The Gospel Can Change Anyone by Rick Burdette

Romans 1:16-1:17

Romans 1:16-17 (p. 782) January 25, 2015


Life generally has a way of changing the way we think about people when we were younger, more innocent, we didn’t look for hidden agendas…or judge people’s motives quite as harshly.

But eventually someone hurt us, used us, or betrayed us…and we became “more careful, more cautious” on the other side of that lesson.

On Wednesday nights we have a great small group studying a book by Brian Jones called “Getting Rid of the Gorilla: Confessions on the Struggle to Forgive.”

Brian got beat up badly by a gang at a football game, and then during legal proceedings he was raked over the coals by the defense attorney. All while the defendants laughed at the table. He said, something inside him died that day as innocence left…and the gorilla of unforgiveness came to live in his heart. Here’s a quote from Brian Jones:

You want to know what I think is the saddest part about living with the gorilla? It’s not that my heart has been jammed full of rage like an overstuffed suitcase. It’s not that I’ve created this huge, stupid, impassable wall just outside the perimeter of my soul that continually separates me from those I want to get close to. Both of these realities have caused me tremendous amounts of pain, but I wouldn’t say they’ve caused me great sadness. The most heartbreaking loss of all is the way the gorilla has slowly changed the way I view life itself. Living with the gorilla over time has altered the way I view people around me. My greatest problem isn’t sarcasm, it’s what gave birth to my sarcasm, and what gave birth to my sarcasm is the pessimistic way I view those I rub shoulders with on a daily basis – something I directly attribute to living with an unforgiving heart.

[I’ll never forget serving at a church where the Chairman of the Elders and the Sr. Ministers came to a shoving match over a microphone during a congregational vote. I’d been asked to bring the children up, so those who had baptized could vote. As I rushed them back downstairs because I refused to let them see this kind of example a little bit of my innocence died.]

But life has done this with all of us hasn’t it? The break-up, the divorce, the crooked business partner, the “close” friend that throws us under the bus…the church leader who attacks your son, the criminal who steals your stuff and your security.

And unlike when we were five or six with new friends…we become more guarded…more protective…more cynical.

Proverbs 4:23 warns us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (p. 440)

Hebrew writing has no punctuations like commas or exclamation marks…so writers always put the most important thing first in the sentence. By putting “Above all else” at the front of this proverb the writer is saying “TRUST ME…WHATEVER YOU DO IN LIFE AND I MEAN WHATEVER YOU DO, MAKE SURE YOU GUARD YOUR HEART.”

So, how do we protect ourselves from being hurt and guard our hearts from becoming cynical? I’m not sure I have all the answers for that question, but since it’s the most important thing we need to do in life let’s start with this truth…This attitude “I BELIEVE THAT THE GOSPEL CAN CHANGE ANYONE.”

Paul tells the Roman church and us “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.” A righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Here’s the most important question we can start with…


Most of us who were raised in church will pipe up “It’s the good news.” If you went to Bible College like me maybe you’ve studied some Greek and know it’s the word “evaggelion” (yoo-ang-ghel-ee-on). “Good News or Good Tidings.”
(Like… “Oh man…I feel really hesitant to tell you this but…daggone…I’m so sorry! But you just won a million dollars…sorry!)

Well, let me tell you why “shame or being ashamed” of the gospel is a very real possibility.

The good news all focuses on one single person…His name is “Jesus.” And that name evokes very powerful reactions in people…but not all of them are “good.”

Here’s what I mean…
[Suppose you where one of those poor individuals held in the concentration camp at Ohrdrof in Germany. Jews, Gypsy, poles….anyone deemed undesirable by the Nazi Regime…by 1944 they housed some 10,000 individuals…thousands had died or been killed.

This was the first concentration camp liberated by the U.S. Army. The 4th Armored Div. and the 85th Infantry. You’ll recognize their leader. His name was George S. Patton. When he showed up he made the Nazi officers and German civilian population come to the camp and move and bury thousands of bodies so they could see with their own eyes what they’d done. Here’s what I mean about not all people thinking it’s good that a rescuer shows up…These Ohrdrof prisoners rejoiced at their savior coming to release them. The Nazis and many of those Germans in the community hated his arrival and experienced judgment and shame.

