July 3, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 10)

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge. 

Zeal without knowledge is misguided passion, sending you in the wrong direction and at a furious speed!  In talking about the Jewish people, Apostle Paul describes them as being “zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (v. 2).  Indeed, the Israelites knew a lot, having “been entrusted with the very words of God” (3:2).  They enjoyed a long history with God, they possessed the Ten Commandments, and they recognized God’s holy judgment over their lives.  Their zeal for God, however, translated into fastidious observance of the laws, a practice in which the Pharisees excelled.  In so doing, they revealed their lack of knowledge – knowledge of God’s love, of God’s heart for relationship according to his terms, of God’s “righteousness” that covers sin and comes by faith.  Their approach to God was to do enough righteous acts, so that in the great accounting, on God’s cosmic ledger, there would be more good on the left column than evil on the right column; to do enough righteous acts to satisfy God so that at the end of the day, they could do whatever they wanted.  So while they were zealous in doing “their little religious thing” and thereby exemplifying such high morality that they distinguished themselves from the neighboring pagan cultures, they “did not submit” to God’s righteousness and thus remained in sin, failing to relate properly to God.

On the flipside, knowledge without zeal is not any better – we need both!  Apostle Paul himself exhorts, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (12:11).  I have received the gospel, I know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  In view of God’s mercy, in view of the grace he has afforded me through the cross, therefore, I ought to live a life of increasing intensity and zeal, to be used by God as an instrument of righteousness.  God’s power is all-surpassing, as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, and I want it to be unleashed in my life and through my life by first fully submitting myself to God and making myself totally available to him – so that those who do not believe can hear the gospel, so that I can be a bridge to God’s salvation for many to cross.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

When I try to establish my own righteousness through willpower-driven efforts and inner resolve, not only do I engage in a futile endeavor, but I also am refusing to submit to God’s way of grace.  It seems like a simple lesson that I need to learn again and again.  It is the warning of the parable of the prodigal son, where the younger son, after his return, can quickly become like the older son – self-reliant and independent, refusing to become like the father.

My decision to receive Christ and become Christian came after a period of struggle, in which I had tried to establish my own righteousness.  By the strength of my own will, I wanted to prove to God and to myself that I could change on my own, that I could be a good person through my own effort.  At the time, God was convicting me of my deceitfulness, and my commitment was to tell the truth in all situations.  But I fell flat on my face, as again and again, I found myself sharing half-truths, or omitting key details, or embellishing stories to highlight my positive features, or at times, lying just to preserve my reputation.  I identified with Paul’s sentiment in Romans 7:18, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”  My pride finally broke, and I confessed my utter depravity and helpless state as a sinner through and through.

Even still, twelve years later, I find myself repeatedly heading down the same path, trying to establish my own righteousness.  It is the same indomitable pride that keeps rearing its ugly head, that keeps insisting on promoting my ego and deriving a sense of significance based on what I can accomplish (for God).  It is the same prideful insecurity that wants to be able to tell others, “Hey, look at me – I’m a good Christian!”  It is also motivated by a nagging sense of shame and guilt over my sins and failures of the past, and I think that by achieving enough righteousness, I can somehow “make up” for what I had done.  But the only way to submit to God’s way of grace is through humility – through the ego-devastating admission that I cannot do it on my own, and through placing God as the Master over my life once again.

I can guard myself against this by coming back to my testimony and reaffirming the truth that I was an enemy of God, hopeless, powerless, worthy of condemnation and wrath – and that it did not depend on my desire or effort, but depended purely on God’s mercy that I was saved (9:16).  I can return to this clarity regarding the gospel-centered life of discipleship – where it is not about my “righteousness” or unrighteousness, or success or failure, or doing a good job or a bad job, but all about trusting in the inseparable love of God and obeying him as best as I can, one day at a time, going to anyone anywhere at any time so that a person may here the message of good news and be granted a chance to believe and be saved.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.” [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?

To be saved, a person needs to confess with his mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” accepting all the implications and repercussions of such a profession of faith, and to believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

  • According to this passage, what needs to happen first in order for a person to believe the message, to call on Christ and be saved?

For a person to believe the message and call on Christ and be saved, he first needs to hear the message, and that is only possible if someone preaches the gospel to him.

