Podcast available at: https://anchor.fm/diane-simcox/episodes/Youre-Not-Speaking-My-Language-e1band9
Romans 9:29 – 10:21 – Week Thirteen
We find ourselves in December already. Christmas parties. Trees. Decorations. Songs on the radio. And shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. I have become more of an online shopper than an in-person shopper. We get so many packages from Amazon that when we were at our niece and nephew’s house the other day and Amazon came to deliver something to them, my husband shouted out, “Diane, the Amazon delivery person is looking for you!”
I did do a little bit of in-store shopping with my two daughters on Black Friday. To make things easier, we were just combining our purchases into one transaction then later, settling up who owed what to whom. It’s so easy to do that now. We have Venmo, CashApp, Paypal, and Zelle. All within a few seconds, money can be transferred from one person to another. I am familiar with each of these and use them from time to time.
But there is a relatively new thing out there that I hear about – bitcoins. Here’s your random trivia for the day. Bitcoins have been around since 2008 and the beginnings of it are attributed to either a person or a group of people who call themself/themselves Satoshi Nakomoto. I know that bitcoins have something to do with transferring currency and that the rates fluctuate. But I’ll be honest, I don’t have any understanding as to how it works or why it’s better than what we already use. I’m familiar with the phrase “bitcoin”. I’ve heard it used in conversations. I see it in the headlines. But that whole concept is a mystery to me. Since I don’t understand what it’s all about, I don’t participate in discussions about it, nor do I keep up with the current news that pertains to it. Honestly, I’ve tried to get a grasp on it by reading on my own and asking questions from those who do understand it, but I would really need someone to sit down and explain it in simple terms to me. In fact, drawings may help. They would need to talk about the basics of it, assuming (correctly, might I add) that I knew nothing about it. They would need to explain it to me in the most simplistic way in order for me to have any clue as to what it’s all about.
Now for someone who is well-versed in the world of bitcoins, it may be difficult for them to comprehend that someone doesn’t understand what it’s all about. They may assume that everyone understands the terminology because some of the phrases are ones that we hear on a somewhat frequent basis. Cryptocurrency, hash rate, blockchain. A lot of people, myself included, have no idea what that’s all about. But to those “bitcoiners” (I don’t even know if that’s a real term or not.) they have a language and knowledge that enables them to talk amongst themselves, help each other learn more, and, eventually, become more successful in the world of bitcoins.
Knowing that I’m amongst fellow Christians, I can use terms such as righteousness, mercy, grace, faith, salvation, and being saved and I feel confident that you’re going to understand what I’m saying. But if we were to leave here and walk down the street and knock on the door of one of the neighbors of the church and ask, “Are you saved?”, we may just get a hesitant nod of the head and a timid “yes”. That’s because many people all around us, our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members are just as unfamiliar with the concept of salvation as many of us are with the idea of bitcoins. They may know that the CORRECT answer to “are you saved” is supposed to be “yes”, but they really don’t have any understanding of what is being asked.
Paul starts chapter 10 of Romans with his desire that others may share his passion about salvation. “Brothers, the thing I want most is for all the Jews to be saved. That is my prayer to God. 2 I can say this about them: They really try to follow God. But they do not know the right way. 3 They did not know the way that God makes people right with him. And they tried to make themselves right in their own way. So they did not accept God’s way of making people right.” Romans 10:1-3 ICB
People come from a mixture of backgrounds. Some of us were raised in the church and have been taught about salvation from the time we were in the church nursery. Others weren’t raised knowing anything at all about the church. They may have heard Christian terminology throughout their life, but they had no real understanding of what it was all about until they became a child of God and started to learn. And some have been longtime churchgoers, but the plan of salvation has never been a normal topic of conversation. Even for them, the concept of salvation is a bit of a mystery. They know that God loves them and they believe in God. They live their lives as good people who do good things. They go to church frequently, sing the hymns and they pray, but there’s a link missing. It’s the salvation part that connects us to God, not the knowledge of Him nor the participation in church activities or by being a good person. Those of us who get it and understand God’s plan of salvation mistakenly make the assumption that when we ask people if they’re saved, that they have a true understanding of what that really is.
All of us are good at something. Some understand sports and the different rules and plays and penalties that are involved. Some people know about crocheting and they are able to discuss the advantages of using this kind of yarn over another type. They know the right hook to use in order to get the stitch they’re looking for. Others know all about cooking and know when it’s proper to sauté’, braise or scallop something. Every hobby or area of interest has its own language and terminology. I work with a machine that cuts different types of material. Mostly, I cut vinyl, but I can also cut paper, cardstock, even leather. I have a close friend that has the same machine as I do. She has the same computer program that I have. She asked me to help her with making some ornaments, so I invited her over to do just that. As we sat down to figure out what she was wanting, I pulled my program up, did the design, and began cutting. I was asking her about the different colors she was wanting to use and she asked how we would be able to use more than one color. I went on to explain that we would print the same design on different colors but do a negative weed on what her accent color would be. She just said, “Okay.” After the first page cut, I was showing her what was involved in creating the product that she was wanting. I explained about weeding, reverse weeding, negative weeding, transferring, etc. She stood over me, watched me, and said, “This is so confusing. I had no idea it was this involved.” And then she said, “Even though I have all of the equipment and tools, I have no idea what to do with them.” You see, my friend was willing to admit that even though she had the necessary tools, she did not know where to begin. For some people, that’s not an easy admission especially when it comes to Christianity.
