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Don't Get It Twisted

"Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation! I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them. But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 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. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:1-13

Today's Message: Don't Get It Twisted

Good Morning Beloved,
Welcome to worship!
We're so glad you're here.

Let's bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your truths contained herein the text we have been blessed with today. We pray for the restoration of Your people, we pray that Your mercy and compassion and loving kindness and forgiveness. Lord, burden our hearts as we pray for those who are self deceived, those who are lost, those living outside Your Kingdom, Your church. We pray for those within our own families, our brothers and sister, parents, children and spouse,  let us collectively pray for all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, and a relationship with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
All for Your glory and increase in the Kingdom
In Jesus' name

Two people can do the exact same thing for entirely different reasons. Allow me to share an illustration, imagine for a moment, seeing two different women doing housework: doing the laundry, vacuuming the carpet, picking up the toys. Just by looking at them, it appears that they’re exactly the same. But one is a stay at home mom, who’s committed herself to keeping her house out of love and devotion for her family. The other woman is a paid housekeeper, who’s simply performing the service she was paid by her service to do. Both women are doing the same things, but the motivation behind what they’re doing is entirely different. There’s a world of difference between a stay at home mom and a housekeeper.

It’s completely possible for two people to do the same thing for entirely different reasons. That principle is also true in the realm spirituality as well. Although spirituality is a very private matter, how we express our spirituality is visual, its something other people see. For instance, two people might read the Bible for entirely different reasons, yet by looking at them from the outside they look the same.

It reminds me of a story about the actor W. C. Fields, when someone saw him reading a Bible. Some said, "Mr. Fields, I didn’t know you read the Bible." He smiled, and clenching his cigar between his teeth he said, "Just looking for loopholes."

Though two people may go to church, volunteer in community service, or give their time and money to an ministry organization, it may very well be for entirely different reasons.

And, since we can’t see a person’s faith, we tend to identify a person’s faith by the things they do. So we identify Christians by certain behaviors, actions and activities they engage in, because its what we see. Christians generally read and study the Bible, go to church for worship, spend time each day praying, tithing a tenth of their income to ministry, volunteer in ministry, and so on. Therefore, we tend to identify Christians as people who do these things.

And, there’s certainly nothing wrong with expressing our spirituality through our actions. In fact, the Bible questions the genuineness of a faith that doesn’t express itself in action.
it’s easy for an outsider to look at what we do, and to conclude that being a Christian means doing certain things. This person might think, "I look at John and he’s a Christian. He goes to church, he reads his Bible, he prays, he gives money to church. So if I want to be a Christian, then I should go to church, buy a Bible and read it, learn how to pray and give too." This person might conclude that being a Christian means doing certain things. Yet that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, we’re going to look at the danger of confusing doing with believing, "Getting it twisted."

I believe that self-deception is at epidemic proportions in the world as well as the church today. Countless numbers of people have gone through the right motions of "accepting Christ," however, they remain lost in their sins. They continue to do all the same sinful things they did, before accepting Christ. Their false assurance, only inoculates them from the message of the gospel. Blinded to their need of a Savior.

It is my belief, that in large, weak pastors, citing "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." from Romans 10:13 are to blame! In order to be saved, one must know the righteousness of God. One must understand that God is absolutely Holy, cannot look upon iniquity and sin with any degree of tolerance, therefore, He must punish it all. They don't understand God's holiness, His righteousness, His perfection. There are many today, who are being deceived.

Some five hundred years ago, a Christian named Martin Luther realized that he’d confused doing with believing. When he made that discovery, it changed his life and sparked the Protestant Reformation.

The terms Luther used were "law" and "gospel" to express the difference between doing and believing. For Luther, "law" refers to anything God commands us to do, which includes the ten commandments, the golden rule, Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and so forth. "Gospel" was Luther’s way of describing what God promises to do for us, as a free gift of grace. In Luther’s thought, law is the equivalent of doing, and gospel is the equivalent of believing. Luther had been a really religious guy, yet he realized that for all his doing, he had no peace until he understood the difference between doing and believing.

Today we’re going to take a look at what happens when we emphasize doing and what happens when we emphasize believing in our spiritual lives.

So, let's begin with when We Emphasize Doing.

First we’re going to look at what happens when we emphasize doing. What happens when we view the Christian faith as a collection of rules we try to keep as best as we can? What happens when we define a follower of Jesus Christ as a person who goes to church, gives a tenth of her income to ministry, reads the Bible, prays, and volunteers for ministry?

Open with me, your Bible to Romans chapter 10.  Follow along with me as I read, Romans 10:1-13.

