- INTRO: After my freshman year in college I went on about a two week road trip.
Long before smart phones I got on a highway that I thought was taking me the right direction.
I was in a hurry so I went fast…too fast.
After about 2 hours of going fast down that highway I realized I was going the wrong way.
So I had been going the wrong direction…with great speed.
In January we started in Romans 1, today we are in 9:30-10-13
This passage divides into three sections:
I’ll give a summary paraphrase of each section before I read it and discuss it.
- Running the Wrong Direction: This highlights the problem of self-trust (9:30-33)
Non-Jews who formerly were clueless and not even pursuing God now by faith have entered into relationship with God.
At the same time the people God set apart for himself have missed the way because they were pursuing God on their own terms not on his.
Rom. 9:30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Gentiles had no concept of right standing with God but when God revealed himself to them through the preaching of the gospel many of them responded in faith.
In contrast many or most of the Jewish people refused to respond to the gospel of grace.
They pursued a “law of righteousness”…that is they focused narrowly on the works the law demanded and missed the big picture of the need to submit to God in faith.
It’s not accurate to say that the OT was about earning salvation and the NT about faith.
The entire Bible is about faith.
Remember back in chapter 4:
Rom. 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Abraham the father of the Jewish people was justified; made right with God through faith not by what he did.
So it’s not like the whole “faith” thing was a new concept…the OT laws all pointed to justification by faith.
Paul illustrates this point with a person on a journey…who stumbles over a “stone” placed in his path.
Jesus said that the “stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”
-Referring to himself.
So for one group of people this stone is worthless, cast aside…but it cannot merely be cast aside because it is the truth…so they stumble over it.
It simply will not get out of their way.
Because this same stone that some attempted to cast aside is the capstone… It (He) is the key to all that God is doing in the world.
This reality is ongoing:
The one who is the key to all God is doing in the world…Jesus…is seen by many to be utterly useless…a long dead guy whose bumbling followers get in the way of human progress.
People still, by and large believe they can save themselves.
The quest for self-salvation relies on self-trust…and the self, unguided by the gospel is not trustworthy:
One Republic had a hit song 4 years ago…Counting Stars
“I feel something so right, doing the wrong thing.”
“I feel something so wrong, doing the right thing.”
“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”
Exactly right…self, unguided by the gospel will pursue life apart from God.
This life apart from God comes with an initial buzz…makes me feel alive…feels so right.
But it ends empty…every single time…no exception.
Life lived God’s way doesn’t often appear thrilling…it looks like trust, obey, be faithful.
But it is not a life without passion…it is guided passion.
Passion in the right direction.
And passion unguided by truth is the wrong way, just much faster.
- Running fast, the wrong direction (This highlights the problem of zeal without knowledge) (10:1-4)
I have a heart for my own people because they are so passionate but their zeal is misguided. They are trying to earn from God what can only be gifted by God.
10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Here’s Paul four points in these 4 verses.
- I long for the salvation of my people
- Because they are full of zeal but they lack understanding
- As seen in the fact that they seek their own way of righteousness but ignore God’s way
- And seeking to be made right through the law misses the whole point…Jesus is the point.
As we get older there is a tendency to lose zeal, passion.
In the worst case scenario passion is traded for cynicism.
“Yea, I used to think I could change the world too.”
“Yea, I used to think people could be trusted…life would be fair…God was real…”
Trading zeal for cynicism is a terrible trade.
Older generations often need to re-learn zeal from the younger generations.
But zeal not based on knowledge is every bit as bad as cynicism.
Prov. 19:2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.
Last Sunday night Christy and I were driving down west 21st and I saw a guy on a side street to my right accelerate right towards us.
It was as if we were invisible.
I could not avoid him and the impact drove us several hundred feet down the road into the eastbound lanes. Fortunately there were no cars coming from that direction.
As best I can tell he didn’t see us, but he did see some cars behind us.
So is his great zeal to hurry out in front of those other cars…he drove right into us.
