Let’s begin the message this morning with a quick survey about how you wake yourselves up every morning.
- How many still use alarm clocks?
- How many use their cell phones?
- How many ask Alexa to rouse you from your slumber?
- How many use their grandkids?
I’ve learned I can almost literally set my clock by Joel. Whey they stay with us he comes bounding in the room at 5:45am sharp.
- When you travel, how many of you rely on a wake-up call from the hotel front desk?
- How many of you are not awake yet?
In the olden days before cell phones and Alexa and alarm clocks—back when grandkids stayed in bed until after the sunrise—back then there were a wide variety of ways to wake up. For example:
- I read this week that in ancient times if you knew you had to get up early—you would drink a lot of water before retiring—relying on your bladder to get you up.
Don’t laugh. Native Americans used this tactic called “over-drinking” well into the 20th century.
- Church bells were used as alarm clocks—as were factory whistles.
I bring this all up because, as people who are tasked with Waking the Dead—we need to know how to do that—how to rouse them from their lostness and guide them to faith in Jesus and the abundant eye-opening life that only He gives. So—how do we do that? What are the words we use? What is the message we are to deliver? This is an important question to ponder because even though that is our commission—many of us don’t know how. I mean, too many Christians have a hard time leading a lost person to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong—we understand the GOSPEL. But for one reason or another, we have difficulty COMMUNICATING the MESSAGE of the GOSPEL to others. As the late Paul Little put it—for many of us, UNDERSTANDING the GOSPEL is like UNDERSTANDING a MATHEMATICAL problem.
We hear the problem explained in class and we clearly understand it as the professor goes over it, but when a friend who missed the class asks us to explain the problem—we are at a loss as to how to do so in terms that are clear enough for him to grasp.
In a similar fashion many of us who have believed and understood the Gospel are unable to articulate it clearly enough to another person—so that they, too, might come to know and serve our Lord. And that brings us to the subject of today’s message, because one of the best ways to communicate the Gospel—is through what is known as The Romans Road. Not only is it easy to remember—it’s also so simple that even a child can understand it—yet it is so profound that it’s truth will touch any heart. This morning I want us to use the verses that make up this “Road” so we’ll be equipped to share the only message that “wakes the dead” when God gives us the opportunity to do so. Okay—everyone awake and ready to go? Great! The first part of this “spiritual wake-up call” is found in Romans 3:23. Let’s say it aloud together. It’s on the screen behind me: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
(1) This indeed a truth that can shock a person to wakefulness because it identifies the PROBLEM that we all have.
You see, all people have an inborn NEED to know God—to have a relationship with Him. We were created—designed—to walk through life in fellowship with our Creator.
Even the secular world has come to recognize this truth. I’ve seen several articles—one that made the cover of TIME magazine—articles that tell how studies have shown that we are hard-wired to worship a higher being. It’s in our DNA. And, those studies are correct—because God created man and woman to have fellowship with Him. We all have an inborn need to KNOW our Creator. WITHOUT this relationship our lives leave much to be desired. We lack purpose or direction and we experience an emptiness and an inner loneliness. Without God, life on this earth is more like death than life.
Well, the PROBLEM is—-there is a BARRIER between us and God—a barrier that makes this relationship with Him impossible. You see God is holy and we are not. As this verse puts it, “all of us have SINNED and FALLEN SHORT of the GLORY of God.”
So, in order for someone to become a Christian and experience this “resurrecting” relationship with God that they need so desperately—they have to wake up to the fact that this verse applies to them—that they are sinners separated from God. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Christianity has no message for those who do not recognize that they are sinners.” And, he was right—-to become a Christian a person has to acknowledge this fact—that all of us sin both by nature and by choice—all of us bear the marks of disobeying God.
Maybe you’ve heard about the lady who walked into a psychiatrist’s office. She had two fried eggs on top of her head, and a strip of bacon tied over each ear. She said, “Doctor, I’ve come to talk to you about my brother. HE has a problem.”
