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Sunday, 16 November 2014

'WHY HAVE YOU COME?'

Rev. Brian Wilkie
By Rev. Brian Wilkie                                                                                    

Pastor of St. Andrew's Christian Community
Rockland, Ontario


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PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, November 16th, 2014:

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Broadcast Notes:

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‘Why have you come?
 
Welcome to Good News In the Morning a program of words and music bringing a Christian message of hope and encouragement to those who are looking for intelligent meaningful and spirited approach to faith and to life.
This program is sponsored by Good News Christian Ministries PO Box 184 Rideau Ferry, Ontario K0G 1W0. I'm your host today, Brian Wilkie of St. Andrew's Christian church in Rockland. As always I want to start by thanking you our listeners. We are so grateful for your encouragement and support. Please remember that you can always visit our website for materials to encourage and support you in your Christian walk.
If you miss an episode of the show you can go to our website and download the podcast or the MP3 of our broadcast. Details can be found on our website.

Why have you Believed?

Today I want to speak to you about the topic of why you have believed. One of the scriptures I associate this with is the story of the conversion of the jailer in a city in the Mediterranean area.  Paul and Silas are his prisoners and this is what happens,
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaking. At once, all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose and the jailer woke up.  And when he saw the prison doors open he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself, we are all here.’”
The jailer called for lights and rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.’  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds and then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them.  He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God, he and his whole family.”
That reading was from Acts 16:25-34, a reading from God’s Holy Word.
We see here one man coming to Christ in one particular circumstance, and we’re going to take a look at some of the different ways people have come to Christ.  Perhaps you’ll be recalling your story as we look into this.
Now before we look further into it, why don’t we take a look at what Michael Card has to say about faith in his song, That’s What Faith Must Be.  This is from Michael Cards album Present Reality.  Have a listen with me.
I hope you enjoyed that music from Michael Card and the message that he had about how faith responds in the world and our lives.
How did you come to faith? What’s the story about the time when you came to put your trust in Jesus Christ?  When did you discover that your sins were forgiven and that God was offering you his love and the promise of eternal life?  It happens in different ways for different people, and there are as many different testimonies as there are Christians.  But I think in many respects, we can put the causes of faith into three categories.  The reasons that people call out to God, and put their trust in Jesus, roughly fall into three categories.  Now I’m not a preacher who normally uses alliteration but here goes:
I think we can categorize people as responding to God because of desperation. We can see people responding to God because of a desire, and we can see people responding to God because of duty.
When we come to Jesus Christ we might be like this jailer who is scared for his life. You see, we have this man whose job is to watch a prison, and this is a strange night for him. Normally it’s an uneventful kind of life.  The locks are solid, the bars are firm, the walls are in good shape, and he sleeps peacefully at night because there’s never been a prisoner escape. But here he’s gone to bed and after spending an evening listening to some prisoners, who, rather than moaning about their condition, were singing hymns, praying and praising some God that he never heard of, giving thanks to Jesus Christ for their circumstances.  And other prisoners were listening to what they were doing. And the man went to sleep, this jailer, and he was awakened by the shaking and crashing of an earthquake.  Now, the prison doors are open when he wakes up, but he sees that they are open and he assumes that the prisoners would have left.  So he takes out a sword and he’s about to kill himself, but Paul calls out, “Don’t harm yourself, we’re all here.   Now wouldn’t that be a relief thinking that you just failed at the most important job in your life and suddenly discovering that these prisoners had decided to stick around, that they were concerned about your well being. Certainly would be a relief, but wouldn’t there also be a sudden crushing realization that your life consists of this job? This jailer, if he’d failed at his job, he would lose his life. So he was ready to kill himself to avoid the shame and dishonour that he would receive. 
I don’t know if you have ever been at that point when you wonder what your life means.  Is it really worth living? I mean, if that’s what life is about – just doing your job well and dying if you don’t do it well – it’s got to be a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that remains.  This jailer, when he looks at how tenuous his grip on life is, when he sees how close  he came to death at his own hand and how these prisoners were thinking about  his well being, he rushes into them and asks them the  great question, “What must I do to be saved? 
