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Unchanging Compassion--Anything to Save the Lost
08/03/2003
Scripture: Romans 10:1-21
Track 10 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 23 minutes, 24 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, August 3, 2003
"Unchanging Compassion: Anything to Save the Lost"
(Romans 10: 1-21)
C. Sackett

I hope that the song in some way reflects your heart, your desire. It's always interesting to return from having spent time among people for whom those songs are very real.

Serge and his group from Bella, Russia, who drove thirty hours in order to come and take classes. Elena Namh, whose life is spent in Uzbekistan where she is a former Russian military agent with no identity whatsoever, who works in an underground church in an illegal situation, trying to teach people to become Christians where it may cost them their life. Or, maybe Pavo, whose dream is so simple compared to what we would like to accomplish. He just wants to try to find a building someplace where they can rent space and try to create the kind of worship experience that we have here so that they could maybe draw four-hundred people in one Czech city to hear the Gospel of Christ, the most secular country in the world at this point.

These people want the nations to hear the Gospel and in fact, what we're looking at in Romans Chapter 10 this morning, you just wanted to start and put a caption over the top of this text, you might find yourself saying "PAUL WAS RIGHT!" He was correct. People would come to faith in Christ. That would happen. In fact, it's happening all over the world. The fastest growing churches in the world are everywhere except the United States. Seven of ten of the largest churches in the world are in Seoul Korea where one of them averages 250,000 people a Sunday. They have multiple services. Ten of them. Twenty-five thousand to a service. They estimate somewhere between 30 and 100 million Christians in the underground church. in China where a former student of mine does leadership training and risks his life every day, if they ever find out what he's doing.

Paul was concerned that the world might somehow have an opportunity to come to faith. To get introduced to this one that we have become so used to seeing in our culture--we call him Jesus--everybody uses his name, whether they use it correctly or not.

Well, let's look--Romans Chapter 10. It actually begins back in Chapter 9, Verse 30. That's where the paragraph picks up. Romans 9, Verse 30.

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 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."

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 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. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

He was correct. The Gentiles came to faith in his day and in ours, but Israel did not and are still not. The vast people who come to Christ are all pagans--all Gentiles. It's very rare that you hear of a Jewish movement toward Christ. For whatever reason they have stumbled terribly over this rock we call Christ. But his culture sounds not unlike the one that we believe in. A very religious culture, a very spiritual culture--the one where there was a great deal of interest in that which was extra special. Something beyond the normal--the fleshly--the tangible, an interest in the spirits of whatever kind. Much like our culture, with emphasis on spirituality--with its emphasis on that which isn't quite tangible, but not always in a form that you and I would recognize in the church.

Well, Paul's love for Israel, his brothers, his family, his heritage, I think gives us a very clear message about what Paul would have us understand about our own relationship to our world, to our family, to our culture, is very simple and that is that God wants us to know HIM. Literally, in language that most of the world would never understand--to be saved! To come to faith in Christ, to have a relationship with God that somehow transforms your life into something different. That gives you hope beyond this life. That gives you a promise that there is something besides just what happens around here in this world on an every day basis. Something that moves you into a new relationship with God that changes your life.

But it is pretty clear, that if people are to be saved, if they're going to know God, then there are some things that they need to understand. That's his point in Verses 5 through 13. Look at this text. He says, you'll notice over here in Verses 2 and 3. They didn't understand what it was that they were supposed to know. Verse 5 begins the explanation.

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 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) "or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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: 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

There are just some things we have to understand and the first thing he says that you have to understand is that you have to understand that salvation is accessible. You don't have to go looking for it. You don't have to do something to achieve it. That's what Israel was trying to do--if we keep the law--if we just do things perfectly, then God will somehow owe us salvation. Paul says that's not a salvation by faith. Salvation by faith is a different animal than doing a certain number of things in the right way.

He says you've got to understand that Christ is accessible. You don't have to go look for him. Nobody has to go up to heaven and try to get him and bring him down or go to the grave and try to bring him to us. He says, he is already here. He's near and in your heart and in your mouth. The point that Paul would make is that God has already done what it takes to bring Christ to us. We don't have to do anything to go get him. He is already accessible.

In Brian's language, we would do anything to see the world come to faith. God's already done anything. He's done his side. And Paul says the first thing that has to happen for people to know a relationship with God is to understand that God has already made Christ accessible to us. He's available. He's available to you.

