Monday, September 07, 2009

Romans 10:5-18, "Faith Comes By Hearing"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The sermon text today in connection with our special gift of the New Testament in audio is Romans 10:5-18.

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on 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 abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The reading identifies two different kinds of righteousness. Righteousness is an important Biblical word that simply means innocence, or that you are a just person. There are two kinds of righteousness: righteousness based on the law, and righteousness based on faith. The righteousness or innocence based on the law is a righteousness of doing. The righteousness or innocence based on faith is a righteousness of believing. There is only one way to attain the righteousness of the law, and that is by fully and completely living by the commandments.

Can anyone here claim they have lived by the law, without exception? The closest someone (other than Jesus) gets to claiming this in the Bible, is a young rich man who told Jesus he’d lived by all the commandments since his youth. But he was sent away sad when Jesus proved that he’d neglected the first and greatest commandment, to have no other gods. Money was his god. Find me a person who truly lives by the law, and you’ll have found a person who will never die. There are often people we think are really nice, and we say probably deserve to go to heaven because they’re such good people. But we’re trying to credit them with a righteousness of the law. If they were good enough that they never died nor will die, then I guess they wouldn’t need to believe the Gospel. But there’s no such person besides Jesus. Even by our original sin we’re already guilty by the law’s standards. No one lives by the law, or else those people wouldn’t be dying. Death is proof that we’re sinners.

There is only one who lived by the commandments, Jesus Christ. If we don’t trust in Him and His obedience for us, we’re trying to claim our righteousness through the law. How do we claim the second kind of righteousness or innocence that Paul speaks about? It’s only available through faith. We confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, and we’ll be saved! When we have faith, or believe in Jesus as our Resurrected Lord, the only one who did live righteously by the Law, then God credits this faith or belief as righteousness. That means that God counts Jesus’ righteousness to be your own—so that Jesus’ perfect record is given as yours by faith. This good news is unmatched in all the world! Nothing compares to this gift! This is what he means that “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” The only righteousness or innocence we can stand on is Jesus’.

If we tried to claim the righteousness of the law for ourselves, then we would be put to shame, as every past deed and sin and failure to do good according to the law would be under examination as our record. We’d stand ashamed before God as all our sin was laid open. But everyone who believes in Christ won’t be put to shame, because by believing in Him, He grants His perfect record as our own. This is a gift that everyone needs, and this is a gift that we have the privilege to freely give away! Everyone needs it, because after death, everyone will have to stand before God in judgment. And they can either claim their righteousness by the law, or they can claim the righteousness that is by faith in Jesus. Every person who lays claim to the righteousness of the law will be found guilty. But everyone who lays claim to the righteousness of faith will be found innocent! So the Good News of Jesus is an absolutely essential message to get out and spread to the world!

That’s why I was absolutely delighted to find out that the single most consistent answer that our congregation gave in the self-study surveys that were returned, was about the purpose for the existence of Emmanuel Lutheran Church. The overwhelming answer was to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples. I rejoice that our congregation has this strong sense of our purpose and identity, to bring salvation to the world. Now we need to live out and act out that identity and purpose in what we say and do! There are opportunities all around us to participate in advancing the mission of God throughout the world. Don’t forget that we’re participating in God’s mission. We don’t ascend up to heaven to find Christ, but He came down to us. In a similar way, we go out to those around us to bring them the word.

But there is an important challenge. The way to get this saving faith is by hearing the word of Christ. Hearing is the trigger for faith, and many around the world, and even in our own communities have not yet heard. We have an opportunity to help change that. In the next two weeks, I want our church to take up the challenge to give a small extra offering to help the mission of providing the Scriptures in audio to people in foreign countries. The mission organization “Faith Comes By Hearing” is working to make audio recordings of the New Testament available in other languages around the world, and has given our congregation over 200 audio Scriptures in English for free, for our personal use in listening to the Bible.

If, for example, we had only 40 families give an average of $24 each, that would be $960, enough to fund the recording of one book of the New Testament in another language. And when the “Proclaimer” bible stereo’s are sent to those countries, hundreds of people can be reached at each listening station. After the service I’ll show you a short video that describes how this particular mission work is happening throughout the world. But just imagine for a moment what it would be like for us if we didn’t have the privilege of hearing the gospel in our own language? What would you think? That the message was only for people of another language, and not your own? Maybe you’d think God couldn’t understand your prayers? You wouldn’t know of God’s saving love and of the free gift of Christ’s righteousness that is ours by faith!

