This was so much harder to do, compared to my experience in the Marine Corps. Much harder than facing a Marine Corps Drill Instructor too. I wasn't so much afraid to speak in this type of setting either. My fear was of God. I wanted nothing of my own agenda to speak of, only the Word of God to those who would hear.
I was not able to sleep well for a few days prior to leaving my house on Saturday the 26th and I was really nervous too, not shaking nervous, but just nervous to actually be in a pulpit for the first time preaching.
Saturday night I couldn't sleep at all. My arms got numb and so did my legs, I tossed and turned a lot and even got up to pray, to try and calm down, but it didn't work. I was even quoting Scripture to help ease my fears and maybe help me fall asleep, but that didn't work either. I probably had maybe 2 or 3 hours of sleep total for the night too.
Sunday morning I couldn't eat breakfast, but I had some coffee to help wake me up, though I probably didn't need it.
I was told my sermon was very good and a few people in the congregation really enjoyed it. I preached from 1 Corinthians 2:2 which says, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
My sermon was centered on the passion the apostle Paul had to go and preach about the Person whom he was once throwing people into prison for because they were preaching about Jesus Christ. He didn't want to hear such preaching take place since he was a Pharisee and knew the Law of Moses quite well and such preaching opposed what he had be taught too.
I preached for about 45 minutes altogther and it was a great experience. Before I left the pastor's house to go to the church on Sunday, I had prayed and realized I wasn't afraid of whom I would be preaching to, but that I only feared God at that point. I had such a holy reverence for Him at that moment that I just didn't want to say anything that would bring disgrace to His name and thank God I didn't.
I even preached a bit on Sunday evening too, teaching for about 30-minutes on prayer and how important it was in the life of a Christian. I talked about the importance of prayer, examples of when Jesus prayed and why, the importance of fasting and prayer, praying for others and some examples why our prayers are hindered or not answered.
My voice was sore Sunday night and I was very tired on Monday from the drive home and from preaching too I think. Now I know why pastors have the day off on Mondays.
I realized that my restlessness Saturday night was probably more because of an even more intense battle over me spiritually and it was probably closer than it ever had been before, because I was going to preach. But I thank God for sustaining me, for protecting me, for those who prayed for me and for God giving me His strength and wisdom, to boldly proclaim the Gospel of His Son to all who were listening on Sunday.
I look forward to the next time, whenever that may be.
My sermon wasn't recorded though I'm hoping it might have been, so if I don't receive a CD in the mail from the church then it certainly wasn't recorded. Maybe the next time at the next church it will be.
This is an edited version of the sermon. God bless you as you read it.
In 2001, I had been part of a men’s small group bible study and we were following a curriculum that was designed by Edwin Louis Cole who wrote Maximized Manhood, a book that has changed my life in understanding his life message that manhood and Christ-likeness is synonymous. I looked forward to these studies as we grew in different parts of the boroughs of NYC. I have always enjoyed leading small groups and I believe it is a character trait that I gained from my experience as a United States Marine. I enjoyed leading these small group studies, but to go out and talk about Jesus, to be a witness for Him! No way! Let the professionals do that! The pastor or others like Billy Graham could do that way better than I ever could, but I could help teach, help lead them in discipleship as a born again believer in Jesus Christ, but be the evangelist, not me! Not me Lord!
"O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the LORD was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not." Jeremiah 20:7-9
"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified." 1 Peter 4:14
And when people persecute a Christian who witnesses to an unbeliever, or speaks evil or falsely of a God-fearing pastor or evangelist, yes, it hurts, but not nearly enough as the nails felt in the hands of Jesus. Not nearly enough as the whipping the Lord took upon His back, Not nearly enough like the nails that pierced His feet.
From Persecutor to Preacher
- There was a plot to kill him after he had confounded the Jews proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22)
- The original disciples feared Saul because they knew who he was and that he had been using fear and intimidation upon Christians and had imprisoned them, but he boldly preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus (Acts 9:27) to prove he was no longer who he once was
- Again, an attempt to kill him was planned and the brethren aided in his escape to Casearea and sent him to Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30)
- In Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13-46) he went to the synagogue and preached there
“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:36-39
Such was the fire shut up in Saul’s bones that he could not hold back, grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He was not only preaching Christ and Him crucified, but he was preaching about Christ in his life! How much more should we be doing the very same thing if we have been born again?!
