Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. You go forward in the Christian life and go back to the beginning and go deeper into it. It's not new facts. It's growing intimately familiar with those truths that you have known, some of you, since childhood. The way that we grow in Christ is the same way we began in Christ. You see, the gospel is not just your initial burst of power in the Christian life. The gospel is the power all the way through the Christian life. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer.
As always, I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. So where do you get the power to continue in the Christian life? Today, Pastor J.D. Greer begins a new series in the book of Romans and explains how the gospel is not just the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity.
It is actually the pool itself. And Pastor J.D. asks a very important question, one that sets the tone for this new series, Who's Your One? Let's learn together what the gospel is and what it means for you as Pastor J.D.
starts our study through some of the most important and pressing questions that we have today. So grab your Bible and let's join him in Romans, chapter one. So if you will take your Bibles out at this point and you will open them to the book of Romans, I am super excited about this.
Now you ask, why would we study Romans for the greater part of a year? Well, for one thing, the greatest Christian leaders for the last 2000 years have maintained that Romans is the most important theological book ever written. St. Augustine, 1500 years ago, said that in Romans, all the shadows of his personal doubt were dispelled. It's where he came to know God.
Ultimately, he would be one of the most influential figures in all of Christian history. John Calvin spoke of Romans as his entrance to all the most hidden treasures of scripture. Martin Luther said that Romans was the most important piece in the New Testament. He said it is literally impossible for you to read, to think about, to ponder, to study, to meditate on the book of Romans too much. He said the central premise of the book of Romans, justification by faith alone, is the doctrine on which the church rises or falls.
Right, so that's how these leaders feel about it. And yet, in the 16 years that I have been pastor here at the Summit Church, that's right, I became pastor here when I was 14 years old. In the 16 years that I've been pastor here at the Summit Church, I have never preached through the book of Romans.
A little point of transparency and honesty here, it's because I have been genuinely scared. I'm scared of a few of the passages that are in it, and if you've read Romans, you know exactly what those are and you'll know when we're coming to them. I'm also scared because I'm pretty sure that in three years from whenever I preach it, I'll look back and be embarrassed by the job that I did. And so I just punted it year after year and thought, next year we'll do Romans. This year, it was time to man up, put on my theological big boy pants, and we're going into the book of Romans. Every spiritual awakening that I know of has included some kind of study of the book of Romans. In fact, it was a study of Romans that launched the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther described his discovery of the gospel in Romans. He said, it was as I was studying Romans, I felt like a man that was falling down a bell shaft in a tower and in desperation trying to figure out who God was and what his purpose was for my life and how to know for sure that I would go to heaven when I died.
I reached out in desperation for the book of Romans and I grabbed a hold of it, and when I did, it rang a bell that woke up half of Christendom. Luther said, from that point on, my study of Romans was something like a man that is trying to get apples out of an apple tree who climbs to the extremity of every branch and he shakes as vigorously as he can to make sure that not a single piece of fruit is left on that tree. That's going to be similar to what we try to do in the book of Romans.
We're going to try to get every single bit of goodness out of this book and let it have the same awakening in us and in our community that it has had throughout history. In Romans, Paul works through the most important and most pressing questions ever considered by the human race. Whether you are a Christian or not, religious or not, the most important questions ever pondered by people in the human race, he does so with meticulous logic showing us that the gospel is the only answer to those questions and the only real solution to our problems.
Paul's logic in this book is so meticulous that for the first hundred or so years of Harvard Law School, first year students were required to work their way through Romans, not for religious reasons, but because of the careful way that Paul builds the argument there. Because he starts with shared experiences people can agree on and then shows how the gospel is the best theory to explain these phenomenon. Then he anticipates objections before you even have a chance to think of them and he addresses them and deals with them and keeps bringing you back to the gospel. Paul's central subject in this book is the gospel. He tells us that in the very first chapter and he explains to them in a passage in the first chapter that I'm going to kind of think of as the key theme passage for the whole book, why the gospel is so important to him and why he's going to spend that entire book, 16 chapters, talking about it. Romans 1, 15 through 17, key passage in the book. Here's what Paul says, I am eager to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome.
I think if Paul could be here with us today, he would say, I am eager that you and Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill and Cary and Mebane and Apex and Holly Springs and everywhere in between, I am eager that you are studying this book that I've written about the gospel because, he says, I am not ashamed of the gospel. You see, it is the power of God. Notice, it is the power of God, not contains the power of God or connects you to the power of God or channels the power of God, but it is itself the power of God.
Y'all consider this for a minute. The gospel is the only thing in the whole Bible other than Jesus himself that is ever referred to directly as the power of God and that is very, very significant and it explains why Paul is so devoted to it. A little interesting factoid here, when dynamite was first invented in the 18th century, its name was derived from the Greek word that Paul uses there for power.
The word in Greek is dunamis, they use that word to get our word dynamite from. Now, of course, Paul didn't know anything about dynamite in the first century, but I think that is still a good image to use when thinking about the gospel. The gospel is God's explosive power to create, to redeem, to heal. It is God's explosive power to bring back from the dead. It's not a new strategy or a new way to live, it is new life itself. It is not good advice, it is good news about the power of God.
It is the power of God and to encounter it or to touch it is to touch power. My dad grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee and he said that one of the worst whoopings he ever got as a boy was when he broke into his dad's company shed and stole some dynamite. He said, I said, dad, why did you steal dynamite? He said, because I wanted to go fishing with it. That's the natural question, how do you fish with dynamite? He said it was much easier than the traditional way. He said, because you don't have to sit for hours with your line in the water, so you just light the dynamite, you throw it into the water and boom, it explodes and all the fish just float to the surface and you can just scrape them in.
It's not a new systematic way of fishing, it is power that does all the work for you. In a similar way, the gospel does not give you instructions about how to change. The gospel itself is the power to change, it is power, it's not method.
I've heard it said before that the laws and the regulations and the guidelines of religion, they function like railroad tracks showing us the direction that we should go, but powerless to move the freight along the tracks. I would say that some of you that's probably a decent image for how you feel about your spiritual life. It's not that you don't know what to do, it's not that you don't know the right thing to do, it's that you're just powerless to move the freight of your life along the tracks. You know what you're supposed to do, it's the motivation, the ability to do those things that you are lacking, right? In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you think that you're generally a good person, if you think, oh, the Christian life is not that big of a deal, I can live the Christian life, it's because you've never actually really tried.
It's just still a theory to you. Try to be pure in your heart for just one afternoon. Try to be without jealousy, without hatred, without rebellion, without pride.
Try to be without selfishness. And the harder you try, the more you will see that your heart will not cooperate, right? I kind of feel like it's like when I first started watching, you know, these yoga things, you're like, that is so easy, you can't even call that a workout, right? And then you try it, you feel like you're gonna die, right?
Because you're like, it looked so easy, but you can't do it. The Christian life is the kind of thing that you don't really realize how impossible it is until you actually try to do it from the heart. From the heart, I first learned this when I was in college, I decided that I was just gonna be like the perfect Christian. I was like, I wanna do it. I'm just gonna, I'm gonna love God with all my heart, soul and mind.
And you know, I remember it was about halfway through my sophomore year, just collapsing in a heap beside my bed in my dorm room, just pouring out my heart to God, ready to give up, because I'm like, God, I'm a failure. I'm a total failure at this. I can force myself to be kind to people. I can force myself to speak nicely to people. But in my heart, I know that I don't love them. And in fact, I resist your laws. I resist, I don't love the things I'm supposed to love.
And I don't know what to do about that. Then it was one of those moments, y'all, when the spirit of God spoke to me in a voice that is as clear as if it were audible. And God just says, finally, you are ready to start believing the gospel, because I'm not waiting on you to accomplish these things for me. I'm waiting on you to recognize that you can't do it so that you'll yield yourself so I can do it through you.
