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The Reasons for Romans - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 15:14-33

  • 2021-02-28 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Well, let me encourage you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans, chapter 15; Romans, chapter 15. At our Missions' Conference last year which, let's just be honest, seems right now another lifetime ago, we were reminded of some incredible statistics about the world's need for the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are nearly eight billion people on this planet; five hundred million of them practice Buddhism; seven hundred and fifty million practice tribal or ethnic religions; 1.1 billion practice Hinduism; 1.2 billion practice Catholicism; 1.8 billion practice Islam. How does this change?

Well, Romans, chapter 10, verse 17 says, "…faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." And yet as a Christian church, we are not doing so well in making sure that everyone hears. There are seven thousand living languages on this planet, seven thousand. Only six hundred and seventy of them have a complete Bible. About fifteen hundred have only our New Testament, and more than two thousand of the world's seven thousand languages are without a single verse of God's Word. Romans, chapter 10, verse 14 says, "How then (are) they (to) call on Him in whom they have not believed? (And) how (are) they (to) believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how (are) they (to) hear without a preacher (someone to tell them)?"

Of the nearly eight billion people in our world, more than seven billion do not confess Jesus as Lord. Two billion, that's twenty-five percent, one in four people on this planet, have almost no chance of ever meeting a Christian or hearing about Jesus Christ. The majority of them live in what's called "The 10/40 Window," North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It's an area that is completely dominated by the false religions of our world. Folks, that's the reality of the world's current spiritual condition.

Now, I want you to compare that with the task that God has given us, His people. You see it in the Old Testament. In Psalm 96, verses 3 to 5:

Tell of His glory among the nations,

His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

He is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

But the LORD (He) made the heavens.

You come to the New Testament and that task, that unfinished task of telling the world the gospel, is assigned to us by our Lord Himself. In Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14, He said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations." And of course, the Great Commission in Matthew 28, verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." The passage that we come to in Romans today reminds us that this continues to be the heart and the great priority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it should be ours as well.

This morning, we continue our study of the final section of Paul's letter to the Romans. "The Conclusion;" it begins in chapter 15, verse 14, runs through the end of the letter. This section of the letter begins by explaining Paul's reasons for writing; that's the second half of chapter 15. And in these paragraphs, he explains two overarching reasons that he wrote the book of Romans. The first is "The Timeless Spiritual Purpose" to remind all the believers, those in Rome and us as well, of the gospel that we have believed. We saw that in verses 14 to 16; we need to be reminded; we need to rehearse the truths again and again.

And, the second purpose he wrote was "A Timely Ministry Purpose," and that is to prepare the Roman believers for the visit that he had planned to make to them. It begins in verse 17 of chapter 15, and runs down through the end of the chapter. Now the last time we studied Romans together, we examined verses 17 to 19 where Paul rehearses his "Former Ministry Accomplishments," all that the Lord did through him from Jerusalem and all the way up into Eastern Europe and covering that entire area of the continent.

Now this morning, I want us to move with him to his, "Fixed Mission Strategy." We've seen his past ministry and his past ministry accomplishments, and now he pauses and says, "Let me explain to you what I'm really doing. Let me tell you about my mission strategy," in verses 20 and 21, and that strategy is this, "Pioneer Frontline Missions. Let's read it together, Romans, chapter 15, verses 20 and 21. Listen to the Apostle Paul explain the heartbeat of his life and ministry.

And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation; but as it is written, "THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND."

Those two verses outline Paul's mission strategy, the main goal that lies behind that strategy as well as the biblical mandate for that entire approach to evangelizing.

So, let's consider it together; let's unpack these two verses. First of all, we learn the mission strategy, verse 20, "And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named." 'And thus,' in other words, in this way, and 'I aspired' really isn't a normal verb in Greek, it's a participle. This is not a new sentence in verse 20; this is a participle that modifies the main verb at the end of verse 19, "I…fully preached the gospel (aspiring to do it this way)."

