Sunday 29 August 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
What a privilege to serve God and serve His people this morning. I hope you have your Bibles ready and also a cup and bread to share in community together this morning.
Please open your Bibles at the letter of Peter; 1 Peter 3:14, 15.
During these times we will use different means to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
In the current situation in our country, the Lord lay it on my heart not to carry on with the Beatitudes this Sunday, but to bring a message on hope.
The whole Bible, the Word of God for Christ is the Word, is filled with hope for Christ is our hope!
God willing, we will carry on with the Blessed series next week. But today I want to bring a message of hope that will help us to respond to the challenge that we are facing.
It is true that we enter a time of the unknown. Never had we face a virus like this and never were we confined to our homes for 21 days. A worldly fear became our reality when the President announced a 21day lockdown!
The fact is that we enter a time of challenges, a time where personal finances will be under severe pressure. Although there will be food and water, cash flow will be hugely affected.
But as I pray to God in this time, my mind keeps going to how a Christian should respond to these current fears and fear in general. Fear, fear of the unknown, and it is here we seek help from the Word of God today.
Fear of the unknown
So, we going to look at the issue of fear and I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 3:14 -15 where we read these words:
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord”Peter 3:14 -15
Peter is writing to believers who are in the shadow of horrible persecution and death. These believers had not yet experienced such uncertainty, facing trails and persecution:
“Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you”1 Peter 4:12
We are facing our own trails and challenges today. Some of us are afraid that our freedoms are being eroded, and that we may not enjoy the blessings that have been given to us. We are deeply burdened for loved ones who do not honour Christ. We see them making bad choices, where will it lead to, where will it end!
Often the fear of what lies ahead is harder to bear than the reality: What will I do if…? How will I cope when…?
The Bible also talks about “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). What is that? That shadow can sometimes be worse than the reality.
People who are seriously ill has often said: “Pastor, it’s not dying that I am afraid of, but the whole process that leads up to it.”
So, these Christians were in the most difficult position of their time. They are facing the fear of violence, the fear of persecution, the fear of death and the fear of loved ones being lost. Peter, who is their pastor and shepherd, is writing to help them face their fears.
This same theme of do not fear, is at the heart of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ message. When the angel appears at the birth of Christ, his first words was: “Fear not… I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
Why did Jesus come into the world? What is the incarnation all about? There are many answers in the New Covenant, but the book of Hebrews gives us this one: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb. 2:14-15)
Does this describe our situation today? There’s a real fear, and it is sweeping across the country. What is going to happen next? How long will this carry on? Will we survive it? How can I tell my children, my elderly parents, they will be ok? Many people are caught up in a lifelong fear, a livelong slavery, being slaves of fear.
But Jesus Christ came into the world precisely for this reason: For us to be delivered from living in chronic and enslaving fear danger, also this day as many fears the corona virus.
This should be the area of our most distinctive testimony!
Yes, there is a real fear in the country. People are afraid, but God says to us in Isaiah 8:12: “Do not fear what they fear”. Exactly what Peter is also quoting here.
Peter says to the believers, “Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV). People were looking at Christians saying to them, “You ought to be really afraid.” But they weren’t, instead they were filled with hope! The early Christians were people of hope living in a culture of fear. They too were concerned for their families. They too wonder what the future holds. But they were marked more by hope than by fear.
We live in a culture where many have rejected the message of Christ. Many these days are drawn to think again about the message of Christ that they have rejected.
So then, what is the reason for the hope that is in you? This hope when there is a real fear in everyone else? Sometimes it seems that there is as much fear in the church as there is in the world.
So, we want to pose two questions today:
1. Why is it that there are so many fearful Christians?
2. How can we as Christians overcome our fears?
Many of us would say, “Have no fear of them!
Pastor, it’s great to read of it in the Bible but I’m not there yet! Well, why are we not there yet? How can we get there?
Q: Why are there so many fearful Christians?
