The Second Sunday After Christmas January 2, 2005
90(1-2,6-8), 105, 378, 376
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
The average human heart beats over 36,000,000 times each year with precious little rest in between each beat. It is the work-horse of the body. The heart is a vital organ for it pumps the lifeblood to all the extremities. All of the body depends upon the condition of the heart and its ability to pump blood. Because of the heart’s importance to our body and life we are frequently reminded to eat “heart-healthy” and to exercise so that the heart will be strong and able to do its work.
Anything that is at the center of something and relied upon by the whole can be described as the “heart”—the heart of an issue or the heart of the matter. Everything that depends on the heart needs the heart to be healthy.
The “Heart of the Gospel” is the basic message of our salvation. For example, John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The basic truth that we are lost and condemned sinners who have been given free salvation through Christ is the heart of the Gospel message. When we apply that heart of the Gospel to our spiritual hearts, it is medicine for our hearts and souls. Today we consider that THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL IS MEDICINE FOR THE HEARTS OF SINNERS We will see I. The sobering truth of diagnosis II. The free medicine for all and III. The new heart through faith.
Our text opens with Paul’s deep yearning for the spiritual health of his own people, the Jews. He writes, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” [v.1] Paul’s diagnosis of his people’s spiritual condition didn’t lead him to confidence. The Jews did have a zeal for God, Paul writes, but not according to knowledge (cf. v.2). “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” [v.3]
It was a source of deep sorrow for the Apostle Paul to see his own people relying on themselves, looking to their own wisdom, blindly saying that Christ was not the Son of God. In his analysis of the life and spiritual health of his people, Paul saw death. Paul so desired the salvation of his people that earlier in this letter he said: “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…” (Romans 9:3).
Jesus saw the same symptoms of a sick spiritual heart when He was on the earth. He saw the Pharisees relying on themselves, relying on their own outward obedience of their own man-made laws. He saw other people walking blindly without seeing the truth of God. When the people of Jerusalem had largely rejected Jesus, He looked out over the city and said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Theirs was a sick heart—a sick spiritual heart which relied upon itself and rejected Christ who is salvation from the sickness of sin.
When we speak of a “spiritual heart” we mean more than just the emotions. It includes the whole inner being of someone: the emotions, the planning, the scheming, the thinking things through, the whole course of life that we plot for ourselves, and that whole inner being was sick with sin! That sickness led to the rejection over which both Paul and Jesus wept.
When we diagnose ourselves and analyze our own spiritual health, we won’t find anything different. Paul writes in our text, “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them…’” [v.5] The Law of God as given through Moses on Mount Sinai stands. As we hear the summary of God’s moral law in the 10 commandments (cf. the Old Testament Reading) and use that Law to analyze ourselves, the Law condemns us in our sin. God says that if you keep the Law, if you are completely clear of sin, then the Law will give you life; then through the Law you will have a healthy spiritual life and heart. But when we look at the Law we find that we too are sick with sin.
There’s not a one of us—from youngest to oldest—who can look at ourselves in the light of God’s Law and say that we have kept it perfectly. First of all we have inherited our sinful natures from our parents and we daily add the sins of our thoughts, words, and deeds. We add the things we do when God says, “you shall not!” We add the things we do not do when God says, “you shall!”
The diagnosis of our hearts is that we are sinful. Where there is sin, there is death. In other words, we have sick and death-filled hearts. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).
The temptation is to rely on our own righteousness in spite of our sin (this is what the Jews did). We do it all the time. We sin, we’re wrong, but we get defensive at being wrong. “Well, it wasn’t me…it wasn’t my fault…yes, I did that but someone else did something too….” We don’t like to admit that we are sick, but a true evaluation and diagnosis proves that we are indeed very sick.
As we evaluate ourselves and the world around us we may join with Paul and long for the salvation of those who are “heart-sick.” For whom do we long? For whom do we mourn? Do we long over and weep over the world’s youth of today, praying daily that they will be able to find the medicine that their souls so desperately need? Do we have specific friends for whom we long and weep as did Paul over his people? Do we have family members? In addition to these, we always have our own weak hearts to observe and we will find much over which to weep there as well. We need medicine. The heart of the Gospel provides that medicine.
Throughout the book of Romans, Paul gives a detailed description and explanation of the whole plan of salvation. From time to time there are little “core passages” that so carefully and wonderfully sum up the whole of our salvation. Verse 4 to today’s text is an example of this: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Christ is the completion of the Law. We hear the words of God thundering down from Mount Sinai, we look at our sins, and we can’t see life. We see sin, we see sickness, we see helplessness. The medicine comes from Christ who has fulfilled the Law that condemns us. He has completed it on our behalf. Jesus has not only completed the Law by living a perfect life according to it, He has also completed it by bearing the Law’s condemnation of our sins. So when Paul writes, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness…” he is saying Christ has wiped out your sickness. He gives you righteousness. He give you forgiveness of sins. Earlier in Romans, Paul writes, “For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin” (Romans 8:3).
While on a missionary journey, Paul preached to his listeners saying: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man (Christ) is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). Everything we lacked and everything that exposes our sickness is healed by the medicine of the Gospel.
The “heart of the Gospel” that Jesus came and fulfilled the Law for us and died to wipe out our sins is medicine for our hearts. Best of all, it is free medicine! Paul says, “to everyone who believes” without adding qualifications. Salvation belongs to everyone who believes…period! The heart of the Gospel has been given by God, He declares that your sins are forgiven through Christ—Believe it!
There are advertisements for bodily medicines that make it sound as if a particular drug is the greatest medicine to ever enter a pharmacy; but then at the end of the ad a list of people is identified who should not take the drug because it would be harmful to them.
The beauty of the Gospel is that it is medicine for all people. There is not a single person for whom it is not intended. There is not a single sinner whom it cannot help, as Paul says, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.” [v.12] The Gospel’s medicine for our sick souls is free and available to all!
Sometimes we take medicine and it doesn’t do any good. The medicine of the Gospel works and gives us a new heart. Paul writes in the text, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” [v.9-10]
The medicine of salvation through Christ Jesus gives life where once there was death. The Holy Spirit uses the message and medicine of the Gospel to create hearts that can believe in Jesus and prompt our mouths to confess Him. The Holy Spirit gives us a spiritual heart transplant—our sinful heart is exchanged for a new creation through Christ Jesus (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).
We have a new heart through Christ Jesus. It is a completely new life—a new outlook, a new way of living, a new confidence in our Savior. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We may still face fears and have relapses of the old heart that wants to stiffen up against God and His Word. We do still find ourselves sinning because we continue to have our sinful flesh. But hear what Paul writes: “the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” [v.11]
There are many people in whom we may place our trust and sometimes they will let us down. We are “put to shame” because the trust is broken. However, God says “You will not be put to shame when you put your trust in Me.” Our new heart is able to trust completely in our Savior and He will not disappoint.
We have a new heart beating within us and it affects our whole life because the condition of the heart determines the health of the whole body. When we feel ourselves getting sick, we need to take our heart medicine by going back to the Gospel. The Gospel will strengthen us once again and we will live on through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.