The word believe that is used in verse 39 of Acts chapter 13, comes from the Greek word pisteuo, which means to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ): - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Whoever has faith in Christ, entrusts their spiritual well being to Christ, whoever puts the trust of their eternal salvation in Christ.
This is what Paul was saying to whomever and wherever he went to preach because he determined that, others should know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
It Is No Longer I Who Live
As you read these words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I cannot help but feel his passion for the Lord as he spoke these words, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Paul endured more adverse and serious trials in his life, yet he did not count his life dear to himself, because he wanted to finish his race with joy, and the ministry which he received, from the Lord Jesus, which was to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24). The man who was once enraged to persecute Christians was now evangelistically preaching Christ to the world!
Here is what was profound to me when I was studying this, verses 42 – 44 were a demonstration of Saul’s passion to preach and the effect of it.
“So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13:42-44, emphasis mine)
It is not too common today that a congregation actually begs the pastor to preach with such conviction again the following week. If he did, there might be the same effect in his church as it was in Paul’s day, where the whole city would come together to hear the word of God.
There should be more people in church on Sunday than anywhere else in this country. What a different country this would be if America kept the Sabbath Holy as God has commanded! Not just that commandment, but as a nation to repent of their sins, and to want nothing more than to honor God by exalting the name of Jesus Christ.
Back to a few more of Paul’s trials:
- At Iconium a multitude of Greeks and Jews became believers and he also preached in the surrounding regions of Lystra, Derbe and the cities of Lycaonia (Acts 14:6-7)
- He was stoned in Iconium and left for dead (Acts 14:20)
- While imprisoned, Paul preached to a Philippian prison guard and won him and his family to Christ (Acts 16:30-34)
- In Thessalonica, Paul preached for three consecutive Sabbaths, from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 17:1-4)
- Paul addressed the Areopagus, seeing their religious worship of objects and the altar that was inscribed, “To The Unknown God,” preached Christ to them (Acts 17:22-23)
- After meeting Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, Paul reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath and persuaded both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:1-4) and for 18 months he ministered there (v 11)
- For three months he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogues of Ephesus concerning the things of the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8)
Paul’s life in the book of Acts was filled with as man trials as there were blessings after his conversion. The trials he endured were far greater than the persecution he had once carried out on those whom he objected to, whom now had believed in Jesus Christ. Now, he was a believer too and was preaching to people what he tried so hard to keep others from preaching and believing.
Hunger and Thirst
Paul was filled with such a passionate determination to speak of knowing nothing else but Christ and it was God’s grace that was demonstrated to him the day he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
If you had a hunger and a thirst for righteousness, what do you think would be the result?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) How hungry are you to know nothing else in your life except Jesus Christ and Him crucified? How thirsty are you to drink from the fountain of Living Water, God’s Holy Word? Are you passionately pursuing knowing Christ more and more intimately in your life?
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible regarding Paul’s words, “I determined not to know any thing among you” – says that Paul was, “satisfied that the Gospel of God could alone make you wise unto salvation, I determined to cultivate no other knowledge, and to teach nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, as the foundation of all true wisdom, piety, and happiness. No other doctrine shall I proclaim among you.”
Paul said that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Is it really that foolish, when it is the power of God to save someone? You can let Satan have power over your life and he’ll keep you from wanting to know that saving power of the cross, but that will not stop the Lord from relentlessly pursuing anyone whom He is longsuffering towards, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
"You Know of My Son"
When I was on my first deployment to Okinawa in August of 1992, I was on a temporary assignment with an infantry company, to go up to the NTA for a few days of jungle training. Just two months earlier, there had been a few helicopter crashes and I think one or two Marine fighter jets that had crashed into the Pacific Ocean as well. We were flying on the CH-53 Sea Stallions, the big monsters that are also old and costly to maintain, but they are awesome flying war machines the Marine Corps uses. Well on this particular day, I was nervous and I took a moment to pray and ask God to protect me, protect the Marines I was flying with and to keep the pilots and crew safe too.
