What They Needed To Hear – Romans 10

Sermon Text – 01.19.20120

[Romans 10]

Once upon a time there was a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks would often occur. And on that seacoast was a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, these heroes unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost on the ocean. Because so many lives were saved by that little life-saving station, it became famous. Because it was famous, more people starting volunteering to help. The life-saving station grew. They bought new boats, new crews were recruited, more official policies and trainings were offered. Some of the members were unhappy that the building was so small and primitive, so they started to upgrade. Emergency cots became beds, better furniture came into their bigger and newly decorated life saving station.

 

Now, as time went on the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members – even when there was no emergency, no shipwreck to save. They met regularly and when they did, it was so obvious how they loved one another. They were good at taking care of people. But fewer members were interested in going out into the storm on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do that for them. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, half-drowned people. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. The brand new furniture got scratched.
  
        At the next meeting the group of life-savers were divided. Some members wanted to stop the life-saving activities – because they were unpleasant and got in the way. Other members insisted that was the whole point of having a life saving station. But they were voted down, and told that if you want to save lives of shipwrecked people, you can start your own life-saving station down the coast. And so that’s what they did. A small group built a humble shack where they resumed their life saving volunteer work of bringing in shipwrecked passengers.
   
       As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, committee meetings, special training sessions about their mission – but very few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed – for they might ruin the carpet or scratch the furniture or bring noisy children with them. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of wonderful meeting places with lots of parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.[1]
   
       Today is the second sermon in our sermon series Road to Rome, Part 3. We are in the third installment of our journey through the book of Romans, and in January we are diving into chapters 9-12. Last week we got started with chapter nine, and today we continue with [v.1-2].

   
       You may remember from last week that Paul is writing this letter to the church in Romans, and we saw two big things – first, Paul has a huge heart for the Jewish people – he IS a Jewish man, and he’s very emotionally invested in helping his people. And the second thing is that God is changing the system. It used to be a system of sacrifices and family bloodlines, but Jesus changed the entire equation. Jesus told people – I am the way, the truth and the light. Only through Jesus can you come to the Father. And so Paul is saying that the Jewish people have passion, and passion is good, but they are aiming it in the wrong direction. They’re passionate about a list of rules, rather than a relationship with Jesus. [read v.3-4]. They did not know the righteousness of God, so they sought to establish their own. Think about this – they did not know about the righteousness of God (which is Jesus), and so they sought to establish their own.

 

Let me ask you a question, can you be a good person and not be a Christian? Of course, it sounds silly to ask that, of course you can be a good person and not be a Christian – but then what is “good” based on? For Christians, Jesus is our standard, our guide – but without Jesus, people seek to establish their own righteousness. And the problem is that we are creating a definition of “good” without any concrete foundation – you’re just kind of making it up based on what you feel at that moment. And that leads to a society where the definition of “good” varies dramatically depending on who you talk to and what is important to them. There’s actually a name for that – it’s called Moral Relativism. Where morality is relative depending on who you talk to. And in that world, it is incredibly difficult to nail down objective, foundational good and bad. One of the big examples of this comes from the MeToo movement. In the last couple of years, our society has become VERY aware of the problems with our cultural sexual ethic. Our culture tried to create a rule system – boundaries of good and bad when it comes to sex – and we’ve recently discovered that it’s terrible. It’s a system that covers up abuse, targets victims and has no absolutes. We sought to create our own righteousness, away from God’s rules and it did not go well. Paul is trying to tell them, [read verse 4 again].

 