Well, we live in a world where EVERYBODY has a problem, not just the ones who look like it or act like it—and the first step to SOLVING that problem is to admit this fact that we are just as guilty as everyone else.
- The trouble with our world—our culture—is not abortion or the erosion of the family.
- It’s not homosexuality or gay marriage.
- It is not the opioid crisis.
- It’s not racism.
- It’s not the lack of gun control that leads to all the shootings in schools and public places.
- It’s not even terrorism.
No—these things are just FRUITS of the problem. Think of them as SYMPTOMS of a terminal disease that we all have called SIN. The symptoms vary widely with different people, but the disease and its results are universal.
Now, SIN is a word that does not communicate well in our society today—because the concept of morality has become so blurred. People don’t have a clear understanding of right and wrong anymore.When a celebrity does something that we don’t approve of, the newscasters discuss it. They ask questions like, “Did he cross the line on that one? Was that wrong?” Well this this inability to discern can make it hard to wake people up such that they can see their need for God’s forgiveness. It’s harder and harder for people to know what is right—what is wrong.
So, here’s how I would approach this subject with a dead—lost—person. Relying on God’s help, tell your lost friends that sin is more than the things we do—it’s who we are. SIN is a STATE of imperfection—a state of DEPRAVITY into which we are all born.
Now—according to Webster the word “depraved” means “marked by corruption or evil, perverted, crooked.” Of course—when we hear that we think, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m not evil or perverted. I’m not depraved!” But according to the Bible sin and depravity have nothing to do with our estimation of ourselves but rather with God’s estimation of us.
Dwight Pentecost writes, “The doctrine of depravity has nothing to do with man’s estimation of man, but rather with God’s estimation of man. The Scriptures do not measure men by man; they measure men by God Who has created them. The creature is measured by the Creator and is found to be wanting.”
Dan Meyer writes: “Years ago, I traveled to Ecuador and spent a couple of weeks traveling in the mountains. The Quechua Indian people I met there lived amidst the most mind-numbing squalor. The disease and disfigured bodies were heartbreaking. The bugs and stench were everywhere. People were living in a hole in the ground and calling it a house. They were feeding on rotten food and prizing garbage as possessions. But they didn’t know it. Why? Because everyone lived that way. They had never been given a picture of what it means to be a genuinely healthy human being. They did not know what an abundant life truly looked like. That is our problem, too. It’s the reason we think of ourselves as largely innocent people—people who have little to do with bringing about the Cross of Christ. We don’t get how sick and undeveloped we are spiritually. In Psalm 14, David says that the one fully-healthy Being in the universe views the human race as we might view those Quechua villagers—only the gap between his life and that of our village is so much larger. David writes: ‘The Lord looks down from Heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. But all have turned aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.’ In other words, we are condemned, and we don’t even know it.”
We don’t know it because of our SIN NATURE. It blinds us to sin.
- This nature is why we CAN’T clean up our act.
- This is why we can’t handle our own lust.
- This is why we have so much trouble saying no to certain temptations.
- This is why we eat too much and love too little.
- This is why we fight with each other and fight with God—all the time knowing we shouldn’t.
- This is why we can’t seem to keep our promises.
- This is why we love to gossip.
- This is why all children begin to disobey and question our authority so early in their lives.
- This is why we lock our house when we go to bed at night.
- It’s why bankers check our credit before giving us a loan.
- This is why, as Jesus prophesied, there will always be war and rumors of war.
- This universal sin nature is why social justice will always be something that we have to work for.
To get a Biblical picture of the depravity—the sin nature of mankind—-look at Romans 3:11-17 where it says, “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless—there is no one who does good; not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways and the way of peace they do not know.”
As this Scripture says, all of us are depraved. All of us are defective. We are ALL marked by the disease of sin. And because we are—we are all cut off from our Holy Creator like a diseased leaf cut off from its stem. This is the first part of the message that wakes the dead. And it should do that. It should shock us into attentiveness.