Jesus…His death, burial and resurrection are my good news for those who He rescues. It’s not good news for those who are serving the Evil One!]

If you serve in the Evil One’s camp…even if you apathetically just live in his community….the name of Jesus isn’t good news…and the gospel doesn’t bring rescue and salvation it still brings the fear and shame and guilt of judgment.

Kari and I had the amazing privilege to visit Rome recently. We walked through the coliseum…even walked where Christians walked right before they were led to their execution. And right next to the coliseum is Constantine’s Arch. Arches were built to celebrate military victories. Most of the time Rome’s leadership didn’t want the military in the city, they were afraid of its power and military coups. But there were certain times the military was allowed…and that was after a great victory…and the conquering general would lead his army in procession through the city…leading his soldiers…as well as displaying prisoners they’d taken captive and the spoils of war they plundered. The Apostle Paul had seen such a procession…knew its significance. That’s why he uses it to compare how “news” is received by the victors…and the conquered…Listen, it’s written in 2 Corinthians 2 verses 14 through 17.

2 CORINTHIANS 2:14-17 (p. 804)

Christ’s triumphal procession…He’s the victorious “General”…he conquered death, He overcame sin, He set free the captives, God designed a plan to defeat the Evil One, to rescue us from the captivity of sin, and to bring us home to live with Him forever. That is what I call “The Gospel.”

But once again it all depends on who you are in relation to the victorious general. At the front of each of these parades they had giant incense burners smoking, sending out the sweet smell of myrhh. It smelled like victory, beautiful and good if you were on the right team…but if you were not, and you saw the coliseum and your fate right next to you, it smelled like defeat, judgment and death.]

It’s important we know what the Gospel is…and what it isn’t…It isn’t some vague belief in God or Jesus…it isn’t some easy cheap grace where you say a prayer or “get baptized” so you can live how you want…but slide into heaven because you did the right thing at “one time.” The Good News is this: God has the power and God has a plan to save everyone…Jew and Gentile alike….That plan includes the perfect righteous Son dying for the unrighteous world… “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Those who believe that…live by faith…and the righteousness of Jesus becomes their righteousness.

Now that we know what the “Good News” is…and why for some it’s the promise of Heaven and for some it’s the fear of judgment…


First of all let me say there are many who are ashamed to admit they are Christians because their words and lives say, “No I’m not.”

None of us are perfect…(and those who think they are…are the most irritating), we are all rescued sinners…all recipients of God’s amazing grace and only saved by His power.

But there are many, who like the Germans near Ohrdrof, live apathetic lives…not being Nazis but certainly never “rocking the boat”…are shamefully never speak about their relationship with Christ, but hope that “believing” and going to church once in awhile are good enough…listen to what Jesus says to this group.

MATTHEW 7:21-23 (p. 679)

The opposite of love isn’t hate…the opposite of love is “apathy.” Jesus can stomach love and hate…lukewarmness makes Him want to vomit.

And lukewarmness makes us ashamed to say, “The power of God has changed my life…it’s transformed my mind…it’s rescued my soul…because we’re not living in His righteousness…and we’re not living by faith.

Let me end with the reason “most” people are ashamed of the gospel…ashamed of Jesus.

The gospel is very specific…it’s narrow, not broad.

When Acts 4:12 says “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

No one else…no other name…very specific…very narrow…it doesn’t allow for Muhammad, or anyone else to be the Savior…only Jesus.

He said so himself…remember when Thomas said, “Lord we don’t know how to get there (heaven) so how can we know the way…And Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

You see Christianity isn’t a theory…it’s not even so much a religion…It’s a person.

A person who loves lost people…who seeks them, who calls them to “Come to Him.” Jesus, friend of sinners. And when we come…He saves us completely, forgives us totally, cleanses us entirely. And fills us with Himself. His Spirit of righteousness…and Paul knew that…Rick knows that…The Gospel can change anyone…

I gave our leadership and staff a book called “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymballa, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle…and I want to end with this story he tells:

It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.

As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”

We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”

He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”


“How long have you been on the street?”

“Six years.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty – hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.

“Where did you sleep last night, David?”

“Abandoned truck.”

I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.

I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”

I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God has sent to me. Se how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.

But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”

Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.

Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days. He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford.

A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “This man is a preacher.” This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey. And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.”


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