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The Man, the Message, and the Mission

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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May 2, 2023 9:00 am

The Man, the Message, and the Mission

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 2, 2023 9:00 am

The gospel that compelled Paul to forsake his life and carry its message around the world for the sake of the lost is the same gospel that calls you today to do the same. Pastor J.D. continues in the “Romans” series by examining the life of Paul—the former Pharisee who understood that with the privilege of hearing the gospel comes the responsibility of sharing it—and showing how the gospel should change the way you look at your life.

Alan Wright Ministries
Alan Wright
Alan Wright Ministries
Alan Wright

Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. You know, the gospel that compelled Paul to forsake his life and carry its message around the world for the sake of the lost is the same gospel that calls you and I to do the same thing today.

So what exactly does that look like, practically speaking? With the privilege of hearing the gospel comes the responsibility of sharing it. He shows us how the gospel should change the way you look at your life.

Are you ready for new vision? Let's jump right in with the message Pastor J.D. titled The Man, The Message, and The Mission. You ask, why a year or mostly year long study of the book of Romans? It is because many of the greatest Christian leaders throughout Christian history have regarded it as the most important theological book ever written. Martin Luther said it was the most important piece of the entire New Testament. He said that its central premise, justification by faith alone, was the doctrine on which the church rises and falls. Furthermore, I told you, study of this book has led to every great awakening that I know about in Christian history.

It was the study of this book that launched the Protestant Reformation. I remembered something this week that the Apostle Peter had said in one of his letters that he wrote to the churches. Peter says, 2 Peter 3, Paul's letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other scriptures. And so I thought, you know what, if Peter was not scared to tackle the book of Romans, even though he felt like he didn't understand a lot of it, then I shouldn't be scared either. I get this wonderful image of Peter sitting in a coffee shop in Jerusalem, just scratching his head saying, I don't know what he's talking about here.

And so there'll probably be some moments where I feel like that also, but we are going to go right in. The book of Romans, I told you, is a book about the gospel. It is the clearest, most in-depth look at the gospel we find anywhere in scripture. But, and here's where most people miss the boat, this is a book about the gospel that is written to Christians. Christians miss the boat on this because they think the gospel is only for unbelievers. But Paul is going to show us that in the gospel are not just the resources to begin the Christian life. He's going to show us that in the gospel are all the resources to continue the Christian life. He's going to explain that the way that we began in Christ is the same way that we grow in Christ. The gospel is like a well. You don't get the best water from the well by widening the circumference of the well.

You get the best and the purest water by going deeper in the well in the same way. You don't get the best parts of Christianity, of Christ by widening the circumference of your knowledge so much as going deep and understanding intimately the things that are revealed to us in the gospel. Now, specifically, Paul has a very practical problem that he is trying to address with this book, and that is the division of Jewish and Gentile believers within the church at Rome. You see, the original church in Rome was made up of Jewish believers, Jewish Christians, as well as Gentile Christians, Roman Christians.

Jewish Christians, because they were the ones that usually came to Christ first, but they won a lot of the Romans to Christ. And so in this church, you had Jewish and Gentile believers. The problem was that they had very different cultures. They had different styles, different tastes, different ways they like to worship, different ways they talk, different words they use, different politics.

And so there was some contention in there that came from that kind of fusion. To make matters worse, about five years before Romans was written, the Emperor Claudius in Rome banished all the Jews from Rome, which would have included the Jewish Christians. So all of a sudden, one Sunday they show up and there's no more Jewish Christians, it's only Gentile Christians. Now, previously, the Jewish Christians had been in charge because they'd invited the Romans into it. For five years, the Roman Christians are in charge. Right before the book of Romans is written, Claudius allows the Jews to come back in, which meant all the Jewish Christians came back in, and they wanted to rejoin the church. But now you've got a problem, and that is the Jewish Christians used to be in charge, and it used to be their preferences and their taste. Now the Gentile has been running things for five years, and they're the ones that are in charge. So you can imagine the drama that might have ensued.

You track them with me? Here's a little known story from Summit history that very few of you were around to remember this, but the ones of you that do will know immediately what I'm getting into. When we sold our original property back at Holtz School Road up in North Durham, the church that bought it from us was, let's just say, very different culturally and stylistically than we were. And so for a while, we shared the property together.

