Our Testimony for the Lord
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Sept. 8, 2013
*Mary's dad passed away 24 years ago, in May of 1989. His name was Harry Radcliffe, but we called him "Pap Pap." Harry was a hero in World War II. He received a Bronze Star for driving an ambulance through enemy fire to rescue some wounded men.
*Pap Pap was tough, but he was also rough, especially as a younger man. One of Mary's not-so-fond childhood memories was when her mom was driving, and a man cut her off in traffic. At the next red light her dad jumped out of the car and got into a fist-fight with that man. The police came and took both of them to the station.
*Mary's dad was also hard on his wife, never physically, but hard to get along with. He was demanding, unforgiving, even hateful at times. They separated after we came out here and went through a bitter divorce they both lived to regret.
*But Mary's dad was always good to me and her. Over the years we could see a huge change in his life. The Lord was clearly working in his heart. Jesus Christ changed his life. Pap Pap was less angry. He was kinder, more loving, thoughtful and generous.
*Mary's dad lived with us most of the last year of his life. It was a very tough year as he battled lung cancer and emphysema. But it was also one of our best as we got closer and shared good times together.
*Toward the end, we had to rush Mary's dad to the Emergency Room at Saint Francis about every 3 or 4 weeks, because Pap Pap's breathing would get so bad. One of those early mornings we were on the interstate crossing the river. The sun was just coming up. Mary's dad looked out over the city, and transformed the moment into something sacred, when he said: "I wish I could stand on the tallest building in town and tell the world what Jesus Christ has done for me."
*I can't tell you how much that testimony blessed my heart. And God wants US to bless people like that. In today's Scripture, Paul shows us how. We have to keep focused on 3 things.
1. First: Remember the people we owe.
*When Paul gave part of his testimony in these verses, he was thinking about the people he owed. They were on Paul's heart in vs. 9-14, when he said:
9. . . God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
10. making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
11. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established
12. that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13. Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
14. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.
*Paul said, "I am a debtor". And Christians, so are we.
 Think about why we owe.
*Why did Paul think of himself as a debtor? It seems like an odd thing to say: "I am in debt to people I have never met." Why did he say that? There can only be one reason: Paul had a clear vision of the cross. He knew what Jesus had done for him. He knew that Jesus Christ had saved his soul and set him free.
*Paul knew that Jesus had paid the ultimate price for him. His heart was touched. His life was transformed. And the same Jesus has done so much for us!
-That's why we owe.
 But also think about who we owe.
*In vs. 14, Paul said: "I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. It looks like Paul said, "I owe everybody." He is saying here that we are obligated to reach as many people as we possibly can with the good news about Jesus Christ: Greeks, barbarians, wise, unwise.
*We are obligated to reach people who are like us and people who are not like us: In vs. 16, both Jews and Gentiles, all kinds of people, people we have known for a life-time and people we've never met.
-We must reach everyone we can! -- That's who we owe.
 But also think about what we owe.
*Paul shows us in vs. 15, where he said: "So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also."
*We owe people the gospel! We owe them the good news about Jesus Christ. The most important thing in anyone's life is the good news about Jesus. And we can help spread the gospel through our testimonies about Jesus Christ.
*Amazing things can happen when we show people that we belong to Jesus. In 1994, Cindy Hartman was a basketball coach at Greenbrier High School in Conway, Arkansas. One afternoon Cindy walked into her house and noticed an end table missing. She didn't get alarmed at first, because the phone was ringing.
*Cindy was on that phone when she was confronted by a burglar. He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a bedroom closet. Cindy dropped to her knees, and asked if she could pray for him. She said: "I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you."
*Then she asked him if he would like to kneel down with her and she'd pray for him. And he did! That's when he pretty much broke down. The burglar got on his knees, apologized profusely, and asked to use a shirt to wipe off his fingerprints.
*Cindy said the man then yelled to a woman in a truck: "We've got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can't do this to them." Cindy stayed put as furniture was moved from the truck back into her home. And before he left, the burglar took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Cindy and walked out the door. (1)
*Well of course it won't always happen like that. But amazing things will happen when we show the world that we are saved.
-So, remember the people we owe.
2. And remember the positive attitude we can show.
*Paul showed us a positive attitude in these verses. In vs. 9, Paul had a positive attitude about prayer, so he was able to say: "Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers." Paul also had a positive attitude about spending time with the Christians in Rome. So in vs. 10, his prayer request was "if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you." And in vs. 11, Paul told them: "I long to see you. . ." Paul also had a positive attitude about the gospel: In vs. 15: "I am ready to preach the gospel. . ." In vs. 16: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. . ."
*Paul had a positive attitude. Think about the reasons for his good attitude.
 It wasn't based on his personal success or his prosperity.
*Paul knew about prosperity, and he asked God for it. This shows up in vs. 10 from the KJV. There Paul said he was: "Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you."
*Paul knew about prosperity: Sometimes he had great success in the ministry. But sometimes he didn't. For example, in vs. 13, Paul told the Romans that he had been hindered in coming to them.
*And listen to what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:
8. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9. persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed
10. always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
*Paul went through all kinds of heartache and hardship, but he was still able to keep a positive attitude. Here's what he wrote to the church in Philippians 4:10-13:
10. . . I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.
11. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
 Paul's positive attitude wasn't based on his personal success or prosperity.
-It was based on his personal relationship with God.
*In vs. 16, Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Paul was not ashamed of Jesus Christ! He was happy to know Him; happy to belong to Him; happy to serve Him.