  • In light of this, how seriously have I taken my role as one who must “bring good news” to those who “have not heard?”

When I think about my identity, I recognize that I have been entrusted with the precious gospel that is able to deliver a soul to heaven from hell, that I have been personally called and sent by God, and that I bear the privilege and the responsibility of preaching God’s Word to those who do not believe.  This remains to be my paramount identity and my most important role in this world.  I am a bi-vocational minister, and from 8am to 4:30pm, I work as a nurse practitioner practicing medicine.  But what I do in my office cannot compare with the life-saving, life-giving, life-changing ministry I do as a minister of reconciliation, an identity I hold 24/7.  Every Christian is an evangelist because every Christian is a “little Christ,” an ambassador of Christ, a member of the royal priesthood, a redeemed child of God with a personal testimony, an example to the watching world of God’s patience and mercy.  In my own ministry, as I lead a group of recently-converted college seniors, part of my role is to impart this sense of calling and commission to each one of them – in a season of their life when they are thinking about their future, the trajectory of their lives, the offerings of this world, and the alluring call of career and materialism.  My prayer and vision for them is that they would join me in the urgency of suffering for the gospel, of laboring hard to see other prodigals find their way back to the Father’s home, of leading lost sinners just like us across the line of faith.

  • Reflect on the words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”  List the people (known and unknown) God used to bring the gospel to me.  Who are the people to whom God is asking me to go? 

There are so many people to whom I am indebted for bringing the gospel to me: my mother who first dragged me to church when I was ten years old, my aunt who first brought my mother to church when she was a young girl back in Hong Kong, as well as my spiritual leaders Pastor Ed and Kelly, Pastor Daniel and Sarah, and others who not only preached the gospel in a relevant and compelling way but also lived out the gospel.  God also used the original founders of our church, who took a bold step of faith in establishing a ministry on the Berkeley campus that emphasized solid biblical teaching, life-on-life discipleship, strong stance against sin, and close family-like community – as it was at our church where I received a lot of prayers as well as a lot of painful truth that was hard to swallow, but it was because I was taken seriously that I understood God’s love and grace and was able to be saved.

God is calling me to reach the college students.  College is the institution of higher learning, but spiritually speaking, it is the bastion of post-modern thought and the naturalistic worldview as well as the place that promotes the rampant hook-up culture, partying and drinking.  And the tragic consequences are broken hearts and broken lives – the statistics are staggering, but nobody wants to talk about it.  Yes, they are people that need to hear the gospel and believe, but it is in the context of the spiritual battle, where they are hearing and believing so many other false and degrading things that will lead them either to a meaningless existence or to self-destruction.  Just as Paul was obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks (1:14), so I am obligated to these college students and eager to preach the gospel to them.

Submitted by Jin K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge.

On one level, zeal without knowledge is a lot of wasted energy. It’s doing a lot of work and exerting a lot of effort that in the end, turns out to be futile. But the greatest tragedy is that it’s so burdensome. In this context, zeal without knowledge is applied towards God. Paul talks about a people that have a lot of zeal for God but without knowledge. For the people Paul was referring to, their knowledge lacked the grace of God. So this led to a very ritualistic and fear-driven life. There were a lot of do’s and do-not’s without the personal understanding of God being more into a relationship rather than work-product. The result is lack of joy in obeying God and seeing God as more of a task-master rather than a loving heavenly father who sympathizes with our weakness, who came to let us know that we don’t have to put on a charade of being righteous. But zeal without knowledge can also be reflected on the other spectrum. One can be very zealous about God’s grace and forgiveness but lack the aspect of his lordship. The tragedy of this is that one remains enslaved to his sins. Of course, the struggle with sin will always be there and along with that, falling into sin. But there is also something to be said about God coming to institute change in our lives right now and to have us experience liberation from sin and becoming more Christ-like. According to the bible, this will require tremendous effort on our end as the bible uses words like “labor” and “struggle” to describe our walk with God (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 6:10-18). And I’ve seen over the years why God wants to bring change in me right now. He wants to cleanse me of the cycle of shame and guilt that discolors my experience of life whenever I do fall into sin. He also wants me to be more available for his work and to chip away at my character issues that prevent the full extent of his work being carried out in me. And he has also used the process of struggle I’ve had to go through, times in which I thought there was no use, as a source of encouragement to others who are going through the same things. To have zeal without knowledge, in whatever aspect of God and of spiritual life, is tragic because in the end, one misses out on so much of the greater spiritual blessings God wants to bring to a person.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

