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The Greatest Sermon

If we truly believed the good news about Christ, we could change the world.

I want to lift up what I believe to be the greatest Christian sermon ever preached on this earth. Now I'm not referring to the sermons of our Lord or the words of our Lord. But other than the words of Jesus I believe wouldn't most of us agree that the greatest Christian preacher was St. Paul. And I believe the height of St. Paul's recorded words is in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. Now I think this is the greatest Christian statement that's ever been made on this earth. This is my opinion. I love the way it begins. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel. The word gospel. He says, "I bring to you the good news.

You know a preacher can stand up every Sunday and tell the truth and never preach the gospel. For example, I can say, "Diphtheria is a bad disease. Now that's the truth, but that isn't good news. But if I say, "Here is a medicine that can prevent diphtheria or cure diphtheria, that's the good news. And that's the gospel.

Now I can say, "We have sinned. Every Sunday I could stand up and talk about all the sins that we have; and every word I'd say would be the truth. But not one word of it would be the gospel. Or I can get up every Sunday and talk about all the bad things in the world; and every would I would say would be the truth, but not one word of it would be the gospel.

And St. Paul says, "I bring you good news. You know if somehow we could get over to the world that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news and get over to every preacher in America that his business or her business is to preach the good news, the churches wouldn't be big enough to hold the people. The people could come. We like good news.

Now here is this sermon. St. Paul tells us what the gospel is. Now it's wonderful here. He has an introduction. He has three points and a conclusion. Now I don't know what seminary he went to, but he went to one of them because that's the way they told us to do it, you know. If he had just had a good point to close with it would have just been perfect.

It Is Good News that Christ Died for Our Sins.

Well what is the Christian gospel? We say a preacher ought to preach the gospel. What is it he ought to preach? Now the first point is right here in the third verse of the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. "Christ died for our sins. There it is right in the third verse. That's the first point of the Christian gospel. That's where it begins. If it doesn't begin there it doesn't begin anywhere. If you take the cross out of the Christian faith, you've got no Christian faith. Christ died.

There are three things you want to say about it. To begin with, he believed in something enough to die for it. Now I know there are a lot of people who don't feel that the Christian faith is worth much. A lot of people don't feel it's very important. High importance is the Christian gospel. If every person in our churches in America today were on Social Security and if they all tithed, we'd have a lot more money for the Lord than we now have. You can go to most any church in America and if everybody was on Social Security and tithed, that church would have more money than now. We don't believe it. We spend more money on beauty parlors. I don't spend much on it, but I guess I ought to. We spend more money on beauty parlors in the United States than we spend on all of the work of the Lord put together. We spend more money on alcohol in the United States than we spend on the total program of the Christian faith. There are a lot of people they don't think it's really important. Do you know many people who ever really sacrifice for the Lord? Jesus thought it was important enough to die for it. That's tremendous.

And the second thing as we look here, here is a revelation of God's love. A revelation of God's love. I had a great experience last year. I preached a series of sermons in City Temple in London, which was Leslie D. Weatherhead's church. As a youth, I read a lot of Leslie Weatherhead's sermons, and they meant a lot to me. And in one of his books he tells about sailing across the ocean, the Mediterranean Sea really, on a ship. And he was sitting on the deck of the ship. He said it was so dark he couldn't see his hand before him. Suddenly a volcano began to erupt. Light began to come, fire out of that mountain. It seemed like the whole world was lighted up. Then it died down and it was dark again. And then he said, "For a few moments was revealed the fire that is constantly burning in the heart of that mountain. Now as you look at the cost some how you are deeply impressed. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. What's God's attitude toward me? God's attitude toward me is he would die for me. He would die for me.

But there's a third thing here. Something happened that day. I don't know what it is. Something happened that goes beyond human understanding. You can't explain everything. Some things you accept on faith. But that day Jesus died. We sing a song "What can wash away our sins? Then we answer our own question, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Now I can't explain it. I just accept it by faith. But that's the first point of the Christian gospel. Christ died for our sins.

It Is Good News that Christ Rose again the Third Day.

Now the second point is right here in the fourth verse. "He rose again the third day. Now that's the second point of the Christian gospel. You remember that night in Gethsemane. You remember the soldiers came. You remember the betrayal of Judas. You remember those trials before Herod and Caiaphas. You remember how that he was put in a dungeon. I was in Jerusalem in February and I went down in the dungeon where they said that Jesus was. I want to tell you, that was a dreary feeling to be there where they said that Jesus spent his last night. I climbed down and went down in there where he was. They put him in that dungeon. Then they got him out and they marched him to the cross. And there they nailed him on the cross and hung him up to die, and he died.

You know I think we sometimes try to camouflage death. We don't want to face death. We don't want to admit as to its reality. We don't want to use the word. Many times I have couples come in and they say, "Could you change the wording in the marriage ceremony 'till death us do part' ? They don't' want to use the word death. Let me tell you something. Death is real. We use words. We say somebody passed on. Now what does that mean? Does anybody know what to pass on? What does that mean? I heard somebody talking the other day about somebody expired. Well, I'd as just as soon die as expire. I tell you. We need to realize that death is real. One of these days I am going to die. You're going to die.

