By David Dawson
KNOXVILLE — Considering the negative numbers and troubling trends that are prevalent in today’s church culture, the challenge of “winning Tennessee for Christ” seems incredibly daunting, perhaps even impossible.
Hollie Miller sees it differently.
Preaching the convention sermon at the 145th annual meeting of Tennessee Baptists, Miller, a retired pastor and former TBC president, said he is confident that Tennessee Baptists can reach their No. 1 objective of seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.
“Do you believe it can happen?” said Miller. “You’d better believe it can happen. I know it can happen!”
Miller, who preached during the Wednesday morning session at Summit, said his confidence comes from three simple biblical truths: (1) Jesus saves; (2) You and I have the power of the Holy Spirit; and (3) We have the gospel. Miller said these three elements are the keys to enabling Tennessee Baptists to “Win Tennessee, By All Means” — which was the theme for this year’s Summit.
Referencing Romans 1, Miller noted that Paul opens his letter to the church in Rome by saying that “my life and my ministry are all about the gospel.” Miller said today’s Christians should live by that same creed.
“It’s not enough to hand out a bottle of water or be the chaplain on a team,” Miller said. “We must always be all about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Miller said one reason that Christians should follow this philosophy is because of “the actual history of the gospel.”
“The gospel is not a legend, it’s not a religion, it’s not a fable and it’s not a philosophy,” he said. “The gospel is the actual, historical events that took place.”
Miller added, “The physical, literal resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. It is the truth. … It tells us that there is only one way to heaven: Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.”
Miller said, by his best count, the Bible references 515 witnesses who saw the resurrected Christ during the 40 days after His death.
“The infallible word telling us about the infallible resurrection by infallible proof for an infallible Savior,” he said.
Miller noted that he believes the book of Romans is “the most thorough, systematic presentation of the gospel in all of the Bible.” He said the gospel is not being presented if the death, burial and resurrection of Christ are not mentioned.
Miller said another reason that Christians must always be all about the gospel of Jesus Christ is because of “the spiritual power of the gospel.” (Romans 1:9-15)
The righteousness of God — which Miller described as “God’s way of taking sinful men and declaring them perfectly, legally righteous in the courtroom of heaven” — is the reason Christians should be confident and excited about sharing the gospel, Miller said. (Romans 1:16-17)
“When you’re not ashamed, you speak it,” he said. “It’s not enough to live the gospel; you’ve got to say the gospel.”
Miller went on to mention a quote that is often attributed to Francis of Assisi that states: Go preach the gospel and when necessary, use words.
Miller said the quote is wrong for two reasons: (1) Francis never said it, and (2) the quote is nonsense.
“First of all, Brother Francis never said it. (Quoting him on that) is fake news. He didn’t say it,” said Miller. “And No. 2, whoever did say it was really, really dumb.”
Miller said the quote is as wrong-minded as saying “go feed the hungry and when necessary, use food. It doesn’t make sense at all.”
Miller said the final reason that Christians must always be all about the gospel of Jesus Christ is because of “the universal need of the gospel” (Romans 1:18).
Miller said the wrath of God is in the future, as seen in the book of Revelation, but is also in the present, thereby making the need for the gospel urgent. Miller said the spiritually lost are ungodly, unrighteous and wicked — and they are suppressing the truth.
“When a lost man understands who God is, and he suppresses the truth, then the wrath of God comes down in the present tense,” Miller said.
Miller concluded by saying that Jesus came, died and rose again so that all could avoid the wrath of God.
“That’s why it’s all about the gospel,” he said. B&R