Romans 10:5-13 Common English Bible (CEB)
Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them. 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will go down into the region below?” (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 message of faith that we preach). 9 Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11 The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. 12 There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13 All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.
We live in a world where it is hard to stay in the moment. Instead of enjoying the moment we are looking ahead. Instead of resting in the hope of our amazing God – in the moment - we are impatient to see the completion. There is always something more we are striving for, searching for, longing for especially when life is hard. In seems that it’s all up to us to DO. We want to be the master of our fate, or at least tell the Master of our lives when and how.
But then there is the call of God. A call to faith. I was born into the faith. My parents were always active in the church and their faith journeys. The week after I was born, the choir gave my parents a silver set of utensils for me – knife, fork and spoon. It represented an ancestry in the faith. My grandparents were Christian, my parents were Christian, and now I was Christian. The relationship with God was assumed from birth. However, it didn’t become real until I experienced God for myself. Up until then it was a “head” kind of thing. I thought Christian and I acted Christian. But then I experienced the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and it moved from a “head” thing to a “heart and head” thing. I knew the Savior and loved him with all my heart and mind and soul.
That’s where we find Paul’s discussion today. A word of background. In verses 1-4 of this chapter, Paul shares that his heart is broken by the way God’s originally chosen people are rejecting Jesus and his way. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire is for Israel’s salvation. That’s my prayer to God for them. 2 I can vouch for them: they are enthusiastic about God. However, it isn’t informed by knowledge. 3 They don’t submit to God’s righteousness because they don’t understand his righteousness, and they try to establish their own righteousness. 4 Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God.” Chapter 9 has dealt with the Law and Israel. Paul paints a picture of a reversal of positions for Jews and Gentiles. The Law was always intended to lead the people to trust in God’s faithfulness – in God’s trustworthiness. Instead, the Jews – God’s chosen people - refused to trust (trusting in their own righteousness) making the law a list of do’s and don’ts. I remind you that the Ten Commandments appears in two different places – Genesis 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The Ten Commandments restated here, became a checklist. The reason I point to Deuteronomy is that right after the Commandments are reiterated, there is, in Chapter 6:4-6, the Shema. Its name comes from the first word of the quote in Hebrew – “Listen” or “Hear”. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.” Even though the Shema is so much a statement of the heart the people quantified it. ‘If I do this and this and that it will show that I love the Lord with all that I am.’ They were trying to reach God through their works. The Gentiles, however, were always excluded. They didn’t have the Law, and yet they received the perfect law in Jesus. Again, the goal of the Law, stated in Romans 10:4 - “Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God.” The Jews, who had the Law, missed the goal, and the Gentiles, who did not have the Law, were realizing the fullness of the Law in Jesus Christ.
So, what does all this have to do with us? What difference does it make in our daily lives? What Paul points to is a possible deficit in our living. Do we find ourselves trying to supplement God’s trustworthiness with our own? Do we find ourselves trying to earn God’s favor and trustworthiness?
I have on occasion spoken of my high school sport – Gymnastics. I was one of those gymnasts that seemed to have a lack of trust in physics. I knew the mechanics of a trick but often would try to get there before it was done. My routing opened with what we called a “Peach”. Standing on the floor at the end of the parallel bars, hands on both bars, I would jump up, and swing back down in the pike position. As my swing came forward I was supposed to stretch out in the layout position and pull through with my arms. (If you are reading this, I apologize because the action is hard to describe, and I used a lot of hand motions at this point.) I was supposed to end up above the bars in a near handstand position. Because I couldn’t seem to trust in the physics, I would end up on top of the bars alright, but horizontal at best. Rather than landing on my hands, I would land on my upper arms. I just never got it!
I relay this because most of us, at different times in life, will find ourselves trying to second guess God, or give him a helping hand, or try to do it all on our own.
Paul puts his broken heart in terms of prayer. His prayer to God is that the originally chosen would “get it.” But then he goes on. Through a series of questions, in the voice of someone who has faith, he points to the problem I have been talking about, a lack of trust. It seems like we are somehow needing to bring God into the situation.
In a righteousness that comes from faith, we don’t need to summon God to our side. Listen again to verses 6-7. “But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will go down into the region below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” It is not up to us. We don’t need to suggest that God comes over and sees what we are dealing with – as though he wasn’t already there. ‘Ahem, God! (clearing the throat) If you hadn’t noticed I need help here!’ Instead, faith says, “8 But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach).” (vs. 8) It says, “God is right here, right now!” We can trust God! Now watch the connecting word – “because” in verses 9-10. “Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.” We will be saved – end product. God will have the last word – end product. It is saying, if we put our trust in the trustworthiness of God – right here right now - salvation is in that trust. God has done it all and will be with us. In the announcement PowerPoint there is a quote that Tammy put in – “The empty cross should remind me of where I stand and who I can be with, right here, right now!” Let me say that again. The empty cross (that is God’s ultimate act of trustworthiness) should remind me of where I stand (in the abundant and amazing grace of a trustworthy God) and who I can be with (Jesus Christ himself through the Holy Spirit), right here right now!
So as Paul prayed, so for us to pray is our recognition that God is already here. Right here! It is our trust speaking at that point. In our prayer, we are not telling God something he doesn’t already know. Instead it is a statement of our trust that he is right here, right now. That He already knows what we need before we ask him. Our asking is grounded in knowing we have God’s salvation.
All this changes our prayer from desperation to bathing in the healing balm, soothing our hearts and minds – a rolling stream of trust. Prayer involves our whole being, and often the needs we pray about are loaded with feeling. But what we seek is to revel in our relationship with God feeling God’s trustworthiness. Beyond the needs, we just want to remind ourselves that God is on our side. We are not alone. He knows the need, and we trust his provision. Deeply rooted trust in God’s trustworthiness moves prayer from being an “event” to being a true lifestyle. If God is right here right now, our prayer becomes a conversation with our most trusted friend. You know, that one that just seems to get how you are feeling. Just being in their presence brings a sense of calm. You can tell them anything and know they will understand.
We need to live into the knowledge that God is right here, right now. It will bring peace in the midst of the storms order into the chaos. Will we do it perfectly? No! Will we trust easily, No! But will God stand with us in our imperfection? YES! Will our relationship with God deepen our trust? Yes! Let the prayer “pray you.” In the midst of the hardest moments, the greatest uncertainty what ever is bothering you, “Trustworthy God you are right here, right now. Thank you!” Amen.
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Pastor Paul Grossman