Target Audience : The sermon is for all ministry leaders and new believers who are aspiring to live the supernatural calling of God. The purpose is to present the truth of the Bible against the worldly desire of the rights of individuals. It involves radically changing our thinking and lifestyles. The writer wished to encourage all believers to move beyond the comfort zones of our lives and to pursue after God relentlessly.
Scripture Passage : Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Sermon Introduction :
In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction–or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late. (Source : Closer Walk, December, 1991).
The ships collided with one another because the two captains were not willing to give way to the other. Similarly, many of today’s leaders command huge armed forces and can launch weapons of mass destruction with a single word or command. But all their weaponry and power combined cannot compare to the awesome power of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. How amazing it is then that during his earthly ministry Jesus never flaunted this power. He modeled a life of complete submission, meekness and servant-hood to the Father, a life that was radically different to the thinking of modern societies. In the world, there are two superpowers at work – that is the power of the world (includes the human self) and the power of Almighty God in Christ Jesus. And we have to choose only one good captain to lead us through life.
Some have interpreted the meekness of Jesus Christ as a sign of weakness, but that is not the case at all! Meekness is a character trait of strong people who, out of love, surrender their rights to God. The Greek word for meekness comes from the description of a powerful stallion responding to the gentle signals of his master.
The rights of man then need to be analyzed critically based on the eternal truth of the Gospel. We can transform our lives for the glory of God when we know the freedom and power that comes from the truths that is revealed in the Bible.
1. The right to be angry (Gen 42:6).
Joseph in the Book of Genesis was forcefully taken away and sold into slavery by his own brothers. He could have taken immediate revenge and put to death all his brothers in Egypt but he chose a path that led to reconciliation. Forgiveness is always a choice, but it is not optional for true Christians.
One time when the late Corrie ten Boom spoke in a German city, a former Nazi prison guard came up to the platform to ask for her forgiveness. She instantly recognized him as a guard from the German concentration camp where she had been imprisoned during World War II. Suddenly, the old feelings of anger and hurt swelled within her. “Lord, I can’t forgive him,” she cried and wrestled inside. “He and others are responsible for my sister’s death.” The still small voice of the Lord replied, “Forgive him for My sake.” When she decided to do so, she extended her hand and the moment their hands clasped, she felt a rush of forgiveness flow through her. The feeling of forgiveness followed the act of her will.
2. The right to freedom (Jeremiah 38:6).
Prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because of his warnings and pleas to the nation of Judah to turn back to God. It had fallen on deaf ears and the people were not pleased to hear of the warning of God’s approaching judgment. In the cistern, there was no water in it, only mud and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. The people have acted wickedly in all they have done to him. He was almost starved to death in the cistern but the Lord delivered him.
Every nation, tribe and tongue must be given an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. The legendary Bible smuggler Brother Andrew once said, “There is not a country on earth closed to the Gospel – as long as you are willing to go in and not come out again!” The Lord will challenge us to take risks for the Gospel to reach out to the “unsaved” and it may costs us our freedom and put into jail and imprisonment in the process.
3. The right to possession (Matt 19:21)
Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, then come and follow Him. It is about exchanging our treasure with His. God is not opposed to us having houses, cars, clothes and other possessions on earth, but He doesn’t want them to “possess” us. Like the rich young ruler, our earthly treasures can hinder our obedience to God and keep us from inheriting His true spiritual riches.
There was a true story about another young man in America who came to a crossroad similar to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. One day, as he drove his new car home from his youth group meeting, video images from Asia swirled through his mind. The speaker in the video had challenged the young men and women to consider a career in missions. Suddenly, an inner voice asked, “Will you sell your new car and go help those people?”
He knew the voice had to be God’s, and it cut him to the heart. How could he sell his car after working so hard for it? After many weeks he said yes to God’s calling. The money from the sale of the car covered his fees for a mission’s orientation course and the launching of an outreach ministry in Japan. He went on to work in a coffeehouse ministry that is leading many Japanese students to faith in Jesus Christ.
