Eternal Implications

Answering the call to share the good news of the gospel.

George Wright
Feb 23, 2020    39m
In this message on 'Live Sent' Sunday, Pastor George Wright speaks of the apostle Paul's passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ. After sharing moving scripture, he urges us to answer the call to share the good news of the gospel. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 In this time now of considering the Word of God, I would ask you to grab a copy of the scripture. And if you don't have one with you, we've got him around the room today and we'd love for you to pick up a copy of the Bible just so you can see for yourself what the Word of God is saying as we walk through the scripture on this very important day. We love our opportunity to share what God is doing through ministry partnerships, and to be reminded as a church that we have been invited into something in this mission that is so much bigger than ourselves. And so as we highlight these stories, and as you have the opportunity to interact with some of our ministry partners here today, we are being reminded of why the mission matters and is so incredibly important in all that we do as a church.

George Wright: 00:51 And we see that in the scripture that we're considering today. First Timothy chapter 1 verses 15 through 17 is where we're going to spend a little bit of time, because these verses are so clear and so powerful as they remind us of the message that God has given us in the good news of the gospel, and the calling to take this message to those who have yet to believe. And so I'd like to invite you to stand with me as I read this opening text from the Word of God. If you're watching online and you're wondering why are they standing? Or if you're new to Shandon and you're wondering why are they standing? We do this each week, so that we all can be reminded when we gather together as a people of God. We are standing on the authority of God's word. We are coming underneath what God says is right and good and true in his Holy scripture.
George Wright: 01:46 So this is the word of the Lord. First Timothy 1:15, the scripture says through the apostle Paul, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." This is the word of the Lord.

George Wright: 02:37 Would you pray with me that God would use his word through his spirit in our lives? Let's pray. Father, we stand before you now needing to hear from you. There are so many stories represented in this room. There are so many circumstances that people are walking through, and in every story, and in every circumstance we need to hear from you. And so I pray that you would have your way among us. I pray that you would use this time to reveal even more of your love and your grace that is so clearly displayed and the good news of the gospel. We look to you, and we ask you to move in power. In Jesus name I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 03:39 This past week an article ran in the Wall Street Journal that had a title that got my attention. When I read the title of this article, I said, I need to see what this article says. The title of the article in the Wall Street Journal was this, "Thank God American Churches are Dying." "Thank God American Churches are Dying", and that title sounds ominous. And certainly you might expect that title to read an article that is talking about the demise and the decline of the American church, and how the church is irrelevant, and the church doesn't matter anymore, but that's actually not what the article was about at all. The articles states, certainly it is true that many mainline, many established churches are in decline. There are many churches, and even some denominations, that are dying or have died. There are churches that are closing their doors in our country. But at the same time, this article went on to state that there is a resurgence of evangelical churches that are growing and reproducing in significant numbers through a focus on multiplication. Pretty fascinating that this was in the Wall Street Journal. And the article went on to state that churches who are refusing to multiply, and refusing to reach a new generation, are losing ground and declining and many are closing their doors. But churches that have a renewed focus on multiplication, and churches that have a renewed focus on mission, are growing and reaching a new generation in what the author calls potentially a religious awakening in America. And so I now quote from the wall street journal writer Erica Anderson, who says this, "Complacency is dangerous, but it's important to realize that religion in the U S is far from dead. With a vibrant new church landscape on the scene, there will be no shortage of options to choose from as millions of Americans, again, find their footing in faith. A selection of churches may be dying, but their replacements are alive, well, and regenerating in ways the American church has never seen before." That's good news, right?

George Wright: 06:30 And here's what I would say on this Live Sent Sunday, in light of an article like this, the church is alive and well, if the church remains committed to the mission of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday we were so encouraged as a church to hear from pastor Chris Phillips, who at Journey Point in Denver, a city where the gospel is so desperately needed. And God is at work through a new work, as a man and a launch team step out on faith, believing that the church's future is bright, even in areas where many churches have died. We are so excited about what God is doing, building a launch team for Steel City Church in Pittsburgh, under Billy Judge's leadership. As this launch team goes out into a city where there are literally abandoned church buildings all over the city, many churches have died, but the church is alive and well where the mission is at the forefront. And so the question for us as an established church is, will the mission remain at the forefront? Will the gospel advance through us, or will the gospel continue to advance without us? Because the promise of Jesus is, that he will build his church and even the Gates of hell don't stand a chance compared to what Jesus Christ is building. The bright future for the church is alive and well. The question for an existing church is, will we be a part of it?

