Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can set free those who are enslaved to sin and Satan – and believers are given the tools to offer that freedom. John Elmore walks us through 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul lays a roadmap for how Christians are to give for the gospel, share the gospel, and live for the gospel.
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Repentance, Allegiance & Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
When believers come to know Christ as our Savior, we are called to share the good news with everyone. There are three main ways we can do this, as laid out in 1 Corinthians 9:
Good morning, you all. Good to be with you. My name is John Elmore. I'm one of the teaching pastors here at Watermark. I've been MIA for the last few weeks, and I wanted to tell you just a little bit, because some have expressed concerns, like, "Are you okay? Is Laura okay with what she has been walking through?" We're just celebrating her "cancer-versary." That's a one-year journey with breast cancer. Everything that's coming back is benign, so we got away to celebrate that over the course of a year.
Because of a lot of that time and doctors and all that, I also grabbed the kids and did a Dad trip. In addition to that, I got to teach at a Christian family camp and bring the kids along, and then the last thing I did is I went away for a four-day time with the Lord, like a spiritual retreat, just me and God. I read some books on prayer. Some of you Texans may be happy to know that while I was there, I shot four monster hogs. I'm not going to show you pictures in case there are any animal lovers in the room. You animal lovers will be happy to know that for a week, I fed a pack of coyotes and a flock of buzzards with the aforementioned hogs.
I'm thankful in a way, too, that I was out those times, because what I also got to do, seated right over here with my Community Group and Laura, is sit under TA's teaching for those three weeks and Jermaine last week, which is a huge blessing to me. So, glad to be back with you. We have three things to celebrate today. One is Father's Day. So, any dads in the room, Happy Father's Day. I hope you have a big steak ahead for you.
The second thing to celebrate, speaking of Love Our City… Just miles from here, the South Dallas Campus is celebrating their one-year anniversary today, which is awesome. So, Marvin Walker and his team, celebration there in South Dallas. Then the third thing I want to acknowledge and celebrate today is Juneteenth. Now, show of hands if you know what Juneteenth is. Some do, some don't. If you have an iPhone, you may pull it out, and if you look at national holidays, you'll see that a federal holiday is Juneteenth.
There has been some lack of awareness and education on what that even is, so I want to share what it is today, because it is today. Juneteenth is a mash-up of "June 19" in that word. So, Juneteenth, what it is. On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "All slaves are free." That was January 1, 1863. However, it was not here in the South until June 19, 1865, specifically in Texas, that the remaining 250,000 slaves were actually freed.
Now, you should be thinking about the math. That's two and a half years from the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation to the release of slaves. How could that be? Why the delay? Some of it, in part, was because the Civil War was still going on, but even at the end of the Civil War, there was still a delay of the slaves being released, which is crazy and tragic. The reason is, for the South, and here in Texas, to release the slaves would have meant an incredible amount of discomfort to the slaveholders by way of time, resources, relationships, and upheaval of the economy.
So, although it had been decreed, it was not shared, and because it wasn't shared, it wasn't heard by the slaves, and because it wasn't heard, they were not freed, and they remained enslaved, wrongfully, until June 19, 1865, because Lincoln sent General Gordon Granger with 2,000 Union soldiers to the Port of Galveston, and they entered Galveston and issued General Order No. 3.
It was a resolute of the Emancipation Proclamation reinforcing again, now under the reunified United States of America, "All slaves are free," and there was immediate jubilation through the streets as this news caught ear, and our black brothers and sisters from long ago were celebrating and are still celebrating today. I share that so that, today, we can celebrate alongside our brothers and sisters of color, and also because what happened physically then we are in danger of doing spiritually today.
Scripture is very clear. In 2 Timothy 2, it says unbelievers have been taken captive by Satan to do his will. For an unbeliever, they are enslaved to sin and Satan. I fear that although the Emancipation Proclamation of Jesus Christ is that all people can be free in Jesus, others are remaining enslaved to sin and Satan, because for us to share, in a similar way, would mean our discomfort of time, money, resources, and relationships. If we were to step out and say, "You know, you actually can be free," it would be uncomfortable and hard for us, so they remain enslaved while we enjoy freedom. May it never be.