The Israelites’ example is not just confined to them but to many other people today. People today seek to establish their own righteousness and terms of salvation. And as a result, they refuse to submit to God’s righteousness. For people who are success-oriented and used to achievements, after becoming saved, Christian living is yet another arena to continue this method of living. And this shows its ugly head in a lot of ways. One way is being very defensive when confronted about character flaws or sins. People may believe in their heads that they are sinners but when it comes to admitting this in the nitty gritty details of their lives, are loathe to admit this. There are always a lot of exceptions, mitigating circumstances, different weighing of details, etc. Of course, people can be wrong and one should not always be blindly believing in input from others.

But in terms of basic posture of humility, wanting to listen so that truth can be asserted rather than one’s justifications–this is lacking for those who seek to establish their own righteousness. The reason is that the motivation behind this is to look good in front of others and a lot of effort is exerted to maintain a certain image. But to truly submit to God’s way of grace often includes the involvement of the church and its people. The way of grace often includes confrontation, confession, and/or receiving prayer. And in my experience, the experience of God’s grace has been the strongest when it involves other people because I cannot hide in my sins and remain under the illusion that I’m ok. God made me into a social being and uses the leverage of the social presence of others to drill into me some spiritual truths. One way I can guard myself against the underlying motivation of seeking to establish my own righteousness, that is, using my spiritual activity to look good in front of others, is to confess and be authentic before others. Another way is to not isolate myself. By being available and readily in front of others’ views, I am giving more material and opportunity for input for others to help develop my character and make me into a more pleasing vessel for God. And I can also be more intentional that when being confronted by others, I will be mindful to not have my defensive barriers go up so quickly but really listen with an attitude of what God is trying to reveal about me in that instance rather than what details I can cling onto to prove that I am right or justified for doing/saying what I did. Recently, I had to have a conversation with a dear brother in Christ who I’ve known for many years. It was regarding what I did to him and revealed several of my character flaws: my inability to listen and how I can come across to others that is not others-centered. It was a good time of talking through misunderstandings we had from a prior conversation. But it was also a time when I had to be confronted of my sinfulness and how it affects others- namely this brother. It was not a pleasant experience as I had to hear input about myself that deep inside, I knew I couldn’t protest but had to accept. But it did make it very clear to me that I had no other option but to submit to God’s grace. And in this process, I was able to cherish this dear brother more and experience deeper fellowship with him as well because this conflict authenticated and escalated the genuine level of our friendship. I’d have missed out on this opportunity if I kept myself hidden and isolated from others, if I was more into trying to justify myself. But in this small instance of dying to myself, by not seeking to establish my own righteousness in front of him and Him, I was able to experience the sweetness of submitting to God’s grace and gained so much more otherwise.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332.]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?

According to this passage, there are a lot of things that takes a person to be saved. Towards the end of this passage, there need to be people to bring the gospel to others. There needs to be people who are sent out to preach the gospel. Deeply entrenched in God’s salvation plan is the involvement of people. What is also required is the proper posture before God. One cannot be so action-oriented to earn their salvation because that would degrade the gift of salvation provided by Christ (v.6). But one also cannot be so fixated on sin and have that be the only dominant reality because that would render Christ’s death, which washes away people’s sin, as futile (v.7). In this context, verse 9 comes which provides the proper posture. There needs to be the proper acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord. There needs to be the proper recognition that God raised him from the dead. In other words, Romans 4:25 is echoed in that we are considered righteous because Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. It is the proper recognition that we have salvation as a free gift and understanding that though we cannot do anything to merit our salvation, sin is also not our dominant reality that we need to be so focused on. By receiving God’s grace, we strive to make God more of our lord and obey him with greater zeal rather than by receiving grace, simply doing whatever we want. We confess Jesus is lord over our lives and do what he says even though at times it is so difficult and does not make sense. But as we do so, we wouldn’t have our lives be any other way. These days, life has been busy. Have a kid, greater entrustment in ministry, got recently sick, work is busy, and there are a lot of things to plan for. Yet one thing I cannot get over is God’s mercy on me and the privilege I have in being able to minister to people. He has mercy on me with my perennial sins, he has mercy on me with my lack of competence when it comes to loving people, he has mercy on me in so many ways. And this generosity from God makes me want to love him more, to give more of myself. There are times when I don’t want to give myself. I’d rather check out mentally or simply not deal with people. But as I’ve taken steps of faith to make Christ lord over more areas of my life, such as when I make myself available to talk to this person, things will happen in that conversation, I’ll be given insight that I didn’t plan on having, and before my very eyes, God is working through me even though initially, I thought I didn’t have the mental and physical capacity to carry it out. This is but one example of how by taking small steps of faith in making Christ lord over my life, God helps me. And with this repeated pattern, my life resembles more of someone who is indeed saved. But it all begins with this basic understanding that Jesus is lord, honoring this with my life, and being thankful for God’s free gift of salvation.

