In last month’s Hub Sunday message, I talked about a new vision for our church. Nothing has been formally adopted, but the idea of the vision is to share the idea of hope and love. During this past year of extreme uncertainty, the Church needs to be about spreading the hope we have in Jesus Christ and loving others as we love God in order that He might be glorified.
This month, I continue that theme, and I do so even as we continue moving through Paul’s letter to the Romans. In doing so, I am going to take a different approach to this message than I would have a couple of years ago, or even six months ago, but we have the daily videos most weeks, and I will unpack the text in those this week. The short emphasis on three major portions of this passage will be the focus of each video. On Monday, I will elaborate on the mystery of God. On Tuesday, I will briefly cover the mercy of God. And on Wednesday, I will share what Paul says here about the mind of God which will then set us up for next Sunday’s message as well.
For today, I want to start by reminding us of something I mentioned from last week’s passage and then show how this week’s verses fit the purpose of Hub Sunday, even as we see how they close this section of the letter.
I have commented several times that I believe Paul is writing this letter primarily to the Jewish Christians in the church at Rome. Of course, the letter was for everyone in the church, and had applicability to Christians who were both of Jewish and Gentile origins. But much of the letter so far has been directed more towards the formerly Jewish side of the congregation. However, beginning in Romans 11.11, Paul changed the direction of his words and is now writing more to those whose background was Gentile. (ln the coming weeks, we will see Paul turn his attention to further uniting the church!)
Paul’s focus in the last two-thirds of Romans 11 is to prevent the Gentiles from becoming arrogant – as if they had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. Paul exhorts them not to become proud (v20), and actually uses the word arrogant in correcting their thinking as well (v18). As I will share in a few moments, it is good to be confident, but we cannot let our confidence become arrogance.
We see this idea in Romans 11.25, where our passage begins today. For the third time in about twelve sentences, Paul mentions something related to pride. Here Paul writes that he is going to reveal a truth to them that will help them not to be wise in their own eyes.
Let’s face it. That is the problem for most of us. We think we understand what is going on. Let’s test our theory. Why are the Palestinians and Israel fighting? What was the issue with the last election? Why are racial tensions so high? What is the cause of the Coronavirus? Should people be vaccinated or not?
We can provide answers to those questions, but how do we know if we are right? We don’t. But the people living in the present day always think that they are right. I am no exception. However, as you know, I rarely use stories or current news items in my examples because the news changes so fast and our interpretation of that news changes faster.
The Gentile Christians thought they had it all figured out. God had rejected the Jews, so they were now God’s chosen people. As I said last week, this idea is the result of a zero-sum game. Let me be clear: If we cannot figure out the truth of what is going on in the world, how can we possibly presume to know exactly what God is up to doing in the moment?
Let’s go back to Job. Job’s complaint, developed within a conversation with three, and then four, others, unfolds over three dozen chapters in Job. But then God shows up. Notice Job 38.3: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” This is God talking. He is saying, you think you know what is happening and why. Ok, get ready to stand trial and give me the answers.
Job 38.4-7 could be the end of the argument. Read Job 38.4-7.
But God was not done. He had listened to Job and his companions talk as if they knew the answers. Now, God was going to show them that they were not only wrong about the answers, but they were not even considering the right questions. God had listened to them; now they were going to listen to God.
Job realizes his mistake. Notice Job’s response. Read Job 40.3-5.
But God is not done. He repeats the same words with which He began (Read Job 40.6-7). And then God continues for what amount to two more chapters. Finally, Job repents as we see in Job 42. Read Job 42.1-6.
Those verses from Job show that we have no basis to be wise in our own eyes. We look at things from our perspective, not God’s perspective. To review the items I mentioned a few moments ago, what are God’s answers to the questions related to vaccinations, to COVID, to racial tensions, to the election, and to the conflict in the Middle East.
A part of our problem today is that too many people get their input from various news outlets instead of the Bible. Now, I am not suggesting that we ignore the news. If we ignore the news, then we will miss opportunities. And what I see in each of those news themes I just mentioned are opportunities for love and hope.
Paul mentions the mystery of God. We think of mysteries as something to be solved. But biblically, a mystery is something that God knows that He has yet to reveal. The great mystery that Paul mentions here is that God has a plan for salvation for mankind through Jesus – and that mystery includes both Jew and Gentile. Again, I will talk more about the mystery of God in tomorrow’s video.
It is because of God’s mercy that we can have any such hope. And that mercy does cover all people – or, at least, all people who call upon the name of the Lord (11.28-32; cf. 10.13). We may not understand it, but we have no standing to question it – or to question God (11.33-36).
