We’re wrapping up our series on the Roman Road, teaching you how to answer some of the tough questions about the Christian faith, and we hope you feel better encouraged and equipped to talk to people about your faith and to lead them into a relationship with Jesus.
And so our hope is that this series and the many other things that we’ve learned and shared here together have prepared you and equipped you to make this jump with us into a new phase of our ministry where we hope to become bigger and more effective for the Kingdom of God and where you will hopefully have more and more opportunities to use the principles we’ve taught you about the Road to lead people to Jesus.
We want to see people coming to know Jesus. We want to see our community grow into a bigger, stronger family that encourages and uplifts one another. That regularly sees God’s hand move among us and sees sincere change in people’s lives.
We want our growth to be rooted in the growth of God’s Kingdom as more and more people put their trust in Jesus.
We encourage you to live carefully but boldly so that people see an accurate representation of Jesus when they look at you and they want to know more.
Our verse for tonight, the final step of the Roman Road, comes from Romans 10, and it is a two part verse. Notice this:
Rom. 10: 14-17 (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? 15And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 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!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
You see there are plenty of people in our spheres of influence who wouldn’t dare step foot in a church. We see them at work, at the store, at reunions, and in our own homes. They joke that if they walked into a church they might get struck by lightning. Or maybe they claim to be an atheist – they’re too rational to believe in something as ridiculous as God. Or maybe they’re angry at God – they think he took someone or something from them. He’s a bully.
We believe that for our celebration service on November 12, there will be plenty of people who come to see the building that would never ordinarily attend church. People who fall into some of those categories.
So we encourage you to come on that night with your game face on. Ready to celebrate and explore the new facility. But also ready to meet new faces and to be bold with your faith.
But we also encourage you to be bold and prepared every day.
Because I have found that more than anything else, people base their beliefs and opinions about God, the church (ours and the globally), and Christianity on how you and I model our faith to them on a daily basis.
People pay attention to how and what you talk about. They hear how you handle stress and what worries you. They see how you treat other people – Christians and non-Christians alike. They see how ethical you are in your decision making. They see what kind of a driver you are. What you prioritize.
And after looking you over and watching you and hearing you talk, they decide what they think of you and your faith and they make a judgment about Jesus, your church, and salvation without either of you ever realizing it.
You and I have a great, big responsibility in this life to the people we encounter every day and to the Kingdom of God.
“How 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?”
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
One Life Church, God’s Kingdom, and the world are counting on you to be salt and light, to tell others what it means to be saved, to tell them your story so that God will be glorified and the church (this one and God’s church at large) will grow.
Because you are the only Jesus that so much of the world will ever see. What are you showing them?
Unfortunately, the growing trend in our culture, especially in the younger generations, is that the Church, faith, and Jesus are becoming irrelevant. That there is a growing disinterest in and hostility toward Christianity because people see it as narrow-minded, mean-spirited, and exclusive?
Are they right to feel this way? Are they right to think they don’t need church/faith to tell them how to be a good person?
But not because Jesus or the Bible has become irrelevant, and not because Jesus or the Bible is narrow-minded, mean-spirited or exclusive (in the sense that only certain kinds of people are welcome). But because we are. And we’ve modeled to them that following Jesus is about being good, checking off our list, and excluding and condemning people that are “bad.”
But that’s not what Jesus is like at all! Yes, there is sin, and yes, Jesus condemns it yesterday, today, and forever. But instead of shutting their doors to people who chose to live an “alternative lifestyle” or pointing fingers at “bad people.” Jesus spent time with them – prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, and the like. He invited them into relationship with him. He talked to them. And through spending time with him, they were changed. He healed their sin nature by giving them a new heart full of new desires to honor him and live a pure, godly life to the point that they were so excited about what Jesus had done for them that many of his followers would proclaim his story to the grave.
Isn’t that what happened to you? If you are sitting here tonight and you call yourself a Christian – you claim to follow Jesus, to have an intimate relationship with him – isn’t that your story too?
That Jesus didn’t make you change who you were or fix your sin before he accepted you, but instead he loved you and pursued you. He placed people in your path that encouraged you and taught you about him. And after deciding to surrender everything to him and asking him to forgive you, He did! Totally and completely. He wiped away your shame and your guilt from the years of wandering and he gave you a new heart with new passions and desires. You no longer hungered for the things you used to crave. You have peace now. You have strength now.
Isn’t that what Jesus did for you?
Then why oh why, if this was the foundation for our faith, our turning point, do we think that pointing out the faults in everyone else and telling people to come to church, clean up their act, read their Bible every day, and pray for 10 minutes every morning is attractive? Why do we think giving people a list of things to do and not to do is going to make them want to follow Jesus?
