Posted by: Johnold Strey | February 6, 2010

Sermon on Romans 10:13-17

CHRISTIAN, SPEAK UP!

  1. Recognize the possibility of rejection
  2. Realize the importance of your message

Text: Romans 10:13-17

Introduction

“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  This oft-repeated saying has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181 or ’82—October 3, 1226), although research indicates that he never said these words that are so often attributed to him.  I find it kind of ironic that a man who was known for his lively and unapologetic preaching has a quotation attributed to him that essentially downplays preaching.  But that incorrectly attributed quote seems to have a lot of traction today.  After all, “preach” and “sermon” have almost become dirty words!  Telling others about your Christian faith and why they need to come to grips with Jesus Christ is about as popular as standing up for traditional marriage in downtown San Francisco.  To many, it seems preferable to try to extend Christianity with kind deeds and good works than with a message of the Son of God dying on a cross and being raised back to life.

In the Second Lesson for today’s service, the Apostle Paul has something to say to the modern way of thinking that says that we need more deeds and fewer creeds in the church today.  You can’t preach the gospel without speaking!  The word gospel means “good news,” and the Church can preach the good news in actions about as well as Brian Williams can deliver the NBC Nightly News with mime and skits—in other words, not very well!  News needs to be proclaimed!  And that’s why the Apostle Paul says to each of us this morning: Christian, speak up!  The message of salvation in Christ that you know and believe and need to hear also needs to be heard by others who do not know and believe in Christ.  So Christian, speak up!  When you speak up, recognize the possibility of rejection, but speak up anyway because you realize the importance of your message!

I.

A few moments ago you heard the Gospel account of Jesus calling some of his first disciples (Luke 5:1-11).  He called Peter, James, and John to follow him and become “fishers of men.”  I find it ironic that Jesus calls disciples to proclaim the gospel in Luke chapter five, when just one chapter earlier (and just last Sunday in our weekly church readings) Jesus’ message was resoundingly rejected by the residents of his hometown.  As God, Jesus knew that the incident in Nazareth was only the first of many rejections that would occur, not the least of which was the rejection by his own disciples and his people’s religious leaders that would put him on the cross.

We’re focusing on the Second Lesson from Romans chapter ten in this sermon.  Paul encourages the same kind of missionary activity in this reading as Jesus calls for in the Gospel.  And Paul also recognizes the possibility of rejection along the same lines that Jesus experienced.  Near the end of this reading, after Paul has walked through a series of questions to demonstrate the importance of confessing our Christian faith, he says this:  “Not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’”  Paul was a Jew.  He knew that his fellow countrymen had the advantages and privileges of God’s prophets around them throughout their history.  Even with those advantages, even with the Old Testament ceremonies and prophets pointing to the promised Savior, many of Paul’s countrymen failed to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for.  Yet Paul’s words in this entire section encourage us to speak up about Christ even in the face of potential rejection.

That’s hard.  That’s really hard.  Who likes rejection?  Kids at recess don’t like rejection when they are shut out of a game that another group of children is playing.  High school boys don’t like it when they girl they ask out to prom says, “No.”  College graduates don’t like it when their job applications are rejected and they can’t find work.  Faithful employees don’t like it when they are rejected for a raise or a promotion.  Our natural distaste for rejection can lead us not to speak up about our faith when rejection seems likely.  But we need to remember that what  is at stake here is not our self esteem, but the salvation of other souls! 

Sadly, we often ignore that reality.  Even though we confess publicly that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” sometimes our personal confession seems to deny the words of John 3:16 that we know so well.  “Oh, yes, I know that Christ died for all, but I’m not going to bother confessing my faith to so-and-so because of such-and-such reasons.”  It is as if hell isn’t real or Scripture is just a fairy tale.  Our actions often agree with the Bible-denying attitudes we deplore, and our actions only condemn us for our failure to confess Christ to others, for Jesus says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

But where we have failed and fallen short, Christ has not failed but been perfectly faithful.  That famous Bible verse, John 3:16, still stands true.  The Father loved every soul in this world so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior.  Did God send his Son for the unbeliever?  Yes, but he also sent his Son for you, dear Christian friend.  For your hypocritical confession, tainted by sin, Jesus walked in this world without sin and hypocrisy and did so to be your righteousness.  For your silent confessions of faith, hidden by fear, Jesus boldly proclaimed himself to be the Son of God even before the enemies who would condemn him to death for his confession.  For your sheepish confession, held back by timidity, Jesus willingly went to the cross like a lamb to be slaughtered and his blood now washes away your guilt and sin and shame.  For your uncertain confession, confused by a failure to study his Word constantly, Jesus actually, certainly, physically rose from the dead so that your confession of faith may be built on a rock-solid certainty and firm conviction.  With such grace from our Savior, we have reason and confidence to speak up and confess our faith even as we recognize the possibility of rejection.

