They’re clapping because I got you to wear a sweater. Oh my gosh, that was so funny. Man, you coming in this morning. What? It’s sweater day. Where’s your sweater? Oh man. Oh. Oh man. The right son is here. Dad, Don’t worry, the right son is here. Good morning, everyone. How are you feeling this morning? You’re awake. You’re good. Alright, good. Because today we get to finally get there. We have to get to my bread and butter where we love to talk about the thing that drives us. But as we’ve been going through this study in Acts, this faithful journey we’ve been talking about, I’ve been challenged to think about how well we can summarize or tell the story of the things we’ve learned today. That’s a challenge I extend to you all. How well do you know, not just the faithfulness of Christ giving His life, dying, rising again, and ascending into heaven, commissioning His disciples, but also how they were centered around Christ and devoted to prayer? We began with the topic of faithful prayer, and then we delved into how the church came into existence, with thousands being added in Acts chapter 2, and how the church’s foundation informs why we do what we do today. We also explored the theme of faithful expectation, recognizing the hardships and persecution that comes with following Christ, including the martyrdom of Stephen. Through Stephen’s sacrifice, we witnessed the catalytic moment that sparked faithful expansion, with Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch and the gospel reaching Antioch. We saw the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit and our faithful God throughout the rest of Acts, starting from Acts Chapter 13 to the end of the book. That’s quite a journey, and it’s the essence of this morning’s sermon. However, I want to assure you that we won’t be reading Acts Chapter 13 through the end of the book today. I know some of you might have been thinking, ‘Oh gosh, we’re going to be here forever,’ but we won’t be covering all three missionary journeys of Paul in a single sermon. Instead, we’ll be exploring Romans this morning. If you have a Bible, feel free to turn to Romans, chapter 15. You might wonder why we’re going to Romans. We’re diving into this book because it was written during the last missionary journey of Paul, right before he was arrested. As he said his goodbyes to the Ephesian elders and headed to Jerusalem, he was bound or compelled by the Spirit, as Acts Chapter 20, verse 22 tells us. He was driven by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, as we discussed last week.
With the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit actually warned him that something was going to happen to him, that trials and tribulations were ahead. But he was still faithful to go. Now, at the end of this book in Romans, what we see here is a faithful perspective. I know you might be excited when we stop talking about faithfulness, thinking, ‘Man, this word works so much.’ But it’s important to delve into this faithful perspective found in Romans chapter 15.
First, let’s pause and pray, asking God to speak to us through His words this morning, that we may be transformed by His guidance. Heavenly Father, we come before you today, seeking to hear Your message through Your Holy Spirit and Your Word. We ask that You convict and guide us in a way that only You can. May we apply these teachings to our lives and exhibit faithfulness in our walk with You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now, let’s read Romans chapter 15, verses 17 through 24. At first, it might seem a bit confusing as to why we’re going here, but as we explore the text, its relevance will become clear. Paul writes:
‘Therefore I have reason to boast in Christ Jesus regarding what pertains to God, for I would not dare to say anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, by word and deed, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by the power of miracles, signs, and wonders, and by the power of God’s Spirit. As a result, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum. My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation. But as it is written, those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand. That is why I have been prevented many times from coming to you. But now I no longer have any work to do in these regions, and I have strongly desired for many years to come to you. So, whenever I travel to Spain, I hope to see you when I pass through, and to be assisted by you for my journey there, once I have first enjoyed your company for a while.’
As we delve into this passage, we’ll find that it contains some weighty and profound content. Paul is discussing the completion of his mission, how his role has come to an end from Jerusalem to Illyricum. In that entire region, he feels his work is done, fulfilling the task mentioned in Acts chapter 13, verse one, when the Holy Spirit spoke to the church, saying to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work He had in mind. Paul saw this work as completed, as he had taken the Gospel from Jerusalem to Lyrica.
