Tim & Zen from Vietnam. The first men in their villages to follow Jesus. It cost them so much. They lost their families, friends and community. They were beaten and had to flee their homes yet they hold onto Jesus. “I know Him. My God is gentle. I will follow Him all the days of my life”.
What does it cost you to follow Jesus?
Saul to Paul. God changes lives. What a transformation. What a difference Jesus makes in someone’s life. How are you different in knowing Jesus?
We see around the world today in many countries it cost people so much to follow Jesus. Remember our brothers and sisters in North Korea! They share our faith but not our freedom!
2 Timothy 1:1 ….according to the promise of Life that is in Christ Jesus. Jesus give us life both now and forever!
2 Timothy 1:5. What spiritual heritage are you leaving? Who are you sharing Jesus with?”
Fan into flame – Remember the rich man from Iraq who lost everything. Are you prepared to give everything for Jesus or are there things in your life you are holding onto and less prepared to give?
Helen from Eritrea – “Jesus Christ is the medicine of the world and he must be shared” Helen spent 2 ½ years imprisoned in a metal shipping container for sharing Jesus?
There is a cost in following Jesus but often a much greater cost in sharing Him. You can be a Christian your whole life, never share Jesus and not face persecution!
Matt 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Pray for our brothers and sisters but also pray for the persecutors? Remember Saul to Paul. Pray for the leaders of IS and Boko Haram and others that they too will know Jesus and have their lives transformed?
Take home points:
Open Doors works in over 70 countries helping persecuted Christians to stand strong for Jesus.
I often talk about the Free Church and the Persecuted Church but really there is one church. Gods Church. We are all part of the one body.
When one part rejoices the all parts rejoice and when one part suffers, all parts suffer.
We believe that caring for the Persecuted Church should be part of the DNA of every Christian.
To support the ongoing work of Open Doors go to www.opendoors.org.au or call 02 9451 2999.
Rob Morris (Open Doors)
What do Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalael, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth have in common? At least in Genesis 5 the refrain though this family line is “and then he died”. For as long as they all may have lived none of them except for Enoch escaped death. But even for Enoch, this was not through his ability but through the intervention of God whom “took him away”.
Death is the common enemy to us all and however we may try to escape and avoid death - it is impossible for us to do so. No matter how healthy you are, no matter how much you avoid or dress up the topic, no matter how ‘young at heart’ you think you are - the harsh reality still stands, one day we will die.
Death is and should always be a sad and painful experience. It is appropriate to be sad when people die. You are meant to be sad. Death hurts because death separates and on the greatest scale. There is a great divide between the living and the dead which no one can cross. And so when we hear of people passing away and are separated from them it hurts and all the more when it happens to those we are close to.
But death is not a normal nor a natural part of life. Our innate desire to fight death is right because it is the great enemy. But the problem extends deeper than the physical but to the spiritual. Death is the result of sin. It is the due punishment for sin. Therefore, the fight against death is ultimately a fight against sin. Not that having a balanced diet, regular exercise, and general well being is a bad thing, but it will not ultimately stay the hand of death.
In Enoch we see that it is possible to escape death and in Jesus we find that the way is made possible to us. For God did not take Jesus away, but rather God sent Jesus to take our sins away. Jesus walked faithfully with God and yet he suffered “and then he died”. But his death was not for his own sins but for the sins of the world. So that just as God raised Jesus from the dead because of his righteousness, so God will raise us from the dead because we are counted righteous in Christ.
So my friend, if you are reading this, know that God loves you and that in Christ you are counted faithful and righteous. You need not die for your sins. Jesus has already done so for you. Find life, find forgiveness, find hope in Jesus. You are dearly loved. You are precious to God.
As I long to tell you how much God loves you I also want you to know that I love you too. I am sorry that my actions have not always matched my words. I know that at many times my example is far from what is expected of a Christian and much less as your pastor. When I have broken promises, spoken too quickly or too harshly, when I have not listened or have been too passive and dismissive, been late, untidy, slow or just absent. When I have taken you for granted or underappreciated you or thought more highly of myself than I ought to. I am sorry. Thank you for being so patient, supportive and loving of me and for doing this to one another. I don’t want to regret not telling each of you how blessed I am to be counted with you in God’s family tree.
Sin will take you further than you want to go. Keep you for longer than you want to stay. Cost you more than you are willing to pay.
Do not entertain sin. It is like playing with fire. It is not a matter of will you get burnt but when will you get burnt and then how badly.
In Genesis 1 and 2 we see how God had created and ordered the world and it was very good. But in Genesis 3 we see the effects of sin as it flips God’s order on its head and results in disorder. Where it should have been God instructing the Man and Woman who then instruct the rest of creation including the serpent, now it was the serpent who instructed the Woman who then instructed the Man who then tried to tell God it wasn’t his fault and blamed God for putting the Woman in the garden with him in the first place. This is the epitome of disorder that where God ought to have been praised, God is now being cursed.
Sin is not treating God as he ought to be treated.
As with Adam and Eve, our reaction to our own sin is to cover it up and hide. But no matter how sophisticated our proverbial fig leaves may be, whether we hide behind our good deeds, our achievements, our morality, our spirituality or even our own ignorance – God sees through it all. We may be able to hide our sin from one another but we cannot hide it from God. He already knows our sin and yet we still think we can get away with it. So, even when confronted with our sin, we come up with a host of excuses and reasons to divert, dismiss and minimise the depth of our sin and it is only to our own detriment.
However, as God can be trusted with the creating and the sustaining of the world. God can also be trusted to deal with our sin. We need not hide from God as though he would be unjust and unfair to us due to our sin. What is more, we need not hide from God because he is gracious and merciful. In Genesis 3, we see that ultimately God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin was great compassion not condemnation. They were cursed and there were consequences for their sins but this was nonetheless in the context of mercy and hope. As the world went from order to disorder through the one man Adam, God had also set in motion a plan for the world to go from disorder to order through another man, Jesus. This rescue plan is hinted at in the promise of the serpent crusher (3:15), and also in the skin coverings provided through the first sacrifice
So, the next time you are tempted to sin. Don’t do it. Do not sin. It is not worth it. You will not regret living righteously. You will not be ashamed of living sinlessly. You don’t need to try sin out. You are not missing out. You don’t have to experiment with sin and see for yourself. But if you do sin and God knows you will – then what will you do? Do not cover your sin up but confess it and see that God will forgive you and cover you with his love. And as you receive his forgiveness, ensure that you do likewise and forgive others too.