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Rev. Bernie Lawrence: It’s my privilege this morning to introduce our guest preacher, if he can be called guest, Harry, Dr. Harry Reeder. For many of you who have been a part of Christ Covenant for decades, Harry needs no introduction, but for many, perhaps more of you, it’s important that you know how the Lord used Harry in our early years to build the foundations of Christ Covenant. Harry was our first senior pastor, I think that’s been mentioned. We called him to be our pastor in February of 1983; that was 36 years ago. And I served on that pulpit committee that brought Harry and his dear wife Cindy and their three children here. I do remember being told by one leader who knew Harry better than we did that if we called him to be our senior pastor, we should “hold on to the seat of our pants.” [laughter] Little did I know how prophetic that statement would be. Harry served us for 16 years, and by God’s grace we grew dramatically, both statistically and spiritually, under his leadership. Personally, I owe Harry a great debt of gratitude because he invited me, along with the session, to join the pastoral staff in 1991, and that invitation set my life on a very different trajectory.
Harry left us in June of 1999 to become the senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian church in Birmingham, Alabama where he has been for the last 20 years. It’s hard to believe. But he has remained a close friend of Christ Covenant and so many of us all these years.
I think one good way to help you appreciate what motivates Harry as a man and a minister of the Gospel is to point out two things that speak volumes about him. The first is the architecture of our sanctuary, both inside and out, that Harry designed and was privileged to preach in for several years. If you’re attentive, you’ll notice the many Celtic crosses that adorn the exterior and the interior of our building, behind me on the wall, the doors, the ironworks and railings that go up on the stairwells and such. It was Harry’s desire to always boast in the cross of Christ and not himself, and this sanctuary is a constant reminder that the cross is central to the gospel and to the ministry of Harry Reeder.
Secondly, as you exit the sanctuary to the main lobby, you’ll see our church verse on the wall. It comes from Colossians 1:18. It says that in all things may Christ have the preeminence, or first place. That verse was chosen when Harry began his ministry here in 1983, certain it was then and I’m certain it remains, Harry’s great desire for, that Christ would be preeminent not only in his life, but in the lives of all and everyone that he has been privileged to pastor.
So, Harry, I’ll get myself in trouble if I don’t welcome you on behalf of Kevin. Kevin asked me to read this in his absence for you. Even, he writes, Even though I am on vacation in Michigan, I asked him if he was going into Lake Michigan to swim, he said he was but I don’t know that’s happened. It’s mighty cold up there.
He says “I wanted to personally welcome Dr. Reeder back to Christ Covenant. Harry has not only been a leader in the PCA and in the evangelical world, he’s been a good friend to me. God has used he and Cindy to do wonderful work in Charlotte and at Christ Covenant. It’s my privilege to enjoy the fruit of his labors as I serve this congregation. I am very glad Harry can preach the Word to our beloved church this morning. Harry and Cindy, thank you for being with us. Kevin.”
Would you join me in welcoming Dr. Harry Reeder to our pulpit. [applause]
Dr. Harry Reeder: It’s good to be with you. Thank you so much. Just a couple of words. The first one is greetings from your sister church in Birmingham, Briarwood Presbyterian. They certainly wanted me to let you know, and our elders did as well, how grateful they are to be able to serve alongside of you, in partnership of the gospel ministry. Keven and I have enjoyed a wonderful relationship together and I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to hear that God had called him here under the leadership of your pulpit committee and now the approval of the congregation and his involvement in this session of this church and diaconate. So that’s exciting to hear that and praise the Lord for that.
Secondly, my family, some of which were able to be here today, but many were not able to because of obligations, and they all wanted to be remembered to you. And then John Haines. I had the privilege to work with John here from 1990 to 1994, and then Kevin came and ran him off, [laughter] and I got him a job down in Birmingham, but he and Jenny, and as you know they’ve kind of reconnected through the marriage of a daughter back here to Christ Covenant and membership and things all, it’s amazing. This small world of believers. I call it ecclesiastical incest, [laughter] it takes over all the time. And so he wanted to be, and he particularly wanted Nathan, I hope you’re here somewhere, he particularly Nathan, he wanted to thank Nathan for his work in the Psalms that have been a great blessing to him and he uses it devotionally continually in his life, and he wanted that to be remembered as well.
