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Sep 08, 2019

How Do You Get a Heart Like That?

Passage: Romans 9:1-3

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: evangelism, outreach, witnessing, greatest commandment, love of jesus christ

Summary:

This message begins this series in Romans from the heart of Paul and this letter in chapters 8-9. Motivated by the love of Christ in him to love all people, this message looks at how Paul developed a heart that was willing to go to hell for the lost of his people, the Jews.

Detail:

How Do You Get a Heart Like That?

Romans 8-10

September 8, 2019

Ever given much thought to what your life would have been like if the love of Christ had never broken through to you? What kind of person would you likely have become today?  Where would you likely be? 

      With the Apostle Paul, it’s not hard to imagine given the trajectory of his life prior to encountering the love of God in Christ.  We know that he was a religious zealot so fanatically dedicated to forcing people to stay away from Jesus that he traveled from city to city in the Roman world, hunting down Christ-followers, throwing them in deadly prisons and inciting mobs to attack and kill them whenever he could.  Paul was not the kind of man you as a Christ-follower wanted as a neighbor.  Just imagine trying to pray and witness to this guy!

[Video of deleted scene of pre-conversion Paul, the Pharisee in Paul, Apostle of Christ movie.]

      I think the truth of Jesus’ statements in Luke 7 have a lot to do with why Paul became such a powerful force for the Gospel after his conversion.  You’ll remember that in that story, Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house for a meal but he really didn’t treat Jesus with honor or respect once Christ got there.  But a “sinful woman” who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, washed them with her tears and then dried them clean with her hair, she showed far greater love to Jesus than Simon ever did.  

      But the really important part of the story is the parable of the 2 debtors that Jesus told and the singular truth he apparently intended to teach out of that.  The two debtors both had debts they couldn’t pay but one had a massive debt.  Both the debtors’ accounts were forgiven by the lender and Jesus asked, “So which of them will love the forgiving lender more?”  Obviously, it is the one with the bigger debt. 

      That difference is reflected right here in this room.  It’s the difference between those of us who perhaps came to Jesus as children or teenagers or just “good people—people without a boatload of bad track record and sin—verses those of us who had racked up quite a spiritual rap-sheet, had lived outright immoral lives, had abused, wounded, damaged and, yes, even killed other people and THEN experienced the forgiveness of God over all of that!  In my experience, those who have been saved from a life they know was headed to destruction will often, like Paul, also experience the love of Christ in a deeper way and seem to live out that love to others more boldly and forcefully.

ILL:  That’s been my experience personally.  Coming to faith in Jesus as a child, knowing I was a sinner (at least in my head) but  not feeling my sinfulness so much in my heart, I would have to say that I’m not nearly as bold, public, forceful or outgoing with my witness as I would like to be or as I see in those of you who have a clear track-record of what Christ has saved you from. 

       That’s why it has been necessary for God to take many of us through a few spiritual deserts to enable us to catch a glimpse of just how destructive and ugly our own sinfulness can be unless our lives are really under the control of the Holy Spirit (rather than my flesh’s spirit).  I’m pretty sure that, without the love of Christ over and in my life, I would have destroyed my own life, my marriage, my children and countless other people’s lives along the way. 

      Those who have been forgiven much, love much! 

      That simple truth makes the passages we are going to look at today all the more astounding.  We are diving into Paul’s letter to the Romans today.  We will be in this book, off and on, for the next year or so.  We’ll break it up with other short series and studies.  And we will probably study this book a bit differently than if we were to go from beginning to end. 

      Romans was, we believe, written by the Apostle Paul in or around A.D. 57.  Paul is at the end of his third missionary journey that had started some 4 years earlier.  He’s never visited the church in Rome and he’s actually heading back to Jerusalem from Corinth where we think he wrote this Epistle/Letter to the Roman Christians.

      I want us to jump into this book like some new backpackers who, instead of starting at the bottom of mountain range, have been helicoptered into the grandeur without having to trudge through the forest and up the dusty trail.  I want us to get the lay of the land and catch a glimpse of the majestic view of Scripture’s most amazing “mountain range” of Romans.    

