Leeds Vineyard

Romans 1:5-7 The Gospel is Global

Sometimes we fall into the way of thinking that the gospel, the message about Jesus coming to save us, is good for us, we have figured it out, we can sense the truth and we have encountered Jesus in a real way - but that it only really works for us, others won't understand, we can't expect people who have a different world view to change their way of thinking and behaviour to ours. 

We sometimes doubt whether the gospel can be relevant to the evolutionary scientist or the liberal humanist or the preacher of toleration - or to the Moslem or the tribal animist.

We almost get to the point of thinking that Jesus was from Yorkshire, the bible was written in English and that Jerusalem really was built amongst those dark Satanic mills.

These verses (5-7) turn us inside out - it is about Him and not about us and He has a message of good news for everyone. For every one of the 7 billion inhabitants on planet earth - of every colour, language and conviction.

5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake. 
6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake.

We looked at Paul's call when we read 1:1 - how his life had changed dramatically by meeting with Jesus and how, by God's grace, he had been called to be an apostle. Although he was a Jew by birth his mission was very much to the non-Jew as well as his own people. He has been called to all the nations/communities (ethnos) - meaning everyone else.
Paul is convinced that God's mission, though revealed first and foremost to the Jews, was not for them only but for the whole world. God's message of salvation was for everyone - however they behaved, whoever they were descended from, whatever they believed, wherever they lived.
When King George V (2 George's ago) was a schoolboy he was sent to boarding school with the appropriate amount of pocket money for the term. When he ran out of money half way through he wrote to his grandma, Queen Victoria, to ask for a top up (after all, she could afford it, she lived in a big house, she could take in paying guests). She replied tersely that indeed she would not give him a top up and he would just have to manage until the end of term. A week later she got another letter from young George, "Thank you Grandma for your letter. I no longer have need for any pocket money as I sold your letter to one of the teachers for £50."

For His name's sake.

Last week we looked at the significance of Jesus' name:
·        Jesus - the human being who walked our dusty roads;
·        Christ - the long awaited Messiah sent from God;
·        Lord - the true king and ruler of our lives.
This call, this mission is all for Jesus' name. Not for Paul's benefit or for my benefit or for your benefit - but for Jesus' glory and honour.
The gospel is not about me, it's about him. We talk a lot about what it means to me, we sing a lot about what it means to me - forgive me, have mercy on me, fill me with your Spirit, make me rich. And that's OK, He loves to answer that prayer, that cry from our hearts.
 god me


But that is not the point of our mission. 
We are motivated partly by the pain we feel and the pain we see in those around us - the loneliness, brokenness, hopelessness - but that is not our main driver. The main reason we preach the gospel, pray for the sick, put love into action in our community, the main reason we give our time, money and energy is not for our benefit or primarily for the benefit of others but for the glory of God.

his names sake Philippians 2:6-11
who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature
 of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death -
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

This is our goal and our purpose - to lift up the name of Jesus amongst each other, our friends, neighbours and all the people of the earth.
We are not ashamed because He is worthy and because the gospel of Jesus speaks into the heart and condition of every man. The gospel is global.
In recent years we have often talked about being on a journey of faith - a popular way to describe it is to say that we:
Belong then Believe then Behave
There is something to be said for that - the Church has often presented barriers to faith of either having to understand everything and agree before you can join the journey - or having to behave in a certain way to qualify. And these obstacles have kept people away.
Paul describes it differently - he calls us to faith which leads to belonging and obedience.
Believe then Belong then Behave
We need a better way of describing the bit before "Believe" rather than using the word "Belong". We undervalue it in when we place it first. Paul packs a big punch with the way he uses the word - and he means something different.
Perhaps we should describe the pre-Blieve bit with an invitation to "Loiter" - hang around for a while, come as you are and join in.
But at some point it is time for a response.

Starting with Believe

5. Call all nations/Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith
Obedience comes after faith. This is how grace works - God offers us undeserved salvation through faith - not through what we can do, or how we behave.
In verse 7 Paul reminds us that we are loved by God first.
"There's nothing we can do to make him love us more, there's nothing we can do to make him love us less." Yancey.
·        obedience that comes from faith
We are sent to call all people everywhere, the whole world, to faith in Jesus. We have a message of grace and faith. Through grace we invite people to place their faith in Jesus, believe in his life, death and resurrection and then follow him and worship him as their Lord.