So, that’s, those are the ones that I could go on and I don’t want to go on because I want us to get to God’s Word, so I want you, if you would, to take your copies of God’s Word and turn with me to Romans, chapter 1. Romans, chapter 1.
You know, y’all must have gotten a pastor who’s a little taller than me. [laughter] Is there kind of a step I can step up on here? [laughter] Man. I, well, it’s nice to be 10 feet above contradiction, anyway. [laughter]
So if you’ll take your copies of God’s Word and turn with me to Romans chapter 1, we’re going to do something just a little bit different in terms of where were headed today. I’m going to ask you if you would to look with me to establish the context of the two verses that we’re going to focus upon. I know you know, because you’re under a faithful expositional ministry here, you know that any text without a context is a pretext, and there’s nothing that where that’s more clear than in these verses of Romans 1:16 and 17, the context of verses 18 through the end of the chapter, is absolutely crucial. But I’m going to do something just a little bit different. I’m going to read those last verses with you, then I’m going to go back to the two verses that we’re going to focus upon, but I want you to think about these verses that I’m reading because they establish the context and give direction to a very key word that the Apostle Paul has placed in Romans 1, verses 16 and 17.
So if you would, would you join me in the reading of God’s Word. If you don’t mind, please stand and join me. Romans chapter 1, and verse 18. This is the Word of God, God’s Word is the truth.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
“For this reason God gave them over, gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. And though they know God’s decree that those who practice these things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
The grass withers and the flower fades, and the Word of our God abides forever. By His grace and His mercy may His Word be preached for you. Please be seated.
If you’ll look back with me to Romans chapter 1 in verses 16 and 17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God and to salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
You probably don’t remember, but when I went to Birmingham from here in the summer of ’99, 20 years ago, I cannot believe that, good to see many of you I recognize. You’re kinda like me… I don’t go get my hair cut anymore, I go get my hairs cut, [laughter] and so it’s good to see you and it’s good, some of you, so many of you, are new, for which I praise the Lord to see you here as well.
But I left in ’99 to go to Briarwood, just so you know it was clearly the Lord calling me because I said no seven times, but the Lord was making it pretty clear and so we went, and I left here preaching through the book of Romans. I got the first six chapters covered, and then the Lord called me there, and I’ve been there now for 20 years.
But what a great privilege to be back here with you. But I have no problem in kind of coming back to right to the same back. I love the book of Romans, I confess to you. If you think of the Bible like a mountain range, like the Himalayas, well, for me Mt. Everest is the book of Romans, it is just absolutely glorious. I love it, I love the, I love studying it. I have no hesitation when people ask me my favorite book of the Bible that it’s very clearly Romans and I love these two verses. Romans 1:16, and they’re interesting for many reasons.
Let me give you one. I want to, I want to alert you today, I’m going to give you two invitations today, when I get to the conclusion of this, and by the way, I notice the clock that the elders put up when I was here is still there. [laughter] Um, I want you all to know I saw it. [laughter] Not that it makes any difference. [laughter] But perhaps that’ll give you hope.
And, so, we will get to it in just a few minutes, to a conclusion. I’ve got two invitations I want to give you, but what really intrigues me, or that captures me in this opening couple of verses, is that phrase: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.”
Now why would he say “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel.” Why would he say that?
Perhaps you’ve thought of reasons why he might have. There’s two that the commentators go to pretty quickly.
One is he’s referring to the glorious truth that the Gospel is the only message in this world that both promises and delivers on its promises to remove the shame of the Gospel from our life. You just sang two different hymns that affirmed that glorious truth that the Gospel is that which presents the glorious truth that tin Christ, because of what He did on the cross, where He took our place, took our sin, when there was no way God made a way to save us, and that way is His Son Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. It is through that Christ that we are saved and sin’s penalty, shame, and guilt is removed, sin’s power is broken, increasingly though unevenly sin’s practice is being eradicated, and one day when we go to be with Him, sin’s presence will be no more, nor any of its consequences. What a glorious promise in the Gospel. Our shame is gone. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But when you look at the context, I don’t think that’s what he’s pointing at. He will get to that. As you go through the book of Romans, Romans 1 through 3 gets everybody lost, that’s why it ends in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The pagan in chapter 1, the religious man in chapter 2, and the Jew in chapter 2 and chapter 3, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Then comes God’s solution, in chapters 4 through 5, and then comes the Christian life in chapters 6 all the way to chapter 10, and then he goes to the details of that Christian life, beginning in chapter 12: “Therefore I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service of worship.”
