MESSAGE DELIVERED: JULY 30, 2017
I remember one day when my girls were small, over-hearing them outside playing with some friends, and they were all bragging about their daddies. One said “MY dad’s a lawyer. He tries one little case in court, and earns $2000″. Another little girl said “Well, MY dad’s a doctor, and he does one little operation, and he earns $5000”. Then one of MY daughters spoke up to say “That’s nothing, MY dad’s a PREACHER, and he preaches ONE little sermon and it takes four men just to carry all the money”!
Okay, yeah, that’s a corny old joke and you knew ahead of time what the ‘punch-line’ was…but I TOLD it ANYWAY! And you know WHY? It’s because I’m SHAMELESS! I’m a COMEDIAN at heart, and I love to make people laugh. I am NOT ASHAMED, although frequently my wife tells me I SHOULD be!
But, when Paul said “I am not ashamed”…HE wasn’t talking about cracking corny jokes. He was talking about the Gospel of Christ, the most POWERFUL message the world has ever heard! It is of THAT message that he says “I am NOT ashamed”!
The attitude Paul was talking about was probably the most common of all human attitudes; that of having deep-seated beliefs, but being ASHAMED to VOICE them…ashamed of how people might react to you, if you tried to share that belief…ashamed of what people might think of you!
So they make sure nobody ever even suspects that they even have such beliefs. And, in the context we’re talking about, they are believers in Jesus Christ, but they never share that belief with anyone, out of fear of how someone might re-ACT to their admission.
But what such people don’t realize is; while THEY think they’re just ashamed to SPEAK OUT, JESUS thinks they’re ashamed of HIM! And THAT is a very serious matter, because Jesus has said that, OF those who are ashamed of HIM, HE will be ashamed of THEM, before the FATHER!
So, this seemingly simple matter of being ashamed to speak up, for whatever reason, carries some pretty serious consequences.
Paul was able to say with confidence, HE was NOT ashamed of the Gospel, because he had great confidence in the message of Jesus! HE had every confidence that it really WAS “the Power of God unto Salvation”, and he was determined to share that message with as many people as he possible could, before his time on Earth was through.
Paul’s great confidence can be clearly seen in the verse we just read together, in THREE very easily discerned points. And those will make up the 3 points to this morning’s message. Those 3 points are:
From verse 14, Paul said “I am a debtor…”
From verse 15, Paul said “I am ready…”
From verse 16, Paul said “I am not ashamed…”
And from these 3 points, I am going to apply some beautiful Old Testament passages.
I know that some preachers claim to be a NEW Testament church, and as such, they never go to the Old Testament. The problem with that attitude is, there is a lot of truth IN the Old Testament, that God wants us to have, so Heaven help those that IGNORE such a large body of teachings that the Lord has caused to be handed down to us today. I sure wouldn’t thumb my nose at it!
WE are a New Testament church, I trust that you are aware of that…but that doesn’t mean we can’t take truth from the Old Testament now and then. Jesus Himself frequently quoted from the Old Testament, so I can too.
So here’s the story…to the Jews, there are only 2 kinds of people in the world: Jews, and everyone else is a Gentile. And to the Greek there were only 2 kinds of people in the world: The Greek, and everyone else is a Barbarian.
But in the mind of GOD, there really are only 2 kinds of people: the SAVED, and everybody else is LOST! The difference is, Gentiles will always BE Gentiles. Barbarians will always BE barbarians. But LOST people don’t have to REMAIN lost people. Salvation is available. And that is why Paul wrote those words in verse 14…”I am a debtor both to Greeks and barbarians, to wise and unwise”. He was acknowledging that his debt included ALL people, EVERYwhere!
But WHERE did such a great debt originate? At Calvary! It was Paul’s philosophy that all Christians should be of that same mind…that when we are Saved, we then have a DEBT, an OBLIGATION, to SHARE that Salvation with the rest of the world.
Accepting this great Salvation, this incredible FREE gift, carries an obligation, which is just another way to say ‘debt’…an obligation to SHARE this free gift with the world. Even that part OF the world that does NOT want it!
Well, in the Old Testament Book of 2nd Kings, chapters 6 and 7, there is a story, a true story that teaches that very truth. It’s the story of 4 men who have leprosy, and have been forced OUTside the city, where they try to exist by BEGGING from those that come and go.