George Wright: 08:43 And so we look back to our scripture for this morning, First Timothy chapter 1, and we see this beautiful reminder of the power of message that has been given to the church, the unchanging message that we stand upon as a church, and the power of the mission that God has called his church to be about in lights of this message. What is the message? Verse 15 makes it so clear, First Timothy 1 verse 15, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This is the gospel. This is the good news, the simple message of the gospel that drives all that we, are and all that we do as a church. Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners. Jesus Christ has come to do for us, what we could never do for ourselves. This message cannot change, this message will not change, this is the message of God for people. And apart from Christ there is no salvation, but in Christ there is the gift of salvation that we all so desperately need. This is the message that the world needs to hear. This simple message of the gospel is good news. It is good news, if you know you are a sinner, and you realize you need a savior. Please hear this, this simple message of the gospel that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is totally offensive, if you believe you are good to go on your own or in your own morality. You have no need for a savior, because you can somehow save yourself through your work and your efforts, good news or totally offensive.

George Wright: 11:12 In the gospel of John chapter 14 there is a statement that is made, you may be familiar with it, this is one of the more famous statements of Jesus. I would propose to you it is the most offensive statement of Jesus in his earthly ministry, especially considering a culture like ours today, John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." It's interesting to know that no matter how you translate the term, no one, in every language and in every translation, it means no one. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. This is an offensive statement in a culture that continually seeks to define truth as something that is relative and personal, while rejecting the notion that there could be an absolute truth that applies to everyone everywhere. The gospel message is offensive. The gospel message will fly in the face of a moralistic, universalistic culture that says, just believe something and we'll all be okay in the end. And this is important to understand, because many people in the church who are followers of Jesus believe the gospel is true, and believe others need to hear this gospel. Many people in the church who are followers of Jesus believe it is important to share the good news of the gospel, but they are terrified of offending someone. So this needs to be clear, don't miss this, the gospel is offensive. The message of the gospel says, you are not okay on your own. The message of the gospel says, you have sin and need a savior. The message of the gospel says, you cannot save yourself. That is incredibly offensive.

George Wright: 13:43 But here's the question. What's more offensive? What's more offensive, telling someone they need a savior, and that the savior has come to do for them what they could never do. Or, knowing the savior has come to save sinners, and refusing to tell anyone about it. What's more offensive? So how do we share this offensive truth in a way that potentially can be heard and received? Well the apostle Paul gives us some beautiful insight here at the end of verse 15, through a very basic little statement about himself, the apostle Paul shows us what many people would say is the most effective strategy for sharing the gospel. Let me read verse 15 again, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost." What has Paul done here? He has made the gospel personal. He is saying this gospel is beautiful, because this gospel is exactly what I need. I am a sinner in need of a savior, so listen please for a moment to what the savior has done for me, the foremost of sinners. This is where the message meets the mission.

George Wright: 15:38 What is our mission? Our mission is to live sent, to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God takes us. That is our mission, and the apostle Paul is saying, look, I am leveraging my story. My story is the greatest evidence that I can provide for the truth of the message, and my mission is to share my story. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, I'm the foremost, and I want to tell you what Jesus has done for the foremost sinner of all. A personal story of the power of God's transforming grace in our life, is our most powerful witness.

George Wright: 16:31 So what is Paul's story? I'm glad you asked. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians chapter 3. Philippians chapter 3, we'll come back to First Timothy 1 in just a moment. We see the apostle Paul's resume of religious works in Philippians chapter 3, and it gives us some insight into who he was before Christ. In many ways, this is a story that people in the church can relate to. Verse 4 of Philippians 3 he says, "Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:" And here's his resume of religion, "I was circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews." My family did the right religious things for me when I was born. I was in the right type of family, from the right place, at the right church, at the right time. He says, "As to the law, a Pharisee." Meaning I paid attention to the rules, I checked the boxes. He says, "As to zeal, a persecutor of the church." No one was more passionate than me about what they believe, the apostle Paul says. So much so, that I would persecute and attack anyone who disagreed with what I said. He says, "As to righteousness under the law, I looked blameless." You would look at my life and think, that's a good religious man. That's a man who has all the boxes checked. That's a guy who has it all together. He is devoted, he is following his convictions, he is disciplined. He has done everything that he could do to be considered righteous and worthy based on the actions of his life, and he was passionate about what he believed.

