Romans Lesson 96 - Hooray for Crocket!
Hooray for Crocket! Have you ever taken a swim in the ocean and, as waves came in, you were lifted up so that you couldn't touch bottom? At that moment you felt rather small, didn't you? Well, that's the feeling you get when you swim in the deep ocean of election. In fact, just the mention of the word keeps many Christians away from the water's edge, and Romans 9 is avoided at all costs. In this series, join Stephen in a deep-sea dive that explores the mysterious depths of God's electing grace.
“Hooray for Crockett”
Periodically I’ll hear of some rumor about Colonial circling out there in the community. One of our evangelism teams went to a home recently to visit a newcomer who, during the course of their conversation, asked them about this rumor. This visitor said, “I’m a little concerned because I’ve heard that Colonial is bankrupt.” I thought that was fascinating – Colonial is bankrupt . . . no one told me!
Perhaps they heard about our deficit 2 years ago – along with so many other ministries who felt the effects of 9/11 and a down-turned economy. This past year, however we ended the year by giving nearly 100,000 dollars more than our budget. And this year, which we just began 3 weeks ago, saw us take a great step of faith in adding to our budget more than $7,000 dollars a week – that’s the second largest increase in our 17 year history. A nearly $400,000 dollar increase to the annual budget. If that’s bankruptcy, let’s have more of it.
I praise God for the generous commitment of our body to giving. We don’t use gimmicks . . . we don’t manipulate emotion, we just put out the need and God’s people give. We don’t try and obligate people by preaching storehouse tithing, because the church is not a storehouse. We don’t store grain and corn and cattle in here. The church is not the storehouse of Malachi – it is a funnel, through which God subsidizes His mission on earth. And we are fortunate enough to be involved in it!
But aren’t you glad people are spreading rumors about us that aren’t true – aren’t you glad people are talking about us? I think it’s free advertising!
No telling what these evangelism teams are going to encounter!
I enjoy reading the weekly updates on how our visitation teams are winning people to faith in Jesus Christ. Did you know that someone is coming to faith in Christ through the effort of somebody or some ministry of this church at the average rate of one person every day.
One person every day for Christ . . . amen?!
I received an email a few days ago from one of the ladies in our church who had just visited a brand new couple to Colonial. She wrote that they had gone to see the movie, The Passion of Christ, and were troubled by it. They were basically un-churched, although they had a background of attending church periodically. One of them mentioned to a co-worker about how troubling this movie had been and the co-worker suggested they go to church again . . . where? This individual said, “Why don’t you try Colonial on Tryon.” They came the very next Sunday – which was Easter Sunday – this woman wrote, the sermon gave them a deep hunger to know what it meant to have Jesus in their lives, how to have the forgiveness of Jesus in their hearts – they filled out a card and put it in the offering plate. The following Wednesday night this evangelism team showed up at their home. This woman wrote me in her email, when they got to the house, their 16 month old twins were requiring attention – that’s probably an understatement – they had dinner in the oven and a dog running around – but they invited us in – asking question after question. Finally, we had the opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with them and they eagerly bowed their heads and prayed to invite the Lord Jesus into their hearts and lives.
Hey, let the rumors fly – don’t worry about them . . . let the critics multiply . . . the truth is, we are bankrupt . . . we are . . . it’s true . . . we have discovered the utter bankruptcy of the human heart and we have run to the city of refuge for everlasting help. We have fallen before our living Lord for mercy and have discovered in Him all the grace and forgiveness our bankrupt souls could ever want or ever need.
I want us to be thrilled together with the news of conversion; the news of God’s glory revealed to an unbeliever; the news of some man or woman, boy or girl being brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ, born again to life everlasting.
That’s what we’re all about! That’s why we’re in the world! We are the agents of reconciliation!
Discipleship Journal ran an article by Jean Fleming who wrote of an incident that occurred in her church. The pastor announced from the pulpit that a young elementary school boy named Crockett had given his heart and life to Christ that very week. Another boy, a little younger – around the age of 5 – jumped up on the seat of his pew, thrust his fist into the air and yelled, “Yeah for Crockett!” It was totally spontaneous – unconscious joy over the news of this boy’s salvation. Everyone in the church turned to stare – this boy’s mother was mortified as she pulled him down and shushed him still. Too bad. The entire congregation should have stood with him [and shouted along with the angels, “Hooray for Crockett . . . Hooray for Crockett!”]
Craig Larson, Choice Contemporary Stories and Illustrations (Baker Books, 1998), p. 50
If there was ever a man who would have stood and shouted “Yeah for Crockett, it would be the Apostle Paul. What love for the sinner . . . what passion for the gospel.
This morning, as we return to our study of Romans we will read a rare autobiographical statement that let’s us see into the heart of the Apostle Paul.
We will discover a heart that models enthusiasm and passion for lost people – in fact, he will say some things that will deeply convict the heart of every believer.
While you are opening to chapter 9, you need to know that chapter 9 begins a brand new section in this letter. Chapters 9, 10 and 11 form a section of thought that I am entitling, “The Case for Israel.”
Chapter 9 deals with Israel’s past.
Chapter 10 deals with Israel’s present.