You see, he was in despair for a moment. He realized that his life amounted to just a breath, a whisper, and he was prepared to turn that around. 
Desperation is what a lot of people have as their testimony towards Jesus Christ.  People who have reached the bottom of their life:  People like Michael W. Smith, the Christian singer and song writer, who found himself at the end of a long trail of drug abuse and drunkenness, and broken relationships, and a life going nowhere, and he found himself on the kitchen floor crying out to God for help. He was desperate.  He called and God saved him.  That’s such a common testimony that it almost seems like a cliché. It almost seems like that’s what happens when you get to the bottom.  Maybe these testimonies are nothing.  Maybe they’re just what people do when they reach the bottom. But here’s the amazing thing: That years and years and years later, they’re still sharing a testimony of a life that was headed downward.  Downward into death, and now this moment of desperation, this cry out to God has changed it, and they been on an upwards trajectory ever since.  They’ve had their struggles, they’ve had their difficulties, but the change that occurred when they cried out to God was absolutely an about face. Their desperation, their desperate cry worked out.
One of my favorite plays on words is an accidental one that happened in Newfoundland.  It concerns a little community on the south shore of Newfoundland at the end of a long and lonely highway. It’s a fairly isolated community, and it’s name, when it was settled by French settlers was, Baie d’Espoire, Bay of Hope.  Now I don’t know why they named it that.  Maybe it was a bright sunny day and everything looked great.  Or maybe they thought they’d name it something nice because they were trying to find hope in the midst of a mid-winters storm on the Atlantic.  But at any rate, Baie d’Espoire it was. Now when I was in Newfoundland serving the church there, I lived in an English community and the pronunciation changed over the years. You know how they pronounced the French expression Baie d’Espoire?  Sure enough, they called it Bay Despair.  Bay Despair! From hope to despair! But we’re talking about going from despair to hope.  And many people have made that turn.  When we cry out in desperation, we’re also crying out in hope. It may be our last hope. It may feel like there’s no other place to turn.  But hope calls us to cry out, and God responds with his graceful, faithfulness.
If that’s your story, you have a great story to tell to people who are going through the same experience. That there is a God who can turn lives around and take it from meaninglessness and death and bring it to new life.
We’re going to talk about another couple of ways that God brings people to himself and we’re going to do that after we listen to this next song.
This is a song that talks about how difficult it can be for people to believe.  How people can find it hard to be convinced.  It’s a song by a friend of mine, Stephen Cowley from his album, Dross to Gold, and the song is called, We Would Not Believe.
Well Stephen Cowley was one of the people who had a great deal to do with my early formation as a Christian.  He was the leader of a youth camp and it was at that youth camp that I came to Christ. But my religious experience started a little bit earlier.  When I was about sixteen years of age I was with a church youth group. I wasn’t a Christian. I wasn’t even a believer in God, but a young lady decided to have us all take a time to give thanks. And she was a Christian and she said that if you believe in God you can give thanks to God, “But if you don’t believe in God, just give thanks to each other for something nice that somebody’s done to you this weekend, as we’ve been together as a youth group.” It was in that setting that I had an experience of God, when I felt the love of God in my life.  Two things happened at once.  In my heart I said, “Lord if this is who you are, I want to be with you.” Another part of me realized with some sense of shame, what I had called love, the love that was in me, didn’t hold a candle to the love of God, and I knew that I needed to change.
That was coming to Christ out of a desire for him. Some people hear about Christ and they are attracted to him.  It’s not desperation.  Christ fills an emptiness they didn’t even know they had.  Christ warms their heart, draws them with ‘cords of loving kindness,’ as the scripture says, and they love God, they want to draw near to him, they say, “Jesus come and be with me forever.
Is that your story of coming to Christ? That you desired him? There’s thanksgiving that sometimes draws people to Christ.  They feel the love of God, and they’re thankful for the things that God has provided.  Desire is such an important reason why so many people come to Christ.  If you look in the Old Testament, you hear so many stories about people loving God.  David, King David, tells about his love in so many of the Psalms.  How much God appeals to him.  How much he enjoys God.  When he prays at the end of his life for the temple that his son Solomon would build, he talks about all the good things that God has done for him.  How thankful he is.  How God has been so wonderful and he looks around him and sees a community that has donated to the cause of building a temple and he sees that God has blessed them too.  And that they too desire God.  They are so thankful and filled with joy at God’s presence in their midst.  There’s so much in the scripture of people turning to God in joy.