ILL:  A few weeks ago, 4 of the 6 Repsold men got away for 2 nights to go backpacking in the Alpine Wilderness of the North Cascades.  The second night we got to watch the sun set on this, the stars come out and the moon rise on this!  [See pic.]  It was worth the 8 mile hike in and the mile elevation change up and down we had to put in. 

      Hopefully this morning will be like this snapshot.  We’ll go back down into the valley at the base of Romans in due time.  But I want us to appreciate where we are headed so you don’t drop out anywhere along the upcoming journey. 

      So turn to Romans 8:35.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      Here’s a man who previously killed genuine followers of , was one of the foremost enemies of God and deserved to spend eternity under God’s judgment in hell enjoying the view from the mountaintop.  He’s admiring the grandeur of the majestic peaks of the love of God, a vista he knows he will be enjoying for all eternity from the viewpoint of heaven.  Paul knows he is a man who has been rescued from hatred, forever and radically changed by love…God’s love. 

      Then, from that stunning vista point of God’s love, he speaks to us of another very, very deep emotion welling up at precisely the same time.  He tells us in Romans 9:1ff—you can almost hear the emotional struggle in his voice:

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. 

            Do you grasp what Paul is saying??? He really has such great sorrow and “unceasing anguish” of soul…of heart…about the spiritually lost state of his fellow Israelites, that he wishes there were some way for him to trade his redemption, his salvation in Jesus… and spend eternity in hell…IF it would somehow mean a turning to Jesus of the Jewish people!  WOW! 

            I’m sorry.  I don’t have that kind of love for a whole race or nation of people, many of whom are real turkeys!  Sadly, I guess the closest I am to that feeling right now is to be willing to live forever separated from God IF it would somehow mean that every one of my children and grandchildren—people whom I have grown to love and cherish over their lifetime and mine—would be spared hell and granted heaven forever. 

            HOW DO YOU GET A HEART LIKE THAT FOR PEOPLE?  When being loved by God through Jesus is THE most transformative experience of your life, how can you possibly get to the place where you are willing to let go of that love and never experience it again because you love lost people? 

            Where did Paul learn that kind of love?  He didn’t learn it in the Jewish synagogue.  He didn’t learn it at Pharisee College. He didn’t experience it in his peer group or hometown of Tarsus. I know of only one source for that kind of eternally self-sacrificing love:  JESUSSavior of the world…sinless substitute sacrifice for your sin and mine…eternal RedeemerGod-in-human-flesh who did just that for you and me.  

            Jesus left the only place in/beyond the universe where life is as it should be apart from sin…came to the one place in the universe where we know life is NOT as it should be…lived a sinless life to become our substitute…not only suffered horribly and completely unjustly at the hands of sinners just like us…but suffered (can I say it?), more deeply, more profoundly, more voluminously under the weight and penalty of all humanity’s sin than any human will ever know…and He somehow suffered eternally.

  • How else are we to understand Jesus words to His Father from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46)  (An eternity of abandonment from the Father in the time of the crucifixion???  Explain by the argument of multiple dimensions—dot…line…flat plain…cube…etc.)
  • How else are we to fathom the level of sacrifice when the Scripture says in Isaiah 53We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

That means suffering the weight of guilt and shame and pain of ALL my sin for an entire lifetime all at once…added to all your sin for an entire lifetime all at once…added to that same reality for every one of the billions upon billions of people who have and ever will touch the face of this planet…all at once!  Only God in human flesh could possibly have endured and sustained that level of suffering.  So don’t let someone tell you…or your own thoughts tell you…that God doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer! 

            That kind of suffering…the kind Jesus Christ did for every one of us…is the only possible explanation for the source of love that would cause Paul to say, “I’ll take hell forever for myself IF it means heaven forever for those I love.”

But back to the question, HOW DO I GET A HEART LIKE THAT FOR PEOPLE? 

Take a moment and ask yourself, “Who in this world that I know right now would I be willing to even think about trading my eternity with God in heaven for their eternity in hell without God?  My guess is that, for most of us here today, there are some common elements about anyone for whom we would even think about making that trade.  What might those be?

