"Eager to Preach the Good News"#86-01
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 2, 2018
By Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Romans 1:14-17
Lord God, Heavenly Father, give all who have come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior a sense of obligation to all men so that people everywhere may come to know Thy goodness in Christ our Lord and may have life and joy in Him. In His Name we pray. Amen.
On this first broadcast of our 36th season of broadcasting, let me tell you what our whole enterprise is about. Our motto is more than a slogan. We mean it when we say our purpose is "Bringing Christ to the Nations."
On the very first program of The Lutheran Hour, back in 1930, Dr. Walter A. Maier made this purpose clear. Dr. Maier said: "'We can understand how throughout the ages, blind, groping humanity, held in sway by fear and doubt, has yearned with a deep and sighing longing for something fast and firm, something positive and definite, for something unchangeable and unending. We can understand, too, why today, in spite of all of our modern advances, men are mobilizing the resources of human ingenuity, restlessly dedicating the best of their efforts to find certainty in the midst of this consuming uncertainty, to discover light in this enshrouding gloom; to secure trust amid surroundings of this disappointing speculation; dissatisfied, disillusioned, distracted men are crying out the question. "To whom shall we go?" Our answer to that question of supreme importance must be 'To Christ.'"
This is what we are doing today: preaching Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. We put ourselves directly in line with the apostle Paul who announced his program and his purpose at the beginning of his epistle to the Romans: "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The Just shall live by faith.'"
As St. Paul did, we proclaim the Good News of God's grace in Jesus Christ. We are eager to tell the Good News because, like Paul, we have an obligation to all people everywhere. Through Christ, and the forgiveness we enjoy from God through Him, we are debtors. We owe something to all men, whether they belong to cultured nations with traditions of long standing or to younger nations that are just beginning to develop their resources. We shall go anywhere, at any time, without fear of what men will say, because in Christ we fear God and we fear no man. "I feel myself under a sort of universal obligation," said St. Paul. "l owe something to all men, the cultured Greeks and the uncultured Barbarians. That is why I want, as far as my ability will carry me, to preach the Gospel to you who live in Rome, the capital of the world, as well as to all people everywhere."
If St. Paul had been the representative of a powerful world ruler, he might have been on his way to a world conference carrying in his briefcase the perfect plan to guarantee peace once and for all. If he had been a scientist, he might have had in his suitcase the news of a great discovery that would simply revolutionize the knowledge people have of themselves and of the world in which they live. If he had been a medical man, he might have carried with him a paper regarding a vaccine to protect against every illness and against the advancing weakness that makes people feeble in their old age. But Paul was no diplomat, no scientist, no medical doctor. He carried neither briefcase nor hypodermic needle.
Paul represented a Ruler, before whom all beings in heaven, and on earth, and in the world below eventually will have to fall on their knees. For every other ruler death comes at last. Paul was the messenger of a Ruler who rose from the dead. Earthly rulers have to go in the end, but Paul was the ambassador of a Ruler whose full power will be disclosed at the end. Paul had nothing much to show for himself, but he had a Lord, a commission, and a message.
Having found Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, this man Paul had an obligation: "I am a debtor" he said, "both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise, to the educated and to the uneducated. I owe something to every man, and it makes no difference who or what or where he is. So much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also."
Paul was a debtor, and he was ready to pay. He had been brought into the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ; he had been called, chosen, to be Christ's apostle. Into his hands God had placed his gift to the world, the Good News of Christ. Since the Good News is for the world, St. Paul had to give it to the world. Christ's will was his will. Christ died for all, so Paul had to live for all. That's the way it is for every man, whom Christ has found and who has found Christ.
This man Paul never forgot what God had done for him in Christ: "I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave me strength for my work. I thank Him for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve Him, even though in the past I spoke evil of Him and persecuted and insulted Him. God was merciful to me because I did not believe and so did not know what I was doing. Then our Lord poured out His abundant grace on me and gave me faith and love which are ours in union with Christ Jesus. It is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' I am the worst of them, but it was for this very reason that God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show full patience in dealing with me, the worst of all sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in Him and receive eternal life."
The obligation under which Paul found himself did not come from sentimentality. His was no half-hearted attachment to some idealistic crusade. His debt was a living, driving thing, urging him on to preach the Good News to people everywhere. Telling the Good News was an obligation he had to God. "How terrible it would be for me," he said, "if I did not preach the Gospel."
This program goes on the air because there are people who are captured by the same obligation: they are ordinary men, women, and children who know what this means. "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life." They are committed as an obligation to God, not only to believe but to proclaim the Good News to all men that Jesus Christ died for all. They say they really have no right to hear the Gospel twice themselves until everyone else has heard it at least once.
Believe me, we are eager to proclaim the Good News in Christ, not only because we have an obligation, but also because we have complete confidence in the saving power of the Gospel of Christ. St. Paul said, "As much as in me lies, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you
who are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Not all news today is trustworthy. Some of it is biased, managed, slanted. The Good News of Christ is completely reliable. You can have complete confidence in it.
