been visited by Jason and John Rowe who are on their way to Concord, New Hampshire to plant a church in the largest city in the state of New Hampshire where there is no Bible believing Evangelical church.

People with a God-sized dream responding to God's call. You know some of those people don't you? - - - who've impacted your life--because of their response to God's call. It's about people, isn't it?

Well, later in the text, I'm gonna jump to the end of Chapter 16, over in verse 17, we hear about these people who respect God's honor, people with a God-sized conscience, if you will. Paul closes the letter, by saying in verse 17, I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. (my kinsmen, fellow Jews)

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, (the secretary) greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

People who have impacted Paul's life and yet here are these others who stand in contrast to Timothy and Gaius and Sosipater and others who are dividing the church and he says, watch out for those people because they don't have respect for the honor of God. Paul's very concerned that the church be united and that people who are not going in the same direction, following the same plan, believing the same things, would somehow get in a place of power or authority. And so he contrasts these divisive people with people like Gaius and Timothy, fellow workers. Gaius, who was a hospitable person, in whose home the church apparently met. Erastus, who was a city official, whose picture, whose stone is in the ground in Koran. I have a picture of Brian and Frank kneeling at the Erastus stone in Koran.

I've met people whose concern was for the church, who believed that the church needed to be united. Maybe these are people you've never heard of. . . .Carl Ketcherside, Non-Instrumental Church of Christ brother from St. Louis, who for years. . . .I used this advisedly. . . .fought for the unity of the church. Brother Dowling, who taught on Lincoln's campus for years and years and years, who longed to see the church, be the church, and not be divided by denominational names. I think of Delbert White, first preacher that I ever had an opportunity to preach a revival for going into the hospital in Springfield, Oregon. We were getting on the elevator and some guy got on . . . . I may have told you this story. . .he obviously was in pain and when the elevator started, it started with quite a jerk and he let out with words that were just a little embarrassing, shall we say. Not new words to me, I'd grown up around those words all of my life. I didn't think anything about them and all of a sudden I heard Delbert say, "Sir, I'm sorry your back hurts, but saying those words will not make it feel better and they're highly offensive. So I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't use them in our company any more." As I picked my jaw up and re-closed my mouth, I realized there are some people in the world who feel so strongly about God's honor that they absolutely refuse to let other people in their presence dishonor him by their vocabulary. Do you know some people like that? People who have impacted your life because they want to defend God. . . .because they want to be God's person who have somehow impacted you by their desire to be God's person - People-- People who serve God's community. People with a God-sized ministry.

I love this list in Romans Chapter 16. Listen from Verse 1.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.

Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

Greet Herodion, my relative.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

And the twins. . .Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

People who are so utterly intriguing, I wish we had an hour to talk about them because they are fascinating. We will just pick up two or three. Phoebe, who is a sister, a servant, a saint and a benefactor. This is a lady, by the way, who has the same word used about her that is used about me, that is used about you in your ministry. She is a minister. . . . . Sometimes translated, deacon; sometimes translated, servant. Phoebe.

There is Priscilla and Aquila, the ones who risked their lives. They were hosts of a house church. There wasn't no building in Quincy, it was house churches in Rome. It was this vast group of people who would meet various and local places. They were fellow workers and you notice whose name is used first. It is Priscilla and Aquila. . . an interesting observation.

And then there is Epenetus, the very first convert. What a tribute to a man . . . . to be the first one to name the name of Jesus in all of Asia. What a remarkable story he must have had.

Then there is Andronicus and Junias, a wife and husband, Junias being the wife. They were considered outstanding among the apostles. There's an interesting idea for you. We have always known that there were apostles other than the twelve. She's the only woman called an apostle, probably missionaries. They have a term used of them that is quite fascinating. They were prisoners of war. These were people who served time for the sake of the gospel. They went to prison because of Christ. They were Christians longer than Paul was. That was his, well, sometimes we get so caught up in believing that somebody with this enormous testimony of how bad they were before they finally came to know Jesus has the only testimony in the world. Listen, their testimony was they have been Christians longer than I have. You know, there is great testimony in those who grew up in the church and just simply stayed faithful to Jesus all of their life. I'll trade that place any day of the week.

Do you have some people like that in your life? I do! I've told you about one of them, Dan Rainier. He's the young man who was willing to risk crossing the tracks over into my neighborhood to become my friend. I don't know if I was his first convert or not. But, I was his convert.

I think of Eva Stump, whom I met in the first church that I preached in. She worked in the nursery. Took care of the little kids. Now in our church there were so few kids that it meant that anybody who didn't want to go to church. Could have been two, three, four, five, six, seven years old all the way down to infants. Eva worked in the nursery, by the way, 68 years non-stop. And you think asking for a couple of weeks is rough.

