Holiday Club Family Service -

This is a family service talk by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 6th April 2008.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

 

Me:  OK pl do sit down.  
When you signed up for the games and you’re trying hard to train, if you aren’t feeling the pain….

 

Sam:  You aint getting no gain.

Me:    O hello Gain;  I mean Hello Sam.     I didn’t know you’d been with at Go for Gold.  Go go go…   

Everyone [not Sam]:   Go for Gold.

Sam:    I wasn’t at the Holiday club, too old aren’t I.  I’m a teenager now, didn’t you know.  

Me:    No.  So how did you know about Gain’s catch phrase then?

 

Sam:   Was just hang’in about to check it out.  That’s all.   [mini-pause]  Wasn’t much good from what I saw. 

 

Me:  Oh yes it was.    [w/ audience participation]  

Sam:  Oh no it wasn’t.  

Me:  Oh yes it was.    [w/ audience participation]  

Sam:  Oh no it wasn’t.  

Me:    So did you check it out for the whole week. 

Sam:    Might have done. 

Me:  So must have been good to keep coming back then.   [pause].  So what did you think of Gain then.  I thought he was a right Pain. 

Sam:    No Gain was gain and Pain was pain.   

Me:   Right. 

Sam:  No you were wrong!

 

Me:     I didn’t mean Gain was called pain, I meant Gain was a right pain.  You know, lazy slob thinking he could win the prize with no effort and all that.  

 

Sam:      I thought Gain was a bit cool actually.  Getting the maximum gain with the minimum effort  - sounds like my kind of guy. 

Me:    Yesssss.     So what did you make of the Apostle Paul who we looked at?

Sam:    What you mean Saul.    

Me:    Yes that was his name before he joined J’s team. 

Sam:    Oh, he was well cool as well.   

Me:   Really.

Sam:    Yeah, really.   He obviously hated that Christian bloke so much he wanted him dead.  But instead of getting his hand dirty himself, he stood on the sidelines while his heavies did the dirty work for him.    Maximum gain for minimum effort.  My kind of guy.  Wicked. 

Me:    Well it was wicked, that’s the point we learnt on Tue from Acts chapter s 7 & 9.    Saul didn’t believe that Jesus was God;  he violently hated Jesus and his followers;  so after he’d stood there watching Steven be stoned to death, he started rounding up all the followers of Jesus and throwing them into prison.    So can you remember what happened next? 

Sam:    [sarcastically]  he saw the light!

Me:   Exactly.  One day Saul was on his way to a town called Damascus to arrest more followers of Jesus. He was getting near to the town when suddenly a bright light flashed around him. So he fell down on his knees, and heard a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why are you trying to attack me?”    So can you remember what Saul replied?

Sam:  :    Whatever!

Me:     Not quite.  Saul knew the creator God of the whole universe was speaking to Him.  But even through he was a religious man, Saul didn’t know this God.  So he said:  “Who are you Lord?”     And God replied:  “I am Jesus whom you are attacking. Get up and go into Damascus and you will be told what to do.”

Sam:   And he was blinded as well wasn’t he?

Me:  Well remembered.  

Sam:   So do I get a point for that one then?

Me:  No we’ve finished giving out points now.   But you’re still right:  the light had blinded him and he stayed blind for 3 days. 

 

Sam:      And that Ananias bloke healed him by putting his hands on Saul’s eyes. 

 

Me:  Well sort of.  Jesus healed Saul’s blind eyes, but he used Ananias as a sort of channel for His healing power.  A bit like how God chooses to work through our prayers.  

Sam:       You what?

Me:   Never mind.  The point was that Jesus healed Saul’s blind eyes. And that healing’s meant to be a picture of what was happened to Saul spiritually.   

Sam:      Picture;  what picture;  did one of those other Gezzas with Saul get out his phone and start taking pictures or something? 

 

Me:   No;  Saul being healed of his physical blindness was picture of Jesus healing him spiritually. 

Sam:    Spiritual blindness.  Now you’ve totally lost me.

 

Me:     Well what did Saul make of Jesus and his followers before his Damascus road experience?

Sam:    He hated them. 

Me:   Because…….

Sam:    Because he thought Jesus was a nutter for claiming to be God,   

Me:    Exactly.  He didn’t believe that Jesus was the King God had promised to send back in the OT.  He didn’t believe that Jesus was God himself visiting His people.  Despite all the evidence and eye-witness accounts, He didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead on Easter Sunday. 

Sam:   Nutter!

Me:   Right again.  Saul was a nutter.  Because Jesus really was God.  And he really had risen from the dead.  And the risen Jesus pitched up for a one-to-one with Saul on the Damascus Road.  And when the evidence is in ya-face so to speak, it’s hard to keep on denying it.  And that’s the point.  Jesus wanted to give Saul a special gift.  He opened his spiritually blind eyes to see the truth about J;  about who Jesus is and what he’s done for His people.  

Sam:    Well I don’t believe that Jesus is God, so are you saying I’m spiritually blind?

Me:   Absolutely.  It doesn't matter how old we are or how religious or spiritual we think we are, if we don’t accept that Jesus is God and that he died taking the punishment we deserved, then we’re blind; spiritually blind. 

Sam:   Right.