George Wright: 18:53 Then it says in verse 7, "Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as a loss, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." You see, Paul is saying on the outside it looked like I had it all together, all this personal righteousness, and all these religious works and deeds, but when I look at it now, I realize that was all about me. It was a self-diagnosed morality, that was not righteous at all, it was actually self-righteous. Oh, I was devout, but my devotion was all about me. And if you got in my way, or if you disagreed in any form or fashion, my personal mission was to bring you down. And Paul says, but the greatest gift I could ever receive, was to have the scales fall off of my self-righteous eyes, so that I could see that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners, even sinners like me. Self-righteous, arrogant, overly aggressive sinners like me, the foremost of all sinners. Christ Jesus came to save me, and I want you to hear my story. And in telling his story, Paul invites others to see their need as well. If this devout religious expert needs a savior, and has been set free by the grace of God, then maybe that is exactly what I need as well. So Paul makes it personal, so that he is not seen as one who is arrogantly attacking others sinners, but instead is seen as one who is a sinner saved by grace. And Paul makes it personal so that his story can be told in a clear demonstration that even though the works of his life had led to tremendous self-righteousness, and even the persecution of the church, his story is not a story of shame based on what he had done, but his story is a story of salvation based on what Christ had done for him.

George Wright: 21:47 So don't miss this church, because in one statement, in one simple statement, the apostle Paul is dismantling two of the most powerful weapons that the enemy of God seeks to use against the church of Jesus Christ to prevent us from living the mission that we have been called to. What are these weapons? Self-righteousness and shame. Two of the most effective strategies, two the most effective weapons that the enemy of God seeks to use against the people of God, to prevent the church from actually living the mission, are self-righteousness and shame. Self-righteousness causes us to attack the very people that God has called us to love and share with. Just look at social media, it's all there to read. Self-righteousness causes us to treat the very people that we are called to love and share with as the enemies, because they don't agree with what we currently believe. And shame, shame causes us to hide and to feel unworthy of the very mission that God has invited us to be a part of. Self-righteousness makes us overly aggressive and loud, and shame silences us, and both prevent us from living the mission. But the scripture here, through the apostle Paul, is showing us, hey, the antidotes for self-righteousness and the antidote for shame is the gospel. Seeing the truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even a sinner like me. Paul is saying, look, the things that I have done, they did not make me worthy. At the same time, Paul is saying, the things that I have done, they did not call me unworthy. You see, this is the gospel, and the gospel says the things that I have done cause me to need a savior. And the savior has come for sinners like me to call me worthy, not because of who I am, but because of who he is. The antidote for self-righteousness, and the antidote for shame, is a life that is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, I am one of them, and the savior has set me free and he can set you free as well. This is the apostle Paul using his story, what he has been given, for the sake of the gospel.

George Wright: 25:08 Let me go back to verse 16, what a beautiful verse. First Timothy 1:16, Paul says this, "But I received a mercy for this reason, that in me as the foremost Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." Paul is saying, as a sinner saved by grace, my life is an example. My story of shame is now a story of grace. My story of self-righteousness is now a story of Christ-righteousness. My life is an example. So what example is being made out of Paul's life to those who believe? Well number one, I love this, please don't miss this. As an example, Paul is showing that no one is beyond the reach of God's grace. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace. But please listen, listen, some of you here today, this grieves my heart to say it. Some of you listening this message right now truly believe that the way you have lived prevents you from ever being loved by God, nothing is further from the truth. It is the good news that Christ has come to save sinners, that qualifies you for the love of God. It. The good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ, that invites you into the love of God. It is the good news of the waterfall of grace being poured out from heaven on sinners like you and me, that invites us to be seen as worthy. Not what we've done, not what we haven't done, not what's been done to us? No, it is what Christ has accomplished for us. And Paul is saying, look at me and see the beauty of the gospel. I was a self-righteous persecutor of the church, and God saved me. My story should have caused me to be totally ashamed and unqualified, and yet God saved me. No one is beyond the reach of the gospel. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, and that includes you.

George Wright: 27:55 And some of you, I know you personally believe in the gospel, but you have been praying for loved ones for years and you want to believe, you want to believe that they can experience the gift of salvation in Christ. But right now if you're honest, you're just not so sure. Because every time you bring it up, they get offended. And they continue to reject the gospel, and they continue to run from the gift of salvation, and they continue to even mock what you're talking about. It appears like no matter how much you share, or how much you pray, or how much you show the love of God, they're just totally unreceptive and unwilling to consider anything you have to say. There's some of you that need to hear this this morning, don't give up, keep praying, keep sharing, keep showing, keep demonstrating what the gospel has done for you. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace, Christ. Jesus came to this world to save sinners, even some at their final breath. Don't give up, for the gospel is the hope that we need.