Jesus died. He was dead. And we need to know that. And they put him in that tomb, and they sealed it with a big stone. They put a guard of Roman soldiers around. Man did his work. And then God took over. And the earth began to shake, and those soldiers became as dead men. And an angel came and rolled away that stone, and life came inside that tomb. And Jesus came walking out into the world.

When I was in England preaching over at that church, the minister said, "Wouldn't you like to go over one afternoon and see the grave where John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, is buried? We drove over not far, and we looked and we stood there. He said, "Right here is where John Wesley is buried. I want to tell you something. When you got to Jerusalem, nobody will say to you, "Do you want to see where Jesus Christ is buried? Because he is not buried anywhere. He's alive. There are two places over there, tombs where they'll show you and say, now one says this is the tomb and another one says this is the tomb. I don't know, but I know this. They're both empty. They're both empty whichever one it is.That's the second point. We sing, "I serve a risen Savior. He's in the world today.

It Is Good News that We Are Going to Live.

Now the third part of the Christian gospel. First, Christ died. Second, he lives. Now the third part of the Christian gospel is you're going to live. You're going to live. Your life is not going to end up in some little old ditch out here in a cemetery.

Let me skip over to the verse. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Then the verse: "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The third point of the Christian gospel is you're going to live. You're going to live.

This world is not the end of the story. We wonder why do these things happen. Why do we have death? Why do we have suffering? Why do we have all the tragedies of life? There are a lot of questions. We're all like St. Paul. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. There will come a time when all of the mysteries of life are taken away.

I guess the most thrilling, religious painting is Leonard daVinci's Last Supper. And I had the thrill of standing underneath that painting and preaching to the people. It was a marvelous thing to stand there underneath the original painting of the Last Supper. I preached on a boat out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. That's a thrilling thing. I preached on the mountain where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. There are a lot of places.

But you know the most thrilling moment of my ministry was one day I was on the isle of Patmos, and I stood on a very big stone on top of the cave where St. John wrote the book of Revelation. And I took as my text these words, and I'll tell you, they're wonderful. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow or crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away. And I stood right there on the isle of Patmos where John wrote those words and I preached about eternal life.

I want to tell you. You're going to live forever. That's the Christian gospel right there. I mean, somebody says, "What is the Christian gospel? That's what St. Paul says. Christ died. Christ lived. You're going to live. Now that's what it is. I mean, that's the gospel.

Now what you going to do about it? You see, that's not the end of the sermon. You can stand up and talk about the death and resurrection of Christ all you like. That isn't going to do you any good unless you're going to do something about it. I mean, it's got to cause something to happen.

Well, we come down to this last verse, the verse of 1 Corinthians. That's one of the greatest verses in all the Bible. That's the conclusion. St. Paul says, "Therefore. And I like that. He's referring to all this that he said before. "Therefore. You know in our churches we have a lot people present resolutions. They say, "Whereas this and "Whereas that "Whereas something else. "I don't ever pay any attention to that. I wait till they get to the therefore. "Therefore, my beloved brethren… If you believe this, if you believe it… "Therefore, my beloved brethren. Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that you're labor is not in vain in the Lord. He's saying if you believe the gospel, you will be loyal to it with your life.

I read an article somebody had written on the subject "Why I quit the ministry. It was the best article on that subject I've ever read. It had five reasons why they quit the ministry, five reasons. And they are good reasons, every one of them. I've had all five of them. I dare say I have quit fifty times. But I always quit in the middle of the week. I don't quit on Sunday, just the middle of the week. But you know we all have sometimes temptations to say, "Lord, I'm just going to quit. I'm going to give it up. You get worried and things don't go like you want to. St. Paul says if you believe in a Christ who died and lived and you're going to live, you're going to be loyal with your life. There is no reason why you would quit.

You know in the church where I'm the pastor we have a big cabinet there with all the names of the members in this cabinet, a metal cabinet. And sometimes I stand before that cabinet and a lot of these people I know. There are twelve thousand names in that cabinet, members of that church. And I think about it. Some of them are very wealthy; some of them are poor. Some of them are educated; some of them are not educated. It's a downtown church. We have people from all over the city, all kinds of people. Six of the members of our church are in the state penitentiary of Texas right now tonight. If the truth were known there are six more that ought to be there. I'll tell you that right now. But you know, I just think about the members of that church and I get excited. What would happen if the members of that church decided to be loyal to the church? We'd change that city.

Let me tell you something. We ought to celebrate Pentecost like we do Christmas. I mean, we don't make enough out of Pentecost Sunday. But do you realize 120 people. Now that's not a very big group. If you had a church with 120 members you wouldn't think that was a very strong church. But 120 people went out to turn the world upside down. And I want to tell you something. I love the church. Everything I am I owe to the church. But I want to tell you. I'm just right here now among us. I'm not out criticizing. But our people in the church, we're just not as loyal as we ought to be. We're not.

If we believe in a Christ who died, I'll tell you there isn't anything we wouldn't do for him. We are loyal to him with our lives.

© Charles Allen
Preaching Today Tape #3
A resource of Christianity Today International

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Charles L. Allen has served as the pastor of Grace Methodist Church in Atlanta, and First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He is author of more than thirty books.

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Sermon Outline:


I. It is good news that Christ died for our sins

II. It is good news that Christ rose again on the third day

III. It is good news that we are going to live