Summary: How do we demonstrate our willingness to follow Christ in our lives - The illustration was found on the internet, but I am unsure of the original source
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
‘Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’
I wonder what this really means to us sitting here in church today? Is it just a nice sentiment that we can just idly put aside, does it mean that we try to live our lives as best we can but when it gets too hard to show our faith we simply put it neatly to the side and forget about it, or does it mean that we will go as far as we are called to show the love that we have for Christ?
As Christians living in the UK we enjoy a safety and ease, that is not enjoyed by our brothers and sisters in other places. We know historically that North Korea and China were two places where we heard most about persecution against those who had faith, but since the rise of Daesh, Syria and the surrounding areas, continue to be become places of dangers.
Since the caliphates rise to power, which I hasten to add is not recognised as a legitimate power even by many Muslims groups and their leaders around the world, has committed numerous acts of violence, which included:
The Exile of all Christians \ Assyrians from Mosul.
The destruction of Christian and other religious buildings
The martyrdom of countless thousands of all ages.
Six years on from the rise of Daesh, the situation has slightly improved, but even now over 11 million are in need within Syria, and another 5.5 million are still living as displaced refugees in neighbouring countries. In the midst of all of this violence and death, we remember the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have paid the price of martyrdom for their faith, or are now living as exiled people because they stood for what they believe in and remain true to Christ regardless of how much it has and is continuing to cost them.
These men, women and children are just some of the latest in a long line of people, who have chosen to follow Christ to the end, and put their absolute belief in Him.
This may all seem extreme, and unpalatable to think about, but it raises a question that each of us should ask ourselves. How far would we follow Christ? What value do we place upon our faith?
Sat here today in safety, it’s difficult to see a time when we would be called to pay this ultimate price, but hopefully it gets us all thinking about the value that we place upon the relationship that we have with Christ.
As many of you will know Mikki and I have three huskies, and the two boys, Dax and Loki were adopted from the Dog’s trust, and the three are companions for each other. But I wonder if you know one of their taglines, it says – a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, and it got me thinking about what we could have as our tagline and I came up with – Christianity is for every hour, not just one or two hours each week.
As Christians, regardless of whether we are called to be martyrs for our faith, the commitment we make to Christ is a lifelong one, it means that if we are going to receive the forgiveness of the cross, then we have to be ready and willing to carry the cross for ourselves, to follow where Christ leads us.
We need to be prepared to give our very best through our gifts and talents to him and his church so that we may be known as his disciples. Now I’m sure that there may be some, who are now saying, I don’t have any gifts, or I have given in the past, it’s time for someone else to do things now, but regardless of whatever reason could be given, we must remember that Christ didn’t get to Golgotha and say, o.k. I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to save humanity.
After he climbed onto that cross for each of us, he came back to the disciples to prepare them for what lay ahead, and to give them the great commission, the disciples had no idea what to expect.
A few years ago a letter was written by someone to highlight the problems in the early church, how bad a shape it was in and I’d like to share it with you.