It’s a glorious book that unfolds the truth of the Gospel. It is an exposition of the Gospel. It was written by Paul to Rome because he was planning on going there. Antioch had been a home church from which he did his missionary endeavors, then Ephesus became a home church for three years, where he did his missionary endeavors. Now he’s wanting to go to Spain, so he wants to make sure that Rome will become his home church and they understand the Gospel, because that is crucial, a Gospel culture that permeates and pervades every aspect of the church. Thus this glorious exposition of the Gospel in the book of Romans.
Well, pastor, if you don’t think he’s focused in that verse on the fact that our shame is removed and that’s why he says I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, what is it that you think? Well, let me give you a second thing the commentators say. The commentators say this: It’s just a way for Paul to tell you how much he loves the Gospel. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, praise the Lord. And that’s what he’s attempting to get across to us. He loves the Gospel. I’m not ashamed of it.
Now, honestly, when I preached on this here somewhere around 1996, I think, 7, something like that, that was my position. But I’ve come to take another look at this. I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. Can I try to illustrate this for you? Most of you know I love Cindy. I do love Cindy. I love Cindy Lou, and we just had our 50th anniversary this year, and I’m grateful because she has me on a year-to-year contract now. [laughter] So I’m surviving. I love to introduce her, because I love her, and I am proud of what the Lord has given me in a wife and I’m proud of what the Lord’s doing in her life and through her life. I can’t ever remember a time in my life I introduced my wife with these words: “Hi, this is my wife, Cindy. I’m not ashamed of her.” [laughter] If I ever did, that may be the last time I introduced my wife. [laughter]
You see, I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at. Can I tell you what he’s getting at? This is why I took the time to read the other verses. The death spiral, verses 18 through the end of the chapter, is the death spiral of any and every culture inevitably if the Gospel of grace, its redeeming grace, transforming grace, or at least its common grace, is not introduced into that culture. That’s the end, and those three phrases, God gave them over, other than, other than depart from me, there are no more frightening words to me in the Bible than this one: God gave them over. He gave them over to sexual promiscuity because they denied Him, He gave them over to sexual perversion because they denied Him, then He gave them over to social approval of rebellion against God, that they give approval to those who practice such things.
By the way, where do you think we are? We’re at the third verse.
And here’s what we’re trying to do, through psychology, media, academia, and now even invasion into the Church: We’re trying to remove the shame of sin by making it a syndrome, or a pathology to be managed, instead of a sin to be killed.
We think somehow with euphemisms we can remove the shame of sin in the culture, particularly if we can embed it in the culture. Thus we are in an amazing situation, all of you here, whether you’re from Africa or Europe, wherever your ancestors were, the Gospel came and rescued our ancestors from the pits of paganism that showed up with promiscuous and perverted sexuality that showed up with pagan worship, that showed up with idolatry. The Gospel came and brought our lives of our forebears to Christ, and then it penetrated the culture as discipleship began to take place.
Now let’s be very clear: The missionaries didn’t come to change the culture; they came to bring the Gospel, and then when you disciple people, which by the way is teaching them to observe what? “All that I’ve commanded.” What happens? Lives change, marriages change, families change, communities change. That’s not the objective, that’s the consequence when the church stays on mission, on message, in ministry, and stays in the fight. That’s what happens.
But if the church doesn’t, if it loses its ability to shine the light and if it loses its saltiness, then the culture inevitably, and that’s what you’re seeing, we’re in a culture where we have been rescued from paganism and all of its impacts and our ancestors, now willingly we are calling evil good, good evil, and now immersing ourselves back in to the culture of death. And please notice, Harry, does God bring judgment upon sexual promiscuity and perversion? Sure.
