Be Prepared: Taking the fear out of sharing your faith

Today the title of my message is, “Be Prepared: Taking the fear out of sharing your faith”.

As a new Christian, and a number of times since, the thought of evangelism has been a pretty scary thing. I was told that I needed to share my faith so I could reach other people for Christ. And the more people I reached, the sooner it would be for Jesus to come back. This made me very nervous. It was something I wanted to do, but I felt terribly under-equipped. From talking to others, I found I was not alone.

We have all heard those verses that say, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20) and “And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:15). For some this is very exciting, for other this brings fear to their hearts!

Over the years I have found that I have learned a lot about sharing my faith. I found there were certain things that helped me be a little bit more prepared. This took a lot of the stress out of sharing my faith. Today I want to share some of those things. As I go through them I am going to share some of my successes and some of my failures.

I want this message to be really practical and helpful to us and hopefully give us some pointers to sharing our faith.

1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in people’s lives

The first key we need to understand to be more effective in sharing our faith is praying the Holy Spirit to move.

John 16:8 – And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgement.

It is the Holy Spirit’s role to do the work of salvation.

When I meet new people I always pray and ask God if this is someone I should share my faith with. If it is someone I need to talk to, I usually find I have the desire to pray for them and opportunities to talk about spiritual things tend to open up in a natural way.

When I am praying for someone I ask the Holy Spirit to move in their lives. I pray five general things.

  1. God would bless them and protect them.
  2. That the Holy Spirit would draw them to Jesus Christ
  3. That the Holy Spirit would show them their sin.
  4. That the Holy Spirit would make them aware of the need for a Saviour.
  5. That they would accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

So this might be an example of how I pray for someone.

Dear God, I pray for __________. I pray that You will bless them, protect them and watch over them. I pray that the Holy Spirit would move in their lives. Holy Spirit please reveal Jesus to them. Open their hearts and minds to Him. I pray that you will make them aware of their need for a Saviour. Please show them their sin and the need to deal with it. I pray they will trust Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Amen.

I have found that if God puts someone on my heart to pray this for, before long they are talking to me about spiritual things and they have a tract and a Bible in their hands.

2. Prepare a Testimony

A testimony can bring the Bible to life. I have found that people love hearing stories of how God has done great things for you. When I share about my testimony I touch on three main areas. These three things really help me to structure my story and how Jesus’ story impacted and changed my life.

  • My life before Christ – I share things like how I felt, my illness, my upbringing, what sort of things I was in to, and the sense of emptiness I had inside. These things set the scene.
  • My conversion – I then share how I came to Jesus. I talk about how I was feeling in the year before coming to Jesus, the people who helped me and the story of Jesus coming to die on the cross for me.
  • How my life has changed – In this final section I share how knowing Jesus personally has changed my whole life and outlook. I talk about the love, acceptance, hope, joy and purpose I now feel inside.

For some of us we can not think of a time when you didn’t know Jesus. You can share things some of the things that God has done for you. I actually have several short testimonies that I share with people depending on the situation.

I have had times when someone has simply said, “Dave you are a Christian right? Why do you believe?” And I have shared a short testimony and a few days later they are saved.

3. Know relevant Bible verses

Knowing some relevant Bible verses can be really helpful when sharing your faith. Especially if it someone who has had previous exposure to the Bible or shows and interest in reading it.

I have found that if you just read the Book of Romans with someone you could explain God’s plan of salvation for them.

“Romans road” is a great place to start –

  • The Natural State Of Man – Romans 3:10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one”
  • The Reason – Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”
  • The Cause – Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”
  • The Penalty and Gift – Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
  • The Love of God – Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • The Remedy – Romans 10:9-11 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
  • The Decision – Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Work out a simple presentation by putting a few verses together and memorise them. You might like to write them in the back of your Bible so you can refer to them easily. If you can’t remember them all, remember the first one and put references to the next one in your margin of your Bible.

4. Have some evangelistic tools handy

There are a variety of evangelistic tools that you can use to reach people. Sometimes people seem to want to talk about things at the strangest times. Having something on hand can help in those situations. Here are a few examples –

  • Tracts – You can keep one handy in your purse or wallet just in case an opportunity arises. They are very handy if you don’t have much time or perhaps are a bit nervous about sharing your faith. You can even put a library pocket in the back of all your books. Instead of a library card, put a tract in it!
  • Websites – Look out for websites that may help you to reach your friends. Many websites have a “refer to a friend” page that sends an email message on your behalf bringing the site to their attention. You can also share things on Facebook for a wider audience.
  • DVDs – The “Jesus” video is a great way to reach people. In just over an hour you see the whole life of Christ and at the end if gives the opportunity to receive Christ as Lord and Saviour. You could buy one for yourself and one to give away! These days, it is available online to stream at www.Jesusfilm.org,

The most effective three things I have used is tracts my website passionaustralia.org and the Jesus movie. I have given away thousands of tracts and hundreds of Jesus videos and many people have been saved as a result. I have had ten of millions of visitors to my website.