And chapter 11 deals with the nation Israel’s future.
The primary questions that Paul will answer in this next section of his letter are the questions:
- What happens to Israel now?!”
- Now that they’ve rejected the Messiah, how does the gospel of Christ relate to them?
- Will they be thrown away by God forever?
- Have they lost their status as God’s chosen people?
And in these opening verses of chapter 9 Paul begins to lay the groundwork for his answers to these questions, he begins by firsttelling them of his special burden for them as a nation; and then secondly, reminding them of their special heritage as a nation.
After that, he will move on to tell them of their danger as a nation.
I think the order of Paul’s remarks are powerful for every believer today.
- First, he told them how much he cared;
- Then, he reminded them of who they were,
- Finally, he rebuked them for what they had done.
We could learn a lot from Paul’s approach.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
I’ve heard that and read that in several different sources, and every time I hear it or read it, I am convicted all over again of my own tendency to turn it upside down.
Give me someone to debate the impeccability of Christ and I’ll enjoy knocking down the arguments against it. Bring someone along who likes to argue the immutability of God’s sovereign will, or the economic function of the Trinity and I’ll enjoy every minute of it.
And how do we typically deal with lost people. I remember when one of my sons was in elementary school, he came running in the house one day announcing that a little boy in the neighborhood had just gotten saved.
I said, “Really?”
“Well, what did you say to him,” I asked.
“I just told him that when he died he was gonna go to hell . . . was that what he wanted? He said, ‘No way!’ So we prayed.”
I couldn’t argue with my son’s theology . . . hell is real and unbelievers go there one day unless they are redeemed . . . theology wasn’t a problem; methodology certainly could be tweaked.
What I find interesting is that the greatest theologian who ever lived, other than our Lord Jesus, of course, could have, at this point in his letter, launched into the future state of the disobedient nation of Israel, and their coming judgment – complete with facts and data to prove his point, without ever connecting with his audience. And he will rattle off the data in a few verses, by the way.
But he doesn’t address the issue of his Jewish kinsmen with theology first. He addresses them first, with his love . . . deep, self-sacrificing love.
We are often so concerned about someone’s soul that we forget about their heart.
I would expect Paul to deal with the national soul of Israel – what they did wrong; where they were headed, and how they could be rescued and avoid judgment from God. You know – there’s hell to shun and heaven to gain, right?!
And he will do and say basically all of that.
But first, as he begins to specifically explain the past, present and future of this nation, he begins with an incredible statement of love.
verse 1. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2. that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
Can you believe that? Do you think he has their attention now?
You see, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Before Paul gave them his theology, he showed them his heart.
The truth is, none of the Jews would have ever believed that Paul cared anything for them.
To them Paul was Judas. He had betrayed Judaism. He had abandoned his mission, directly given to him by the Sanhedrin – go after the Christians and put them out of business.
So he did! He was the leading persecutor of Christianity. Until that day upon the Damascus road when the glory of the risen Savior knocked him off his horse and brought him to his knees in true repentance and conversion to Christ.
Now he was one of them . . . a Christian.
He wasn’t persecuting Christianity, he was promoting Christianity.
Acts chapter 9 begins with Paul “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of eth Lord” and he went to the high priest and asking him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus that would authorize him to take any believers found there as prisoners to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2). Yet 18 verses later, Acts records that “Paul began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). No wonder “all those who heard him were astonished (v. 21).
Kenneth Boa & William Kruidenier, Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans (Holman Reference, Nashville, 2000), p. 279
Paul will become public enemy #1 to the Jewish nation and leadership. He is preaching against their great prophet and lawgiver, Moses. He is preaching against their system of worship and sacrifice and priestly system.
They will try everything to silence him. Paul wrote, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one,” adding that he was “in constant danger from his own countrymen.” (2 Corinthians 11:24, 26)
Once when Paul returned to Jerusalem, more than 40 zealous Jews bound themselves with an oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul (Acts 23).
But this isn’t the remarkable news – this is expected news.
The remarkable news, the unbelievable truth would not be that the Jewish nation considered Paul a traitor and that the Jewish leaders hated Paul and wanted him dead – the remarkable news is here in Romans 9:1 – that Paul happened to love them.
It wasn’t almost too much to believe.
That’s why Paul called to his defense three different witnesses.
First, he wrote in verse 1, I am telling the truth in Christ.
One author wrote, “Paul was calling his Lord and Savior as an indisputable witness. His omniscient, righteous, sovereign, gracious Lord, who perfectly knew Paul’s heart and motives, would affirm the truthfulness of the apostle’s love for his fellow Jews.
John MacArthur, Romans Volume 2 (Moody Press, Chicago, 1994), p. 8
That’s like placing your hand on a Bible and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
Perhaps you’ve watched the president of the United States place his hand on the Bible as he’s sworn into office. He is, in effect, calling God as his witness to the veracity and integrity of his oath.
I’ve watched dozens of State Highway Patrolmen taking the oath of a higher rank – placing their hands on Bibles and repeating their oath – bringing God, as it were, into the room as a witness of their truthfulness.
