Ready To Preach the Gospel
July 19th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-19-92 8:15 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Romans, we have come to verse 16 of the first chapter, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:16]. Why should he mention that "I am not ashamed"? Who is ashamed of the gospel of our blessed Lord? Just look through His life, and you will find an answer. When He was arrested, "they all forsook Him, and fled" [Mark 14:50]. Not one wanted to be identified with Him; they all left Him. And when Simon Peter was accosted by a little girl, a maid, she said, "You are one of His; you talk like Him." And Simon Peter said, "You think I talk like Him, then listen to this!" and he cursed and swore he never knew Him [Mark 14:66-71]; ashamed of Jesus. In the Via Dolorosa, staggering under a heavy cross, they had to impress a North African from Cyrene to help bear it [Matthew 27:32]; not one would identify themselves with the Lord, not one. And of course, when He was nailed to the cross, He died the most ignominious death that the Roman Empire could ever devise [Matthew 27:33-50]. You see, there are those in the life of our Lord, all of them, who are ashamed of Him.
Then when we enter the days of the preaching of the gospel after the death of our Lord, there is still that same ignominy. Listen to the apostle Paul as he pleads with his son in the ministry, Timothy. In chapter 1, verse 8:
Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.
[2 Timothy 1:8]
And verse 12:
For this reason I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.
[2 Timothy 1:12]
And look again, 15:
This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me . . . The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.
[2 Timothy 1:15-16]
The usual response in that first century of the Christian faith was one of ashamed, refusal of identity and persecution. Does it ever occur to you why the Christian should be persecuted? Rome, of all governments, was tolerant, beneficent. That’s what made their provinces so at peace, a Roman world peace. The Roman government was always gracious and sympathetic with the peoples of their provinces; they never persecuted. Then how is it that out of all things they persecuted the Christians? No matter what gods were worshiped by the people, they were accepted by the Romans. If you’ve ever been in Rome, the most perfectly preserved of all the buildings of ancient times is the Roman Pantheon. Pan, "all," Theos, "god," all the gods; when Rome conquered a province, conquered a nation, conquered a people, they took their god and put him or put her in the Pantheon. And as you look around those niches, all the gods of the Roman Empire were accepted and were there.
Well then, why persecute the Christians? Paul, in every one of the verses that I’ve just read, speaks of suffering and imprisonment and chains. Why? The answer is found in the uncompromising response of the Christian faith: their God Christ was not to be placed in any pantheon with all the other gods and goddesses, false, worshipped by the people of the world. There was only one God, one Lord, one Savior, one Christ the King [Ephesians 4:4-6], and they refused to bow down to any other. They were called atheists because they refused to worship other gods. I do not know of a more dramatic incident in human history than the martyrdom of Polycarp, the pastor of the church at Smyrna. Today it’s called Izmir, outside of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. In that city of ancient Smyrna, Polycarp was the pastor. On the twenty-third of February in 155 AD, he was burned, and the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp is of all things dramatic.
In the amphitheater, they were enjoying the Greek games, and in the progress of those Greek games, they brought eleven Christians from Philadelphia and fed them to the lions. That just whetted the appetite of that agnostic and God-defying people, and they cried aloud for Polycarp, that he be brought and fed to the lions. They arrested him, they brought him into the amphitheater; but Statius, the proconsul, said the Greek games were over, and it was not appropriate that he be fed to the lions.
Then the crowd cried out, "Then burn him!" They brought in timber and branches, made a pyre, p-y- r-e, put Polycarp on it, and the proconsul said to the pastor of the church, "This image of Caesar, you take a pinch of incense, and put it on the flame before his image, and we’ll let you live," and Polycarp replied that famous sentence: "Eighty and six years have I served Him. Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never done me wrong. Shall I now renounce and denounce my Lord and King who saved me?" And Statius said, "You say ‘kurios Kaisar’ and you will live." And Polycarp replied "Iēsous kurios," Jesus is Lord; and they burned him on the pyre. That’s the most unusual thing that you could think for in the Roman Empire, and it marked the beginning of the decadence of that great government.
