Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 13
In Romans chapter 10, I hope you turn to it with me, God is making it clear in his Word that when it comes to salvation there is no one has an excuse for not accepting Jesus's gift of forgiveness and eternal life. No excuse. The full responsibility of rejecting God's only means of salvation, namely the Lord Jesus Christ, is squarely on the head of the individual who has done the rejection. Those of you who are following the series of messages from Roman, you remember when we're looked at chapter 8 and 9, we saw one side of the coin. This is a two-sided coin. We saw one side. We saw the sovereignty of God and the plan of God, the election. We saw that, the work of God's election.
In Romans 10 the apostle Paul shows us the other side of the coin. Make no mistake about it, it is a two-sided coin. Man's responsibility and God's sovereignty. Here, the Word of God is saying that if a person dies without Christ, it is not because he was not elected. But because he or she has rejected God's loving invitation of forgiveness and eternal life. In Acts chapter 17, the apostle Paul, particularly verses 30 and 31. The apostle Paul was speaking to the Athenians and he said, "The time of ignorance," that's before Christ. "The time of ignorance God has overlooked, but now, after Christ, he commands all men everywhere to repent, for he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world toward righteousness by the man Jesus and for a proof, he raised him from the dead".
Five times, Paul places the full responsibility for rejecting God's plan of salvation squarely upon the heads of those who do the rejection. You'll see it in verse 8, 11, 12, 16, 21. In fact, verse 21, the concluding verse here in this chapter 10, includes a very poignant plea on the part of God: "But concerning Israel he," God, "says, 'All day long I've held my hands to disobedient and obstinate people.'" In fact, if you have ever asked the question and I'm sure some of you have. If you've ever asked the question, "Why don't all people believe in Christ? Why would anyone reject the loving invitation of Christ"?
Have you ever asked that question? Chapter 10 gives you the answer. In fact, here he gives us four reasons as to why people reject the invitation to come and know Christ and repent and believe in him and be eternally saved. First of all, he said, "They reject Jesus out of misguided zeal," verses 1 to 4. Secondly, "They reject Jesus by their misdirected efforts". You find that in verses 5 to 13. Thirdly, he said, "They reject Jesus because of a deliberate mishearing of the message," 14 to 17. Finally, he said, "They reject Jesus out of sheer disobedience and stubbornness," verses 18 to 21. Misguided zeal, misdirected efforts, deliberate mishearing, and sheer stubbornness.
Let's look at these very quickly. I think you agree with me that there is no more tragic situation than a sincere person who is sincerely wrong. It's tragic. We see it on television just about every night, examples of how religious zeal for those people who go out and kill in the name of their religion. Suicide bombers who kill themselves and kill other innocent people, thinking that they're gonna receive paradise in exchange of killing. Misguided religious zeal. And who better understand a misguided religious zeal than the apostle Paul himself? Out of his religious zeal and zeal for Judaism, he authorized the killing of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Even when he had an encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he was on his way to go and terrorize the believers in the city of Damascus.
Look at the zeal of so many people. You see them all the time for their cults, whether they'll be Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or Scientology and the rest of it. Now, I have to confess to you, I find their zeal puts me to shame. Their zeal for falsehood puts me to shame for my lack of zeal when I know the truth. Listen carefully. If Christians, believers, have half the zeal for their faith as some of the others, I'm talking about those in the cults, we can literally evangelize the world if we have half of their zeal. I am absolutely convinced of this but the lukewarmness of most believers is keeping God in a constant state of nausea. And totally preventing any possibility of a revival, I am convinced as I am standing here today.
Oh, how easy it is for people who can be zealous for a denomination or for a program or for a project or of politics or sports or church tradition or hundreds of other ways. And yet, they're totally lost, spiritually. Look at verse 2: religious zealousness without knowledge is deadly. That is eternally deadly. And you heard me many times and I will say it 'til the day I die: religion kills but Jesus gives life. So not only did the misguided zeal cause the rejection of Christ. Secondly, their misdirected efforts equally horrid, verses 5 to 13. You know, in these nine verses, that's 5 to 13, the apostle Paul is saying, "Listen". I mean, I'm gonna put it in modern-day language, okay?
"You don't have to go anywhere to find salvation. You don't have to go to the Far East to study mysticism to find salvation. It's not there. You don't have to go to the forest, climb up a tree or hug a tree to find salvation. It's not there. You don't have to get on a yoga kick to find salvation. It's not there. Salvation is only found in Jesus Christ and he is close to you as calling his name". That's the Word of God saying that.