We mistakenly think that everybody understands what it means to be a Christian; but that’s simply not the case. Sadly, we could go out to the worship center today and may just likely find a person right here in this building that has no clear understanding of what it takes to be saved. There are many people who have the right tools, they own a Bible, they may belong to a church, even be in a Sunday School class but they don’t really understand what it’s all about. They don’t know where to begin. And they are too embarrassed (or too prideful) to ask because we have this idea that the whole Christianity thing, Jesus dying on the cross, salvation from sin, an eternity in heaven or hell is just a universal thing. Everybody knows about that, right? In fact, there’s an old hymn titled, “Everybody Ought to Know”. Over and over in the lyrics is that same phrase, “everybody ought to know, everybody ought to know, everybody ought to know, Who Jesus is.” I think when Henry Dixon Loes wrote that song, his intent with the lyrics was “Jesus is so amazing and so good that I really hope that everyone knows Who He is. They ought to because there is none like Him.” But most of us grew up in the Bible belt and as we sing that song, “Everybody Ought to Know” we interpret that to mean, “Well, it’s not as if we keep Jesus a secret so everybody ought to know Who He is. Why would I need to ask someone if they knew Him? Everybody ought to know Him!” We fail to recognize that not everybody knows.
We use phrases that may seem confusing or alarming to others. “Are you saved?” Someone might wonder what it is that they are supposed to be saved from. “Are you lost?” I didn’t know I was missing. “Are you covered by the blood of the lamb?” I’m not into animal sacrifices or anything like that. And my favorite. When Lt. Dan asks Forrest Gump, “Have you found Jesus yet, Gump? And Forrest simply states, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for Him, sir.”
Paul is well aware that the Jews were fooling themselves much like people do today. They mistakenly believe that their good works or simply being a good person is what saves them. Because a person’s life is not filthy, riddled with addiction or evil characteristics, the assumption is sometimes made that they are saved. It’s hard to imagine a good person going to hell for eternity. The sinfulness is harder to see in a good person. We had some neighbors when I was growing up that lived two doors down. They were the neighborhood grandparents. I spent many afternoons at Nanny and PawPaw Jones’ home coloring and baking cookies. They were just the sweetest people you could ever meet. I assumed they were just like my mom and dad, or my grandmother. I assumed that they loved the Lord because they were so kind, so giving. They never spoke ill of anyone that I’m aware of. But many years after their passing and after I became a Christian, it occurred to me. They didn’t go to church. I never knew them to pray before a meal or reference God in any way. I don’t recall ever seeing a Bible in their home. I asked my mom one day if they were saved and she said she honestly did not know. She said that she and Daddy had invited them to church on numerous occasions but Nanny and PawPaw just said that wasn’t their thing. Two sweet, kind, and good people who just may be spending eternity in hell because they weren’t saved.
The reality of this happening grieves Paul. He says that people want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how. People try to do it on their own not realizing that it is futile. Paul’s anguish is rooted in the unbelief of his fellow Jews. They are unbelieving and unwilling to accept Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah because they are still trying to earn a spot in heaven by following the law, by being good people. They’re knowledgeable about the old ways of doing things on their own, following the laws, offering up sacrifices, etc.; however, they are refusing to believe that there’s a huge piece of the puzzle that is missing; that is, being a follower of Christ. Perhaps, some of them were just confused and too embarrassed (or too prideful) to ask someone to explain it so that they could understand. You see, some of the Jews were trying to make salvation a lot more complicated than it is.
Romans 10:8-9 NCV “This is what the Scripture says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”[b] That is the teaching of faith that we are telling. 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. 10 We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God.”
Paul is using scripture from Deuteronomy in which the Israelites are being told how easily accessible God is making Himself to them. They had God’s Word. They had been taught His Word. They didn’t have to go to the mountaintop and retrieve it or dig down deep to get it; God brought His Word to them. Just like He has brought it to us. The tool has been given to us. But we have to not just believe; not understand, not explain, but rather believe with our hearts. Paul cares so much that his fellow Jews understand this because he himself chained himself to a very legalistic and unloving approach to God. It took God blinding him so that he could see the truth. Paul is desperately trying to help others see what a real relationship with God is like.
