The Word is near You (Romans 10:5-17)

Romans   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  52:10
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The Word is Near You (Romans 10:5-17)

Why do we celebrate Mother’s Day? Perhaps because, along with fatherhood, the massive and critically important service of motherhood rarely receives the thanks it deserves. We are so used to our mother’s being there, we forget to stop, consider and respond to how faithfully our mothers we there for us. Even if our mothers - who are (believe it or not) human beings with flaws and limitations like the rest of us - did not provide everything that might be needed or wanted of them, thankfully very few of them failed to exercise the gargantuan grace and perseverance they needed to stop themselves kicking us out on our backside when we too frequently deserved it. They ensured we had food… shelter... comfort... protection… instruction in so many places where it was oh so needed…
Cyprian charging… crawling off the bed… Treating our words of wisdom and instruction as distant irrelevant things… superceded by his own wisdom and reckoning - if I just do it this way...
We, like Cyprian, in our infinite wisdom try to do the same infinite God and when … Then we panic… cling to what feels comfortable, secure...
In an age in our culture where we are self-made, self-reliant, self-defining - we too find it all to easy to look first to our own ideas of what is good and right to be and do - or we look to others - we consult everything - friends, guides, stranger’s reviews and opinions on the internet - cover all the angles - we mitigate the risk - we insure and hedge our bets, if we can - and then we might ask the Lord to bless our efforts as an afterthought...
Roadmap 3 Words
The Far Word Romans 10:5-7
The Near Word Romans 10:8-10
The Sure Word Brought Near Romans 10:11-17
Paul learnt these lessons the hard way. For Saul, before he became Paul, was convinced that he was zealously pursuing righteousness, looking from himself to his Pharisee peers and to the rest of the unwashed masses, he measured up pretty well. Until he found himself confronted by the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he did not see that he was persecuting the faithful people of the Lord his God, instead of protecting them. Standing in a proud tradition, his zeal for his path that he shared with his Pharisee peers and teachers and protecting it, blinded him to the Lord’s intervention as he chose to trust what he knew rather than the Lord.
So in Romans, he unfolds the light of the gospel shown to him - a righteousness not gain through keeping the Law as he had been taught but received as a gift by faith in the Lord who gave it to them. A transition to hope from hopelessness in Romans 1-4, to election from enmity in Romans 5-11, and to service from sacrifice in Romans 12-16. As we come to chapter 10, Paul makes the following reaffirmation about the hope and election to righteousness in which we now stand:
The New International Version Chapter 9

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

So as we reaching the end of Romans 9 and begin Romans 10, he demonstrates how the nation of Israel failed to understand God’s mercy in a way both very similar and very different to how the the Old Testament records their forefathers failed before them. And as much as I would like to spend twice as long unpacking those in great length I can only touch on them briefly today.

The Far Word (Romans 10:5-7)

While Paul draws a connection between the licentious, free-wheeling and dealing kings and people of Israel in Judah during Isaiah’s time, seeking to place their faith for prosperity, security and righteousness in gods, kings and nations everywhere and anywhere except in the Lord their God alone - and the religiously and ceremonial proper descendants who fleeing the licentious behaviour of the forebears sought to place their faith for prosperity, security and righteousness in themselves, their status as children of Abraham and their righteousness pursued through their own Pharisaic system of keeping the Lord’s Law and still managed exclude the Lord their God alone.
Paul affirms that the Law is able to affirm someone is righteous if they are able to live by all of them, quoting Leviticus 18:5:
But here in Romans 10:5 he places it in the context of two great turning points in Israel’s history - Moses speaking in Leviticus to the first generation at Sinai after being freed from Egypt - and Moses speaking in Deuteronomy to the second generation on the plains of Moab after coming out of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness where their parents died for their failure to trust the Lord who had already delivered them to continue doing so.
Paul affirms that the Law is able to affirm someone is righteous if they are able to live by all of them, quoting Leviticus 18:5:
The New International Version Chapter 10

5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”

Moses is speaking from the Lord God to a people He rescued from slavery and death and is now inviting to live as His chosen people in His presence - He emphasizes obedience so they would not forget the nature of the holiness and righteousness of the God in whose presence their sinfulness would have brought quick death countless times without God’s merciful grace and the provision of an intercessors in Moses and the priesthood.
However, it raises the question how are people to keep this word, this covenant with law and commandments?
But Paul points to Deuteronomy 30:
The New International Version Chapter 10