That is exactly why, today (here's your road map), we're going to talk about giving for the gospel, sharing the gospel, and living for the gospel, that others in spiritual slavery might be set free. To that end, we're going to be in 1 Corinthians 9. If you've been with us, we've been going through Paul's letter to the Corinthian church, and today, 1 Corinthians 9. There's a lot of ground to cover, so what I'm going to do is draw from key verses in each of three sections.
The three sections I'm going to cover… One I'm going to spend more time on than others, which is "giving for the gospel," because we often don't talk about giving here. Because it's right in line with the letter, that's where I'm going to spend the majority of the time, because we often will talk about sharing the gospel and living for the gospel. Now, there's some connective tissue between chapters 8 and 9. Jermaine talked about the rights, that love limits our liberties for the sake of others. Here Paul is going to open with some connection and a link.
He says, "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me." And they were. "Do we not have the right to eat and drink?" That's chapter 8. "Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?"
Paul is saying, "Hey, you guys are judging me on the appearances of those rights." Like, "Paul, the other apostles who rode through town, like Cephas or maybe Apollos, who was a great preacher… They had wives. They took up an offering. You're not like them. You're doing things differently, so we're not even sure you're actually an apostle." It was the appearance of rights versus the authority of his role.
Recently, Laura's transmission went out. (It's good now, so don't email me about how to fix transmissions. I couldn't even if I tried.) I drove to this dealership that has a mechanic shop that's run by a Watermark guy. All I can do is drive in first gear, and if I push too much, it slips out of gear, and I'm just in neutral with the engine running. So, I get from Richardson to Addison, where this place is, in first gear. It's a miracle no one rear-ended me.
I get to the parking lot, and then there's a little incline to the garage. I push on the gas, and it slips out of gear. I'm right there. I'm so close, but I can't. So, I open the door, and I'm pushing a Suburban…me, pushing a Suburban. It's not going anywhere. This guy runs down and gets behind, because all of a sudden, it starts moving. I look back, and I'm like, "Oh, you don't have to do that," and he's like, "Yes, I do. Look at you." (Don't laugh at that. I know what you're thinking.)
We get it going. So, we get done, and he's wiping off his hands. I'm like, "So, you work here?" He's like, "Yeah." I'm like, "You work in the shop?" He's like, "No, not really." I'm like, "Oh, in the sales?" He's like, "No." He's like, "I actually own the place." His appearance, as I was judging him… I'm like, "Who's this guy pushing my car? I'm sure the owner was like, 'Hey, go out there and get the guy's car into the garage.'"
He was the owner. He pushed off all of his rights. He had every right to say to any employee, "Go get that car in the garage." It was beyond closing time, and the owner comes out in his business attire and starts pushing our old dirty Suburban. He put off all of his rights to help me. It's what Paul says he was doing, and it's what we are to do as we give, share, and live for the gospel.
In case they're like, "Well, those are great opinions, Paul. Nice anecdotal worldview," he's like, "Okay. I'll take you to Scripture." "Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.' Is it for oxen that God is concerned?" He's going to build a lesser to greater argument, like, "Hey, it's true for animals. It's true for people."
"Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?" Here's the key verse. Verse 14: "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel."
Now, the principle I would put before us in this passage is that giving gets the gospel out. As we give, the gospel gets out. Right now, my family, in part, is responsible for sharing the gospel and making disciples in Southeast Asia, and I've never been there. You might think, "How is that?" Because there's a guy, a Watermark member, under East-West Ministries, serving in Southeast Asia to reach Muslims for Christ, and we're part of his support team. We give in part to him so he can share the gospel in Southeast Asia. So, our giving for the gospel gets the gospel out.
Laura was on staff here for four and a half years. She was JP's admin before he left to Harris Creek. (We all forgive him for that. He's doing great down there.) She served him on staff for four years, but when she got pregnant with our first…she could have chosen a couple of paths…she chose to be a stay-at-home mom. I tell her often, "You work harder than I do." I'm with the kids for four hours, and I'm losing my mind. She's like, "I do it all day, every day."