II.

Since the school children are sitting up in front this morning, let me engage them for just a moment.  Have your teachers or parents ever asked you a question for which the answer was really obvious?  I know that during Christlight (Bible history) classes, Miss Petrie sometimes asks a question like this: “Are there any perfect people in this room?”  And you know what the answer is right away – No!  Or maybe the Kindergarteners might be talking about the weather, and if it’s raining outside, Mrs. Heifner might ask you, “If it’s raining today, do you think it’s going to be wet outside?”  And you know what the answer is right away – Yes!

In our Bible reading for this sermon, Saint Paul asks a bunch of questions with answers that are obvious—just like the questions that our teachers might ask our school students.  Paul began our reading with an important quotation from the Old Testament prophet Joel that reminds us how important it us for us to call on the Lord in faith: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  After that important point, all the questions with obvious answers follow.  “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?”  The obvious answer is: People can’t call on God in faith if they don’t believe in him.  Next comes question number two.  “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”  The obvious answer is:  You can’t come to faith in Jesus if you haven’t heard about him.  Then comes question number three.  “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  The obvious answer is: You can’t hear the gospel with your ears unless someone preaches it to you with their voice.  Finally, question number four.  “How can they preach unless they are sent?”  And the obvious answer is: Pastors need to be trained and sent out first if they are going to be able to preach the gospel.

With these rhetorical questions and thoughts mapped out for us, Paul now comes to this conclusion in the last verse of our reading, a verse that we sang earlier in the service: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  Paul’s tightly woven argument should lead his readers to see the need for Christians to speak up about Christ.  Paul has preachers in the ministry in mind, but his words certainly also show all Christians the importance of the gospel message that they can proclaim to people in their lives.

Why would a church like ours devote ten percent of our budget toward our national church body’s work of educating pastors and teachers and sending missionaries around the world?  Why would church denominations like our Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod go through the trouble and expense of starting new churches around the country and sending missionaries to foreign countries?  Why would we put such a high priority as a church body on educating our church workers with standards that are second-to-none, on educating our children in our Lutheran schools, and encouraging adults to continue their education in Bible classes and personal study?  Isn’t it because this message is so vitally important?

As a nation, we spend countless dollars on research to fight disease and cure illness.  We go to great lengths to improve our physical health.  And despite it all, we still die.  Why shouldn’t we spend equal and greater effort to deliver the gospel medicine of immortality so that the soul that dies in this life may live forever in the next?  The good news about Jesus Christ is the only cure for sin’s disease.  It is the only way to remove the barrier between us and God.  It is the only ticket that gives entrance into eternal life.  This is why the gospel good news of Jesus Christ is so vitally important!

But what better way to know the gospel’s importance than to know it for yourself?  You, dear brother or sister, have been rescued from the clutches of hell.  You have a Savior whose love for you moved him to go to the cross on your behalf.  You received the gift of new life at your baptism—a gift that leads to eternal life.  Knowing these blessings, we can pray as the children sang today:

“Lord, here am I:” Your fire impart

To this poor, cold, self-centered soul.

Touch but my lips, my hands, my heart,

And make a world for Christ my goal.  (Christian Worship: Supplement, #778, st. 4)

Conclusion

Another pastor once observed that it’s a good practice to begin your day with the Great Commission in your heart, but to end the day with the Bible’s doctrine of election in your heart.  The Bible’s teaching called election is the truth that God will get his chosen people into his kingdom.  No matter how badly we think we have failed to confess our faith, God promises to get his people in.  That can be a great comfort when you regret failed and forgotten opportunities you had to share your faith on any given day.  That’s a good thought to have in your mind when you go to sleep.  And when you wake up and a new day presents itself, you will have greater reason to begin with the Great Commission in mind, to speak up with the most important message the world has ever heard, and to know that whether your message is received or rejected, God can use your words to get his work done!  Amen.

Advertisements

Categories

%d bloggers like this: