A Heart Change Toward Righteousness

2023 Summer in Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:29
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How Do We Do Righteousness?

We can try following a list of rules.
We can enforce a set of laws.
We can follow a master of righteousness.
We can dress right, talk right, learn all the best church words and say all the right church stuff.
The key is in the question. We can’t become righteous by doing what is righteous — although actions are important, doing righteousness doesn’t make us righteous.
None of the doing gets us any closer to becoming a righteous person.
We need the better question in mind: How do we become a righteous person?
Paul has been talking about his own people who have rejected the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. He knows they have a zeal for God and for the law, but he also knows that ambition towards righteousness makes it a contest of who can do it better, not a conquest of our selfish sinfulness.
So let’s get focused on what we need to have a heart change toward righteousness.
In this passage from Romans 10, in verse 4 Paul states an important fact:

The End is Our Beginning

The purpose of the law is to point us to the person who embodies the law lived out. We don’t need more rules or lists or books or federal registers. We need a relationship with the one who shows us what the whole point of the law is: We don’t need a computed righteousness, we need an imputed righteousness. Not a righteousness we have won for ourselves, but a righteousness that has been won for us by Jesus Christ who wants to give it to us.
Here’s how Paul puts it:
Romans 10:4 ESV
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Christ is the end of the law. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is the only one qualified to show us what the law is there for; Not as a principle of practice, but as a reality of relationship.
Christ is the law’s focus. Christ lives out the law’s purpose, to show the world how God’s people live and to bring glory to God in everything.
Christ invites us to live in His righteousness, to live in him, and he in us, through faith: to everyone who believes.
We’ve been introduced to a lot of ways that help us compute if we are righteous enough. That’s a lost cause, but we still try. After all, how are we going say “I’m better than you are” if we don’t have any way to measure it?
So we do what Paul’s Jewish compatriots were always trying to do: we try to practice a. . .

Strict Righteousness

Which is the way of the Pharisee. A route Paul knows well. That’s how he was taught to do righteousness. But he learned, after his encounter with the risen Christ, that with all of his efforts and study and campaigning and grandstanding, he was still far short of the life of righteousness that God intended for him.
That’s because the law is limited because it is lifeless.
Romans 10:5 ESV
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
When it is the law that rules your life, your life is limited by that law. So Paul says, “the person who does the commandments shall live by them.”
All by itself, it seems like that’s going to be fine. After all God never gave us a commandment that was bad for us; they are all given for our good. The problem is that law limits us. It does not free us from harm, it prohibits the harm we might do.
The commands of God are for our good, but our failure to keep them will turn out bad. Just go to Deuteronomy and read Chapter 28, and you will find 14 verses of wonderful blessings for obedience followed by 54 verses of terrible curses for failure to keep the commands of God. Not a very even mix.
If it is the commandments that give your life meaning, then you will soon turn into a commandment cop, suitable for the service of the Temple Guard but not for giving meaning to life outside of the limits — the “thou shalt nots” — of the law.
By the way, we need the “thou shalt not” commands, because we tend to be rather stupid in our human selfishness about what might be OK to do. Instead of giving us freedom in Christ, our selfish choices are more likely to tie us to habit and behaviors that enslave us.
The problem is, living by the law is a narrow, isolating, sterile existence. That is not God’s intention for his children.
Paul also reflects here on some useless mental exercises that are sort of . . .

Questions We Don’t Ask

If we want to understand the source of our life in Christ.
It’s kind of a “hide and seek” for a savior. It’s an uncommon approach for us today, so I won’t dwell on it here, but you can hear these verses and just understand that the minds fixed on living by the commands get a little confused about what they are supposed to be doing to encourage the coming of the Messiah.
This is given as the questions that faith-based righteousness does not need to ask. They were part of the debate-style learning of the Pharisees, as they purposed questions and answers to try and discover how to make sure the Messiah shows up.
Paul says faith doesn’t need these questions, because they provide no useful answers. Here it is:
Romans 10:6–7 ESV
6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
You can’t try to show up in the courts of heaven and demand the promised Messiah, and it’s pretty useless to dig up the past and find your Messiah in the glory of a past prelate or preacher or priest or president.
Those are questions that become meaningless because of what we already have because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and gift of the Holy Spirit to keep us centered.
“Human effort can neither bring about the incarnation nor produce the resurrection (v. 7).”
Grant R. Osborne, Romans: Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 308.
Faith-based righteousness doesn’t need to ask the useless questions, because there is a present promise that we have in the Scripture because we are told that. . .

