So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. (Romans 1:15, NKJV)
Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the Christians in Rome. Not every Christian is a gospel preacher, like Paul (2 Timothy 1:11). But, every Christian must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). To do that, the apostle Peter said we must sanctify (set apart) in our hearts Christ as Lord. We must recognize Christ as our supreme authority. His word rules us. He is the one to whom we submit our hearts and our lives. His word sustains our hope in Him. His word supplies the reasons we give in defense of our hope. So, we be learning and living the gospel (Hebrews 5:12-14). What we preach with our words and by our lives, shows whether we have set apart Jesus Christ in our hearts as Lord. Be sure Jesus rules in your heart. His word must prevail over everything you think and do. Proclaim His gospel with your words and by your actions. Otherwise, you have not yet sanctified Him in your heart as Lord. As such, you are unprepared to preach the gospel to others.
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37–38, NKJV)
The powerful arm of the Lord was revealed to Israel by the many signs (miracles) Jesus did before the people. His miracles were heaven’s testimony that He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 5:36; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). Yet, despite His marvelous works, they did not believe in Him. Why not? John answers that question with another quote from Isaiah: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (John 12:40; Isaiah 6:9-10). It has been said there are none so blind as he who will not see. When we willfully harden our hearts against God and His Son, His testimony of truth will not penetrate it. We will remain lost in our unbelief. The strength of the Lord (His “arm”) has been revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. We must humble our hearts and open our eyes and ears to God’s powerful truth. By doing so, we can understand His will, turn back to God, and be healed of our sins.
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23–25, NKJV)
The miracles of Jesus were signs to the people that He is from God. When they saw the signs He did, they believed in His name, or power. Without those miracles, there would have been no ability to know who Jesus was, or the power by which He spoke. By contrast, Jesus did not need signs to tell Him what was in the hearts of men and women. People did not need signs to confirm to Jesus who they were and what was in them. Being the Son of God, He knows the hearts of men. For example, He knew Nathaniel was an Israelite “in whom is no deceit” (John 1:47). He knows what is in your heart and mine (Hebrews 4:13). Let us be sure to entrust our souls to Him by faithfully honoring and obeying His authority as the Son of God.
16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”’; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16–17, NKJV)
The false prophets in Jerusalem during the life of Jeremiah sound much like the false preachers today, who tell people such things as, “Let your conscience be your guide,” and, “join the church of your choice,” and, “God will accept every person who has a sincere heart” (that was the very falsehood for which God punished His people, verse 17). Living “according to the dictates of his own heart” brings a person under God’s wrath, not God’s approval and pleasure. Such worthless teaching made the people spiritually worthless (verse 16). When Jeremiah opposed these false prophets, they tried to have him killed (Jeremiah 26:4-14). A person who tells you God’s truth is not your enemy; don’t make him out to be one (Galatians 4:16). Speaking God’s truth has never been popular. But, we must speak truth, attempt to save souls and please God. We dare not speak error to please men, for by doing so, we lose our souls, and they remain lost, too (Galatians 1:10; 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:16).
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
Billions of people do not regard sin as sin. That word has been all but stricken from the lexicons of languages around the world. What Jesus said here reminds us that we are dual beings, made of both flesh and spirit; both mortal and immortal. The inner person – the person possessing identity, volition, conscience, intelligence and emotions – is identified as the heart, from which comes our words and actions. Jesus identified sexual immorality of all sorts (including adultery, homosexuality and premarital sex) as sin that comes from the heart. Oppression of one’s neighbor, whether by murder, thievery, covetousness or deceit, is also sinful. See how pride is considered evil along with all the rest. Sin is real, and we must define sin the way Jesus does. If not, we will likely call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Therefore hear the parable of the sower: (Matthew 13:18, NKJV)
If you are not familiar with the parable of the sower, please read it, and Jesus’ interpretation of it in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23. Take time to “hear” the parable and learn its lessons, some of which are these: 1) The condition of one’s heart determines whether he or she will understand and accept God’s word. 2) The same word of God will be believed by some, and rejected by others. Therefore, we dare not try to change the message of truth in an attempt to entice people to accept it. 3) Satan is at work hardening hearts against the word of God. 4) Truth cannot thrive in the shallow soil of the emotion-based heart. We must have an abiding commitment to God’s word, come what may – not to how we feel about it. 5) Hearts that are distracted and filled with concerns for the things of this world do not have room for the word of God. A person cannot serve two masters with one heart (Matt. 6:24). 6) Good and honest hearts hear, understand, and follow the word of God. So, did you listen to the parable? Which heart do you have when you hear the word of God? Is your heart the hard, wayside soil? Is it the shallow, emotional heart that easily falls away when tested? Is it the overgrown heart that has no room for God’s word? Or, is it the good heart that receives truth, holds it fast, and patiently bears fruit? Make no mistake: You decide which soil describes your heart.
19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:19–20, NKJV)
We dare not overlook the necessity of repentance in God’s plan to save sinners. Paul was true to his commission from Christ to be His witness to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-17). As he preached the gospel, he explained that “they should repent” in order to “turn to God” (conversion, Acts 3:19). Without a fundamental change of heart (repentance) toward God and the sin we have committed against Him, we cannot be saved (Acts 20:21; 2:37-38; 17:30). When repentance occurs, changes in one’s life necessarily follow. That is what conversion means. The Christians chooses to stop practicing sin. The Christian chooses to begin and continue living for Christ (Gal. 2:20). Obeying the command to be baptized, without first having real faith and genuine repentance, is powerless to “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Neither will it wash away unholy relationships; they, too, must cease (“works befitting repentance”). Minds must change toward God and sin to be saved. Repentance is not being sorry for sin. It is the complete change of heart that occurs because of godly sorrow for sin (2 Cor. 7:10). Without it, you cannot be saved.