That's what we're gonna encounter, the power to do what you want to do, if you want to do what God wants you to do. Now, at this point, you're saying, well, wait a minute, JD, I already know the gospel, okay? If you give me a quiz, I could give you the ABCs of the gospel. So I just feel like I'm gonna be bored as we study Romans.
Well, consider this, a couple of things. First of all, Paul wrote this book to Christians. He didn't write it to pagans. It's not written to Caesar. Look in verse seven, he wrote it to the saints.
So it's a book about the gospel for believers. But even more importantly, when Peter wrote his letter to the church, he said it was the gospel that is the thing that the angels in heaven wish that they could get a better grasp of and grow more intimately familiar with. I want you to think about that for a minute. The angels who see God's face every day, it's gotta be hard to impress an angel, don't you think? I mean, think about what angels have seen. We know that angels were present for at least part of the creation. They've seen God create all this stuff. And then we know that angels, they saw God split the Red Sea. They've seen God put words in the mouth of Balaam's donkey. Angels have to be hard to impress. They're like the ultimate teenagers, no matter what you do.
They're just like, I'm so bored, right? But here, Peter says the one thing the angels long to get a deeper look at, the one thing they long to be able to experience and taste more of is the gospel. So please don't sit around and tell me that you're going to be bored in this because the gospel we say is like a well. You get the best water from the well, not by widening the circumference of the well. You get the best water by going deeper in the well. It's not a bunch of new facts you need to learn in order to grow spiritually. It's growing intimately and more deeply aware of the things that you think you already know about the gospel. Reminding me of something, 2005, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, which in my opinion are the 538 different Batman adaptations we've had to endure over our lifetime.
I think that is the best one. And there's this great scene in it where young Bruce Wayne falls down in this little well shaft or something like that. And he discovers this massive network of caves underneath the Bruce Wayne family mansion. And what he basically discovers is that the true riches of his family are not contained above ground.
It was right below his feet. As he went deeper and deeper, he discovered cavern after cavern with riches after riches, and ultimately the secrets to become the Batman. This is how you and I are going to treat the gospel. If we want the real riches of it, it's we got to go deeper into it and keep going farther. It's why Martin Luther said, I've learned that to progress in the Christian life is just to begin again.
It's not new facts. It's growing intimately familiar with those truths that you have known some of you since childhood. The way that we grow in Christ is the same way we began in Christ. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D.
Greer, and we are so glad that you've joined us. Before we jump back into today's teaching, I want to let you know about a resource that we've created to help you dive deeper into God's word. It's called the Gospel Flipbook. It's a spiral-bound collection of flashcards that guide you through reading the four gospels. We believe that time spent in God's word is the most important part of any believer's journey, and we've designed this resource to help make that time both engaging and fruitful. The Gospel Flipbook includes a reading plan that takes you through each of the gospels as well as information about the authors, key passages, and important memory verses. Plus, we've included guided prayers and reflections to help you really apply what you're learning to your life. We'd love to send you a copy of the Gospel Flipbook as our way of saying thank you for supporting this ministry.
And to get yours, simply call us at 866-335-5220 or visit jdgreer.com. You see, the gospel is not just your initial burst of power in the Christian life. The gospel is the power all the way through the Christian life. That's why Paul says in verse 17 that we experience the power of God, watch this, from faith to faith. What that means is, how did you first experience the power of God? If you're a Christian, you first experience the grace and power of God by saying, God, I can't save myself. You've got to save me. You've got to give me your righteousness. You've got to put resurrection power in me. And the moment you believed, you got your first taste of God's power.
Paul says, okay, great. Now that you experienced that one time, how do you continue to experience the power of God? Is it because you learn a bunch of new stuff? No, it's because you do it from faith to faith. It is the same faith you showed in Christ at the beginning that you show in Christ all the way through that reconnects you to the power of God. You see, whatever is broken in your spiritual life, the first step of remedy for whatever's broken is to believe the gospel. To believe that Jesus paid your sin debt in full, and because of that, you could not be any more acceptable to God than you are right now.