6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” c (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” d (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

At the crescendo of an epic speech where Moses pleads for the people to choose life and trust the Lord their God fearing Him above their enemies in the land, Moses addresses their doubts about keeping the commandment to keep the covenant with the Lord.
What is common about these questions and how they are originally expressed in Deuteronomy 30 is that they doubt the provision that has been made in being given this covenant by the Lord God and commanded to keep it. The word they need is one that far away, up in the heavens that someone needs to retrieve it, or across the sea or in the depths that someone needs to go there to retrieve it so that they might obey it.
This far word is a word robbed of power because it is insufficient to achieve was it was intended to do. It is not the word of the Lord, because as it says in Isaiah 55:11 His word goes out and does not return empty, without accomplishing and prospering in what He is pleased to send it to do. To deny the power of the Lord’s word is to deny His provision or His Lordship, His mastery over all creation and over ourselves. It is a word we keep removed from ourselves because we do not believe we can or should submit to it.
Perhaps you have come across the phenomenon of selective deafness, especially in children. It goes like this, if I do not “hear” an instruction or it is missing some crucial information like where the vacuum is at this precise moment (so I don’t have to look for it) or that I need to vacuum all of the floor. Then I don’t have to do it or we can’t do it.
Parents and children here should know how well that goes over.
This word we need to obey is far from us, it is somewhere else, outside of our hearing, out of reach, so we can keep it out of mind. So we can substitute what we like in its place, whether from our own desires or of those around us.
This is the route of license, of doing what we please and justifying ourselves because the word is remote and irrelevant. Like it was for Judah and Israel of Isaiah’s time: they did not seem to hear “worship the Lord your God alone” so well.
There is another way this goes:
Children given a certain tasks often test the boundaries of what is deemed an acceptable completion of said task. Vacuuming the entire floor, looks like vacuuming the bits can be reached without moving anything - despite indicators to the contrary. They work to rule and bend the rules to make the wording of the task more palatable to achieve.
They then appeal to failings or lower standards of others to justify their shoddy work.
Again we know how this goes.
For the word they were given was far from them, it lacked the specificity to deal with their situation, it was unreasonable, so it neetds modification. So we can trust in our own judgment about what is right and fair and true, to judge ourselves and to judge others on sliding scales of our own design.
This other route is legalism, of doing what we deem necessary, justifying ourselves by scoring on our own scale and judging others against one for them. This like it was for Paul and many of the Pharisees, assured of their own righteousness in the face of the Lord and His righteousness.

The Near Word (Romans 10:8-10)

However, Paul continues his quote from Deuteronomy 30:
The New International Version Chapter 10

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” f that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:

Moses’ encouragement in Deuteronomy 30 that this is not beyond them to do, is because the Lord had faithfully provided - the Lord has already brought the word near them from heavens (at Sinai) and across the sea (bringing them out of Egypt) so that the word could be in their mouth and in their heart, as they meditate upon and discuss it so as to shape their lives continually, as they are called to keep by faith.
Paul says that it is same message that he proclaims:
Christ too came from heaven to bring a word from the Father and was delivered from the depths of the dead - so that the word of the gospel may be found in their mouths and in their hearts by faith as He saves them.
However, like the word Moses speaks of, it is one that shapes their lives as they continue in faith.
If I have made efforts to ensure Cyprian is safe, I’m not obligated to keep on preventing him sticking objects in the power socket. However, because I love him I go to great and repeated lengths to dissuade him from doing so and teach him what is good and right to do. While I am tempted to allow him to learn similar such lessons “the hard but hopefully memorable way” I try to ensure he learns with far less suffering involved. However, the objective is not that I need always to supply him a rule to keep on the good and right path for every possible contingency, but that he would learn to return to the wisdom he has been taught and where to obtain more and that he would live accordingly. So I hope that he shaped by the word he has received by faith in the one who gave it.
Someday I will, willingly or not, allow Cyprian to wear the consequences of his confession, the truths that he clings to and builds his life around, and what he chooses to believe in his heart. It may be that power sockets are fun to play with after all, but I pray with hope in our Lord who answers prayer that it would be and remain centred on the Jesus’ Lordship and resurrection to eternal life.
The language Paul uses carries this weight also carries this weight:
The New International Version Chapter 10