The Good News of Christ comes straight from God. The coming of Christ into our world was no accident. He had been promised long ago by God Himself. These promises are recorded in Holy Scripture. Every one of these promises came true when Jesus Christ came. Holy Scripture is God's own completely reliable Word.
Holy Scripture gives to the world the Good News of Jesus Christ. He Himself is the Good News, delivered as He was to death on a cross, and delivering by that death all men from the penalty and power of their sins. That all of this is completely true we are absolutely sure: for He Himself rose from the dead to be the Son of God with power.
"From Christ Himself," said St. Paul, "I have received grace and apostleship by His resurrection from the dead. The Good News of forgiveness and life in the risen Christ I am not ashamed to shout to the whole world because it is God's power to save all who believe."
This man was never ashamed of Christ. He was not ashamed to speak up for Christ even though people called his position untenable. He was not ashamed to suffer for Christ, though people called his endurance insane. He was not ashamed to be in chains and even to die for Christ, because he had complete confidence in the Good News of Christ. The Good News of Christ is God's dynamite. It is the power by which God saves people.
The powers that exist in the world must be respected and are often to be feared. Ours is an age of power-"atom power," "military 'power," "black power," "student power," and all kinds of other powers. Power as it is exercised in the world is something like the paws of a cat, capable of gentle playfulness, but then the claws can suddenly appear to hurt and even to kill.
The power of God is something to be respected and feared, too. The power of His judgment is devastating. But the power of the Good News in Christ is altogether different. It is God's power, all right, but it is purely and simply the power to save. Christ Himself made that clear when He said that He had come into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.
What does it mean to be saved? We usually think of saving as finding something that has been lost-like a door key or a wallet or a pair of glasses. Or we think of salvation as escape from universal evils like unemployment, revolution, inflation, or hunger, or war. To be saved is to be safe, to enjoy safety, health, and happiness.
When St. Paul talked about people being saved by the power of God through the Good News of Christ, he was talking about finding something great and also about escape from something terrible. The great thing a man finds in the Good News of Christ is the smiling face of a gracious God who has every right to pass judgment, but He forgives, instead. The great peril a man escapes through the Good News of Christ is the one judgment he has most to fear, the one he would most like to forget: the judgment of Almighty God upon all the sin and evil of men. Sin pays its wage, and its wage is death. God's free gift is eternal life in union with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now that's something to have: eternal life! To be saved before the face of God, to have life in Christ, is to be justified, to be put right with God.
The Good News we proclaim in Jesus Christ shows how God justifies, how He puts men right with Himself. It is not a plan for the establishment of perfect justice upon earth. It is not an antidote to every human frustration. But the Good News in Christ does get at the very heart of life. It puts together a foundation upon which the house of life can be built. It talks about the basic reality without which nothing else is right. It shows a man not so much how he gets right with God, but how God has put men right with Himself.
God did that once and for all in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. That's why Paul said, "I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: Jesus Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; He was buried and raised to life on the third day, as written in the Scriptures. In Jesus Christ there is salvation and safety. Salvation is to be found in Him alone; there is no one else in the whole world whose Name God has given to men, by whom we can be saved."
We are eager to preach the Good News in Christ, because it is really good news; it is still good when everything else has gone bad.
In spite of hatred and murder, lawlessness and rebellion, war and hunger, the Good News of Christ offers hope for the future. It is the promise that the future will be good.
A continuing flame shines over the grave of President John Kennedy, and on that grave as over so many others, there is the symbol of hope: "I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." So, it is over the graves of great and small, educated and uneducated, strong and the weak, rich and poor who have experienced in their own lives the dynamic power of salvation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
The Good News is really good-good enough to believe, good enough to trust. It is good enough to have. All that it takes to have faith in Jesus Christ is to say to yourself, right now, "The Good News is good for me."
Some people call it faith when a man acknowledges that God exists. Others say faith is striving to keep the commandments of God. Still others call it faith when a man has confidence in his fellow man's goodness, humanity, and progress. But that is not faith. None of these is faith
as St. Paul talked about faith.
The faith that saves recognizes that God is the Lord and that He is right when He passes judgment. The faith that saves is also trust in God's mercy and faithfulness made known to the whole world in the cross of Jesus Christ. It accepts the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. It is courage to cling to God when all supports have crumbled and when God Himself seems to have abandoned His world. Faith is complete commitment of the entire person to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, overcoming unbelief, renouncing self-centeredness, and surmounting the offense which the proclamation of the Good News in Christ always brings. It is glad acceptance, of the apostolic testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Faith saves, not because a man has done something when he comes to faith in Christ, but because he accepts Christ as the Savior of the world and as his own personal Savior. That faith is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, working in people both to will and to do according to God's good pleasure. Salvation is by faith in Christ, by faith from beginning to end. "By faith alone," as St. Paul said. He who is put right with God through faith shall live.
