“But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:”
Romans 10:6-8 NLT
Paul said to his readers that there is nothing difficult about the “message”, the Good News about Jesus and His sacrifice at Calvary. God’s grace is a simple concept. We don’t have to explain it. We can’t dissect it. We can’t stop it from being there. We can’t stop others from grasping its significance and believing in it. The problem for the early Christians in Rome is that, somehow, it was too simple. After all, they had this complex system of rules and regulations, the Law. Now that was something they could really understand and could apply in a tick box fashion. Haven’t murdered anyone today – tick. Haven’t committed adultery with anyone’s wife – tick. But such a system can never get someone right with God because it’s not about tick boxes, it’s about the state of our hearts. Do we love our wives and children, and treat them well? Do we honour our parents and love them sacrificial? And, above all, do we love God with all of our hearts? Being obedient to Him? Trusting Him even when life’s troubles threaten to overwhelm us? Why is it that us humans will always make things complicated when there is a simple answer?
Paul quoted the verse from Deuteronomy 30:14, but here is verse 11 as well, “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. …. No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:11,14). The Message translation of the verses from Romans 10 reads as follows, “So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching”. What Paul was saying was that the message of hope that we pilgrims have is nothing complicated. We don’t have to attend a Bible school or Seminary to learn it and understand it. The moment that we put our trust and faith in Christ we receive all the understanding and learning that we need. We immediately have the mandate to share the same message with those around us. Whoever they are. Friend or foe. Family members or neighbours. Simple?
But it can’t be that simple, we hear. Surely there is more to it than that, they say. But, sadly, many say they don’t need the message of hope, love and grace. We’re doing ok by ourselves; we’ll do life our way. We’ll take our chances before God – if He even exists.
We pilgrims mustn’t give up. Paul wasted no time in sharing the message about Jesus. We read in Acts 9:20, just days after his conversion, “And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”” In fact, his zealousness was so intense and all-consuming that the Jews in Damascus were going to murder him, so the solution was a clandestine escape for Paul, “So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall” (Acts 9:25). He started his mission again in Jerusalem and another plot was devised to end his life, this time by the Greek-speaking Jews. So in Acts 9:30-31 we read, “When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown. The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.” Paul became too hot to hold, but his zealousness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ never left him.
How zealous are we pilgrims in our faith, and our willingness to share the Gospel? Are we an all or nothing person like Paul, prepared to forsake all for God? In Matthew 5, Jesus gave an illustration about salt and light. We are the seasoning in our communities. We are beacons of light in a dark world. We may never be Pauls, articulate and convincing in what we say. But nevertheless, we are all equipped to share the simple message. We do it with our lives and, if necessary, we use words to back it. Those around us who don’t know Jesus will be watching us, to see if the message we bring makes a difference in our lives. We love God so much, so what else can we do?
Dear God. Thank You for trusting us with the sharing of Your message of Good News, so necessary in this dark and sinful world. Please help us to truly shine as a beacon of faith to those around us. In Jesus same. Amen.