Three 'I Am's
Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus in a post resurrection appearance. And when Paul, who was then called Saul, saw Jesus he asked him the two greatest questions that anyone can ever ask.
Question number one: Who are You Lord?
Question number two: What would You have me to do?
The two greatest questions that anyone could ever ask. The apostle Paul spent the rest of his life discovering the answer to those two questions: Who are You Lord? What would You have me to do? Paul became then the greatest missionary the world has ever known. And after his death, there was a colony of heaven planted in every major city in the Western Roman Empire. What was it that so transformed him? What was the philosophy that drove him? What was the motivation that urged him on?
We’re going to read and we’re going to find three times the apostle Paul will use a phrase, “I am.” Look in verse 14, “I am debtor …” Look in verse 15, “. . . I am ready . . .” Look in verse 16, “. . . I am not ashamed . . .” Now my job as a preacher is to write those three “I ams” on your heart until you can say the same thing. If you can say those three things when I am finished, God through me will have done a good job.
That will save you from Sunday morning religion and casual Christianity. That will make you the kind of a person that God wants you to be.
PAUL WAS FAITHFUL TO THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE GOSPEL. Paul felt obligated. He said, “I am a debtor . . . “ Now what does that mean? To whom was Paul in debt? To what was Paul in debt? Well, number one, Paul was in debt to Christ.
Go back to verse 1. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ . . .” And the word “servant” as I told you means, “a bond slave.” Paul saw himself a bond slave to the one who died for him. Question, has Jesus died for you? Yes! Alright, Jesus with His blood bought you. Therefore, Paul later told the Corinthians, “You’re not your own. You are bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” Here Lord, I give myself away. ‘Tis all that I can do. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Love so amazing, so divine, demands, demands my life, my soul, my all.
You say, “Jerry, are you saying we have to work for our salvation?” No! Salvation is by grace, but oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.
I cannot work my soul to save, that work my Lord has done. But I will work like any slave for the love of God’s dear Son.
Paul saw himself as a debtor to Christ. But not only did he see himself as a debtor to Christ, Paul saw himself as a debtor to the conquerors of the past. You see, Paul knew that he stood on the shoulders of those who had gone before him. Look in verse 8. Paul says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Paul realized that there were others who had suffered, and bled, and died that he might know the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, the thing that brought the apostle Paul to a saving faith in Christ other than the appearance of Jesus Christ Himself to Paul was Paul had watched a martyr die for Jesus. He had watched a man named Stephen died for Jesus.
We sit here in this beautiful building, air conditioned, upholstered. We sit here in comfort and safety. But I want to tell you there are others who have sailed through bloody seas. And even this apostle Paul later would have his head cut off. Peter would be crucified upside down. Christians were fed to the lions in the coliseum. They were clothed with animal skins and hunted like wild beasts. They were tied to the shores at low tide and drowned. They were stripped of their clothing, covered with oil, and made human candles to light Nero's gardens while he banqueted. They paid with their blood. There are those who have gone before us, over 200 years in this church. Who provided the seat that you’re sitting on? Who is causing the light to shine down upon you? Who put the carpet beneath your feet? Who installed the sound system that you might hear? Who erected these walls? Who was sent before us that we might enjoy what we enjoy today? Somebody did. Amen? We owe them. We are a debtor to the conquerors of the past.
Also Paul saw himself as a debtor to those around him.
Verse 14, “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians . . .” The Greeks, they were the up and ups. The Barbarians, they were the down and out. Paul said, I am a debtor to the cultured. I am a debtor to the crude. I am a debtor to the intelligent. I am a debtor to the ignorant. Men all around us need the Lord Jesus Christ and we have the message.
Suppose the governor of this state were to give you a pardon of a man about to be electrocuted or given a lethal injection. And you were to deliver that pardon. He said, “I’m going to give you the honor to take the pardon to the warden to see that this man is set free.” Suppose you put that pardon in your pocket and said I’m going to deliver that pardon. But in the meanwhile you went shopping, in the meanwhile you cut your grass, in the meanwhile you went golfing, in the meanwhile you took a family vacation. Then you pick up the newspaper and read where the man has been put to death and you had the pardon in your pocket. How would you feel?