I think. . . . . .I think of my friend Donald D. McCrae, one of the finest elders I ever had the opportunity to work with. I remember seeing him sitting with a high school kid who was a son of a single mom and trying to "father" this young man, even though Donald would have been in his late 70ties. I remember him, watching him, walk around the church and shake hands with people on Sunday morning and every once in a while, somebody would shake their hand and they would bring their hand back and realize that he had left a twenty dollar bill or fifty dollar bill in their hand because he had heard that they were having financial trouble and he just had a spirit of generosity and that's how he did his benevolence.

I think of Jack and Carolyn Osborne, whom I'm not sure I can talk about. Who, when I was in my first church being attacked by some people in the church, became my confidant, became the person that I would go to and talk to and cry on his shoulder. He's the man who took the proverbial 2 X 4 and hit me over the head with it and said, "Did you ever think that some of this might be your own fault?" That's a real friend. Their the ones whose 13 year old daughter was kidnaped, raped and murdered in southern California. And in those two lives I saw the ability to deal with grief like I have never witnessed in any other couple on the face of the earth. I still have the letter that Jack wrote to me when he attended the trial of the man who was finally caught seven or eight years later. His testimony of God's grace and mercy has shaped who I am.

I think of Kenny Beckman, who in his now nineties is still teaching. He was my professor in college. I will never forget, about three or four years ago, having the privilege of going back to the school where I attended and he was teaching class and I was standing in the doorway listening as he was waxing eloquent, only to have him 90 plus years old, stop in the middle of his lecture, walk to the front of the stage and literally jump down off of the stage and run and give me a hug in the audience. You have people like that? People who have impacted your life, people who have shaped your destiny, who have made you who they were in some way. I . . . . . . first dating my wife, we went to visit her uncle Jack, who was in his eighties and walked with two canes. We had to wait for him to get back from the nursing home where he was visiting the old people.

As Fred Craddix says about Romans Chapter 16, there's a word for this list of names. The word the Bible uses for this list of names is church . . . . church, because church is not a place. It's people. It's who we are, not where we meet. It's who we are, not where we're from. The church is about people who have a passion for God. . . . who dream God-sized dreams. . . . who have a God-sized conscience. . . who are involved in God-sized ministries. . . . .who shape the lives of the people around them. And that, quite frankly, is what we're asking you to become.

You've heard me say before that I have some concern that our little vision statement "A Place for You to Get to Know Jesus Better" is too much about place, not enough about people. And so we are making a shift and here's the new vision statement that you're going to start hearing around here from now on. The one that we're going to be asking you to ascribe to.

The Madison Park Christian Church is a People

Whose only Passion is Jesus

Whose only Ambition is to Know and to Follow Him Better

Whose only Desire is Whatever it Takes to Love and to Seek the Lost

I'll get the wording right eventually. We'll learn it together. But it's what we're asking you to become. A people whose driving passion is Jesus, whose desire is to know him and follow him better, whose willing to do whatever it takes to love and to reach people who do not yet know him. We want to become those kinds of people because it's those kinds of people who shape the world. It's those kinds of people who have shaped your life and mine.

In your bulletin, when you came in, you should have found a postcard, looks like this. If you don't have one if you'll hold your hand up, we have ushers ready to deliver them to you. We have pens placed in the various pews, if you don't have one, or if you don't have access to a pen, um, stick your hand up and we'll make sure you get one. We're gonna take about five minutes, very briefly, and let you write a note to somebody who had impacted you for Christ. We don't care where they are. If you have the address, you put the address on here and stick this in the offering tray and we'll mail it for you. If you don't have the address with you, we're inviting you to take this home and address it and mail it. If you can't afford the 23˘, bring it to the church office. We'll mail it for you. We want you to take the time to write a note to say thank you to somebody who has impacted your life spiritually, just as Paul has identified 27 people, we're asking you to identify one or two, write them a note. My first note is going to be to my friend Dan, whom I have not thanked in a long time for introducing me to Jesus.

This is our response. Not a song, not words, but words! So if you'll take these out while Loretta plays, write your note, I'll come back in just about three or four minutes and we'll collect these along with our offering.

If you haven't had time to think about who you'd like to write to, let me encourage you to take those cards home and use them. If it happens to be somebody here and you just want to hand deliver it, please feel free or if it's in the offering tray, we'll see to it that it gets to an elder or Sunday school teacher or whomever you have addressed it to.

We're trying to help make this thing real and practical. It's so easy to come and sit through church and hear sermons and then go out and think I should do something. We're wanting you to actually do something to let people know that you appreciate the impact you've had in their life.

It's time for the offering. It's one of the ways we let God know how much we appreciate his impact on our life. We invite you to share as an act of worship before him. Father, thanks for people who have impacted our lives. For those who have shaped us into who we happen to be now. And I'm praying that we might become those who will shape the lives of others. We bring you this offering of notes, as well as, money, as well as, thanks and worship because we love you. In Jesus name, Amen.