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Disciples Living in the Power of God
Scripture: Romans 1:1-17
Track 1 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 21 minutes, 10 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, June 1, 2003
"Disciples Living in the Power of God"
( Romans 1:1-17)
Copyright 203 G. Charles Sackett

I sat in the bleachers one day talking to a young man who in the early 1970's was probably the epitome of what it meant to be the classic "hippy" and we were talking about the change that could come over his life if he were willing to submit himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And I remember turning to look at him and seeing the tears just running down his face as he wrestled with this idea that life could be different.

Good news! Life can be different. It's one of Paul's favorite words. He uses that term "Good News" sixty different times in the New Testament. It's only used seventy-six times altogether and Paul uses it sixty of the seventy-six. He uses it nine times in the book of Romans. He uses it three times in the text that we're going to look at this morning - this idea of Good News. The word you're going to see in the text in front of you - Romans, Chapter 1, is the word gospel. We've come to hear it, I suppose, a pretty common church word. We talk about the gospels. We talk about the gospel. It literally means, Good News. And the question is, what in the world is so important about that Good News? Why is it so significant? And that, I think, is the heart of what Romans is trying to teach us is, what is the Good News and why is it so important. I want to start with the very first chapter. Unfortunately, we'll not be able to cover every verse in Romans in the course of the summer but we will do our best to give you an overview of the whole book. We are going to start with this first basic section - the first seventeen verses. I'm going to ask you to follow along while I read, Romans - Chapter 1.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

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. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

It's pretty easy to kind of caption this text, to put little tags on the various sections of these seventeen verses.

For example, verses 1 through 4, or actually maybe 4 you might caption it this way - the person of the gospel - Jesus Christ literally is the heart of the Good News. That's what he's trying to communicate to us. This text is about Jesus. This gospel he promised--verse 2 beforehand through his prophets regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, through the Spirit was declared to be the Son of God with power through the resurrection. The heart of this particular text is about Jesus. That's what the gospel is. The heart of the gospel is the Good News about the coming of Jesus Christ, predicted, anticipated and declared that he is the Son of God, Human and Divine.

According to verse 5, we're to have some sense of his honor and the honor of his name. In a commentary on Romans by John Stott, he makes this comment about verse 5. We should be jealous for the honor of his name, troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honor and the glory which are due it.

It isn't honored, you know, not in our world. It's used rather flippantly, almost all the time. Read the comic books it's there. Watch television and you'll hear it, but normally not in honor, but simply as another word.

I had a strange moment this morning. I had - I'm not even sure I want to share this with you one of those strange moments. I was sitting, thinking about the sermon, going over my Sunday morning routine, thinking about this text and the honor of God and wondering how, as a young person, without any church background at all, how God got a hold of my life. I can see this today, right now, as if it were happening to me all over again. I'm walking down the street in this little town of ours, this little burg of 400 people. Forgive me for what I'm about to tell you. I was a pagan. I'm sorry! I was in the habit of using that single finger obscene gesture. I know none of you've ever done that. I did. And I remember as I was walking down the road, contemplating that--I'm not going to show you what I was doing with my finger. But all of a sudden, it became apparent to me that if I was doing this obscene gesture, it was pointing upward. Now this is my feeble, pagan mind. If I'm ever going to do that again, I better do it sideways cause I sure don't want God to think it's to him. Somehow that wrestling going on inside of my life was the early part of God getting a hold of me and it had to do with the honor of his name. Just somehow it didn't seem right to dishonor him.

I think that there was a culture available in the 50's and the 60's that allowed that to be true, that no longer exists, which is why it's going to be so incredibly important for the church to help create that sense of God's honor. And when church people don't honor God's name, why in the world do we expect the rest of the world to honor him? See, the heart of the gospel is Jesus. He's identified in this text as the ONE anticipated, fully human, Son of David, descendant--came and lived just like you and me. But on the other hand, died and raised from the dead and that resurrection becomes testimony to the absolute power with which God has given him--right to be Divine, fully, wholly, completely, and resurrection is going to show up all over the book of Romans. We don't have time to begin to look at the text, but here are just some of them. It's going to show up in Chapter 4 when he talks about our righteousness. It's going to show up in Chapter 6 when he talks about our identification with Christ. It's going to show up in Chapter 7 when he talks about the fruit of Christ in our life. It'll show up in Chapter 8, the text just before the one Brian read, when it talks about our life in Christ. It was in Chapter 8, the part that Brian read, Verse 34, that's tied completely to our hope. It is going to show up again in Chapter 10 tied to our salvation. This idea of God's resurrecting his Son is tied to all of that information about Jesus because his resurrection becomes our hope. By the power of his resurrection we have the promise of resurrection.