A few weeks ago my sister was told she had a stage 2 melanoma on her leg. That really WOKE her up! Thankfully she is cured—they got it early—no more cancer. But we all know what it’s like hear about a friend or loved one who got WOKE up by a serious diagnosis. We often think, “Well, it’s not me. I’m okay. They have cancer—but not me. I’m good.” Well, the fact is we aren’t good. We aren’t OKAY. We are all infected.
And as the next part of the Romans Road says, “The WAGES of sin is DEATH.” (Romans 6:23) There’s been a lot in the news lately about a living “wage” and about upping the hourly pay of waitresses to minimum “wage”—so I think we understand the meaning of that word in Romans 6:23. We all know a “wage” is what we earn for doing our jobs. In fact, the Greek word here is “osonia” and it referred to a soldier’s pay—something that was due him for serving in the army. Well, Paul uses this word picture to remind us that not only do we all SIN—not only are we all depraved—flawed—our sin also EARNS all of us DEATH. This is a “terminal” deal.
Without Jesus people really are the walking dead. This means the deadliest killer of humanity is not heart disease or cancer or terrorism or war. No, it is the terminal illness known as SIN. And, as I said, every one of us is infected—so everyone suffers from the consequences of it. To make matters worse, we pass this “disease” on to each new generation. Referring to the sin of the first human—ADAM—Romans 5:12 says, “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
THAT’S THE PROBLEM. And without the next verses that make up the Romans Road, instead of being woke up—we would just be stuck in a living nightmare. So, let’s move on in the “message that wakes the dead” process. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “The GIFT of God—not the wage—the GIFT of God—is ETERNAL LIFE in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The truth of these verses ends the nightmare—for they tell us that:
(2) God has provided the SOLUTION to our problem.
To put it another way, God has provided the CURE for this terminal disease that we all have.
We don’t have to die—we can be cleaned—healed! And better still—this cure is not something we have to EARN. It’s a GIFT! And gifts are always free. That’s what makes them a gift. They aren’t “EARNS.” They are GIFTS!
This week Bill Archer told us that the health insurance you provide for full-time staff here at Redland is going up in cost 15% this year. I think all health insurances are increasing and the reason why is because to treat illnesses is incredibly costly.
- For example for just one person to be cured of Hepatitis C can cost $50,000. That’s for a 12-week treatment.
- To treat all the neck and back pain in the U. S. costs $88 billion a year.
- To treat High Blood Pressure costs $83 billion.
- Diabetes – $100 billion
- COPD – $86 billion
- Alzheimer’s disease – $259 Billion
- Heart disease – $317 Billion.
I mean, no wonder health insurance is so pricey!
Well, the wonderful night-mare ending truth of the Gospel is the fact that to cure the most deadly disease—one that infects every single human being—is FREE. It doesn’t cost you or me anything. As the hymn puts it, “Jesus paid it ALL.” It is a FREE GIFT made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. As Romans 5:8 says, “Christ died FOR us.” Jesus’ PAID the cost. His death on the cross provided a bridge across the gulf that sin put between sinful people like you and me and our Holy God.
How many of you remember the group, “Point of Grace?” One of their hit songs was “The Great Divide.” Well, somewhere along the way they made a typo in the lyrics. One of the lines goes like this, “There’s a bridge to cross the great divide” and it was supposed to be REPEATED. But the person who typed the lyrics made an error and on the repeat it was worded, “There’s a CROSS to bridge the great divide.” Point of Grace decided to do the song that way—feeling it might just have been a divinely inspired error—because Jesus’ cross DID bridge the great divide between sinful man and holy God.
And Jesus could do this. He could die in our place—because the Bible teaches that unlike us Jesus KNEW no sin; He HAD no sin; He DID no sin. This made Him qualified to be the Lamb of God Who could die the death we deserve. I mean, He didn’t have to die for His own sin so He was able to die for ours. As Romans 5:17 says, “For if by the trespass of the one man [ADAM], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace—and of the gift of righteousness, reign in life through the one Man, Jesus Christ.”