First, let’s take a look at verses 1-4. The apostle Paul is still reflecting upon the dilemma of how the Jewish people could not believe in Jesus as their Messiah. If Jesus fulfills God’s promises to the nation of Israel, then why do the majority of Jewish people reject Jesus as the Messiah? This dilemma deeply troubled Paul, because he viewed his own belief in Jesus as the natural expression of his Jewishness. Throughout chapters 9-11 in the Romans, this dilemma is always in the background, it sets the tone. Here we find Paul , passionately praying for his Jewish countrymen, praying that they would come to faith in Jesus.

Paul respects their zeal for God. The word "zeal" here means "deep devotion to something" A hallmark of first century Judaism was its passionate devotion to God, a zeal that sometimes cost the Jewish people their lives. In fact, one subgroup within Israel even called themselves the "zealots." The "zealots" were a paramilitary terrorist group that wanted to liberate Israel from Roman rule. A zealot named Judas the Galilean had led an armed revolt against the Romans about ten years before Jesus started his public ministry. Just a few decades after Paul writes this letter, the zealots will strike again, again mobilizing the Jewish people to rebel against Rome. This would lead the Romans to destroy the Jewish temple and Jerusalem, and ultimately lead to the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world. Paul knows Israel’s problem isn’t a lack of zeal.

But their zeal isn’t based on an accurate knowledge of God. Despite their zeal, the Jewish people of Paul’s generation were ignorant about how God’s righteousness really comes to people. Their problem was not that they didn’t know that God was righteous. Every Jew knew that God was a righteous God. But they didn’t know how a person could come into a right relationship with this righteous God.

This ignorance led them to attempt to establish their own self-righteousness before God. A right relationship with God was believed to be a result of doing things. In the case of Israel, the emphasis was on doing Jewish things, things like obeying the dietary laws, keeping the Sabbath, celebrating the Jewish festivals, and so forth. If they did enough Jewish things, this was thought to establish their own integrity before God, so they could come to God on their own merits. They viewed doing things the way a boy scout views merit badges. To use Luther’s terminology, they were relying on law instead of gospel to stand before God.

But God’s saving righteousness--the kind of righteousness that makes a man or woman right with God--is something that God gives to people irrespective of merit. Israel’s refusal to believe in Jesus was a refusal to submit their lives to God’s righteousness. So long as we’re focused on doing, we can’t learn about believing. Law blinds us to gospel.

Because the focus of Israel’s "doing" was on doing God’s law, Paul tells us that Christ is the end of the law. The "law" here is the Jewish law of Moses, which is composed of the ten commandments and then the hundreds of specific applications of the ten commandments we find in the Jewish Bible.

However, what exactly does it mean to say Christ is the end of the law of Moses? Bible scholars have debated this verse for centuries. The Greek word used is the word telos, which is where we get our word telescope. Paul is saying that Christ is the telos of the law of Moses. Now telos can have two basic meanings: either termination or goal or fulfillment.

If Paul is saying Jesus is the termination of the law, then he means that the law of Moses has come to an end through Jesus. So although we still learn about God’s character from the Old Testament law of Moses, this law is no longer binding on God’s people. But if Paul’s saying Jesus it the goal or the fulfillment of the law of Moses, then he means to say that the law points to Jesus, and that although Jesus has come, the law is still in force and binding on us 

Now the clue to the meaning of telos here is found back in chapter 9. Back in vv. 30-33 of chapter 9 Paul used the word picture of a foot race to describe how the Jewish people stumbled on the track and the non-Jewish people who had faith in Jesus crossed the finish line. This word telos was sometimes used to describe the finish line in a race, so if he’s still thinking about that word picture, then Christ is the finish line of the law of Moses (Moo). Now the finish line in a race is both the termination of the race--the race is over once the finish line is crossed--but it’s also the goal of the race. So I think telos here refers to both termination and goal, that Jesus terminates the law of Moses by inaugurating a new law (what the New Testament calls the law of Christ) and Jesus is the goal or fulfillment of the Old Testament law of Moses.

So here we find out what happens when we emphasize doing in our spiritual life. Our devotion to God lacks substance.

When we focus on doing, our spirituality is zealous without knowledge. And when this happens, we tend to get excited and zealous about the strangest things. Lacking substance, we fill the void with things we do, whether it’s a certain way of studying the Bible or a certain prayer technique we’ve learned. Some people fill the void with religious traditions, political action, certain kinds of music, or virtually any other kind of activity. People who are zealous without knowledge are capable of doing horrible evil in the name of God. Just think about the Christians involved in the Salem Witch trials, the Christians who went along with Hilter, and so forth, and in every case you’ll find zeal without knowledge.