Paul says, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying and I’m calling on my Lord and Savior as a witness of the integrity of my words.”
Secondly, Paul calls his conscience as a witness. He writes, “my conscience bearing me witness.” (v. 1b)
Paul was saying that his inner conscience was agreeing with his outward testimony.
Then he adds further to this witness by writing, “my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.” (v. 1c)
Not just my conscience, but my conscience which the indwelling Holy Spirit knows is telling the truth.
It isn’t enough to say, “My conscience doesn’t bother me about what I’m saying, so it must be right; my conscience doesn’t disturb me in what I’m doing, so I must not be doing anything wrong.”
A conscience alone can be deceived and defiled, Paul would write in Titus 1:15. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
A conscience can be seared – that is, covered as it were with scar tissue from sin and corruption. So covered over by the callousness of sin that it’s voice is muted. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons 2. by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (4:1-2)
Furthermore, a conscience can be rejected, or ignored.
Paul encouraged the believers to keep “ a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19)
One of the things that strikes me about Paul is his deep desire to keep a clear conscience.
He wrote in I Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
That’s why it meant a lot for him to say, here in Romans 1:9, “My conscience is bearing witness with me, under the Holy Spirit – that is, under the dominating control of the Holy Spirit – that I am telling the truth!
Finally, the reader says, “Okay Paul . . . enough!”
You’ve called three witness to stand beside you – the witness of Christ, the witness of your conscience and the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit Who verifies your conscience – they all stand and attest to the fact that you are telling the truth – just what are you telling the truth about?! What is it that you want us to believe about you?!
Verse 2. That I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
In other words, “I would be willing to relinquish my eternal home in heaven and spend eternity in hell if only my nation Israel would follow after Christ.”
Now remember, Paul is not speaking theologically, he is speaking emotionally.
He is revealing his heart!
Some might say, “Well, that’s a safe thing to say – Paul knows he can’t lose his salvation, so he’s just blowing smoke to try and look good.”
Remember the three witnesses!
And note that Paul is not saying it was possible – he knew it wasn’t possible – but he is saying that if it were possible he would go to hell so they could go to heaven.
He is repeating the passion and love of Moses who went before God after the children of Israel made the golden calf and committed acts of idolatry at the very foot of Mount Sinai, Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32)
Some have tried to soften the meaning of Paul’s words by saying Paul was merely talking about excommunication – some form of isolation from the synagogue and the early church. He didn’t mean “accursed” in the sense of anything more than that. Surely he wasn’t thinking anything eternal here!
But Paul uses the strongest word possible. The words translated “accursed from Christ” begin with the Greek word anathema .
In this context it cannot mean mere punishment as discipline, it literally means being given over to divine condemnation.
Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids; 1989) p. 187
Paul says, “I would welcome divine condemnation if only you would receive divine reconciliation.”
It is impossible to estimate the measure of this kind of love.
I don’t have it. I must admit to you dear flock, that I don’t have this kind of love. I cannot imagine giving up heaven for anyone. The closest I would ever consider it would be for my wife and children – but never for someone I didn’t know and certainly never for someone who had only recently tried to kill me – someone who stoned me and left me for dead – someone who bound himself with others to never eat or sleep until they took off my head.
You need to understand, Paul is not talking about just dying for someone else – history is filled with illustrations of bravery and sacrifice – where people have died so that others could live. This is going to hell for someone else.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is supernatural love.
I’ve heard Moses talk about it, and Paul open to it, but the only person I know who actually did something like it was our Lord. The One who became sin for us, who knew no sin . . . the unblemished Lamb who endured the wrath of the Father – who, because He was God the Son, could bear the eternal brunt of judgment in a matter of moments, He actually paid our hell so we could go to heaven.
We’ve just begun our discussion in Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11, and it’s God’s plan for Israel.
What I find so profound here, is that before Paul revealed the plan of God for Israel, he demonstrated the heart of God for Israel.
Grief and sorrow over unbelief and love for the unbeliever!
Maybe, the reason more people don’t come to faith in Christ around us is because they hear us talking about God’s plan but they do not see a demonstration of God’s love.
They hear our theology, but they never hear our heart.
Paul was like the prophet Jeremiah whose eyes wept and flowed down with tears, because the flock of the Lord had been taken captive.” (Jeremiah 13:15-17)
He was like the great priest Samuel who grieved over Saul who had fallen into sin (I Samuel 15:35).
Paul was like David who said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because Israel does not keep Thy law.” (Psalm 119:136)
When’s the last time we grieved over sin. When’s the last time we wept over the fact that our family, our city, our country, our world is captive and bound for judgment and does not follow after God?
We can be so passionate about basketball . . . interest rates . . . I know people who are passionate about vitamins . . . yardsales . . . for some it’s the latest computer advancement . . . for others it’s the stock market . . . and the reason you know they’re passionate is because when you get around them, the conversation eventually turns to that.
What are we passionate about?
When’s the last time we stood on our pews and shouted, “Yeah for Crockett . . . yeah for Crockett.”
The Apostle Paul would stand with that little boy, his fist in the air . . . joining the unseen angelic host as it celebrates the eternal passion and joy of God . . . another one has been born again.
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