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.

Straining Toward the Goal

brown and white track field

There is an unusual way to budget that, frankly, ought to be the norm. It’s called PYF (pay yourself first). At first it sounds selfish, right? But the idea is actually the opposite of splurging on yourself. Instead, you budget in a way that pays your retirement, investing, and giving accounts before you even pay for necessities like mortgages, utilities, and food. Those actually come second in the budget. Then follow all the other essentials. Only after investments and necessities are covered should you budget for entertainment (subscriptions, eating out, etc.).

In this way, you plan for the future and don’t have to be wondering how to pay medical and electric bills in your 70s. But the majority of people don’t budget this way. I mention budgets because it’s really about goal setting. Most Christians don’t budget their time and resources with a pay-yourself-first attitude. In other words, we don’t invest in our salvation. Instead we “splurge” on other things that have nothing to do with our salvation.

Paul told the Philippian church, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14 ESV). Does this sound like someone who is wrapped up in himself or more like someone who is laser focused on “budgeting” his time and resources for the grand prize of salvation? Clearly it’s the latter. We too should be disciplined enough to strain toward the goal of salvation. One day it will knock on our door. We shouldn’t be surprised when it happens.


Happy Summer Solstice Northern Hemisphere

This year’s theme is God first. We’ve been talking about God and you–developing a deeper relationship with God. John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7 ESV). God loved us enough to send his only son for us. Therefore, John concludes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (vs. 11).

We have confidence that God remains in us because he gives us his Spirit. Furthermore, “whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (vs. 15). This gives us absolute confidence for the day of judgment and we know that we will spend eternity with God.

John concludes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (vs. 18). If we’ve really been perfected in love, Christians should have no fear of death or judgment. This gives us peace of mind and courage to teach others, knowing that we are secure with God.

Approaching the Throne With Confidence

grayscale photo of the crucifix

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This passage is in the bigger context of Jesus being our high priest. This passage is important because we should be able to come to God with confidence (the word used here means to be able to speak freely and unhindered).

One of the biggest things that trips up Christians is the lack of belief in ourselves because of our sins or shortcomings. Earlier, this passage says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (vs. 15). This is vital because, oftentimes, our sin leaves us feeling guilty and unequipped to carry out the works of God’s kingdom.

Our lack of confidence leads to a downward spiral, where we feel like even God isn’t on our side. It’s vital, as the church, to have confidence in approaching God’s throne of grace. Without grace we will always flounder and hesitate to do good works. However, when we have confidence we won’t hesitate to do what’s right in the eyes of God, because we know that we have already received his grace. Hesitation turns into procrastination, and procrastination leads to stagnation.

The Triumphal Entry and Barren Fig Tree

silhouette of palm trees near shoreline

As Easter fast approaches, we cannot ignore the significance of the triumphal entry Jesus had as he approached Jerusalem. Jesus sent his disciples ahead and told them to find a donkey and a colt. This was to fulfil the prophecy in Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).

Jesus was clearly fulfilling the prophecy that was spoken in Zechariah. The desperate people gave him a red carpet treatment as he rode by placing their cloaks and palm branches on the road. Matthew said the crowds were shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV).

Immediately after the entry, Jesus clears the Temple, overturning tables and driving out the money-changers. Matthew is alluding to the Temple being torn down and by Jesus’ doing this, he demonstrates that the Temple is not the safe haven Jews think that it is. While still in the Temple, the blind and lame came to him and he began to heal these “outcasts.”

Finally, Jesus curses the fig tree that had leaves but no figs. This was another way of showing that Israel was barren and the barrenness was not going to be tolerated. There is judgment on people who claim to love God but are barren in the fruits of their faith. All these things point to salvation that comes through Christ alone.

Enter the Narrow Door

photo of woman walk through pathway

As Jesus was making his way toward Jerusalem, he was passing through towns and villages. Someone asked him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23 ESV). This was an important question that may be a lot more about quality than it is about quantity. It’s doubtful this person was asking about statistics on those who would be saved. Even if he intended to learn about quantity, Jesus responded in a qualitative manner.

Jesus’ reply was, “Strive to enter by the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (vs. 24). Jesus then went on to describe what he meant by this by concluding, “And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (vs. 30). This language was often used by Jesus to talk about the importance of humble servanthood. Disciples should consider other people more important then themselves. We should empty ourselves for the sake of others. We should give and serve without expecting anything in return.

This is the narrow door. The door is narrow because there are no shortcuts. There are no get into heaven for free cards. There are no gimmicks or shortcuts to get into heaven. Salvation requires service, dedication, and sacrifice. And Jesus pleaded with his listeners to enter by the narrow door. It was not popular to enter by this path. It required breaking from traditions. Often it meant breaking from family and friends. The narrow gate isn’t comfortable, but the reward is eternal!

The Lord’s Compassion


While God’s foundation is righteousness and justice, he longs for people to repent. In God’s compassion he offers a way for our sins to be removed. God doesn’t wish harm on people who sin, but neither will he tolerate continual unrepentant sin. Isaiah preached during a time of great unrest. The people were wicked. They were oppressive. Poverty was rampant and disease was common.

As we noted last week, Isaiah preached hope into the hearts of the few righteous people. God longs for people to come back to him. God calls us to love and bless our neighbors. In Isaiah 55, Isaiah speaks of God’s compassion for those who turn back to him. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV).

This is great news for people who are still alive. It’s not too late to turn back to God. In his compassion, he extends pardon because of his mercy. It’s perfectly fine to warn people who do not repent. And it’s also good to share God’s compassion with those who turn back to God. This is not about people turning to God for their own sake, but for the blessing of others. Our wold can and should be a kinder place. It should be a place of peace where people feel safe to walk the streets.

As Isaiah says, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash