The Example and Heart of An Evangelist
by Jim Lincoln on Sunday, July 16, 2006
God made fish to live and thrive in water. If you take a fish out of water it struggles and dies. God made us to live and thrive in the environment of obedience to Him and His word. When we attempt to find life outside of the environment of obedience like a fish out of water we struggle to breath, live and thrive1. God's commandments are not there to steal our joy. They're there to make us live. So, each Sunday our commitment is to do our best to make a serious consideration of God's word so that He would be honored as God in our lives and so that we can live before His face with hope and joy.
This morning we've come to Romans chapter 10. And I want to ask a question: "Why would the Holy Spirit of God want His church to immerse itself and understand Israel's ancient relationship with God? Why does He want us to think about this covenant treaty God made with Israel over 3,000 years ago?" There are at least two answers I want you to think about.
First, this is God's word. And we can't live and thrive without it. Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. The Spirit of God wants us to consider His word to Israel because it is God's word and through it we can live.
Second, Israel's public history is a living parable or a microcosm of the spiritual condition of every one's heart. Or, to use post modern terms... Israel's history is the theater where the drama of every human soul is played out for all to see and observe. What goes on in us spiritually and privately has gone on in Israel historically and publicly (cf. Rom.3:19).
What Paul has to say here about Israel should work like a mirror that reveals what our own walk with God is like. So, Let me organize these verses with two exhortations. 1. Follow Paul's Example. 2. Believe and rest in His message.
First, Let's Follow Paul's Example.
As Paul went from synagogue to synagogue most of his kinsmen (fellow Jews) rejected the message of Jesus, their Messiah. This was agonizing for Paul. It broke his heart with discouragement. In 9:2 he wrote, "I have great sorrow and endless anguish in my heart. If I could I would give up my own salvation for the conversion and salvation of my fellow Jews." There's no greater love than this. Again he tells us here in chapter 10 that his heart yearns for the salvation of his kinsmen. So, Paul's evangelism is motivated by a deep and sincere love. He can't close his heart to become indifferent to their eternal destiny and hopelessness without Christ.
We live in a day when a love like this can easily grow cold. In an effort to respect people's privacy and space we can close up our hearts and become insulated, preoccupied and not even see those around us who are without hope in Christ. We can easily dismiss them as those who are beyond the pale of grace because they reject the gospel. However, at one time or another we all did the same. Look, our church is planted in the middle of a mission field where many here on this hill live without hope in Christ, His forgiveness, His mercy and grace. Are our hearts opened or closed to this reality? I know the task can seem overwhelming. But when your heart is open and not shut down...it's amazing how it finds a way to act. Is your heart tender and desirous for the salvation of others? Or has it shut down and gone into a survival mode. Paul cared deeply in his heart about the salvation of the lost.
Second, notice that Paul prays.
He doesn't immediately launch into some campaign of action. He prays. He knows this is a spiritual mission and that only God can save and that it's God's doing. He knows success in this is not primarily about his skills of persuasion. He knows it's about God, breaking through hard hearts and making them responsive to His grace. It's God's doing, by God's grace through God's power. So he prays for his kinsmen who are lost. Do we?
Third, he testifies or bears witness.
Notice his commitment to get the message of the gospel to them. He says, "I bear witness to them". Now, that's a pretty uncomplicated philosophy of outreach for a local church in the community where God places it. Our hearts need to be big with love and a desire to see lost people saved. They need to be open and not closed off. Our strategy must first be a commitment to prayer. And then we need to make some commitment to get the word or witness to the gospel out to those who don't yet believe. Is this the witness our church will have on this hill?
I find this so interesting because all of this effort follows the strongest statements in the Scriptures about the sovereignty of God. Any idea that God's sovereign free grace in election makes our love, prayers and witness meaningless and insignificant could not be further off the mark. Paul doesn't throw his hands up in the air and say, "Because God has ordained everything that comes to pass I don't need to do anything." Look, on the plane of human reasoning we can't reconcile the sovereignty of God and human responsibility. It's just not possible. Our minds are too feeble and tiny for this. But the Scriptures affirm both. Paul will not sacrifice one at the expense of the other. God is absolutely sovereign and free and our love and prayers and witness matter.
This is his example: he loved the lost (his heart is open to them), prayed for the lost and bears witness to the lost. Will this be the legacy we will leave for others to follow? Let's follow Paul's example..