A: Because the self-exalting spirit of the world has so widely entered the Church.
A true Christian is a person who submits his or her whole life to the authority, to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
This is the total opposite of the great movements of our time. Both within our own culture and around the world. Just look how churches and pastors in these times compete for their own thrones, their own kingdoms! In times to bring Jesus to a lost people, a time to bring hope, they promote themselves and not what God can do for us. Churches walking in fear of losing followers; losing money; losing platform!
Always test your church by its motives. Is Christ on the throne of your church? Whose name does the church promote. Is it the Name above all names or is it the name of self?
What are the great things in the Bible that God does with regard to humanity? God brings about the beginning of life. God makes us male and female. God tells us what marriage is. God determines the timing our death.
Now think about the great social issues that are at the centre of so much controversy in our time. One thing ties them together: We have been assuming for ourselves the right to do the things that belong to God.
We want to determine the beginning of life: Which children should come to birth and which should not see the light of day. We want to make gender a matter of personal choice. We want to define marriage who it is for and who not. We want to determine our life here and now. And with the same frame of mind, we want the ‘right’ to determine the time and circumstances of our own death.
But the same impulse is at work in each of these cases. We are putting ourselves in the place of God. We want to remove Him from the throne. We want to occupy the place of supreme authority over all things ourselves. We have welcomed and embraced the proposal of satan in the garden of Eden: “You shall be as God.”
Precisely the same problem lies at the root of facing this violent virus. This violent virus that is causing so much fear around the world today.
Think about who God is: God is the judge, and judgment belongs to Him. He is the One who, on the last day, will bring the unbeliever to judgment.
What is our response to a world in which men and women are increasingly putting themselves in the place of God?
The first thing is to say that this cultural Christianity that pervades our country can offer no response whatsoever. Why am I saying this? Because many of us have been raised with and shaped by a diminished gospel that says, “God loves you and all you have to do is say ‘yes’. Say yes to Him and you will be safe, you will be secure, and blessed forever.”
So, people say “yes” to God and then spend the rest of their lives in some degree of irritation or resentment. Where is this God then, to whom they have said “yes”? Why has He not made their lives as they would want it to be?
Do we see what has happened? What is wrong with this picture? What is actually going on? We see ourselves as the ones on the throne of God! And God as the one to serve us by making our lives as we want it to be. That is why the church has, in large measure, been influenced by the same self-exalting spirit that is causing so much fear in our world.
The first word of the gospel is that there is a sovereign Lord who lays claim to the whole of your life. The second word is that you are a sinner who deserves nothing but judgment from God. The third word is that He has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world as our Saviour, who alone is able to bring peace and reconciliation between you and God. The fourth word is that this Saviour can be yours, as you turn to Him in faith and in repentance and surrender all unto Him!
This leads us to the second question:
Q: How can we as Christians overcome our fears?
A: In your hearts, honour Christ the Lord.
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord”.1 Pet. 3:14-15
Peter is telling us how we can overcome our fears. If you are the lord of your life, everything that you cannot control will cause you to fear. What if there is no money? What if one of my children choose the wrong path? What if I get the virus? What if I get retrenched?
But when Christ is the Lord of your life, you have confidence for He is Lord of your life. He is on the throne! Jesus Christ was sovereign over your birth, He is sovereign over your life, and He will be sovereign over your death.
Sovereign over your birth:
That of all the millions of people who could potentially have come from the union of your father and your mother, God has chosen you! Created you! In great love and mercy, he planned you to be for all eternity!
Sovereign over your life:
All that has happened to you, the good you have enjoyed and the evil you have suffered, was known to God before the beginning of time. Yes, life is full of surprises, unexpected twists and turns, challenges, but nothing ever comes as a surprise to God. He is all knowing! God works through all that has happened in your past and whatever will happen in the future. He will advance the great purpose he has for you.
This is what the apostle Paul is talking about when he says,
“For those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28).