To believe that ultimately it is his power and his power alone that can save you. When you believe that, you experience the renewed power of the gospel. It's why we say around this church, the gospel is not just a diving board, off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity.
That's what most of us thought about it. It's the entry right into Christianity. It's the prayer we pray to begin the Christian life. But the gospel Paul says is more than that.
It's not just a diving board off of which we jump into the pool, it's the pool itself. The way that we grow in Christ is the way we began in Christ. The way we experience the continued power of God is the way we began to experience the power of God. You see, most of us think that we change spiritually. We grow spiritually by just getting busier in the Christian life. You think that godly people are busy people and that what you're gonna come to church is get a new list of assignments and a new list of things to do for the year.
And if you get exhausted, well, congratulations, you'll be spiritual. That's certainly how I thought growing up. The church that I grew up in, we had a traditional kind of Baptist church and right in the pew rack right in front of us with these little blue envelopes, standard Baptist issue. So you would take one out and put your offering in it. But it also had a little checklist on the front, little boxes for you to check of essential things that you should do as a disciple. And those things like, did you read your Bible?
And if so, you would put a little check. Did you put your offering in? You'd check that if you prayed, you'd check. If you share Christ with somebody, you'd check that. Used to be a little game of mine that I could see if I could commence and complete every single one of the things on the list by the time the offering started to when it got back to me.
I shared Christ with my sister hundreds of times during that season. But the result was I grew up thinking that godliness and business were the same things. Now that wasn't my church's fault. They weren't intentionally teaching that, but that's just how a lot of us grow up is thinking that to get spiritual is to get busy and to do more stuff and to try to reach a new standard. But the result y'all was that I was spiritually exhausted because God was always like this taskmaster standing above me saying, not enough, do it better, do more of it.
It's not good enough and you got to try harder. And so I found that the closer I tried to make my feet follow Jesus, the more my heart seemed to wander from him. I kind of think now of religion like this, you know, a golf club. Golf clubs will bend a little bit. In fact, they're designed that way so that when you swing them, that's part of the bend is how you get the momentum in it. But what happens with a golf club is after it bends, as you're swinging it, it goes back to its original position. You don't do that one time. It's not curved after that.
You could also, if you get it at the right angle, you could bend it and break the golf club. I've always thought that was a really good image of the way religion works on us because we put pressure on you to try to conform you to a certain religious shape. And after a while, you're doing it, but you're always under pressure. And the moment those pressures are gone, your heart goes back to its original shape because that's sort of the way that your heart wants to be. It doesn't want to be doing what God wants. It doesn't want to be studying the things of God, it doesn't want to be doing God's will.
So as long as the pressures are there, you're okay. But the moment you're not around your Christian friends, the moment your mom and dad aren't around, the moment that you're no longer scared, you don't need God's help for something, the moment that life has gone back to normal, your heart goes back to its original shape. Or we finally put so much pressure on you spiritually that you just snap. And you're like, I'm sick of this. I'm sick of all these rules. I'm sick of these people telling me what I got to give and what I can say and what I can't say and who I can't sleep with. This happens to high school students sometimes when they leave home and they get to college and they're like, finally, I'm so sick of mom and dad's rules. Always tell me what I got to do and what I can't do and what I got to say and what I can't say and they just snap spiritually.
Well, see, there's another way to bend that metal and that is if you heat that metal up with a blow torch, man, you can tie that thing up like a pretzel even if you weren't that strong. The gospel is like the heat that changes the constitution of the heart so that we can then conform to the laws of God. Some of you are exhausted spiritually because you know the railroad tracks of what you're supposed to do but you have never experienced the power of God and I believe that is going to change this year. Discovering from Romans who God is and what his original plan was for us, where sin came from and why it holds such captivity over us, why religious resolution or education or technological advancement is useless to address the problems of our heart. We're gonna see what God has done about sin and what he continues to do and how that reshapes how we think about trials and tribulations and how it transforms and how we approach every single relationship in our life. Jesus said that this gospel, y'all, was so powerful that not even the gates of hell could resist it.