But look closer to the text. It’s not that God simply brings judgment to those things, they, their presence is God’s judgment. Their presence is God’s judgment.
So, Pastor, what is our hope?
Folks, this is simple for me today. Now, don’t get encouraged, I haven’t come to the conclusion yet, [laughter], but it’s simple for me. The only hope the nation I live in, so that there, so that the work of the Gospel would be profound and overflow to the nations of the world, the only hope of this nation is another Gospel awakening. But that Gospel awakening will not happen until the Church is again unashamed of the Gospel.
Because the culture not only, now listen to me carefully, the culture not only attempts to remove shame through psychological manipulation, euphemisms, it not only attempts to remove the shame of sin through the dead end of just simply shamelessly doing the sin, it also attempts to silence the Church and its message that the only way to deal with that sin is the Gospel and Jesus is the One who removes the shame when you believe and repent and come to Him.
So will we stay on message, on mission, and on ministry? Right now, your culture has already moved to threatening the livelihoods of Christians.
I’ve got young men that I disciple, our fellows program and other things, and they go to a job. If an employer says “now, what do you think about marriage?” “Oh, I believe marriage is one man, one woman, and I believe sex belongs within marriage.” Twenty years ago, check. Today? Bigot.
Will we be ashamed of Christ and holding fast to the whole counsel of God?
Praise God, our lives, martyrdom is not before us, but I can take you to person after person, livelihood has been put on the line. Will they be ashamed of the Gospel?
Paul says to the church at Rome, in the middle of the most pagan culture imaginable, he says to them, “I’m coming, you’re going to send me, and I am not ashamed of the Gospel. Let me explain it to you. I am not ashamed of it.”
I’ve had the privilege to serve three congregations: Miami, Florida three years, and then I got sent here, called here, praise the Lord, what a wonderful time to come back to my hometown. I actually was born in Charlotte, so I’m an original Charlatan, I mean Charlotte-ian [laughter], and then moved away. My dad was in minor league baseball and we moved away and moved all over the South and went to 11 schools in about 12 years, and we moved back and then I moved away when I got married, and then was called back here in 1983, so I’ve had the privilege to be here three years. But where I started my ministry was Miami, Florida. In fact, there are some people that are now members of this church that were there and there are some that actually are here visiting today, so you know, it’s terrible, eyewitnesses are such a problem for illustrations. [laughter] But they’re here, so I’ll have to be truthful about it, but the church I was called to, it only had about 50-something people in it, and the average age was 69. No children Sunday school. My kids, my three, were the only children.
And by the way, the lady that finished out, that figured out the average age was 69, she had been 59 for about 12 years, [laughter] so that was suspect. I had a church, one good flu season, I was done. That was, that’s where, my people did not eat, they eat dessert first when we got together, that’s, uh, it was, everything was precarious. But God gloriously visited that church. Absolutely, marvelously visited.
But I’ll never forget, I met with my session, I had five elders, and three of them were named John, which was convenient, but none of them knew the Lord. So I got, I had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John; they just didn’t know the Lord. [laughter] And, but, praise the Lord, God brought them to saving faith.
I’ll never forget my first Sunday. I’d been a student pastor at a little church, when church was over everybody just kind of stayed around and talked, it was wonderful. So I got to the back of my first service that was there at Pinelands and, and was ready to shake hands with people, and I got back there, and there wasn’t anybody to shake hands. I mean, those people might have been 69 years old, but they were fast. [laughter] I mean, they were out of there, literally. My wife will tell you. I walked out in the parking lot just trying to stop people to shake their hand and tell them look, it’ll get better next week, please, don’t, don’t leave so quickly.
And I just went out, then I turned around and came back. It was five minutes after 12 and the door was already locked. [laughter] So my first Sunday I had to break into the church to get my wife’s pocketbook so we got keys that we can go home, and we got in the car and said “honey, we are not in Kansas anymore.” [laughter]
So I got with one of my mentors, Terry Geiger, and he said “Harry, I wished I could tell you that you’re in a church that you could send the Gospel to the world, but you’re in a church that needs to develop a Gospel culture. And it starts with you.”
So the next Sunday I preached on 2 Timothy 1:12: “I suffer these things, I am not ashamed.” You hear that word? “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him.”