George Wright: 29:30 Secondly, we see in this example of the apostle Paul, an example of one to all who believe this very important truth, and we'll end with this, the message calls us to the mission. The message calls us to the mission. From the moment the apostle Paul sees the gospel alive in his life, he is on mission for the sake of others hearing the good news. The message calls us to the mission. Last week Megan and I were on an airplane, there was movies to choose from, and so I watched a movie that recently come out called Harriet. Some of you may have seen this, about Harriet Tubman. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to watch it, Megan said it was great, and so I was like, okay, is this a chick flick? What is this? But I was wrong in my assessment, it was outstanding, it really was outstanding. A beautiful story of courageous faith in the midst of overwhelming obstacles, as Harriet Tubman became really the prominent voice and example through the underground railroad of helping slaves escape to freedom. A former slave herself, she devoted her life to going back to the plantations and the places where slaves were held captive to help them escape. She risked her life all the time, that others might be free. And there's a scene in this movie that was incredibly moving for me personally, as Harriet Tubman is gathered with a group of individuals who support the underground railroad, and many of these individuals are wealthy and they're trying to do what they can to help slaves find freedom, but they're not really sure what to do. And they certainly don't come from a slavery background, and they've never experienced slavery themselves. And so they're concerned about all the dangers of Harriet Tubman and others going back into slavery to help others find freedom, and they're concerned about the distance that the slaves are going to have to travel on foot as they try to flee towards freedom, and there they're really trying to discourage Harriet Tubman from going back to help others find freedom. And so she responds to their fears and we'll put this up on the screen, the dialogue from the movie, this is what she said in this scene, "I ain't given up on rescuing slaves because it's far. Many of you don't know slavery first hand, you've been free so long, you forgot what it's like. You've gotten comfortable and important. You got beautiful homes and beautiful wives. But I remember, I've heard their groans and their sighs, I've seen their tears, so I ain't given up. I'm going to do what I got to do, go wherever I got to go, however I got to do it, to free as many slaves as possible. Till this beast, this monster called slavery, is slain dead."

George Wright: 32:48 And the tears were pouring out of my eyes as I recognize that so many of us have forgotten what it's like to be far from God, or forgotten what it's like to be lost and desperate and searching for hope. Or we've forgotten in our comforts, we've forgotten in our lifestyles, that there is a world around us that is the end captivity to the bondage of sin, and in desperate need of a rescue. And the apostle Paul is saying in verse 16, Christ saved me as the foremost most of sinners, to be an example to those who will believe as one who knows what it means to be in bondage and separated from the savior. And so I'm going to preach this message, and I'm going to share my story, and I'm going to go wherever the Lord takes me to leverage who I am and what I've been given for the sake of the gospel. Because I know what it means to be lost, and I know what it means to be found, and I'm praying that God would use my life as one who will lead others to be found.

George Wright: 34:27 So Shandon, what about you? Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Do you believe it? If you don't believe it, please hear our hearts today, we long for you to know the beautiful good news of what Christ has done for you. We long for you to be free in Christ, through the good news of salvation. If you do believe it, will you share it? If you do believe it, will you take it wherever you go? If you do believe it, will you leverage who you are and what you've been given for the sake of this gospel that is set you free. This is our mission, and this is the beautiful gift of life in Christ for all who believe.

George Wright: 35:57 Let me pray for us as we close. Heavenly father, I am so grateful for the beautiful, clear, simple message of the gospel. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, sinners like me. And I pray specifically for those here today, and those listening to this message, that have never experienced this good news in a personal way. Perhaps they've even been those offended by this message, and yet if they're honest, they're self-salvation projects continue to fall short. No matter how hard they try to do the right thing, or live the right way, or present their life as righteous, they know in their heart of hearts that something is still missing. I pray, Lord God, today that they would see their need for Jesus, their need for the savior who has come to save them from their sin through the power of his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the grave. I pray that they would see this beautiful gift of the finished work of Christ, that invites them to be free in the forgiveness of grace. I pray that they would turn to Jesus, and the gift of salvation. And Lord for the church, the church that has experienced this beautiful gospel, and the church that is received this good news that Christ Jesus came in the world to save us. Oh Lord, would you open our eyes to the steps of faith that you want us to take? Perhaps it's a step of faith down the street to a neighbor to share what we have experienced in the gospel. Perhaps it's a step of faith to a short term mission trip. Perhaps it's a step of faith to join a church planning effort. Perhaps it's a step of faith to devote their lives to full time gospel ministry. Whatever the step of faith may be, Lord, make it clear. We want our lives to be used for your glory. Here we are, use us, Lord, show us your way for us to live the mission and to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel. Oh, we love you, and we thank you for the incredible privilege that it is to be a part of your mission. Use us for your glory, that more and more we'll see the good news that Jesus Christ has come to save sinners, sinners like us, and he can save sinners like them as well. Lead us in the power of your spirit to live by faith. It's in the name of Jesus' I pray.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206