She works harder than me, but she hasn't earned a penny, not a single penny, in the last eight and a half years as a stay-at-home mom. Not a cent. She doesn't do a tax return. She has no money to her name because of her occupation, yet she works incredibly hard. The only way, in fact, she makes money… Sometimes I'll come home. I get home from work. I'm like, "Hey, babe. Where's the lamp?" She's like, "I sold it. I didn't like it, so I sold it." On Facebook Marketplace or something. That's the only way.
Now, you'd think if that's the only way, you'd be like, "Man, is she destitute? She's probably wearing a potato sack, starving, wearing worn-out shoes." No! That's crazy. She's at home raising our children in our household, so I share everything with her. We share together everything. There's no my account and her account. It's our account, because she's to be given that for what she's doing. In the same way, Paul is saying, as spiritual children are raised up in the household of God, give to those who are contributing their lives so they can have a living.
Right now, the way parents can sit here comfortably instead of juggling kids is there are kids' ministers, and the way we can sit here safely is there are safety and security people. All of our giving is getting the gospel out and allowing them to actually have a living rather than having nothing, as a stay-at-home mom might in the case. So, that's 1 Corinthians 9:6-13, as he lays these out.
When he talks about the oxen, he's like, "Hey, if you don't let that animal feed as it's going, it's going to falter." If you stop feeding the servant, they will starve, and the work will stop. So, there's this reciprocal role we have within the church. I think, in most of our lives, there's a difference between orthodoxy (a right belief about God's Word) and our orthopraxy (how we live out what we know). Our head and our hands are often two different things. I don't think I'm sharing anything new with you, but statistically, there is a huge difference.
In case you're like, "Man, it's Father's Day, and you're teaching on giving? Are you kidding me right now? Man, that's rough," here's the thing. There's no building campaign. We're not at a budget deficit. No one is asking you for anything today. Watermark doesn't want your money. God wants your heart, and your giving is between you and God. It says he loves a cheerful giver. So, everybody, breathe a sigh of relief. We're not asking for money, but the Lord does desire to have your heart.
Here are the giving statistics as far as orthodoxy and orthopraxy. I want you to think in your mind… What percentage of Christians in America do you think give so the gospel can get out? It's 2 percent of Christians give in America. Here's one that'll make you gasp even more. Someone who earns $20,000 a year, as a Christian, is eight times more likely to give than someone who makes $75,000 a year.
Twenty thousand is below the poverty line by a third, but they're eight times more likely. Why is that? Because they know what it's like to be without, so they will more readily, eight times more readily, give. This one is also shocking. Per capita in percentage of givers… So, I said 2 percent of givers. Giving was higher during the Great Depression than right now. So, we have an orthopraxy problem, even if we have a right understanding of giving.
On spring break we were on vacation. I didn't spring for the UberXL, because I'm like, "We're going to cut corners where we can." I just got a normal Uber with all of my kids in the back, and I'm sitting shotgun with my Uber driver, Giuseppe from Venezuela, who has immigrated to America. We're talking, and tornado sirens are going off. I'm like, "Man, why are you driving right now?" He's like, "Well, I have kids at home, so I need to provide." You may be asking, "Why do you have your kids in the car during a tornado?" That's a different story.
So we're riding. I'm like, "Hey, tell me about the climate in Venezuela right now, like, politically." Because I want to build a bridge to start talking about faith and religion. "Tell me about the religion there." He's like, "Well, what I think, what I do… I try to go to mass and take Eucharist and pray when I can, you know, the rosary and different things."
I was like, "Giuseppe, can I tell you something? Those things are good. You should go to church. You should take Communion. You should pray. They won't get you to heaven. They have no ability to get you to heaven. Do you know what the Bible says?" I walked him through Ephesians 2:8-9. "The only way is grace through faith, not your own doing. It's a gift, not by works, so that no one can boast."