So here, we have Paul's explanation of the method or strategy that he used to fully preach the gospel during those twenty-five years of ministry in Eastern Europe. Now the word 'aspire' means 'to have something as your ambition.' In fact, you know this word, it occurs two other times in the New Testament and you're familiar with them. One of them is in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 9, where Paul says, "Therefore we also have it as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him;" this is my ambition, this is what drives me.

In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, verse 11, he says, "…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your own hands, just as we commanded you." Paul says I have a ministry ambition; this is what drives me, this is the approach that I take Paul says, when it comes to preaching the gospel. I made it my ambition, I made it my aim, verse 20, "…to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named." Paul wanted to preach the gospel, notice how he puts it, "…where Christ was…not…already named." In other words, where Christ was not truly known for who He is, where He was not confessed as Savior and Lord. Or we could even say it this way, Paul says, "I want to preach the gospel where Christ is not named in worship," like we did this morning as we sang of His name, as we prayed in His name, as we celebrate His Word together now. He says, "I want to preach the gospel where people don't worship Jesus Christ.

Do you understand that that is the goal of missions? I love the way John Piper puts it in his book on missions. He says this:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church; worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more; it is a temporary necessity, but worship abides forever. Missions exist because worship doesn't because Jesus isn't worshipped. Missions exist to see Him worshipped.

Isn't that what our Lord Himself said to the Samaritan woman in John, chapter 4, you remember in verses 23 and 24 there? He said, "…an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth," and then listen to what He says, "for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers."

You see, ultimately your salvation is not about just forgiveness; it is about forgiveness, but it's not about just forgiveness. Ultimately, you have been redeemed; you have been saved to make you a worshipper because the Lord Jesus Christ deserves your worship.

Paul wanted to preach the gospel where it had never been heard. He wanted to plant strategic churches in what Douglas Moo calls, "Virgin gospel territory." Christ, of course, assigns different gifts and different callings and different assignments to different people. By Christ's gifting, by Christ's assignment, Paul was a gospel pioneer; he was a trailblazer. He was like the American settlers who picked up their stakes and moved their camps once they saw the smoke from another settler's cabin. His mission strategy was ultimately simply fulfilling the Great Commission. Do you understand this is what drove Paul? What is the great commission?

So many Christians have such a flawed view of the Great Commission. They think all it is is getting somebody to pray a prayer. Listen, the great commission is making disciples of Jesus Christ by proclaiming the gospel to those who have not heard it, by planting churches with those who believe, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in that church, by teaching them in that church how to observe all that Christ commanded us, and to teach that church to be self-supporting and self-reproducing, sending others out to carry out the same Great Commission. That's the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is only fulfilled when churches like ours send out those who will make disciples, who will plant indigenous churches where those disciples are baptized, taught, sanctified, and are learning to reproduce themselves in the Great Commission. That's the mission of the church to the world, and that was Paul's primary missionary assignment and plan as he explains it here in verses 20 and 21. Pioneer, frontline evangelism, that was Paul's primary ministry strategy.

Now, don't misunderstand. Paul also ministered to others. In fact, Paul ministered to churches that had already been established by others. The letter to the Romans is a prime example. He didn't start the churches in Rome, and he hoped to come to them to minister to them. Look at Romans, chapter 1. Romans, chapter 1, verse 11, "…I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established." Verse 13, "I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." Verse 15, "So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

So, Paul ministered to churches that had already been planted by somebody else. Paul also ministered to churches that he had previously planted in order to strengthen them and build them up in their faith. Read the book of Acts; the second missionary journey was about that, right? Acts, chapter 15, verse 36, "After some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.'" Verse 41, "And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."

Paul even stayed in certain cities, ministering in established churches for long periods of time. Acts tells us he spent a year in the church in Antioch, a church he did not found. He spent eighteen months in Corinth, a church he did establish. He stayed two and a half to three years in the church in Ephesus. So, he ministered in all of those settings, but don't miss the fact that while Paul was almost three years in Ephesus, he and his coworkers spread from that hub, spread the gospel throughout that region, like planting the churches that John writes to in Revelation.

