Look into Acts 28 the last chapter of Acts. Here, Paul has finished all his missionary journeys. This is the last journey he's making to Rome and do you know what awaits Paul in Rome? Death. This is his last journey. This journey has been so challenging. He took a ship - the ship got wrecked, he almost lost his life, a snake bit him while he was on one of the islands. This trip was very challenging and finally he lands in Rome.
The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
Just before 15 he says "... and so we came to Rome." And you know what happened there." The brothers there had heard we were coming and they traveled as far as the forum of Appius and the three taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged." This was so amazing. Paul was dying to be with some disciples, dying for fellowship and finally he lands in Rome and some brothers come all the way from Forum of Appius and three taverns and when Paul sees them what does Paul do? He says 'thank you, God". And the Bible says he was encouraged just meeting - no talking, nothing- just by the sight of these brothers, just by the sight of these Christians he was so inspired.
What are you rejoicing about? What are we happy about? Election results? You passed in your 12th std exams, your relative got 95%? Last week was a lot of tension for the 12th standard students - they had their results. At different times we are happy about some things, we are sad about some things. But what we need to be happy about as Christians is in Luke 10:20.
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
The thing we need to rejoice in as disciples, as Christians is that our names are written in heaven. That we are elected by God to be his chosen disciples, to be a Christian, to be saved. We are his elect people of this world. And that should make us totally fired up. Maybe you feel like you've sinned. Maybe you feel like your friends let you down. You may even worry about your future and about your children. You may be getting old and you may be worried what's going to happen. No matter what you're going through, the truth is that we are all saved and we need to rejoice about that.
And everyday we need to thank God for our salvation. We need to thank God that God has picked us up from this messed up world, he cleansed me, he washed me, renewed me, he put a new heart, a new mind, a new spirit and changed me and gave me a new life. Praise God for that. We need to rejoice about the greatness of feeling saved. Sometimes we've forgotten what it feels like or how we should feel. It's like you are an Iraqi and you've been caught by the U.S as a prisoner and you're stuck in a prison and being tortured and finally you're freed. How will you feel? You can't believe you escaped, you're rescued- I'm still walking and I can meet my family and hug my children and hug my mother, my father! That's the feeling we need to have about our salvation.
Think about Paul - what is he thanking God about? Just for a little fellowship - he was able to hug a brother in a new land. He was like Amen to that! Sometimes we get so focussed on all our day-to-day problems we forget to rejoice for the incredible miracle of our salvation. So you may be going through a lot in your life, every one of us knows the challenges and the heartaches and the heartbreaks that we go through. And maybe even last week somebody criticized you, got angry with you and abused you and was just rotten with you. But you've got to remember you are saved. May be even Satan told you are not going to change and he deceived you and accused you of your sin. You've got to remember when you became a Christian, when you accepted Jesus as Lord, he became your Savior and you are saved.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
It says it is by grace we all have been saved and through what? Through our faith. There is a little description after the word 'faith' -it says this faith that you have, this is not from yourself it is the gift of God". Our faith in Christ is not so we can boast about it, it is a gift from God. Basically nothing we can boast about- how great we are, how spiritual we are, how faithful we are, how great committed we are. Everything good that we are or anything good that we have in us comes from God and it is because of his grace.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Here it talks about our past. Our past was such a foolish past. We lived a foolish life, we were disobedient, we were deceived by the world, and we were enslaved by all kinds of passion and pleasure - that's what the Bible talks about. That's my life before I came to the church. We lived in malice - wishing evil for others, we lived in envy - we are envious of people around us, we lived being hated and hating others. That was our lives. And then what happened? God's kindness appeared to us and through his kindness he saved us from that messed up life. And he didn't save us because of the righteous things we had done, he saved us by his grace. Because of his great mercy we are saved. We stand saved. And we've got to keep remembering that and we've got to keep repeating that in our heart because sometimes we forget that we are saved. And sometimes we don't just forget, we don't believe. And when we don't remember or don't believe we are not grateful.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
Paul was describing his life. Look at what Paul is sharing. Do you know why God saved me? Paul says do you know why God saved me? He says (what kind of a guy I am?) he's the worst sinner of all. Do you know why God saved me the worst sinner of all? So he can show how much unlimited patience he has on me. God has unlimited patience. How much patience do I have? How much patience do you have? Limited patience. Very limited patience. And everybody around you knows your limit. If you are staying in the brothers flat, the brothers know what is your limit. They can tell you - yours is 10 seconds. This guy I'll give one minute. That brother I think 3 days he can wait. And that is impressive. That brother? 3 months but after 3 months you've got to be careful because then you'll have to face a volcano. Three months he shows patience but after that he erupts.
