Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
March 10, 2019
Text: Deut. 26:1, Old Testament: Deut. 26:1-11, New Testament:
Deuteronomy 26 and Romans 10:8-13 seem to have nothing in common. Deuteronomy talks about possessing the Promised Land of God’s blessing and offering first fruits from the land in gratitude for God’s gift. Romans 10:8-13 is about confessing faith in Jesus Christ.
What is the link between the two?
The link is taking ownership. God’s people must take ownership of God’s gifts. We can’t just go through the motions of receiving God’s blessings. We must take ownership of those blessings. We must take responsibility for those blessings by showing God that we acknowledge what we have received.
Taking ownership is more than just being God’s people. Taking ownership is accepting responsibility for giving God the credit for our blessing and taking action that shows others that all we are comes from God.
Take Deuteronomy 26 for example. God’s people received the land of Canaan as a blessing from God. God brought Israel out of Egypt and freed them from slavery. God brought them through the wilderness and provided food for them. He saved them. God’s brought them into the Promised Land He gave them and subdued the people living on the land so Israel could live on it.
Each of these are tremendous blessings from God that He gave to His people.
- God freed His people from the Egyptians
- God took His people into the Wilderness and provided food for them
- God brought them to the Promised Land and they possessed it.
The people of Israel are living on the land God given them. Their children and grandchildren will inherit the land as their birthright. God has set them up forever on this land. It’s now their land – they own it.
But, Israel’s ownership of the land isn’t the real issue. The real issue is Israel needs to own God as the giver of their inheritance. They can’t just live on the land as if they deserved it because of their military skills. They can’t claim they earned it for themselves. They can’t say the Promised Land is theirs because they worked for it and are entitled to it.
Their flocks, their crops, their location at the center of the trading crossroads between Asia and Europe wasn’t of their making. These were the fruits of God’s blessing, that God gave to Israel. They were God’s blessings to His people.
His people needed to take ownership of the fact that everything they had originated in God’s gift – God’s blessing. It was not enough to remember the Exodus, the time in the Wilderness, the subduing of the Canaanites as their national story.
They must live each day, each month, each year, realizing that everything they have came from God as a gift – because God loved them and chose them to be His people. They hadn’t earned it or deserved it or where entitled to it because of their ingenuity or their accomplishments. Everything came from God.
They were to give the first fruits of their flocks, the first fruits of their harvest as an offering to God. When they did that, they were taking ownership for being the recipients of God’s gifts. Giving their first fruits showed God they were actively thinking about who He was, how He loved them, and how He provided for them daily. They were taking responsibility for receiving His gifts.
Their lives, their prosperity, their achievements, their national unity, their family joy, their personal happiness originated in who God was, how God loved them, and why He blessed them. Giving first fruits to God showed everyone that God was the source of all they were. They took ownership of receiving God’s blessing.
The blessings in Deuteronomy were tangible – land, flocks, harvests, prosperity, security. But they weren’t just for themselves. They were to show others the blessings of God.
The blessings about which the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans were intangible. They were physical. They were spiritual, eternal.
The Apostle Paul begins His call to for Christians to take ownership by reminding the Church in Rome that heaven is a blessing. It comes from God and is shown to us by Jesus Christ. All we know about heaven’s existence is given to us by God through Jesus Christ.
Paul furthers explains God’s blessing as rising from the dead. Heaven is found through the resurrection. It is an afterlife that exists beyond the tangible, visible things of this world.
This blessing from God is shown to us by Jesus Christ.
Paul then explains that taking ownership of God’s blessings during the time of Moses and the Israelites in Deuteronomy came from following God’s law that detailed to give first fruits from the harvest. Taking ownership of God’s blessing was in the form of tangible sacrifices for God.
But in the time that has arrived in Jesus Christ, taking ownership of the blessing of heaven and the blessing of the resurrection from the dead comes in confessing your faith in Jesus Christ being the Lord.
Taking ownership of the blessing in Jesus Christ’s salvation happens when we confess Jesus Christ is our Lord. We say with our lips what we know in our hearts, that Jesus Christ is the Lord.
This is a different type of responsibility. It is a different type of taking ownership that is spiritual in its essence.