Those seven churches were probably the result of Paul's ministry in that area. In Acts, chapter 19, verse 10, we read, "This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." Acts 19:20, "So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing."

So, the primary focus of Paul's ministry, although he ministered in other ways to other churches, the primary focus of his ministry was pioneer missions, frontline evangelism, planting new churches in places where Christ and the gospel were not known, where Christ was not worshipped. He had spent the twenty-five previous years of his ministry doing that in what we call Eastern Europe. And his plan, as we'll see next time, was to do the same thing in Western Europe, using Spain as his base of operations in the years ahead if the Lord were to allow him. Why? Because frontline, pioneering evangelism, and church planting was the key role assigned to the apostles.

You read the book of Acts, and I think we're tempted, and rightly so, to apply Acts 1:8, to ourselves. There is an application to us, but it wasn't spoken primarily to us; it was spoken primarily to the apostles. Listen to what Jesus said to the apostles. Acts 1:8, "…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." This was the mission He assigned His apostles. It was also the mission, by the way, of the New Testament office of evangelist in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 11. Paul wanted to preach the gospel where there had previously been only paganism and idolatry for centuries, even millennia. He wanted to leave the foundation of a gospel preaching church on which future pastors and elders could continue to build that church. That was his mission strategy; that was his heart.

Next, in this passage, we learn the main goal. The main goal that Paul had in this, verse 20, "…thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named (or worshipped), so that (Here was my goal.) I would not build on another man's foundation." Another man's, of course, is just that which belongs to another, and foundation here is used metaphorically for the beginning or founding of a church. In other words, he's talking about, "I didn't want to minister where somebody else had already laid the foundation of a church." He's really pulling on a metaphor he uses often and in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, he's trying to teach the Corinthians about the church, and he uses there two metaphors for the church, two images of planting and growing a church.

The first of them is agricultural. He compares the church in Corinth to a field. And Paul says, "I am the one who first planted the seed there in Corinth, and now Apollos has come along, and others, and they're watering that seed. It's a metaphor for the building of the church. Paul says, "I started it; I planted the seed of the gospel."

He uses an architectural metaphor. He compares the church in Corinth to a building, a specifically a temple for the worship of God. And Paul says, "I laid the foundation; I came to you there in Corinth and I laid the foundation of the church; I started the church, and then the elders and church leaders who followed me, he says, they are simply building on that foundation."

I understand that. You know, when I look at the last thirty-five years of my own ministry, I have primarily, like the elders in Corinth, been building on the foundation that others have already laid. But Paul says, "I don't want to do that." It's not because he was demeaning or discounting those who do; he's simply saying that wasn't the job that Christ had assigned him. He didn't want to continue to work in a field where the seed had already been planted by someone else. He didn't want to continue building a church where someone else had already laid the foundation. Instead, Paul says, "I want to plant the seed; I want to lay the foundation." This wasn't a pride thing; this wasn't a head trip for the Apostle Paul. The reason this mattered to him is because that was what Christ had assigned him to do, and that was why this was his goal. He just wanted to do what Christ had assigned him; he wanted to carry out the mission that he had been given.

Look at 2 Corinthians; 2 Corinthians, chapter 10, he says this in a different way. 2 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 14:

For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ (Jesus); (He says, "Look, I was the one to get to Corinth first; I brought the gospel there.") not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors, (Nobody else had labored in Corinth.) but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as (verse 16) to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, (He says, "I want to go even further into your area.") and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

He's saying the same thing here. Oh, by the way, he says, "I'm not boasting in me; (verse 17.) He who boasts is to boast in the Lord." He said, "If I'm boasting about the fact that I started the church there, it's the Lord I'm boasting in; He's the one who did it." But this was his mission; Paul's mission strategy was frontline missions in church planting. His main goal in doing that was to carry out the assignment that the Lord had given him.

Now, having said that, he goes on next to argue that frontline pioneering missions that was the heart of his own ministry, has a biblical mandate, it has a biblical mandate. Verse 21, "but as it is written, 'THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.'"