In that hard Pagan world,
Disgust and secret loathing fell
The weariness and sated lust
Made human life a hell.
In his cool hall, with haggard lips,
The Roman noble lay,
He drove abroad with furious guise
Along with the Appian Way.
He made a feast, drank fierce and fast,
And crown’d his head with flowers –
No easier nor no quicker pass’d
The impracticable hours.
["Obermann Once More," Matthew Arnold]
The judgment of God upon Rome; and it began in that persecution of the people of the Lord. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:16]. What of us today? Why would one be ashamed of our Lord? The answer is very apparent. That’s what compromise and sin and worldliness will do in your life, without exception!
In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, God made them male and female [Genesis 1:27], and the last verse reads: "And both of them were naked . . . and were not ashamed" [Genesis 2:25]; the man and the woman that God made: now that’s the second chapter. In the third chapter of the Book of the Genesis: "And their eyes were opened, and they looked upon their naked bodies and were ashamed. And they hid themselves and made them aprons of figs to cover their nakedness" [Genesis 3:7-8]. Why? Because of sin! Sin will always do that. It will make you ashamed of the Lord. At the evening sacrifice, Ezra writes:
I arose from my fasting, and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, And said, O my God, I am too ashamed and too humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God: for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.
That will make you ashamed. It’s everywhere, and it’s in your life. You have ambitions to be accepted into the world, so you compromise, and you live as they do. You drink, you carouse, you are sexually promiscuous, and being in that kind of an environment and company and social status, you will be ashamed of the Lord and of owning Him in their company.
One of the saddest things you could ever behold in your life is you, a Christian, having accepted Jesus as your Savior, and you are in a place, and you are in a company, and you are in a behavior that makes you ashamed of the Lord. How wonderful it is to read this glorious text of mine, "I am not ashamed of Jesus my Lord, of the gospel of Christ" [Romans 1:16]. I am not ashamed of Him!
In India, I went down to Agra to look upon the Taj Mahal, absolutely the most marvelous creation and monument in this world. Shah Jahan built it in memory of his wife who died and whom he loved. And when I went down there, I met the pastor of the Baptist church, his name was Haiderali. He had been sent by the English Baptists, who were dying, to close down our Baptist church in Agra. I looked at that church; right there at the pediment, "established, built in 1845," and Haiderali had been sent down there to close it down. He said to me, "When I came to close down the church, my heart smote me, and I couldn’t do it; and I have stayed here trying to rebuild build this witness and this congregation."
Well, I talked with Haiderali’s son; he was a young fellow, say, he was twenty years old. And he told me of the drastic, tragic life that he was forced to live. Agra is not far from New Delhi, the capital of the nation, and Hinduism was rising nascently, and he was a Christian. And he said to me, "All I have to do is to renounce and denounce the faith, and I’ll be accepted, and I’ll have a fine job," he was already educated, "and I’ll be on my way, rising in Hindu culture – but my heart won’t let me. I can’t denounce my Lord." And he was suffering, paying the penalty as a young man. So the Lord said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this sinful generation; of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels" [Mark 8:38].
I am not ashamed of Christ; I will own Him anywhere in this earth. I am not ashamed of the Book, this blessed Bible, the revelation of the true and only God, our Savior. I am not ashamed of the Bible. Did you know the only fight I ever had in my young life was over that? You wouldn’t believe it; right up there in the next block from me in the little town in which I was fetched up lived a boy named George Abbot. He got mad at me, and he said: "You little Bible reader!" And when he accused me of being a little Bible reader, I flung into him, I hit him with all the power I had. I beat him up. Isn’t that a sight? Today, if I were accused of being a little Bible reader, I’d thank them – a gracious compliment, "a little Bible reader."
