Divine Sovereignty & Human Responsibility

November 10, 2019 ()

Bible Text: Romans 10:14-21 |


Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility | Romans 10:14-21
Brian Hedges | November 10, 2019

The father of modern missions was a man named William Carey. William Carey lived in the late 18th century and early 19th century in England, and he came from a group of particular Baptists, the English Baptists, who were somewhat "hyper" in their Calvinism. Though he was dreaming of taking the gospel to other places of the world, looking at world maps in his home, such a burden for the lost, when he began to talk to the elders of his church about it one of the crusty old elders said, “Young man, the Lord can save his people without your help.” There didn’t seem to be much support for him at that time.

But there was a man named Andrew Fuller who became a great support to him, became the "rope-holder" for him, as William Carey then left, in 1793, for India. He went with his wife, who eventually proved to be mentally ill, he had four children under the age of nine. He labored for 40 years without a furlough and he never came home. It was seven years before there was the first convert.

After 20 years he had accomplished a lot of work. He was working on translating the Bible into a native language, he was writing grammars, he was working on a dictionary; but the compound in which all of this work was held caught fire, and it all burned to the ground. There were no hard drives, no Cloud, no backup of any kind. All of the work was lost, including ten versions of the Bible that were going through the press.

Carey was out of town in Calcutta, and when he was told of the fire, tears filled his eyes. Later, this is what he said, “In one short evening, the labors of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! I had lately brought some things to the utmost of perfection of which they seemed capable and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low.”

He suffered unbelievable setbacks and heartaches throughout his ministry, including the death of his first wife. He then married again and lost his second wife. And yet he persevered; he kept going and kept going and kept going, and he really did become the father of the modern missionary movement.

If we ask the question, “What is it that kept William Carey going through all of that difficulty? How did he stay for seven years without seeing one single convert? How did he persevere in the face of so much suffering?” the answer is, his theology. In fact, you get the theology kind of encapsulated in one very simple statement for which he is now famous. He said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

I think his answer perfectly captures two parallel truths in Scripture that we’ve been trying to consider together in Romans 9-11; that is, the truth of God’s sovereignty and the truth of human responsibility. God’s sovereignty is captured in that statement, “Expect great things from God,” because God is great, God is powerful, God is sovereign, and we should expect great things from such a great God.

Yet God, this great and sovereign God, has given each one of us personal responsibility. We are accountable to him for our response to his word, and as believers we are accountable to him for the spread of the word, for the spread of the gospel. Therefore we should attempt great things for God. But the reason we attempt great things for God is because we expect our great and our sovereign God to work.

We’ve been trying to see how these two things fit together in the book of Romans. We’ve been looking at Romans 9-11, and we’re now in Romans 10. You remember the argument so far. The apostle Paul begins in Romans 9 with great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for his brothers according to the flesh, his kinsmen according to the flesh; that is, his fellow Jews. There are many who are not saved, they are not converted; in fact, Paul says he could wish himself accursed and cut off from Christ for their sake, he so desperately longs for their salvation. In Romans 10:1 he says that his heart’s desire and prayer for them is that they might be saved.

Yet they have received such great privileges as God’s people in the old covenant, in the Old Testament, so Paul is wrestling with this question: How can people who have received such great privileges not be saved? How can they not be part of God’s people now? What’s going on here? His answer is that not all who are of Israel are the true Israel, that salvation is not by race, it’s not by ethnic descent; salvation is rather by grace, and that God’s purpose according to election stands. God had chosen Isaac and not Ishmael, he had chosen Jacob and not Esau. God is a sovereign God who has mercy on whom he will have mercy. That’s the divine side of this equation, the sovereignty of God.

But then Paul turns to the human side of the equation and begins to look at Jewish unbelief itself, and he tells us that Israel, though they pursued righteousness according to the law and by the works of the law, they have not attained to that righteousness, and in fact they are lost. They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, and therefore they need salvation.

That’s part of his argument in Romans 10, and that’s really what we pick up with in Romans 10:14-21. In these verses, he’s building a case for why Israel is lost, and he’s showing that even though they have access to the gospel, even though they’ve heard the gospel, they’ve not believed the gospel. They are responsible for their unbelief, even as God is sovereignly working out his good and gracious purposes.