Now, I'm not saying that. The Word of God. Look with me at verse 10: the word is near you, in your mouth, in your heart. The only thing you need to do is repent with all of your heart, confess Christ publicly with your mouth, believe that he rose from the dead, and he's gonna do the rest. He is going to raise you from spiritual death to life. He will lift you up from the abyss. He will save you eternally. In many ways, it is the simplicity of Christianity, it's the simplicity of the Christian gospel, that causes a lot of people to stumble. If you give them a complicated formula, they'll follow it.
You say, "Come to Christ," well, that's too easy and so I reject it. Even among professing Christians, there are so many head believers only. Very few heart believers and there are fewer both heart and head. Romans 10:10, Paul is saying that for a person to be genuine believer, the heart and the head have to be united, making confession without faith would be in vain. And mere having and professing faith without confession is equally futile. Misdirected effort says: "As long as I believe in God, I'm not responsible for my behavior". How many times have you heard that? "God created me this way". "My uncontrollable anger, well, it's not really my fault. People make me angry". "As long as I'm sincere, God doesn't care how I live". "I know God wants me to be happy and therefore my happiness is paramount," and "I know God will bless me".
No, no, no, no, no, no. Paul is saying that all of these excuses will not wash with God. But the true faith of head and heart and behavior, they all must work together in sync in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Today, there are many preachers who would say, "It doesn't matter if the Resurrection really happened or not". I know them. Some of them I've known well. "It doesn't matter if the Resurrection happened or not as long as you just accept it by faith". That's doubletalk. That's gibberish. That's utter nonsense. Blind faith is not the Christian faith. Look at verse 9. Paul tells us that if you do not believe in the physical, literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus, you are as lost as those who have rejected Jesus outright.
I love the story of a courageous high school student a few years ago from this church and where the teacher was intimidating her and trying to say, "Well, you know, there are so many Messiahs who claim to be God. There are many Messiahs who did this and many..." And she was... and I don't know professors in universities and colleges and high school, they try to do that, intimidate Christian kids, but this wonderful courageous young woman said, "Ma'am, I believe in the one who rose from the dead". Not only is misguided zeal dangerous, not only misdirected efforts useless, but thirdly, deliberately mishearing of the message can be just as deadly, verses 14 to 17. God does not leave himself without a witness. God sends heralds and they announce the good news.
So God speaks through family members, speaks through neighbors and speaks through co-workers. God speaks through preachers and Bible teachers. God speaks through difficult circumstances. I have some non-believing friends, man, when they're in trouble, said, "Will you pray for me"? You gotta understand that those difficult circumstances, God's way of speaking. Don't let them get off the hook. Let them know that. God is forever speaking to those who truly hear and respond wholeheartedly are the ones who are saved. If I ask each believer in this sanctuary or even those who are watching around the world, "How did you come to Christ"?
With very few exceptions, was that God used somebody or he may use several people to lead me to himself. Someone cared enough for you to hear and respond to the message of salvation. And when you heard it and called upon the name of the Lord, you were saved into eternal life. My beloved, that is why my life's motivation, whether I'm talking to one-on-one as I do often, or I'm speaking to 2 1/2 million people, it doesn't make any difference to me. It makes no difference whatsoever.
I want people to hear me, not mishear me. Then after hearing the truth, my prayer is that their hearts would be convicted and they would believe the truth in Jesus and then they would call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. But I also encounter some who deliberately mishear the word of truth, deliberately. I don't let them get away with it. They deliberately mishear the truth and that deliberate mishearing of the truth is going to serve as a witness on the day when they stand before the high court of God.
Question: why must every single believer, every single believer... you cannot... you're gonna say, "Well, he's speaking to my wife," "he's speaking to my husband". No, no, I'm speaking to you. Can't bust that, pass that buck. I'm speaking to every believer around the world, here. Why must every believer should be and must be a proclaimer of the truth? Why? Because this is how the sovereign God chose for his truth to be disseminated, for his truth to be revealed. That's how he chose it. Listen to me. If I was the sovereign Lord, and thank God I'm not, but if I was the sovereign God, I would not have chosen me to do this, I promise you. I wouldn't have chosen me.
Now, don't get uppity. I wouldn't chose you either. Just in case. The bottom line is this. When you and I refuse to disseminate God's truth, when you and I ignore the responsibility to tell others about God's truth, when you and I place our own self-interest above the gospel message, God is, we're not gonna lose your salvation, but he's gonna place you on a shelf. If you've ever been on a shelf, you know what I'm talking about. If you and I refuse to tell our neighbors about Jesus, God is gonna look down from heaven and he says, "Well, you know what? I'm not frustrated by your disobedience. I'm just gonna put you on a shelf and I'm gonna get somebody else who's obedient, who's willing, and use them".