I got to the end of the service and I’d worked it out with the organist just to kind of play softly so I could give an invitation to people, if you haven’t given your life to Christ. No music. Being seminary trained, Westminster seminary trained, I opened my left eye, looked to the back, that’s what they teach you to do, [laughter], I opened my left eye, I looked to the back and she wasn’t even there. [laughter] And then I looked down and I heard Roxanne laughing and crying. I can still see her in that green chiffon dress, and she gave her, she said, “Pastor, I’m not that, I want that. Can I become a Christian?”
So I went down to pray with her, Cindy came up and prayed with her. I went to the back and I was met by the chairman of the deacons. His name was Jack. Jack met me at the back and he said, I’ll never forget this, his face was so red and he came up to me and he said “What were you doing up there?”
I thought was going to get in a fistfight with the chairman of the deacons, and, uh, boy, I can just see the headlines in the Miami Herald the next day. I said, “Well, Roxanne wanted to give her life to Christ, so I prayed with her, and Cindy’s now praying with her.” He said, “I thought that’s what you were doing.” I didn’t know what was going to come next. And then he said “I need to do that.” [laughter] It wasn’t exactly a broken and contrite heart, [laughter], it wasn’t what I was expecting, but boy, he was on target. He said “I need to do that.” He said “I want to come up there next Sunday and do that at the end of the service.” I said, “Well, Jack, you don’t have to wait til the end of the service. You can, we can pray right now.” And he said “I knew you’d say that.” [laughter] He said “I’ve been a hypocrite for 14 years. I want to go up there and ask everybody to forgive me when I ask Jesus to forgive me.” I said, “Well, we can work that out.”
So the next Tuesday, I’m sorry, the next Thursday, I got a phone call. Jack cut his left thumb off with a power saw. I went down to Jackson Memorial Hospital, now remember this is 1980, y’all ever heard of the practice of medicine? They had just gotten micro-surgical equipment and he was the second one they worked on. I remember when the doctor tied his thumb off with a button and a string and said to him “if you smell something, come back later.” And boy, that was a ringing encouragement, wasn’t it?
I put both my arms around him. He had one arm bandaged up, up in the air like this, and he put his other arm around me, and I said “Jack, I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m going to tell you this. Here’s what I know, is if you’ve given your life to Jesus, and you’ve got a promise today you didn’t have last week. He never promises you that all things are good, but He does promise you all things work together for good. I don’t know what the good He’s got in this, but that’s what He’s got.”
We were about to find out, though. That next Sunday, can you believe it? He walked in, sat on the back row, I tell people that was my one Billy Graham moment in life. He’s sitting back there with his hand wrapped up, up in the air like this, I could have at any moment said “I see that hand.” [laughter] “The buses will wait for you.”
So I got to the end, I just closed my eyes in prayer, I didn’t give any invitation. I looked up – Jack’s coming down, arm up in the air. He comes all the way to the front. I go down, put my arms around him again, and said “Jack, I didn’t think you could be here today.” He said “Harry, if Satan had taken my arm off, I’m going to trust in God and I want to unashamedly tell the world I’m His. No more hypocrite.”
I looked behind him. Beth came. You remember those 55 people? 29 came, with no invitation to give their life to Christ. That day God brought life to Pinelands. It became a multi-ethnic, multi-racial… People say to me, “Harry, was it… ” In fact, a guy came to interview me, “It’s a multi-cultural church, right?” And I said “No, no, it’s not a multi-cultural church. Multi-ethnic, multi-racial, it’s not multi-culture. The reason all these ethnicities and races are here, you know why? ‘Cause God has granted us not perfectly, unevenly, imperfectly, but God’s granted us a Gospel culture. That’s what He’s granting us.”
I got a phone call from Terry Geiger later, a couple of years later, he said “Harry, we want you to go, we got 10 cities. Would you pray about going to one to plant a church that would plant a presbytery?” I said “No.”
Now folks, you got to understand something. My first year at Miami, my first week I went to the Riviera Country Club at the invitation of someone, it’s January 8, it’s 84 degrees, I’m in shorts playing golf, January 8, 84 degrees, no humidity, and I just said “you know, somebody’s got to serve Jesus here. [laughter] Somebody’s got to do it.”