Whether those gates of hell are out in the world somewhere or whether those gates of hell right in your own heart. Some of you got some gates of hell in your heart that nothing has ever been able to penetrate or overcome and you're going to encounter the power of God this year that you're gonna see shatter some of those gates of hell in your heart and some of you are gonna yield yourself to be used by God and you're gonna see the power of the gospel penetrate some other gate in hell in our society. Are you ready to experience this? You ready?
Ladies and gentlemen, buckle your seatbelt and prepare for the ride of a lifetime, okay? All right, let's make a few other observations from this key passage just so we are on the same page as we get into this study this year, okay? All right, Paul says, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. What does he mean by gospel?
Let's ask that most basic question first. Well, first, the word in Greek literally means just good news. We think of the word gospel now as an exclusively religious word. I say gospel, you think church, you think a certain kind of music. But gospel in Greek just means good news.
In fact, in Paul's day, it wasn't usually used in religious context. The most common usage of the word gospel we find is when a general, like a Greek general would win a battle. He would always send out a proclamation to the countryside that basically was like, hey, everybody, rejoice. General awesomeness here has won the battle. And because I have won the battle, you can now exist in peace and security and prosperity and happiness.
It wasn't an invitation to come and join the army. It was a declaration that he had won. So when Jesus and the apostles choose the word gospel to describe their message, they're indicating this is good news about a battle Jesus has won. It's not an invitation for you to come and fight the battle. Jesus's last words on the cross where it is finished, not, hey, I got it started.
Now, if you come help me finish it up, that'd be awesome. Jesus's declaration is it's finished, it's done. And Paul is like, this gospel is the declaration that Christ has finished the work of your salvation.
And now you can exist in peace and spiritual prosperity, and you can exist in security because of what he has done. In it, Paul says, in this gospel, the righteousness of God is, key word, revealed. The question is, what is the righteousness of God that Paul is talking about? That is the key question, listen, in the book of Romans.
What is the righteousness of God that Paul is talking about? Because that's what it's going to reveal back in my backstage area. I have a few things that are up on the wall, just kind of remind me of what's important in my life. For example, I've got pictures of cities where we plant churches. I've got a picture of me baptizing one of my kids.
I've got a picture of Charles Spurgeon and a quote by him that really fires me up to preach, so that's back there. And one of the last things I have is this big quote by Martin Luther where he talks about the righteousness of God. And he talks about the book of Romans, and he talks about how he could not understand what the righteousness of God was because he thought it was this standard that he had to live up to, that God was always saying, not good enough, not good enough, and I'm going to judge you and I'm going to condemn you because you're not good enough.
Here's what he says. Therefore, he says, I hated that word, righteousness of God, which I've been taught to understand is the righteousness with which God punishes the sinner. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that verse. He's talking about Romans 1, 6, 8. Desiring to know what Saint Paul meant by the phrase righteousness of God, at last by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith. Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.
That is the insight that started the Protestant Reformation right there. We're so excited to have you along with us for this study as we walk through the book of Romans. When JD originally preached this series, he challenged his congregation to be reading Romans multiple times along with the study, because if there's one thing that'll transform your walk with the Lord more than anything else, it's spending one-on-one time in God's word. And fortunately, we have a resource this month to help you stay engaged with God's word. It's called the Gospel Flipbook, and it's a totally new kind of resource here on Summit Life.
It's basically a set of spiral-bound flashcards that you can set on your desk or your nightstand, and we've included all kinds of helpful information to give you a better understanding of the four gospels. We'd love to send you a copy today, and this is actually your last chance to get your hands on the Gospel Flipbook. Give us a call at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or give online at jdgrier.com. And if you haven't yet signed up for our email list, be sure to do that today. Sign up at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Venovich. Have a great weekend of worship, and we'll see you again next time for Summit Life with J.D. Greer.
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