Andy Stanley, a popular Christian pastor, speaker, and author from Atlanta Georgia (Charles Stanley’s son) calls this playing “Jesus says.” It’s like the game Simon Says that you played as a kid where you have to do whatever Simon Says, and if Simon doesn’t say it and you do it you’re out. You lose.
We tell people that being a Christian – following Jesus – looks like this! That how well they follow Jesus’ commands and conform to our church’s idea of what a Christian should look like dictates their quality of life here on earth and in eternity!
We inadvertently stress the need for change and rule following without stressing God’s goodness and grace. We teach rules instead of explaining that Jesus changed our lives.
The world doesn’t need more rules and cliques and lists of what to do to be a good person.
The world needs to hear the Good News – your Good News – of how Jesus stepped down and pursued you, and encouraged you, and loved you even when you were filthy, and saved you. Of how you met Jesus and how he changed your whole life. They need to hear how Jesus changed your desires, how he has met your needs, how he has blessed you and answered your prayers. He needs you to be an open book so that others can see his glory through your life and call on his name and be saved.
The Apostle Paul knew this – Paul is the author of Romans, so he is also the author of the verses we’ve been studying in the Roman Road. Paul makes it clear throughout his writings that the Christian faith is not a blind faith. He writes intelligently and precisely. He knew how to defend the faith, to prove it’s efficacy to all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Let me prove it to you.
1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Paul is writing, and he says this:
20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
Paul does everything he can to bring people to know Christ. Within the span of 3 verses he says 3 times that he did whatever it took that some might come to know Christ.
Paul was educated on his faith and the people he was conversing with so that he could answer their questions and explain the faith to them on their level. To those who knew the law, he spoke to them as a scholar on the law. To those who knew nothing of the law, he spoke to them using allegory and stories from their own secular religions to help them see the truth (Acts 17 – the unknown Greek god). To those who were weak, he spoke simply and gently, coming down to their level, so that they might see where they can find strength.
And this is why it’s important for you to learn the steps of the Roman Road – so that you are educated on your faith. So you can answer the questions that people will have about why they need to be saved. What it means to have Jesus in your life. What is so wrong with them.
But you can’t stop there. You can’t stop with the facts. You can’t expect to win someone to Christ through an argument, no matter how persuasive.
Because the most powerful tool that you have is the testimony of how Jesus has worked in your heart and life.
And the Apostle Paul knew that. Paul frequently used his testimony and personal experiences to demonstrate God’s love and grace and to fortify the church.
In 1 Cor. 2: 1-5, Paul says that he didn’t share his testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom, but spoke humbly and with trembling of Jesus’ power so that the Corinthians faith wouldn’t rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Cor. 15:1-11, Paul reminds the church of the gospel (the story of Jesus’ death, life and resurrection) and of the call of the apostles and his personal encounter with Jesus so they could see how his life was changed through Christ.
In 2 Cor. 11 and 12, Paul describes the suffering he has experienced and the thorn in his flesh – he makes himself vulnerable with the church – to explain how God is working through his suffering and manifests his strength in our weakness.
In the opening chapter of Galatians Paul again recounts his testimony – of how God called him out of a life of Jewish legalism and persecution of the church – to be an apostle. And it says in Galatians 1:24 “And they glorified God because of me.”
God was glorified in the church because of a testimony!
He uses his personal experiences with Christ to demonstrate God’s goodness and faithfulness so that others will glorify God and put their trust in him.
And on and on throughout his letters Paul recounts his conversion experience and his personal encounters with God, so that those reading his words would know that God is good and faithful and powerful. So that God would be glorified through Paul’s life and that others would be saved.
Paul’s writing style, and really most of the Bible, makes this clear to us:
The most powerful tool you possess as a Christian is your testimony.
When you couple the Gospel message – the story of Jesus’ sacrifice – with how that sacrifice has transformed your life, God is glorified and people are saved.
So my question for you tonight is simple:
How many people know your story?
How many people have heard how God moved in your life? How many people have glorified God because they heard about how God changed you and transformed you? Of how he answered your prayers and healed your wounds.
God doesn’t work in our lives simply for our benefit. He works in our lives so that he will be glorified, that others will see his work in us, and will put their trust in him.
Our tagline for this series explains that we are sinners saved and sent to share the salvation story.
You are equipped with a story of your own – of how the gospel saved you. Of God’s faithfulness in your life. And so now, to fulfill this final step of the Roman Road, you have to step out and share your story so that others will glorify God because of you. And so that they will hear and believe.