When we emphasize doing over believing our devotion lacks substance because it’s empty and void.
Paul follows this with a litany of quotations from the Old Testament in verses 5-7, by quoting these verses from the Jewish Bible, Paul is contrasting a relationship with God based on doing with a relationship with God based on believing. The first quote comes from Leviticus 18:5. Moses seems to be saying here that if you’re going to look at the law as a way to earn eternal life, then you have to obey the whole law. Now God never gave his law for that purpose, but if you’re going to use the law that way, you’d better make sure you obey all of it.

Remember that when God gave his law to the people of Israel, they already had a relationship with God. Remember back to the giving of the ten commandments, God said, "I am the Lord your God who redeemed you." Only after he saved them did he then give them something to do, his law. Believing came first, then the doing. But by Paul’s generation the nation of Israel had reversed the order, putting doing first and believing second.

The second quotation, Paul uses, echoes several verses from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. The phrase "do not say in your heart" comes from Deuteronomy 9:4. Here God warned the people of Israel against thinking that God had given them the land of Palestine because of their own doing. In Deuteronomy 9:4, God says to Israel, "Do not say in your heart, ’The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’" So this is a warning against the very thing Paul senses in the Jewish people of his own day, that they’re trying to establish their own righteousness before God.

The rest of the verses here are a comment on some verses from Deuteronomy 30. Let me quote the entire section from Deuteronomy:
"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ’Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ’Who will cross the sea and get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so you may obey it" in Deuteronomy 30:11-14.

The emphasis in Deuteronomy is that the law of Moses is a gracious gift from God, freely brought down from heaven by God and made accessible to the people of Israel so they can have a relationship with God. Paul’s saying that what was true of the law of Moses, is even more true of Jesus. Just like the people of Israel didn’t do anything to bring God’s law to them, so also we haven’t done anything to bring Jesus Christ down to us. The "bringing Christ down" is a reference to the incarnation, the decision the eternal Son of God made to take on human flesh and enter into our world at Christmas.

The "descent into the deep" is applied to bringing Jesus Christ back from the dead, the reality of Easter. Although Paul’s quotation of Deuteronomy here is a bit different from the Hebrew text, his point is clear. Nothing we’ve done brought Christ to the earth, and nothing we’ve done brought Christ from the dead. Both Christmas and Easter were initiated by God himself, not a response to human effort or works.

So in these quotes from the Old Testament we find another consequence of emphasizing doing. Our estimate of ourselves becomes inflated.
Just as the people of Israel began to think God gave them his law because of their own righteousness, we can begin to think God sent Jesus and raised him from the grave because of our righteousness.

In our spiritual lives, when we emphasize doing instead of believing. Whenever we rely on doing to build a relationship with God, our estimate of ourselves becomes inflated, like a big balloon.

What happens when we emphasize believing ?
So what does happen when we emphasize believing? To use Luther’s categories, what happens when we don’t rely on law but we rely on gospel? Paul has discerned from Deuteronomy that knowing God has always been about believing rather than doing. Doing has never been the path to a right relationship with God.

Let’s look at how he continues talking about Deuteronomy 30 in verses 8-9. In Deuteronomy 30:14 it says, "the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." The "word" Moses was talking about was the law of Moses, God’s gracious roadmap for how to live once Israel had been saved from their slavery. But here Paul applies the same idea to the good news about Jesus Christ, what he calls "the word of faith."

He uses the "mouth" and "heart" from Deuteronomy 30:14, to explain how belief in the message about Jesus brings us into a relationship with God. With our mouths we confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now to say Jesus is Lord is far more than saying, "Jesus is a pretty cool guy," or, "Jesus is great." To call Jesus Lord, is to call Him our Master, the director of our lives. To confess is to openly express our allegiance to Jesus as our Master, our director, the Ruler of our souls.

Then with our hearts we trust in the reality of Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Death couldn’t hold this Lord, because his sacrificial death was the means by which God offers forgiveness for sin. Christ broke the chains of death, rising from the dead victoriously, appearing to hundreds of people again and again. A heart felt trust in this reality lies at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

The result of this confession and trust is our salvation. We are brought into a right relationship with God through our public confession in Jesus and our heartfelt trust in His resurrection. This is why at every baptism we ask the person being baptized, "Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord?" and, "Do you believe in your heart that he rose from the grave?" It is the basis for what Paul teaches in Romans 10:9, "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."

Here we find the result of emphasizing believing. We embrace the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.
Perhaps some of you, have read the  booklet "My Heart, Christ’s Home." It was written by a Presbyterian pastor named Robert Munger, in 1951. The author describes our lives as being like a house, and when we come to know Jesus Christ, he moves into this house. Dr. Munger describes the various rooms in this house, the living room, the kitchen, the workroom, the hall closet, and so on. But at the end of the booklet, there’s an exchange that captures the idea of Christ’s Lordship.

