Today we begin the season of Lent. Actually the first day of Lent was Wednesday and we here at Druid Hills observed that with our Ash Wednesday service as we came together and talked about how God allows for us to make U-Turns and then participated in the imposition of ashes as we placed ashes in the sign of a cross on our foreheads and reminded ourselves to repent and believe in the Gospel. Today we are going to spend some time trying to see how our belief in the risen Savior is more than just a profession of words.
Words Are POWERFUL!
When I was in seminary I heard a quote from a professor, Dr. Rick Gray, and he was being asked, what is the one thing that would break your heart more than anything else? He paused for a moment and replied,”The one thing that would absolutely shatter my heart is for me to be a stumbling block to someone else coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ” (paraphrase). The one thing that would break the heart of this man more than anything else was to know that he had acted in a way that prevented someone else from coming to understand the love of Christ. Not losing a loved one, not losing his income, but knowing that he had an adverse affect on the salvation of another human being.
Our actions and our words can be of tremendous help or of tremendous destruction. One little word can pave the path for a new believer or turn them away forever. There is a Christian rock group called D.C. Talk and one of their songs is called, “What If I Stumble”. There is a man that speaks before the song starts and he says, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
Words are a wonderful gift from God. They are free, they do not cost us anything to use. They are words out there for all types of people, big words and small words, complicated words and simple words. There are words of different lengths and even words that are fun to say, like lollipop. But words also carry great power. Great responsibility.
Words Can Save Our Lives
I am sure that most of here have heard the term professing Christian. What exactly does that mean? That is an important question especially here during Lent as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the risen Savior. Our second scripture lesson was written for just that very reason.
The book of Romans is a big letter about the hope of salvation written by the apostle Paul. It is a book of great hope for us all and in the portion we read this morning, Paul is speaking to those people in Rome that are already Christians. He is not trying to win people to Christ, he is not trying to make some elegant case for a belief in Christianity. He is simply reminding them of some of the basics of their faith. You see faith in Christ is not complicated. It is not some ridiculously long set of rules and regulations that we have to follow. It begins, as Paul tells us, when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord. It begins when we believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead. With those two professions we are done. We are saved.
This is the whole point of Lent, to take time to remember that profession of belief in the risen Savior. During Lent we are to deny ourselves some pleasure. How many of you have been asked, “What are you giving up for Lent?” The purpose of giving something up is that you give up something that occupies a significant portion of your time or thoughts. Something that when not there will allow you more time to be with God. It is to be an opportunity to deny yourself in order to help yourself be closer with God.
Our lesson from Psalm 91 talks about the importance of that closeness. That when we are close and we make God our refuge and our fortress, God will be faithful to rescue us, protect us, deliver us, and be with us no matter the situation. Our words, our professions cannot only take us away from God, but also bring us incredibly closer to God.
Christ did so much for us and all he asks for in return is for our belief in Him. For us to use our words to profess that faith in Him. Earlier this morning we talked about the idea that words can cause us to stumble, to cause others to stumble. Each of you this morning were given a piece of paper as you walked in this morning. What I would like for you to do is to write a stumbling block of yours on that piece of paper. If you have a time keeping your temper with others, if you have a bad habit you would like to kick, whatever it is that you feel is keeping you from a closer relationship with Christ, write it down. Do not sign it. And in just a moment I am going to ask you to come and place it in this bowl as you feel lead…and we are going to burn them. We are going to take that first step together to say to God, “I want to be closer to you, I want you to take this stumbling block away from me, and I call upon your Name to be with me in my trouble, deliver me from my temptation, and walk with me as I grow closer to you. God has told us that if we profess in Christ, trust in him, he will deliver us. Allow Him to do that for you today!