He believed the road right in front of him was empty…he was wrong.
He drove with great haste into the side of our car…zeal without knowledge (truth)
The Jewish people were very zealous for what they believed God wanted from them…but Paul says their zeal was misguided.
They were, like many Muslims are today…ready to die or kill for their faith.
They were zealous to obey the law, keep the rules of God and would at times do so even if it meant death.
But zeal without knowledge is useless.
Your passion, your zeal has to be driving you in the right direction.
You hear things like “I like his passion” or “At least she is committed.”
And there is a sense in which this is true…Passion, zeal is compelling and much needed in our world.
However, misguided passion and zeal are not on improvements on apathy.
I would prefer if that driver on Sunday was apathetic about where he was going.
Because to some degree it was his zeal that caused him to not see us.
Paul is not anti-passion or zeal here…he begins with “My heart’s desire (purpose) is for my people to be saved.”
He has passion, zeal.
He is anti-zeal that based on a lack of understanding
A zeal not based on truth only takes us faster and farther in the wrong direction.
Their zeal was to establish their own form of righteousness…in the end this zeal was rebellion.
Because they did not “submit” to God’s righteousness.
So we have the wrong direction, and now we the wrong direction “fast”
Then, finally, we have the right direction.
- Running the right direction (10:5-13)
Christ has come to us (incarnation) and Christ has resurrected and ascended into heaven…So you don’t need to try to go get your own salvation, you don’t have to climb to heaven or descend to hell searching for the way. It is right there in front of you. Simply believe and receive.
5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” 6 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. 10 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.”
10:9 is a fairly famous verse “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.”
This is not a formula…as if a verbal confession…saying words is a requirement for salvation.
“Yeah, but it says that you must ‘confess with your mouth'”
Does that mean a person who is mute cannot be saved?
In context Paul is quoting OT passages and demonstrating how they point to the gospel.
The gospel is not “work and earn” its not climb to heaven to “pull down your own salvation”…descend to hell “to drag it up.”
The gospel is believe and receive…transfer trust from self to Christ.
Jesus is Lord, this fact was confirmed through his life, death, and resurrection
Now make this fact personal…put your faith (your confidence) in his work not your own.
So the Believe and Confess is really about: the Facts of the gospel, and your faith in the Gospel.
Fact: Jesus is Lord, he is who he says he is.
Faith: Jesus is my Lord, he is my boss…I transfer trust from myself to him.
So Paul is saying…Quit making it harder than it is:
-You don’t have to climb to heaven or descend to hell to find salvation.
-It is right there…the proclamation of the Gospel…believe it, receive it.
PERSONALIZE: using Paul’s three main points but state them in the positive.
- Run his path: learn to love doing things his way.
Psa. 119:32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
What a stark contrast to “I feel so right, doing the wrong thing…everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”
So true, so tragic…rebellion has a strong pull…but believers have access to a stronger pull.
I remember when our kids slowly learned to “do the math”
They would refuse to do what we told them, be punished, then do what we told them.
Eventually you could see them start to understand.
“I’m going to throw a fit…get in trouble…and then do what I was told to do.”
“What if, I skipped the rebellion…went straight to obey…wonder how that would work?”
They didn’t learn to love obedience first…they first came to dislike the results of rebellion.
Later they came to see the beauty and fruit of obedience.
I think its helpful to “do the math”…both in terms of the cost of rebellion and the benefits of obedience…doing things God’s way.
As young believers we fear the costs of rebellion…as we mature, we learn to delight in the fruits of obedience.
“Everything that honors him makes me feel alive.”
Last week we talked about how we cannot presume to get our minds around God…who he is and how and why he behaves as he does.
But of course our inability to have exhaustive knowledge about God does not keep us from having access to accurate and adequate knowledge of him.
What we know and can comprehend is accurate (though not complete) and adequate…all we need to live lives that glorify him.
So we know we are fully responsible to choose, to decide, to act.