The problem is when that happens, we are the ones who miss out on the joy and the blessing of seeing someone come to Christ. We're the one who miss out on the untold blessings of seeing a spiritually dead person rises to life. The very reason why God chose Israel and Paul makes it clear here, even Moses made it very clear. The reason God chose Israel so that they may be a light to the nations, so that they would get Yahweh known to the pagans. But instead, you know what they've done? They become so navel-gazing and thought, "Whoa, God is a smart guy. He chose us. God is really bright guy. He chose us". No, no, no, no, no, no. God chose them to make his name known to the Gentiles.
That's the purpose for calling them and because of their unwillingness to introduce others to the Jehovah God, God withdrew his commission from Israel and he handed it to the church. Read it in every last part of the Gospels, the four Gospels and the book of Acts. Five times, God hands the commission to the church and if God... beloved, listen to me. If God withdrew his commission from the people whom Zechariah 2:8 says, "The apple of his eye," would he hesitate for a moment of taking it from individual believers, take it from a church? Travel to Europe. You'll see with your eyes thousands of churches have turned to be museums for tourists. God departed. He said, "My Spirit will not strive with man forever".
And if God's speaking to you, listen to me, and you're constantly overriding the voice of the Holy Spirit, be very careful because one day he's gonna stop speaking. I'm not talking about salvation now. Don't force the hand of God to place you on a shelf and move on with somebody who is willing and who's obedient.
Question: why would God place a disobedient child on a shelf and move on? Because God intends for his message to be heard, not misheard. He wants the message to be pronounced. He wants the message to be witnessed to. He wants the message to be spoken, spoken truthfully. He wants to be revealed to others through us, for this is the way he said, "My sheep will hear my voice and then respond to me". Verse 15: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news"! And here, the apostle Paul is quoting from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, particularly chapter 52 and verse 7. I'm always amazed at the way God works.
You know what? And I hope that I will be until the day he takes me home, that I'll never lose that kind of wonder and amazement about the sovereign God working in different ways with different people. Sometimes, he chooses the most unlikely people and he does. In fact, most often. Beloved, God can take our most feeble efforts. Don't despise the gift of God. Don't despise yourself. He can take the most feeble efforts and he can transform a life and that life can transform a whole lot of lives.
It was a Sunday school teacher who led D.L. Moody to Christ as a young man and D.L. Moody rocked two continents for Christ. A problem today, very few people are doing the work of announcing the good news of Christ. But do you know why? Do you know why? Whether they know it or not, they're... deep down, they're ashamed of the gospel. They're afraid of rejection. And vast majority of believers today are spectators. Beloved, listen to me. Why miss out on the blessing? Years ago, a lady walked up to D.L. Moody and she said, "Mr. Moody, I don't like the way you do evangelism". He said, "Well, I don't like it either. How do you do it"? She said, "I don't". He said, "Well, I like the way I'm doing it instead of your way of not doing it".
Not only misguided zeal is dangerous. Not only misdirected efforts are useless. Not only deliberately mishearing leads to hardening of the heart. But fourthly and lastly, repeated rejection out of stubborn pride will lead to God's ultimate judgment. Look at verses 18 to 21. Beloved, if the announcing of the good news leads to hearing and hearing leads to believing, the question is why not everybody believes? Why not all the Jews in the time of Jesus did not believe in him as their Messiah? Well, it's very simple. Matter of fact, the early church, all of the early church, were all Jewish but they were a small number.
Why not everybody believed in him? And that's a good question. And I believe with all my heart, and I want you to go home and read this passage. Read it carefully, particularly the last few verses, because you will see that this is the very question that has perplexed the apostle Paul. And you can see the perplexed and he's saying far from God being neutral toward his Jewish people, he's persuaded them, he pleaded with them, he begged them. He holds his hands open day and night, like a parent who's inviting a wayward child to come back home for hugs and kisses and warm welcome.
God said, "I have my hands open, my arms open, day and night". But instead of responding to the invitation of mercy, they chose to remain disobedient and obstinate. And so Paul comes to the end of chapter 10 of Romans and he comes full circle and he places 100% of the responsibility of rejecting Jesus squarely in the lap of those who have rejected him. Beloved, on the day of judgment, no one will be able to have a single excuse, not one. The Scripture said in Romans 2, chapter 1, "You are without excuse," or man or woman, without excuse.