  • Close family relationship (spouse, child, grandchild). WHY?  (We know them, are related to them, have learned to love them through years of relationship.  If they are infants, we have pity on them, have a deep bond with them, etc.)
  • Close friendships: time spent, emotional bonding, love for, etc.
  • People we have genuinely learned to love.

Jesus gave us some real insight into HOW we can learn to love someone who isn’t yet a part of our most important and lasting family, the Family of God.  In Matthew 5, Jesus said this about the most difficult people in our lives:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

            Notice that Jesus is not only telling us WHAT to do with THE most difficult people (“enemies”) in our lives; He’s telling us HOW to do itpray for them…and do kind, undeserved and good things for them.  Essentially Jesus is saying, “Not only is the greatest commandment expressed on the human plain to be that I love my neighbor as myself; I’m supposed to learn to love those who want to do me harm. And the WAY to do that is through prayer and kind actions towards them. 

            That is very interesting, especially given the fact of what Paul goes on to say in Romans 10:1-- Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

  • Did Paul suffer a lot from his fellow Jews? Yup, multiple boatloads of suffering primarily because of his former life as a Jewish leader and primarily from his fellow Jews. 
  • Yet despite that reality, God built in him an unbelievable heart of compassion and kindness…of self-sacrificing, God-like LOVE…for both those of his own race (Jews) and those of the non-Jewish/Gentile world.

Just how deep did that love go?  Let me give you the short-version of Paul’s own summary of how much he loved lost people so that they might become spiritually saved and holy people.

            In 2 Corinthians 11, beginning with vs. 23, he says that the love of Christ in him caused him to work/labor/toil harder than others, to endure imprisonments often, to be flogged severely 5 times, to be exposed to death multiple times, to be beaten with rods 3 times, to be stoned (and left for dead) once, to be shipwrecked 3 times (like being in multiple car accidents in order to minister to people), was lost at sea once, was consistently in danger in his travels from thieves, from natural dangers and disasters, from radical persecutors, from relatives and strangers.  He lost sleep, endured hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, sickness and isolation…ALL because of one compelling, driving, dominating heart-motivation:  that lost people might find Christ and be reconciled to God forever. 

            Back in chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians, Paul was talking about the possibility of losing his very life for this ministry of reconciling people to God.  So he tells us what compelled him to risk his very life:  14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

            Then in in vs. 20 of the same chapter 5, he says, “20 We are

therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 

            The love of Jesus Christ “compelled” Paul to do everything in his power to help people be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.  It propelled him into dangers and suffering that he never would have encountered otherwise. The more he got to know Jesus who had rescued him from destroying Christ-followers, the more his heart felt what Jesus did towards sinners and the more his actions revolved around going to the extend Jesus did to rescue sinners. 

            Here is my point:  If we are people who genuinely know the love of Christ, we will be people who are genuinely passionate about loving people to Christ. 

            We could put it another way: If we are really loving God, we will really be loving our neighbors as God does. 

            Look at this brief summary of clear passages in the N.T. that call us to be in loving relationship with our neighbors, be they lost or saved, sinners or saints. 

  • Matthew 22:37-40-- Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That identical command is repeated in Mark 12 and Luke 10.

  • Romans 13:8-10-- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.The commandments…are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Did we hear what that says?  “Love does no harm to a neighbor.”  If we know our neighbor has terminal cancer or HIV/AIDS…and we have the cure for those diseases, to fail to go have a conversation with our neighbor and offer them the cure, is that loving them and not harming them?  Failing to do good when you know what the good is and have the power to do it is actually sin, according James 4:17. 

  • James 2:8-- If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
  • Galatians 5:6-- For in Christ Jesus…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
  • Galatians 5:14-- For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Galatians 5:22-- But the fruit of the Spirit is love….
  • Ephesians 3:18-19-- I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
  • Ephesians 5:1-2-- Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved childrenand walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….
  • I Thessalonians 3:12-- May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Q:  Are there any of us here today who think that loving our neighbors is optional if we call ourselves a follower of Jesus? 

