Does Your Talk Match Your Walk?
Pastor KC Liu/Romans 2:17-29/February 14, 2016
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Good morning! How are you all doing? Happy Valentines Day! How many of you will be celebrating it today with a loved one? Well, I love my EM Core Team, so I am celebrating Valentines Day with them today at our EM Core Meeting, yay!
I want to make an important announcement for next Sunday. I have invited a very special friend of mine to come preach next week. His name is Brian Barcelona. He is a fireball evangelist who has been setting the High Schools in LA Unified School District on fire! He has been interviewed on Christian television for his ministry. Even gang members have come to Christ through his preaching. If you are a high school student, you must come next week, and please bring your high school friends with you. This is probably the first time ever that our Sunday Service and DTS are designed especially for High School students. You will be inspired and blessed, and you will have a new vision and passion for your high school.
My message today is titled, “Does your talk match your walk?” Before I do that, I got a Pop Quiz to wake you up:
Who wrote Romans? (Paul)
Who is Paul writing to? (The Church in Rome)
Who is in the church in Rome? (Both Jews and Gentiles)
Why is Paul writing to them? (To reconcile the tension between them over theological issues)
What was the socio-political crisis that brought them to this point? (The Jews started the church, then Caesar threw them all out of Rome. The Gentiles took over leadership for a few years. Now the Jews are back. Who should be in charge?)
What are some theological issues that they were fighting over? (Who are God’s chosen people to lead the church now? Jews or Gentiles? Did the Jews get replaced? Does a Gentile have to convert to a Jew to be saved? Do Gentiles need to be circumcised? If you don’t know what that is, ask your parents.)
Now Paul is trying to help the Jews and Gentiles live peacefully with one another, and stop the fighting. And in Romans 1, Paul said something encouraging, that the benefit of the Gospel is available for both of them, not just one of them. In Ephesians 2, Paul says that through the cross, Jesus is making peace between Jews and Gentiles. That through the cross, he takes two fighting people, and makes them into one new man. Jesus didn’t die for them just so they could become friends, He died so they could become one.
Now Paul takes a big turn and rebukes them both! Why? In order to humble them and make them listen. He says to the Gentiles, you gave God up for idolatry, so God gave you up for immorality. God has allowed your bodies and minds degrade through your lustful desires. You have sinned openly in broad daylight. So stop being prideful and listen to me! Then Paul turns to rebuke the Jews. And this is our text for today. Let’s turn our Bibles to Romans 2:17-29.
"17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth--"
Now Paul knows what the Jews are thinking because Paul is more Jewish than anyone he is rebuking. So Paul calls them out on the issue of their pride.
Paul says that Jews pride themselves in at least 10 things, so I made a Top 10 List. Now let me ask you, are these 10 things good in themselves? What if this list was the Top 10 prides of Christians? Would they be good?
I call myself a Christian, yes, that's good.
I rely on the Bible and boast in God, yes, that's good.
I know God’s will, good! Who wouldn’t want to know the will of God for their life?
I approve of the better things in life, good!
I am instructed by God’s word, good!
I am guiding the spiritually blind, good!
I am the light of the world! Good! Jesus told us we should be.
I am instructor of the foolish, good! That’s why we preached on Proverbs.
I am a Sunday school teacher, great! Sister Huei-Na will be very happy.
I gain knowledge and study truth, good!
These are all good things in themselves. I would be happy if I could live out these 10 things in my life. So why was Paul so upset that Jews pride themselves in these? The answer is in the next 4 verses:
" 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Wow, those are some fighting words! Paul is really getting personal, calling them hypocrites! Is this true? Do some of these Jews live like hypocrites?
There was a Jewish historian named Josephus who lived in the Roman Empire, and he wrote this about the Jews: “in affairs of money, they were notorious thieves and yet they say, thou shall not steal. They were greedy for money and used shady methods to get it, and they say, we will teach you the ways of God.” Josephus wrote of another scandal where 4 Jews went to a wealthy Roman widow and got a hold of her wealth. They persuaded her to give most of her money to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. She gave them the money, then the 4 Jews just took off and spent everything on themselves. They were literally robbing people in the name of the Temple.
Therefore, Paul rebukes the Jews, “it’s fine that you claim do those 10 things that good Jews ought to do, but everything goes wrong if you don’t practice what you preach. Your talk does not match your walk! If you know the truth but live a lie, if you know what’s right but do wrong, then people will despise and hate you more than anyone else! Because you claim to be someone that you are not, you are putting the name of God to shame!”
This is why as soon as someone joins a church or professes to be a Christian, the non-Christians start watching them closely. They won’t say it verbally, but by the look in their eyes, they are telling you, “I am watching you!” Your classmates or colleagues may not talk about the wrong Larry “the atheist” is doing, but they will ridicule the wrong that John “the Christian” is doing.
The thing is, if we are going to talk the talk, we have to be able to back it up and walk the walk. If we can’t do something, then we shouldn’t be telling others to do it. I confess, I am guilty of it many times. And I want to speak to the parents in this room. I tell Micah, “you can’t watch the ipad, it’s bad for you!” Then he will talk back to me, “but you watch it!” Oh man, busted by my own son. I tell Karis, “go brush your teeth!” She talks back, “You’re not doing it!” Oh man, busted. Kids are not going to do what we say, but they will do what we do. It’s true. So if I am not willing to quit using my ipad, I have no right to tell my kids not to use it. If we are not intentional about inviting our friends to church, how can we convince our kids to invite their friends to church? Our walks has to match our talks, especially in our homes, or else our kids will grow to despise church.