Verses five through eight are basically just Paul emphasizing that this message is not hard to find – it’s right in front of you face, verse 9 it says, [read 9-10]. In your heart you believe and are justified, with your mouth you profess and are saved. So there’s two parts to this, believe with your heart and profess with your mouth. Actions on the outside that line up with belief on the inside. So let me ask the question – is it more important to help people or tell them about Jesus? Years ago at a different church, I had a couple come into the church. They’d been living in a motel for weeks, they had just moved into the area. He had a job lined up, but he just started – no paycheck for a couple of weeks. She was very pregnant. They weren’t married, but they were living together in his truck. They admitted from the beginning they came to our area to get away from a rough drug situation back home. They were clean, but only just recently. They needed help. And we gave them that help. A widow in our church gave them a spare room in her own house. We paid the motel bill and arranged for groceries and meals and gas, we took the young lady to the hospital for her check ups. That baby was going to be okay, because of our efforts. We looked at housing, got them signed up for government assistance – got them into a new place, then we gave them furniture, tv, bed, and more. That church was amazing, and that couple was overwhelmed. And I was driving with a colleague, we were going to pick up a rental car for a summer youth activity or something. And I remember saying, “I’m so proud of the church and how they’ve come around that family. I’m so excited, but I haven’t gotten to talk to them about Jesus yet.” And my friend gave me a weird look. She looked at me, and said, “Why would you need to talk about Jesus? Maybe you’ve already done God’s work.” At the time I shrugged, we moved on with what we were doing. Couple months later the young couple had a little boy, safe and healthy and drug free. They attended the church once or twice, but it sort of fizzled – but I didn’t mind, because we had already done God’s work. I got to tell them a little bit about Jesus, but I had my friend’s voice in my head – I didn’t want to overdo it, so I didn’t really share the gospel. Couple months later – we hadn’t seen them in a long time. He fell back into patterns of domestic abuse. Last I heard, she took the kid and fled back home – the home she ran away from because of drug troubles, now she’s living with an older man with her baby. And the father’s in prison. Is it more important to help someone or to tell them about Jesus? Is it more important to believe with your heart or profess with your lips? Do you need a bandaid or do you need healing? The answer, of course, is both. WE need to provide real world solutions ot the problems that evil has caused in our world, but we ALSO need to show people the source of those problems. We need to help people AND tell them about Jesus. Otherwise all the work we do in this church becomes bandaids with no healing.

 

Verse 14 shifts and teaches us how to get it done. And Paul can’t help but be a little sassy. [read v.14]. Can’t call on Jesus if you don’t believe in him, can’t believe in him if you’ve never heard about him, can’t hear about him unless someone is talking. So tell people about Jesus! Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s your job Pastor JJ, not our job. Nobody told us WE had to go and tell people about Jesus – and that’s a good point, [read v.15]. So, let’s make it official – this is me, officially sending all of you. Go tell people about Jesus. And then something about having cute feet. And if you want me to tell people about Jesus – I would love to do that, please bring them here! [laugh] But seriously, if you’re nervous about telling the story of Jesus the first baby step is just to invite people to church.

 

 

The good news this morning is that God provides healing. In your life you need bandaids AND healing. You need work inside AND out. The world will give you bandaids – and they will work, for a while. But for most of us the root of our problems is a heart far away from God. I’m not saying if you pray to Jesus all your problems will go away – I’m saying if you don’t, your problems will come back. Band-aids are easy, but only God can provide healing. Real forgiveness.

 

So our response is pretty straight forward – in this crazy broken world, seek both bandaids AND healing. Help someone AND tell them about Jesus. One without the other is incomplete. DO not be fooled by the world that tells you to choose one or the other. Some religious traditions are known for one or the other. Baptists are known for telling people about Jesus, while Methodists are really bad at that. Methodists are really good at helping people, taking care of their practical needs – and we should be proud of that. That’s beautiful, the way we take care of people. But without the healing and redemption that comes from a relationship with Jesus, it’s a bandaid. And the same people end up coming back over and over without any change in their life – and churches end up looking more like your basic non-profit. You don’t have to choose one or the other. We talked about this back in November – that’s the tyranny of the OR. Throw away the OR and embrace the freedom of the AND. Bandaids AND healing. Helping someone AND sharing the love of Jesus. Believe with your heart AND profess with our lips. Some religious traditions are known for one or the other – churches that help people, and churches that tell people about Jesus – and maybe you have a preference. You prefer a reputation as the church that helps people or the church that always tells everyone about Jesus – one or the other. But what if we committed to being the church that does both.
 