As an example, one Jesus video was viewed by 66 people and many got saved. We gave one to a lady and she watched it and got saved. When her husband got home they watched it again. He got saved. When the kids came home, they watched it again and they got saved. The lady took it to her work and the residents of her nursing home all watched it. Many prayed to receive Jesus.

So one resource in your hand can make a huge difference. Like the fish and loaves in Jesus’ hands.

5. Learn the sinner’s prayer

The sinner’s prayer is a simple prayer that you can go through with someone to make their connection with Jesus Christ. It gives the person the opportunity to confess their sin to God and invite Jesus Christ into their lives as Lord and Saviour. There are two examples below that you can use or memorise.

From Billy Graham

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour. In Your Name. Amen

From Campus Crusade for Christ

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen

Closing Summary

Today I wanted to encourage you in your evangelism efforts. The main point I hope you got is that you can be more effective in your efforts if you think and prepare beforehand. As we saw there are five things we can do.

1. Pray for people

2. Prepare a testimony

3. Learn key Bible verses

4. Have some resources ready

5. Learn the sinner’s prayer

Closing Prayer

Dear God,
I pray that You will use me to reach others for Christ. Please help me to be effective in sharing my faith. Please help me to know whom to talk to and I pray that You will give me the right words to say when the time comes. I pray for all my family, friends and neighbours. I pray that the Holy Spirit will draw them to Jesus and make them aware of their need for salvation. Please use me to lead them to Christ. I also pray Lord that when people come to You that You will help me to teach them about You and how to follow You each day. I pray that I will help make disciples.
I ask this in Jesus’, Amen.

Sermon: The Healing and Restoration of the Leper

Bible Readings: Matthew 4:23-25, Matthew 8:1-4

The title of my message today is the Healing and restoration of the Leper. It looks at Jesus’ amazing interaction with a Leper who approached Him and the result of what happened. This story is found in three of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. Today I am going to focus on the Matthew version.

Today I want to I will look at some of the background teachings and contexts, then I will bring out some applications points that we can reflect on for today.

Breakdown and teaching on the text

Verse 1
Jesus came down out of the hills, where the Sermon on the Mount had been delivered, the great crowds still followed Him. There would have been many reasons why people would have followed Jesus. Some would have been amazed by His teaching. Some would have dared to believe He may be the promised Messiah that the Old Testament had prophesized about. Some would have just followed to see the miracle worker in action.

Verses 2
In verse two Jesus comes in contact with the Leper. As we will see later this is the first of eight miracles in Matthew 8 and 9. The Bible uses the term Leper to describe a number of skin diseases that were contagious. In Biblical times if people had leprosy they were declared unclean by the Priests and they lived outside the town in a leper camp until they died or got better. Leviticus 13:46 says that “As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp”. As it stood, the leper couldn’t work or live or interact with other people in the city. In fact, if he entered the city he had to cover his mouth and yell unclean, unclean wherever he went. If he failed to do so, he could be stoned to death. This is so people would not become infected with leprosy and religious Jews would not become ritually unclean. If it were in Our town today, they would have to live outside the town area where no-one could come in contact with them. Maybe behind the Peak. They would not be able to come into to town, to work, to come to church, or to see their family. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation today. For most of us our whole worlds revolve around these things.

In verse 2 we see this man “knelt” before Jesus in the NIV. The Greek world for knelt in the text, (pros-koo-neh-o), can also mean “worshiped.” Some translations actually translate it as “knelt and worshiped Jesus”. We also see in the passage the man used the title “Lord”. The word in Greek (koo-ree-os) means Lord, Master, Supreme Authority or Ruler. So we can see from these two things he held Jesus in high regard. The leper both knelt and worshiped Jesus and called Him Master. It was not a casual question asking for healing.

Verse 3
In verse 3 we also see this in the statement “If you are willing”. It reflects the leper’s great faith. We saw in the first reading that Jesus had already been teaching, preaching and healing all over the region and many people had already followed Him. The leper had no question about Jesus’ healing powers. The leper knew Jesus already had the authority and power to heal, He only needed to decide and act and his healing would come.