Jesus Christ expands God’s original blessing the salvation of Israel from the Egyptians. That first act of salvation was to show the world the power of God’s love for His people to prevail over powers and principalities of this world.
God is blessing more than the people of Israel in the arrival of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ offers God’s salvation beyond the limits of His chosen people. God is working through Jesus Christ to bless the entire world – anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ and takes ownership of the blessing of heaven and the blessing of the resurrection that God has given through Jesus Christ.
Taking ownership of God’s blessing in Jesus goes far beyond giving first fruits to God from your prosperity. Taking ownership of God’s blessing in Jesus Christ involves being so convicted by God’s blessings of heaven and the resurrected life that you are willing to tell other people.
Heaven and the resurrection cannot be earned. They are not a birthright that can be inherited. They are not something we deserve because of our goodness. They are gifts that come by believing in Jesus Christ as the giver of these gifts.
Jesus Christ has shown us the existence of these blessings from God. Jesus Christ has told us about the importance of these blessings from God to overcome the mortal trials and tribulations through which live.
All the relief in life that comes from our faith in heaven and gratitude for the resurrection is a blessing from God that we receive from His Son Jesus Christ. All the freedom from anxiety that comes from our faith in heaven and gratitude for the resurrection is a blessing God gives us through His Son Jesus Christ.
These are not entitlements. Nor are they something we have earned by sacrificing our first fruits to God. They are gifts we receive from Jesus as a blessing for which we need to take ownership of God as their giver.
To take ownership, God is looking for something different from first fruits giving. God is looking for a confession of faith before other people.
Confessing our faith in our bedroom where no one else can hear us is not what the Apostle Paul is talking about. Confessing our faith in the privacy of our homes is not what the Apostle Paul is pointing to either. Confessing our faith in the security of our church sanctuary is not just what the Apostle Paul is discussing.
Confessing with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord inevitably leads us to make a public confession where we risk people disagreeing with us. Confessing Jesus Christ is Lord with our lips is not restricted to when it is politically correct.
Confessing with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord because He was raised from the dead and reigns over heaven and earth when its inconvenient, unpopular, painful, and frightening is taking ownership of God’s blessing.
It’s only when we confess our faith when we’re not allowed by civil law and when we know we’re going to receive public complaint, that we are showing God that we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead.
You see, it’s only when we risk losing all our land, all our prosperity, all our flocks and fields, all our harvest and our security because we know that Christ will raise us with Him that we take ownership of God’s blessings.
It’s only when we show God with our words of faith in Jesus Christ actually uttered from our mouths and not simply an idea about Jesus Christ that exists in our minds, that we take ownership of God’s blessing in Jesus Christ.
Israel could not hide God’s blessing of its land from the world. It was known to the other nations and Israel defended it as a birthright from God that set them apart from other nations. They not only gave their first fruits, they gave their lives in defense of their blessing.
Christians can hide God’s blessing of Jesus Christ from the world. They can hide their crosses and put their Bibles away where other folk can’t see them. They can stay at home on Sundays; pray in the closet in secret; and make no songs of worship in public so others in their neighborhood won’t be disturbed.
Christians can hide God’s blessing of Jesus Christ from the world by not using His name in public and keep their worship private behind sanctuary doors.
They can remove all signs of Jesus from the world at any time to avoid public disgrace and displeasure from those who don’t believe in Him.
When we do such things, we’re not taking ownership of God’s blessing. We’re acknowledging it in a private way so others won’t be offended, and we won’t be disturbed by their offense.
This is not Christianity. Hiding God’s blessing is telling God we have doubts about heaven’s existence. Hiding God’s blessing is showing other people we question Jesus’ resurrection. Hiding God’s blessing is covering-up what we really feel in our hearts about Jesus Christ in a world of disbelief.
Why would anyone who sincerely holds Jesus in their heart be afraid to confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord? Why would anyone who deeply appreciates the blessings of heaven and the resurrection want to withhold such a wonderful gift from those who don’t know Jesus or don’t believe in Jesus?
There is only one course of action for the Christian who believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and is compassionate about saving the world. They must confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord.
They will take ownership of God’s blessings in Jesus Christ because they are responsible to God for showing their appreciation for the gift Jesus is for us.