So really the question becomes, “What are the best ways to do that?”  And clearly, Paul answered that from Romans 9 & 10 by telling us that loving neighbors necessitates that we care about their salvation, their relationship with Jesus.  In Paul’s life, that caring took the form of an internal grieving about their lostness and a practical praying about their salvation. 

Romans 10:1-- Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

            Over the past six months, I’ve found myself leading the charge in the church of Spokane to call every single genuine Christ-follower to begin to pray for their neighbors.  In fact, a group of about a half a dozen of us is sending out postcards this week to about 300 pastors in our community asking them this question:

“Wouldn’t it be great to see everyone in your church loving their neighbors through prayer?”

Imagine what would happen to our community if just 10,000 of God’s people decided to pray just 10 minutes a day for 10 of their neighbors needing Christ?  If we did that 365 days a year that would be 100,000 spiritually distant-from-God people in our community being prayed for individually, for more than 6 hours of prayer this year!  (1 minute X 365 = 365 minutes / 60 min = 6 hrs, 5 minutes).  Just 10 minutes each day. 

            And can you imagine what God will do in OUR hearts when we pray like that for spiritually lost neighbors?  I think the biggest change will come in us as we talk to God about our neighbors.  I’m pretty sure God is going to open doors that would otherwise be closed for us to talk with our neighbors about God! 

            Just take Mosaic.  What if 100 of us committed 10 minutes a day to praying for the reconciliation of 10 neighbors to Christ? We’d together be praying for 1,000 people.  If God moves in just 1 in 10 of those neighbors and we get to see them come to faith in Christ, every one of those of us who are praying would have the joy of seeing at least one of our neighbors find Christ. 

            Anyone here NOT interested in that if the love of Christ really lives in you?  NO!  You can’t help but resonate with that possibility!  You can’t help but say in your heart, “Lord, will you please help me to practically love my neighbors enough to take a measly 10 minutes out of each day’s 1,440 minutes to lift their need of salvation in Christ to You!”

            So here is what I want you to do today.  I’m not asking you to start praying this week…unless the Holy Spirit is convicting you to do that.  What I am asking you to do is to begin to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  Now we know that one really religious man in Jesus day in Luke 10 tried to dodge the reality that he wasn’t really loving his neighbors as God had required by asking that same question.  We may get to that another Sunday.  But if we’re NOT going to be like him, we DO need to be able to honestly answer the question, “WHO is my neighbor?” 

            May I suggest 4 different SPHERES of RELATIONSHIPS that you may want to talk over with God and keep a running tally of this week.

  1. People who live IN or AROUND my “home.”
  2. People with whom I WORK or GO TO SCHOOL with.
  3. People with whom I SOCIALIZE—at clubs, social gatherings, community events, etc.
  4. People I make CASUAL CONTACT with in any given week: the checker at the grocery store, the doctor you visit, the homeless person you pass on the street (or name you have through Hope365), the waiter/waitress/server in the restaurant or fast food joint you go to. 

[HANDOUT]

So this is what I want you to do in the few minutes we have left today.  Take the handout you are getting.  Find a pen/pencil. 

  1. START filling in the blanks with the names or even just descriptions (if you don’t know names) of people in each of those 4 SPHERES of RELATIONSHIP.
  2. Ask God to lead you to the 10 (or more) people He wants you to pray for this year in the next week or two.
  3. Start talking with God about them today. Tell God what you know and don’t know about them, what you would like to know and may need His help finding out.  Start praying TODAY for them—for their blessing, their spiritual needs, their family, their physical and relational challenges. 
  4. Look at that sheet every day this week. Start taking 5-10 minutes to pray daily for those people.  Add to it as God leads you. 

The next couple of weeks, we’re going to be looking at further things to do with these people.  We’re going to be diving deeper into what it really means to love our neighbors.  And this is something we’re going to be doing ALL YEAR LONG for the next several years. 

            So if you don’t love your neighbors…or don’t want to learn HOW to love them…you aren’t going to love being at Mosaic for the next few years.  But if you do know the love of Christ…and it is compelling you to love your neighbors…the next few years at Mosaic could just be the most exciting and fulfilling years of your life!

BENEDICTION:  Hebrews 13:20-21