Our Western perspective often defines ‘full’ or ‘completed’ in certain ways. For example, in a grocery store line, it’s full when there’s no space left, and personal space vanishes. But in other cultures, it’s different. In some places, you’ll see tuck tucks or rickshaws—three-wheeled vehicles—filled with people. Lines in crowded areas become ‘full’ when no space remains to squeeze in. Trains and motorcycles may carry many more passengers than you’d expect. It’s all about a different perspective on what is ‘full’ or ‘completed.’
I once witnessed a rather amusing sight in the place where I live. Picture this: two men with a goat on their lap, and a donkey—yes, a donkey—riding in a rickshaw. The donkey’s head was sticking out, looking utterly miserable as the rickshaw driver maneuvered through traffic, doing his best to avoid collisions. Now, rickshaw drivers typically don’t comment on whether or not their rickshaws are full, but let me tell you about my brother, Austin. He shares a striking resemblance with me, albeit larger in size. No need to be discreet about it; he knows he’s bigger, much taller and wider. When he visits where I live, people often mistake him for my older brother just because of his size, but let me set the record straight—he’s actually younger.
So, there was this one time when we were attempting to travel from our house to my workplace at a hospital. Our family consisted of four or five members at the time, and Austin was with us. We all squeezed into the rickshaw, and as he took his seat, the rickshaw promptly sunk into the ground. It was clear to the rickshaw driver that the rickshaw was undeniably full. He turned to me and, in the local language, conveyed a message that left no room for doubt. He said, ‘You must remove your big guy.’ I turned to my larger-than-life brother and, in English, I told him, ‘Sorry, but you’re going to have to walk.’ We were only going about half a mile, after all. So the rickshaw driver adjusted to the slower pace, and there was my big little brother, Jolly Green Giant-style, walking right behind the rickshaw. The driver knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was full. There was a sense of certainty.
This idea of fullness or completion isn’t exclusive to our culture; we all recognize when something is done or complete. For instance, in the language spoken where I live, there’s a word I love: ‘jugar.’ It’s like the term ‘jury-rig’ in English, signifying making something work, no matter how. You’d be amazed at what my dad can do with just a paper clip. Once, he managed to get my alternator running using only a paper clip when I was stranded by the airport on Route 205. It was quite impressive, to be honest.
Back where I live, everything seems to be ‘jugar,’ and they also have a saying that goes something like, ‘Oh, what’s the difference between 19 and 20? It’s just one small number,’ implying that a small variation doesn’t matter. I recall a time when I asked a carpenter to build a bunk bed for my kids. I provided him with the measurements and even showed him a picture from a catalog. Well, that craftsman ended up creating a bunk bed for giants—it stood 7 1/2 feet tall! My son could stand straight on the bottom bunk without hitting his head. When I pointed out the issue, the carpenter nonchalantly said, ‘What’s the problem? It’s only a 1920 difference!
It’s like a difference of 1920, right? But in this situation, Paul had a distinct perspective on completion. There was a sense of certainty in the completion of his work. His aim was set to go to places where the gospel had not yet been preached. As we contemplate this, the remarkable aspect that stands out is that within this geographical area from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which comprised 37 different major cities and an estimated population of over 500,000 people, there were around 500 believers and dozens of churches. Yet, Paul looked at the landscape and declared, ‘There is no place left for me to work.’
Everything he achieved was accomplished through the power of Christ. None of this sense of completion or his desire to move on came from his own personal abilities. He had endured beatings, stonings, and various hardships, and he was on the brink of facing a shipwreck on this journey. Have you ever experienced utter powerlessness? I’ve certainly felt that way before. Sometimes, it’s the best place to be when every ounce of what you thought was your strength is completely stripped away. It’s a raw and uncomfortable experience, but you encounter God in those moments, right?
As part of a Southern Baptist church, you contribute through your giving. Let me take this opportunity for a shameless plug of gratitude—thank you! Your contributions, including the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, help support missionaries like me and my family. Because of your generous giving, I can spend six weeks with you all without the need for extensive fundraising. Your support covers essentials like my children’s schooling, car, medical insurance, and more. You might not even realize it, but you’ve already made a significant impact.
