Summary: We have a choice when it comes to serving God - we can be obstinate and stubborn and independent, or can let our hearts break and be submissive to Him. Find out the perils of the obstinate heart and the beaty of the broken heart in Romans 10.
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We Americans are proud of our heritage – especially here in Oregon. This is a pioneer state – Lewis and Clark (or was it Clark & Lewis?) braving the wilderness with Sacagawea; hardy pioneers traversing the Oregon Trail, then fighting off Indians to stake a claim in God’s country; the bottle bill; the beach bill; Assisted Suicide – all looked upon as hallmarks of a state where people are fiercely independent, sticking stubbornly to our course no matter what because “Things are different here.”
Some might call that attitude tenacious – but when it comes to serving God, it may very well be nothing more than obstinate pride. Maybe it’s no wonder that Oregon is the least churched state in the Union. A recent census found that 70% of people in Yamhill County (where Newberg is located) do NOT attend church – and as we know, not all of those 30% who do attend are Christians.
The pioneer spirit lives! The pioneer spirit can lead to death unless your heart is broken before the Lord. This week we find Paul dealing with that same kind of obstinate attitude among his people, the Jews – and it serves as a picture for us as we choose – obstinacy, or submission.
1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
You may remember this heart from chapter 9, where Paul actually said he would be willing to be separated from Christ if it meant his brothers in Israel could be saved. This reflects the heart of God – willing to give up anything for the salvation of others. Now many of the Jews didn’t think they needed saving at all.
2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
The Jews were indeed zealous for God. Paul himself had so much zeal for God that he hunted down Christians and had them killed for preaching about Jesus. That is, until God revealed one little fact that Paul had overlooked – that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, and God Himself.
And it brings up a good point: there are many “religious” people in the world that have all kinds of “zeal” for God. Terrorists, in fact, give their lives in zeal for Allah. But their zeal is without knowledge – they are missing key information about God which makes their zeal useless.
Even those of us who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior can fall into this trap – we let our excitement and exuberance outpace our wisdom and knowledge. That’s how we get some of the cults we see out there today, that’s some of the strange doctrines that seem to run around the church.
Now zeal is a good thing – Jesus said “zeal for my Father’s house will consume me.” (John 2:17) Fervency, excitement, “on-fire” for God – these are good things. In fact, the word “zeal” means “to heat up.” So how do you know if your zeal is running ahead of your knowledge?
I would suggest applying one simple test – is what you propose based on the revealed will of God as found in His Word? Even more specific, was it foretold in the Old Testament, taught by Jesus, and spoken of by the Apostles? One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is that they feel as if God has given them a “new revelation” that goes beyond the Word and is fresh for today. I say “baloney!”
2 Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
If the Jews of Jesus day and afterward had read the Scriptures they had with an open heart, they could have readily seen that Jesus was the Messiah – and many did – but here’s what happened to many others:
3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
All rightness comes from God – we don’t stand on our own – but it is the gift of God through Jesus Christ. If, however, we try to make ourselves right by how many rules we obey or how “good” a person we can be – then what happens is we miss God’s righteousness in Jesus. Jesus is the “end of the law” because no one can fulfill the law – only Jesus has, and we get His rightousness.
5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them."