He's available to your neighbor. He's available to your children and your family. They don't have to do something to produce him because God's already done that. Not only do they need to know that he's accessible, however, they need to know there is some kind of a process involved here. Ah, that's a terrible word, but I don't know a better word for it. He says that if you want to have a faith in a relationship with God, then you must call upon his name. All who call upon him will be saved. He's not just coming down and dumping salvation out on people. He's making himself available and saying if you want it, if you want to be saved just simply call on me. Ask me for it!

And then he says, with the mouth we confess, with the heart we believe and that heart belief produces justification and that confession produces salvation. There's an inner and an outer action here and what Paul is trying to communicate is that the first thing that has to happen is that you have to, in your own heart, resolve that Jesus is who you need and that you believe in him and you're willing to trust him, place your faith in him, not in yourself, not in the law, not in the church, in him.

But that's not enough, because there also must be a confession of that. Now that doesn't make nearly as much sense in our culture as it did in his. Because you can be a Christian in this culture and nobody cares. Have you noticed that? There's not a lot of people out these beating down your door asking you if you're a Christian so they can take you to jail. You can be a Christian and as long as you don't make waves over it, nobody will pay any attention to it. It's what you do on Sunday morning instead of going golfing. In their culture, to make the statement that Paul uses is Jesus is Lord, was to stand smack dab in the middle of the stream and go the opposite direction because everybody was saying Caesar is Lord. And for you to make that public confession was to take a literal stand against the rest of the world and say that's not what I think. This is where I stand. And that outward action was just as significant as that inner belief because you have to show on the outside what you are on the inside. There is no private faith in Scripture. And the way they often did that, the place it became most evident, that they had made that kind of confession of faith, was in a Roman bath. Ours happens to be in a plastic tank. And people identify themselves with the death of Jesus. They come up out of the water having been identified with him in a culture that was against it. They would do anything it took to identify with Jesus.

Because, see, if your gonna be saved, if your gonna have a relationship with God, there are just some things you need to know, to understand, that he is accessible. But there is something that you also must do and that is to respond to him. It's what we have to understand as parents. Our children have to understand. You can't just assume that your children will come to know Jesus because you happen to know him. Because you came to church, they'll automatically just somehow follow down the road. They have to come to understand his availability. They have to come to understand that there is a stand that they have to take that belongs to them and not to you. And so the church does everything it can to try to help you as a parent, teach your children what it means to know Jesus. It's not our job--we'll help you do it but it's not our job to do it for you. Don't wait for us. We might not get it done! In Verses 14 and 15 he says, if people are to understand, then they need to hear. Verse 14 says, 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? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." It's not enough to just understand. If your gonna understand you have to first hear.

There was a particular lady in the church, who said to me on numerous occasions, "I'm just a good witness. I let my actions be my talk. I just act like a Christian. I'm a good neighbor." I'm sure she was. I've met lots of good neighbors and if you had followed that good neighbor spiritually rather than just as a neighbor, you know where you would have ended up? In hell, just like everybody else, because they weren't Christian, they were just good. How do you know the difference between a good person who's good because they're good and a good person who's good because they're Christian? Somebody has to tell you. Cause it's not written on your shirt.

Faith comes by hearing. We're going to find out. And it's a very logical sequence. If your going to call upon the Lord you have to have heard of him. If your going to hear of him somebody has to preach. If your gonna preach, somebody has to be sent. That's why we do what we do around here. That's why we send you out into the community as much as possible. That's why we have a missions program. It's why we try to create events like a Sunday in the park so that we can have an opportunity to give you a chance to just say something about your relationship with Christ. Because if they're going to understand, they first have to hear.

I will probably remember, as long as I live, I was sitting in church one Sunday. There was a modesty rail and the preacher had come to preach and he put his foot up on the modesty rail and he began to unbuckle his shoe. I was really taken back by that. I've never seen a preacher do that before and he took his shoe off and the next thing you know, he's taking his sock off, which I'll not bother to do for you. And he says, I don't see anything particularly beautiful about that.

