Summary: The Gospel message of salvation is simple. Believe and confess that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved. Why do we make it so complex?
Believe and Confess – A Sermon on Romans 10:9
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in unity with the Holy Spirit.
We human beings have a knack for making even simple things complex. Someone that we work with says “Good morning” to us and we start wondering what they meant by that. A husband buys his wife some flowers and she begins to think that he must have done something horrible and he’s just trying to placate his guilt. So often, we can’t accept the simplest explanation of things. We always suspect that others have devious motivations when they do something nice for us. We tend to think that when someone gives us a gift, it’s only because they want something from us. We don’t enjoy the gift because we worry what it’s really going to cost us. We always seem to want make things more complex than they actually are and it just causes problems for us.
Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist back in the first half of the 20th century who made fun of this tendency in people by drawing very complex machines to take care of a very simple task. Here’s a Rube Goldberg machine that is an automatic safety device for walking on slippery surfaces. Of course, it might be easier just to not walk on ice.
We also make our relationship with God way more complex than it needs to be. We’ve been given a gift, the greatest gift that’s ever been given, the greatest gift possible – eternal life in the presence of God. There are no strings attached. It’s a gift that is given freely by God to each one of us who will accept it. This is a gift that came with a massive price tag, the suffering and death of the only Son of God, but it is given to us at no cost to us. Not to accept this gift is the most foolish thing that anyone can do and yet many people refuse to accept it. They refuse to accept it because they’ve made it more complex than it truly is.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Here is the key to eternal salvation. It is so simple. Believe and confess. That’s all there is to it. When we recite the creed in worship, we’re confessing with our mouth the faith that provides eternal life. Believe it in your heart and you will be saved. What could be simpler than that?
How do we make this simple truth more complex? We always think that something worthwhile having comes with a cost. Many people think that the greater the cost, the more worthwhile it is to have. People spend a great deal of money to buy a BMW because it’s supposed to be a much better car than a Kia. Both cars will get you from point A to Point B, but the higher cost gets you a more luxurious ride, better acceleration, and the status that goes with the price tag. But salvation is more like having someone hand you the keys to a brand new Lamborghini and saying “This is yours. No taxes. No title or license fees. Take it and enjoy.” Paul says that we don’t have to ascend into the heavens or descend into the depths to find Christ. We don’t have to go searching all over creation to receive this gift. It’s placed right in our hands, all we have to do is take hold of it. Christ comes to us, we don’t have to search for Him. But we have to make it harder, more complex, than that because that is our nature. We can’t accept how simple it is. We don’t believe that it’s a free gift. We think there’s strings attached.
Now I’ve just said that salvation doesn’t come with a cost. That there are no strings attached. But actually there is a cost. The cost is that we have to submit to Christ. We have to confess that Jesus is Lord. That is a cost that is too high a price for many. I watched Dinesh D’souza and the late Christopher Hitchens debate the case for the existence of God. You can find it on YouTube. Hitchens was a militant atheist who could not accept the free gift of salvation because it meant calling someone other than himself Lord. He admitted in his argument that even if it could be proven beyond a doubt that God exists, he still would reject Him because he did not want anyone, not even God, having authority over his own moral choices. He couldn’t accept that God has the authority to determine right from wrong. Well, Hitchens was wrong and he is now paying the extremely high cost of his refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, the cost of eternal damnation. Hitchens made the mistake of making something simple complex.