I tell you there are souls dropping into hell and you and I have the message and if we fail to give that message and share that message, how will we feel when we meet the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment? Paul knew that he was a debtor to those around him.
Not only did Paul see himself as a debtor. And not only was Paul faithful to the obligations of the gospel, but now watch this, PAUL WAS FLEXIBLE FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES OF THE GOSPEL.
Do you know the problem with most of us today? We’re inflexible. We're not ready to roll if God were to speak to us. For example, suppose there’s a businessman here and you own a growing business. Let’s suppose that you are really banking money right now, that everything is running smoothly. Could God step into your life and say, “Sell that business. I’m calling you to the mission field?” Suppose you have your career planned. Suppose you are a young executive on your way up. Are you flexible enough that God could step in and interrupt your so called plans and change totally the course of your life? The question is this: are you ready to hear God speak? Big question isn’t it? You say, “Well, I have plans.”
Notice what Paul says in verse 15. “For as much as in me is . . .” not halfheartedly “ . . . as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Now Paul was ready to live for Christ. I hear people talk about the fact, “I would die for Jesus.” I want to know, will you live for Jesus? Would you say today, “as much as in me is?”
Paul was ready to live for Christ. But also, Paul was ready to die for Christ. Paul was going to Rome. There was no friendship for Jesus in Rome. Paul was ready to preach the Gospel in Rome and I believe that Paul died in Rome. Most visitors when they go to Rome want to visit the Roman Forum-the Catacombs and the Coliseum. But if ever I go I want to also see the Mamertine Prison right across from the Roman Forum. It is a hole in the ground. A prisoner would have to be lowered by ropes to go down there. Now there are some stairs there, but no windows. No outside light. And, many believe that’s the prison where the apostle Paul was kept until he was executed. And a guard comes for him and says, “Paul, let’s go.” Paul says, “I’m ready. I’m ready.” “Well, aren’t you afraid?” “Oh, no, I die daily. I am ready.” And there he goes. The greatest Christian that ever lived, there he goes down to the Tiber River that would drink his blood. They would cut off his head. “Before you die, Paul, are there any last words?” “Oh yes, Jesus is Lord.”
I believe that when man is no longer afraid to die, for the first time in his life he is ready to live. Paul said, “I am ready . . . “ I am ready to live for Christ as much as in me is. I am ready to die for Christ. I’m going to Rome where they hate Jesus Christ, where Caesar is Emperor and I’m going to preach there that Jesus is Lord. It may cost my life. He was ready to go for Christ.
Look in verse 13, “. . . I purposed to come unto you . . .” that is, I want to go. It is my purpose to go. I’m ready to go. Are you ready to go? If the Lord tells you to go next door or go around the world, can you honestly, sincerely say, I am ready to go?
David Livingston, one of the greatest missionaries of history said, “Send me where You will, but go with me. Lay any burden on my heart, but sustain me. Sever any tie, but the one the binds my heart to Thee.”
Paul was ready to live, ready to die, ready to go. Now watch this: he was ready to stay.
I wanted to come but I was restrained. You see, we don’t just up and go. Sometimes God says, “Go.” Sometimes God says, “Stay.” I honestly, sincerely believe sometimes it’s harder to stay than it is to go. But God's will and way are always best.