And it is the understanding of this mystery (of salvation) that leads us to having Hub Sunday each month. We need to be reminded that life is not about what we think – lest we become wise in our own eyes. Hub Sunday is a monthly opportunity to remind us that life is not about us. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, your life is not your own, it was bought at a price (1 Corinthians 5.19-20). If we love God, indeed, if we claim to have faith in God, then we do so because of the mercy and grace He has showed us. It is nothing we have done on our own.
And that is why we cannot be arrogant. We have brought nothing to this equation – nothing to this relationship. In fact, Romans 11.35 says as much, we have not given any gift to God. All that we have and all that we are is from Him.
Everything is from Him. Everything has come to be through Him. Everything is subject to Him. Indeed, everything and everyone was designed for His glory. Any knowledge or understanding or wisdom we may have is from Him and for His glory, not ours. Thus, we have no basis for arrogance. For we are nothing without God.
But we can be confident. Not arrogant, confident. Indeed, if we know God – the God that showed Himself to Job in such a powerful way, we have every reason to be confident. God did set the foundation of the earth. God did place the stars in the sky. God did create the leviathan and other creatures that we know and have seen, and so many that we will never know or ever see.
And yet, for all that God has done, He has done the most for you. Again, ultimately, what has been done was ultimately done for His glory. However, God has shown mercy to you. That is why you are listening to the sound of my voice. It isn’t to hear me or what I say; rather, it is to hear God speak to you through me (hopefully). If it were not for God’s mercy, I would not have anything from Him to say. And to take that further, you would not be able to hear from me or anyone else. You would never have an opportunity to hear from God. But you do have an opportunity and you have heard from God.
And that leads me to our application for this Hub Sunday. You have uncertainty and doubt in your life. We all do. But if you know Jesus, you have hope in your life as well. You may not have all of the answers, but you if you have Jesus, you have the truth (John 14.6).
But so many people do not have that truth, and therefore do not have that hope. And they do not know God’s love.
And that is where we can shine – as individuals and as a church. It is where we should shine. It is where we must shine.
And we shine by not only knowing the hope of God and the love of Christ, but sharing our hope in Christ and the love of God with others. You might have noticed that I interchanged God and Christ with hope and love in the previous sentence. That was intentional – because what is from God is through God and is to God and all of that was made possible by the word of Jesus, as Christ.
So, what do we do?
Well, again, we can, and must, be confident that what we have (salvation in Christ, and knowledge of God) is sufficient for us AND is necessary for others. The fullness of that statement was the problem of the Roman church. They knew God was sufficient for them, but they wanted to keep God for themselves. That was really the issue of the Israelites/Jews for centuries, and now that the Gentiles had been made part of the Kingdom, they were acting the same way.
We must not act that way. We must be about sharing the message of Jesus with others. After all, someone, somewhere shared the message of Jesus with us. Had they not, we would have no reason to be confident.
To use the idea of from, through, and again, we have received the gift of mercy in Christ from God. We now have an opportunity for God to work through us to share that gift with others. And in doing so, we bring others to God through their own faith in Christ.
Frankly, the church (and by church, I mean THE CHURCH) needs to show far more about the love and hope we have. Too many churches have retreated in fear. Too many churches have capitulated to the demands of society. Too many churches are known far more for what they are against rather than who they are for.
Some of that is true of our church as well. But we serve a big God? Or do we? Is our God big? Is our God bigger than the problems we face? Is our God big enough to help people overcome the problems they have? I think so. And I believe you do too.
But the proof is in the pudding. It is not enough to nod our heads in agreement. Our faith requires action. As James wrote, faith without works is dead. I don’t want people to think my faith is dead. I don’t want people to think that this church is dead. If we have faith in a God that is bigger than the problems of this world, and a God that has solutions for the problems in our lives – including the biggest problem we face, which is the need for a Savior – then we have a faith in a God whose love needs to be shared and who people can turn to for the hope that they need.
But they need to hear that message. And they need to see that message lived out in our lives. So, that is the challenge today – on this Hub Sunday – that we would be a people that show the world that our God is bigger and our God is greater and that we truly believe it and want them to know that truth as well.
What’s Next?: Who’s your one (plus one)? Pray about how to share hope and love with them. So, this week, share God’s hope. Share God’s love. Find that one person (or many people, but start with one) that needs to know that hope and love are not just four letter words that only apply to some people Help that person to know – or at least begin to share with that person – that true hope and true love – God’s hope and God’s love – are available to everyone. And you want to be the person that helps that person to find, or even to rediscover, what they are truly seeking.