Now the other thing the Jews were proud of was circumcision. It’s the act of cutting off the foreskin of the baby boy. Every male Jew gets circumcised on the 8th day after he is born. Here is a picture of a circumcision ceremony. Does it hurt? This baby’s face tells me yes! You see, circumcision branded the boy as a Jew. For 3000 years the Jews have been proud of that mark. It distinguished them from the Roman empire. They were different, they were circumcised. They had been through the ceremony which stamped them as God’s chosen people. It was a God-given sign and seal of his covenant.
And the Jews had an almost superstitious confidence in the saving power of their circumcision. A phrase that Rabbis often taught was that “Circumcised men do not descend into Gehenna.” and “Circumcision will deliver Israel from Gehenna.” And naturally, Jews will teach that if gentiles want to be saved from hell, you know what to do! Chop chop! (No wonder the Gentiles were like, uh uh! No way Jose!)
But Paul said something really profound here that shocked all the Jews. Let’s read verses 25-29.
"25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God."
Paul says circumcision is useless unless you can practice what you preach. Circumcision is only a symbol, and if the reality is not there, the symbol is no use. You may wear a badge, say a police badge, or a marine badge, or an eagle scout badge. But unless you are actively doing what the badge stands for, it is useless. In fact, people will mock you, “you are not police, why are you wearing it? It’s ridiculous.” Paul says, “if you are not keeping the Jewish laws, the badge of circumcision is a joke. It does not mean a thing to you or to anyone else. On the other hand, if the man (referring to Gentiles) who hasn't got the badge is doing those things, he is better off than you are, and he will judge you.”
Apply that to us. There are certain physical things that we do as Christians which are right, and which Christ told us to do. One is to be baptized with water, another is to take communion with bread and wine. These are good things. But they are symbols, badges, representations of something much deeper, and that is a transformed heart, a convicted heart for the truth.
There is nothing magic in the water or in the bread or the wine. Getting dipped in the water, taking the bread and wine won’t bring salvation. If we think it does, we are making the same mistake that the Jews did, as they thought circumcision would bring them to heaven.
Not even the knowledge of the Bible, nor the act of attending church makes you a person who really belongs to God’s kingdom. Just because you wear Jordan Shoes doesn’t mean you can fly. Here is the fundamental principle: it is the spiritual relationship that makes you a person of God, not the mental knowledge, nor the physical rituals.
The Jews got the mental knowledge down. They are smart people. Most Jews read an average of 60 books a year. They got the physical observance of ceremonies down. Just go and visit a Jewish synagogue in Irvine, and you will see what I mean. But the Jews forgot the spiritual relationship with God.
That’s why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees. They did things on the outside so they could be seen and praised by men. They stood on the streets to pray really loud so other Jews would think they were spiritual. They were seeking the praise of men, and not of God. So Jesus said as a response, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matt 6:5). If we are going to go out on the streets to pray, we should be motivated by the love of God for the people on the streets. Then God gets the glory. But if we go out to the streets to make ourselves look good, for our own glory, we will be rebuked by the Lord.
So Paul is saying to the Roman church, it is good that we are learning more about the Bible. It is good that we are memorizing verses, and that we make an effort to attend Friday nights and Sunday mornings. But if we do not know the Spirit of God living inside of us, if we are not walking in His will and living in His purpose, then we are missing the boat like the Jews.
In verse 29, Paul is playing his words with a pun. He says that “Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”
Who is “such a person”? It is the person who’s heart is circumcised by the Spirit of God. Now, the word “praise” in the Greek is epainos, but in the Hebrew it is Judah, or Jew. The very name “Jew” means one who is praised. Paul says the praise referred to is not the praise of man, but the praise of God. If God praises you, you are a real Jew. Men may praise you – that doesn’t make you belong to God.
Pharisees, therefore, are not real Jews in God’s eyes, because they seek praise from men. A real Jew is someone of whom God says, “That’s a man after my own heart; that’s a woman after my own heart!” So a person who is transformed by the Spirit, who has his heart circumcised by the Spirit, and receives praise from God, is the one who is a real Jew. He is the one who has true Salvation.
In conclusion, I would like to ask you a simple question this morning. Does your talk match your walk? Does your Christian talk match your Christian walk? Take about 1 minute to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Go ahead, ask God yourself, “Lord, does my talk match my walk?” Let’s bow our heads in prayer. If your talk matches your walk, I praise God for you. But if you feel like you fall short, that you talk the talk, but need God’s help to walk the walk, would you just let God know by raising your hand? I would like to pray for you.
“Father God, you see the ones who are honestly wanting to live out their Christian faith. I pray that you will help us, strengthen us, let us know how you want us to talk and walk, especially when we are outside of the church building. Help us to not be hypocrites. Have mercy on us Lord when we are. Circumcise our hearts for you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and empower us to walk by faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”