READINGS: 1 Timothy 6:11 – 21; Romans 10:5-15
So where did it all start?
I mean the fact that you are a Christian – or learning about becoming a Christian – a seeker, or a believer.
You sometimes talk to people who are content that they know these things – are part of the faith family – they enjoy them, and like to think about all that God has done.
But where did it start?
You know the old joke that if you were born in a garage it doesn’t make you a car. (The kids like the one about a hamburger – if you’re born in a McDonalds etc.)
Somewhere your faith must have begun.
- And I suspect that someone would have told you the story.
- Perhaps you were in a Christian school like some here.
- Perhaps Bible in schools still happened where you were.
- Or your parents were at least nominally Christian and dropped you off at Sunday School. Maybe your dad read the paper out in the car.
Or at least they didn’t stop you.
The point is – wherever that happened, SOMEONE would have told you about God and Jesus. Christmas and Easter. If you were lucky, Ascension and Pentecost. The Bible stories. At least.
And in all those places there was probably a preacher. Or at least a Sunday School teacher.
News is passed on. Chines whispers (what we called broken down telephones) means it can get muddled.
But there is a message there.
In the Bible, it is the GOSPEL – meaning good news.
Or a pronouncement. Like the guy ringing the bell and saying “Hear ye, hear ye”.
Just to be different, we will start at the end of the reading from Romans today and work backwards. Because the last verses are profound:
Rom 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Rom 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
I love this passage.
I have been an official preacher for over 30 years. The journey started 40 years ago with my first paper in Biblical studies – my first sermon attempt was not long after that really. I still have that sermon text in a file – about walking in the light as he is in the light.
My 30th anniversary of final ordination as a minister of word and sacraments is on 10 December this year. I hope you’ll come along to the thanksgiving service. You can see it took me 10 years to get to that point. Lots of work and some years of resistance.
And I’ve always liked the idea that I have beautiful feet. After all Romans 10:15 says: As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
But today is not about my feet.
It’s about different parts of the body if you like.
- The mouth
On Sunday night we were talking about St Chrysostom. He was the bishop of Constantinople in the late 4th C. He wrote:
“Preaching improves me. When I begin to speak, weariness disappears; when I begin to teach, fatigue too disappears.”
Chrysostom means “golden mouth”. His preaching got him killed eventually.
What you say can get you into trouble. Less dramatically – what you promise when you don’t keep those promises for example can also get you into trouble – in marriage and life generally.
What do you think the most important things are you say in life?
Before you get into trouble in marriage for not keeping your promises there are these;
- Will you marry me?
- I do
- And then for a long time after that – sorry!
There is something else that we say that should be on our list of the big things that come out of our mouths!
It’s the good confession (cf. Watchman Nee).
Paul writes to Timothy:
1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
This probably happened at his baptism.
In fact in the next verse Paul says this:
1Ti 6:13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you…
This is not so much saying the right words to become a Christian. Jesus didn’t need to. So what was Jesus saying to Pilate?
The conversation between them was about who Jesus was. Was he a King?
It reaches this point in John 18: Joh 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Joh 18:38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
Pilate puts up a sign in three languages at the cross; King of the Jews.
Of course – he doesn’t believe it.
Timothy on the other hand – when he makes his good confession – has his life turned around.
Because of what Paul explains in Romans 10: Rom 10:6 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) Rom 10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). Rom 10:8 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: Rom 10:9 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. Rom 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Rom 10:11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
2. The heart
Confessing that “Jesus is Lord” is a game changer. It goes with the heart of course. You can’t just say the words. The heart is involved, but not just in an emotional sense – there is content there too:
Rom 10:9 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.
It kind of excludes people who claim to be Christians and don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, don’t you think?
Verse 10:10 is the key. (not 10 80)
Rom 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
In the whole Roman road journey we talked about recently, we land here again.
We are justified – made righteous – just as if we never sinned.
And people can’t reach this point without someone else using their mouths and telling the story Paul continues then:
Rom 10:11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Rom 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, Rom 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Rom 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Rom 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
So – if you want to be a preacher then – you have to have this as your desired outcome – that people call on the name of the Lord and are saved.
How can they call – says Paul – if they don’t believe – if no one preaches to them – and how can people preach if they are not sent!
This is still our mission. As our ACM comes up and you get your reports this week – that one question remains. Are people coming to make the good confession that Jesus is Lord, believing in their hearts that he is raised from the dead?
If they trust in Him – they will never be put to shame.
Have you trusted in Christ for this salvation? Did you once? Have you forgotten? Do you need to go back to your first love?
Perhaps you need to make that commitmeet, or recommit yourself to Him today.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”