As Paul usually does, he quotes Scripture here to prove his point. In fact, he's done that throughout the book of Romans. Leon Morris points out, "This is the last Old Testament reference in the book of Romans; and Paul has, before this, given at least sixty-four quotations from the Old Testament, more than any other New Testament book."

In fact, Matthew, which is a lot longer than Romans, only has sixty-one; Romans has sixty-four Old Testament quotations. Why? Because Paul wants you to know as he lays out the gospel he preached, he wants you to know; this is not new, he's not inventing this, this is all based on God's previous revelation.

Now the final Old Testament quotation in the book of Romans here in verse 21, comes from the book of Isaiah, specifically it comes from Isaiah 52:15. I want you to turn back there with me, Isaiah, chapter 52. And I want to show you something that frankly most Christians don't know; it's very important. Isaiah 52, beginning in verse 13, you'll notice that in our New American Standard and in most translations, there's a break just before Isaiah 52:13. In other words, this introduces a new section. That new section doesn't end at the chapter break. In fact, Isaiah 52:13, introduces what's called, "The Fourth Servant Song." There are four pieces of poetry in the book of Isaiah about the suffering servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. This introduces the fourth of them, and of course, it includes the beautiful poem that is Isaiah 53. So, the end of chapter 52 is the introduction to and the summary of the humiliation and the resulting glorification of the Servant of Yahweh, the Messiah.

Let's read it together, Isaiah 52, verse 13. Here's the exultation to which he rises. "Behold, my servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted." This is Philippians 2, right? Because He humbled himself, He will be exalted greatly; He will be given a name above every name.

But here's the humility, the humiliation, verse 14:

Just as many were astonished at you, my people,

So His appearance was marred more than any man

And His form more than the sons of men.

Thus, He will sprinkle many nations,

Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;

For what had not been told them they will see,

And what they had not heard they will understand.

So, at the end of this introduction to Isaiah 53, Isaiah 52:15 declares, notice what it says, that Gentiles from many nations would come to know Him. The point of verse 15 is, although His own people would largely reject Him, that's what Isaiah 53 is about, right? Isaiah 53, documents the fact that His own people didn't esteem Him; they didn't consider Him to have been smitten by God, but rather smitten for His own sins; that although His own people would largely reject Him, many Gentiles would hear the gospel and, by sovereign grace, come to understand it and to believe it.

It's interesting, when you look at what he is saying here; he's saying, "The second half of verse 15 is what Paul quotes in the book of Romans," and he's saying, "Notice, that the nations will learn and hear." Paul saw this passage as a biblical defense of his strategy of bringing the gospel to those who had never heard. Why? Because Isaiah 52:15 calls specifically for taking the message about the Messiah to the nations, to the Gentiles. And notice the report in verse 15, is about the servant of the Lord, it's about the Messiah, it's about our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul quotes the Septuagint version of this verse in Romans 15, and there it says, "…the news about Him, the news about Him," that's what needs to be heard among the nations, the news about Him.

So, Paul here says, "My people, the Jewish people have largely rejected their Messiah," that's chapter 53. You understand how chapter 53 works; throughout church history, most of the Jewish people have rejected their Messiah; but when Christ returns, according to the prophet Zechariah, [12:10] at the Second Coming, "…they will look on (Him) whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as…an only son, (and a fountain of cleansing will be open for them)." There will be a massive salvation of the Jewish people at the moment of the Second Coming, and they then will take the words of Isaiah 53, and this will be their somber reflection on their rejection of the Messiah. We didn't esteem Him. We didn't understand, but now we see that He was pierced for our sins."

And Paul says, "While the Jewish people, most of them won't believe until those living at the time of the Second Coming are saved," as he says in chapter 11, "All Israel will be saved." In the meantime, this message about the Messiah, the suffering servant of Isaiah, is going to be taken to the nations, and they're going to believe it. And he says, "That's why I do what I do. This was God's purpose; this was God's plan."

So, Romans 15:20 to 21, then tells us the mission strategy and that is pursuing pioneer, frontline missions in church planting. It tells us the main goal; the reason Paul did that is because that was what Christ assigned him to do. It was the role of apostle and he did it with the biblical mandate, obeying even the command of our Lord in Isaiah 52 to make sure the nations hear the report about Him.

