I’m preaching a sermon series on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter is dense, and wonderful and powerful; perhaps no other writing better explains the Christian faith than this letter Paul wrote to a church he did not found, but hoped to visit. (He did arrive in Rome, finally, but in a prisoner’s chains.)
John Wesley, the co-founder with his brother Charles of the Methodist Movement, wrote a sermon called “Circumcision of the Heart” based on part of chapter two. Circumcision, an intimate physical cut, was for generations a sign of the covenant between Abraham’s people and God. Gradually, as the family of Abraham became a people, then a nation, they became the only nation bound together chiefly by a common faith — the people of the covenant. After the destruction of their Temple and nation, after the predicted 70-year exile in Babylon, the promised return began, but others were coming too. With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven drew near, and Gentiles learned of the grace of God.
Paul wrote of the circumcision of the heart in chapter two, and Wesley wrote that there were four attributes to the torn heart: humility, faith, hope, and charity (love).
In the A.A. rooms I’ve attended, we often hear: “there is a God, and it ain’t you.” Several times in Scripture we see “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I think this means the same thing. We need to know there is a God, and we need to know God is bigger than our understanding, bigger than our desires, bigger than anything we can imagine. This is humility.
Humility leads to faith — not a tepid, lukewarm spit out of my mouth faith, but a vibrant, robust faith that grows as we live our lives in God. This is a faith that God will see us through, will be with us no matter what happens, and we will always be in God’s hands. “Where have you seen God?” We ask this all the time in our Inspire gatherings, in the church I’m privileged to pastor, in fellowship band meetings. “Where have you seen God?” Can you not see him? Learn to open your eyes!
When we have learned to exercise our faith we develop a sense of hope, because we see that God has not let us down yet! I don’t mean that everything will turn out like I want it to, but that everything will turn out, and God is in the midst of it. The greater our humility, the more robust the faith, the more optimistic the hope…
The last of these attributes is charity, or love. With humility, faith, hope and charity we will develop gratitude, and gratitude can change everything. Forgiveness is possible with gratitude, and gratitude can be a key to the Gospel — the power of salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek… (Romans 1:16).
While we were sinners, Christ died for us who are called, who feel the yearning toward God. Our defenses fall, our hearts are torn open, and we are ready to step into the life we are offered, with that intimate cut of our heart torn open like the heavens when Jesus came up from the waters of his baptism. (Mark 1:0)
Then maybe we can hear what happens next: And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Good word, pastor. Thank you.
I’ve seen God standing ready to receive my muslim friend and drawing him and his family toward saving faith.
Amen. Thank you, sir.
Awesome message. Thanks for writing it.
Thank you, Margy.