My favorite verse, as you know, is Isaiah 40:8: "The flower withereth, the stem of the growth fades: but the word of God abides forever." I so well remember – isn’t remarkable how little things in your life will impress themselves on you? I was in the university, and I had my Bible open for my morning reading, and as I read my Bible, suddenly there covered the pages the most beautiful rainbow you could ever have looked upon – those colors on the pages of God’s Holy Word as I read my morning devotional, ah! As you would know, it was a prism, the sun shining through a pane of glass, but the impression it made upon me as I read God’s Holy Word, those beautiful colors of the rainbow. I’m not ashamed of God’s Book, the power of God, the revelation of God unto salvation.
Dear me, what would I do without my Bible, in life, in death, and in the promise to the world to come? I am not ashamed of my church. O Lord, I’ve expatiated upon it until You are weary to hear me, but I love this church. I just love to look at it. I was talking to a young man yesterday – comes down here at 7:20 in the morning, and our service does not begin until 8:15 – and I said, "Why?" And he replied, "Just love to be seated in God’s house, read the Bible, pray, meditate, think upon the Lord," just loving God’s church.
And I am proud of its mission, the assignment God has given us, the salvation of the world, our ministries to the peoples of this planet and globe. Sweet people, you don’t realize this: many, many of the nations of the world – I am talking about nations, many of the nations of the world, in the Orient, in Africa for example – in many of the nations of the world, there was not one orphanage, there was not one hospital, there was not one school; not one! And the emissary from Jesus came and preached the gospel, and immediately, immediately there springs up an orphanage, there springs up a hospital, there springs up a school, there springs up the church, the house of God. O Lord, what the message of Christ has done for this lost world! I am not ashamed of the church; nothing could be more moving in my heart than to attend the services of the church. Just to be there, just to sit down and listen to the singing, join in the hymn and praise God for His marvelous revelation in Christ Jesus. I am not ashamed of the church and its mission in the world.
I wish we had an hour and a half just to think of it. One time in Nigeria in West Africa, I went around with Dr. Goldie, our Southern Baptist missionary, Dr. Goldie. What they had done for all the generations past in Nigeria; if one had leprosy, they put out that one into the streets, or into the highways, or into the jungles, or into the deserts to die. They pushed him out to die, and did you know little children can have leprosy? And those little children and the young people and fathers and mothers, if they developed that disease, they were excluded from the community and from the town to die of starvation and exposure. Well, what Dr. Goldie did, he gathered those lepers in a great arc through Nigeria, and he called them "clan settlements," and he gathered them here, and then gathered them there, and then there, and there, and there, and there, in a great arc through Nigeria. He had a little-bitty car, so I went with him, and he ministered to those lepers in those clan settlements all through that great country. Well, I looked at him, as you would have done, and his ministry to those wretched people. Who sent him out? We did. Bless God! We did. Who paid his salary and supported him? We did, we did. Who built those clan settlements? We did. And who bought that medicine? We did. And as I looked at it, that ministry to those wretched people, I was so proud and glad and grateful to God for my people, for our church, our denomination and its ministries to the needy.
"And pastor, that’s part of why I love this wonderful church here in the city of Dallas; we have thirty-one chapels, thirty-one missions, reaching out to the poor, and the helpless, and the lost, and the homeless, and I love every thought of it." There’s not anything our church does that to me is more precious than the ministries in these thirty-one chapels throughout this great metroplex. I am not ashamed of our church.
Is that nine o’clock? I can’t believe this. I just got started! That’s my introduction. Oh, dear! Out of so much remaining, let me take just a little pericope; the reward of being unashamed in the Lord.