Let me share a time when I felt completely powerless while serving in the field. We had just relocated there, and it was a challenging adjustment. The weather was scorching hot, and we experienced a bombing that year. My dad contracted malaria, which was somewhat ironic since they had advised him not to bring malaria medicine, only for him to end up with the illness. It was a bit like the sweater incident, but more serious.
However, the most harrowing experience occurred when my daughter, Anna, fell critically ill with bacterial meningitis. She began having seizures and stopped breathing while in my arms. Although we resided on a hospital compound, it was not equipped with an emergency room; it primarily handled deliveries. I felt absolutely powerless in that moment, with no other recourse but to trust in God, knowing that I couldn’t manage it on my own.
Imagine me, sprinting barefoot with her in my arms to the doctor’s office, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. You know that song, ‘Step by step, You lead me, and I will follow You all of my days’? I was literally singing that without even realizing it as I rushed to the doctor’s office. We placed her on the examination table, and thankfully, she’s healthy and well today. None of you would ever guess that she went through such a harrowing experience, but at that moment, I felt utterly powerless, relying solely on God. Strangely enough, it turned out to be a really good place for me to be. God worked wonders through that situation. People in our village heard the gospel, and we encountered individuals who would become our gospel ministry partners. They showed up that week, hearing that our little girl was fighting for her life, and they prayed fervently for her. It was incredible. So, another shameless thank you to all of you. Your support was invaluable during that time.
Now, there’s much that has nothing to do with sermons, but I wanted to express my gratitude. You can accept it or return it, I don’t mind. But faithful disciples must only boast in the power of Christ because everything we do is in His power. As we see in Romans 15:17-18, Paul is talking about Christ accomplishing things through him by the power of God’s Spirit, including miraculous signs and wonders. These weren’t Paul’s miraculous signs and wonders.
How many of you have memorized and recited Philippians 4:13? ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ How about Colossians 1:29, where Paul discusses his labor among the Gentiles and says he labors with all His energy, which powerfully works within him? He’s referring to the gospel work he was doing among the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul exemplifies for us a Christ-centered, faithful service that operates through the power of God.
Here’s another saying I frequently hear in my work and where I live: ‘Sayid sayid hote hain, aur achay log achay hotay hain.’ It roughly translates to ‘There are good people and bad people everywhere.’ People often say it with a hint of resignation, and it means that not everyone is the same. You know that your fingers are not all the same length, right? They come in different sizes. However, when it comes to faithful followers of Christ, we are all equal and equally capable of whatever Christ empowers us to do. So, faithful disciples must boast in the power of Christ.
Additionally, faithful disciples must reproduce themselves. Think about this: How is it possible for Paul to say, ‘From Jerusalem to Illyricum, there’s no more work for me to do here’? This is the Apostle Paul we’re talking about—the missionary of missionaries. He essentially kickstarted the entire mission! Yet he claims that there’s no more work left. How is that possible in a region with 37 major cities and a population of around 500,000 people? It’s highly unlikely that Paul achieved this alone if you think about it as one person going from individual to individual.
That would be a mistake because we can see Paul commending his co-workers throughout his writings. He acknowledges and appreciates the faithful men and women who were raised up for the harvest or to serve the churches, including elders and deacons. Even in Romans 16, just one chapter after the end of his letter, he mentions various people. He says in Romans 16:3, “Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. Not only do I thank them, but so do all the Gentile churches.” Paul also mentions Timothy and Titus as fellow laborers in the gospel.
If you remember the story of John Mark from Acts Chapter 16, there was a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas because John Mark had been hesitant or unwilling to go with them to a certain place. However, in Paul’s writings, you can see a reconciliation or at least an acknowledgment of John Mark’s faithfulness as a co-worker. So, despite disagreements and setbacks, much was happening with faithful people being raised up to make disciples. This allowed Paul to say, “Now I need to go where Christ has not been named.”
Consider Barnabas for a moment. He was known as the “encourager of encouragers.” When others were afraid of Saul (who later became Paul) after his conversion, Barnabas sought him out and established a discipleship relationship with him. In the beginning, as Luke writes in Acts, it’s “Barnabas and Saul.” However, as the Holy Spirit sets them apart for their work in Acts Chapter 13, we see a shift in the way Luke writes, and it becomes “Paul and Barnabas.” This shift reflects the empowerment and recognition of what God was doing through Paul. Nevertheless, Barnabas didn’t stop working; he continued his ministry.