Think of it this way. Two men are serving life-sentences for murder. They both killed another individual in cold blood and have been sentenced to live out their lives behind bars. Well, one of these men couldn’t say to the other, “I tell you what, I’ll pay your penalty. I’ll serve out your life sentence. You can go free!” Why couldn’t he do this? Because He had his own sentence to serve. His life was already forfeit. But not so with Jesus. He was sinless—innocent—so He had no penalty to pay—which made Him—and only Him—worthy to die in our place—and that’s exactly what He did.
Now, many people can buy into the fact that they are sinners and that they deserve punishment and death—but it is hard for them to accept eternal life as a FREE GIFT. They think they must have to EARN something that wonderful. And in our witnessing, we need to steer people clear of embracing this misconception because there is no way we could EARN the cure for sin. It’s beyond our ability to pay.
This week I read that statistically, Stanford University ranks as one of the toughest schools to get into. Stanford recently updated their admission standards and stated that only five percent of applying students are accepted. In 2017, nearly 43,000 students applied, but only 2,140 were accepted. On their website, they explain. To be accepted you have to meet certain standards. For example:
- A perfect ACT score is 36. If you have an ACT score of 33 or higher will put you into the top 50 percent of applicants, but the average score for accepted students is 35.
- You will also need an average SAT score of 1520 (out of 1600).
- You will need an average GPA of 4.18 (out of 4.0),
- And on top of this you must have a plus a robust “resume” of extracurricular activities, leadership qualities, references, and recommendations.
- Of course, new students also have to pay for Stanford at $60,000 per year.
In conclusion, if you want to get into Stanford you better be perfect or just amazing. Well, getting into Heaven on your own is not just difficult—it is impossible. No one is good enough.
It’s like trying to jump to the moon—on your own strength. But that’s okay because God accepts people not on the basis of their works—but on the basis of His mercy and grace. As Ephesians 2:8 says, “It is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God—not by works so that no one can boast.” The salvation we all need is God-given, God-driven, God-empowered, and God-originated. The thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other faith systems is the fact that it is spelled “D…O…N…E” not “D…O” because we can never DO enough to earn our salvation. Jesus has DONE it all for us. As 1st John 4:10 says, “It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending His Son to be the way to take away our sins.” And as Romans 5:8 says, this Gift of God was not initiated by our LOVELINESS but by His LOVE.
People who understand this principle describe man’s efforts at earning salvation in repulsive terms. Isaiah said our “good” works are, “…like filthy pieces of cloth.” (Is. 64:6) Paul equated our efforts at righteousness with the pile of stink you avoid in the cow pasture. (Philippians 3:8)
These men and others who have “woken up” have learned that God’s love is activated not by our GOODNESS but by our NEED. They know how ridiculous it would be for us to even think we could somehow pay for our salvation.
I read this week, that the most expensive car made in the world today is a Rolls Royce Sweptail. It’s price tag is $13 million. I won’t be buying one. Well, imagine that you are taking a walk down the street and a Sweptail pulls up to the curb. The man in the back seat jumps out and says, “Young man, I appreciate you so much I’m going to give you this car!” He hands you the keys and the title while the chauffeur gets out and holds the door open for you. You are absolutely astonished! You are so grateful that you thrust your hand into your pocket and begin to fish around for a coin. Finally, you find an old beat up penny. You hold it up proudly before the owner of the Rolls and say, “I appreciate this Rolls so much I’d like to give you this penny as a token of my appreciation.” Can you imagine how this man would feel? Well, that’s the same thing as our presuming to somehow earn the Salvation God provides with our feeble, sinful attempts at goodness.
Listen, none of us are good enough, pure enough—none of us can earn our way to God. This is why the Gospel is such good news! You see, the only Person Who could—Jesus Christ—PAID our penalty. Hebrews 9:15 says, “Christ died as a RANSOM to set us free from our sins.”