As you know, I began my pastoral work in 1927; and you remember, in 1929, the great stock market crash and the Depression that followed in the years? So in those beginning years of my ministry, I worked in the Depression. Well, in my first church, there was a salesman of a packinghouse, and he went to all of those stores, and all of those butcher shops, and all those groceries, and sold them meat from the packinghouse, and was very affluent. He’s a good looking guy and had a beautiful wife and had a lovely house; he was just prospering. Well, he was saved; God wonderfully converted him. He was a worldly young fellow, and God wonderfully saved him. And he came to see me, and he said, "I don’t know where to turn, don’t know what to do. Since I’ve been saved, I don’t drink anymore. I don’t carouse anymore, I don’t cuss anymore, I don’t tell filthy jokes anymore, and these people to whom I’ve been selling packing goods, meat, from the packing house, they don’t like me anymore. I don’t drink with them anymore, I don’t tell dirty jokes with them anymore, I don’t laugh at filth anymore, and they don’t like me anymore. And I’ve lost my business, and I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to do.
I said, "You get down here on your knees," and I put my arm around him, and I prayed, "O God, this young man, he’s standing up for Jesus, and he’s true to Your name, and he’s not ashamed of his faith. Please God, stand by him and help him! Please, God, do it."
Did you know as the days and the weeks passed and the months passed, he came back to me, and he said, "Pastor, it’s a miracle, it’s a miracle!" He said, "I have more business now than I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m more accepted now than I’ve ever been in my life."
Well, I said, "What has happened beside answered prayer?"
And he said to me, "You know these grocery stores, and these butcher shops, and all of these people that repudiated me and refused me?" He said, "Now, they have confidence in me beyond anything that you could ever describe. They know I am a Christian and that I tell them the truth about what I am selling. When I describe the meat, they know that’s what it is. And when I sell them the product, they know it’s the truth what I am saying. And with their wonderful confidence in me as a Christian, they love to trade with me and to buy from me. And I am more blessed now than I’ve ever been in my life."
Sweet people, I believe in that. You be true to the Lord, unashamed of Him, confess Him anywhere, anyhow, in any way, and God will bless you, and your house, and your home, and your family. You stand by Him, and He will stand by you; that’s God and His promise from heaven.
Fred, come up here, son. We must sing us a song of appeal. And on the first note of this first stanza, come, come, come. "Pastor, I want to open my heart to the blessed Lord Jesus, and unashamedly I want to stand here before this great congregation and avow my faith in the precious Lord Jesus," or "I want to come into the fellowship of this glorious church, this house of God, and put my life with these dear people." As God’s Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing, while we stand and while we sing. "This is God’s day for me, and I’m on the way. I’m coming now. I’m coming now. I’m coming now." Amen, young man, amen.
READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Ashamed – why mention such a thing?
A. In the life of Christ
1. When He was arrested, His disciples forsook Him and fled
2. Peter denied Him, cursing
3. On the Via Dolorosa soldiers had to impress a North African to help bear His cross
4. Ignominy of the crucifixion
B. In early Christian story
1. Paul’s appeal to Timothy(2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 15)
2. When Rome was so tolerant, why were Christians persecuted?
a. They refused to put Christ in the Pantheon
b. Considered atheists because they refused to bow down to any other
i. Martyrdom of Polycarp
ii. Poem, "Obermann Once More"
C. Us today – why would one be ashamed of our Lord?
1. A compromised life(Genesis 2:25, 3:7, Ezra 9:5-6)
II. "I am not ashamed"
A. Of my Savior
1. In India, meeting Haiderali’s son who was suffering for being a Christian in a Hindu culture
B. Of the Bible
1. The only fight I ever had as a boy
2. My favorite verse (Isaiah 40:8)
3. Reading early in the morning, a prism caused rainbows to shine over the pages of my Bible
4. The power of the Book
C. Of my church
D. Of our mission and assignment
1. Dr. Goldie’s clan settlements, ministering to lepers in Nigeria
III. The reward of being unashamed in the Lord
A. Packing house salesman who was converted – "I am more blessed now than I’ve ever beenâ€¦"
B. Stand by Him, and He will stand by you