Also in this story, you will see the King of Syria coming and laying siege against the city. And the siege is so complete, the people inside the walls are STARVING. Some have even resorted to cannibalism. Others are eating stuff that isn’t even REMOTELY ‘food’.
With the Syrian Army outside, no one can get in or out of the city’s gates, so no food could be brought in. See, that’s the purpose OF a siege…to starve the people until they are ready to give up, and they can then be made SLAVES.
Can YOU possibly put yourself IN that situation? If some foreign army came and laid siege to Tucson, and after everything that is REMOTELY edible, and all the cats and dogs have disappeared…and you’re starting to look at your neighbor in terms of a Bar-B-Que grill and a bottle of KETCHUP…IF you can imagine yourself at that point…WHICH would you choose?
Slavery? Or Starvation? There are people who would say “Better fed than dead”…and others would say “There are worse things than death”. OF those 2 attitudes, WHICH one would YOU choose? Those are the CHOICES of the ones inside that city.
Well, the mighty prophet, Elijah, was in that city, and when they had reached that point, Elijah then received a Word from God, telling him that by tomorrow the siege would be lifted. So Elijah took that Word to the king, but the king refused to believe him.
BUT, that very night, the Lord sent a ‘spirit of delusion’ onto the army of Syria, that CONVINCED the soldiers that a HUGE army was bearing down on them…an army MANY times bigger than they themselves…and the soldiers were so frightened I that they just took off running for home. They PANICED and they RAN.
They didn’t wait to take anything WITH them, not even their horses! They left EVERYthing behind them, and they ran off into the night, casting off any excess clothing, and they RAN!
And the false sound of pursuit by that huge army followed them all the way back to Syria! ALL of them! The CAMP was now deserted, but nobody inside the walled city KNEW anything ABOUT that!
Well, that’s when those four beggars…remember, that’s what this story is about: the four beggars with leprosy, sitting outside the city’s gates…now, THEY are JUST as scared of the barbarian army as all the rest, but they are also sitting there, slowly STARVING to death.
So one of them has an idea! “Hey, why not go to the Syrian’s camp and throw ourselves on their mercy? Maybe they’ll feed us, or maybe they’ll kill us, but one thing’s sure…if we just sit here we’re SURE to die.”
So they talked it over for a while, and nobody came up with a better idea, so they all agreed they try it. They painfully got up from where they had been sitting for so long, by the city’s gate, and they make their way to the enemy’s camp. They walk up real CLOSE to the encampment, and then screwing up their courage, they walked right in.
They didn’t see anybody! All the cook fires were deserted. They stuck their heads inside one of the tents and called “YOOHOO! ANYBODY HOME?”…only silence answered them. And the truth slowly dawned on them. This whole camp was deserted, and all this STUFF was theirs for the taking!
And they went at it with a vengeance! They stuffed themselves with MEAT and BREAD and CHEESE…all the wine they could hold! And later, when their hunger had been satisfied, they looked around and saw articles of GOLD, and SILVER, expensive robes, all just LAYING there, theirs for the taking!
So NOW they begin gathering up all the riches they could hold, then running off into the desert to HIDE it, before running back for more. They are in the middle of a looters dream, and there is nobody to stop them.
Well, finally they come to their senses, and they look at each other, and ONE of them says “C’MON, guys. This is wrong. We’ve got GREAT news, and we’re keeping it to ourselves.
But one of the others says, “Well, them folks in the city run us off like DOGS! After the way THEY treated US, why should we do anything for THEM”?
They talked it over and eventually decided “Okay, we’ve eaten all we can hold, we all have a FORTUNE hidden away! If we don’t tell them this GOOD news, something terrible might happen to us”. I don’t know what could be worse than having LEPROSY, but that was what they decided.
So they all walked back to the city, and hollered up at the guard on the gate “Hey, you guys can come out, the enemy is gone”! The gate keeper doesn’t know what to make of that message, but he goes to the king and tells him what the former beggars said.
But the king says “Oh, sure! They probably have hidden themselves so they can attack us when we come out. I was born at night, but not LAST night”! But some of his advisers convince him, by saying “Look, we’ve still got these last five horses that haven’t been eaten yet. Send some men out on them to SEE if it’s a trick. If they don’t come back, we’ll KNOW it was a trick.” The king agrees.
