For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about our call as followers of Jesus to tell someone else about our faith in Jesus. We’ve talked about the what (connect people to Jesus) and where to start (with prayer). This week, we’re talking about what the actual message we are to share is. We have a tendency to imagine sharing the Gospel is something incredibly complex, because we think of the Gospel itself as complex. The truth is just the opposite. The Gospel is simple and so is our message about it. Let’s talk about just what this simple message is together.
One of the life lessons I had set before me fairly often when I was growing up is best summed up by the acronym K.I.S.S. Anyone know what that stands for? Keep it simple…well…you fill in whatever S-word you heard put there. The idea, of course, is that it is better to keep things simple than leave them complex. Simple things are…well…simple. They’re easier to manage. They’re a lighter burden to bear. Simple is just better. Complex never made anybody’s life better.
And yet, while most of us know that principle in theory, in practice, it’s like we are addicted to complex. I mean, have you put together a toy for your kids lately? Sure, IKEA may lay things out about as simply as you could ask for, but that’s a rare gem right there. No, most of the things we get involved in wind up more like the U.S. Tax Code. Do you know how many pages that ran when it was first written? 400. No, not 400,000. Just 400. That was in the early 20th century. By the end of World War II, it had grown a bit. It had gotten 20 times larger and was now 8,200 pages. That’s nothing. By 1984, the length was up to an eye-popping 26,300 pages. Any idea how long it runs today? It’s nearly tripled in size again and now runs almost 75,000 pages. Nowadays, the thought of sitting down with a set of paper forms you pick up from the post office and doing your own taxes is a fantasy for most people. We either buy programs whose inner-workings are barely distinguishable from magic, or hire someone who spent several years studying in college and grad school to do them for us. We may pay out the nose for it, but most of us consider that money well spent. No, if you ever wonder about what the human impact on just about anything will be, look no further than the tax code for your answer: we complicate things.
Speaking of things that are really complex, sometimes it feels like evangelism is complex. It feels like the Gospel is complex. After all, just think about some of the questions people ask us about the Christian faith. People spend thousands of dollars and years of their life going to school just to be able to answer them. A big part of the reason that so many folks are scared about the very notion of evangelism is that they don’t want to run up against a question they can’t answer. And the reason we fear that kind of thing is because we feel like it is all just so complex. This morning I want you to leave here with a whole lot more confidence than perhaps you have right now in the simplicity of not just the Gospel itself, but the message of salvation.
This morning finds us in the third part of our conversation about what we should do with what we know about God called, Tell Someone. For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about how to tell someone else about our faith. Knowing it is great, but putting it into practice by sharing it is even better. All along the way, my goal has been to bring this down from where we often imagine it to be, to something that feels entirely more obtainable. To this end, in the first part of the series we talked about the fact that our basic job when it comes to evangelism is not something scary or complicated. We are simply to connect people to Jesus. You’ve made connections between two people before. That’s really all you’re doing here. God wants you to connect people to Jesus. And the good news, is that this isn’t something you even have to try to do on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t. Trying to do this on your own is a recipe for disaster. Instead, evangelism always starts with prayer.
Now that we know what our job is and where to start, though, what is the actual message we are to be delivering? That’s the next step for us to take. Helping us in taking it will once again be the apostle Paul. And, by the way, if you’ve ever wondered what the impact of your evangelism might be, Paul used to hate Christians and their Christianity with all of his heart. He was literally on a mission to round up and arrest all the believers he could get his hands on when Jesus changed his course. One courageously faithful believer named Ananias shared the Gospel with him and the rest is history. Rest assured: Ananias didn’t have even the remotest idea that his faithfully telling someone was going to change the whole course of human history.
Well, Paul was really smart. Part of what made him so smart was his ability to break down ideas that may have come across as complex if they were being presented by someone else and make them remarkably simple. Case in point: some 25 years later when he was writing about the basics of the Christian faith to the believers in ancient Rome, his Gospel hadn’t gotten any more complex than it was when he first embraced it. If you have a copy of the Scriptures, find your way to Romans 10 and look with me at how he framed the message of salvation for us. It’s entirely more simple than you might imagine.
The first 8 chapters of Romans are a powerful exposition of the basic theology of the Christian faith. They are, frankly, one of, if not the best such presentations ever written. The final 5 chapters of the letter are a thoughtful application of the theology of chapters 1-8. The chapters in between these important bookends are often ignored. The reason for this is they’re not all that easy to understand. In them Paul deals with the relationship of God and Israel and the church and that’s stuff on which there is not a lot of agreement among believers today. It’s not something that affects our Christian walk directly too, so we mostly ignore it.