Sometimes when you're sharing the gospel, people are checked out, and you're like, "All right. I'm planting a seed or I'm watering seed, but clearly, that root is not breaking ground yet." They're just hard-hearted. This was not the case with Giuseppe. He's like, "Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. I've never heard that before. I never knew that was true. You mean it's just Jesus? Just to place my faith…?" He's lighting up.
Then in between us… So, I'm here, shotgun. Giuseppe is driving. He has one hand on the wheel, and with one hand he's digging through a cellophane bag. I'm like, "What is he doing? What's going on right now? He's about to eat lunch? What's happening?" He goes, "Here. Here. I want you to have this." I'm like, "Oh no. I've been saying you need a loving Father, and you've been hearing I need peanut butter." He's like, "I want you to have this, John." I'm like, "I don't understand. Don't give us your groceries."
He's like, "No, no. You've given me so much. I want to give something to you. Please take this. You've showed me and helped me to understand. Just give it to your children. It'll bless them this week. They'll enjoy it." And they did. He's like, "I want to give you something." That man, driving Uber with his groceries he was supposed to take home to his own family… When he heard the gospel, his immediate… I don't even know if he was a believer yet, but his response was, "I have to share something with you," which is the principle of Scripture. The question is…Will we do the same?
Right now, with this recession we're headed into… If you haven't been reading the news, sorry for the spoiler alert. They think in six months we're going to be in a full-blown recession. The world is saying, "Buckle down. Get everything safe. Put it in cash, bonds, or whatever, but get it out of the market, because things are going south. If you've invested in Bitcoin, we're all praying for you." (It hit 18 yesterday, speaking of "Buckle up.")
But as the world says, "Buckle down," God says, "Double down." This is the time to give. This is when we shine. When the world is like, "No, no. I'm going to take care of me and mine," that's when we're like, "Let me help you." As the world says, "Save," God says, "Give." As the world says, "You take care of yourself right now," God says, "No, you take care of others right now. That's why I've given it to you."
As the world says, "Hey, we have a slumbering bear of a market," we would say, "No, we have a sacrificial Lamb who gives all that they might be reached." So, Laura and I, as we're looking at things… Groceries are more. Gas is more…all that. We've had the conversation, like, "Hey, we're going to be really tempted right now to pull back on giving, and what we need to do is give more." Now is the time to give more.
Let me tell you this statistic. They're saying 49 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency…car repair, electric bill, house repair. Who knows what? Four hundred dollars would break them. Do you know what that tells me? We have an incredible opportunity right now to be like, "Hey, man. Let me get your gas." When you're at the tank, and you see somebody who may be less fortunate than you… "Hey, let me buy your gas." Or the electric bill of maybe an elderly neighbor. I don't know what, but we have an opportunity, and God will show them. He'll lay it before you. The question is…Will you step into it? Will you give that the gospel might go out?
Now, I'm sure he was a great guy, but Saint Francis of Assisi has this phrase, "Preach the gospel always. When necessary use words." It's a stupid phrase. It's unbiblical. No one has ever come to faith because you bought them a cheeseburger. Ever. Period. They will come to faith if you buy them a cheeseburger and say, "Can I tell you about Jesus? Can I tell you about the one who forgives us of our sins?" That is the only way. It's the only way to preach the gospel.
So, don't be like Saint Francis of Assisi. (Please don't email me, because I'm sure he was awesome.) The point is this: as you give, give the gospel. Give so that the gospel can get out, but don't forget to share… I bought someone's gas recently, and I was like, "Can I tell you why I'm doing this? Because Jesus gave me everything, and now I get to help others," and I shared my testimony right there at the pump. Do what you can to share Jesus with all.
Proverbs 19:17 says, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord…" Did you hear that? When you're generous to the poor, you're actually lending to the Lord. It says, "…and he will repay him for his deed." So, you may be thinking, possibly, "Well, what are you saying right now? This passage is about how we're to give to those who use their living to share the gospel." I'm not asking you to cut a check to me or anybody else on staff. Never do that.
