Unless otherwise noted, Scriptural quotations in this series are from the New Revised Standard Version.
You have probably heard a lot of Christians state that we need to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” I hear that a lot of people claim to believe certain things about God or Jesus, and maybe they also go to church, but they are not perceived as putting their faith into practice.
So, then, what exactly does it mean to put your faith into practice and be a real Christian? Well, depending on who you ask, you will probably get one or more of the following answers:
1. Engaging in evangelism
2. Charitable work
3. Devotional practices (such as prayer or meditation)
4. Staying pure of certain vices
5. Loving your neighbor as yourself
6. Being forgiving and patient
7. Separating yourself from immoral company
8. Not getting obsessed with material things.
9. Going to church
Some of you may have the experience I am about to describe. You go to church every week (among a congregation of, say, one hundred people), and hear sermons about what real Christian living involves. You think about your life and decide that you need to make some changes to be a more faithful Christian. You know that it’s going to be hard to change some things – that some lifestyle changes would cause anxiety or be difficult to get in the habit of, but while you’re at church hearing the message, you are probably not thinking about those difficulties too much. You decide that you’re going to somehow make yourself follow through with what you need to do.
Well, by the time you were back in church the next week, did anything in your life change? If your honest answer is no, you’re in good company. That was probably the case for at least ninety-eight out of the hundred people in church last week. Maybe you were trying to change, or maybe once you got back in your normal routine, you didn’t worry about changing anymore, until you heard the message again the next Sunday.
However, one person in the congregation actually succeeded at making those changes. Not only that, he has managed to stick with it for six months already. One Sunday, he gave a testimony of the changes he made. He talked about how hard it was to resist temptation and to get over the fear of doing what’s right, but refused to let fear or temptation stop him. So you think, if he did it, I can do it too. You may try a little harder after that, but did you get the desired results?
You may be thinking, “Well, that one guy can know that he is saved. He can read the Bible and feel good knowing that he’s doing what he needs to.” The rest of you may be finding some Scriptures that hit a little too close to home.
So, here’s the question I want to talk about in this series: Does the Bible have a redemptive message for the ninety-nine other folks? We often hear that God loves those people, and they can be comforted knowing that He is ready to forgive them as soon as they repent. But, what about those of us who can’t identify our sins as isolated acts that can be counted on our fingers? Is there a special message for such people, who can’t seem to change themselves, that can actually give them present assurance of salvation being what they are right now?
I believe there is such a message for these people, if they have come to believe certain things about the power of Christ’s death and resurrection in their lives. I find this message in Paul’s writing in Romans, which is what I will talk about in the rest of the series.