Summary: This concludes a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Romans. God’s call of grace on our own lives calls us to be Christian witnesses to others. Our attitudes, behaviors, and actions reflect on our Christian witness.
Bibliography: Becoming a Contageous Christian by Bill Hybels, Can We Talk? by Robert Tuttle
This summer, we have been traveling with Paul, taking a trip down the Roman road of salvation. On our journey, Paul has taken the time to share with us the following things:
1. There is nothing you can do to earn God’s grace. Paul tells us that no one is righteous, not even one of us, no matter how hard we might try.
Though we might wish to have a good relationship with God, inevitably we will fail without the forgiveness and redemption we receive in Christ Jesus.
2. Paul therefore calls us to focus our attention on what we want. If a life of sin, of misery, of condemnation is what we wish, can certianly achieve it, simply by focusing our attention and pursing such a lifestyle.
If, however, we wish to be made right with God, wish to live a life that manifests itself in the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control,
then we don’t have any time to spare in pursuit of anything that might take us away from God.
3. To pursue such virtues, is to know God by your heart, not just by your intellect. Many people know about Jesus. Many people know about religion. Many people will tell you what they believe and what they don’t believe, what they agree with from each denomination and what they don’t agree with. That’s a different thing entirely from having a relationship with Jesus.
Its the difference between knowing who your mother is and loving her. Its the difference between recognizing your children’s faces and loving them.
There is no substitute. The only way to recieve salvation in Christ is through faith, and by loving him.
4. Although we can never earn God’s love, once we accept it, it is not an easy grace. As with any other relationship, in order to work, it takes a full-fledged, no turning back, all out commitment.
Paul calls us to be living sacrifices for Christ. Paul invites us to take it personal, to let Christ really make a difference in us by infiltrating every aspect of our life - our job, our home life, our conversations, even our recreation. As Christians, we are called to be outward signs of the grace within us, to be living symbols of that grace and conveyers of God’s grace, as well.
5. To show you how far we are to go, we are even to love our enemies.
This is not an easy road to follow.
We have to consider how do Christians behave when others aren’t treating us in a very Christian manner. Its very difficult to care about people who don’t seem to care about us, who don’t seem to have the same value system we have, particularly when it comes to the value we place upon the life of another - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
6. That brings us to the point in our journey with Paul this evening.
Let me tell you what’s going on in Rome. We in our world today have a hard enough time coming together across ethnic and social boundries. In the days of Paul, it was all but impossible. But to believe in the Christian faith is to believe that absolutely everyone is equal in the eyes of God.
It was just hard for Christians to believe that about other, different Christians.
It wasn’t so hard for those on the outskirts of society, for the throw aways of society (throw aways: those whose lives matter so little you can just throw them away).
But when you were rich, it was hard to accept poor people as your equals. When you were a man, it was hard to accept women as your equals. When you were free, it was hard to accept slaves as your equals. When you were a Jewish Christian, it was hard to accept a gentile Christian as your equal.
I know you won’t believe it, but what the church in Rome had - as apparently Paul had heard rumored - were small cliques of Jesus’ followers who gathered together for worship and fellowship, and wondered about the salvation and true worship of other Christians who were different from them.
Let me tell you about one of the ways it manifested itself.
Jews, faithful Jews, had laws about every aspect of life. That included certain foods they could and couldn’t eat as well as ways in which food had to be prepared in order to eat it.
One of the biggies, was the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. Jewish people weren’t the only people who offered animal sacrifices in those days. The gentile pagan worshippers burned meat on the altars of their gods too.