As you give to Watermark, the elders then steward… They have annual reviews and set the salaries of the people. So, you don't need to give to people within the church, because as you're giving to the church, that's being stewarded. The other way it's being stewarded is with partners locally here in Dallas to the ends of the earth. As you give to Watermark, you can know those dollars are being stewarded in a way that the gospel would get out.
You might think, "Man, that must be nice for you. We all contribute, and you get your check." But we give also. I give from giving. Laura and I give the bulk of our giving here at Watermark. The largest portion goes to Watermark, because it says otherwise in Scripture, in Galatians, that we're to share where we're fed, that as we are taught, we're to give there. So we do, here as part of our local church. That's where the bulk of our giving is.
Then also, we give to other organizations like Seed Effect, which is by David and Missy Williams, Watermark members who are doing microfinance in Sudan and refugees in Uganda who always hear the gospel. So, we're giving to them. We give to IJM (International Justice Mission) so that people who are being trafficked, children and women, can get out of that. Laura has a heart for that.
We give to World Missionary Press, which is kind of very little known, but I used to use their tracts in Haiti, because they translate Scriptures into over 100 languages so you can just hand them out and people can have little Bibles in their languages. We give to The Voice of the Martyrs, which is for persecuted or families of martyred pastors and ministers in closed or dangerous nations, so they can be supported.
We give to East-West Ministries, that missionary I was talking about in Southeast Asia. We give to Launch Global. This is a buddy down in Austin. He and his wife train missionaries. In case you're like, "Can anything good come out of Austin?" Yes. There are missionaries coming out of Austin, specifically, who are going to the 10/40 Window, which is majority Muslim nations. They're giving their lives from Austin, Texas, to go and live for the gospel for unreached Muslims.
We give to a yearly discipleship program, and then there's isolated giving. We give to OurCalling that we're going to feature next week with Love Our City, run by a Watermark member, Wayne Walker, and other Watermark people are on staff. It's the nation's foremost homeless ministry that he will say next week is a discipleship ministry to the homeless. He'll probably rebuke me for saying it's a homeless ministry. It's a discipleship ministry to the homeless. But we give to them, like on North Texas Giving Day.
Our giving could go to CDC or Watermark Health, but we're to give that the gospel might get out. I do not say that so you're like, "Well, good for you. You just stood up and told us all of your giving opportunities." I'm looking at Paul Brown right here. We gave to him so he could stand and help moms who are pregnant not choose abortion. Thank you. Good job. But we give so the gospel can get out, and it's not so I can be like, "Hey, look at us." It's so you might understand this is just part of the Christian life, and woe be to me if I don't, if Laura doesn't.
Somebody said to me recently when I shared this, "Wow! How much money do you make that you can give that much?" I want to tell you it's not about the amount; it's about the proportion. I gave to roughly the same number of organizations when I was a broke seminary student. I remember I was making $8,000, and I went to do my tax return, and the guy was like, "You know you don't even have to be here. Right? You're 3x below poverty line. The government is actually going to give you money. How are you even alive?"
But I was still giving to roughly the same number of organizations. It was just a different amount. I remember to one I was giving like $5 a month, and I literally sent them an email. I was like, "Hey, you've got to stop sending me your marketing materials, because my $5 doesn't even cover your annual reports, and you're giving things. So, hey, we're good. I'm going to keep giving, but stop sending me your stuff, because it's a wash." They're like, "Okay. We respect that. That's good stewardship. Can you give more than $5?" I was like, "Not yet."
So, the number of organizations is about the same, because God is not looking at the amount; he's looking at the portion. Jesus said this. When he's calling his disciples, and everybody is putting their money into the coffers there at the temple, the rich are putting in out of their abundance, it says, but then a widow comes forward, and it says she gives two widow mites, equal to one penny. So, two half-pennies, and she puts them in.
Jesus says, "I tell you the truth. She has given more than anyone, because they gave out of their abundance, and she gave everything she had to live on." It's a proportion thing, not an amount thing. Someone literally… The box is marked "Giving" in the back. We never pass a plate here. We never will. There are no building campaigns. It's not because we're at budget deficit. There's just giving.