All of it is good news, and all of it is in Christ: Christ is all and Christ is everything. We are eager to proclaim the Good News in Christ, in discharge of our obligation to the whole world as followers of Christ, with complete confidence in the reliability of the message God has given us in Christ. What is more, we are full of joy over the fact that this news is good for all and everyone.
We are eager to preach the Good News. The Good News of Christ belongs to you, my friend. Hear it and believe it. Live with trust in God who through Christ justifies the ungodly. Amen.
Reflections for September 2, 2018
Title: Eager to Preach by Tony Cook
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and that was a classic message from Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, first heard in September of 1968. Joining me now here in the studio is Dr. Tony Cook, director of U.S. Ministries for Lutheran Hour Ministries. Tony, the text of that sermon was from Romans, being not ashamed of the Gospel, but rather eager to share with it others. I understand that has a very personal meaning for you.
Tony Cook: It does. I was thrilled to hear this sermon because that passage from Romans is my confirmation verse. I can remember going through confirmation and when I was confirmed, the pastor coming around and putting his hand on your head and reading your verse, and so you had to memorize these. Only years later, when I was ordained, did my pastor tell me that he gave me that verse in hopes that I, too, would not be ashamed of the Gospel, but like Paul, that I would be eager to preach the Gospel among all the nations. And when I look back at my life, I can kind of see how he was molding and working. But for me, that was probably the greatest thing that he could do-was to plant that message of not being ashamed of the Gospel but being eager to preach it in my heart and in my mind.
Mark Eischer: Let's talk about that word "eager,"-that idea of eagerness to share the Gospel. What does that look like? What are the components of that?
Tony Cook: What's interesting when you talk about sharing your faith and having spiritual conversations, the people who tend to do those-have those conversations and do those things-are eager. They're motivated to do them. What we found out in our research with the Barna Group was that over the past 25 years, fewer and fewer people are eager to have those conversations. And in fact, three quarters of people who identify as Christians have fewer than 10 spiritual conversations a year. And so, we wanted to know the people who have more, the people that we call "eager conversationalists" as compared to reluctant, what do those people look like? And what the research showed us was that people who were eager to share, that they were people who embrace the Gospel for themselves in their daily lives. That they recognize the basics of the need for the Gospel: our sin, the forgiveness that it comes through Jesus. But they embrace the Gospel not simply as a doctrine, but they embraced it as their identity. That when they saw themselves, when they looked at themselves, they saw someone who is a child of God and who is loved by Him. So, they had a way of applying that Gospel and seeing themselves as these forgiven children of God.
Interestingly enough, they were also people who, I guess not surprisingly, practice spiritual disciplines. They went to church regularly. They read the Bible devotionally. They maintained a regular prayer life. They practiced life together with other Christians as well as they were people who had an understanding of their calling, or we call it "vocation"-that they recognize that not only were they children of God, but that God had a purpose for their lives and that where they were placed in the world, the context in which they lived, the skills that they were given, that God had called them personally to utilize their giftedness and all of the relationships that they've been given to His glory, and as an opportunity to gain a hearing for the Gospel for those who do not know Him.
So, they saw themselves not only forgiven and loved, but they saw themselves as, as called. And as a result of that, that made them eager, but also it caused them to expect spiritual conversations. They knew they were going to happen because that was their job, that was their calling, and so they looked for those opportunities. They sought them out in their daily lives and one of the things we found is that while yes, spiritual conversations can happen accidentally or without knowing it, that they're going to happen, that many of them happen when we actually pursue those opportunities, when we expect them and look out for them. And then finally, we found that these people who were eager to proclaim the Gospel, when they did so, they did so confidently-that they had prepared themselves, that they were seeking to understand each other, that they didn't feel threatened when they were challenged, or they were asked a question, because they knew that their certainty wasn't in their own strength, their own ability, but it was in the promises of God.
And so, they patiently endured those awkward conversations and times. Most fascinatingly enough, people who were eager to have these spiritual conversations and to proclaim the Gospel and share their faith, that when they came away from these experiences that they reported having these positive benefits, that they felt joy. And so, for me, looking back on this passage, when you see in the verse before, the call to preach the Gospel, followed by not being ashamed, that what we found is that actually sharing your faith makes you more and more confident, less and less ashamed, if you will, and it's a cycle that's mutually beneficial. And the more and more we live into it, the more and more we have opportunities to not only not be ashamed of the Gospel, but to relay that power of God in Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him.
Mark Eischer: And we also have an online course that could help a listener develop some of these traits and understandings to make them a bit more eager, a bit more prepared to share their faith.
Tony Cook: We do. We have a course called Eager to Share, and you can find that course as well as two other courses based off our Barna research by visiting the LHM Learn at www.lhm.org/learn. And they're all FREE, sign up for a free account and learn how to be an eager conversationalist.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"By Grace I'm Saved, Grace Free and Boundless" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)