No doubt that you care if your spouse, your children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, etc. are saved and have a place in Heaven. But what about the young man who bags your groceries? What about your next door neighbor? What about the single mom who serves you at Waffle House? Do you have that same passion, that same urgency towards people who cross your path?
There’s something about a pending disaster that brings people out of their shells. Think about it. When COVID started invading our day to day lives, people started sharing what they learned from their doctors and medical professionals. People went online to post who had hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and rubbing alcohol. Something bad was headed our way and we cared enough to alert people. Ever go to the grocery store when a snowstorm is predicted? People will stand in line and actually talk with one another about what they heard on the latest weather report. Tornadoes are the same way. People don’t hesitate to reach out to others to warn them, make sure that they have any necessary supplies or goods just in case the storm hits. But COVID, snowstorms, and tornadoes are temporary. Damnation in hell is permanent and a whole lot worse. But we don’t have that same urgency when it comes to talking with someone about salvation. We hesitate because we don’t want to seem pushy, we don’t want to offend. We don’t ask because we don’t want to insult them. There are only two types of people in the world: saved and unsaved. There is no “other” category; no fill-in-the-blank. If someone is saved, more than likely they will be delighted to share what God has done in their life. If someone isn’t saved, they need to know what God can do in their life.
Several years ago, my husband and I had been invited to have lunch with a few other couples after church one Sunday. This was the first time we had been with any of them socially. We were seated and our server came over and asked for our drink order. One of the men that was with us said, “Hey before you ask us that, I have a question to ask you. Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” The other couples weren’t surprised because they had been out to restaurants with him before. But I sat there positively amazed at his boldness. The server responded, “As a matter of fact, I do! I was saved several years ago and I always make it a point to go to church either Sunday morning or Sunday evening depending on my schedule. God has provided me with a job and a church that gives me that opportunity. It’s important to me that I read His Word and have fellowship with other believers.” The man who was seated at our table asked to pray with him right then and there. We all bowed our heads and a prayer was said over this young man, his life, and the influence that he might have among his co-workers. That one question changed the whole meal experience. We weren’t customers and a server. We were brothers and sisters in Christ.
I have no doubt that if that server had fumbled with his answer that the man at our table would have seized the opportunity to witness to him. He would have done so not for any other reason than to save him from the gates of hell. We worry too much about offending people and don’t worry enough about people being condemned to hell.
Romans 10: 13 ICB 13 The Scripture says, “Anyone who asks the Lord for help will be saved. 14 But before people can trust in the Lord for help, they must believe in him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about him. And for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them. 15 And before someone can go and tell them, he must be sent. It is written, “How beautiful is the person who comes to bring good news.”
There is a domino effect here that Paul is describing. Trusting comes from believing. Believing comes from hearing. Hearing comes from telling. Telling comes from sending.
Remember Jesus’ last words before He ascended into heaven? Matthew 28: 19 ERV “So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.”
Those final words, that last reminder that Jesus chose to use was go and teach. Not stay and learn. Too many of us, myself being the guiltiest, are content with staying and learning and not going and teaching. In His last words on Earth, Jesus sends us. Now it’s up to us to tell so that others may hear. It’s up to them to hear and believe and then to trust.
God’s plan was to use people to pass along His good news. Are you doing your part?
My mom was a great cook. She had a few things that she made that were well-known and loved. Her potato soup, her apple cake, her chicken and dumplings, her pimento cheese, her homemade biscuits and her Thanksgiving dressing. It’s no wonder most of us ended up overweight. Mom would often ask us into the kitchen to “help” her while she made her magic happen. She took the time to explain why it was important to measure in some recipes and in other recipes you needed to pay more attention to the texture, taste, moisture, or consistency and add in more flour, sugar, or shortening. She showed how to mix all of the dry ingredients in the sifter and then sift so that everything would get properly mixed and incorporated. She demonstrated the differences between frying and sauteing, simmering and boiling, baking and broiling. She didn’t make any of us feel dumb if we didn’t know something and she also didn’t make the assumption that we automatically knew what she was talking about. She allowed us to do things on our own while she stood by and offered up advice or direction when asked. Mom knew that her cooking brought joy to people. She knew that she had a gift and unlike a lot of women of her generation, she was more than willing to share with anyone who would listen. Thankfully, my sister and my youngest daughter took the time to listen and to learn. Between the two of them, we still enjoy Mom’s best dishes. Now it’s up to them to teach someone or those recipes will get lost and forgotten. I sure would like to know that my great-great-grandchildren will be sitting down on Thanksgiving Day in years to come enjoying Mom’s dressing. It’ll only happen if someone takes the time to share.
Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing the Good News. And people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ.”
Paul was passionate about others knowing Jesus. Are you? Don’t assume that everybody knows because they ought to; make sure that they know. Go! Tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere including restaurants, grocery stores, and your neighborhood.