So the five are sent out on horseback, to the invaders camp, to check the story out. And they find the camp EMPTY, just like the beggars said. They followed the trail of cast-off clothing for a long ways, just to make sure it wasn’t a trick.
So they hurried back to the king to tell him the story was true. And all the starving people inside the city pushed the gates open and ran to the camp, to help themselves to whatever they could grab, just as the beggars had done. The siege was ended, JUST as God had SAID it would, without a single shot being fired!
But listen…this HAPPY ENDING wouldn’t have come about, if those four loathsome lepers hadn’t finally realized that they had an OBLIGATION to SHARE that GOOD NEWS with the others in the city…EVEN though those others had treated them so badly! As fellow human beings, they had an OBLIGATION…they were INDEBTED, to tell others that the enemy had been defeated.
And THAT is what PAUL meant, when he said “I am a DEBTOR to the whole WORLD, to tell them the ENEMY has been DEFEATED at CALVARY, and they can now all be FREE”!
Okay, that’s point number 1. The 2nd one was “I am READY…”. In 2nd Samuel is the story of King David, as he is being pursued by his OWN SON, Absalom. He is in danger of losing the entire kingdom TO him. So David is preparing to flee the city. He tells his faithful servants “We better run, or we’ll all be killed”.
And all those faithful servants cried “We are ready”! They meant they were loyal to their king, absolutely! They would follow him wherever he led them. But, ONE of those servants was a man named “ITTAI”, and HE had only joined David’s band the day BEFORE! He also spoke of his willingness to follow David, but the king tried to dissuade him.
David said “Look, there’s no reason for you to run. You only joined us YESTERDAY! STAY in Jerusalem. NO one will identify you as one of us. Stay HERE, and be safe!”
But Ittai said, in 2nd Samuel 15:21…a verse that you might want to underline in your Bible, if you don’t mind doing that…he said “Whether in death or in life, where you lead, I will follow”!
THAT is what PAUL meant, when he said “I am ready”! Because he recognized his great debt to his Lord, and by THAT token, to the rest of the world. Paul joined the ranks of the Lord’s most faithful servants, when he said “I am ready…READY to LIVE for You…ready to DIE for You! Wherever You lead, I will follow! Whatever You ASK, that I am willing to do”.
Now, David’s servant, Ittai, because of his loyalty, was elevated in rank to the equal of the King’s most trusted captains, and placed in charge of one third of all David’s soldiers.
But PAUL, because of HIS loyalty, was SCORNED, BEATEN, STONED, SHIP
WRECKED, IMPRISONED and ultimately, BEHEADED! But THROUGH IT ALL, Paul’s
ANSWER never changed…”I am ready. Wherever You lead, I will go!”
The DIFFERENCE was Ittai swore an oath of loyalty to his EARTHLY king, and received an EARTHLY reward. Paul, on the other hand, swore his loyalty to a HEAVENLY King, and at his DEATH, received a HEAVENLY reward! lttai’s reward lasted as long as he lived. Paul’s reward BEGAN, the moment he DIED, and will continue for all eternity!
Okay, that’s 2 points. The LAST one, from Romans 1:16, is where he said “I am NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel of Christ”! In the Book if Isaiah, there is an ALLEGORY…that’s what we talked about last week. And we know this IS an allegory, because in Galatians 4:22, Paul quotes this passage, and he TELLS us it’s an allegory!
Let me read to you 3 verses from the 54th chapter of Isaiah. ISAIAH 54: 1-3.
“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman, says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”
Now you can look up the companion piece to this in the 4th chapter of Galatians, but let me just give you a CAPSULE SUMMARY. In Isaiah 22, we look at Calvary. In chapter 55, we see the call of the Gospel, which is to come. But in chapter 54, he speaks of the yet-unborn but GROWING, CHURCH!…even though it won’t BE born, for another 700 years!
So here’s Paul’s explanation: God is speaking ALLEGORICALLY, of the sons of Abraham. ONE born of PROMISE, the other born in BONDAGE. And he speaks of two WIVES; one barren and the other fruitful. And He tells the barren one…”Don’t worry, because GOD is going to take care of you…be your husband. You will have MANY children…many MORE than the FRUITFUL one.”