*Paul kept a positive attitude, because he believed in the gospel of Christ. He knew that it was true. The Bible mentions the gospel 104 times in the New Testament, and 76 of those times are in the letters of Paul.
*Many times, Paul called it "the gospel of God" or "the gospel of Christ".
-In Romans 10:15, Paul also called it "the gospel of peace".
-In Ephesians 1:13, he called it "the gospel of your salvation."
-And in 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul called it "the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."
*But what is the gospel? Again, it is simply the good news about Jesus Christ: God became a man. The infinite, eternal God stepped into time and space to become a man. God the Son Jesus Christ became a man to live a perfect life, and die on the cross for our sins. The gospel is the good news is that Jesus did die on the cross for our sins. And He rose from the dead. And now Jesus is full of grace and mercy toward anyone who will turn to Him and trust Him as Lord and Savior.
*When we open our hearts to receive Jesus, all sorts of wonderful things begin to happen in our life: Our sins are forgiven, and we are born again with eternal life into the family of God. Through Jesus Christ, we come to know God in a personal way. And this personal relationship can help us stay positive in the hardest times of life. We just have to keep our eyes on Jesus.
*Back in 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in terrible danger. Three neighboring nations had joined together to attack Judah. And a huge army was on the way to slaughter God's people.
*The Bible says:
3. . . Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
4. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
5. Then Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court,
6. and said: "O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?
7. Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?
8. And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying,
9. 'If disaster comes upon us, such as the sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.'
10. And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them
11. here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.
12. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.''
*In 2 Chronicles 20:15, God inspired one of His prophets to say: "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's."
*God utterly destroyed that enemy army by having them turn on each other. But listen again to the closing words of Jehoshaphat's prayer: "Our eyes are upon You.'' "Our eyes are on You, Jesus.'' That's how to keep a positive attitude.
*When Alan Emery went into the wool business, he decided to spend a night with a shepherd out on the Texas prairie. During the night, the long cry of coyotes started piercing the air. The shepherd's dogs growled and stared into the darkness. The frightened sheep got to their feet, and started bleating pitifully.
*Then the shepherd tossed some more logs onto the fire, and the flames shot up. In the glow of that fire, Alan looked out and saw 1,000s of little lights. And he realized that the lights were reflections of the fire in the eyes of the sheep.
*In the middle of the danger, the sheep were not looking out into the darkness. They were looking toward their shepherd. They kept their eyes on the source of their safety. That's what Paul did. And that's what we need to do. (2)
*If you want to keep a positive attitude, keep your eyes on Jesus Christ! That positive attitude will show out in your life. And amazing things will happen when we show the world that we are saved.
-So, remember the positive attitude we can show.
3. Also remember the power we know.
*We see the power in vs. 16, where Paul said: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
*The gospel has the power to touch our hearts and transform our lives, and everybody needs this transformation. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us why. There God's Word says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. . ."
*That's where we are stuck without the power of the gospel, but in Ezekiel 36, God says:
26. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
*The gospel of Jesus Christ has miraculous power for our lives! It can take lust out and put love in, make a prostitute pure, make an alcoholic sober, give courage to a coward, give wisdom to a fool, and make a crooked man straight. Jesus can wash away hatred, anger, envy and pride. With God, all things are possible!
*One of my all-time favorite professors was Dr. Don Wilton. He is a tremendous preacher and teacher, with a very British sounding accent from his days growing up in South Africa. Eleven years ago, the "Baptist Message" told an amazing story that happened back when Don was a seminary student in New Orleans. Don and another seminary student had stopped at a local grocery store. There in the store they noticed a scruffy looking couple with a baby, who had nothing on but a diaper.
*God's Spirit moved the students in a special way, and they decided to open their wallets and give the family all the money they had. Don rolled up more than $200 in bills. Then he sneaked up behind the barefoot man, stuck the roll in the man's back and told him not to turn around. With a gentle voice, Don spoke to the frightened man and said: "My friend, you don't know who I am. But I want you to know that there is another man and I here tonight who love the Lord Jesus Christ. He has done something for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Because of Him, we just want to give to you something from the two of us."
*The man tearfully received the money, and Wilton thought he would never see him again. But years later, Dr. Wilton was teaching at the seminary, and one of the new students recognized his voice. It was the man from the store.
*He told Dr. Wilton that they were desperate that night. They were so desperate that they had driven from their home in Alabama to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge in New Orleans. They planned to take their baby with them, but they decided to feed her first, so she at least would die with a full stomach. That's why they stopped at the store. But they were so encouraged by the kind words of the man who would not let them see his face, they changed their minds. (3)
*Don Wilton's brief testimony set that desperate couple on the path to salvation. And amazing things will happen when we show the world that we are saved.
-Remember the people we owe.
-Remember the positive attitude we can show.
-And remember the power we know.
*And if you have never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, why don't you open your heart to the Lord right now? Jesus loves you. He will save you. He will begin to transform your life. And He will give you a testimony that can make an everlasting difference in someone else's life.
*Trust in the Lord, as we go to God in prayer.
(1) "The Commercial Appeal" - 07291994 - p. A5 - Other source: Scott Harrison, Waterloo, Iowa - Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2 - Found in "Bible Illustrator for Windows" - Topic: Enemies - Subtopic: Prayer for - Index: 4082 - Date: 7/1998.1869 - Title: Disarmed by Prayer
(2) "Dynamic Illustrations" - July, August, September, 2001- Topic: Fear - Source: Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes
(3) The "Baptist Message" - 06272002