One important thing to understand is that one person or pastor is not the sole solution to reach a point where there is “no place left” to work among any people group. When we talk about “no place left,” it means that every person within a people group has had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. To illustrate this, consider that if I shared the gospel with five people every week for the next 40 years, and all five of them accepted Jesus Christ every week, I would still only reach 10,000 individuals in 40 years. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I shared the gospel five times a week, and every person I shared it with accepted the message?
We would all be celebrating, wouldn’t we? You would hear people saying, “Wow, what an amazing achievement, reaching 10,000 people in 40 years.” However, we must consider that when we factor in just the birth rate in places like India, it becomes a challenging battle. In India, for instance, while we reach 10,000 people in 40 years, they see 10,000 people born into Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and other faiths in just minutes. This highlights the urgency of our mission.
God has chosen the church as His vehicle for expanding His Kingdom, and He calls on us to pray for laborers for the harvest. In Luke chapter 10, verse 2, as Jesus sends out His disciples, He instructs them primarily to pray for laborers for the harvest, recognizing that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. This remains true today. God prepares hearts, and we must pray for laborers to be raised up and sent out, as harvesters are crucial for Kingdom expansion.
Every member of New Life Baptist Church is encouraged to share the gospel and make disciples. However, there may also be some among us who have not yet considered their potential calling to the nations. Just as the disciples had a mission to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, we too have a mission that extends from our families and community to our city of Hillsboro, our state of Oregon, and to the ends of the earth.
Consider the facts. A brief 10-minute Google search reveals that there are approximately 106,000 people in Hillsboro alone. Let’s round that up to 107,000, just for the sake of vision casting. Now, think about the number of churches in Hillsboro. A quick search suggests there are 22 churches. These are the facts we have on hand.
If we were to reach every person in Hillsboro, so that there would be no more work to be done, each church would need to reach approximately 4,800 people. Now, let’s put this into perspective. In this sanctuary, we have around 200 chairs. If we were to open the dividers and fill every available space, we might accommodate 700 people at most. Compare that to the need to reach 4,800 people per church. This raises the question of whether every church in Oregon is a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, faithful body of Christ.
In general, the Church is facing challenges, isn’t it? I mean, faithful disciples must carry a burden for the lost. Those stark facts about Hillsboro? They should move us, stir something deep within us. This isn’t about laying on guilt; it’s about recognizing our own powerlessness. We’re powerless, right? But within the context of our faithfulness to God, His glory, and the gospel, we must ask ourselves: Are we genuinely concerned for the lost, for those dwelling in spiritual darkness all around us? Or are we content being mere churchgoers and Bible readers? The lostness around us should weigh on our hearts.
You know that song, the one I can’t quite recall the title of? It goes something like, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause.” I hope that’s the cry of our hearts right now, that we would long to witness a “no place left” scenario for Hillsboro. Faithful disciples must carry a burden for the lost.
I have many friends in the place where I live, but one couple, in particular, stands out. We met them when my daughter was very ill, and they faithfully came to pray for us. The husband worked as a gardener at the place I was employed. His testimony is incredible. Despite earning very little and being completely illiterate, he had a heart burdened for the lost. Both he and his wife were illiterate, and he came to faith in Christ as an adult, despite coming from a Hindu background.
What made his story even more remarkable was his burden for Muslims, even though Hindus were often oppressed by Muslims in the area where we lived. He had a heart to reach out to those who hadn’t treated him kindly. Each day, after gardening work that involved manually cutting grass with a sickle, he would finish around 4:30 PM. He’d then wash his hands, hop on his humble bicycle (resembling something out of the Wizard of Oz), complete with a small rack on the back. He’d ride back home and pick up his wife, who was a petite lady, about 5 feet tall. She would sit side-saddle because it was considered inappropriate for ladies to sit normally on a bike in our culture.