If that’s your story.  If you know Jesus as one who is just attractive.  Someone who’s wisdom is so great.  Who’s love is so pure.  Who’s kindness is so complete.  Then you have something to share with people who God has already touched with a love for beauty, with a love for goodness, and you have a story to tell to people who can come to God through that channel.
A less attractive channel these days is the idea of duty. People speak about the importance of our relationship with God, about love and desires.  But duty is an important part, an important way that Jesus comes to people.  Duty is also the third leg of this stool that keeps faith stable, because desire can come and go.  We can feel great warmth at one point and then go back to selfishness and thinking only of ourselves.  We can be desperate at one moment and then when everything is going well we leave God behind.  That’s the story of Judges in a nutshell.  In the book of Judges, the people of Israel are desperate.  They cry out to God.  God helps them and once things are going well again they forget about God, and eventually they fall back into the old problems again.
Desperation can come and go.  Desire can come and go. And duty can help to balance out our lives when we recognize God is God.  That’s how C.S. Lewis came to Christ. He wasn’t particularly looking to fill a hole in his heart.  He wasn’t a very emotional person.  He wasn’t desperate.  His life was going fine. But he says that, he was pondering the claims of Christ and the evidence towards his death and resurrection. As he pondered these things and thought about all that he’d encountered in studying the issues philosophically about God, he realized that Jesus Christ was in fact, Lord. And he said he became the most unwilling convert in the land.  He didn’t come to God because he thought it was an amazing thing to do. He came to God because he knew he had to, to have integrity and to have peace; to know that he’d done what the evidence pointed him to. 
You might have read the book, The Case for Christ <by Lee Stroebel>, which is a story of another man, a journalist who searched out the evidence.  And when we come to Christ through duty, we have a story to tell people who also are searching for truth.  God has put a love of truth into some people’s heart.  They may have been turned off from the faith, because people have said, “just believe, just believe, just believe!”   But if you’ve examined the claims of Christ, either as part of what brought you to Christ, or as part of your devotion to Christ after you became a Christian.  Then you have something to share with these people that God has touched with the love of truth.
Whatever your story is,  however you came to Christ,  God has given you a testimony to share with others, and I do hope that you will think about what God has done for you, and how that might be a help to someone  in the world around you.
We’ll bring this message to a close now, and I like to pray with you for a moment and then I’m going to close it with thanking you again.
“Dear God, thank you so much that you have brought us to yourself, and you’re drawing us to yourself each day, more and more. Lord we pray that you will help us to remember our testimony;  remember what you have done for us, your goodness; remember how you helped us in hard times, and how you’ve warmed our hearts through your love. And teach us these things so we can help others as well.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.    Amen
Once again I want to thank you listeners for your encouragement and support. We do thank you because you keep us on the air week by week. We want to encourage you to support our ministry financially. Did you know the good news ministries has only one major cost? The four hosts Brent Russett, George Sinclair, Juliet Schimpf and myself are volunteers. So are the people who manage our website, organize our events and operate our board. Your gift can help us to continue to meet that one vital expense, the cost of broadcasting, which enables us to reach you and over 7000 listeners in the Ottawa River Valley. If you can please make a cheque payable to Good News Christian Ministries and send it to P.O. Box 184 Rideau Ferry, Ontario K0G 1W0 we will be happy to send you a receipt at income tax time. I also want to encourage you to tell others about this program
Be sure to worship in a church where the gospel is soundly proclaimed and lived out with compassion, integrity and resolve.
And now to conclude our program, I would like to have you listen to this song.  A traditional hymn sung by the Grace Presbyterian Chapel Choir of Houston, Texas, from their album Hymns of Praise, and the hymn is, Come thou Font of Every Blessing.
I do pray that the Lord will hold your heart and that you would know Jesus personally and profoundly. May the Holy Spirit reside deep within your heart, and may the Heavenly Father surround you with his constant and abiding and accompanying love.....
Good News In The Morning is produced in the Studios of News Talk Radio 580 CFRA.

- Rev. Brian Wilkie
St. Andrew's Christian Community, Rockland, Ontario
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To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link:


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