Yet even though faith comes by hearing, it does no good for me as an English-speaking preacher to go to a crowd of Malaysians, Cantonese, or Kenyans who don’t speak a word of English, and expect that all I preach and tell them from God’s Word will somehow have an effect on them. Of course it must be spoken in a language they understand. That’s why it’s so crucial to get the Bible translated into other languages. And people who have skill in languages are desperately needed in countries where the Gospel is not yet available to them. And in hundreds of languages where the bible is available, the second problem to overcome is widespread illiteracy. They say that 3.1 billion people in the world will never read the Scriptures, because more than 50% of the world’s population can’t read. And that makes it doubly important to have the scriptures available in audio, so even the illiterate can hear and believe the Gospel. Did you know that this was one of the reasons for church art and stained glass windows in the middle ages? The old cathedrals with beautiful stained glass windows that depicted various biblical scenes, and other artwork, were to aid in teaching Bible stories to the illiterate.

Notice that Paul names only one way for us to come to believe—by hearing. He doesn’t assume that God will just “switch on faith” in whoever He pleases, wherever He pleases. God doesn’t work in this way, nor does He desire to, as if God were seated at a giant switchboard that had a switch for every living person, for whom He chose to randomly turn faith on or off. If this were how God worked, He’d have no need for the Holy Spirit to awaken faith, He’d have no need for people ever to hear the external Word of God, and there’d be no need for Christians or preachers to proclaim God’s Word. Everything would happen internally, invisibly, without our involvement. Perhaps we wish things could be that way. We wouldn’t have to be involved. But God delights to carry out His work through human beings. He makes us His messengers, His co-workers, and His ambassadors to bring His love and the good news to the world. This is why it’s urgent for us to have missionaries carry the Gospel to places where it hasn’t yet been preached. Paul said “how will they preach unless they are sent?” He doesn’t just assume “God will take care of it” and leave the concern and responsibility to another—he calls people to this task.

Perhaps there are people among us here today, whom God is calling to mission work! There may be men in our congregation would God may be raising up to become pastors or missionaries in His church! Have any of you considered whether God might use you in that way? There may be women whom He’s raising up to be teachers, missionaries, or deaconesses in the church—using your varied gifts and talents in the service of his kingdom! Some of you men and women are already engaged in those tasks and ministries here at our church. Are there more? Are there some among you who might have the inclination to continue your education and study the Word of God? Maybe God has a plan to use you and you don’t even recognize it yet! And the church should always be in the business of sending…sending Christians out to go spread the word. It isn’t a message to keep to ourselves!

But don’t forget that the mission field is not just overseas, its right outside your doorstep. Pray daily for opportunities to come for you to tell someone about what Jesus has done for them, and keep your eyes open! It will happen! And pray also that God gives you the words to speak. Nothing complicated, but just explain what God has done for them in Christ Jesus. The wonderfully freeing thing about our role in evangelism and the mission of the church, is that we’re simply the mouthpieces and the hands that share the word and the love of Christ. He takes the responsibility of whether that grows into faith in a person’s heart. We cast the seed, He makes it grow. So we can never know for sure what our efforts will come to, but God will ensure that His Word grows and the harvest comes in.

Jesus, the Son of God became incarnate in human flesh, to communicate His saving Word to us. He entered the world in a way that we could understand and spoke simple human language. We enter into the cultures and languages of other nations to speak the word of Christ that promises the righteousness of faith to them. Taking on a Christ-like servant role in communicating the Good News to them in their own language. Give thanks to God for His saving Word, and that other Christians faithfully carried out their duty in bringing God’s Word to us! Thanks to God for His Spirit that creates faith in the hearts of those who hear! Pray that many would believe and receive the righteousness of faith. Amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
Read past sermons at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1. Why is the righteousness of the law inaccessible to us on our own? Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10; James 2:10.

2. How is the righteousness of Christ credited to us? Rom. 3:21-4-8. Why does the righteousness of faith enable us to stand before God without shame? Rom. 8:1; 9:33; 10:11

3. What is our identity and purpose as a Christian church? What does it tell us or remind us when we call it God’s mission or the mission of God? John 1

4. What would you think if you lived in a country were the Bible was not in your language? What would you think about your relationship to this God if you couldn’t hear His Word in your heart language?

5. What is the way that God chooses to create or awaken faith in the hearts of people? Faith comes….? What is necessary for this to happen? How are we involved? Reread Rom. 10:14-15

6. Have you considered how God might be using you to work in His kingdom? Where does the mission field start? Is found?

7. What’s the Gospel message that we’re privileged to share?

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