4. The right to protection (Acts 7:59-60)
Jesus warned his disciples that some would go through danger and even death for His sake (Luke 21:16-17). He likened these yielded lives like seeds that would spring forth and produce a harvest of souls.
A missionary couple Mike and Janice Shelling were two of the seeds mentioned by Jesus. They were working with the “Youth with a Mission” in the Philippines. Together with their two small children, their hearts to serve took them to the mountains north of Manila, Philippines to reach out to the tribal people there. One night as they slept, an intruder broke into the house and murdered Mike and Janice. The children were not harmed, but the killings shocked the nation. The Lord was able to bring good from their sacrifice of their lives for the Gospel, for the tragic incident helped to awaken many Filipinos to the need to examine their own spiritual condition. Missionaries that came after the Shellings found that the people’s hearts were more open to the Gospel. Those who embraced the Gospel are an enduring legacy of the Shellings. Jesus Christ have told us to count the costs of following Him and for faithful disciples, this means laying down of our lives for His sake and for the Gospel.
5. The right to a home (Luke 9:58)
How would define our “comfort zone”? What can we do to venture outside it in order to spread the living truth of the Savior?
The Lord Jesus was homeless and had no place to lay His head to rest during the years of his public ministry. With his popularity and influence he could have built himself a fine house in Galilee but he gave up his right to a home so that he could go to the people and identify their needs. In the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. For some the calling would involve crossing the sea to a foreign land, and for others it will mean crossing the street to call on our neighbors. When we venture out of our “comfort zones”, we may find ourselves like the Lord – without a place to lay our heads.
Those who gave up their comfort in order to obey God have the promise of receiving greater blessings in God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29).
6. The right to family (Matt 10:37)
God created the family and He wants all families to dwell together in unity and full commitment to Jesus Christ. But what if we don’t come from a Christian family? What if our faith is causing division in the family of birth?
The writer has had that experience and knows what it can cost to follow Jesus. I was born into a staunch Taoist family. My grandfather was a medium in a Chinese temple. I was raised as a Taoist in my country Malaysia. I had my early education in a missionary school in Klang where I live. Together with my Chinese and Hindu classmates, we used to attend chapel services. In 1977, I was then 18 years old and was still studying for my “O” level Form Five examination. I was invited to a local church for a Christian youth fellowship. I was from a poor family. I began a search for meaning and purpose in my life. It is by God’s grace, I became a “born-again” believer at that time. Eventually, my family got to know of my conversion and I was ostracized from them. I was persecuted daily by my Taoist family members and they even wanted to “disown’ me as their eldest son. They tried various means to get me to renounce my faith in Jesus Christ but I was faithful to the calling of God in my life. Over many years, the relationship with my family was “cold and distant” but I endured the treatment for the love of God. Today, my family has accepted my Christian faith and saw the transformation in my life.
In the years since my conversion, God has given me many more new Christian “brothers and sisters” and also a ministry in the local church. I have learned that even though our family of birth may turn against us because of our Christian faith, we have the assurance that God will never abandon us. In His mercies, God has blessed us with a bigger family in the Kingdom. He has promised to be with us till the very end of age.
7. The right to your country (2 Cor 1:8)
We are called to be “ambassadors of love” to all the nations. The apostle Paul declared that we are “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us” (2 Cor 5:20). When the Lord called Paul to be His ambassador to the Gentiles, he gave up his right to his own homeland and set off on lonely and often dangerous land and sea journeys to places like Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, Athens and Rome.
This is a true story of a missionary to Malaysia who gave up his right to his country. Pastor Colin Hurt (real name) and his wife, Pastor Julia from the United Kingdom (UK) rode a life of adventure for the Gospel. With nothing but six suitcases, the couple left England in 1976 for Malaysia with their four children under 12 years old. Not only Colin left his secure job as a pastor in England, he also left his bright future working in Barclays. At that time, he was due for a big career promotion and also receiving a full scholarship to Cranfield School of Management, one of the best business schools in the United Kingdom. “God spoke to Julia and me independently in a missionary meeting, that He wanted us to go to Malaysia. But I resisted the calling for two years,” said Pastor Colin.