We would meet on the weekend, and they would use it during the week. And then at this kind of magical date, we flipped, and we started to meet at Riverside High School, and we would use it throughout the week, and the title of the property officially went to them. And so they didn't tell us this, but the moment the title went to them, they didn't inform any of us, they brought in these demolition crews, and they just changed everything. And they put in this bright pink carpet, which was just not as good as the puke green carpet that we had previously. They brought this bright pink carpet in, they put in marble everywhere.

There was these statues, golden statues of eagles up on the stage. They put cash registers out in the lobby. The pastor in the little pastor's bathroom put this like extensive collection of perfume and cologne bottles back there.

And I couldn't even find my Old Spice and my Axe body spray that I was used to, and so put that in there. There was, let's see, oh, probably the biggest thing was they put this 40-foot stretch limo, parked it in the parking lot right in front of the church, because that's what they used to pick up their guests. So our people showed up at a prayer meeting, and we're like, what is going on? Now, I'm not trying to say that this is the same thing that was happening in the Jewish and Roman fusion, but you can imagine that when the people who have been in charge are not in charge and they're coming back in, it leads to all kinds of like, what is happening here? Okay, and so Paul is writing the book of Romans to try to show them that there is a new humanity that is created by the gospel that should overcome all the differences that have traditionally separated Jews and Gentiles. This is an incredibly relevant book for us because as we have people coming into the church that are from very different backgrounds, this shows us that the one thing that our culture most wants, which is a unity among the ethnicities and the cultures, that's gonna be found in the resources of the gospel. Today, like I told you, we're gonna try to look at the first 17 verses. Paul is gonna introduce three things to them in these 17 verses. Number one, the man is gonna show why he's the one that should be writing this epistle. Number two, he's gonna talk about the message. And then number three, he's gonna introduce us to the mission.

Okay, let's do them one at a time, all right? Number one, the man, the man, who was Paul? Verse one, Paul, servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.

Who was Paul? Paul was a former Pharisee. Pharisees were a sect in Judaism who were hyper devoted to the law. And in the book of Philippians, Paul tells us he wasn't even a normal Pharisee. Pharisees were like the Navy Seals of the religious world. Paul's like, I wasn't even just a normal Navy Seal. I was seal team six when it came to Pharisees.

I was, to use his words in Philippians, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He had trained under a teacher named Gamaliel, who was one of the most sought after and respected teachers of his day. Being trained under Gamaliel would be something like being a Rhodes Scholar of religion today.

You did not choose a teacher like Gamaliel, he chose you. He was the Mr. Miyagi of religion. For sure, Paul would have had most, if not all of the Hebrew scriptures memorized, and he would have been proficient in multiple languages. He was zealous, he tells us, not just for knowing the law, he was zealous for keeping the law. He says in Philippians, if anybody thinks that they're good at keeping the law, humbly, I was a lot better.

I was good, he says, at being good. He was so zealous, in fact, that he devoted himself to destroying Christians, which of course seems to us like a bad thing, but Paul, at least initially, saw it as a good thing, something to brag about. He thought Christians were the enemies of God, and he said, I was so devoted to God that I was even willing to kill for God. When you stand up and say, I'll do whatever it takes, Paul said, I literally would do whatever it took, which was part of Paul's dilemma. Paul began to realize that his zeal for being good had led him to a really bad place. Listen, believe it or not, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the Apostle Paul all agree on one thing. Religion turns you into a really, really bad person.

Religion caters to the worst parts of us, pride, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and bigotry, which is why religious people are the worst. Kierkegaard tells a great little story, a fictional story, about a man who dies and goes to hell. When the man gets to hell, in the pit of hell, he doesn't think that he should be there. He makes an appeal to the Apostle Peter, who was standing at the edge of hell, and says, I shouldn't be down in this pit.

Peter says, why not? He says, because I did so many good deeds in my life. Peter said, okay, tell me about some of those good deeds.