Isaiah says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." I've never forgotten the need for beautiful feet. Because somebody brought me the good news. I am forever, not just for a day or two, I am forever, eternally indebted to his beautiful feet which crossed over the proverbial railroad track in to my side of town and became my friend to tell me about his friend Jesus. And my question is, what do your feet look like? Go ahead and take your shoe off and take a peek! Has it traveled where it needs to travel? Has it carried the good news to the people to whom it needs to go? Is there a neighbor, a friend, a daughter that needs to hear the Gospel, just waiting for your beautiful feet to carry you to them because they cannot understand if they don't first hear. And they'll never hear if somebody doesn't preach.

This text became my call to preach. I didn't want to be a preacher. I don't like to talk in public. I hate it. But I can't get away from this text. How are they going to hear if somebody doesn't say something? Well I have a voice and I can say it, and so I will. And so will Pavo and Concha and Blaho and Elena and Serge and you decide whether or not you can put your name in that list. Because they are preaching because the people are going to understand. Somebody's going to have to tell them.

About a week ago on a Friday evening, Brian and Bob and Frank and I, and I don't know how many other people happened to be there, were on top of Mars Hill in Athens sitting where Paul used to sit and talk to the philosophers of Athens. I don't know how big Athens was then, but it's big now. It's 3.5 million people and I was sitting up there looking and it stretched as far as you could see in every direction, and I wondered. Is anybody telling the Athenians today what Paul tried to tell them 2000 years ago? And you know when you drive up Broadway? I know it's not much of a rise, and so you can't see a lot, but when you get to the stop sign there at Steak ‘n Shake and you can kinda see what's in front of you, did you ever stop long enough to ask yourself, how many of those people have never heard the Gospel explained to them clearly? Cause there are some out there.

Paul says, that if they are going to be saved, they need to understand and if they're going to understand, they need to hear. He also says in the last part of this text, once people have heard, they need to respond.

Verse 16: But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

"Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."

Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,

"I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding."

And Isaiah boldly says,

"I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."

But concerning Israel he says,

"All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

Do you hear what happened to Israel? They just refused. They were obstinate, stubborn people. They heard the message. Paul says, by quoting Psalm 19 about the voice of the heavens, the whole world has heard about Jesus. Of course they've heard. Of course Israel understood but they were obstinate and they refused to respond and that's been the problem--hearing without response. It's no different today than it was then. It's no different to a Gentile than it was to a Jew. It is no different to somebody in this culture from any other culture if you hear and refuse. You are no better off than the one who has never heard. God has done absolutely anything and everything he can to make himself available to you. And the only thing he wants to know is, what you going to do with it? Will you, like Israel, reject it, stumble over it, refuse it, become obstinate or will you receive it? Will you respond to it? Will you say yes to it and take a stand against the world? That says I want to be what God wants me to be. And I'll do whatever it takes and I'll pay whatever it costs me to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Paul's language in Romans 10, to be saved.

We come to this text with a very clear invitation to you, two of them actually. The first. . . . . . . important. I don't know how you rank them exactly. If you've never called upon the name of the Lord, if you have never believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, if you have never called upon his name for salvation we're inviting you to call on him--to give your life to him. Don't be stubborn and obstinate like Israel. Listen to him and come to him and call on his name. Take a stand, publicly, in baptism. Identify with Jesus. Make yourself known as a believer and be saved.

The second invitation is to those of you who are already Christians, who already know him, who have already confessed your faith to him, and have taken a stand in our world for him, to do whatever it takes to let the rest of the world have the same chance you do.

How will they hear without a preacher? How will they understand if no one ever says anything? Could Paul make it any plainer? Faith comes by hearing and they can't hear if we don't speak.

And so we're inviting you to do whatever it takes to get to your friends and your neighbors and your families and just let them know about Jesus. It may be as simple as just saying, hey, we're going to be in the park on September the 7th. Come and join us for church. It may be to say that I'm a part of a small group Bible study. Wouldn't you like to come and just sit and study the Bible? It might be as simple as saying, hey, during third hour we have this thing over here we call "Coffee House"– frankly a bunch of people get around and they drink coffee and eat dessert and they talk. Come and join us. It might be that you'll sit down across the table and look them in the eye and say, "Do You Know Jesus"? I don't know what you need to do or to whom you need to say it but I know this, this town, our county, our part of the world needs to hear this message. For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord can be saved. So, we're inviting you to call if you haven't and we're inviting you to go if you haven't and let the world know.

Let's stand.