So this morning as we conclude this study of chapter 10, moving to chapter 11 next week, we’re going to look at these two things together, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, and I hope you will see the harmony between them.

There are three things I want us to see this morning. I want us to see, first of all, that believers are responsible for sharing the gospel; then, secondly, that people are responsible for their rejection of the gospel. They’re responsible to believe it, and when they reject it they are responsible for it. And then I want you to see, thirdly, that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are complementary, that they work together. We see all three of those things in this passage.

1. Believers Are Responsible for Sharing the Gospel

Look at verses 14 and 15. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.’”

That’s verses 14-15, and of course they’re following verse 13, where Paul has said, quoting the prophet Joel, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He’s made clear what the way of salvation is. The way of salvation is the way of faith. It’s believing. It’s faith righteousness, not law righteousness. It’s the new covenant, not the old covenant. It’s not works of the law, it’s faith in Jesus Christ that leads to salvation, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (that is, the name of the Lord Jesus), everyone who calls on his name will be saved, but then Paul says, “How will they call on him in whom they have not believed?”

So he begins this chain of reasoning for what it takes for someone to believe the gospel. They have to have received the gospel, and it essentially is giving us Paul’s case for evangelism.

Now, anyone who’s of the reformed persuasion should know pretty well the “golden chain” of Romans 8:29-30. Those whom God foreknew he predestined, and those whom he predestined he called, and those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he glorified.

But I like to think that there’s also a silver chain, and it’s the silver chain of Romans 10. The silver chain is this chain of words that Paul puts together. It includes being sent, and then preaching the gospel, and then people hearing the gospel, and then believing the gospel, and then calling on the name of the Lord, so that they are saved.

Just as that golden chain cannot be broken, so that everyone who is foreknown and predestined will also be called justified and glorified, so this chain of events necessary for someone to come to Christ must not be broken, either. In order for people to believe and be saved, they must call on the name of the Lord, but they can’t call on the Lord if they’ve not heard, and they cannot hear unless there is someone speaking the gospel to them, a preacher or an evangelist or an ordinary Christian sharing the good news. That can’t happen unless they are sent, unless they are commissioned.

John Stott, in his excellent commentary on the book of Romans, I think pulls this together as well as anyone could. He says, “The essence of Paul’s argument is seen if we put his six verbs in the opposite order. Christ sends heralds, heralds preach, people hear, hearers believe, believers call, and those who call are saved. The relentless logic of Paul’s case for evangelism is felt most forcibly when the stages are stated negatively and each is seen to be essential to the next. Thus, unless some people are commissioned for the task there will be no gospel preachers, unless the gospel is preached sinners will not hear Christ’s message and voice, unless they hear him they will not believe the truths of his death and resurrection, unless they believe these truths they will not call on him, and unless they call on his name they will not be saved.”

The gospel is necessary. Brothers and sisters in Christ, Redeemer Church, you and I, as believers, have the responsibility to share the gospel. We have the responsibility to preach the good news, to share that news with others, and that includes both in the neighborhoods and in our own personal networks and it includes taking the gospel to the ends of the earth in fulfillment of Christ’s great commission.

This passage then shows us the necessity of evangelism and of missions, and it should prompt some self-examination on our parts. Do we believe this? If we believe it, are we doing evangelism?

There was a survey done a few years ago by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Two thousand people were surveyed. I want you to see some of the statistics that came out of this. These are answers to questions.

Here’s a question. “If someone wanted to tell me what he or she believed about Christianity, I would be willing to listen.” Respondents were asked to say whether they agreed or disagreed. It was really interesting. Among people aged 30 and above, 75 per cent agreed that they would be willing to listen if someone wanted to talk to them about Christianity. Seventy-five per cent of people above 30 said, “Yes, I’m willing to listen to a gospel presentation.”

But get this: among people 20-29, younger people, who you might assumed would be more reactionary and less willing to hear, it was actually 89 per cent who were willing to hear someone say what they believed about Christianity.

In other words, according to this survey, there is an incredible openness among the vast majority of people in our own culture to hearing the gospel if someone is willing to share.

Here was another survey question (this was for Protestant churchgoers). They were asked, “I have a personal responsibility to share my religious beliefs about Jesus Christ with non-Christians,” do they agree or not agree. Over 75 per cent either somewhat or strongly agreed with that statement. Seventy-five per cent of Protestant churchgoers say, “Yes, I agree I have a responsibility to share the gospel.”

But then look at this one. “In the past six months, about how many times have you personally invited an unchurched person to church?” This isn’t even asking if they shared the gospel, just, “Have you invited someone to church?” Almost 50 per cent said zero. Only one per cent had invited 16 or more people in a six-month period of time.

In other words, folks, the problem is not that people are so antagonistic towards Christians and hostile to the gospel. Of course you’re always going to see that to some degree in virtually every culture. But that’s not our main problem. Our main problem is not that people are not willing to listen! Our main problem is that we’re not getting the job done! We’re not fulfilling our responsibility to share the gospel with others. How long has it been since you have invited someone to church? How long has it been since you’ve handed someone a gospel tract or a booklet or given them a Bible? How long has it been since you’ve asked a spiritual question, since you’ve inquired into someone’s soul? Do you love them? Do you know that they will go to hell if they do not believe and if they are not saved? How are they going to believe if no one tells them?

We have a responsibility. Never let the doctrines of grace undercut the responsibility that you and I have for evangelism. Paul didn’t do that, and we shouldn’t do that. If we do, we have severely misunderstood Paul. Believers are responsible for sharing the gospel. That’s the first point.

Here's the second:

2. People Are Responsible for Rejecting the Gospel

We could say it the other way: People are responsible to receive the gospel, to believe the gospel when it is presented; but when they reject it, they are responsible. They will be held accountable for rejecting the gospel.

That’s really Paul’s emphasis here, because again, he’s looking at the problem of Jewish unbelief. Look at verses 16-18. He’s made the argument here, how are they going to hear without a preacher, right? How is there going to be a preacher unless they’re sent? They have to have this. Now he’s saying they have had it. Look at verse 16.

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the end of the world.’”

Paul’s quoting from both Isaiah 53:1. “Who has believed our report?” He’s asking this question. Here are people who have heard the gospel, but who has believed it? They’ve rejected the Messiah. He’s saying, “But they have heard!” He’s quoting there from Psalm 19:4, using the language that in Psalm 19 is speaking about God’s natural revelation, the created world. He’s using that language, applying it to the gospel, and is saying the gospel has gone around the world.

He’s thinking, I think, especially here of the Jewish world at that time. They have heard, but they have not believed.

The point that Paul is making here is that Israel has heard the gospel and they’ve rejected the gospel, and thus they are responsible for their unbelief, their rejection, their refusal of the gospel. That is a basic principle in Scripture, that you and I and all human beings, everyone who hears the gospel, everyone who has access to the truth of God in any way, whether it is the truth revealed in the created order (Romans 1) or it’s the truth revealed in the gospel itself (Romans 10), when they reject that truth, they are held accountable for it. They are responsible for rejecting that truth.

You see this over and again in Scripture. I want to show you two other passages.

In John 5:39-40, Jesus is speaking to Jewish people, to religious people, who have the Bible, and yet they don’t believe. I want you to notice what he says to them. He says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. And it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” You see what he does? They don’t believe, he points them to their own word and says, “This word testifies about me, but you refuse to come.” Now, elsewhere he will say, “No one can come unless the Father who has sent me draws him,” but here he says, “You refused to come.” He puts the burden of responsibility squarely on their shoulders.

Paul and Barnabas do the same thing in Acts 13:44-48. This is Paul’s first missionary journey, he’s preaching in Pisidia of Antioch, he’s preaching in a synagogue, and there is by and large a rejection of the message. I want you to notice how Paul describes their rejection, what he says to them, and then also see how Luke describes the Gentiles who receive the message. You see these two things coming together. Verse 44, “The next Sabbath, almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”’ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord. And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed, and the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”

Once again, you see it right there, don’t you? Scripture places the responsibility for rejecting the gospel on those who reject the gospel. He places the responsibility on the shoulders of those who do not believe.

Let’s not miss here the personal application for every one of us. Let me just say it as clearly as I can. My friend listening this morning, if you die in unbelief, without faith in Jesus Christ, you will not be able to say, “Oh, I wasn’t elect! Oh, I wasn’t chosen! Oh, I didn’t have an opportunity! No one ever explained the gospel.”

You won’t be able to say that if you have heard the gospel explained clearly. Here it is. Let me take away any possible excuse at this moment. The gospel is very simply that you’re a sinner, that you’re unrighteousness—God is righteous, you are not; you need salvation, you can’t save yourself. But Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in your place, he died on the cross for your sins, he’s raised from the dead, and if you will believe in him, “confess [him] with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved!” Believe and you will be saved.

If you don’t believe that message and you die in unbelief and you stand before God in judgment, there will be no excuse. You will be held accountable for the message you have received, and not only the message this morning, but every sermon you’ve heard, every tract you’ve been given, every opportunity to read the Bible, every time you switched off the channel when a radio preacher was preaching, every time you blew off a friend who tried to share Christ with you, every prayer that your mother or your father prayed over you, every opportunity to hear that you have refused; every opportunity to believe when you’ve rejected, you will be accountable.

As Christians, we are responsible to share the gospel, and as human beings we are responsible to respond to the gospel once we have heard it.

3. God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility Are Complementary

Thirdly, I want you to see that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are complementary truths. They come together. Look at verses 19-21.

Paul continues, “But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’” You see the fulfillment of that in Acts 13, which we just read. Paul’s quoting here Deuteronomy 32:21.

Look at verse 20. “Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’” Again, now he’s speaking about the Gentiles, the non-Jews who did believe. They weren’t looking for God, they weren’t looking for righteousness, we saw last week. They weren’t seeking to attain righteousness, and yet they have attained it, the righteousness of faith, but they weren’t looking for it. They weren’t seeking it at all, but yet they have been found. Why have they been found? They’ve been found by sovereign grace.

Verse 21, “But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” He’s now quoting Isaiah 65:1-2.

These verses show us that Israel has indeed heard and has understood, and yet they’ve rejected the gospel; and they show us both the sovereignty of God in his mercy to the Gentiles as well as the posture of God to those who do not believe. I don’t want you to miss this. I want you to see the posture of God, the heart of God, even towards those who don’t believe, even towards the non-elect. Look at the posture, the heart of God, in verse 21.

“But of Israel,” speaking of unbelieving Israel, “he says, ‘All day long I have held out my [arms to you, my] hands [to you],a disobedient and contrary people.’”

What is that? What does he mean, “All day long I have held out my hands—” What is that? It’s a posture of pleading, of entreating. “Come! Come!” That’s the heart of God. It’s a heart that reaches out to the lost in compassion.

Spurgeon preached a sermon on this verse, and he described it as God’s wooing people to himself. He said this wooing is affectionate, and he said it’s like a father, and here’s a child who’s been disobedient, and the father is brokenhearted over the disobedience, the rebellion of this child. The father’s longing for the child to return home and is holding out his arms. “Come back, come back!” That’s the heart of God. It’s an affectionate yearning.

Spurgeon said it’s also, secondly, frequent. It’s all day long, or daily. Daily God is entreating. Indeed, this is the picture that Scripture gives us of God and of Christ toward the lost.

Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked may turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’” This God of grace and mercy, this sovereign God, does not delight in the death of the wicked, but He entreats them to turn.

Or look at Matthew 23:37. Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem and he weeps over it. Do you remember what he says? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” Again, the responsibility is on them. The heart of Jesus, the posture of Jesus towards them is one of compassion, and yet they refuse. They refuse.

One more text, 2 Corinthians 5:20. Paul, now speaking about his vocation as an apostle and as an evangelist, as an ambassador of Christ; listen to how he describes it. “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. God, making his appeal through us, we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” He’s pleading, he’s imploring. God is beseeching, appealing. That’s the heart of God towards the lost.