By touching an unclean leper, Jesus would become defiled and unclean according to Jewish custom (see Leviticus 13-14). But as Christians we know that when Jesus’ touches something, it cannot remain defiled or unclean. Far from becoming unclean Himself, Jesus makes the unclean leper clean and He makes him whole. We see that both Jesus’ words – I am willing – and Jesus’ touch are effective in showing the power and authority and healing of God. The Leper was healed and restored.

Verse 4
Jesus’ command for the leper to keep quite and go show himself to the Priests was about allowing the man to be acceptable to the community as a whole again. When someone had leprosy a Priest was the one who confirmed and sentenced them to live outside the city in isolation. Only a Priest could declare them clean and restore them to community life.

Leviticus 14:1-4 says “And the Lord said to Moses, 2 “The following instructions are for those seeking ceremonial purification from a skin disease. Those who have been healed must be brought to the priest, 3 who will examine them at a place outside the camp. If the priest finds that someone has been healed of a serious skin disease, 4 he will perform a purification ceremony.” This is why Jesus told him to do this. To prove the miracle and healing took place. It is interesting to note that in the Mark and Luke versions of the story, the man went and told everyone and did not show himself to the Priest.

Summary

So we see this miracle healing was done by Jesus out of compassion for the Leper and in response to his request, but it also had greater implications for him as a person. He was restored in body, he was restored to family and community life, and he was restored spiritually as he could attend the Temple once more.

Application points

So what can we learn from this passage? What can we use today? There are two things that both encourage and challenge me.

1. We need to bring our problems to Jesus.

This miracle is the first in a series of miracles that Jesus performs. If we read through Matthew chapters 8 and 9 we see there are eight recorded miracles of Jesus.

The man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4) – He knelt before Jesus and said if you are willing I will be healed. Jesus was willing and healed him.

The Centurion’s slave (Matthew 8:5-13) – He asked Jesus to “say the word” and his servant would be healed from a distance. Jesus said the word and he was healed.

The calming of the storm (Matthew 8:23-27) – The disciples were terrified as the storm on the lake threatened their lives. They called to Jesus and He stilled the storm.

The Paralytic man – (Matthew 9:1-8) – Some friends brought the paralytic man to Jesus in faith that He could heal him. Jesus told him to pick up his mat and go home. He got up and walked.

The Dead Girl (Matthew 9:18-26) – A man came to Jesus and told of his dead daughter. He said if you touch her, she will live. Jesus touched her and she lived.

The Sick Woman (Matthew 9:20-22) – The woman who had been bleeding non-stop for 12 years came to Jesus. She knew if she could touch His cloak she would be healed. She did and she was healed.

The Two Blind Men (Matthew 9:27-31) – Two blind men came asked Jesus to have mercy on them. He asked if they believed He could heal them. They said yes and they were healed.

The Mute Man (Matthew 9:32-33) – A man was brought to Jesus who was demon possessed and could not speak as a result. The demon was driven out and he was healed.

Jesus intervened in all of these situations and brought a miracle. For the Leper, Jesus was able to make the man whole in an instant. He had the power and the authority and as the leper found out, He had the will to do it. Whatever we are faced with today, we should bring it to Jesus like the Leper did in today’s passage. Prayer and bringing our problems to Jesus should be our first reaction, not a last resort.

The miracles in Matthew chapters 8 and 9 covered all things. There were healings, demons were caste out, a storm was calmed, and someone was even raised to life. Nothing is impossible for Jesus. Absolutely nothing. All things are possible to them that believes. If you are struggling with something today, bring it to Jesus in prayer. Come like the leper did, come humbly to the Master knowing He can intervene.

2. We see that Jesus did not treat people like outcasts.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He is a Saviour for all people. In the Bible we see that He spent time with and reached out to people of all backgrounds and nationalities. He didn’t treat people as outcasts, not even lepers. Many times He healed and restored them to community life.

This is especially interesting because at the time Jesus walked the earth, many people only spent time with people from their own people group. They did not mix with others because in many cases they thought they were unclean. And there is no way someone would be seen with a leper. Jewish culture saw it as a curse from God.