One of the things that is so important about the gospel is that it is the Good News of resurrection and we have that promise to us. Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel, that we have to get our hands around, and so you're going to start hearing us use a phrase around here that sounds something like this; A people whose only passion is Jesus, whose only desire is to know and to follow better--to honor his name, if you will.

Well, you could caption the second part of this text that I want to look at starting down here in verse 8. You could caption this one--the preaching of the gospel.

In essence, here's what it says. Discipleship is the goal of the gospel of Christ.

One of the things that is so important for us to come to understand is that it's not enough just to come to know Jesus - we need to come to know him better. We need to come to be more and more like him. In the text that was read this morning - verse 29 says that it was preordained that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. We would become more and more like him. The gospel is not just about Good News your life can change from being a lost person to a found person or being a bad person to a good person or however you term it. The Good News is that you not only get to change but you get to grow into a person of character and dignity and life, because of Jesus Christ. That transformation is the point of the gospel. That's what that thing is trying to do. The thing that's supposed to happen in the preaching of the gospel is that we become "discipled" like Christ.

If you look over here in verse 13, for example. He says, I do not want you to be unaware. I planned many times to come to you, that I might have a harvest among you, like I did the other Gentiles. Paul really wants to come to Rome and preach because he understands that in the preaching of the gospel, strange as that sounds, that in the preaching of the gospel, the Good News gets proclaimed and people come to know Jesus.

There's an evangelistic thrust to the book of Romans. The point is, people need to know who Jesus is. That is our message and Paul says, I wanted to come and I wanted to preach to you for one simple reason. I believed that in preaching there would be a harvest.

Now I've already proven to you time and time again that I am no farmer. But I understand this about farming. There is hope of harvest. Otherwise it's an absolutely useless profession. I mean, why go out in the field and put seed and then fertilize, or whatever order you do this in, if you didn't expect that come next October you'd be putting a combine in there and doing something with that "STUFF".

Paul says, I wanna come and preach because I understand that in preaching there is the promise of harvest. In fact he goes so far as to say he would give up his own salvation if it meant that certain other people would come to know his Son.

Have you read the ninth chapter of Romans lately? Can I just ask you to look at those first few verses? This is, in my opinion, one of the most profound statements in all of scripture about a compassionate heart for lost people, for people who have yet to come to know Jesus. I'll be just candid with you I'm not sure that I could write down these verses. Chapter 9, Verse 1 - I speak the truth, he says, in Christ I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit--I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. He's willing to sacrifice his own salvation, his own eternal life for the sake of his people, Israel. I just wonder in my own life. Is there anybody that I care about deeply enough that I would say, I'll give up my salvation if that person or that group of people would come to know Jesus. And I have to be real honest with you. I'm not sure I'm willing to give up eternal life. But I know that in the heart of the gospel, that's the message. That the goal of the gospel is the transformation of peoples lives and when we deeply care about people, we expect to see the gospel preached and the gospel preached to bring fruit and we will do whatever it takes.

Oh, I didn't finish that phrase you're going to hear us use around here. There are people whose only passion is Jesus whose only desire is to know and to follow him better whose only ambition is whatever it takes to love and to reach the lost. Is that true? Whatever it takes to reach your lost neighbor, your lost family member, your lost friend, your lost co-worker, whatever it takes. Paul would say, so far as even giving up my own salvation, if that's what it takes.

See. Discipleship is the goal. Discipleship is the process of the gospel and it's not just raising this harvest. If you look at verses 11 and 12. He is also saying, I long to impart this spiritual gift that you can be strong. It's not just people coming through an experience with Jesus and identifying him with him salvackly (never heard this word before/can't find in dictionary??), it has to do with growing up in him, being discipled in him. I don't know if you paid any attention or not, but when the slides were going on before church, one of them says Please come join us in an adult Discipleship Study. Women's Bible Study sign-up today for summer Bible studies.

The idea is that once I become a Christian, that I don't stop there. I begin to grow. I begin to pour myself into the study of Scripture. I put myself in a position where I can learn and grow and develop because I'm supposed to become more like him and I can't become more like him on my own. I'm sorry! I know this church has a great preacher, but Sunday mornings won't do it. Okay? It isn't gonna happen. You can't do in twenty minutes, what it takes! You gotta get into Scripture. You gotta get Scripture into you. And so Paul says, I want us to come together where we can have this mutual edification, small groups, discipleship studies, conversations over coffee, home Bible studies, you need to get Scripture into you and you into Scripture. Because the goal of the gospel is discipleship. It's becoming more and more like Jesus.