The man thought for a minute, and he thought, one time I gave a carrot to a poor, hungry man. Peter said, well, let's see if that'll get you out of hell. He puts a little hook in the carrot, like a fishing pole, and he throws it over the edge of hell, lowers it all the way down to this guy, and this guy reaches up, and he grabs ahold of the carrot so that Peter can pull him out of hell as he hangs onto this carrot. And as he starts to pull him up out of hell, everybody else in hell notices, hey, that guy's getting out of hell. So they run up and try to grab hold of him so that they can be pulled up along with him. And so the guy is now afraid that the little fishing line is gonna break, so he starts kicking and punching people, and he's like, no, that's my carrot.

That's my carrot. And Kierkegaard was trying to illustrate that when you're doing religious deeds in order to save yourself or exalt yourself, they're actually done from pride and self-interest. Religion is inherently competitive. It's done out of insecurity, and I have to be better than you so that I can guarantee that I'll be accepted by God.

It caters to the worst parts of us. That is what Paul's experience with religion had done to him. But there is one exception to that, Paul is going to explain to us in Romans, one exception to that, and that is the gospel, because the gospel teaches the opposite of what religion teaches us. The gospel teaches us that God gives salvation, not as a reward to those who earn it, not as a reward to those who set themselves above everybody else. God gives the gospel to people who are totally unworthy of it and who cry out to him from the pit and say, only you can save me, and I can't save myself.

You gotta do it as an act of generosity. And that produces a fundamentally different spirit in people. So because of my experience in the gospel, Paul says, still in verse 1, I am now a servant of Christ Jesus.

The Greek word there is doulos, it literally means slave. In other words, the lowest of the low, which was the opposite of what Paul had been going for as a Pharisee. As a Pharisee, Paul's zeal in religion was aimed to elevate him above people. Now he sees his experience with Christ as the reason to lower himself below people and to serve them. As a Pharisee, when he had encountered people who were sinful and had problems, Paul would say, well, you're just getting what you deserve.

If you were awesome like me, you wouldn't have a lot of those problems. Now when Paul encounters people with sin and problems, he's gonna say, yep, I had a lot of problems too. Thank God that Jesus loved me anyway in my problems and he helped me, and if Jesus loved and forgave and helped me when I had problems, then that's how I'm gonna treat you and your problems as well. As a Pharisee, when people would wrong Paul or treat Paul badly, Paul would respond with vengeance.

He would say, I am righteous. How dare you treat me that way? And if you treat me badly, I will hate you and pay you back. Now after the gospel, Paul will say, yep, you treat me badly, but not as badly as I treated Jesus. And thank God that Jesus kept loving me even after I had wronged him. As a Pharisee, when Paul saw somebody in need, Paul would say, well, what I have is mine.

What I have is mine. I earned it. I don't owe it to anybody. But now after the gospel, Paul says, well, thank God that Jesus didn't hold onto what he had, but he gave it for me. And if Jesus gave it that way for me, then that's probably how I should see my stuff in relation to others and their need. You see, the gospel of grace produces in us a fundamentally different spirit than zealousness and religion does.

Religion makes you proud and self-centered. The gospel makes you humble and generous. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. For more information about this ministry, visit Before we return to our teaching, I want to tell you about our new featured resource this month. It's Pastor J.D. 's latest book called Essential Christianity. We pray that Essential Christianity will deepen your understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ and to help you as you either reflect on what's presented or share it with others. We'll also include a free companion study guide to help you really personalize the message and let it shape your life.

You can get your copy of this valuable resource today by calling us right now at 866-335-5220 or by visiting Now let's return to our teaching with Pastor J.D. Greer here on Summit Life. Some of you know that one of my best friends in ministry is a guy named Clayton King. He's a pastor now down in South Carolina. There's a guy on his staff. I heard this story recently. It's one of the most horrendous stories that I've heard of recent.