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Firstly, the word “declare” here, also translated “confess”, is not a mere statement - but a commitment and obligation to submit to the (implied) consequences. Like when confessing to a crime, a true confession - and do not think the Lord who sees our hearts can be fooled otherwise - accepts the consequences - placing yourself at the mercy of the judge or court who would deliver any judgment and punishment to follow.
So, a true confession that “Jesus is Lord”, implies an acceptance Jesus’ reign as our king and judge and our Lord God - as Lord is the title adopted to stand in for the personal name YHWH of the Creator and God of Israel - ruling over everything and every aspect of our lives. Thankfully in His grace and mercy He accepts this pledge again and again when we repent of our rebellion against His rule in our lives.
Secondly, to ancient people to believe something in your heart, is to shape operation of the seat of your decision-making, will and desires around it - not simply to feel good about it, want it or think it is a good idea.
However, while neither of these two expressions allow a shallow idea of faith and its implications, neither does it mean these acts or works of faith saves you. It is the one in whom you have faith, the faithful One, our Lord and Saviour, that saves you - not the amount nor your performance in keeping the faith.

The Sure Word Brought Near (Romans 10:11-17)

The New International Version Chapter 10

11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” l 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

There is only one Lord that saves, and He is faithful when we call on Him. Scripture and Christ’s resurrection from the dead show it to be a sure word, a proven and test word. It is not outside our Lord’s provision for us to obey it in faith.
If our Lord’s word is sure, let us trust that our Lord has brought near, let it be in our mouths and in our hearts, that we might transformed as we await the fulfillment of all God’s righteous in faith.
Let us not make a habit of depending on others more - becoming accustomed to the easy comfort of low obligation gods - lest we cry out for them in our day of trouble, when we need the Lord’s salvation.
Let us abandon all attempts at self-justification, these lies we tell ourselves or swallow about the futility of resisting sin, of trusting the Lord in our distress, the struggle of seeking to hold firm to the truth and persisting in our repentance. Let us abandon pride that lords it over others who we judge according to works, rather than encouraging one another to go forth step by step in faith in following our Lord that by His grace we might enjoy our freedom from sin.
Let us first turn to him, seek first Him and His kingdom - bring all our thoughts and needs and desires before the Lord and trust and depend on Him first as we ask Him, by His Spirit and His word, to speak into and guide our planning and trust Him in the follow-through - He will supply us what we need for His purposes.
Lastly, Paul exhorts the Roman Christians and us to tell others of this marvelous Lord of all, who richly blesses those who call on Him:
The New International Version Chapter 10

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The message we called to proclaim is the gospel of Christ, that the Lord Jesus is one that anyone can call upon to be saved from sin and death to righteous and eternal life. But people need to respond, not to justify themselves but to call upon the one who justifies. Noone calls upon someone they have neither heard of nor recognise, nevermind trust, in their hour of dire need - when we all would face death and judgment on the day of the Lord but for the grace of God.
Indeed even though we bring good news, not everyone will receive it as such. But the boundless grace and mercy in the lengths he goes to reach His people among all nations is a greater encouragement to go forth confident that some (even many) will be saved rather than be disheartened by the hard heads and hard hearts of those receiving the message. It is not a mission that requires great skill or artistry but some small mustard seed of faith to trust the Lord step by step sharing the message of faith and the testimony of our Lord’s faithfulness, to humanity and to ourselves in our lives. With someone from across the globe or our neighbour down the street. If peoples with zero knowledge and interest can be moved to respond to our Lord, sending our a handful of fishermen, a tax collector, couple of hot heads and a disgraced Pharisee, then who is beyond our Lord’s reach however feeble our efforts. If noone speaks to them how will they hear and call out to the faithful One of whom they have never heard?
Instead of succumbing to fear, falsehood, faithlessness and failure instead let us keep faith with the faithful One.
That people might see the glory of His character and salvation manifest in us.
Let us pray.
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