Someone literally could drop two pennies in the back and give more in God's eyes than someone who cuts a check for a million dollars, because God is caring about the proportion. He sees what he has given to each of us. It's a stewardship issue. Our money is not our own. Now, if you're thinking, "Dude, but what about that widow? She gave everything she had to live on. Jesus, what's the rest of that story? She's just broke? That's terrible." It's never the case.
It's where you get the phrase "You can't out-give God." You will never be broke because of generosity toward the gospel. It's impossible. How can I say that's impossible? Because in 2 Corinthians 9, it says, "He will give seed to the sower so that you may be generous on every occasion that will result in praise and thanksgiving, as we testify to your gracious gift, which shares a confirmation of the gospel." Paul is like, "Hey, as you're scattering seed for the gospel, God is giving back to you, not so you can be rich, but (1 Timothy 6) so you can be rich in good deeds."
Now, the prosperity gospel will tell you, "Hey, give a little seed of faith of money so that you can be rich." Before I was a believer, maybe a baby believer, I was in this church, and literally, there was a picture of a jet and an ocean liner on the screen, and they were like, "Sow a seed of faith, and God is going to…" They pull some guy up, like, "I sowed a seed of faith, and I got a Mercedes." Nonsense! That's prosperity gospel. The gospel is as you give for the gospel, not to be rich but to be rich in good deeds, the gospel will get out.
In the prosperity gospel, I've seen these pictures where they're like, "Hold up your wallet. Ask God to bless your money a hundredfold, two hundredfold, pressed down…" That's crazy. It's heresy. Instead, what we should be doing is holding up our wallet and saying, "Lord, everything is yours. Everything is from you and for you, and you have given to me that my needs might be met and that I might meet the needs of others." Period.
Deuteronomy 8 says it's God who gives you the ability to produce wealth. In Psalm 50, it says, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." It's all God's, and we need to steward our money for the gospel. This is an incredible verse. Proverbs 11:24: "One gives freely, yet grows all the richer…" Again, hear me say, to be rich in good deeds. "…another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." Your money isn't yours; it's God's. Watermark doesn't want your money; God wants your heart. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Here's another principle, and then we're going to move on. When you give for the gospel, it loosens the grip of greed. We live in a city that is generally marked by materialism and greed, and when you give to the gospel, it loosens the grip of greed. There have been times before when things were tight with Laura and me financially, and it's in those times that we were like, "We need to give right now, because we're tempted to put our hope in money, so right now we need to find something to give to," and prayerfully did so.
I want you all to evaluate. If you're a member here, evaluate with your Community Group if you're giving, why you're giving, to whom you're giving, and if it is for the gospel to get out. If you're not, there's no condemnation. We're all on a journey spiritually. There's no like, "I can't believe you're not." It's like, "Man, that message… I never thought about that, that the money is the Lord's and I'm to steward it and I can help get the gospel out to the nations or locally or wherever by giving."
Paul is an itinerant preacher and pastor at this point in time. He's just moving through Corinth to see this church he had planted, and he's like, "Hey, I'm passing through. I don't want you to think I'm just here to collect a plate to benefit off of you. That's not the case. Someday, there's going to be a pastor who will stay here and remain. To them you need to give, but for me, no. I don't want there to be any question about my motive. I'm just rolling through."
But we also have to share the gospel. He says, "Woe to me if I don't preach the gospel." It's not just give for the gospel to get out. He's like, "I have to share the gospel." Woe is an onomatopoeia, which is a word that sounds like what it is. That woe word, biblically, is a death sigh, this sigh at the moment of death. He's saying, "I would rather die than not preach the gospel. Woe to me, death to me, if I don't share the very salvation I have been given."
