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.”
Even A Cup of Cold Water
(Preacher ― Bill Davey, Elder ― Information sourced from the websites: “Meditation for Christians” and “Association of Hebrew Catholics in New Zealand”)
New International Version (NIV)
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
In this message I hope we can capture something of the teaching style of our Lord, as He prepared His disciples for mission and ministry.
To his disciples Jesus was a rabbi who taught in a Jewish context and one who expected his disciples to grapple and wrestle with the ideas He presented to them.
His study methods also included the disciplines of reflection and meditation ― All are part of their (and our) Jewish heritage and inheritance (Our patrimony).
First: We will review the Lord’s straight talk about relationships and then the likely rewards of faithful service.
Secondly: I accept that we might well struggle to understand some of the teaching of Jesus, until we have had the chance to ponder the issues further.
Thirdly: I hope we will discover something of the profound ideas Jesus has expressed within these Scriptures:
• He who receives you receives me ….. me receives the one who sent me!
• Receiving even a cup of cold water can be a ministry!
“Even A Cup of Cold Water”
St. Matthew 10: 37 ― 42 New International Version
We are in rabbinic school, and this is how Jesus, our tutor presents His doctrine. He does not open with words such as:
“Gentlemen, today we will consider aspects of natural and supernatural life.”
In the tradition of the culture, He opens with a stunning quandary — and, yes, the disciples would have shrunk back, just as we might.
Now let us review inclusive language of A/v 1 and 3 — “Anyone”, ” Whoever” and “He who” ―
Now return to A/v 1
Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in an ascending order of hardship to emphasise the phrase, “for my sake”.
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in descending sequence of reward.
40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.
41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
These six verses of Scripture really belong together ― They cause me to examine my commitment and motives before the Lord, both within the context of my own family, and also within the wider family of the Household of God.
They have application for all Christians and I suspect Jesus uses them as basic training for all of His disciples. They appear to be standards for every disciple who wants a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lord.
In addition, in the second cluster of verses, please note use of the words: “I tell you the truth.” (Verily, verily I say unto you” or “Truly, truly I tell you.” ― these are matters of great moment.)
However the consoling, underlying message is that anyone can qualify — it is a matter of personal choice. There are no exclusions! The love of God can therefore be spread to the utmost end of the earth by those whom He uses.
Verses 37 ― 39 ― Relate to the motives of the believer
First: Jesus requires His disciples to love their parents and family no less than totally, but they are to love Him even more. He is here calling them into a very special relationship, which they must be entirely free to enter into. Love for Him will not diminish legitimate God-given love for family.
Secondly: The follower must be ready to share in the fate of Jesus, to be persecuted and to die. This is the first mention (in this Gospel) of crucifixion. Only by coming to terms with this very real possibility of cruel and torturous execution, could the disciple be free to proclaim the message of Jesus.
Thirdly: The follower will spend the rest of his life exploring and implementing the strange paradox of gaining and losing life.
Verses 40 ― 42 ― Challenges on the Mission Field
First: Those who receive the Messiah’s representatives, the Disciples, (and then those whom they subsequently appoint and authorise), receive Him, and with Him, His Father. They receive God! Their commission is thus a very solemn one — and is addressed equally to us.
Secondly: Those who receive the Apostles because they recognise them to be prophets (the word here means teachers), righteous men and disciples of the Lord, will receive the same reward as did they, namely eternal life.
Thirdly: Even those who help the disciples down through the ages on their mission, by offering only a cup of cold water (the smallest possible action) as they journey, will be rewarded. All are thus joined, in some way, to the outreach of the Lord, not actually because they merited it ― but because the Lord chooses to respond in graciousness.
A thought for Reflection
When, as followers of Jesus, we make this commitment to Him, the most amazing blessings follow. We become not just members of the Household of God; we also become bearers of Him to any who will receive us — We are empowered to help lead home the lost sheep of this world by simply receiving any kindness — let alone giving any — We are to be praying in our hearts, a blessing upon the people we meet.
Can we imagine a higher status than to be a God-bearer?
These readings represent a formal rabbinic “lesson plan” for the disciples, easily committed to memory, and providing a treasury of our Lord’s deepest thoughts.
We are left challenged by the question: “Can we really believe each of the points He makes?”
We have to question of ourselves — that is part of the purpose of the passage.
This Messiah certainly gives some very focused attention ― to be sure we understand Him!
Our Rabbi Yeshua asks us to follow in His footsteps, and promises
that if we do so, He will walk in ours, with us, to the farthest ends of the earth.