7 Steps in the Christian Life, Part 2

Ask 10 born again believers how they got saved, and 8 out of 10 would respond with something like, “I went forward during an altar call,” or “I prayed the sinner’s prayer,” or “I asked Jesus into my heart.” Two of the ten might answer correctly by saying, “Jesus died for my sins and the Lord saved me.” It’s not that the other eight were all wrong, but when it comes to your salvation, you didn’t do anything to merit God saving you. Jesus did. You simply responded to the drawing of the Holy Spirit as God enabled you to. You received Jesus because God made it possible for you to do so. It’s a fine point, but an important one.

“Receiving Jesus” is the very first step in the Christian life. But it doesn’t end there. You don’t live in a vacuum. The second step in the Christian life is found in Romans 10.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:10 | TNIV)

What does it mean to “profess” or “confess” your faith? Let’s take a look at what Paul was trying to teach his friends in Rome.

Israel: A dismal failure

It all starts back a chapter, where we read this:

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”. (Romans 9:30 – 33 | TNIV)

Paul’s letter to the Roman church is deep. Really deep. But, I’m not going to go SCUBA diving; I can’t do it justice in the time allotted. The apostle was addressing a problem involving Jewish Christians versus Gentile Christians. Gentiles were getting saved right and left, but the Jewish Christians had a hard time understanding how Gentile Christians could be saved without any exposure to the Jewish Law. That’s a simplification, of course, but it’s good enough to give you an idea of what Paul was up against. In very blunt terms, Paul informed his readers that God had rejected Israel because they rejected Him. That is, they rejected His Son. Historically, the Jews thought they could become righteous by simply keeping the letter of the Law. God’s intention was to save them by the word of His Promise.

The thing that Israel missed during Jesus’s earthly ministry was that plenty of scurrilous people became believers without strict obedience to the Law. Prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans all simply believed the Gospel and were saved, apart from the Law. Now, as Paul wrote, Gentiles were flowing into God’s family the same way: By simply having faith in the Word of God – the Gospel. Israel thought they were favored but Paul said not so. All people are in need of saving, and all people, Jews or Gentiles, are saved the same way, not by working for it through keeping the Law or by being good people, but believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is referred to as a “stumbling stone” the Jews tripped over. And He was. Jesus wasn’t what they were expecting in the way of a Messiah, so they tripped over Him; they didn’t notice Him for who He is. Lots of people miss Jesus, today too. The way of salvation is simple but man likes to complicate it. In truth, simple faith is all it takes but that doesn’t stop many churches from giving people tests to save them and then imposing standards of behavior on them to keep them saved. It seems like God’s people haven’t really learned much in the 2,000 years since Paul wrote about “justification by faith!” Some of us still think works play a part in the process when it fact works have nothing to do with salvation.

Misplaced zeal

In chapter 10, Paul pushes even further the issue that Israel was on the outs with God because of their arrogant refusal to just submit to God and trust Him.

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:1, 2 | TNIV)

And therein lies the problem with all religions. What Paul wrote about the Israelites is exactly what’s wrong with religious people today – they want to approach God based on their own ideas of what He wants, not His. Indeed, some people may be so zealous for God that they spend a lifetime working and living among the poorest of the poor thinking their good works will place them in good standing with God. But that’s not how it works.

The Israelites were incredibly zealous for God, but as Paul wrote, their zeal was not based on knowledge. They were willfully ignorant; they refused to believe the simplicity of faith. And Paul was the worst of a bad lot!

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13, 14 | TNIV)

But he was all wrong, and his zeal counted for nothing. He was literally chasing his tail; spinning his wheels; wasting his time. His “work for God” wasn’t saving him at all. And the traditions of his fathers had nothing to do with God or God’s Word. Yes, Paul was sincere, but sincerely wrong.

Now, you may wonder why was Paul so wrong. After all, he was obeying the Law given to the Israelites by God, right? So what’s wrong with that?

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4 | TNIV)

In other words, faith in Christ is all there is now. When He came, the Law ended. Works ended. Now you see why it was useless for Paul be so zealous about his religion. It had ended. It was all over. When it ended for Napoleon at Waterloo, Chauvin, one of his soldiers, stubbornly refused to believe it was really all over. He kept on fighting even though the battle was lost. If this fellow’s name sounds familiar, it’s because you’re likely are familiar with the word “chauvinist,” a person who believes in his own superiority when it’s obvious he isn’t. It took him a while, but Paul finally realized two things: He was a chauvinist. He thought that his stubborn adherence to a dead Law made him a righteous person and was saving his soul. And two, that Christ “is the end of the law for righteousness.”

A simple confession

Salvation is as simple as this:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10 | TNIV)

But is it that simple? Remember the words of Jesus, because He said something a little different:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 | TNIV)

So there’s a little more to it than merely staying “Jesus is Lord.” Knowledge is involved; knowledge of God’s will and doing God’s will. And it also has to do with a firm conviction deep down inside that you have been justified before God and that you are completely and freely forgiven. Jesus also had something to say about that:

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34 | TNIV)

For good or for bad, what’s inside a person will find its way out in the words he speaks.

Now, Romans 10:9 and 10 flow from what Paul had been writing about – the failure of Israel and the inadequacy of trying to earn points with God through good works and following the rules of religion. Religion can never save you. Good works won’t get God’s attention and make you look good to Him. When people insist on works and religion to save them, they’re showing their ignorance of what God has plainly said in His Word. Paul had previously written about the power of knowing God’s Word. That knowledge is indispensable.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”. (Romans 1:16, 17 | TNIV)

And that’s all he’s really saying again here. The only way for anyone to stand righteous before God is to believe deep down inside what God has provided through the work of Jesus Christ. And Paul, who was a master at writing, makes sure his readers understand the the nature of salvation. In verse 9, the order is: Speak what you believe, it’s in your heart. And in verse 10, the order is reversed: Believe in your heart, then speak it. He’s covered all his bases in these two verses. Salvation naturally bubbles up from what’s deep down inside you. It’s a knowledge of the Gospel message. How can a book save you? It’s because the Word of God isn’t a normal book; it’s a spiritual Book and every word of it is infused with God’s presence and God’s power.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 | TNIV)

So it’s not the “confession of faith” that saves a person, it’s a result of the Word of God being planted in a sinner’s heart. It takes root then takes over and at last the sinner becomes a redeemed sinner and he can’t keep it to himself! He has no choice but to shout, “Jesus is Lord!” Psalm 116 tells us something similar:

I believed, then I had spoken…. (Psalm 116:10a | KJV)

Paul felt that way his whole life after the Word of God changed him:

If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! (1 Corinthians 9:16 | MSG)

Paul just couldn’t keep quiet about what God had done for him, to him, and in him. It bubbled up from inside and came out in his words, verbal and written down.

The second step in the Christian life is confessing Christ. But it’s not getting up in front a congregation and testifying that you’re saved. Just confessing Christ won’t save you. Being able to declare that Jesus is Lord of your life is the result of being convicted in your heart of hearts that you have been saved, not through your work, but through Christ’s. And verse 11 informs us that the true believer, the convicted and convinced believer, will be able to take this second step even if it’s inconvenient for them to do so:

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11 | TNIV)

Even in difficult circumstances, you should be able to stand up and boldly declare, “Jesus is Lord.”

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