So I do this. I did it at Walmart yesterday with my 6-year-old daughter as we were getting groceries and were there in the checkout line. I'm talking to the guy, and he's speaking Spanish to the people in front of me. He gets to us. I'm like, "Dude, that's so awesome. I love that you're bilingual so that you can engage with them. I'm sure that puts them at ease, makes them feel more comfortable, and there's less confusion. That's so cool that you're able to switch back and forth."
He's like, "Yeah, man. I'm learning at school." I'm like, "Where are you at school?" He's like, "UNT." I'm like, "That's a great school. Good job." He's like, "You went to school?" "Yeah." He's like, "Hey, let me ask you something. What was the hardest thing about your transition out of school?" I'm like, "There it is," because I'm looking for a way to guide this conversation to spiritual things.
I was like, "Dude, loneliness. I was with my buddies 24/7 at college. I left, moved down to Austin, and went into advertising. I'd get home from work, and it was just me alone in an apartment, so I became an alcoholic, and I became a workaholic, because workaholism solved some of my loneliness too. I became materialistic and greedy and status seeking, but Jesus changed me. I didn't even used to believe… I was a deist, but I cried out to Jesus, and I'm now 16 years sober."
The checkout guy is like, Beep! Beep! "Man, I'm three years sober." I'm like, "Bro, praise God. That's awesome." I said, "You know, it's crazy. I'm a pastor now." He's like, "Huh." Not like, "Oh, really?" Like, "Oh, I kind of hate you." I was like, "Hey, I want to share with you…" I don't even think I asked him. I said, "I want to share with you the story of the Bible, because it's a big book." He's like, Beep! Beep!
I'm like, "God created mankind because he loves us, but our sin has separated us from him, and that's why he sent Jesus, fully God, fully man, to die for our sins and raise from the dead." Beep! Beep! I'm like, "I don't know if you've ever heard this or ever thought about it, but Christianity… Every other religion's founder is still in the grave. Only in Christianity did Jesus rise from the grave. And every other religion says you have to get right with God by doing good works that outweigh your bad deeds."
I'm like, "Even in our own failed human justice system, you don't outdo your wrongs by doing a bunch of good works. You did the crime, you pay the time. So, that justice doesn't even work. It's only Jesus." He just looks at me kind of glazed over a little bit. I'm like, "I'll tell you what," because I feel like I'm losing him. I'm like, "I've written a book on overcoming addiction. Just fellow struggler to another, if you write down your cell phone and text me, I'm going to get you that book." He's like, "Okay, man." He pulls out the receipt and writes it down.
Instead of just giving for the gospel, I'm sharing the gospel. I think we had a connection. I can't convert anyone. That's the Holy Spirit's job through Jesus, but our job is to share the gospel, and we have to be faithful with that. Jeremiah 20:9 says, "If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,' there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot."
Think about Uvalde that TA taught about a couple of weeks ago, just the tragedy, but how God is going to redeem all the pain and sorrow and tears in this fallen world, that one day he'll make all things new. Uvalde is still national and international news, but no one in the news is talking about the killer. No one in the news is like, "Man, why did he do that?" I think, generally speaking, the human race is like, "Yeah. Things are messed up. Things are broken down here. Evil people do evil things." The tragedy is horrific, but that's not the question people are asking.
The question the world is asking (and you could tell me; I guarantee you know it) is "Could the authorities have done more?" I'm not here to throw stones at authorities. I love officers and the authorities we're under here in a Romans 13 sense, but the questions news reporters are continuing to ask are, "Could they have gotten in sooner? Was there a delay? Did they have the right equipment?" I think there are maybe some reasons of tactical communication. I don't know what. It's not my job to know. They're going to sort all that out. But that's the question the world is asking.
I think the question heaven is asking is the exact same one, like, "What are you doing, church? You're going to delay with your coworker or your neighbor or your roommate or your family member? You have the time. You have the resources. You're right there in proximity, and they're being led to death by Satan, and you're not going to do anything?" That's the question I believe heaven is asking. We have to share the gospel. We give so that the gospel gets out, and we share the gospel.