Paul is saying (of all the people I'm the worst of sinners) do you know why God saved me? To show how unlimited patience he has on all of us. When you read that about Paul what do you sense about Paul's feeling about his salvation? He's so grateful that God showed so much patience on him. He could have shown his wrath and destroyed him in no time. And that's how God has shown us his unlimited patience. He's waited all these years and then he finally found a day, he picked you, he washed you, gave you a new birth and gave you a new spirit and saved you. He did it and completed what he wanted to do in our lives. And we need to be so grateful that we are his saved children.
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
What is he saying here? He's talking to the Christians. According to him he feels like the Christians are sleeping, like they are in slumber, lazing around in their salvation. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, brothers and sisters because your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. He's talking about the day approaching, Judgement day. So, these brothers and sisters were saved long time ago when they believed first, now they're slumbering thinking when God is going to come back, when Judgement day is going to come and he's saying "Guys get alert! Don't miss out, be alert about your faith and believe that the day is approaching and you'd better wake up from your slumber and think about your salvation because the final day when you're going to be saved is going to approach soon and you'd better be ready for that.
He says the night is nearly over, brothers and sisters the day is coming. And so for those of us who have gone back to our old ways Paul has something to say. He says let us first put aside deeds of darkness, put on the armor of light, let us behave decently as in the daytime not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immortality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy, rather clothe yourself with Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. See when we are alert, when we know the Day is approaching and don't know when is our last day. We've got to be alert, we've got to wake up from our slumber and be thinking, be grateful for our salvation and remember that we have to face God and be prepared to face God and so we have to get away from the deeds of darkness.
2. To Serve
1 Peter 2:16
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.
What does this say here? This is written to all the Christians. How are we supposed to live? Live as free men. This is very clear directive. The first directive from Peter to all the Christians is we've got to enjoy our freedom in Christ. We are free in Christ we've got to live as free men. I'm free from my guilt, I'm free from my shame, free from the oppression of Satan, free from the dungeon, free from hell and I'm ready to go to heaven. We're free and we've got to live as free men. It's translated as free here but another way it can be translated is unrestrained. Live as unrestrained men. Free means unrestrained. No restraints. Another word-opposite of free is "not slave". So live not as a slave in the first verse Peter says to all the Christians.
Then in the last part of the same verse it says, "live as servants of God". The word servant in Greek is doulos means slave. So here the first verse says live as free men but the second part says live as slaves. Two contradictory terms in the same verse. The word doulos can be translated servant, slave, bond servant or somebody bound to the master. Here every Christian is supposed to live as slave of Christ for the rest of our lives. We are to be free but at the same time we are to be slaves of God. So we are supposed to be God's servants, serving his people, serving one another. That is what God has called us for - we are saved to serve.
We'll look at some of the scriptures we already read before.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So here we are saved and God created us in Christ Jesus to do what? To do good works. That's why we are saved - to do good works. Same thing it says in Titus 2:14.
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
In verse 14 what does it say? Why did Jesus redeem us and make us his very own people? So that we can be eager to do what is good. In another translation it says zealous to do good works. As disciples, as we are grateful for our salvation, as we are thankful to God for what he has done in our lives, we've got to be his servants ready to do good works. Zealous to do good work. And that is what, as Christians, we need to be eager to do.