Me:   Right.  And Saul was spiritually blind.  But then Jesus spoke to him personally.  And Saul received his sight again.  His physical sight and spiritual sight too.  Saul changed from being a hater of Christians to a Christian himself.  And we’ve been looking at the ABCD process of becoming a Christian this week.  First Saul had to A, to Admit that he’d been spiritual blind;  that he’d been a God-hater; that he’d attacked God by breaking his laws and commandments;  commandment like honouring our parents.  Secondly Saul had to B; he had to believe who Jesus was and what he done for His people.   He had to Believe that Jesus really was the creator God of the whole universe;  he had to Believe that he deserved to be punished for his sins;  and he had to believe that Jesus took that punishment for him by dieing on the cross.  Jesus was totally innocent;  the only completely perfect person who’s ever lived;  and yet Jesus was crucified for people like me and you;  for people like Saul;  for people who admit that they’ve rejected God and believe in Jesus.  You see lots of people think being a Christian is all about being good enough for God;  you know if you score more than 50% then you’re OK.  But it’s not.  Because God’s standard is perfection;  and none of us are perfect.  So the first step to becoming a Christian is to Admit you’re a sinner;  and the second is to Believe in J;  to believe that Jesus died for you and your sins. 

Sam:  That’s A & B.  So what’s the C & D then? 

Me:   Well C was counting the cost.    Jesus promises to always be with His followers and to help them all the way.  But he doesn’t promise them an easy ride.    In fact it’s the opposite.   Being a Christian can be hard.   You have to stop living for Number one and start living to please Jesus.   And Jesus might have a very tough job for you.  Not only did Jesus reveal himself to Saul, but he commissioned him to go all over Europe telling people about J;  even people like Prime Ministers and Presidents.  And Saul was told that part of the job description would be that he’d suffer many things for Jesus.  [mini-pause]

When I first sensed God was calling me to give up my normal life and job and become a Vicar, I can’t say I was too keen to start with.  But God kept calling and so I said yes.  And so did Saul.  He changed his name to Paul and then he travelled all over Europe to tell people about Jesus.    And in those days there were no planes or motorways.  So when Paul went from Israel to Italy, he went by ship;  a flimsy wooden ship.  And what happened to the ship. 

Sam:    It turned into a Submarine.

Me:    It sank;  that’s right.  It got caught in storm, and drifted from Crete to Malta, where it broke up in the bay and sank.  But just as God had promised to Paul, every single one of those 276 people were saved;  physically saved that is.  No one drowned.  They all got ashore-  even the non-swimmers.    Being a Christian for Paul wasn’t easy:  in one of his letters to a church he’d set up he wrote this:

2 Cor 11:24-29: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from [non-Jews]; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Being a Christian for Paul was costly;  very costly.  And it ultimately cost him his life.  Jesus.

Sam:    So is that the D then;  ABCD = death?

 

Me:    Not quite.  The D is for Decide:  despite the cost, Paul did it anyway:  he admitted that he’d attacked God;  that he’d been rejecting Jesus.  He Believed in Jesus.  He counted the cost which he’d been told was really high.  But he did it anyway.  Paul decided to become a Christian.  ABC D–for Decide:  Paul believed in the Lord Jesus and so he was saved.    And that reminds me of our memory verse from this week.   Can you remember it?

Sam:   Get a life! 

Me:    Right again;  that’s the point of the memory verse:  gaining eternal life.  So can anyone remember it?    
[on screen with bits missing like previous month [engaging with congregation]

Me:  Well done everybody.

Sam:    So what’s all that got to do with the Olympics then?  

Me:   Well can you remember that reading we had earlier in the service, 

Sam:  No.  Well a bit.  Oh whatever!

Me:    Well Paul wrote that letter from prison where he was waiting to be executed.  And he said this:   “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Sam:    So was waiting in Terminal 5 for a flight to Beijing or something?

Me:   No he was in prison.  He’s talking about the departure of his death.  He’s using more pictures to help us understand.  And he’s picturing the Christian life as a race.  And at the end of his life, Paul says that he’s finished the race.  He has kept the faith.  It’s now about 20 years after he’d become a Christian on that Damascus road.  And despite all he’d been through in those 20 years, the beatings the shipwrecks the unjust imprisonment and now his unjust exaction:  Paul is saying:  I’m still a Christian;  I kept the faith;  I’ve finished the race.   

 

Sam:   And so he gets the prize. 

Me:  Right again.   Except he’s not just talking about an Olympic gold medal, or a victor’s crown as they used to win in those days.  No, Paul’s s talking about the crown or medal of righteousness.   A welcome into heaven when he dies and the promise of eternal life.  Not because he’s good enough for God remember.  But because he Admitted he was a sinner, Believed in Jesus, counted the cost, and Decided to say yes to Jesus. 

Sam:   Right. 

 

Me:  Right.  But that crown of righteous; that gift of eternal life isn’t just for those called to do amazing jobs like Paul.  No, it’s for all type of people;  people like you as well as me if you ABCD.    And when you consider the eternal benefits, eternal life in heaven as opposed to eternal punishment in hell, then the cost in this life is peanuts.   As we’ve been learning this week:  When you signed up for the games and you’re trying hard to train, if you aren’t feeling the pain….

 

Sam:  You aint getting no gain.      Yeah well as I said, sounds like too much effort to me.  I’m with Gain:  maximum gain for minimum pain.  I’m off for another round of Olympics on my playstation.  Tat ta!  [Quick exit]

Me:    And that’s the choice facing each and every one of us;  doesn’t matter how young or old we are;  it doesn’t matter how religious or spiritual you think you are; the only question that matters is what do you make of J:  Are you going to be like Sam the Cam, watching the sidelines and then scoot off for an easy life in this world, but pay a very big price in the next.  Or you going to do an ABCD like Paul:  admit you’re a sinner, believe in Jesus, count the cost and decide to follow Jesus as your King? 

 

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