And I had this church, I was having this great time. He said, “Well, you just need to pray about it.”
Well, Briarwood Presbyterian Church paid my salary for three years to come here, $25,000 a year. That’s what they did.
But first I came up here and I said “You know, guys, if we plant the church that can plant a presbytery, a PCA church, guys, you got to put it over at south or southeast Charlotte.” And they already got a church over there that had restructured under a wonderful many by the name of Bob Wilcox. Four families had stayed from the original church. And now I’m about 38, and that’s when I met Bernie, at Grand Rapids General Assembly, and I knew when I talked to Bernie and the other two elders, I knew they would be committed to a Gospel culture. They would not be ashamed of the Gospel.
So there we were in our modular unit with 38 people. I have a picture of it, if any of you would ever like to see it. It hangs up in my study. And there we were, 38 folks. Some of them are here today, praise the Lord, and you look as young as ever. And, uh, Lord please forgive me. [laughter] You look as young as ever. Great to see you. But I remember it.
I can remember having a church where we all drove separate cars because nobody would visit our church. They’d only see about five or six cars, and there’s 30-some people in there, and they weren’t going to go. They thought we had a box of snakes in that modular unit, which by the way is a double-wide trailer, that’s what it is, with the wheels covered up.
But boy, could I tell you some stories of people that are sitting out here, that the Gospel took hold of, as people began to share the Gospel, as people began to grow in grace, and people said “you know, we want a church that is committed to theological clarity, ministerial charity, but we want it to be a Gospel church.”
And praise the Lord for that. What a great privilege to serve and to see what God has done. And because of that Gospel culture, I saw my sisters all come to Christ, and their husbands, one of them’s with the Lord now. Because of that Gospel culture the God put here through the leadership of this church, not ashamed of the Gospel, we’re not ashamed to affirm the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sexuality, the sanctity of gender. “No” to the culture of death, “yes” to the culture of life, with the pinpoint of the spear of the Gospel.
I even saw my dad and mom, saw my dad and mom who had been converted years before but had walked away from the Lord and were divorced. Saw them come back to Christ, so while I was pastor here I got the chance to re-marry my dad and mom. How’d you like to do that? [laughter] “Dad, would you take mom to be your wife?” [laughter]
It’s a glorious thing to see the Gospel at work, but folks, it is a attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, it is attributed to him that he said “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.”
I’m not sure he said that, but if he did, given him all benefit of the doubt of his motivation, and when I get to heaven I know his, he’s going to have a lot less digits in his zip code than I do, but I would change it very pointedly, “preach the Gospel, use words. They’re necessary. Faith comes by hearing, the Gospel of Christ. But to use the words, you must be unashamed.”
Cindy and I were married. First year of marriage, things were not going that well, and so I said “well, let’s try church.” And I went into Faith Presbyterian Church on East Fifth Street and a guy came up to me and said “Hey, you’re Harry Reeder.” I said “Yes, sir.” He said, “You’re not Harry Reeder.” I said,= “Yes, I am.” He said, “No, you’re not. I played ball with Harry Reeder. You’re not Harry Reeder.” I said, “I think you’re talking about my daddy.” He said, “Oh, you’re the baby.” [laughter] My dad and mom were married when they were 18 and 17, and I was the baby that got taken to all of the football games of Harding High School in 1948. I know you’re doing the math, all right. Let me save you.. 71. I’ll save it for you. [laughter] And then he said “You’re the baby.” And then Harold Jones, and I went over and visited his grave yesterday, just to thank the Lord, with no shame told me what I needed was the Gospel, and became a spiritual mentor and father in my life. And set the course of a Gospel culture as one of the elders in this church.
A Gospel culture, where all of its implications are embraced. And with a church that is on message because it’s on mission.
Now, folks, listen to me carefully. If you ever change the mission of the church from the Great Commission, your message will soon be lost. Mission shapes message.
If you decide the mission of this church is everybody’s self-esteem, you’re going to get a that you gospel.
If you think the mission of this church is social justice, which I believe that’s an implication of ministry in the church, then you get a social gospel.