Well you could caption the third part of this text, verses 14 through 17 the power of the gospel. It's not only the person, and the preaching, but the power of the gospel where righteousness is the result. Ah, this is one of the most powerful statements in all Romans certainly one of the most powerful statements in all of Scripture. He says, I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel to you. Here is this sense that the gospel is for everyone and there's this sense of debt and a sense of desire. I am indebted to everyone, Jews and Greeks alike. In fact, three times in Romans you're going to hear this phrase, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. It's this all encompassing gospel. It's not just for a limited number of people. It's not just for the folks who live in the suburbs. It's not just for the folks who happen to be like us. The gospel, he says, is for everyone. And, he says, I'm indebted to them all and I desire to preach to them all.

And we'll come back again and again before this summer is over and we'll ask this question. What are we going to do to extend the reach of the gospel beyond the people we naturally reach? It's easy to talk to people just like ourselves. How do we cross those barriers? How do we get to the other side of the street? How do we get in to a different social status? How do we cross the cultural, ethnic barriers that separate us by skin color or language from other people and yet, who by the very nature of being human, also need to know Jesus? And the message breaks all of that down. And so he says, it's for everyone to come to . . . . . . . so that we can have a righteousness that is not our own. He says, I'm not ashamed of the gospel, Verse 16, it is the power of God for everyone who believes: Jew first, then Gentile. In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, and he quotes the backup for us "The just shall live by faith." There is a righteousness that comes that you do not possess, but he wants to give it to you. He wants to impute it on your life. He wants to simply. . .

You heard about the scientist that challenged God to a contest? He said, there's no big deal about producing life. Anybody can do that. God says, I'm willing to take the challenge, so God scooped down and grabbed up a handful of dirt, shaped it, blew into it, it became a living creature. Scientist said, No big deal! He reached down, started to scoop up some dirt and God said, GET YOUR OWN DIRT!

When it comes time for God to create righteousness in us, there's no dirt there. It's not like he can reach down into the cracks and crevasses of your life and find some righteousness here and there that you've kind of accumulated over the years, and then he could take that little bit of righteousness and multiply it. He starts literally, Chapter 4 says, from nothing and gives you a righteousness that you could never have on your own. The only way you can have it is a righteousness that comes by faith from first to last. It comes by believing in Jesus, by taking him at his word and allowing him to give you what you cannot produce on your own. All of the right effort in the world of coming to church every Sunday coming to the right church every Sunday going through the right motions every week WILL NOT PRODUCE RIGHTEOUSNESS! It's something that God gives you. Now you can demonstrate it and you should, but you can't produce it. He has to give it to you.

So why in the world is the gospel so important? Because people only have life when they believe it. See, the Good News is that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, lived and died for you and you can't have life without believing that. You can do everything else. You can go to church. You can go through the motions. You can come. You can walk through a baptistry and you can get wet. But if you do not believe that Jesus Christ came for you, you can't have the righteousness that produces life.

The gospel is so utterly, incredibly important, simply because you can't have life without it. I guess you probably noticed that I overlooked just a little section here in the beginning where Paul is really, just, well, it's matter-of-fact. It's like the introduction to the letter. He says here in verse 5, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you were called, he said, you are among those who are called, then he says this--To all in Rome who are loved and called, Grace and peace do you hear it?

I think it was what was happening to me that day when I was a little kid walking down the road wrestling with obscene gestures. God was in the process of calling me. I didn't know that's what it was. That's what it was! God was reaching down into my life and calling me to something I didn't understand. He was calling me to this fundamental, single principle; obedience of faith. It's the same call he's giving today for people to practice the obedience of faith. That's his term. It's not just enough to mentally say, yeah, I believe that. It's the obedience of faith. It's the faith that moves me to obey him--to do the thing that he calls me to do--to identify with his Son--to name him, to honor him, to live for him, to believe him, to trust him, to give your life entirely into his hands, to submit yourself to his Lordship. And what's the result going to be? Well Paul says it this way, Grace and Peace to you who are in Rome. You want grace and peace in your life? You want life in your life? It comes when you believe the gospel--when you obey Jesus. Those are the terms that he uses.

It's what we invite you to every week. Come to know Jesus. Listen to him! Believe him and obey and you'll have life--life like you have never imagined it before.

Let's stand together.