Do You Anguish Over the Lost?
“I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit - that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my countrymen by physical descent. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The forefathers are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God all over, blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:1:1-5
During our trip to Nicaragua during this summer, God revealed Himself in so many ways, but I think one of the most impacting to me was when I got back home. He revealed Himself in the way I live so comfortably here and don’t truly live boldly for Him. While there you see such poverty in physical needs, but their spiritual wealth and shameless proclamation of the Gospel showed me just how little I daily live for Him. I drive in a comfortable car, to a comfortable house, to eat a comfortable meal, and later fall asleep in a comfortable bed, while there are over 1 billion people right now who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Through prayer and His truth, the only Truth, He revealed Himself yet again. In my reading through Romans, Paul has revealed the heart that we must have and that is Christ’s. As you read, pray that His Word too would speak to you in a bold and fresh way, and by His Spirit, your life would be changed in seeking how He desires for you to live for His glory and honor.
In reading through Romans 9, three questions came up. The first question I asked myself is “Do we realize people’s condition?” The background of Paul’s words are made even clearer in Romans 10:1-4. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation. I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Paul is saying they haven’t believed. The majority of Jewish people had rejected Christ. Looking at Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord!” we see that Paul goes from triumph to weeping in one verse. Why? He goes to weeping because he realizes Romans 1-8 are true. This meant that the Jewish people, his people, his family are separated from Christ and unless they turn to Christ, they will be separated from Christ forever. He realized this and used words like, “intense sorrow” and “continual anguish.” This begs the question...do we believe Romans 1-8? Do we really believe this Gospel? We talk about it and sing about it, but do we believe it’s true? Because if we do, I invite you to consider the ramifications with me. There are over 6.7 billion people in the world today. Research shows that around 1/3 of the total population state they are a Christian. In reality, these numbers are skewed due to the questions they base their research off of, but even if all of these people were truly believers, that leaves around 4.5 billion people who today are to be judged under the wrath of God, and will spend eternity in hell when they die...forever. So I know that since I have come back from Nicaragua, Courtney and I have made some changes in our lifestyle in regards to our time spent, money spent, and other resources being used, but these are small changes. We need to make drastic and large changes in our lives. This makes me very uncomfortable, and I am sure you are uncomfortable too, as we are going to change the perceptions we have through His power. But some of you may be saying, “What’s wrong with the way I’m living?” While we individually spend our lives, resources, and money on ourselves, there are 4.5 billion people who are separated from eternal life with Christ. How can that be if we truly believe the Gospel? If at least 4.5 billion people right now are separated from the love of Christ and will be for eternity, how can I question whether or not I’m going to sit around watching TV today, watch football all day Saturday and Sunday, spend all my time playing sports, worrying about being popular, etc. This makes no sense when there are 10‘s of 1,000’s around us even here in Gastonia that are in school with us, play sports with us, work with us, in our own family, and those we walk by everyday who don’t believe that Christ is their Lord and Savior. The reality is that those who have not confessed with their mouth and believed in their heart that Jesus is Lord will spend eternity in hell. Do you believe the Gospel? Does your life reflect that you do? May you spend time in prayer and fasting that Christ may rise you up from your self-centered religious priorities into a Gospel saturated, God-centered global passion. I’m not sure how this looks in my life, but I know I must fall to my face and ask Him, plead with Him, to reveal the realization of people’s condition and the need for the global proclamation of the Gospel.
The next question that arose for me within this scripture is “Do I posses the heart of Christ?” Did you see what Paul said? I’m really not sure how to express this, but this is one of the most unbelievable statements in scripture. “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my countrymen by physical descent.” (v. 3) For Paul to say he would rather be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of those that are lost...Wow...what a statement! He is saying this is a true statement within himself, that he would rather give himself over to the wrath of God for the sake of those that are lost. I might be able to say that for my family and some of my friends, but could I say it for: the soccer team I coach, people who get on my nerves, my classmates, the homeless guy I pass by, or the Muslims in the Middle East? Don’t forget that Paul is talking about the people that are persecuting him, imprisoning him, stoning him, and beating him. Could you say for them you would take on His wrath? We talk about the burden for the lost so flippantly, but this is a true burden for the lost. Let us not say we are burdened for the lost and take it lightly. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...” Galatians 3:13 Jesus became a curse for us, and this is the same idea. Jesus endured the wrath from God, and the only way you can say this in Romans 9 is if the heart of Christ is in you. So, do we posses the heart of Christ? Before answering that question, realize the road that will lead you down. To ask for the heart of Christ means suffering for the Gospel is natural. So, asking for the heart of Christ, you must want to change everything. Do we realize what this means?
The last question that was revealed to me was “Do I want my life to count?” Paul is writing Romans in Corinth and he’s headed to Jerusalem. He’s been told to not go there because he’ll be arrested, imprisoned, and persecuted, but as you see in Acts 20-21, he doesn’t care. He is ready to be bound and die for the name of Jesus Christ. Paul realizes that his life doesn’t count for here. “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24 This is the urgency of eternity, you are now in your teenage years and you have 70-80 years at the most left here on this earth followed by millions upon millions, trillions upon trillions years in eternity. Who really thinks that 20 trillion years from now you are going to look back and think: I wish I was more popular, I wish I made more money, I wish I had more stuff, I wish I had a nicer house or car, I wish I had nicer clothes, I wish I had more friends, I wish I had made the basketball team, I wish I would have had more comfort? No, you’ll look back and see your life is worth nothing to you because one thing counted-”the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8), and the advancement of the Gospel to all nations. This will be because we will be surrounded by a multitude that no one can count 20 trillion years from now where every tribe, every nation, and every tongue are there and we won’t care how popular we were, or how much money we made, or what teams we made. They won’t matter because we will be next to people who are experiencing eternal joy instead of eternal suffering...this is worth it, worth giving your lives up for. Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, and His name alone is worthy of all our praise, not our stuff.
What does this look like? I’m not sure what it looks like for my life, but I do know that if I truly believe His Truth and the Gospel, “my comforts,” “my money,” “my house,” “my car,” “my popularity,” or “my stuff” don’t matter. Christ is all. He is life! Isaiah puts it boldly in chapter 61, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord has anointed me...for the display of His splendor...so that righteousness and praise will spring up among all nations.” I pray that God will give you an undivided heart to fear His name and proclaim His glory. Let us not waste our lives because right now there are well over 4.5 billion people that if they die today, they will be eternally separated from Christ. So, let’s get off our couches, get out of our air-conditioned houses, turn off our TV’s and game systems, and realize the reality of people’s sinful condition, and may your life count only because of what Christ does through you. Pray and seek Christ’s guidance and counsel with me.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” Galatians 2:19-21
Youth Minister at Gaston Community Church