 
The application is super obvious – tell people about Jesus AND help them. Step one – tell people about Jesus. Using words. That come out of your mouth. Tell people about Jesus. Now, maybe that’s intimidating for some of you. There’s a big chunk of you in the room that have probably never shared the gospel with someone – don’t feel bad, that’s okay. We all start somewhere – I’m in the same boat, I was raised Methodist, we’re not good at this, we’re good at helping people. So we need to learn how to tell people about Jesus. Paul made that super obvious – we got to figure out how to do this. So let me offer this advice – start with your story. God has been present in every single one of your lives. Even if it has been subtle and behind-the-scenes, God has been working in your life. So take a look at your life – where has God been working? Chances are you don’t know that God has been at work, because you’ve never looked at your life from that lens. But look again, look closer – find God hidden in the coincidences of your story. If you can tell people how Jesus changed your life – that’s the best starting point. It’s a story based on the evidence of your own life. Some of you have great testimonies, and you know it – and I’ve been blessed to hear some of those. But the rest of you have great testimonies – you just haven’t discovered them yet. Start with your story, and then the second part is use your words. I’ve got some wonderful friends who feel like talking about Jesus is a little awkward, so they say things like, “I’ll plany a seed with my actions.” And maybe they’ll see me doing something nice and they’ll understand that Jesus loves them. No. No. NO. In this world, in this culture, let’s clear up this misconception – they do not understand. They do not draw that line. You have to draw that line for them. I do nice things in the world, because Jesus taught me to. And I listen to Jesus because he made a difference in my life and here’s how. If you just do nice stuff and hope they put it together – they’re just going to assume you’re sort of a nice guy and you’ll have given them a wonderful bandaid with no healing. Step one – tell people about Jesus.
    
      Step two – help people. Make a difference in their life. The way Jesus works in our life is that it should inspire us to make a difference in other people’s lives. WE don’t want to be people of either/or – we want to be people of BOTH. There was once a social experiment performed at Rockford College years ago. Now there were three phases to the experiment. Big auditorium full of people, and one volunteer who was blindfolded. No everyone else knew the rules except the blindfolded guy. The goal was to get him to perform one task. The goal was to get the blindfolded guy to walk to the back of the auditorium and hug the instructor, the professor. In round 1, the guy with the right instructions was in the middle ofe the room, surrounded by other people who were shouting contrary instructions. They brought the volunteer in, blindfolded and the room explodes in noise. Shouting and chaos everywhere and voices and instructions blurring together. The blindfolded student was paralyzed by confusion, he moved randomly and without purpose. Round 2, everyone stays in their seat, but this time two people were allowed to stand next to the blindfolded guy. One person with the right instructions and one person who’s goal was to give wrong instructions. They bring the volunteer in, every body in yelling again, but the two right next to the guy were actually heard. Problem was, he didn’t know who to follow. So the blindfolded guy would follow one voice for a while and then switch and listen to the other one. Only the close voices could be heard, even though he switches back and forth, at least he could hear the message. Round three, same as round 2, but the good guy was allowed to touch the blindfolded guy. He couldn’t push or pull or force his way, but he could encourage with light contact. For the third time, the blindfolded volunteer comes into the room. Good guy on one side, bad guy on the other side, room full of noises to distract. Everybody starts shouting. But the one with the correct instruction put his arm around the volunteer’s shoulder and leaned close to speak directly into his ear. Almost without hesitation, the blindfolded guy started heading in the right direction. Occasionally he would pause to listen as the opposition frantically tried to convince him to turn around. But then with the gentle guidance of touch, the one with the vital message led him on. But as he got closer to accomplishing his goal, all the people in the audience, who up to this point had been shouting their own individual instructions, suddenly joined in unison to keep the volunteer from those final steps. Don’t go. Don’t Go. But the guiding arm of the volunteer with the right instructions was so reassuring. The blindfolded student made his way all the way to the back of the lecture hall, there was one final instruction, a moment off hesitation and then the volunteer threw his arms around the instructor and the auditorium erupted in cheers and applause.

 

They interviewed the blindfolded volunteer after and a few lessons became obvious. First, if we want the message to be heard, we have to draw close to people, Second, if we really seek a life-changing commitment from the people of this world, we must reach out where they are and in love, gently touch their lives. WE have to help people. They asked him why he followed the right voice, the one who touched him. And there was a pause and the volunteer answered, “Because it felt like he was the only one who really cared.”[2]

         

     
     Step One – tell people about Jesus, and then back that up with Step two – actually help people. With those two things together you can literally transform the world. So let me leave you with this: May you seek God’s righteousness found in Jesus – don’t make up your own rules for the world. May you tell people about Jesus, with words. From your mouth. And finally may you actually help people – to give them both bandaids and healing.

[1] Thomas Wedel, Ecumenical Review, October, 1953, paraphrased in the book Heaven Bound Living, 1989.

[2] Ken Davis, How to Speak to Youth, p19-23


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