Together, they would ride to various villages inhabited by different Muslim people groups. And it wasn’t just the easy ones; they would visit the ones that made many people nervous. They would visit, cry with those who were crying, laugh with them, and spend entire nights with them. One of these families they ministered to had experienced the loss of a baby. They held vigil with them through the night in a remote area. This man had an incredible burden for the lost, and through this experience of ministering to these families, another family from their extended circle began to seek Christ.
Now, a father and his two sons have come to faith, and hopefully soon, their wives will follow suit. We are beginning to witness the inception of a church in that village, even among this challenging people group. They are the first known believers I am aware of from their people group and language group to embrace Jesus Christ. All this is happening because of one man and his wife. They were deeply concerned for the lost. Do you carry that same burden for the lost? Luke Paul expresses in verse 20 that his aim is to preach the gospel where Christ’s name has not yet been heard.
As we conclude this morning, I want to pose this question to you: Are you burdened for the lost in your midst? Faithful disciples, true followers of Christ, must place their confidence solely in His power. They must also replicate themselves in the form of making more disciples. Furthermore, they must carry a deep burden for the lost around them. So, I ask again, are you burdened for the lost in your midst? Or do you take pride in your own abilities?
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Paul expresses in another chapter of Romans, Romans 9:1-3. Listen to the depths of his heart as he speaks about his people, the Israelites: “I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race.”
Consider Paul’s faithful perspective here. Throughout his journeys and work, he carries such a heavy burden for the lost, even to the point where he wishes he could exchange his own salvation in Christ for theirs, though he knows it’s impossible. Can we honestly say we feel the same way about everyone? It’s a challenging sentiment to embrace. Are you burdened for the lost around you, or do you place your confidence in your own strength?
As the worship team comes forward, I want to challenge all of us with this question: What will it take to witness a “no place left” scenario in Hillsborough and the surrounding areas? Some of you may feel called to the nations. I never anticipated living where I do now or doing what I’m doing. I reside in a country with a population of 230 million, 98% of whom are Muslim. The organization I work with has 18 units there.
There are literally millions of lost souls per unit of cross-cultural missionaries in that country. But the question remains: What will it take to witness a “no place left” scenario in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas? What steps will New Life Baptist Church take to contribute to achieving “no place left” in regions like India, Nepal, Africa, and Pakistan? We are compelled to remain faithful to God’s calling.
I leave you with this challenge: In the power of Christ, with a profound burden for the lost in our midst, and through the act of reproducing ourselves by making disciples, I encourage you to reproduce yourselves until there is no place left to work for the Gospel in Hillsboro. Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to the Gospel as a church family.
God, You are exceptionally good. We are unworthy to serve and work for You, yet You have called us to be Your laborers. Lord, guard us against becoming complacent in our own lives. Help us to open our eyes to the lostness around us, especially in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. Allow us to see people through Your eyes and Your heart. Utilize us, Lord, and give us hearts that break for what breaks Yours. May we witness “no place left” in Hillsboro and beyond. Lord, I pray that from New Life Baptist Church in Hillsboro, we would raise up harvesters with a “no place left” vision for the ends of the earth. Stir our hearts, O God. Help us to be faithful to this calling. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
What will it take for the lost of this world to move our hearts, friends? Sometimes we encounter people who don’t know Jesus, and if they were to pass away today, they would not be in the presence of God’s glory. This is an invitation time, a time when we are challenged by God’s Word and urged to respond. Perhaps you are here today and need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Maybe you have heard this message and it’s stirring something within you. Perhaps you’ve grown complacent in your faith. You’re not alone; we’ve all experienced seasons of complacency. If you’re going through difficulties, stress, or pressure, remember that Satan often tries to distract us from what truly matters. Whether you have family issues, health problems, or other concerns, let’s make a commitment this morning to rise to the challenge and fulfill God’s calling so that others may come to know Him.
Let’s stand together and sing. As we sing, feel free to come forward for prayer. You can pray at the altar or remain where you are. Let’s not leave this place without responding to God’s calling this morning.