The word servant or doulos is a very common word in the new testament and one of the mysteries of Christ as we read in Philippians 2:3-8 is how he became a servant - being the Lord of the Universe, being the Creator himself how he became a servant. Bible talks here of what our attitude should be as followers of Christ. What did he become? He became nothing, he took the very nature of a servant. He became a slave for us.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
Most Indians understand the word servant because many families have servants working in their house. Or if you grew up in a village, you have people working on the farms, slaving for you literally, they are your servants serving in the field, plough, and harvesting cleaning so many things people do. We understand what servant means. Does a servant expect gratitude or thank you from his master? Do they have any special rights? Can they demand? And if you are used to what I'm talking about you know what the expectations of being a servant or slave is in our households. And that is what Jesus gave up. He gave up all his rights, he didn't demand anything, he didn't expect anything - he just came to serve. He didn't expect a thank you, he just said o.k. I'm going to serve, even if I have to die I will die but that is why I have come- to serve, to give, to make myself nothing for all of us to be saved. That should be our attitude.
7 "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'?
8 Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'?
9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?
10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"
Is this the attitude of a servant? Where he is not expecting anything? Not a thank you but he's just doing his part. Ultimately what is the servant's response? "We are unworthy servants we have only done our duty." That is what God is looking for from all of us just our voluntary, our wholehearted service to him, to do his work and not expect anything in return. The servant considers others better than himself. A servant says your needs are more important than mine are. That's what Jesus did. That is the higher calling he calls us to be.
Think about our church. Wouldn't it be great if each one of us is eager to serve one another? Everybody can serve. Even in our church there are so many different people who serve in so many different ways. So many people work hard to set up the stage, to set up the decorations, make sure the fans are in place, to ensure water is in place, the toilets are clean. Do you know that? Do you know so many brothers and sisters serve in the KKC to serve the children? So many serve in the ushering. So many serve in singing and inspiring us through their gift of singing. So many brothers serve in their family groups as leaders of the family groups. There are so many different ways to serve. If each one of us decides I'm going to serve in my little way. The little gift that God has given me- I'm going to use that gift to serve what an amazing church we are going to have.
And we should encourage one another, the service that the other one does in God's church. If all of us are eager to serve, all of us will be able to enjoy the blessings that come from each other's service. I'm not the only one serving here. Every one of you needs to serve. Live as servants of God, as Peter says. But bro , I don't know whether my service is important or I don't know what I can do? Think about it. What are you good at? Maybe you're good in encouraging, maybe you're good in encouraging somebody who is discouraged, and maybe you're good in studying the bible. Maybe you're good in following up with the sick, maybe you're good in taking care of people, maybe you're good in serving physically, in taking care of their physical problems, maybe you're good in being generous. Whatever you're good at, use that gift to serve one another. Maybe you can serve by praying for other brothers and sisters.
Maybe you cannot do anything physical but you can do something spiritual - you can pray, you can fast for others, you can pray to God for other people's problems. What a great church we'll have if each one of us decides from our heart, I'm going to do my little part to serve, to give, to encourage, to lift up, to build, to correct, to do whatever we need to do to build up God's church.
Sometimes we think what's the point of serving.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Paul's talking to the slaves and to all the people. What does the Bible tell here? Whatever you do, do it as if you are serving God, not men. You may be having a job, you may be studying in school, you may be studying in College, and you may be just a housewife at home. Whatever you do, do it to serve God. That is your service to God. Maybe you never get appreciated for all the work you do in office or in your home or in church or wherever. But the Bible says you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. We are saved to serve. God wants all of us to be his servants. Yes, we are free and we need to enjoy our freedom in Christ. But at the same time we've got to live as slaves or servants of Christ. Even in our fellowship let us encourage one another for the service that each person does in our ministries, our lives. Every one of us does little things here and there. Let's go and appreciate one another.
Let us rejoice that we are saved. And we stand saved. Let that be our prayer, our gratitude for the years to come. Once we realize that gratitude we know that we are here to serve. Gratitude motivates us to serve.