Once we have believed and therefore been saved, everything changes and we experience two things: Belonging and Behaving.

6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

"I wanted to belong". Fay Weldon, celebrated author & outspoken feminist on why she turned to God & the church. September 2010, Christianity Magazine.

1998 William Glasser's Choice Theory. 
Behaviour is driven by five needs:
·         Survival
·         Belonging/connecting/love
·         Power/significance/competence
·         Freedom/autonomy
·         Fun/learning

I have a fundamental need to belong, to be loved.
When we Believe in Jesus we Belong to Him. We are safe in His care. We are soldiers in His army. At last, we have found where we belong and we are home.
ScreamMunsch's Scream

has become the symbol of our modern, secularised, atheistic society which has forgotten the gospel and can offer nothing more than a silent scream.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa
Under the veneer, the forced smile, there is a Scream of desperation, longing, imprisonment.
We bring a full throated cry, full of meaning, full of grace and hope, "Jesus is Lord".
Without Jesus people are lost, lonely, on the outside looking in, a stranger to their divine destiny and calling.

When they meet Jesus and put their faith in Him - they belong.  And in Him they find all their needs met. And in Him they find a new family, His church. 
Whoever they are, whatever language they speak. The gospel is global.
We believe first, and at that moment of salvation we belong in a most profound way:
·       from spectators to players
·       from the stands to the pitch
·       from lost to found
·       from the fringe to the family.
Not just hanging around, slightly on the edge, watching and wondering - but grafted into the tree, rescued into relationship with the king, part of the body of Christ - his church. We belong.

7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people
Paul has said we are called to faith, called to belong and now called to be holy.
Holy means set apart, it means that same thing as when he talked about his call to the gospel - now he describes us, the followers of Jesus in the same way. We have been called to be set apart - for obedience.
We Believe and at that point our ownership, our citizenship changes and we Belong to Jesus. We become his disciples. And that point our Behaviour changes.
A couple of weeks ago we realised that we are not sinners because we sin but we sin because we are sinners - but having been saved by faith we no longer need to sin. We are called to behave differently.

The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes based on faith rather than living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. Steve Jobs (Apple)

When Jesus has saved the woman caught in adultery from being stoned he said to her, I don't condemn you, go and sin no more. That's the world as Jesus saw it.
We have been caught in our sin, rescued from the judgement, no longer condemned by Jesus, and we too are now told to "Sin no more".
Jesus and his church welcomes all sinners - "Come as you are". But don't stay as you are. When we become disciples we leave behind our old sinful practices - all of them. 
We are set apart to be a holy people - to show the world that there is another way to live. But this is not something we can do on our own.
First, we are called into Belief. That means we Belong to Jesus and then we are empowered to Behave.
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, I invite you to recognise Jesus as Lord, to believe in Him and what he has done for you, to find yourself no longer alone but belonging to your maker and redeemer and His family the church. I invite you to have the courage and the strength to live your life the way He calls you to, to be obedient and leave behind your life of sin.
For those of you who are already disciples of Jesus - let us grow a community of faith where people can deeply belong and where the way we live stands out as different - a shining light in a dark world.

7b Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul finishes his introduction with a reminder that this gospel is global - for everyone and then a reminder of why we believe it.
Grace and peace he says. He is speaking to a church in Rome made up of non-Jews who have become Christians. They immediately line themselves up for a tough life by doing that in an empire where almost anything went except not acknowledging Caesar as king. And he is speaking to Jews who have also made a risky step in following Jesus, leaving behind their old ways and beliefs.
The greeting, "Grace", is a Greco-Roman one, the greeting, "Peace" is a Jewish-Hebrew one. In a completely unique combined greeting Paul draws together East and West, old and new, Jew and Gentile.

Jesus Christ our Lord

And he finishes with the same declaration he used in v 4, Lord Jesus Christ, again addressing:
the non-Jews, the Gentiles, by making Jesus the ruler, the Lord,
by identifying Him to the Jews as the Christ the long-awaited Messiah, Son of God,
and by reminding us that He is not a distant God but Jesus the Son of man, human just as we are.

The gospel truly is global.
May you and I do everything we can to let the world know the gospel of Jesus, not just so that they can believe, belong and live a new life but so that King Jesus can be honoured and exalted and given His rightful place as ruler in every single heart.
David Flowers, 29/07/2013