But as we know, Jesus spent time with the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23), the Pharisees (Matthew 12:2-6), the Herodians (Matthew 22:15-22), the Romans (Luke 7:2), the Zealots (Luke 6:15) and the Samaritans (John 4:39-42). Combine this with Jesus spending time with other social outcasts of the day like tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers shows that Jesus was a Savior for all people. He didn’t discriminate. He just genuinely loved and cared for people, no matter whom they were or what they had done. He didn’t treat people as outcasts.

Many of us have probably heard about Mother Theresa and her work in the slums of Calcutta. Daily she dealt with the poorest of the poor. She even tended to lepers. Mother Teresa said this about serving God – “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” Seeing Jesus in the face of every person helped her to keep going when many others didn’t.

This is the type of person I believe Jesus wants us to be. He wants us to really love people, to care for them, He wants us to welcome them in no matter how different to us they are. He doesn’t want us to shun people or treat them as outcasts. He wants to embrace and heal them. He wants to do it through us. Jesus wants us to be His hands and feet to serve, His mouth to speak life, His heart to love and His arms to bring comfort. This is the person I want to be. WWJD – What would Jesus do? WSID – What should I do? WSWD – What should we do? We can’t treat people as outcasts, we need to embrace them in the way Jesus did and invite them to be part of our community.

Closing

So today as we move on to a time of fellowship, let us remember these two things for the healing of the Leper…

1. That we can bring all our problems to Jesus and He can help us. Nothing is impossible for Him.

2. That Jesus didn’t treat people like outcasts, He healed and welcomed them back to community.

Amen.

Sermon: Chosen, redeemed & sealed

Spiritual Blessings in Christ: You are Chosen, Redeemed and Sealed by God

Over the last few weeks I have been doing my morning devotions from the Book of Ephesians. I have really enjoyed looking back into one of my favourite books of the Bible. I have been working my way through the major headings. The first heading is “Spiritual Blessings in Christ” and as you can see I have picked out three of the blessings we have in Christ – Chosen, Redeemed and Sealed by God.

Bible Reading – Ephesians 1:3-14

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Message points

Today I have three main points I want to share from this passage.

1. God has chosen us and adopted us

A great truth of the Bible is that we who are in Christ or Christians are chosen.

Verse 4 of the text says, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.

In this simple verse there are four great truths.

  1. Before the world was made we were on God’s mind
  2. God loves us
  3. We are chosen
  4. God sees us as faultless in His eyes.

Paul tells us that God “chose” us to emphasize the truth that salvation depends totally on God. We are not saved by our own good works or because we deserve it, but because God is gracious and loving and chose to freely give us salvation. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross to pay the price for our sin and our faith and our faith and trust in who He is and what He has done, we are saved. And the good news is that because we are saved and in Christ, we are faultless in His eyes.

Verse 5 of today’s text tells us that, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”

Again, verse five has a number of great truths.

  1. God decided in advance
  2. We are adopted into His eternal family
  3. It was His idea to save us
  4. Our salvation gave Him pleasure

God has adopted us into His eternal family. He decided in advance to do this. We are now His children. John 1:12 says, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

So, we are chosen, saved and adopted by God

2. We are redeemed by God

Verse 7 tells us, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.”

Redemption is an important word in the Christian faith. Redemption is about the buying back or release of an object or person. In the Bible redemption refers to God’s ransoming of believers through the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and to all the benefits that this brings. So, Jesus paid the price on the cross to redeem us back to God.

Why did we need to be redeemed? We needed to be redeemed because we could save ourselves. When we talk about salvation we see that in our natural state without Christ we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that this sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).

Some people and some religions think they can redeem themselves by good works. They think if their good deeds out way their bad deeds, then God will accept them. The Bible tells us that salvation is not by good works, so no-one can boast. It is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is where Christ comes in with His work on the cross. In Christ we have been freed. Through His death on the cross as a payment for our sin the price has been paid.

Colossians 1:13-14 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

1 Timothy 2:5-6 tells us that, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time”.

Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many. It is by Christ’s shed blood that our sins are forgiven. We celebrate this each week in communion. His death opened the way to God. He is the one mediator between God and mankind. Our redemption is 100% totally and completely paid for by the death of Christ.

3. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit

Verses 13 and 14 of today’s text tells us. “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him.”

Again, in these two verses there are more amazing truths.

  1. The good news of Christ saves us
  2. God identified us as His own by giving us the Holy Spirit
  3. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we received an inheritance and we are His own people.

Ephesians 4:30b says, “Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 also says, “It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first instalment that guarantees everything He has promised us.”

Romans 8:23 says, “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us.

The Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a deposit, a guarantee, down payment of what we will receive.