Faith Makes a Statement

That relies on the same 5th book of Moses that the blessings and curses of the law come from.
Even within the limits of the law, God promises life, IF in fact it comes from a heart turned toward the righteousness God intends. Moses reminds us of the living Word of God which he experienced but faith:
Deuteronomy 30:14 ESV
14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
Part of Paul’s training was to memorize the laws of Moses, the first 5 books of the Bible, so the legal-minded Jew would have the nature of the law of God in mind. So Paul naturally quotes Moses as he continues his discussion on the problems of trying to live by the law.
Because, after all, this verse says it is possible, if the law is on you lips and inscribed on heart heart, then you can do the law.
Paul quotes Moses to introduce our confession of faith: For Paul, Jesus Christ is the living Word of God that is near, and by His Spirit form our words, and by his Spirit lives in our heart:
Romans 10:8 ESV
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
Paul is not satisfied with the possibility of obedience, of being able to “do the law”. We are called to something new, something more, something sure because the Son of God has lived for God, died for us, and raised to victory so we can experience the impossible: being saved from our sin and the death it imposes.
It’s wrapped up in. . .

Confession and Faith: Gaining Salvation

This is not a salvation based on our effort, it is a salvation based on what Jesus has done for us for our forgiveness. It is a reminder that God loves us so much that he has made it possible for us to be saved if we will take the simplest steps of faith and just believe in what God has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is the Good News that God loves us so much that he gave his only Son to this sinful world so that if we believe in him we will not perish but have life everlasting.
Here is Paul’s version of John’s statement, which is an assurance for us that our confession and faith bring us salvation from the penalties of our sin.
Romans 10:9 ESV
9 because, 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.
We will hear in just a moment that someone has to bring us the message of truth about Jesus so we know what to believe, but it becomes clear in this verse that it is faith that allows us confession that Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus is the Lord of my life and it is faith that allows me to believe from the depths of my heart God raised him from the dead — the tomb is empty! — and the promise is made to us here: YOU WILL BE SAVED.
If we do not have a word of salvation to share, then all we have is a story of a good man who showed us how to live a good life. There are hundreds of those over the years we can read about, but there is only one that can save us from our sins, and that is the holy Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior.
Confession and decision are acts of our mind, but it is all of us that must agree to who Jesus is so that our very lives can be changed.
You have to know in you minds enough of the facts of Jesus’ life to be able to confess that he is the Son of God, and your mind and your will must join together so you can confess that Jesus is the new master of your life, your Lord; and it is the heart, the emotional will, the seat of faith in us that needs to fully accept the impossible reality that God raised Jesus from the dead to be our Lord and Savior, to complete our salvation by faith.
This is important, so Paul also tells us clearly,

Why We Need A Heart Change

Otherwise, we might try to live on a simple nod of our heads and have a flimsy faith based on what we can learn. Instead of that, our belief with all our hearts must be a truth that we will not allow anyone to take from us.
Paul links our heart-change to being made right with God: justified. And he links our heart, mind, and mouth to the confession that we believe God has sent Jesus as our Lord and savior.
Romans 10:10–11 ESV
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Without a heart-change, we will have a flimsy faith, one in which the storms of life can tear down our chapel of things we believe as if it were built on the sand. Life will try to do you in; try to tear you down; try to remove your foundations.
So make sure your heart is settled on the reality that God has worked salvation for you through Jesus Christ in his life, death and resurrection. Never be moved from that confession.
And the promise of scripture is that your salvation is secure because of a heart changed to believe God and not just your own ideas or the whims of the world.
Another part of this heart-change reality is that. . .

Heart Change Salvation is for All

It’s not just for the champions of faithfulness. It’s not just for the bloodlines of Abraham. Salvation is God’s gift for all who will believe. Whether you are an insider or an outsider. Whether you are part of the upper crust elite or someone who mops the floors. Whether you are the engineer or the artist, the riveter or the trash collector, the pot-washer or the chef, God makes no distinction except that you believe in the gift of salvation.
Romans 10:12–13 ESV
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
No separation of classes, nor of race, nor of language, nor of education, economics, influence or gender.
The same Lord is Lord of all.
He bestows his riches on all who call on him.
Everyone — that means everyone — who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
But you have to make that call yourself. To hear, to believe, to confess, to trust in God as the one who saves you by the gift of His son, Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.
And we can trust all of this because it is the word of God, and

The Word of God Matters

It matters to what we believe. It matters to whom we believe. We need to hear, trust, believe, and be saved.
This doesn’t happen without people responding to God’s call to share the Good News of Salvation in Jesus’ name.
Paul reminds us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but, ...
Romans 10:14 ESV
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
The shared word of God matters.
It matters for knowing what to believe
It matters for in whom we believe
It matters for what is preached by God’s messenger.
This is not the word of some philosopher or historian that we hear and believe. This is the word of God that is brought by the spirit of God to the people of God.
That’s because

The Mission of God Matters

Romans 10:15 ESV
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
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