At the same time we know he is fully sovereign.
These realities are not in conflict with each other…our responsibility is to “trust and obey”
Trust: He is sovereign
Obey: We are responsible
So it is very important that we do our level, humble best to understand what God really has said and what he hasn’t…what he wants and what he doesn’t.
The closer we get to what is really true…the better.
The gospel story is fantastic…unbelievable…and true.
God made everything from nothing.
Made us in his image…with ability to choose to rebel…which we did.
Worked his plan, that was already fully in his mind through the millenia to bring about a people set apart for himself…an.
In the fullness of time Jesus was born.
Now we live after the Messiah has come…and we are in our little bitty part of the grand story.
Living it out day or hour or minute by minute…depending on the circumstances.
It is a fantastic story…unbelievable to some.
But when you hear the stories others believe you quickly realize…theirs does not explain the world (inside and out) as ours does…our story is fantastic, but their stories do not ring true.
Personal application: You and I should really, really want to go his way…walk his path.
Doing things our own way often seems appealing in the moment but never works out well in the end.
Prov. 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Knowing and walking his path is difficult…but it is, I think, important to learn to want to.
We need to become increasingly fed up with doing things our own way.
Increasingly passionate, zealous for doing things his way.
- Zeal with knowledge is really good.
Zeal without knowledge is useless.
Knowledge without zeal is not compelling.
The reason, I think, people lose zeal as they gain knowledge is they start to “know better”
“I once thought this…but now I know better…I’ve seen too much”
I once had a conversation with a man who had traveled around the world…so he concluded, “You see I can’t believe the gospel because of what I have seen.”
I’m not sure how that adds up…but for him it did.
But the gospel is not from America…from the Middle East.
And it has been believed around the world…in wars, in death camps, in every conceivable situation.
In the gospel story you see it all…Creation, fall, redemption.
You see war, disease, terrible sin, despots trying to exterminate whole groups of people.
And there is the overriding perspective of a Sovereign God…driving human history toward his own ends.
So, as we grow old…we cannot say “Ah, I’ve seen too much to believe that anymore.”
When you have seen a lot…the gospel rings more true, not less so…it explains more not less of what you see.
Its not zeal without knowledge
Or knowledge without zeal
We must settle for nothing less than increasing zeal and increasing knowledge of who God is and what God wants.
James Dean was made famous for his 1955 film “Rebel without a Cause
He was all of 24 years old and yet was seen as this sage cynic…he died that same year establishing him as a cultural icon for young disillusionment.
So 62 years later he is still 24 and still a rebel without a cause.
Its unlikely he would be seen that way if he had grown old.
Its “cool” to be the cynic, the naysayer, the sage who sits in the chair and knowingly looks down on the ones who still have fire in their hearts.
It really, really cool when you are a young cynic…that shows you didn’t even have to wait for disillusionment to set in…you’re so wise you just skipped the passion and went straight to apathy.
The cynic says…”someday they will see, they will be like me, they will lose the fire…they will have my apathy, my cynicism.”
No…God help us no!
We don’t have to have an either or choice here…zeal or knowledge.
We want to know and love God and make his love known…this requires both truth and passion.
Truth: Jesus is Lord
Passion: Jesus is my Lord
- Confession of fact/Confession of faith:
“If you confess with you mouth Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.”
Confession of fact: Jesus is Lord
-This fact has huge implications for everything in our lives.
Confession of faith: Jesus is my Lord
-This is the personalization of the fact of Jesus’ lordship.
Confession of fact is something the devil could make: he knows Jesus is Lord.
Confession of faith is something only the one ready to follow can make: Jesus you are Lord, I submit…I yield.
Time of worship and reflection:
Consider the status of your own heart, mind, and life in regards to the Lordship of Jesus.
Reflect on the fact of his Lordship…he is the interpretative key to all of human history, including what you read and see in the world around you today…including what you see and feel in your own heart and life.
Personalize his Lordship…Jesus, I yield. I trust you.