And you know the fruitful one is HAGGAR, of the GENTILES, and the BARREN one was SARAH, one of God’s Chosen, who was ashamed because she had no children. But God tells her, in Isaiah 54; “Get ready! Because HER children ARE COMING!” And, since this IS an allegory, WE, the CHURCH, had better be listening.
And start by listening to THIS. You know how I love statistics, and there was a Gallup poll a while back that said 84% of ALL Americans were willing to admit that JESUS WAS God’s SON! 84%!!! So except for the Jews, the Muslims, and the Hindus, that is just about EVERYbody…SO…WHERE ARE THEY?
Well, really, you don’t NEED to tell me where they are. I know. They’re out on the golf course, they’re hiking in the mountains, or they’re at the MALL, or they’re SLEEPING IN!
That 84% may have a BELIEF, but they have NO COMMITMENT TO that belief. And it is going to take some MONUMENTAL event to bring them around…some NEW out-pouring of the Holy Spirit like at Pentecost.
WHAT will that be? The RAPTURE of the church? That might do it, but I really don’t know. But it will be something THAT BIG, and WHEN it happens, since I have no DOUBT that it WILL happen…then according to Isaiah 54, we are supposed to be ready to receive them.
In symbolic language, he talks of ENLARGING our TENT, and if you’ve ever done any camping, you probably KNOW about getting a tent set up…how the GROUND has to be cleared of stones and sticks, and then the pegs driven DEEPLY into the ground, and made sturdy, so they will support the strain of the walls going up.
What God is telling us, some 3000 years ago, is that HIS Church is going to GROW…in HIS time, not ours. But we are supposed to be making preparations, and be READY when it DOES!
We may be a small group now, but that is not anything we should be ashamed of, because this is all part of God’s plan. Jesus clearly told us that it is HIS church, and HE will GROW it. It’s HIS job to FILL it when HE is ready. OUR job is to be prepared!
WHAT would we do, if next week, 84% of the people in Tucson showed up here, wanting to go to church? What would that be…some five hundred thousand folks? Do YOU want to see that happen? Are we PREPARED if that should happen?
IF those of us who are already IN the family of God, but who are now ASHAMED to speak UP about our Faith…IF we would just GRASP the STRENGTH that God gives us, and IN that strength, speak about the SALVATION that is now AVAILABLE through Jesus…if WE would do THAT, the churches would OVERFLOW!
Look, I don’t have any FIRSTHAND knowledge about this, because even when I was still a heathen, I very seldom frequented BARS. And I certainly never stayed all night in one, but I do watch TV and such, and it seems that, when it is close to closing time, the bartender will shout “last call”!
And then people would know their time was almost up, and they had one last chance to get what they want.
That’s a nice thought, but for the world outside, it’s NOT gonna HAPPEN! For the world, there is not going to BE a ‘last call’ warning! And they will be completely UNprepared for what is about to happen, when God’s trumpet Blast cleaves the air.
So, right NOW is the time for the church, the “sleeping giant”, the “great silent body”…to stand up alongside PAUL, and proclaim “I am a DEBTOR…to my fellow man, and I need to tell them that a King has DIED for them”.
And we need to say “I am READY!”…ready to go where God sends me…and to DO what He tells me”. And that’s not something to worry about, as WHERE the Lord will send you, will likely be just across the street, or maybe down the block.
And finally, will you tell Him “l am NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it IS the Power of God, unto salvation”!?
So now it’s time for an invitation, and I will invite you FIRST of all, to come TO Jesus, if you’ve never DONE so before…or if you’re not SURE if you have!
Come to Him now, and be SAVED from the horrible TRIALS that are about to begin, at any time.
But I also want to invite those that DO know Him. If He has SAVED your immortal soul, will you acknowledge that your Salvation WAS FREE, but it CARRIES a DEBT…an OBLIGATION.
See, your SALVATION takes AWAY your debt to GOD, and GIVES you a debt to your “fellow man”…to TELL him/her, that they CAN be saved from the WRATH that is about to cover the earth with God’s Righteous ANGER!
Are you READY to TELL them? Or are you still ASHAMED?