James Merritt:  unashamed of the Gospel

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James Merritt spoke to the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference last night in Dallas, TX. This is a file photo from 2016. BAPTIST PRESS/Special

DALLAS, TX – James Merritt, Pastor of Cross Pointe in Duluth, preached a powerful message on Monday evening at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. The title of his sermon was “Unashamed” and his text was Romans 1:16 where the Apostle Paul declares that he is “not ashamed of the Gospel.”

Merritt launched into his sermon by reminding his audience that Norman Vincent Peale, former pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, wrote a book 65 years ago that propelled him into the American limelight.

According to Merritt, the book, The Power of Positive Thinking, and its central message explained Peale’s philosophy of preaching: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities!”

The Georgia pastor quoted Peale as saying, “I’m a conservative, and I will tell you what I mean by that. I mean that I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I mean that I believe my sins are forgiven by the atoning work of grace on the cross … Now, I’ll tell you something else … I personally love and understand the way of stating the Christian Gospel. But I am absolutely and thoroughly convinced that it is my mission never to use this language in trying to communicate with the audience that has been given me.”

Merritt then passionately proclaimed, “Simply put, the Gospel that was dynamic enough to save him was too dangerous to share with others. Sadly, in far too many pulpits and platforms in our churches in our churches today the spirit of Norman Vincent Peale is alive and well.”

Merritt adhered to the principle of homiletical excellence and presented three salient points to underscore the primacy of not being ashamed of the Gospel. He exclaimed, “First, we should be unashamed of the simple message of the Gospel. Second, we should be unashamed of the supernatural might of the Gospel. Finally, we should be unashamed of the saving ministry of the Gospel.”

In a manner characteristic of Merritt’s preaching, he proclaimed, “There is nothing sweeter, nothing better, and nothing greater than the Gospel. Hollywood can make you famous. Wall Street can make you rich. Washington can make you powerful. A university can make you smart. A hospital can make you well, but only the Gospel can get you saved.”

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