Now, that's Paul, but I'm not the Apostle Paul, and neither are you. So, what do we do with these verses, what are the lessons you and I are to learn? They are profound! Let me share them with you. I hope you'll really sit up and pay attention to this because this is what you and I are to do with what we've just learned together. We see here the heart of the Apostle Paul. More importantly, we see the heart of our Lord, and that should teach us how to think. So, let's look at it.

Number one, lesson number one, as a church, we must continue to prioritize pioneer frontline missions in church planting with the unreached people groups of the world. This is a passion for our Lord, "Go to all the nations; all the nations are to hear," He says. So, it should be our passion and heart as well.

You may not know this, but years ago, the elders and I established a mission strategy for our church, and we identified the number one priority for our support would be those missionaries that the Lord called and gifted who want to serve in frontline pioneer missions like the Apostle Paul. We want, as a church, to equip and to send out missionaries from our church like the church in Antioch in Acts 13.

Currently, we support such frontline missionaries in Ryan and Elda Mitchell who serve in Papua, New Guinea, serving a people that are hearing for the very first time. Over these last few weeks, you've prayed with me as they've heard the gospel for the very first time. We would love, as a church, for the Lord to raise up others who would have a passion to reach the unreached. We all need, we can't all go, but we all need to have this passion; we all need to be equally concerned about the world. If you love Christ, you love what Christ loves. We believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation and rightly so, that's what the Scriptures teach, and it's that understanding of God's sovereignty that compels us to go.

John Calvin, who was no slouch in the sovereignty of God in salvation, writes this, "It ought to be the great object of our daily wishes that God would collect churches for Himself from all the countries of the earth and that He would enlarge their numbers, enrich them with gifts, and establish a legitimate order among them." He says, "Have a heart for the nations; God does."

Number two, lesson number two, and we can all do this without exception, we can do this. We need to pray for frontline missionaries, those serving our Lord among the unreached, those both from our church as well as those from other Bible believing churches. How do you pray for frontline missionaries like the Apostle Paul?

First of all, you pray for God to raise up more such frontline missionaries including from our church. Matthew, chapter 9, verse 38, Jesus said, "…beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Pray that God would send more people out to reach the unreached peoples of our world. Have you ever done that? How often do you do that?

You know, we can become so self-absorbed, all of our prayers are all about us; we start contemplating our own spiritual navel, we look at our little world and our stuff, and that's all that matters. Paul says, the Lord says, "Lift up your eyes, '…beseech the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest.'"

Charles Spurgeon writes this:

There is a prayer I mean to continue to offer until it is answered, that God would pour out on this church a missionary spirit. I want to see our young men devoting themselves to the work; some that will not be afraid to venture and preach Jesus Christ in the regions beyond.

Is that your prayer? Honestly, is that your prayer for this church? I can tell you, with all my heart, it's my prayer; it's my prayer that even as a result of today and the message that I'm delivering to you today, that God would raise up such people, men and women from our church to go. You can pray that God would raise up more.

Secondly, you can pray that God would grant success to the gospel as faithful missionaries proclaim it to the unreached. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul says this, "…brethren, pray for us." This is the Apostle Paul, "…brethren, pray for us (What?) that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified." Are you praying that for those who are serving on your behalf, on the Lord's behalf on the frontlines?

Thirdly, and this is just very practical, purchase and watch Tim Keesee's video series, "Dispatches from the Front." I don't know if you've ever heard of this or not; it is revolutionary because what he does and he does very well, is he travels to the frontlines, he travels where missionaries are doing the very thing we're talking about, and he lets us kind of sit with him, and ride with him, and sit in services where there is a new church where the gospel is being shared, and you get to see what's really happening, what Jesus Christ is doing to build His church around this world. It will help you understand what frontlines missions is like. It will help you develop a heart for missions; it will encourage you to pray for the success of the gospel in hard places, and it will move you to consider ways that you and your family can help. Particularly, if you have a younger family, you need to get this series; you can get it online; get it and watch it, and pray that God would use it to give you and your family a heart for the nations.