PAUL WAS FEARLESS OF THE OPPOSITION TO THE GOSPEL. Paul is going to Rome, mighty Rome, the iron legion. Rome that ruled the world. Rome with her philosophers. Rome with her gods. Rome with her laws. And Paul is going from Jerusalem, from Judea, subjugated, ruled by the Romans. Paul, a little squinty eyed, hump back Jew is going to go into this city and he’s going to preach the message of another publicly executed Jew. He was what they would call a backwoods philosopher. They would laugh at him. They would persecute him. But he would say, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
I wonder where you work-that high polished office, that bank, that factory, wherever, are you ashamed of Jesus? When everybody else is saying grace, you just kind of rub your eyebrows. Paul knew that he was going into opposition. But you know what Paul thought? He said, I’ve been other places, “I’m ready to preach the Gospel in Rome also.” I read about David in the Bible. David said to Goliath, Look, I’ve already killed a lion. I’ve already killed a bear and you’re next in line. That’s what Paul is saying. I’ve been here. I’ve been there and I’m going to Rome also. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God give us some men, women, boys, and girls who are not ashamed of Jesus. Yes, there may be dangers. Yes, there may be ridicule.
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,
while others bled to win the prize and sail through bloody seas?
Don’t be ashamed of Jesus. Rome was a proud city. But Paul is going there with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember that the Christians of this day, they didn’t have money, prestige, power. But they had Jesus.
Now what did Paul mean when he said, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”?
First of all, Paul was not ashamed of the Person of the Gospel. It is the Gospel of Christ. It’s not the Baptist Gospel, the Methodist Gospel, the Presbyterian Gospel. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you never need to be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There's almost 8 billion people on earth today. About 60 billion have lived through all history. About 50,000 are being added to the world’s population every day. But I’m telling you there is one person who stands out above all of those who ever lived or who ever will live and His name is Jesus Christ. And there’s not a moment in time when there are not millions of people studying what that one Man said and trying to arrange their lives according to what He said.
Jesus is my hero. Jesus is my friend. And Jesus is my captain. I am not ashamed of the One who stepped out of heaven, suffered and bled for me. I’m not ashamed of the Person of the Gospel.
I am not ashamed of the Purpose of the Gospel. Paul said I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation. What is the purpose of the Gospel? It’s salvation. Man needs more than soap and soup. He needs salvation.
Jesus did not come as a financier. Jesus did not come as a philosopher and a teacher. The Bible says the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost. There are some people who have substituted for the saving gospel...the social gospel, which is no gospel. It’s just making the world a better place to go to hell from. Salvation is the purpose. If you want an adventure, if you want to be a part of something that really counts, then pour your life into getting men saved and you’ll be glad when you come to the feet of Jesus with some precious soul that you lead to Jesus Christ. You can let Wall Street handle the finances and let Washington handle the politics and let Hollywood handle the fame. You want to be a winner of souls. The Bible says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” I am not ashamed of the purpose of the Gospel which is salvation.
I’ll tell you another thing, I am not ashamed of the power of the Gospel. “For it is the power of God unto salvation.” And the word “power” is the word we get our word dynamite from. The dunamis of the Gospel. Now I am grateful for that divine dynamite. If you were to take an atomic bomb and somehow explode it between the lapels of your coat, they wouldn’t find any part of you to bury. But that could not blow the sin out of your heart. I tell you there is a power that can make drunkards sober. There is a power that can make crooked men straight. There is a power that can make profane men and lascivious men pure. Many of you know that power.
The apostle Paul was not ashamed of the plan of the Gospel either. “. . . to every one that believes. . .” That’s it. That’s the plan. That is incredible. All of the rest of the religions of the world are spelled D-O. Do this, do this, do this. Ours is spelled d-o-n-e, done. It is finished. You put your faith where God has put your sins - on the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved. You say, “Well, that’s easy believism.” Well, what do you want, hard believism?
The word doesn’t mean mere intellectualism. It means trust.
There use to be an old time minister whose name was Christmas Evans. He had a corny way of saying, “You could put a man in a barrel and shout through the cork hole how to be saved and he could be saved.” Why? Because it’s simply by grace. That’s the plan of the gospel. I wouldn’t trust the best 15 minutes I ever lived to get me saved or to keep me saved. It is by grace through faith that the promise might be sure to all. Isn’t that a glorious gospel?
This gives us boldness to witness, because we've got something worth sharing. Everybody that you see is either saved or lost. If they are lost they are a prospect. If they are saved, they are a partner. Let's make this year all about others.
I Am a Debtor. I am ready. I am not ashamed!
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