He finally answered the call of God and made his first mission trip to Malaysia with Bob Stevenson in 1976. The first six months was difficult; they would need to sleep on the concrete floor and their only source of income came from preaching in local churches. “Having no support and no money, we went down on our knees and prayed. We knew the Lord called us here but we need food for our children,” said Pastor Julia.
They invested most of their lives in Malaysia and the surrounding nations. While based in Malaysia, they set up many churches and taught in local Bible colleges such as Tung Ling Bible School and School of Acts. They would also visit other countries in Asia, to teach and preach such as India, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Singapore. Currently, they are actively involved in equipping hundreds of church leaders from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Belize. In addition, Colin is also putting his Spanish into use. After 26 years of not using the Spanish language, he was asked to become a prison chaplain in the United States. Only in heaven can Pastor Colin Hurt and Pastor Julia comprehend the great rewards set aside by the Messiah for the family. Praise the Lord!
8. The right to save ourselves (Mark 8:34-35)
Jesus taught us the true pathway to real security. In today’s world, many businessmen went bankrupt when they saw their dreams shattered in a stock market crash. A lonely teenager considers suicide and began taking drugs as a way of escape when his girlfriend left him for another guy. And a young person watches his hope for the future vanished because of cancer detected early in life. And the list goes on and on.
The Lord Jesus knew that in our human frailty we will try to find our security in things like money, relationships, jobs, advancement in science etc. And He made it clear that we will lose in life if we staked all our lives and future on them. Jesus must have confounded the people with his radical teaching. In the natural realm it does not make sense that we could save our lives by giving them up. Yet that is exactly what He did on the cross of Calvary. His sacrificial death became the doorway to eternal life for all who believe in His name.
The right to save ourselves is the exact opposite to this “dying to self” strategy of the Lord. When we surrender our lives to Him, his resurrection life flows into and through us and shall break the bondage of sin, fear and addictive habits. All things become new in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
Jesus’ life and ministry was in such complete unity with the Heavenly Father that He willingly gave up His rights and power in order to embrace the Father’s will. He said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28). So great was His love and trust that even when facing death by crucifixion, He could pray to the Father, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).
Jesus wants all of us to have that relationship of complete love and trust. It is in knowing the Father’s heart of love that we gain the freedom to embrace His will for our lives. At times, it is difficult to do just that. In this sermon, we note that we have to give up a lot of our personal rights to live the way we want to live. We make a conscious decision to turn over our rights to the One who cares and loves us enough to give His only begotten Son to die for us on the cruel cross. Oswald Chambers said it aptly in his book, “My utmost for His highest”. Our carnal mind cannot fathom what it was like for the Son of God to leave heaven and come into our sinful world as a man. Philippians 2:5-8 says He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant. Some servants gave up their right to freedom out of love, continuing to serve their masters even when they have completed their term of service (Deuteronomy 15:12-17).
In our modern world, where we love our rights and freedom so much, it is hard to imagine giving them away. But that’s exactly what Jesus did for our sakes. His final surrender was the right to life itself. He became obedient to death on the cross. In our case, we can still continue to please only ourselves and to live in our comfort zones, but we no longer have to. We are given a choice to choose between the world and Jesus Christ. We can decide now to allow Jesus Christ to be the captain of our lives. We can give up all our rights to Jesus Christ and say “NO!” to our carnal self and the world. We can respond in faith and be obedient to God’s call in our lives. By surrendering our all to Jesus, we can experience the supernatural life of God flowing through our lives and ministries. His will for us is always good. And God wants us to choose wisely the course we take in life. We choose the path and life of His Only Son, Jesus Christ.
The Portrait of Jesus Christ seen in my ACS school days in Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.
Author’s Note : This assignment was submitted to CLI. Posted here to edify the people of God.
Christian Leaders Institute (CLI). Sermon Construction and Presentation – Sermon # 2
Sermon Title : Giving Up Our Rights