The Greek word used for sealed is sphragizō. This means to stamp (like with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation. In the ancient world seals were very important. If a letter was stamped with the King’s seal, or Caesars seal, it carried the full weight of the King. It has power. Much like a letter written on the letterhead of the Queen or the Prime Minister carries weight today.

The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee, His stamp, His seal, that we belong to Him and He will do what He has promised to do in our lives. As believers we can look forward to the great day when are freed from our bodies and we will live forever with Him without pain, suffering or sin.

Because the Holy Spirit is our seal we can know we are saved. We can know we belong to God. We can know without doubt God will do all He promised.

4. Our salvation is all about God

Just before I finish and summarise my message today I want to share some points that really jumped out at me as I read this passage.

V4 – He chose us before the foundation of the world

V5 – He predestined us to be adopted

V7 – In Him we have redemption

V7 – In Him we have forgiveness of sins

V9 – And He made know salvation to us

V11 – In Him we were chosen and predestined

V13 – In Him we are sealed by the Holy Spirit

Our salvation really is about God and His desire to save us, forgive us and adopt us into His eternal family. We truly are chosen, redeemed and sealed.

Closing summary

So today we looked at Ephesians chapter 1. It is a great passage that assures us of a number of things. The three that we looked at today are…

1. God chose us and adopted us

2. We are redeemed by God

3. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit

4. Our salvation is all about God

Amen

Lectionary or not?

The church I attend works off the Lectionary for their sermons. These are a list of Bible readings that are on a three year cycle that line up with the seasons of the church year. It generally has a reading from the Psalms, a Gospel reading and one from another place in the Bible.

In saying this though, we do have the freedom to preach on another passage when it is our turn to preach. We can chose our passage based on what we feel God wants us to preach on for the week. Most times when I do this, people tell me that God spoke to them through the passage. Last time one lady told me that sermon was just for her and it felt like no-one else was there.

When I was a Pastor I would generally seek God at the start of the year and ask what books of the Bible or themes He wanted me to speak about. Most years I would get 2-3 Bible books to work through and a couple of themes that would go for about a month. The other sermons would be one of sermons that I felt to preach on that week.

Now I am a school chaplain I only preach now as a lay preacher every two or three months. I usually look at the Lectionary readings for the day, but most times I feel God wants me to preach on something else. I seek God and just ask “What do You want me to preach on?” Within a few days I find I am drawn to a passage and ideas start to flow.

This Sunday I am preaching and it will be this way again. I looked at the readings for this week and nothing really jumped out at me. I then prayed and asked God. He led me to a passage in Colossians and I had a couple of other little confirmations while talking with others and reading other things.

So I guess if you asked me the question “Do I use the Lectionary for my sermons?” I would have to say no. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like or appreciate when others in our church do. I have been really blessed by the preaching through the seasons of the church year.

On Sunday afternoon our time I would put my sermon online here and our church may have some video too.

Blessings,
Dave

Serving Jesus from a place of rest

The title of my message today is “Serving Jesus from a place of rest”. This message has been on my heart for the last few months. Especially since I found out I would be a Chaplain in three schools this year and also be an Elder in this church. These are four big roles, and I believe to would be easy to be overwhelmed, but I believe we serve a big God.

All of us know what it is to be busy, some of us know what it is to be too busy. We experience busyness of life and work, the busyness of kids and school, the busyness of church and serving in volunteer roles, and some even experience the busyness of retirement. Rather than winding down, retirement for some is a winding up!

Today I want to share this message as a new year is upon us and many of the things we do are starting to wind up in February. So before all the rush begins I want us to stop and reflect on the call of Jesus that is found in today’s reading.

Bible Reading

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Message Points

At the heart of these verses in the Bible reading is an invitation. An invitation to come to Jesus and an invitation to live differently. Today I want to share four things I love about this passage.

1. Jesus invites us to Himself

Jesus says, “Come to Me”. He invites everyone to come and get to know Him and spend time with Him. It is a personal invitation, but it is also to everyone. We see this in the “all who are weary”. It is an invitation to intimacy like He has with His Father.

In the New Testament, we see that Jesus often drew aside to spend time alone with His Father. In Mark 1:35 it says, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” He needed time alone with His Father to connect with Him and receive orders.

