If They Don’t Hear How Will they Know?

men wearing robe and scarf

Paul told the Roman church that everyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart will be saved, whether Jew or Greek (Romans 10:9-13). The Roman church had an issue with Greek believing Christians taking over the synagogues when the Jews were expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius. The Jews were rumored to have made disturbances at the instigation or “Chrestus” (a misspelling of the Greek word Chrestos, or Christ). When the Jewish Christians were allowed back into Rome, the Greeks sort of pulled rank. The Jewish Christians appealed to being Jewish and being the reason they believed in God in the first place. It created tension in the Roman church and Paul wrote a letter to put them all on equal ground.

Now that Paul establishes that the Gospel is for all people, he turns to the need for Christians to confess and to preach: “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?” (Romans 10:14 ESV). These are perfectly valid questions and they, of course, are rhetorical.

There is a dire need for people to preach. Millions of people are dying without ever having heard the Good News of Jesus. Our faith comes from hearing: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (vs. 17). If we are not investing in the sharing of the kingdom, God’s word will never be heard by people.

More Than Conquerors

the memorial of sultan mehmed ii the conqueror

It’s no secret that Paul went through many struggles when he became a Christian. In his letter to the churches in Rome, he spoke about their future glory and that the Holy Spirit was interceding on their behalf with groans that words cannot express. The Spirit does this to help us in our weakness. There are two truths that are in tension: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). The other truth is that all kinds of trouble will come our way (vs. 35).

But Paul is arguing that none of those things, whether good or bad, will be able to separate us from the love of Christ: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (vs. 35). These things will come, but they won’t separate us from God. The reason? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (vs. 37).

Paul is sure that “nether death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come. . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 38, 39). This is why Paul is able to strain toward the goal. There is no giving up in the kingdom of God!

My Lord and My God

human standing beside crucifix statue on mountain

We all know the resurrection story well. And we believe, otherwise we would not be Christians. Sometimes it’s easy to take our faith for granted because many of us have been taught from a young age. We live in a country where Bibles are readily available and it even follows us on our phone. But the first disciples of Jesus had a different vantage point than we do. They were with Jesus and witnessed his many miracles, including bringing people back from the dead.

It shouldn’t be that surprising, then, that they had a difficult time believing that Jesus had died in such a vulnerable way. The One who was able to raise people from the dead was now. . . dead. When he appeared alive at the tomb to Mary, John, and Peter, they believed and announced it to the other disciples. Then Jesus appeared to the disciples and “he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20 ESV). For whatever reason, Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus showed up.

The other disciples told Thomas that they saw Jesus but Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into his side, I will never believe” (vs. 25). Jesus did not appear to Thomas until eight days later when he showed up to the whole group. He allowed Thomas to put his finger in his side and to look at his hands. Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” (vs. 28).

Jesus asked a rhetorical question, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29). We truly are blessed. And we truly do believe in Jesus’ resurrection!

The Stones Cry Out

cairn stones and body of water in distance

Jesus fulfilled what Zechariah prophesied when he rode on a colt at the triumphal entry. As he rode on the donkey people threw their cloaks on the colt. Many others threw their cloaks on the road and celebrated him for the works they saw him doing. They praised God saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 ESV). Some of the Pharisees said, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (vs. 39-40).

What was prophesied was prophesied. The disciples were going to praise him no matter who tried to stop them. At first glance it seems like the story is going to build and build where Jesus puts on his superman outfit and defeats the enemy. Instead, when Jesus enters Jerusalem he is overwhelmed with sadness.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life was right in front of their eyes and they were about to reject him and hand him over to be killed. He wept over Jerusalem, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (vs. 42). Great sorrow came upon Jesus because he knew that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of their disobedience. The week leading up to Christ’s death and ultimate resurrection was a dark week.

God Has Plans for You

white paper with note

Jeremiah the prophet was told by God that the Israelites would experience horrific defeat and ultimately a 70 year exile into foreign land. It was a grim outlook that seemed hopeless. 70 years is a long time to be living in exile. But there was hope for the people who kept their eyes on God. He promised to return them and help them rebuild the land they once knew and loved: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). He promised that they would pray to him and he would hear their prayers.

Being in exile would require a lot of faith and trust in God as well as patience. Proverbs 21:5 says that “the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” This rule applies to every aspect of life. If we want to come to an abundance in life we need to be diligent planners. We have to have vision and keep our focus on God. We have to always keep focused on the goal no matter what our current life circumstances are. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). We need to always strain toward the goal but it requires vision and planning. We can’t haphazardly walk through life crossing our fingers and hoping things will just work out. Focusing on the goal requires discipline, patience, and determination.

When payer goes unanswered

person wearing red dress

Imagine if we were given everything that we ever asked for in this life. What would happen if we were literally given everything that we wanted? It probably wouldn’t take long for there to be global chaos. Our theme this year is straining toward the goal. One of the reasons we have to strain is because we are often denied and we lose a lot. If we count the losses in our life we quickly realize that life if full of losses. We lose health, loved ones, wealth, and so on.

But what happens when our prayers go unanswered? David experienced unanswered prayer. When Bathsheba gave birth to her and David’s first child, the Lord afflicted the child. “David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16 ESV). For seven days David prayed and fasted but “on the seventh day the child died” (vs. 18). David’s servants were afraid to break the news to him. Imagine praying all day, every day for a solid week. Imagine praying that your child gets better and then he dies.

David suspected that the child died and he asked the servants. They confirmed that the boy died. “Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (vs. 20). It certainly wasn’t easy to worship. I doubt David was jumping for joy. But he loved God regardless and worshiped even when his prayer was not answered. Of course we know that David’s live was blessed but it was not an easy path. David would face many very difficult years after this.

Cut to the Heart

close up photo of man crying in pink shirt

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, thousands of people were baptized and were added to the body of believers that day. What would lead to such a great revival? When we think revival, we think of motivational speakers who connect people to the heart of God, convincing them to believe and keep their life right with God. But what happened on Pentecost was less of a revival and more of a mess of brokenness.

Peter was blunt: “Men of Israel, hear these words: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men'” (Acts 2:22, 23 ESV). Peter again made his point clear: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (vs. 36).

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart” (vs 37). That word was used only here in the entire Bible. It literally means to pierce down, meaning that they were pierced all the way down to the bottom of their heart. This was not just a shrugged off sadness. Rather, it would have been a violent piercing of their emotions. It shook them to their core that they chose a prisoner to be released over Jesus. The irony is that, as they were celebrating the Passover, they were sending God’s Lamb to be slaughtered. It was a dark day for them, but their asking Peter and the other apostles what they should do shows us that they were genuinely repentant.

Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and they would receive God’s Spirit. The response was swift and encouraging. The crowd responded in the best possible way and so began the church.