If you think the mission of this church is people’s success in life, then you get a pragmatic gospel.
If you think the mission of this church is church growth, then you’re going to get an even more pragmatic gospel just to get people in the seats.
You’ve got to stay on mission to stay on message. And when you stay on mission and on message, then you stay in ministry. And then what happens? The church’s mission and its message has to be focused. Then you turn out Christians whose lives are comprehensive, because then you make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. Now, here comes justice. Now, here comes sanctity. Now, here comes salt. Now, here comes light. Now it’s coming out because when you disciple people with the Gospel and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded, then they go out and do what? Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.
And it starts with a culture in a church of the company of the unashamed.
So let me just give you that text, and ask you to walk away with this, and then just one final word. I am not ashamed of *the* Gospel. You see the definite article?
Now, I went down here to this school. I think they have memorials up all over the place. East Mecklenburg. Graduated. We got people in here I went to school with. They graduated summa cum laude, magna cum laude, same year I was there. I graduated laude how come? [laughter] Thank the Lord, I got through. Praise the Lord.
And I remember Miss Swain. I don’t remember much from my English class, but I do remember this: The article controls the noun, and the definite article means the noun is definitive.
We don’t have *a* gospel, we don’t have a Briarwood gospel, we don’t have a Christ Covenant gospel, we don’t have a PCA gospel. We’ve got something called *the* Gospel, revealed in God’s Word, in Briarwood, in Christ Covenant, and the PCA, and my brothers who I served with in this area, we, we are to line up with the Gospel, its implications, and its ministry. I am not ashamed of *the* Gospel.
Secondly, it is the power of God. It’s a powerful Gospel. It raises the dead to life. Every one of you who know Christ are a heart transplant. He took your old heart out and He gave you a new heart. And you walk with Him, and it is the power of God.
Just the other day I walked by, I mean, the other day Cindy, my sister, and I walked by the home we were raised in as kids, and I showed her where Daddy had taught me how to drive. But I’ll never forget when I was 16 years old my daddy said “Son, I got you a car.” I didn’t, listen, my daddy was in minor league baseball. There was a lot of month at the end of the money. And so I didn’t, I didn’t expect any car. And he said, he said, “Well, here it is” and I walked out the back there was a ’57 Ford.
Now listen, when I, when I was high school, if you couldn’t have a ’57 Chevy or a ’57 Thunderbird, ’57 Ford was next. I said “Wow” and then my face hit the ground. I said “Daddy, I can’t drive this to East Mecklenburg. I’ll be in a fistfight the rest of my life, every day.” He said “Son,” my daddy had a way of saying things that I’m convinced in the Bible, I just haven’t found them yet, [laughter], “Poor ride’s better than a proud walk.” I don’t know where that is, that’s in there somewhere. [laughter] He said “It’s eight miles to that school. You can walk it or you can drive this. Which one you gonna do?” I said “Daddy,” I was ashamed of it. “Harry, why were you ashamed? It was a ’57 Ford.” I was ashamed because it was pink. [laughter] I said “Daddy, this is a pink… I can’t ride a pink car to school.” He said, “Son, it’s not pink. It’s coral.” [laughter] I said “Daddy, this, I mean, I can’t do that.” And he said “Now, son, let me tell you, I got this at an auction. South Carolina State patrol car auction. South Carolina State Interceptor.”
Now, the Interceptor word got my ear. He said, “Here, let me show you something.” And he picked up the hood and I looked at the power plant. It was a 392 with two four barrels. I said “Daddy, I sure like this coral car a little bit more than I did a while ago.” [laughter]
Now, so that was my car. Now, it, I wasn’t a Christian, so remember that. I went, but I’m now a Christian, so it’s only my humility that I refuse to tell you how many Thunderbirds, Corvettes, and Chevys I just sucked right up the exhaust pipe. [laughter] I’d pull up to a stoplight, they’d laugh at my car. They laughed at my pink Ford. And I just pointed. And then I owned them. [laughter]
Folks, that’s the Gospel. The world wants you to be ashamed of it. They’ll laugh at it. All you and I gotta do is just pick up the hood. There’s a power plant in that Gospel that’s unbelievable. I know He saved me. It’s a definitive Gospel. It’s a powerful Gospel. It’s got the righteousness of Christ. I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power… It, it. What? It what? The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, for in it… It what? The Gospel. The righteousness of God is revealed.