Randy Marshall, retired pastor and speaker, goes three times a year to Ukraine. Now, you'd think this would be his off year. Right? Like, he's probably not going this year. No. He exactly went this year because of what's happening in Ukraine. As a million-plus people are fleeing as refugees out of Ukraine, Randy Marshall, Watermark guy here, buys a ticket to fly to Ukraine to train up pastors so they can share in a place where there is no hope.
He was like, "John, people are coming to faith," because as their worldly hopes go away, they are open to the hope of Jesus Christ. Chad, who's a firefighter for Grand Prairie and a re:gen leader, spends all of his off time to reach Muslims here in Dallas for Christ by sharing the gospel.
Then he talks about the discipline he puts himself under so that all of his life has come under the singular focus of "I'm going to reach people for Jesus." He gives the illustration of the athlete who runs or a boxer who trains. He says, "All of me is to reach others." I think a thing we are marked by here in America and, really, in Western society, and perhaps the world, is tribalism. We are marked by tribalism. It has become this infection that has invaded us, and we're not even aware of it until it's laid before us.
We have political tribalism, geographic tribalism, racial tribalism, age and generational tribalism, as different generations are making fun of others, and socioeconomic tribalism. There is all this tribalism that keeps us separate from each other, when Paul is writing like, "No! Don't be separate. Move toward each other." How in the world is anyone going to be reached for the gospel if you just stay by your friends? Instead, take off all of those differences, external differences, and move toward people, that you might win some for Christ. So you live for the gospel.
Hear these words: renounce tribalism in your life for the sake of evangelism, because evangelism will end tribalism in your heart. If you are determined to share the gospel with others, it will end tribalism in your heart. What I'm not saying is that we jettison our morality and our theology. There are many people right now, especially in Pride Month, who are like, "Oh, that's okay. I'll celebrate that."
You can't celebrate sin while simultaneously trying to present a Savior. They need no saving from anything. Instead, you love someone who is different from you, maybe theologically, morally, all of the different tribes we follow, but you do not compromise on your theology. Otherwise, they will not be reached for the gospel. So, you hold the line, and you proclaim Christ.
There's another re:gen leader, Patrick, who owns a business. This woman came to interview who has a wildly different worldview and theology, or lack thereof, so he hired her on the spot for the sole purpose…he could have hired anybody…of "I'm going to reach that woman for Christ. I want her to know the love of Jesus." He's not mincing words when he's around her. We have to live for the gospel.
In closing, I want to share this. At our house… I'm juggling kids. I don't have time to juggle lights, so I bought, for like $10, a light that has an optic sensor, so when it gets dark, the lights just pop on outside. They are LED lights that cost a fraction. When it starts to sense the sun going down and darkness coming, these LED lights that are very bright, in our back and front, just pop on, and there's no more darkness.
It's exactly how we are to live our lives. Not that we would repel, like, "Oh, it's dark. Pull back. Pull back. Pull back. I'm of the light, and that's my job, so I don't want to be around darkness." But rather, that we would have that optic sensor, a salvation sensor, that when we start to feel, see, hear, sense darkness, that light of the gospel would shine forth. Not that we would pull back, but that we would shine forth in our giving, in our sharing, and in our living.
Anytime we sense darkness around us and the people there with us, that should be the indicator. "All right. I'm going to love this person to Christ. I'm going to give that they might hear the gospel, I'm going to share the gospel with them, and I'm going to live my life in a way of light around this darkness," and that it would just automatically come on, because it's all we're living for, that we might win some. Let me pray.
Father, we thank you and praise you that we no longer remain in darkness, though we once were. Lord, everything we have is yours. It's for you. It's from you. May we use it for your kingdom. Lord, I pray that our wallets would be surrendered to you, that we would not grip out of greed, but we would give for the gospel.
I pray, Lord, that you would compel us, that we would ask, even in this moment, "Lord, give me a gospel opportunity," and then you would embolden us in that moment, like, "Oh, this is what I prayed for. Now is when I speak," and that all of our lives would have the singular focus, whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, that all of it would be for the gospel and for your glory, that Jesus might be heard by those who remain enslaved. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen.