By Rev Aly Tunstall
Readings: Romans 10 5-15 & Matthew 14 22-33
Our passages from Romans and Matthew today emphasise the need to have a proper understanding of our salvation along with an ongoing faith and trust in Jesus. To provide some context, here we have a difference of opinion between the Christian Jews (who still primarily believed their salvation was down to their obedience to the law of Moses) and the Gentiles, who had never been part of that and were starting to revert back to Greek philosophy to try and explain it.
So, Paul gets involved as he can see that all these new Christians were building their hope on a false foundation. Neither group were grasping the fact that Jesus dying on the cross, as the ‘once and for all’ sacrifice, was the only reason for their salvation and no amount of good works, following the law, or being good people would save them. Now that’s not to say that we shouldn’t try and be better people, and when we grow in our faith and relationship with Jesus we should become more like him, therefore we should want to be the best we can be. But having faith and trusting in Jesus was (and is) the only way to salvation, and gives us that eternal hope that only God can provide.
Jesus himself says: ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no one goes to the Father except through me.’
So, Paul starts by saying what Moses had written.
Verses 5 says: ‘Moses wrote this is about being put right with God by obeying the law: “Whoever obeys the commands of the Law will live.” But what the scripture says about being put right with God through faith is this: “You are not to ask yourself, who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down). “Nor are you to ask who will go down into the world below?” (that is to bring Christ up from death).
If you need to see Jesus to believe, that is not faith. Faith is believing in what you can’t see, faith comes from knowing what Jesus did on the cross to atone for our sins and when we completely believe and trust in Jesus and confess him with our mouths, we have a sure hope of Salvation and a confidence of new life in him. Plainly, this passage says, it’s not just inwardly we should believe but outwardly, by showing what we believe.
Isn’t it wonderful that no one is exempt from his love, no one is exempt from his family? He opened his arms to all, it doesn’t matter what denomination, creed, colour or religion. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, who you’ve been with – when we come to Jesus he loves and forgives us unconditionally no one is exempt.
This gospel is surely too good to keep to ourselves…!! But sadly, so many believe – but for whatever reason don’t want to share their faith.
For anyone to get to know that Jesus loves them, they have to hear the gospel message. As believers and followers of Jesus, that responsibility falls to us. We are called by God to share the gospel with people. I wonder, who was it that shared the gospel message with you? We are God’s messengers here and now, and I’m so pleased that people shared the gospel with me all those years ago.
I have a desire to share the gospel with others because I want everyone to be saved and to find new life. How about you? Are you passionate about sharing the gospel? Sometimes we are too scared because we think we don’t know the Bible well enough, or perhaps we feel inadequate, or people might laugh or just simply be uninterested. But they’re all the things we don’t need to worry about because God has our backs and blesses us when we are faithful and obedient to him. We are called to sow the seeds and he will bring the harvest.
The passage also from Romans ends with saying this: ‘how wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news’.
We have an amazing opportunity to be messengers for Jesus, and when we do as he has asked us – when we go and share the gospel and our testimonies with those that we meet, God will bless us. He sees all that we do and he wants us to let people know the love he has for all.
But how do we get to a place where we can stop worrying about sharing the gospel? Well, let’s look at Matthew – what does Matthew tell us here about having true faith in God faith that will sustain us and equip us to share the gospel message?
Here we have Jesus after spending times with the disciples and a large crowd of people sharing the good news, taking himself away not only from the crowd but also the disciples to spend time praying alone with his Father. You see when we pray, it draws us closer to Jesus, it gives us time to sit in quiet and ponder his word, it gives us time to listen to him what he wants from us where he wants us to go who he wants us to be. And so when we pray we are growing our faith and prayer underpins everything within our Christian relationship or our Christian walk if you like.
When we pray, God answers prayers. When we pray and ask ‘Lord I don’t feel I have the words’, he will give us the words to use.
So when it came to between 3:00 and 6:00 o’clock in the morning Jesus decided to go and and meet with the disciples but this was not on dry ground. Jesus was walking on water and the disciples in the boat were absolutely terrified. They thought they’d seen a ghost and they screamed with fear, but Jesus called out to them and said ‘it is I, don’t be afraid’.
I wonder at that point, where was the faith of the disciples? Sometimes having faith is not easy, we’re human and our natural emotions can get in the way, but then we have Peter. Peter spoke up and he said ‘Lord if it is really you order me to come on the water to you’. Jesus tells him to come and Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus.
When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus our faith grows and the impossible becomes possible. But as soon as Peter notices the wind and the waves he takes his eyes off Jesus and he begins to think about the water and he starts to sink. Straight away he says, ‘save me Lord’ and Jesus reaches out and takes his hand. Jesus when we call out to him always catches us.
Jesus asks Peter why he had such little faith and why he doubted, but he already knew that it was because Peter had taken his eyes and focus off him. I think we can learn a lot from Peter on this – so often we let our human emotions get in the way. When things are going well it’s really easy to have faith in Jesus, but when things get a little bit difficult, instead of looking to Jesus to see what he wants and trusting that he sees the bigger picture, we start trusting ourselves rather than Jesus.
I wonder today, where are you with your faith? Are you keeping your eyes and your heart fixed firmly on Jesus, allowing him to lead you, allowing him to hold you and pick you up when the going gets tough? Faith holds us strong in all that Jesus is and has done for us and brings about freedom.
So, I want to encourage you today to look to Jesus and have faith in him. Jesus should be our perfect role model, he was always praying, he was always spending time with God, he knew the scriptures inside and out. We need to follow his example because when we really immerse ourselves in scripture, when we come to God in prayer, nothing is beyond us.
When Jesus went back up into heaven to be with his Father, he didn’t leave us on his own, he sent his Holy Spirit who empowers us to do the work and the will of God. So each day, asked to be filled afresh with the Spirit, ask Jesus to give you the opportunities to share your faith so that people can hear the gospel and know the love of Jesus for themselves in their lives, so that they too can find the Salvation that we are so privileged and fortunate to have.