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They had been waiting for over ten years. They had been told it was impossible. There was a ring of the door bell. There she was. It was written all over her face. As soon as she was in the house she started jumping up and down, stamping her feet with joy and delight, announcing the good news. She had conceived. Their wait was over. She was carrying the good news in her own body. There is nothing more exciting than being the bearer of good news.
On and off over the years I have kept a prayer diary. Way back in January 1978 Pippa and I had just got married. I was practising law at the time. I was studying the New Testament passage for today and wrote in my diary:
‘I long to spend my whole time preaching the gospel – telling people about the love of Jesus. But Romans 10:15 warns, “How can [people] preach unless they are sent?” I cannot and will not be able to preach the gospel unless I am sent by God to do so – it is a wonderful calling. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The preacher of the gospel is the bearer of good news – and yet when the good news arrives not all believe, Isaiah 53:1, “Who has believed our message?” Romans 10:16 – the tragic thing is that although the gospel is such good news not all obey it.
All of us are called to this task, but to do it as a full-time job is an immense privilege. The heart of the message is a righteousness that is by faith (Romans 10:6). ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (v.13). Salvation is by faith. This is the message of the New Testament. It is at the heart of Paul’s message in Romans. But Paul is also at pains to point out that its roots lay in the Old Testament.
1. Run to the LordProverbs 18:7-16
This passage in Proverbs, like the rest of the book, is full of practical wisdom. We need to guard our lips: ‘Fools are undone by their big mouths; their souls are crushed by their words’ (v.7, MSG). ‘Gossip’ is very tempting but to be avoided: ‘Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?’ (v.8, MSG).
We need to work hard and not be ‘slack’: ‘Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism’ (v.9, MSG). It is foolish to rely on wealth: ‘The rich think their wealth protects them; they imagine themselves safe behind it’ (v.11, MSG). Pride leads to downfall: ‘Pride first, then the crash’ (v.12a. MSG). Humility leads to honour (v.12b).
There are a lot more words of practical wisdom. For example, some very good advice to those leading or helping on Alpha: ‘Answering before listening is both stupid and rude’ (v.13, MSG). ‘Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights’ (v.15, MSG).
In the midst of all this practical advice, there is a verse which ties in with today’s theme. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe’ (v.10). Not all are safe. Only those who run to the strong tower, which is ‘the name of the Lord’, will be saved.
Even here, perhaps in one of the least expected places (the Book of Proverbs), we find the roots of the teaching of the New Testament that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Lord, help me today to guard my lips, to be careful about what I say, to work hard and humbly depend on you. Thank you that your name is a strong tower and a place of safety for all who run to it.
2. Call to the LordRomans 10:5-11:10
I was eighteen years old. I had been a Christian for two months when I had the privilege of telling someone good news about Jesus in such a way that he believed. His life, like mine, was changed that day.
Do you remember the first time you understood the good news about Jesus and believed in him? Have you ever had the privilege of telling another person the message of Jesus in such a way that they believed?
The claim of the New Testament is breathtaking. The name of the Lord was so sacred in the Old Testament that no one dared take it on their lips. Now we know that the name of the Lord is Jesus. Not only can we take his name on our lips, but when we call on him we are ‘saved’.
In the New Testament, it is revealed that the name of the Lord we need to call upon is the name of Jesus. ‘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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved’ (vv.9–10).
The Christian message is both exclusive, because Christ is the only name given for our salvation, and inclusive, because there is no one in this world who cannot call upon his name.
Anyone can call on the name of Jesus. Jesus is easily accessible to all of us. ‘No precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.’ He continues:
‘The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest’ (vv.6–8, MSG).
It is interesting to note in passing the importance of not only believing in our heart, but actually saying that we have done so. I have often noticed on Alpha (for example, going round the group at the end and asking how people have got on) that something happens to a person when they say for the first time, ‘I am now a Christian.’
Paul is keen to emphasise that as far as salvation is concerned, ‘There is no difference between Jew and Gentile’ (v.12a). It is ‘the same Lord [Jesus, who] is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” ’ (vv.12b–13).
It is of utmost importance, therefore, that we tell people the good news about Jesus. People cannot call on the name of the Lord unless they believe. They cannot believe unless they hear. They cannot hear unless someone tells them. People will not tell them unless they are sent (vv.14–15). It is an amazing privilege to be sent out to tell people. ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (v.15).
It is not enough simply to be a member of the race of Israel (anymore than it is enough now to be born in a Christian country). Paul demonstrates this by quoting Moses and Isaiah. Not all believed. Some were disobedient and obstinate (v.21).
I still have my notes from Prebendary John Collins’ talk on this passage at HTB on 27 February 1983. He said that the answer to the question, “Has God rejected his people?”, is, “No, no, no” (11:1–4). ‘The rejection of Israel is only partial. There always has been and always will be a remnant. Paul was an example of that truth (v.1).
Paul refers to Elijah (who was depressed after Mount Carmel) saying, ‘I am the only one left’. God says, in effect, “Cheer up, I kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” It is all of grace (v.6).’ Paul says, ‘So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace’ (vv.5–6).
Lord, thank you for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you that everyone who calls on his name will be saved. Thank you that the moment we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, and confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord, we are saved. Thank you for the amazing privilege of being able to experience this in our own lives, and being able to pass it on to others. Thank you that there is no greater privilege than being sent out to tell others. Help us to raise up and send out those who bring good news to Jew and Gentile alike.
3. Put your faith in the Lord1 Chronicles 2:18-4:8
God created us to live in a relationship with him. Until we find that relationship, there will always be something missing in our lives.
God loves us and wants us to find fulfilment and purpose in that relationship. That is why worship of God is central to our lives and to the book of Chronicles. Worship is the ‘narrative backbone’, as Eugene Peterson puts it, to the book. Faithful worship is what matters most of all.
God is faithful to us. He calls us to be faithful to him. Unfaithfulness leads to trouble.
In this passage the chronicler continues his introduction to the people of Israel. The list of the kings of Judah (3:10–16) is almost like the index to the books. Much of 1 Chronicles is going to be devoted to King David – who is held up as an example of true worship and faithfulness to God.
One of the great themes of the Book of Chronicles is the importance of this faith in the Lord. He is going to demonstrate that not all the people of Israel were faithful. But there remained a remnant who had faith in God.
This is one of the key messages throughout the Book of Chronicles. ‘Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful’ (2 Chronicles 20:20).
Lord, thank you that you always keep a remnant. Thank you that although we may feel at times very isolated and alone and as if there are very few of us left, there always remains a remnant who have faith in you. Help us not to be disheartened but rather to go on spreading the good news of Jesus and the resurrection and having the privilege of seeing that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
It’s as simple as that.