Fourth, let's believe and rest in the same gospel message. (10: 3-14)
After Paul revealed his own heart and commitments he then turns to the message. He loves his kinsmen. He loves them but love is not blind. When we say that love is blind aren't we talking about a love that silences and sacrifices every consideration but favor and affection? But true love has also to do with things like truth and righteousness.
Paul loves Israel-- so he bears witness to them about the truth of the gospel. The overall message is that through faith in Jesus God has made a way for sinners like us and them (Jew and Gentile) to be right with Him—to be at peace with Him—to live in His favor and to honor Him and know His lovingkindness. He says three things are true and necessary for them to know this blessing.
First, they must put their faith in TRUTH and not in their zeal.
This gift of Gods' righteousness, His peace and favor is not received by faith in zeal or passion but by faith in the truth. Look at v.2. He says, "I bear witness they have zeal for God but not according to knowledge." Like your faith—our zeal is only as strong as its object! Zeal for zeal's sake is a mistake. Even though they were zealous for God their zeal was not founded on the truth or on knowledge. You see, you can be zealously wrong. Have you ever seen the video tapes of Hitler speaking? You will rarely ever see something so zealous and infectious and charismatic.
Several years ago I wanted to sharpen my lawn mower blade. However, I had to first take it off the mower. Here's the rule: "Lefty loosy—Righty tighty" So, I put a box wrench on the nut and applied as much force on that wrench my 140 lb. body could apply. It didn't budge. So, I got a pipe. Every man needs a pipe. So, I put my three foot pipe over the end of the wrench and cranked down on that pipe with all the zeal I could muster. . Guess what? Nothing. So, I decided to apply the maximum force possible and so I jumped on the end of the pipe. And of course I slipped off the end, fell down and looked ridiculous and foolish. Now, I was zealous! But it was zeal without knowledge (truth). The truth is that lawn mower blades are usually attached to a post that is reverse threaded. That bit of information wasn't in the manual. With all the zeal I could muster I was tightening the nut not loosening it.
Zeal can't set us free. Only truth can do that. Zeal/passion can be a good thing but only if it is anchored in truth. Augustine said, "Better to limp in the right direction than run with all your might in the wrong way."
John told the church in 3 Jn. 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." God doesn't want us to be without zeal or passion. But He does call us to make certain that our faith is not in our zeal but instead in the knowledge of the truth. It's the object of your zeal that is critical. And when we have lots of emotion and passion and little knowledge our worship won't be authentic no matter how enthusiastic. They were enthusiastic for God but they were lost. The same thing can happen to us.
Second, your faith must be in God's righteousness and not the righteousness of your own making. (v. 3)
"For being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."
How about you?
Jesus came to offer Himself to be righteousness for us and then change our hearts. But to know this and lay hold of it we must let go of our own record as a way to be considered righteous. Jesus was like a big bolder in the middle of the road (a stumbling block) they were tripping over. The Jews saw righteousness as a destination or a place they would ascend, achieve and then be at rest. God tells us that righteousness is a point of departure or a platform upon which we are placed by God's grace from where we then live a new life. The Jews worked hard to demonstrate to God and themselves that they were righteous. God wants us to work hard to demonstrate to the world that we are saved by God and that He is our righteousness and that He will make us righteous by His grace. Righteousness comes to us by grace and faith in Christ not by the purity of our record. Rom 3:21-25 says, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Phil 3:8-10 says,
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. "
Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness. Seeking to establish their own righteousness by their own record they refused to submit to God's Gift of righteousness in Jesus and they were refusing to give Jesus the honor.
So if you have not... settled this once and for all. You will never be good enough to provide your own righteousness that could possibly be a ground for your salvation. Christ will be your righteousness or you will perish. It's a matter of obedience. Who will you submit to in this matter? Your own attempts to make yourself righteous or will you trust in the righteousness that comes to us as a gift through death and resurrection of Jesus? Choose Christ and live. There is no greater joy than to know in your heart that God considers you righteous in Jesus and that is an irrevocable and imperishable covenant He has made with us His people. This is the good news. There is a righteousness that comes to us as a gift from God. In it sinners like us are declared righteous as we transfer our trust in Jesus.
Third, Paul tells his kinsmen that Christ has always been the object and goal of the law (Torah) and the only hope of righteousness.