The person who has invited Jesus into his life, says, "’Jesus, you have been my guest, and I have been trying to play then host. From now on you are going to be the owner and master of the house. I’m going to be the servant!’ Running as fast as I could to the strongbox, I took out the title deed to the house…Then rushing back to him, I eagerly signed it over giving title to him alone for time and eternity. Dropping to my knees, I presented it to him, 'Here it is, all that I am and have forever."

That’s what embracing the Lordship of Jesus Christ means. It means trusting Jesus enough to trust our very lives to him. Not just our future life in heaven, but our present life, our circumstances, our decision. We trust our relationships to him, our finances, our time, our career, our families, our goals and dreams. We embrace Him as our Master, as the Ruler of our souls.

But that’s not all; look at verses 10-13. Still Paul is talking about the continuity between our heart and our mouth when we realizing knowing God is about believing rather than about doing. Trust begins in the heart. Trust is not about our words, but about our hearts. We may say we trust someone with our words, but true trust is an expression of the heart. Trust in Jesus results in our justification, which is simply a theological word for a right relationship with God.

With our mouths we confess. We can’t confess with our hearts because confession by its very nature is a pubic expression of allegiance. Every follower of Jesus Christ will make his or her allegiance to Jesus know in public ways. This is why God commands every Christian to express his or her faith publicly in water baptism. Beloved, I'd like to make it known, that public confession only starts at baptism, it doesn’t end there.

When our mouth and our heart are aligned, we are right with God. There's an emphasis on believing instead of doing means no one has an advantage. All people come to God on the same basis. No one has a special advantage or a head start, because the basis for acceptance before God is the same for each and every person. Both Jews and Greeks, religious and non-religious, moral and immoral. Every person who calls upon Jesus as Lord and Master, will be put into a right relationship with God.

Here we find another result of emphasizing believing instead of doing. We have assurance that we are right with God. Beloved, if knowing God were based on doing, then we’d never be sure if we’d done enough. But if its based on believing, then once we trust in Jesus Christ, we are filled with the assurance that this faith has brought us into a life changing relationship with God.
Only faith results in assurance.

In Closing....

So I ask this question: Are you a "believer" or are you a "doer"? The Bible is certainly not against doing things for God, quite the opposite, the Bible insists that "doing" or action, is what makes a person a Christian. A Christian by definition is someone who believes, someone who’s heart is filled with trust and faith in Jesus as Lord. However, although Christians do things like go to church, read and study the Bible, give their money to their church, volunteer to help others, and so forth, none of these activities defines what a Christian is.

So, have you been doing things, hoping that the performance of certain activities will result in an increased relationship with God? Have you been like a boy scout, trying to earn merit badges to garner God’s favor? Are you trying to stand on your own righteousness before God? Or have you come to the end of yourself, realizing that knowing God is as close as your own heart and your own mouth? That if you confess Jesus as your Lord, trusting Him to direct your life, and that if you believe in your heart that he died and rose again on the third day,  to pay the penalty for your sins, you can know God today. Because, it’s not about just doing, it’s also about believing!

Because, only true belief can kindle the kinds of works that please God. The kind of works that come from His heart. This made me think about a conversation, I had with one of my sons several years ago. When he and my other son went white water rafting. They were floating down a river on an inner tube, and all was fine. Until they hit some rapids, and the inner tube flipped, plunging them into the white water.

While under water, his arm got wedged underneath the water. He was stuck under several feet of water, and he thrashed about and was finally able to get himself free. Yet the harder he thrashed and fought, the more wedged he became. Finally he realized that no amount of trying could get him free from his dilemma. So he gave up, he took a deep breath and simply surrendered, and as his body began to relax, he became free and rose to the surface.

I thought what a powerful picture of the difference between doing and believing. We’re wedged in between the power of corruption and sin, caught in a state of isolation from God. And as hard as we try to construct a righteousness of our own, to break free, we are still stuck. No amount of "doing" can break us free. Then we hear about someone who lived a perfect life, someone who willingly died for our sins, someone who rose from the dead. So we stop trying to struggle on our own toward righteousness and we take a deep breathe, trusting in Jesus Christ, and as we relax, resting in faith, we are set free from our isolation from God.

"Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free."
John 8:36

 It is my prayer, that Jesus Christ settle down and be at home in your heart, and that you will confess Him as Lord of all!

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

Copyright © 2019-2020 All Rights Reserved

The Brian Monzon Ministries



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