Ignorant of Righteousness

Saturday, December 17, 2016, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 10:1-17 (ESV).

Zeal for God (vv. 1-4)

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

If people have zeal for God, is it always good? Not according to scripture. So, maybe it isn’t really passion for God, but they think it is. In their own minds they believe it is. Perhaps they think they are serving God, when they are really serving themselves or their own idols of human making. So, what’s wrong with their zeal? Is it misdirected? I think that is the point.

All throughout scripture God chided his people for going through the motions of zeal (passion) for God, but it was just going through the motions, because their hearts were far from God. And, that is really the difference between the right kind of zeal and the wrong kind. These people thought God would be pleased with them if they performed all kinds of religious rituals and if they followed the traditions passed down to them from their forefathers. But, God told them that isn’t what he wanted. What he wanted was their hearts fully surrendered to him in obedience to his will for their lives, and that is what many of them were not willing to give.

And, this could be true of many people today who claim to be Christians. They are good at following all the traditions passed down to them from their forefathers, and they are good at religious performance, and going through the motions of worshiping God, but Jesus is not truly Lord (owner-master) of their lives. From all outward appearance they are good people who seem to be religious, but they have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Instead, they establish their own where they are the ones deciding what they will do or not do for God, according to their own timetable, and according to their own priorities and purposes.

So, they need to have a crisis experience with Jesus Christ where they trust in him truly as LORD and Savior of their lives, and they submit to his will.

Everyone Who Believes (vv. 5-13)

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on 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 abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

We have to be so careful here that we do not take scriptures out of context and build entire theologies around them. That is what many people today have done with this section of scripture. Yet, this passage of scripture must be read in the context of the whole of Romans, especially chapters 6 and 8.

So, what do I mean by that? Well, many people take vv. 9-10 and make that their whole salvation message, as though this expresses the entirety of the gospel of our salvation. But, it doesn’t. They also Americanize it, too. What I mean by that is what this meant to people of that time and culture and what it means to us in America can be vastly different. For instance, if someone of that day and time and culture was to confess aloud that Jesus is Lord of his or her life, and if they were to acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah of the Jews, it could mean certain death, torture, imprisonment, rejection, persecution, and abandonment, etc. They could be kicked out of their families or lose their jobs. Yet, in America, at least up to this point, we can verbally say Jesus is Lord of our lives, and it does not have nearly the impact that it did then, or that it does now in other cultures.

So, what can we learn from this passage of scripture? Well, first of all we can learn that true faith in Jesus Christ involves both confession with our mouth of Jesus as Lord of our lives, as well as it involves belief in him in our hearts. In other words, true faith in Jesus is not something we keep hidden from other people. We want to share our testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ, and we want to tell others how they can come to know him, too. We should not be ashamed of Jesus or of his gospel of salvation. But, we should be verbal in our faith as well as having genuine trust in Jesus as our Savior.

As well, this says we must confess him as Lord of our lives. This confession, though with our mouths, and out loud where others can hear, must be accompanied by true heart belief in what we are confessing. In other words, we can’t just profess to have Jesus as Lord (owner-master) of our lives, but he must BE Lord of our lives in practice, i.e. in reality. Also, this belief that God raised him from the dead is not a mere intellectual acknowledgment of that fact. Remember that James said that even the demons believe and they shudder.

Believing in Jesus’ resurrection also means believing in who he is, and in what he did when he died on the cross for our sins. And, if we truly believe that he died that we might be delivered from our sin, then that belief must involve yielding to our Lord in death to sin and in living to righteousness, which is the work of the Spirit in our lives in regeneration (being born again), as we cooperate fully with that work (See: Romans 6-8).

Beautiful Feet (vv. 14-17)

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

There are many people today talking about Jesus Christ. The pope talks about him, and so does Obama, and Rick Warren and many others, but are they all telling us the truth? NO! They are not! The “good news” is not merely that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. It is that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). If we are not truly set free from slavery to sin, then we are not free, and we are still in our sins and bound for hell. The only “good news” is that we can be delivered from the control of Satan and sin over our lives, and that we, in the power and working of God’s Spirit within us, can walk in the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. This is GOOD NEWS!

So, what’s the difference between following a set of religious directives and living a life of obedience to God? One is self-driven and controlled, while the other is self-sacrificed in surrender and submission to our Lord (owner-master) Jesus Christ, who is the one in control over our lives.

What’s the difference, as well, between works-based salvation and walking in obedience to Jesus Christ? One is self-driven and controlled, while the other is self-sacrificed in surrender and submission to our Lord Jesus. In other words, although it is true that we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and that we are not saved by works, but by God’s grace, through faith in Christ, our salvation is not absent of works. We must yield to our Lord, in surrender to his will, and we must submit to death to sin and living to righteousness, for which he died. We must obey the gospel which teaches death to sin and living to righteousness. All this, though, is done not in our own strength and power, but in the strength and power of God’s Spirit now living within us, as we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives. This is not about striving, in other words, but it is about resting in our Lord in submission and in surrender to his will. And, it is about following him in obedience to that will for our lives.

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting / Jean Sophia Pigott

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

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