Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, leading to salvation. - Romans 10:5-10
As a teenager, I experienced a couple of opportunities to hear the good news. One opportunity was with a wrestling coach who offered the Lord’s Prayer before each match. The second opportunity was with a coworker at a summer job who invited me to a revival. Those formative experiences along with multiple questions from fellow Christians who have asked, “are you saved?” or on another occasion when my daughter Grace died, one friend asked if Grace was saved, left me perplexed. It seemed this question had a black and white answer and assumed one would know if someone was saved through a correct, public declaration of having prayed in their heart and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
In Paul’s text for today, he cites the importance of our hearts and our mouths. So how do I become a child of God or as the verses above say, how can I be saved? Paul says that I cannot, through works of obedience, be saved but only by confessing (saying) that Jesus is Lord and heartily (believe in my heart) believing God raised Jesus from the dead. In the scripture translation form Eugene Peterson’s The Message, verse 9 reads, “Say the welcoming word to God – ‘Jesus is my Master’ - embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not ‘doing’ anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation.”
Of my own free will I call out to God, and he does a work in me, in my family and in all of us. So, the answer to the question “am I saved” is – by Christ’s resurrection and forgiveness, rather than anything I do. Did we say the saving prayer correctly? Are we living out the gospel in a way that demonstrates our faith? Paul assures us that our preoccupation with doing Christian life right is not the freedom God desires for us. Christ’s resurrection, God’s word is the end of bondage to earthly, man-made rules and expectations.
So let us not judge ourselves and others by how they come to faith and remember the closing words of Leif Peterson’s poem honoring his Dad, Eugene Peterson’s lifelong message, “God loves you, He’s on your side, He’s coming after you, He’s relentless.” Amen.