Tucked right in the middle of this, though, is the clearest and most important statement of how a person is saved there is. Part of what makes it so important is that Paul frames it in such a way as to contrast it with the far more complex way we have often thought salvation to work so we can see how much greater is the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel.
Look at this with me starting right at the beginning of the chapter. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them [that is, the Jews] is for their salvation. I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.” Are you with Paul here? He’s talking about the devotion to old covenant of the Jews of his day and the inability of that covenant to give them what they wanted to get from it. Instead of leaning in and receiving God’s righteousness to gain them salvation, they were seeking it by way of their own righteousness by keeping the Law. Their problem was not a lack of passion for righteousness; it was one of knowledge. They didn’t understand that what they were doing wasn’t going to work.
He goes on to explain why in the next couple of verses: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” In other words, if you believe in Jesus, you don’t need the Law anymore to be right with God. You just need Jesus. The Law used to be how righteousness and life were obtained—“since Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: ‘The one who does these things will live by them.’”—but not any longer. “But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.’” Again, are you with him? Used to be, salvation was thought of like it was this Herculean task. It required a quest. Someone had to go and get it. We had to achieve some immense accomplishment. The righteousness—the salvation—that comes by faith in Christ, though, says, “That’s not the way any longer.”
Verse 8: “On the contrary, what does it say? ‘The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.’ This is the message of faith that we proclaim.” This is just brilliant on Paul’s part. He is using the Law of Moses to explain why the Law is not the way salvation is obtained any longer. He is using the Law to point people to Jesus and the end of the Law. The Law was created pre-sown with the seeds of its own destruction. It was always pointing to something more…to someone more. It was always pointing to a means of salvation that didn’t have anything to do with our efforts. It was always pointing to something that was not complex at all. It was simple, so gloriously simple.
And what is it? Look at this with me in v. 9 now: “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.” That’s it. Don’t tell me salvation is hard. Don’t tell me it is complex. According to Paul here it requires exactly two things: Confession and belief. You simply reorient your life so that it is submitted to Jesus as your chief authority, and you commit your life to a lived-out belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That’s literally all there is to being saved. The message of salvation is simple. Now, sure, there are folks who have unpacked exactly how this works and what it actually looks like when fully enacted in our lives in almost excessive detail, but at its core, this is it. “One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” Simple. The message of salvation is simple. This is so simple that anyone can do it. “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,’ since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. ‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
And all of this is really important stuff for us to know. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, this is how you can become one. There’s no mountain to climb or hill to take or wall to scale. There’s just confess and believe. If you are a follower of Jesus already, though, you technically already know this, right? This really isn’t for you and it doesn’t really have anything to do with telling someone else about what you believe…until, that is, Paul goes one step further. In the next section he asks a piercing and important question: How is anyone ever going to know about this if they’re not told?
In other words, if you are already a follower of Jesus and you don’t tell someone, they’re not going to figure it out on their own. It’s too simple for that. We make things complex. We want things complex. We want salvation to be hard, but obtainable by our own effort because then look at how awesome we are. But when it comes to salvation, we’re not the ones who are awesome, God is. It’s all God from start to finish. The simplicity of it all makes certain that’s the case. The message of salvation is simple.
So, what do we need to do with this? Well, tell someone. Tell that person you’ve had on your heart and mind; the one you prayed for last week. But can I bring this home a little differently with you this morning? Today is Mother’s Day. Maybe you’ve been wondering what any of this has to do with Mother’s Day. Honestly, I think this is a perfect passage for Mother’s Day and here’s why: As moms—as parents—you want the best for your kids. In fact, you don’t just want the best for them, you want better for them. You want them to have better than you did. You want them to have more than you did. You want them to work hard, but have less worries and fears. You want them to be better people than you know you are. That’s all what makes you such a good mom in the first place. Or, if children haven’t been a part of God’s journey for you, these are the things you want for the young people God has placed on your path.
Well, what could possibly be better than their salvation? What could be better for them than being right with God? What could be better than their sharing in His righteousness through Christ? This is how. Listen, if you are a mom or if you have young people in your life who you are mentoring, you are in a unique position to be able to speak the Gospel into the hearts and minds of your kids in a way that will draw them to salvation. We often fear that sort of thing, though, because we’ve been taught to think it is entirely more complex than it is. It’s not. It’s simple. The message of salvation is simple. Now, does that mean it’s easy? Of course not. But it is simple. And if you can teach your kids this one thing, no matter what else happens, you will have done your work well.
Moms, you matter. You are in a position to have an eternal impact for the kingdom of God in ways no one else can touch. When you do your work well, the world is transformed. Your Gospel impact when you tell someone about your faith—when you tell your kids about your faith—will extend further than you can even begin to imagine. All because you share a simple message. The message of salvation is simple. Share it.