So again, I’m trying to help us get a biblical balance in our theology. Is God sovereign in mercy and judgment, in wrath and in salvation? Yes. Are human beings responsible for believing the gospel? Are they held accountable if they refuse the gospel? Yes. Is God willing to save any who will come to him? Yes, he is. That’s why when people refuse the free offer of the gospel they are held accountable.

When you put these two truths together, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, you see they are complementary. They are compatible. They work together.

Spurgeon one time preached a great sermon on "high doctrine, broad doctrine"—high doctrine meaning the Calvinistic doctrines of God’s sovereignty, and broad doctrine the free offer of the gospel. He was preaching on John 6:37—again, it’s a verse that gives us both sides of the equation. “All that the Father gives me shall come to me,” there’s the doctrine of grace, “and him who comes to me I will not cast out.” There’s the free offer of the gospel.

Spurgeon said that “people ask me, ‘How do you reconcile these things together?’” He says, “I never reconcile friends.” They’re friends. They haven’t fallen out. They’re not out of sorts. They’re compatible, their friends. These two things belong together.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones also believed this. I want to read just one statement from Lloyd-Jones before we draw to a close. Lloyd-Jones says, “Election alone accounts for the saved, but non-election does not account for the lost. Let me explain. No man would be saved were it not that God in a sovereign manner has chosen him. It is God’s action alone that saves a man. So why is anybody lost? Is it because they are not elected? No! What accounts for the lost is their rejection of the gospel, and before that, of course, the fact that they are in Adam, that they belong to this mass of perdition. We have all sinned in Adam, and it is here that human responsibility comes in. We are responsible for our rejection of the gospel, but we are not responsible for our acceptance of it. That is the result of the electing grace of God.”

As we draw to a close, I want to suggest three applications this morning. I want to do it by asking questions and giving an exhortation.

(1) Question number one: Are you saved? Have you been converted? Have you received Christ as your Savior? Have you believe the gospel? Have you repented of your sins? Have you turned to Christ so that you have become a Christian and you are a justified, regenerate, adopted child of God?

If you are saved, give all the glory to God, because the only reason you’re saved is by God’s grace. The only reason you’re saved is because of God’s mercy that reached out to you and changed your heart. The only reason you’re a Christian is because God drew you to himself with cords of irresistible love. The only reason that you’re a Christian while someone else who has had equal opportunity, or even more opportunity, than you, and they’re not; the reason you are and they’re not is not because you’re smarter, it’s not because you’re wiser, it’s not because you made a better decision; it’s because God has had mercy on you that broke through the hardness of your heart.

I mean, we sang it this morning, didn’t we? I was buried, right? I was beneath this load of sin and I was in the grave and I was in the dark. God spoke and he called us out of the grave! Whether you like that song or not, that song is a song of sovereign grace. That’s what that song is. “Glorious Day.” It’s all about the grace of God that calls us, like Lazarus, out of the tomb of our sin and draws us to faith in Christ. Are you saved? Then give all the glory to God.

I love these words of the poet hymn-writer Josiah Condor. He said,

“’Tis not that I did choose thee;
O Lord, that could not be.
This heart would still refuse thee,
Hadst thou not chosen me.

“’Twas sovereign mercy called me
And taught my opening mind.
The world had else enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind.

“My heart owns none before thee,
For thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love thee,
Thou must have loved me first.”

If you’re saved, you’re saved by grace. You get no credit; God gets the glory.

(2) Question number two: Are you sharing the gospel? Are you sharing the good news?

First of all, some of us probably just need to acknowledge that we’re not, or that we’re not doing it very well, we’re not doing it very often. So if that’s the case, we need to repent.

If we are sharing the good news, we are sharing the gospel, let’s do so with confidence in the word of God. Let me tell you, this is one of the practical out-workings of this theology. If you believe that people are dead in their trespasses and sins and that the only way they can be saved is by a divine and supernatural act of sovereign grace, that the only way someone is going to become a Christian is if they hear the word and the Holy Spirit makes that word alive in their hearts, bringing them out of death into life, out of darkness into light—if you believe that, then one of the things it means is that you know that there’s no cause for any kind of psychological manipulation to try to get people to believe the gospel. There’s no need for gimmicks, there’s no need for entertainment, there’s no need for an approach to ministry and evangelism that is so focused on answering every single possible objection that a person has in their mind before they could ever possible believe.

Now listen, I know there’s a place for apologetics. I’m not denying that. But brothers and sisters, the power that saves is the power of the word! It’s the word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the gospel of Christ.

We need to recover a confidence in the power of the word of God. It’s not in your evangelistic skill, it’s not in your prowess, it’s not in your ability to answer every single question, every single objection. You don’t have to have read The Reason for God by Tim Keller, as much as I love that book. You don’t have to have a master’s degree in apologetics. You just need to go out and talk to your friends about Jesus. Tell them what Jesus has done for your soul, share the word of God with them, and God uses the word to bring people to salvation. Let’s have confidence in the word of God. That’s what it takes! It takes a miracle.

I was reading somewhere, and I didn’t write this down, but it’s a statement from R.C. Sproul. I’m paraphrasing, but he said essentially this. He said lost people are not like people that are out in the ocean who are treading water and need a life jacket. That’s not the picture. They’re, rather, corpses at the bottom of the ocean, and Jesus has to dive all the way down, carry them all the way up, and then breathe new life into them.

That’s the reality. People who don’t believe are deceived, they are in darkness, and they’re dead in trespasses and in sins, and only sovereign grace can bring them to Christ; but the means that God uses is the word, the word of God. So let’s be confident in that word. Let’s share that word with others.

(3) Finally, are you a non-Christian? If you’re here this morning and for whatever reasons you’re beginning to see that you’re not a believer, you’re beginning to see that you’ve been depending on your works, you’ve been depending on yourself, you’ve been depending on your own righteousness or your morality, or you’ve just been indifferent, you’ve been careless, you haven’t thought about eternity. Maybe you’re really young and death is not on the horizon for you, in your own mind, in your own thinking.

Listen. I found out this last week that someone that our family sort of knew, a physician that had attended one of our children, died unexpectedly last month at the age of 51! Just six years older than me. Death can happen at any time. You could be a child, you could be a teenager, you could be a young person or an older person. Death can strike at any moment. Are you ready?

I just want to implore you this morning to not refuse God’s offer of salvation. God is a gracious God. The good news, whether you can connect the dots with all this theology or not, here’s the good news (this is the basic offer): that God’s posture towards you is one of arms open wide. He’s ready to save you . If you come, if you believe, he will welcome you. Call on the name of the Lord, and you will be saved. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Let’s pray.

Father, there are mysteries in your word that are too deep for words, beyond our ability to fully comprehend or explain. But one thing we know: we know that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We know that we’re sinners, we know that we can’t save ourselves, and we know that your word promises salvation for all who will believe. So my prayer this morning is that every single one of us this morning would affirm, even in these moments, in the quietness of their own hearts, that we would affirm a simple confession. “Lord, I’m a sinner, and I know I need salvation. I know I deserve judgment. Would you save me for Jesus’ sake?” Father, I pray that today would be the day of salvation for someone here today.

Lord, for those of us who are believers today, would you work in our hearts to give us a burden for the lost, give us a real commitment to evangelism? Lord, would you forgive us for our indifference, forgive us for our hardness of heart, forgive us that we don’t love people the way you love people. Forgive us for keeping our mouths shut when we should have opened them, not taking opportunities to share the gospel when we could have.

Lord, help us see people with your eyes. Help us see people in the reality of their need. Help us overcome our cowardice, our fear of man, our fear of rejection, our fear of not being approved by others. Help us this week to take that difficult step to begin a conversation, maybe to ask a personal question, maybe to share with someone that we’ve never broached the subject with before, or maybe reopen it with someone who’s turned it aside in the past. Help us be faithful to the responsibility that you’ve given to us.

Lord, as we come to your table this morning, we ask you to nourish our faith, to strengthen us for the work you’ve called us to do. Without you we can do nothing. You are the vine, we’re simply branches. For us to bear fruit we have to abide in you, we have to be united to you. So Lord, may the Lord’s table this morning be a reminder of what that means, that it means feeding on Jesus, the Bread of life. May we do that with faith in our hearts this morning. Draw near to us as we continue in worship. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.