Today’s Reading: Romans 9 & 10
Last fall Pastor Lloyd Brock preached about influence at Pekin First Church of the Nazarene. He had John & Cheryl Sherwood come up and share their testimony of influence. Having both grown up in this church, they were able to speak of the many people who had influenced them since they were children. They then spoke of the many ways in which God has allowed them to be used by Him in the lives of others, to be an influence to those around them. Their testimonies of growing up in the church, raising their family in the church, and investing back into the ministry of the church were beautiful!
Last night I attended a banquet for the Pregnancy Resource Center in Litchfield, Illinois. Several women had prepared testimonies of how their lives were greatly impacted by the ministry of Living Alternatives. Some talked about what God was doing in their lives and how they had recently made a commitment for Christ.
Whether we grew up in the church or experienced salvation later in life, Paul’s letter to the Romans helps us understand our salvation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He warns us not to fall into the mindset of earning our salvation by our church attendance or the following of a set of rules or by simply being a good person.
They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshipping him and receiving his wonderful promises. – Romans 9:4-5
They were born with the privilege of being an Israelite, a child of God. They had been taught the law and the importance of following the law their whole lives. They grew up learning the prophecies of Isaiah and others who told of the coming of the Messiah. Yet, they missed it. They were so determined to keep things the way they had always been that they missed their opportunity to worship the Christ Child. They missed the chance to follow Jesus, to be healed, to grieve his death and celebrate his resurrection.
Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said,
“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” – Romans 9:30-33
They missed it. The promised Messiah was right there in front of their eyes and they missed it. Christ had come to accomplish the purpose for which the law was given so that those who believe in Christ can be made right with God and they chose the law instead (10:4).
I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. – Romans 10:2-3
Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way. Can you relate? Have you ever been there?
Lord, show me if that is where I am at right now – clinging to my own way instead of chasing after yours. Lord, help all of us who grew up in the Church yet daily try to get right with You in ways other than trusting. Open our eyes to the times when we say, “I wish God would answer my prayer” or “I wish God would talk to me” or “I wish God would take care of this situation”. Help us to recognize that you are here in our presence doing all you have promised to do.
For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all its commands. But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” In fact, it says,
“The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”
And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 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. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. – Romans 10:5-10
Lord, give us a fresh faith. Show us the ways in which our walk with you has become simply going through the motions of what we have always been taught. Give us a fresh understanding of what it means to believe in our heart. Take our eyes off our insistence that we are doing everything we are supposed to do and open our eyes to what you want us to do. Make us a people of influence in the lives of those around us, as we praise you for those who have had an influence on us. Amen.