Paul says in v. 4 that Christ is the end of the law of righteousness to everyone who believes. He then quotes Lev. and Deut. 30. He assumes that you know about God's covenant treaty with Israel. Most Christians don't so the reference seems obscure.
When Pau says that Christ is the end of the law of righteousness to everyone who believes he doesn't mean that the law of righteousness has ended or terminated. By "end" he means purpose or goal. When we say the chief "end" of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him we don't mean that God's glory or man's existence has been terminated. We mean the chief purpose or object of our life is to glorify God and enjoy Him.
This is how Paul is using the word, "end", here. Jesus is and has always been the goal or the object of the law or commandments of righteousness or the Scriptures. The law of righteousness has never been achieved by anyone else or by any other way. There is nothing wrong with the proposition Paul quotes from Leviticus. "If you obey you will live." The problem is that no one has except one and that is Jesus. So, Paul then takes them back to the covenant God made with Israel before they entered the promised land (Deuteronomy). He takes them back to this promise of grace God made in this famous treaty.
He uses Deut 30 to demonstrate that their efforts to keep the commandments would fail. Their efforts to be considered righteous by their record would fail. However, after that failure God gives a new hope and promise of grace.
Paul's quote from Deut. 30:11 follows immediately after Moses held out the covenant blessings and curses to Israel. The curses in chapter 28: far outweighed the blessings. The final curse of their disobedience would eventually be exile. Here was the covenant. If Israel obeyed she would live and have tenure in the land. If she disobeyed she would suffer blight, mildew, poverty and more and then God would drive her out of the land and scatter her among the nations. Moses prophesied that they would disobey and that scattering and exile would come.
Look at Deut 28:24-28,
All the nations will ask: "Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?" 25 And the answer will be: "It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the LORD's anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now."
Why did Israel disobey? Moses answers in Deut. 29:4-5
"But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. " But look at what God promises would come after they are driven out of the land and scattered among the nations...it's in Deut. 30:1ff.
"When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you."
And in Deut 30:6 God makes a promise.
"The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."
So, when Paul quotes Deut 30:11 He is speaking of a prophetic expectation that would come after the exile when God would do something that will change their hearts to obey him. And in that day obedience would not be too hard for them nor will it be too far off.
11 Now what I am commanding you today will not be too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you will have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor will it be beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word will be very near you; it will be in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Now this is the verse Paul quotes. Moses says that there will be a time after the exile that obedience will not be a matter of impossible struggle or lack of clarity but it will be a matter of a new heart and mouth (confession) transformed by God's living word. This time it will be inside of them in their heart and in their mouth.
Now, notice how Paul quotes the text in Rom 10:6-9:
"But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." NIV
Notice that Paul replaced the word "commandment" the word Moses uses in Deut. 30 with, "to bring Christ down," or, "to bring Christ up". The reason why he does this is because Christ is the living witness of the commandments of God. Christ is the only one who has ever kept the commandments. He is the one who fulfills the law perfectly and in the gospel God gives us Christ, His status and His presence.
In Christ we don't need to say, "It's too difficult and too far out of reach." In Christ we don't say, "God's commandments are too unclear and obscure." We can say. "Jesus has done it all for us and in addition to that He has poured out the riches of His presence to conform us to His image. In the gospel He is in us and changing us by His power and grace to be like Him. When a person is converted God changes his confession or testimony about Christ's work and person and He melts the heart and begins to make it responsive to Him.
So, here is our hope... Rom 10:10-13:
"For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
If we believe in Jesus we get a new life message. He becomes our righteousness. He takes up our sins and the penalty of them and He then gives us His righteousness and His presence to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly place. In Him though we were poor in righteousness we have become rich.
Are you rich today? Trust in Jesus and you will be.
1"The failure of human beings to be the true image bearing creatures God intended us to be results in corruption and death...God is not a tyrant inventing odd laws and losing his temper with those who flouted them, but structurally: humans were made to function in particular ways, with worship of the Creator as the central feature. And those who turn away from that worship - that is the whole human race with a single exception - are thereby opting to seek life where it is not to be found, which is another way of saying that they are courting their own decay and death. That is to say, with the entire Jewish tradition, that the basic sin is idolatry, the worship of that which is not in fact the living creator God." - NT Wright