Praise God, I am not going to heaven on my imperfect efforts to serve Jesus. I’m going to heaven because of what we’ve just sung, “Jesus, Thy blood has cleansed me, Thy righteousness has clothed me.” I am clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. That’s the message we take to people.
And it is a, fourthly, it is an inclusive message. Jesus saves anyone and everyone who believes. It doesn’t matter who your parents were. It doesn’t matter your demographic. It doesn’t matter your social standing. It doesn’t matter your economic standing. Jesus saves sinners. Jesus is a friend to sinners because He was the enemy of sin and defeated it for us.
He defeated sin, death, hell, and the grave.
And fifthly, it’s an exclusive message. It’s only those who are brought to Jesus that are saved. So will you and I tell them? We sang it pretty good here, gathered. What will we do when we scatter?
While I was here at Christ Covenant before I went to Briarwood, I had the great privilege to lead about five different mission trips to Uganda. I got a chance to meet a lot of Ugandan pastors. I came at the conclusion of, the first time I went was in 1985, at the conclusion of the Obote and Idi Amin reign of terror, where the Christians were killed by the hundreds of thousands. I was there when they uncovered a road where the bones of your brothers and sisters in Christ were used as road filler.
And here’s what one of those Ugandan pastors said. He said “I am part,” now this is what he said before he died for Christ, “I am now part of the ‘Fellowship of the Unashamed.’ The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I will not look back, I will not let up, I will not slow down, I will not back away, I will not be still. My past is now redeemed, my present now makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, unbended knees, colorless dreams, chintzy living and giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by the presence of Christ, lean by faith into Christ, love by patience because of Christ, lift by prayer and labor by His power. My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, He’s my savior. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of intimidation or sacrifice. I will not retreat in the presence of adversity. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, and I will not ponder my reflection in the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all I know and work has been done until He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear. They’ll be flying. I’ll be with the company of the Unashamed.”
Will you join Paul? Will you join Paul in the company of the Unashamed? To lift up Christ, who when He is lifted up will draw sinners to Himself.
I watched the movie Lone Survivor with a couple of my friends who, at Briarwood, who has served as Seals, and as we went through it, of course, it’s an entire team that came down to one survivor. We walked through it, and there’s a couple of things that struck me. One is one by one they took incoming, and were wounded, ultimately all but one lethally. But every time somebody got hit, the head of the platoon said this: “Are you hit?” “I’m hit.” Next question: “Are you still in the fight?” And every one of them, “I’m in the fight.”
You’re going to get hit in this cultural revolution. You’re going to get hit. You’re going to get hit with mocking, marginalization, ridicule, attack your livelihood, maybe even one day your life. Will you stay in the fight by being unashamed of the Gospel, on mission, on message, and in the ministry? I thank God for you.
Let’s pray. Father, thank You for the moments we could be together in Your Word. I thank you so much for many here I know, some that I don’t. I thank you, God, for your work of grace in the lives of so many here and those, Father, who know You and love You here. Please do not allow them to be intimidated, to be deterred, and let this not dilute the whole counsel of God nor the glorious leading of the truth of God’s Word with the Gospel of saving grace in Christ. Give us Gospel words, do give us Gospel deeds so that people can see Jesus makes a difference, but give us Gospel words so they don’t admire our different life. Give us Gospel words so that they come to our Savior, who will give them life evermore. Father, there may be this day here, someone here, a large crowd, that hasn’t yet made that commitment to Christ. Would You give them the grace to shed the shame of sin, to know the liberation and being emancipated from the power of sin and the uneven but glorious eradication of even the practice of sin, anticipating the glory of the day when sin and death and hell and the grave will be no more. Would You give them that heart to flee to Jesus today? Folks, don’t, listen, if that’s you, don’t go get better. Flee to Jesus. He takes you just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. And I’ve got good news. He not only will receive you and save you, he won’t leave you where you are. By His grace you can grow to know Him, and make Him known. Thank you, Jesus, I pray in Your name. Amen.