God’s good purpose for you is to be a reflection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His glory here and now. A reflection of His hope in times like this.
Sovereign over your death:
Jesus Christ is in complete control of the timing, the circumstances, and the outcome of your death, which for a Christian believer, whenever it comes, will be an immediate translation into glory. “In your book were written… the days that were formed for me” (Ps. 139:16; Job 14:5).
A minister of the Word of God once said, “We are immortal till our life’s work is done.” You can’t use that as an excuse for irresponsible behaviour – driving down the wrong side of the road at a high speed. That is an abuse of the truth.
Satan tried that abuse when he suggested to Jesus that He should jump from the pinnacle of the temple, “Nothing bad will happen!” Jesus said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
Use this truth when you struggle with fear. If you are afraid of this virus and its effects, say to yourself: “I am immortal until my life’s work is done here on earth”.
Q: What then is our only comfort in life and in death?
A: That you are not your own, but you belong – spirit soul and body, in life and in death, to Jesus Christ…
He watches over me! Not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father that is in heaven!
What does this then look like in practice? To honour Christ the Lord means that you hold all that you have in this life with an open hand.
It means that you will use the word ‘my’ tentatively:
‘My’ house, means the house that God has entrusted to me for a time.
‘My’ children, means the loved ones who belong to God and are lent to me for a time.
‘My’ work means the service that God has called me to do for a time.
‘My’ money is the resource that God has trusted me to steward on his behalf.
‘My’ friends are the people God has given as companions for a few laps of the journey.
‘My’ life means the opportunity that God has given me to serve at his pleasure in this world until he calls me home.
We can only say this when we are not the one who is on the throne. Thank God for that! Otherwise, we’d be riddled with fear. We will then deal much better with loss (whether that be the loss of a position, loss of a loved one, loss of property, whatever loss). If we believe and remember that what we have belongs to God, and it is on loan to us for a time!
H. Spurgeon says, “A man does not cry when he has to return a tool which he has borrowed… He knew that he borrowed it, he never called it his own, and he hands it back thankful that he had it for so long.”
The last time Moses spoke to God’s people before he died, he said, “Behold I set before you two ways of living. One way is a blessing and the other is a curse. There is a way that will lead to life, and a way that will lead to death.”
I feel a bit like that today. We live at a time where the great movement of our culture is to crown self as lord. Going down that path you will always be haunted with fear. There can be no greater curse than the curse of that path. No greater misery than the misery that lies at the end of it.
I want to say with Moses, “Choose the path that leads to life, the path on which you crown Jesus the Son of God and the Lord and Saviour of your life.” Friends, when you can say, “For me to live is Christ,” then you will also be able to say, “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
Here is the testimony: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord” (Rom. 14:8).
When Christ is the sovereign Lord over your life, over your death, and over your eternity, what in all the world would you have to fear?
Let us pray:
Father make us a people of hope in this culture of fear because we are learning in these challenging times what it is to get of the throne of self.
Help us in this so that our Christ be the Lord of our lives.
You have us in your hands, let us see that and put all our trust in you.
Take us through this as we honour you with our hearts.
In Name of Jesus,
A great privilege to serve communion this morning.
Making a faith confession together of our dependency on God.
Fear creates a mountain, faith moves it!
Fear accumulates, faith diminishes!
Fear destroys but faith builds up!
Let us in community make a faith statement of victory.
I Corinthians 11; 24 -26 says:
Verse 24: “and when Jesus had given thanks, He broke it and said: ‘take, eat; for this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me”.
Let us eat together.
Verse 25: “in the same manner He also took the cup, saying; ‘this cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me”.
Let us drink together.
We confess this morning that You have exalted Christ Jesus, our Lord. Given Him a Name above all names!
In Him we have victory! At His Name every knee shall bow, yes Lord, the corona virus shall bow now in Jesus Name! And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
To God’s glory and to His honour!