Okay—there’s one more part of this message that wakes the dead. It’s found in Romans 10:9-10 and verse 13. Go there with me and let’s again read aloud together: “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(3) This verse reminds us that we must RESPOND to what Jesus did for us.
You see it is not enough to know you have a problem—to know you are a sinner. It’s not enough to BELIEVE that Jesus died in your place. A person can understand all this—and still go to Hell.
We have to DO something with what we believe. We must act on our understanding. As this text says, we must confess or state our belief that Jesus is Who He says He is—that He has done what the Bible tells us He has done—that He died for our sins and rose on the third day. We must each individually ask Jesus to forgive us of our sin. Then we must give Him our lives, committing to serve Him as Lord.
As you travel along I-10 in Louisiana, there is a large billboard which catches your eye. It stands high above the city just as you start up the Mississippi river bridge. On it is a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. He has His head bowed. The caption underneath says in bold letters, “It’s your move.” And it is. Everyone who wants to become a Christian must personally make a move. They must RESPOND to all JESUS has done for us. As John 1:12 says, “To all who RECEIVED Him, to those who BELIEVED in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
I think it is significant that marriage is one of the illustrations that the New Testament uses for both becoming and being a Christian—because it’s obvious that merely believing in marriage, however intense that belief might be, does not make one married. I mean a bachelor might say, “Sure, I believe in marriage. I’m sold on it. You should see all the books I’ve read; I’m an expert on the subject. Besides I’ve been to plenty of weddings. Funny thing though—-can’t quite understand it: marriage doesn’t seem real to me.” This fictional man’s problem is that he hasn’t learned that believing in marriage isn’t enough. He must act on that belief. To BE married, one has to come to a commitment of the will and say, “I do” dedicating himself to the other person and thereby establishing a relationship.
The parallel is obvious—right?
Being a Christian requires a devoting of ourselves to a living Lord. This commitment depends on a relationship of love and obedience. We must believe in Jesus, personally receive Him into our lives, and thus become children of God.
Queen Victoria once attended a service in St. Paul’s Cathedral and listened to a sermon that interested her greatly. Afterwards she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” His answer was that he knew no way that one could be absolutely sure. This incident was published in the Court News and came to the notice of a minister named John Townsend. After reading of Queen Victoria’s question and the answer she received, he prayed and then sent the following note to the queen:
“To Her Gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen Victoria, from one of her most humble subjects:
With trembling hands, but heart-filled love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now for our eternal life in the home that Jesus went to prepare—may I ask Your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9–10. I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake, John Townsend”
John Townsend was not alone in praying about his letter to the queen. He took others into his confidence, and they offered up prayer to God in Her Majesty’s behalf. About two weeks later he received the following letter:
“To John Townsend: I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I BELIEVE in the finished work of Christ for me, and TRUST by God’s grace to meet you in that home of which he said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ (Signed) Victoria Guelph”
Townsend was right. Everyone can be sure—if they ACT on what Jesus did for us all. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus compares our lives to a house and says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door—I will come in and eat with Him and Him with Me.” The Lord Jesus knocks at the doors of our lives. He will not gatecrash or force His way in but will do so only at our invitation. So, we must respond to His knocking by opening the door in order to become a Christian.
Perhaps you are here this morning and you have never been down this “Romans Road” before—and as we have made this journey you have come to realize how much you need Jesus in your life. If that is true then I invite you right now to RESPOND. Confess your belief that Jesus died in your place and that He rose from the dead. Invite Him into your heart and life and then come and tell me about it! Or if you have questions, come and ask me! Others of you may want to simply commit to learning this road well so you can be ready to guide someone down it. You may just want to come to the altar and pray about someone you know needs to know Jesus. And then, if you are here and feel God leading you to join our church, come…we would love to have you as a vital part of this body of Christ. Won’t you come now…as we stand and sing?