I did not know back then if God heard my prayer, but I did want to make sure that I did pray, so that He couldn’t say he never heard my prayer. I was not saved back then and God probably did hear my prayer back then because we all made it safely there and back when our training was over. But had the helicopter experienced a mechanical failure and crashed, I did not know Jesus Christ as my Savior and would never have entered His kingdom of heaven when I died.
He probably would have said to me, “I heard you when you asked me for protection during your training, but you failed to obtain the protection of your soul from the sin that I still see in you that has not been cleansed from you.” He might also have asked, “Do you know my Son?” and I would have answered and said, “yeah, I went to Catholic school as a kid, Jesus is your Son, born of a virgin, who suffered, died, was buried and on the third day rose again and sits at Your right hand.” “You know of my Son pretty well, but has your spirit been born again? Have you confessed your sins to Me, repented before Me and been cleansed from all unrighteousness and redeemed by My blood?” I would have answered in pure Marine Corps fashion saying, “Uh…say again” and would have stuttered trying to provide something of a justifiable and acceptable answer to God that would have been completely worthless.
“Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.”” Hosea 4:1.
Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. Proverbs 10:14
Paul said to the Corinthians, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
Where are the people who seem to have intelligence that is greater than God? Which authors have surpassed what God has written that is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16)? Where and who is the one who will contend with God and win their argument against Him? Who could possibly believe their way of salvation could be contended with God and win, only to be eternally wrong and lost forever? That person does not exist.
As it is written in the book of Hebrews, For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary says, "See that you do not refuse Him who speaketh from heaven, with infinite tenderness and love; for how can those escape, who turn from God in unbelief or apostasy, while he so graciously beseeches them to be reconciled, and to receive his everlasting favour! God's dealing with men under the gospel, in a way of grace, assures us, that he will deal with the despisers of the gospel, in a way of judgment."
That consuming fire will be not because of your passion for His glory but of punishment for the guilt your sin.
All For Christ
In his letter to the Philippians 3:7-9, listen to the passion of Paul’s words, “But what things were gain to me, these things I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss for all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”
What are you willing to count as a loss in your life for knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Would you be willing to lose your fear of rejection, persecution and even being mocked at, so that you could help lead someone else to gaining Christ and to be found in Him?
Jesus said in Luke 15:7, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents then over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
Will you be the one today, tomorrow or this week, who will help bring joy to heaven, to lead someone to repent and trust in Christ for their salvation?
Will you obey the words of Jesus when He said, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel?”
God’s standard that He will judge of any person by to enter His kingdom of heaven, is to obey His law, the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, everyone has failed in keeping even one of them and is considered to have broken all ten (James 2:10).
- Is God, the Lord Jesus Christ, your one and only God?
- Do you worship any created image that would be considered idolatry?
- Have you blasphemed the name of Lord? He will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
- Have you kept the Sabbath Day holy? Not just this week, but every week.
- Do you honor your father and mother and could they vouch that you do?
- Have you hated anyone? God sees hatred equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:22, "That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" for the Scripture says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)
- Have you committed adultery? Jesus said that if you looked upon another with lust you have committed adultery against God in your heart.
- Have you stolen anything? Regardless of the value.
- Have you lied?
- Have you coveted anything of another person’s property to possess wrongfully as your own?
Is anyone guilty according to these commandments? Everyone is guilty and that may certainly be bad news if this applies to you.
The Good News
The apostle Paul said, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
Finally, my friends listen closely to these words from George Whitefield. He said, “Your friends and carnal acquaintance, and, above all, your grand adversary the devil, will be persuading you to determine not to know any thing, but how to lay up goods for many years, and to get a knowledge and taste of the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; but do you determine not to follow, or be led by them; and the more they persuade you to know other things, the more do you "determine not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." For, this knowledge never faileth; but whether they be riches, they shall fail; whether they be pomps, they shall cease; whether they be vanities, they shall fade away: but the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, abideth for ever.”
The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Whitefield, G. (n.d.) The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the best knowledge. Retrieved July 22, 2008 from http://www.biblebb.com/files/whitefield/gw045.ht