A guy on their staff, he is pretty young. His wife was pregnant with their second child. His pregnant wife and their two-year-old daughter were riding in a car early one morning, and they got hit head on by an EMT worker who had just completed a 24-hour shift or was just completing a 24-hour shift, hit them and instantly killed his wife and his unborn daughter. Because he was an EMT worker and because he never should have worked all those shifts in a row because he had violated the law, this guy was in pretty serious trouble. He was going to be charged with a felony and was going to have to serve some pretty harsh jail time. Well, unexpectedly, as they're getting ready to sentence this guy, into the courtroom comes this pastor, and he asks if he could have a word with the judge and the jury, and he pleads for a more lenient sentence for this guy and pleads that he not get any jail time, that he'd just be put on probation and says, I don't want you to hold this guy accountable for that. That led to an eight-year friendship, thus far eight-year friendship, where they have met, he says, probably every week or two and gotten together. And this EMT worker who killed his wife and daughter is now, he says, basically an adopted part of their family. I didn't even first hear this story from Clayton.

I actually, it was on Today, the Today Show. The people on the Today Show are looking at this pastor asking what you and I would ask. We're like, how? Why?

Why would you do this? How could you befriend and take into your family somebody that has taken the very best thing in your life from you? And this guy's response was, he's like, well, he didn't really take the best thing in my life from me. The best thing in my life is Jesus. And when I had wronged Jesus and when I had hurt Jesus, Jesus loved me and brought me into his family.

So it just makes sense that this is how I should respond to others. Friends, religion doesn't produce that kind of spirit. It is the gospel and the gospel alone that produces that kind of spirit. The gospel humbles you.

The gospel turns selfish, proud people into humble, generous people. By the way, you can even see this in Paul's name. The name that Paul went by before he experienced the gospel was Saul.

Saul was that victorious Hebrew king who literally stood head and shoulders above everybody else, right? After Saul experienced the gospel, he adopted the name Paul, which in Latin means little, small. So in other words, Paul went from Saul the Mighty to Paul the Small because now he saw himself not as somebody who had exalted himself through religion. He saw himself as somebody who was humbled by the gospel and that changed every single thing in his life. He was now a person who was ready to be generous. Here's the question, has that transformation happened to you?

See, I would say looking at a church like this one, we've got a lot of people who are still pretty thoroughly imbued with religion, where you are trying to be good and you are trying to be competitive and that's why you're jealous and hateful and judgmental. Has this transformation happened to you, where you've gone from Saul the Mighty to Paul the Small, the servant? Notice what he says next, I am set apart for the gospel of God. Formerly Paul had tried to distinguish himself through his talents and his goodness. That was his identity. Now he said from this point on, I only want to be known for the gospel. Paul said, I've seen what my talents and my goodness can do and it was not pretty.

So now I figure it's better to put Jesus on display from this point forward than it is to put Paul on display. Here's my question for you. What is it that you want to be known for?

How are you trying to set yourself apart? Is it through your talents? Is it through your goodness?

Because here's what I've learned in the 17 years or so of being your pastor. You guys being impressed with my talents or my goodness is not going to help you at all for a couple reasons. First of all, like Paul, what you see on stage here is not all there is to me. I go ahead and tell you, just let the cat out of the bag, I'm a lot less impressive the closer you get to me. Just ask any of the dozen or so people that are closest to me, they're a lot less impressed with me than most of you are because what you see is the stage presentation.

And you're looking up there like, oh, it looks like he's got this marriage and this family and this right here. And that just ain't the reality. The second reason is because I know that even if I were perfect, even if I did live up to all your expectations, my perfect example wouldn't help you. It would just discourage you. Because you'd be like, well, he can be perfect and he doesn't seem to have temptation.

He doesn't seem to be, you know, struggles as a dad and as a husband like I do. I don't want to stand up here and give you a perfect model that you could never emulate anyway. What I want to do is stand up here and give you a savior that you can hope in. And that's going to be accomplished better by me putting on display the weaknesses and the struggles that I have, not so you'll admire me, but so that you will hope in the Jesus that I have found hope in. So I want to be set apart for the gospel of God. And I figured it's better to use whatever platform God gives me to exalt JC than it is to exalt JD. Amen.

So again, what do you want people to know about you? Okay, congratulations. Summit Church, you are finished with verse one.

432 to go, okay? All right, here we go. Number two, the message. What made Paul so confident and driven in this message? I mean, think about it. Why is Paul willing to go around the world to places he's not welcome, to people he's never met, to tell them things they don't even want to hear?