He also called the disciples away to be alone with Him. In Mark 6:31-32 “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat. 32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”

In my life as a Christian I have heard an audible voice from God twice. Once was when I was in a very busy period of work and ministry and I was staying up late to finish things off after everyone went to bed. In the midst of this work I heard a voice say “Dave”. It was different to the normal sound of my name being said. It was strong and firm, but calming and inviting all in one. It stopped me in my tracks. I walked in to Larissa hoping it was her. She was sound asleep. It was then I realised it was God. I said yes Lord and went and sat in my chair that I did my devotions in. Over the next hour or so I just sat in God’s presence. I didn’t say much. He didn’t say much, but I just sat. I felt a peace and a presence that melted all my stress and worry away. I was weary and God called me to come to Him. The other time I heard an audible was my name again. This time it was when Larissa was in hospital and I was home with two small kids. I had been awake for 24 hours and God said “Dave” again. I sat in His presence again and the same thing happened, my stress and weariness melted away.

Jesus invites us to Himself. He wants us to spend alone time with Him. He promises help for those of us who are weary. So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, remember Jesus invites us to Himself first.

2. Jesus invites us to take on His yoke

In old style farming a yoke was used to join two animals together. Side by side they would work, until the work was done. Often an older more experienced animal was put with a younger animal. By working with the older animal, the younger one would learn what to do and be under better control.

In today’s passage Bible scholars tell us Jesus was talking about the heavy yoke or burden that the Pharisees put on the people. They had 600+ laws for people to live by and that was burdensome. It was hard work and took all their energy. Jesus on the other hand, asks us to take on His yoke which He says is light and easy. Jesus just wants us to love God and love one another and do His work.

Also by using the yoke analogy, Jesus invites us to partner in the work He is already doing in the world. He invites us to work in His mission field. In this life, it is easy to get caught up in doing all kinds of “good” things, but Jesus invites us to be involved in His work. To put on His yoke and join in with Him.

For me being in three schools it is important for me to take on His yoke and prayerfully seek what God is already doing and join in. I need to see not only with my physical eyes and show love and compassion, but with my spiritual eyes and look for the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is always working around us drawing people to Jesus. As I walk around I need to learn when to go left, when to go right or when to do the holy hover and wait. So far it has been working well and led to some good conversations.

So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, it is important to take on His yoke and not the yoke of the world.

3. Jesus invites us to learn from Him

Jesus wants to teach us a different way to live. Jesus wants us to follow Him just like He asked the first disciples to follow Him. He promises that He will be gentle and teach us from a humble heart. I don’t know about you, but that is my kind of teacher.

How do we learn from Jesus today?

  • We read and memorise the words He said in the Bible – the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is a great place to start.
  • We read and reflect on His interactions with the people He met – Matthew chapter 8 onwards deals with this.
  • We read the prayers He prayed – The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17.
  • We see how Jesus dealt with temptation from the devil and how He responded with Scripture three times in Matthew 4:1-11.

Over the years I have met a lot of very strong Christians. When I asked what their secret was, it was always the same. They loved the Bible. They loved reading and meditating on it. They loved memorising passages. They loved talking about it.

So to be effective in serving Jesus from a place of rest, we must learn from Him and the best way to do that is by getting in to His Word – the Bible.

4. Jesus promises us rest

The last thing we can learn from these three simple verses is that Jesus promises us rest. If we respond to Jesus’ invite to come to Him, to take on His yoke and to learn from Him, He promises us rest.

The rest Jesus gives us is a rest not of this world. It is a rest that calms us in the middle of our busyness. It is a rest that lets us know God is in control though the world around us is failing. It is a rest that knows the eternal God has everything, even our eternal destiny, under control. We can rest knowing that we are kept safely in the palm of His hand.

My weariness test

Before I finish I want to do the weariness test that I give myself every now and then. I want to use the letters of the word weary.

W – Do I feel like I am working day and night? Or am I waiting on the Lord and responding to His promptings?

E – Does it feel like everything depends on me to get done? Or does everything depend on God and I just play my part?

A – Am I always rushing around to get things done? Or am I allowed to relax and have time off to do the things I enjoy?

R – Am I restless and can’t keep still? Or am I resting in Christ?

Y – Am I saying yes to everyone and everything? Or am I yielded to God and saying yes to Him?

If my answers were more on the left, I may be weary and need to hear Jesus’ call afresh to “Come to me all who are weary?”

Closing

As I said earlier at the heart of these three simple verses are an invitation from Jesus…

1. Jesus invites us to Come to Him

2. Jesus invites us to Take on His yoke

3. Jesus invites us to Learn from Him

When we do, we experience His rest. A rest that is not of this world. And we can run the race in a way that does not make us weary.

Amen.