Summary: The love of Christ compels us to have heavy hearts over those without hope in the Savior.
Remember the Tin man from the Wizard of Oz? What he wanted more than anything was to have a heart. He saw himself as an emotionless hunk of metal trapped in a tin body and incapable of feeling. He wanted to know what it was like to have compassion. In the end, what we remember most about the Tin man is that what he so desired – to have a heart – was what he had all along.
Today, we learn the same thing is true of Christians. The apostle Paul relates this truth to us in a very personal way. We learn that CHRISTIANS HAVE A HEART: a heart 1) for others, and 2) for the truth.
1) A Heart for People
Why are you here today? The obvious answer: “it’s Sunday, pastor!” That is true. Sunday brings us to church. But why? Get behind the question. Why are you here? You’re here because someone cared about you. Someone thought enough to share Christ Jesus with you. Someone had a heart. Perhaps it was your parents, your grandparents, a pastor or a Sunday school teacher (or all of the above). Either way, someone had a heart for others, namely you.
The apostle Paul tips his hand and shows us that he had a heart. He had a heart for his fellow-Jews: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” In recent years, the apostle Paul has been accused of being many things: a male chauvinist, homophobic, anti-Semitic; the list could go on. Yet, all those are bold-faced lies! They are godless attempts to try and undermine the truth of Scripture – Christians have a heart! Paul had a heart for others. In this case, he tells the Romans, and us, that his heart bled for his fellow Jews. The reason for his sorrow and anguish is that his own people had rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior of the world.
This caused the apostle fits. He was hardly able to find the words to express his feelings. When he considered what his fellow Israelites had given up, it nearly drove Paul mad. His heart ached for these people! They were so close and yet so far! He talks about the gracious blessings God had given to these special people: “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Two men were in a boat on the river leading to Niagara Falls. Suddenly, they found themselves out of control and being swiftly carried by the current towards the falls. A safety line was floated out to both men. The first man simply reached out and grabbed, trusting it would save him. The other man saw the rope, but at the same instant he saw the rope, a log floated near him. Thoughtless and confused, the man laid hold of the log instead of the rope. It was a fatal mistake. Both men were in imminent peril. The one was drawn to shore because the rope was connected to it, while the other man, clinging to the loose, floating log, was swept away in the foaming current. (Excerpt from sermon by Gerald Flury, SermonCentral.com)
Faith has a saving connection with Christ. Christ is on the shore, so to speak, holding the rope, and as we lay hold of it with the hand of our confidence in him, he pulls us to shore. Any attempt to look to ourselves for salvation is merely a floating log that offers a feeling of buoyancy while allowing one to drift away from salvation. Grasp our virtues as tightly as we may, even with hooks of steel, they cannot benefit us in the least degree. They are the disconnected logs that have no hold on the heavenly shore. Christ is the only way.
Many ropes were cast out to the Israelites. Paul lists them. They were the chosen people of God. And this was simply a gift of his grace. They had a unique place in God’s heart; calling Israel, “his son.”
God’s own presence was cast upon these people. The “glory of the LORD” led this nation through the wilderness as a pillar of fire and smoke. His presence filled the tabernacle and later the temple. We learn that this unique presence of God was, in fact, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in visible form. All this was meant to encourage the people and lead them to trust their Savior-God.