Romans 10:5-15

Seeing – Hearing – Believing

August 13, 2017

A young man and his girlfriend were making plans to marry – but felt they needed to wait until they could financially afford to do so.  The young man was offered an opportunity by his company to work temporarily in a new plant in Spain for a good bit more money than he was making at the time. While he did not want to go and be apart from his girlfriend, he accepted the job offer because he felt it would enable him to earn the money he needed to marry her. He and she began making plans to pool their resources and put a down payment on a house when he returned. As the lonely weeks in Spain went by, however, his girlfriend began to wonder if he was being true to her. After all, she reasoned, Spain has many beautiful women. She wrote him and asked if her were able to be remain true to her with so many beautiful women around, and he wrote back declaring that he was paying absolutely no attention to the local girls. “I admit,” he wrote “that sometimes I’m tempted. But I fight it. I’m keeping myself for you.” A short time later the young man received a package in the mail from his girlfriend. It contained a note and a harmonica. “I’m sending this to you,” his girlfriend wrote, “so you can have something to take your mind off those girls.” The young man wrote back that he was practicing playing the harmonica every night and thinking only of her. When the young man returned home to the states his girlfriend was waiting at the airport. As he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up her hand and said sternly, “Hold on there. First I want to hear you play that harmonica!” He proceeded to pull out his harmonica and play a beautiful tune. His girlfriend then kissed him and said: “I know now that you love me.  You have proved with your mouth on the harmonica that you love me with your heart.”

Our passage for this morning from Romans 10 is about our mouths and our hearts.

What does it take to grow in your faith in Christ? It takes your mouth and your heart. Listen to what Paul writes in verse 9:

“…if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

God has offered you salvation through Jesus Christ. Your response to the grace of God that is extended to you through the life, death,  and resurrection of Christ is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord.  This is how you grow in your faith. You believe in your heart and confess with your mouth.

Let’s look at the two parts to growing in faith.

Let’s begin with: “believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” 

Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the “stations of the cross” to stand at an outdoor crucifix. One tourist noticed a little trail that led beyond the cross. He fought through the rough thicket and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine, a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb. This shrine that symbolized the empty tomb, however, had been neglected by tourists who had climbed the mountain. Brush had grown up around it. Most people had gone as far up the trail as the cross, but there they stopped.

Some followers of Christ do that in their faith also. They might follow Christ as far as the cross, but there they stop. It’s really sad.  Very sad indeed. The truth of the matter is that there is no salvation in believing that once upon a time there lived a good man named Jesus who taught many good things and then died on a cross. No – Paul writes:

“Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead….”

When you add the affirmation that God raised Jesus from the dead, you are adding a whole new dimension to your faith. Millions of good men and women have lived and died, but only one rose from the dead and still lives triumphantly, and only one is still available to His followers today.

It’s faith in the resurrected Christ that saves you. It’s your faith in the risen Christ that you need to continually nurture and nourish.

How is your faith in the risen Christ?

Some Christians are not as strong in their faith as you might expect them to be. Even though they have confessed a faith in Christ and even though they are members of a church they experience an emptiness in their lives and feel very little joy in their faith and do little to grow in their faith and serve God or others.

How is your faith?    

Are you as strong in your faith as you should be? Maybe you have joined the Church and maybe you attend when it fits your schedule but you still are not as strong in your faith as you can be and do little to grow in your faith and serve God or serve others. I read about a lady from West Virginia named Paulette Hawkins. For quite some time after she invited Christ into her heart, she still felt empty. There was something missing in her life and she just couldn’t put her finger on what it was. She had always thought that once someone became a Christian that they would be filled with instant happiness and an instant sense of fulfillment. She had always thought she would feel different than she felt, and never expected to feel the emptiness she felt. She even began questioning the validity of her faith. One day as she was reading the Bible she realized something she had never noticed before. She was struck with the realization that she was clean. She realized that Christ had delivered her from her sins. But she still felt an emptiness in her life.  As she read Jesus’ response to Satan when he was being tempted in the wilderness.

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

She realized that she needed something more than simply accepting Christ as her Savior. She realized that she needed to be fed spiritually. She began to set aside time each day to read her Bible and pray. She began to make time every week for Bible Study and Worship and fellowship with other Christians. She began actively seeking ways to serve others and serve God in the process. As she made time for Bible reading, prayer, study, fellowship, service and worship her feelings of emptiness disappeared.  “Now I have an abundant life,” she told her Pastor, “because I am learning wonderful things about God as I feed on the Bible’s words, learn about God, worship and serve God, and fellowship with God’s people. God is now my best friend, and I look forward spending time with Him every day.”

Do you feel empty in your faith? If so, it may be because you are not feeding on God’s word every day, studying His word with fellow Christians, spending time in worship of God and in fellowship with God’s people, and serving God and others. You need to do these things to grow in your faith and receive the joy of following the risen Christ.

So believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead is part of what it means to grow in your relationship with Christ. But believing with your heart is only one-half of what growing in your relationship with Christ is all about.

