Theme: Fixing a Weak Signal with God
1) Check the Speed – Both Download and Upload
2) Check the Strength – Is it coming from the right source?
Today, almost everyone knows what you mean when you ask, “What’s your Wifi password?” Internet service is no longer a rarity, everyone uses it, and more often today, people are using it wirelessly. But, ten years ago, Wifi knowledge was not a given. Most people had to use the old Ethernet cable to connect to the web. Funny thing about Wifi, or let’s call it sharing information wirelessly, is that it has existed long before the 21st century. And there is a much more important form of Wifi than the tech version.
There has always been a wireless connection between God and believers. God is able to communicate to us without the need of wires or machines, and we can communicate back through prayer. But, there’s a problem that can disrupt that communicate just as our home or work networks can be disrupted; and that problem is a weak signal. We’re used to checking our Wifi signal on our phones, computers, and even TVs now, but how strong is your connection with God? Is your spiritual Wifi as strong or as fast as it could be? Probably not, and that’s precisely what we examine in our text for today, from Romans 10:8-18:
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): 9 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world."
If you’ve ever shopped around for internet services, you’ve noticed that a big draw for good internet is the speed. People want blazing fast speeds, especially when there’s so much to do on the net. Wifi capability has progressed so much that internet providers can now deliver top speeds wirelessly. But, most people don’t realize that there is a difference between upload and download speeds.
The upload speed, usually much slower than download, governs how long it takes for you to put something on the internet. When you post pictures, videos, articles, or whatever it may be, it takes upload speed. Download speed is the type that most people think about when considering internet speed. It determines how long it takes to get something off the internet, or to use it, like streaming a video, loading an image, or simply going from website to website. Wifi today is usually pretty good about both of these areas, since because of social media people are increasing the amount of the things they upload to the internet.
But, both types of speed have a bearing on your connection with God too. Paul here talks about both those things we would download into our hearts and then upload to others. He writes, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart " (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Notice how Paul talks about both what we receive from the Lord and also that which we produce through it. We know this connection simply as the difference between justification and sanctification. Those are the Scriptural terms for what God gives us (salvation through Christ) and what we do in response (fruits of faith by the Holy Spirit). Think of justification as that which we are downloading from the Lord and sanctification as that which we are uploading to the rest of the world.
The question is, how fast is our connection in these matters? When it comes to receiving God’s grace, are we slow and indifferent about it? Do we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness as Jesus commanded or we more like a computer stuck on the loading screen? This isn’t to say that every matter of receiving something from God is a quick, no problem thing. Sometimes it takes great time, pain, and struggle to receive what the Lord is trying to give. But, the question of speed centers on our hearts and intentions, not on the Lord’s process.
Like our earthly Wifi networks, God also places a higher priority on what we download. Listen to what King Solomon pinpointed as most important in worship: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
Paul also said very matter of factly, in another letter: It is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). Very simply, we need content from the Lord in our faith in order to keep it strong. If it’s not strengthened by the Holy Spirit, you won’t be uploading anything of value to anyone else. Jesus said that our download connection and speed is like abiding in Him as a branch abides in the vine. If you cut off that connection, there is no production of fruit.
Therefore, we want both our download and upload in the Lord to be fast, but we place a greater emphasis on the things He gives to us. We have His promise that when we live around His Word and use it, the Holy Spirit will produce fruits in and through us. But, cut off our reception of information from the Lord or choose to over-emphasize what you must upload to God and the world, and you have what Paul described to the Galatians, You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:4).
Of course, speed is not the only important part of having a good signal. Strength of the connection is also important. You can have the most blazing fast speed but it won’t mean anything if your reception is spotty. It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that Paul also talks about how strong we are in the Lord. The interesting thing about his description is that he frames his argument from the starting point of the source of your connection. When you think of a wireless signal, there are many more factors than just the source that affect its strength. But, for the Christian, the source is what it’s all about. If the source of the signal is correct, it will be a strong signal. That source, of course, is Christ our Savior.
Paul says, again very clearly, that “the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” There’s no mistaking the truth of those words. Jesus is clearly Lord and Savior of all, and He freely offers salvation to all people. The source of the true, Christian faith is unmistakable and impenetrable.
But, Paul also knows that people tend to deviate from the source. Sometimes, it seems like the answer to all of our problems is so simple, that we can’t resist trying something more difficult. Therefore, in the following verses he walks us through the simple progression of establishing our source. Jesus is truly the only way, but one of the easiest things to mess up is how Jesus comes to us. The way Paul tells us sounds just like establishing an unbreakable connection: 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
These are the steps of how we connect to the source and what governs the strength of our connection to Jesus. We work from the end to the beginning in our text. It starts with the Lord leading someone to go and preach. Once the message is proclaimed the next step is listening and hearing it. Once the Word which has been preached is received and worked on by the Holy Spirit, it produces faith in the heart. And the final step is when that faith leads us to call on God’s name, as children call upon their father, in thanksgiving, praise, supplication, and confession. This is the unaltered connection between the source (Jesus) and the believer. The thing is, if your connection breaks at any of these points, the whole thing breaks.
We have plenty of examples of this from the Bible, depicting the breakdown at various stages of the connection. For example, when James famously wrote, “faith without works is dead (James 2:20),” he wasn’t’ saying that we are saved by works. Rather, he was talking about a break in the end of the connection between a believer and God. The “calling on the name of the Lord” as Paul writes. It’s the fruit of our lips that we offer to God and thereby to our fellow humans. You can’t claim to have faith in Christ if the fruits of your life are out of sync.
Another example would be when Jesus taught that “He who confesses me before men I will also confess before My Father, and He who denies me before men I will also deny before My Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).” Jesus is talking about the preaching of His Word. As Paul says, how will people believe unless someone preaches to them? But, you must remember that preaching is not just the pastor’s job. Jesus is calling all believers to share His Word with the world. Are you willing to do that? Are you giving a proper witness of your Savior with your life and what you choose to support and promote? Preaching the Christian truth is an important step in our signal strength.
Another example is Jeremiah’s words from God, 28 "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. 30 Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. 31 "Behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who use their tongues and say,`He says.' 32 "Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the LORD, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness (Jeremiah 23:28, 30-32). Here, the connection is intact, but the source is wrong. The signal may seem normal but it doesn’t broadcast anything of value. It’s like having a wireless router that broadcasts, but isn’t connected to the internet. You can have the fastest and strongest signal, but without the proper source you get nothing from it.
Think of your life and your faith now. Are you receiving the fastest and strongest signal from God? If not, where might you need some help? Verse 17 sums our section up well. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.” We know that faith is the connection between us and Jesus, and Jesus is the connection between us and God. Therefore, the truth of salvation is simple, just as Paul says, “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” Faith and salvation are good, and they are both found in Jesus.
But, today we have considered the other question behind the scenes, but equally important. How do I get faith and keep faith alive? Here we are given the answer – through staying connected to the Word of God because it is through that Word that we know we are getting the true message of Jesus. This is a message that follows the wireless path from God’s heart to yours. It starts with someone sent. And it moves along when someone preaches. And it continues when that message is heard, received, and blessed by the Holy Spirit. And its beautiful conclusion is the production of fruits in your life, so that others may be directed to the same source, and establish a signal of faith in Jesus.
As you are confronted with numerous wireless signals, don’t forget about the most important and the longest established one – Grace and Truth is Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.