THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Rom. 10:10 – for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

How do you know if someone you know or maybe a new friend that you meet is actually saved? Or even more disturbing, how do you know if you are saved? Many will go back to the answering of the altar call or “praying the prayer” but do those things really tell us of a person’s conversion? Another thing that some may look at as a good indicator of conversion is their behavior. Are they walking in moral purity? Do they dress modestly and behave appropriately around members of the opposite sex? Or do they drink alcohol or use recreational drugs? Do these things really tell us about the true condition of a person’s soul? Maybe, but some people live a pretty clean and moral life without a true born again experience. Maybe their is another indicator we can look at. Maybe it has to do with our affections, the things that we love. Here is how John Piper describes conversion.

“There is a connection between the feelings of the soul and the sensations of the body. This is owing, Jonathan Edwards says, to “the laws of union which the Creator has fixed between the soul and the body.” In other words, heartfelt gratitude can make you cry. Fear of God can make you tremble. The crying and the trembling are in themselves spiritually insignificant. The train can run without them…… Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.”

That is it, Christianity is radical and conversion is supernatural. Salvation gets to the very core of our human experience. The new birth changes our heart, the very essence of what makes us tick. When we are truly born of the Spirit we begin to love different things than before. Rather than our lives being dominated by our sensual pleasures of choice we begin to have a passion for spiritual things. A new love for the Bible, gathering together with other Christians for worship and Bible teaching, and spending time in personal worship becomes the passion of our soul. So that’s how you know, have a look at the things you love and you will get a clear indication of the condition of your soul.

WHO HAS BELIEVED?

Rom. 10:16,17, 20 – But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying,

“I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”

Religion and faith can be a tricky business. The Jews had been the “chosen people” for so long in Paul’s day that they just took their spirituality for granted. Jesus had come on the scene and turned over the apple cart. All their pre-supposed rules and privileges suddenly meant nothing. Now, to make matters worse, the former Pharisee, the Apostle Paul, was converting thousands of gentiles to this Christian faith. This was absolutely unthinkable. Now Paul was going even a step further, it wasn’t good enough to be born as a Jew, now you also had to be born again. It seemed to much of the jewish world that the gentiles were taking their privileged place. In today’s passage Paul is talking about this very basic essence of spirituality; you have to believe the report of the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word. What word? The word of the gospel; that Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and is sitting at the right hand of God as our High Priest. Only those that believe that report can be made righteous before the Lord. Here is how Luther describes this passage.

“I was found of them that sought me not. Isaiah writes this against the Jews who boasted of their merits. The Jews certainly do not like to hear that they have been rejected. When Christ told them that at the time of Elias there were many widows in Israel, but that the prophet was sent only to the pagan widow in Zarephath, they wanted to hurl Him over a precipice. For they perceived that they were rejected before the heathen and regarded as unworthy (of salvation). For them this was an unbearable thought; they were proud of the blood of the Fathers and boasted of the righteousness of the Law. But here it tells them: I have made myself known to them, (the Gentiles), because of my grace and not because of the zeal or merits of any man. Here the word applies: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased”. All this was written and done in order that the overbearing arrogance of men (in spiritual matters) might be suppressed and the grace of God might be magnified. For “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

So who has believed the report? Those whose ears have been opened by the Lord by grace through faith. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable grace.

BEAUTIFUL FEET

Rom.10:14,15 – How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

It had been a long, hot day of pine cone picking in Klamath Falls, Oregon when this scripture took on new meaning for me. Parris and I were part of a team working with Weyerhaeuser to supply funds for our Bible College. I had been working all day and was hot and thirsty. One of our team leaders, Glenn Swarthout, had gone to get water for our team. I can still remember the moment even though it has been well over forty years ago. The mountains were stunning and it was a beautiful late summer day when I heard Glen singing and worshipping in the distance. Isaiah’s version of this promise says it like this, Isa.52:7 – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Seeing Glenn coming around the bend through the trees was a beautiful sight. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but we were really thirsty. Nice cold water was the best news I could possibly receive, it was like nourishment for my soul.

Now think about this for a moment, God’s word is compared to water in the scriptures. It cleanses and refreshes us. It is the very source of life. Each one of us, as Christians, are called in some capacity to be carriers of God’s Word. We are carrying this water of life to the people of our world. To those who begin to get it, those whose hearts are opening to the gospel, our arrival is beautiful. We are those carrying the refreshing water of the word to the thirsty in the wilderness of this world.

Each one of us are strategically planted in the world to be carriers of His good news. You aren’t in your family by accident, your neighborhood and your place of employment are really divine assignments filled with His appointments. I am thankful for those who have brought me a refreshing drink over the years, now its my turn to bring His refreshing into the wilderness.