Summary: This is the 5th sermon in a series on Paul’s letter to Romans. Knowing Christ by heart is not rote memorization. Its a different way of knowing.
Bibliography: Two Roads Diverge in the Woods, The Blue Bird
Travel back to your days in high school English class. Do you recall a poem by Robert Frost titled, The Road Not Taken?
Listen to this poem:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost talks about living life in two different ways. As the narator of the poem, he chose to live a different way than most people: one perhaps more challenging, one perhaps requiring more of a personal investment and commitment than the the other.
In our Bible Lesson, Paul explores two ways of knowing and discovery, two ways of having a relationship with God.
One way is a legalistic way. It’s the way of rote obedience, of following all the rules, of faithfulness to religious expectations to a fault.
The other way of having a relationship with God involves faith. It involves believing in the love of God in such a way that can’t be known by the mind, but can only be known by the heart.
Now I’m the kind of person that can handle just about anything, as long as I know what’s coming, what to expect. Car repairs, medical proceedures, home improvements - it doesn’t matter. I can deal with almost anything if I know what’s going on and what’s about to happen. I’m a person that likes to be informed.
But being informed, doesn’t address all of my needs. That the doctors knows what medical proceedure I need to have done, and can explain it all to me, doesn’t make the physician care for me on a personal, intimatel level. The expertiece of the mechanic doesn’t address my concerns and anxiety.
I can read up on my medical condition, I can take a class in automotive repairs, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still have a problem and doesn’t mean the doctor or mechanic will be my savior in my time of need.
Paul talks about two ways of knowing, and only one of those-knowing God by heart rather than by mind, knowing God by faith- is one able to truly know God.
One current expression that illustrates what I’m trying to say goes like this:
‘Being in McDonalds doesn’t make you a hamburger and being in church doesn’t make you a Christian.’
Paul knew a lot of people who may have been at McDonalds, but they weren’t hamburgers. They may have been very faithful, religious people. They were good people, who tried to be obedient to all the laws, rules, and guide lines required by their religion. They know their faith. They know all the ends and outs of whats expected of them - when to pray and how to pray, what the Scriptures say and the special code of ethics for relating to other people. But there was one very crucial element missing in their life. Their relationship with God was one established through knowledge of expected religious practices, but they didn’t necessarily know God in their heart.
Such a person today may be one who attends church fairly regularly. Maybe they actively participate in a small group of some kind in some way. Perhaps they give regularly of their finances and make donations of their time now and then. But all of these things don’t make that person a Christian at the heart. They may know who Jesus is, may know all about him, but they don’t necessarily take it seriously enough to have relationship with him.
I’m thinking it sounds like I am discrediting active church participation, but I’m not. Here at Grace we have high expectations of membership and believe these expectations are important. Faithful attendance, small group participation, studying the Bible, giving of our time, talent, and financial resources are all very important aspects our our Christian faith.
What I am saying is, these things aren’t the summation of a relationship with Jesus. They are a means to an end, not the end itself.
They are tools that lead us and teach us in our relationship with Christ. They help us to discover and continually rediscover who Jesus is. They help us to get to know Jesus, and they help us to grow in our relationship with Jesus.