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Romans 10:5-15 August 13, 2017

When it Comes to Being Saved, Theres Nothing You Can Do,


but There Is Something You Can Do about It

It sounds kind of funny, but its true: Of all of the things that Christians claim to believe as
utterly important, salvation in Jesus Christ continues to be a major stumbling block to our
ability to share our faith with the world. There have been major church fights around salvation
and I would estimate that hundreds of pastors and teachers have been attacked for their
interpretation of salvation.
Since I will be preaching on salvation this morning, some might consider this asking for
trouble. But I doubt it. Because I want to share the big message and the Good News that
everyone receives salvation through Jesus Christ. If Oprah Winfrey was here she could say:
Good news today! You get salvation! You get salvation! Everyone here gets salvation!
Because thats how Gods love in Jesus Christ works. Through his death and resurrection
for the world, Christ offers forgiveness to everyone that guarantees not only an eternal
relationship with a loving God but the presence of Gods love in our lives for the transformation
of the world. Thats the best, good gift that anyone could ask for, and it has been prepared by
God for us before we even ask for it!
Thats not how the world perceives salvation, and we only have ourselves to blame,
because we have too often used fear as a means to get folks in church and right with God.
Recently I read this humorous observation: I get so tired of those people that knock on my
front door and interrupt my evening telling me that they know a way to save me and that I have
to follow them or burn. Stupid firemen!
Fear of hell is a real persuasive motivator, isnt it? In the United Methodist tradition, we
preach Gods grace and love instead of hellfire and brimstone and it just doesnt work as well.
If you are anxious about Gods judgment of your faithfulness every day you will attend church
more often and be more committed to saving others from a terrible fate. On any given Sunday,
most of our church members will not be in worship thats a given. They will be relaxing at
home, playing golf, out on their boats, hanging out with family. Gods grace is good, Jesus has
it covered, now lets decide where to go for brunch. By the way, Mon Ami has a great Sunday
brunch; come back at 10:30. (Product placement for our Open Air worshipers.)
When I was younger, there were times that I prayed to have Jesus in my heart to save me
from hell. To this day, I am not totally opposed to this tactic (even if I cannot personally endorse
it) because I believe that any strategy that successfully leads a person to Jesus will provide
Jesus an opportunity to clean up any messes along the way. Christ will make things right,
because God is good and Gods love is sure.
All right, then, preacher man, if the fear of hell isnt the way you preach salvation, how do
you preach salvation?
I preach salvation the same way that the apostle Paul preaches salvation, replacing the
burden of trying to please God by our faithfulness with Gods faithfulness through Jesus to
love, forgive and save us.
Imagine that youre a little kid and youre thirsty and theres a drinking fountain in front of
you. But the handle is hard to turn with your little hands. You do your best but the most you can
muster is a tiny, little twist and then your hand slips and the water stops flowing. Finally, your
mother comes to your rescue, not only turning the handle for a steady flow, but lifting you up
higher so that you can have a good drink. Why wouldnt you want your mom to help you?
There will come a time when you will be bigger, stronger and able to work that drinking
fountain by yourself. But perhaps you will remember how much it meant to you when your
mother helped you get that drink of water, and you will help a thirsty child in the same way.
You will be helping another child not out of obligation to your mother, but because you know
how much your mother helped you. In gratitude, you pass it on. Thats how salvation works.
When you know that you are loved unconditionally by God and that God can live in you to love
others, your life is no longer centered in trying to please God, but centered in Jesus Christ
living in you, working through you to love the world.
Thats salvation! Thats Good News!
Paul was flustered in his ministry because Gentiles seemed to respond to Jesus Christ
more than his Jewish friends who chose to follow the Law of Moses rather than Jesus. As a
Pharisee trained in the Law, Paul knew the benefits of faithful living. But he also knew how
often he lay awake at night, wondering if he had been good enough for God. And he also knew
how being a good Jew could distance himself from those who werent quite as good. Of
course, following the Law of Moses necessitated leaving everyone out who would not or could
not follow the Law. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and, through Gods grace, forgive us all of our
shortcomings and work within us to clean up our sinful habits and use us to love others as God
has loved us.
If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
What do you think of when you hear Paul pay say that everyone who calls on the name of
the Lord will be saved? Do you envision a world in which every person is seen as a child of
God, or do you imagine all of the people who dont call on the name of the Lord as being lost
and unsaved? Is your growing faith one of growing inclusion or growing exclusion?
The apostle Paul went to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, including the oppressive
powers of Rome, at great personal cost. The intention was to introduce the world to the love of
God through Christ. And not only that; Paul believed that Christ himself desired to live in us
and to be seen by our example of faith. Paul is not simply speaking of a faith decision when he
talks about confessing with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God
raised him from the dead (even though both are a part of that first step). Paul is inviting us into
a resurrection faith in which Jesus Christ lives in our hearts and is seen in our actions. Paul
expects Jesus to do the real persuading and to use us to love and change the world.
It is true that the church, as the Body of Christ, is the place where those who know
forgiveness and grace gather in Jesus name. But salvation comes not simply because God
wanted a bigger church. Salvation for the church alone is exclusion. No, if we allow Christ to
live in us and then go out into the world in love, salvation builds bridges of peace. Salvation
puts an end to violence and warfare. Salvation teaches tolerance and works for justice.
Salvation changes everything, because the love of God is set free into the world through our
willingness to trust Christ to guide us. Will you invite Jesus into your heart and your actions
again this morning? Instead of asking folks if theyre saved, why not proclaim to everyone that
they are saved and that God wants to guide them into a life of love and joy?
There is nothing that we can do to be saved, but we are saved. As people who know the
love of Christ, God can use us to spread love and hope to the world. Theres good news to
share. First, allow Christ to save you and then, as Christ lives in you, allow Gods love to guide
you into a lifetime journey of loving the world. Thanks be to God for salvation in Jesus Christ,
today and every day!