Number four, tell the Lord that you are willing to go and that you are willing for your children to go, and that you're willing for your grandchildren to go if He so chooses to use you or them to reach the unreached.

Notice, I'm not asking you to go because you don't have that capacity or power. All I'm asking you to do is to express a willingness to go; God has to call and gift a person to be an evangelist; the elders have to affirm that gifting and calling, and those who are called and gifted and want to serve, have to be adequately equipped. This is a process to get a person there, but every one of us should have a heart that's willing to go if that's what the Lord should choose. Have you ever, in your life, told the Lord that you would serve Him wherever, doing whatever He should choose? Have you, I mean, really with all your heart?

I remember that day for me. I was a junior in college; I had just been a believer for three years; I had been in the hospital for two weeks in isolation; they thought I had this dread disease; turns out it wasn't, but I was in isolation for two weeks, and you know, the nurses would come in, all their garb on, and they'd kind of shove my food under the door twice a day. It gave me a lot of time to think, a lot of time to read; I read through the New Testament, I prayed. I remember on the second, in the second week, I think it was on Thursday night, I got down on my knees in that hospital, and I said , "Lord, (At the time, by the way, I was planning to be an attorney; that was my sort of plan and goal in life. But after reading the Gospels, I was struck with the heart of Christ and I just said,) Lord, I don't know what you want to do with me, but whatever it is that's what I want to do."

My question to you is, "Have you ever told the Lord that? Have you ever made yourself available to Him?" Jim Elliott, missionary and martyr, put it this way, he said , "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose; he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. " You know, there's always the concern, you know, what is going to happen, what are the hardships I'm going to face on the field, am I going to be able to deal with that, am I going to be able to encounter those issues?

I love the story of John Paton, missionary to the South Pacific Islands. He wrote this:

Among many who sought to deter me (keep him from going) was one dear old Christian gentleman whose crowning argument always was, "The cannibals, you'll be eaten by cannibals." (Which, by the way, was a very real threat where he was going.) At last, I replied, "Mr. Dixon, you are advanced in years now and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave there are to be eaten by worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die, serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms, and in the great day, my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer."

Lesson number five, get involved in missions by sharing the gospel with the people in your life. You know, you may not be called and gifted to be an evangelist, to be a frontline missionary worker on the frontlines, but you can pray for those who do, and you can do what you've been commanded to do, which is share the gospel with the people in your life.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, said, "The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed." Charles Spurgeon said, "Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter." Henry Martin, and I love this, missionary to India and Persia, put it this way, he said, "The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we become." May God produce that in each of our hearts individually and in our church as a whole?

Let's pray together. Father, thank you for what we have learned from the example of the Apostle Paul. Thank you for the assignment you gave him to be in frontline pioneering missions in church planting. Lord, we thank you for those you have called and gifted to do that, even those from our church family in the past. And, Lord, my prayer, my great heart, would be even hearing this message today there would be those whom you would gift and call to serve our Lord Jesus Christ in places where He is not worshipped, in places where He is not known, where He is not confessed. Father, I pray that you would raise up men and women whom the church could acknowledge, are called and gifted, and send out and support and pray for, and watch as you spread the gospel in the region were Christ deserves to be known and worshipped.

Father, I pray for all of us that you would first forgive us, forgive us for being so inherently consumed with our own selfishness. Lord, help us to have a heart like Christ has for the nations. Help us to pray and to be willing to go and to be willing for those we love to go. Lord, I pray that you would help us as a church and each of us as individuals to reflect the heart of Christ and the great priority that the nations would hear about Him.

And, Lord, I pray for those who may be here today who have heard His name, but they've never really acknowledged Him as Lord, they don't truly worship Him. May this be the day when you make them a new creation, when you remove the blinders of their eyes and they see Jesus for who He is; they see themselves for who they are, and they cry out to Him for the forgiveness that is found only in Him and in His death and resurrection. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.