Paul also writes: If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” …

To grow in your faith you need to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord. You need to have Christ in your heart and on your lips. A lot of Christians say they have Christ in their hearts but do not have Christ on their lips. Many feel that they would be ostracized from their friends and their friends would avoid them if they talked too much about Christ, and it is true that there are folks who would rather spend an hour with an salesman doing his hardest sales job for them to buy his product than with a Christian excited about their faith. Many feel that they don’t want to be a nuisance so they try the “silent witness” approach instead of having Christ on their lips.

Is that the way you feel? Are you “silent Sam” or “silent Samantha” when it comes to having Jesus and the things of Jesus on your lips instead of “excited Ed” or “excited Edna”?

There is something to be said for silent gestures of Christian love and service  and Jesus warned us about making a show of our religion. Still, when a friend is floundering in darkness and needs someone to say something positive, something reassuring, something life-giving, then remaining silent may not be the best thing to do. There are times when you need to put in a good word for Christ. It does not have to be an eloquent statement, it just needs to be a statement of simple faith, an affirmation that Christ is alive and that Christ is available to all who call on his name.

If you want to grow in your faith, you need to have Jesus in your heart  and on your lips. You need to have Jesus in your heart and grow in your faith by studying God’s word, meeting with other Christians for study, fellowship, and worship, and you need to serve God and others in specific actions of love and grace. And you need to have Jesus on your lips, talking to others about your faith, about  what Christ means to you and can mean to them.

James Jeffries was national president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and one of the most articulate and dynamic Christian spokesmen in the country. In many ways, Jeffries’ son Neil was a lot like his dad. Neil was strong, athletic, good looking, and had a deep commitment to Jesus Christ. But in one respect Neil was very different from James. While James was a dynamic and charismatic public speaker, Neil was afflicted with a severe stutter. He was quite shy though he was a thoughtful, wise, and intelligent young man. Surprisingly Neil was chosen to speak at an FCA national conference. Over a thousand young athletes were in attendance as Neil stepped onto the platform and began to speak. Many in the audience didn’t know about Neil’s speech impediment, and some, thinking his performance was a joke or a skit, began to laugh. On the platform, however, Neil continued talking. It took him about twenty minutes to say what you or I could have said in five or ten minutes. Yet at the conclusion of Neil’s talk, something amazing happened. Neil offered an invitation for those in the audience to give their lives to Jesus Christ. All across the audience, young men stood and began to walk forward. More young athletes made a commitment of their lives to Christ at that moment than at any other FCA conference. Neil was not eloquent, but he was passionate, and his passion stirred those young men’s souls.

If you want to grow in your faith in Christ you need to have Christ on your lips,  in your words. You do not have to be an eloquent speaker, just have Jesus in your heart and be willing to talk about what that means to you.  God may not call you to be a great speaker but God does call you tell others about Him.  God does call you to let your light shine. God does call you to have a heart for Him and lips for Him.

“…if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Lips and hearts.

We began by talking about a young couple separated by his job. Have you ever been around someone who is in love? Have you ever noticed how easily they talk about the person they are in love with? That is the natural inclination of one whose heart is full of devotion for a lover. That can be your natural inclination if your heart is full of devotion for your Savior.

So is your heart full of love for Christ or is there still an emptiness?

If there is still emptiness maybe  you need to spend some time growing in your faith, feeding on God’s word, studying God’s word on you own and with fellow Christians, fellowshipping with fellow Christians, worshipping with fellow Christians, and serving God with fellow Christians. That’s one way you will grow in your faith.

If God is in your heart, is God also on your lips?

Having God on your lips is another way to grow in your faith and to help others either come to faith or grow in their faith. The time for silence is over. People today hunger for hope and you need to introduce them to the One who is the source of all hope.

When you have Christ in your heart and grow in your faith because Christ is in your heart others will see Christ in you. When you have Christ on your lips and tell others about what Christ has done for you others will hear Christ in you. When others see and hear Christ in you, they will come to believe in Christ because of what God is doing in and through you.  Your faith will grow because Christ is in your heart and on your lips, and the faith of others will also.

You may remember the motion picture Gandhi.   Ben Kingsley starred as Mohandas Gandhi, the man who helped lead India to freedom through non violent protest. Rarely has an actor made such impressive a film debut as did Kingsley in Gandhi. He spent months preparing for the role, visiting Indian locales Gandhi had frequented. He even learned to spin cotton thread on a wooden wheel, as Gandhi  did, while holding conversations. The physical resemblance between Gandhi and Kingsley proved startling. After filming a scene in a village south of Delhi, Kingsley stepped out of a car and an elderly peasant knelt to touch his feet. Embarrassed, Kingsley explained that he was merely an actor playing Gandhi. “We know,” replied the villager, “but we see him and hear him in you.”

Friends, that’s the world’s plea to you. If you have Christ in your hearts and on your lips, you will grow in your faith and if others can see and hear Christ in you, they will believe. Amen.