I mean, people still ask this question today. I mean, they're like, why are Christians so pushy and why are they all, you know, like got to talk to me about their faith and they're always creating these awkward moments? Isn't religion a private matter? Why are you Christians always trying to share your faith with total strangers and creating needlessly awkward situations? So let me just go ahead and acknowledge this right up front, okay?

Just a couple of things. One, first of all, a lot of Christians have bad social manners, and God and the gospel are not to blame for that. They were socially awkward before they became Christians. I just need to say that, okay? God's not to blame for that. But let me just go ahead and let the other cat out of the bag here. If you are a guest here today, I'll go ahead and I'll own it. We really, really, really want to convert you, okay?

There, I said it, I owned it, now we're on the same page. We want you to trust Jesus like we have. Let me let Paul explain why that is to you. He's going to explain that in the next few verses. He says, verse two, this is why I'm so driven.

This is why I go around the world like this. This gospel was promised beforehand through his prophets. Paul's most compelling evidence that religion was not just a private matter, something that worked for him that other people might work for them too.

Something that was something everybody should know was because of the way that it had been foretold and fulfilled through all the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. It's interesting to me that even before Paul goes to the resurrection as his evidence that Christianity is true, the first place he turns is the way that God fulfilled prophecy. I've explained to you before that Luke 24, after Jesus was crucified, there were a couple of Jesus' disciples that were walking on this road to Emmaus. They didn't know about the resurrection yet, and they were pretty discouraged because Jesus was dead. And so Jesus comes up to them all incognito, and he kind of sidles up beside them and starts to talk with them.

He's like, hey, fellas, why the long faces? And so they begin to explain Jesus is dead. And so Jesus, again, without them knowing who he is, starts, it says, at Moses and the prophets and begins to explain to them how all the things in the Old Testament ultimately pointed to him. Now, you would think that if he was wanting to convince them that he was true, that he would have just revealed himself as the resurrected Christ, right? Like, oh, here I am.

That would have done it. But evidently he knew, watch, a more abiding evidence, a more compelling evidence was to show how a book, 39 books, in fact, written over the space of 1,500 years by 30 different authors all had one point they were trying to make, and that point was Jesus is coming to rescue you. I've told you, we don't know exactly what Jesus said that day, but he probably would have started in Genesis, and he would have explained how he was the word of God that created the heavens and the earth and how he was the one that was promised to Adam and Eve who would crush the head of the serpent even while his heel and doing the crushing would be bruised, how in Exodus he was the Passover lamb whose blood would be sprinkled on the doorpost of our heart so that we could escape slavery. In Leviticus, he would have shown how he was the temple, the holy place where we met with God in Numbers he would have shown that he was our ever-present God, that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night who will never leave us or forsake us. In Deuteronomy, he would have shown how he was the coming prophet who was greater than Moses was, and that's just the first five. He still has 34 books to go. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. We're so excited that you joined us today. Hey, J.D., we just began this new teaching series through the Book of Romans.

Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect? By far, Molly, the most people we've ever had in the course of one year confess faith in Christ was during this Roman series. Almost every major awakening in our country, if you trace it back, it's gone back in some way to the study of the Book of Romans. So whether you're struggling to know whether you stand with God or why you struggle to keep the commands of God now that you're a Christian or why you can't seem to find the spiritual power that you've heard so much about, the Book of Romans is for you. To kick off our study, I want to offer you my newest book, Essential Christianity, which was written in conjunction with the series.

It's not identical to it. It's a book I wrote for believers to sort of master the core, the essentials of their faith, but also one that's written on a level that you can read it with somebody who's not a Christian. I'm very excited about this, and I do think it will be a help to you both in your own growth and in reaching somebody. We would love to send you a copy of his latest book, Essential Christianity. This new book, along with the free discussion guide, make the perfect companion to our teaching series. So reserve your copy today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry by calling us anytime at 866-335-5220, or you can give online right now at I'm Molly Vitovich. Tomorrow, Pastor JD continues his message called The Man, The Message, and The Mission. See you Wednesday here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-02 10:46:28 / 2023-05-02 10:57:49 / 11

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