Submitted by Hannah C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge.

o   The Israelites thought they were being zealous for God, but their zeal was not based on proper knowledge of God, but it was based on what made sense to them, which was to establish righteousness on their own. Their zeal consisted of following rules, rituals and traditions to please God. It is tragic as they were completely deluded about themselves and about where they stood before God. They thought God was pleased by their actions while God wanted a right relationship with them through faith in Jesus Christ. As Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings,” it is tragic that they missed God’s heart completely and continually being zealous in the wrong things.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

o   The relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace is that their willpower-driven efforts blinded them from even seeing the righteousness that comes from God and therefore they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Their world only consisted of establishing their own righteousness through meticulous rule-keeping, and they could not understand or appreciate God’s grace.

o   I can guard myself against my desire to establish my own righteousness through honest reflection of myself. It is easy for me to feel good about myself when I am working hard for the Lord as a minister. But when I honestly examine my heart and search what is in my heart, I have to acknowledge that I am a sinner through and through because even the best of my intentions to serve God is tinged with a sense of pride. And knowing that nothing is concealed from God’s sight, I cannot pretend as though I am righteous.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332.]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?
  • According to this passage, what needs to happen first in order for a person to believe the message, to call on Christ and be saved?
  • In light of this, how seriously have I taken my role as one who must “bring good news” to those who “have not heard?”
  • Reflect on the words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”  List the people (known and unknown) God used to bring the gospel to me.  Who are the people to whom God is asking me to go?
  • For a person to be saved, she needs to confess with her mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in her heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  • In order for a person to believe the message, they first need to hear the message. In order for them to hear the message, someone needs to preach to them. Otherwise, they can never call on the one they have not even heard.
  • Although I try to “bring good news” to those who “have not heard,” I sometimes don’t have this kind of sense of urgency to bring good news to people around me. I often rationalize that they are not interested or give up after a few tries of trying to tell them about the gospel. But this passage reminds me of my important call is to tell people about good news of the gospel that I have found. I might be the only person who knows the good news in my friends’ and students’ lives, and in order for them to believe in God, they first need to hear the message.
  • When I look back on my life, I cannot deny that God used many people to bring the gospel to me. First, it was my family who brought the gospel to me since I was born. Starting with my grandparents who faithfully served during their lifetime and prayed for me daily, my family taught me the gospel and devotion to the Lord. Then there were my youth teachers at this church who demonstrated genuine Christian living during the tumultuous time of my teenage years. Although I was not interested in Christianity despite having grown up in the church and only cared about the world, I could not deny that there was something so different and attractive about them. It is not surprising that I would turn to my teachers whenever I faced difficulties because I knew that they genuinely cared about me. So when my mom had a stroke suddenly, my youth teachers were the first people I contacted to pray for my mom. But almost everyone from the church came to the hospital immediately to pray for her and to be with my brother and me, and I was amazed by their love for my mom, the person they did not even know. During that scary night with full of uncertainties, they brought me good news of the gospel where I finally recognized my sinfulness, frailty of life and acknowledged Jesus as my Savior and Lord of my life. If it weren’t for my youth teachers who persistently loved me when I was the most obnoxious and most unlovable person, I do not know where I would be today. I would still be leading a life of delusion and hopelessness.
  • The people that God is asking me to go are the college students who were just as lost as I was during my teenage years. He wants me to go to them and teach them good news of the gospel so that their lives will be forever changed as mine was.
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