SanLo Community, an update for Holy Week, March 25, 2018…
Thank you Pastor Eric for the message from Acts 16:25-34, “The Pursuit of Happiness.” We are beginning a new series called, Together in the Joy of the Gospel. We will be in the book of Philippians for the next couple months. Acts 16 is actually the start of the Philippian church, and this represents the people who came to Christ through Apostle Paul’s ministry in Philippi. These people became the very first church Paul planted so they were extremely dear to his heart so he wrote a letter to them expressing his thanksgiving for them and his encouragement to continue to have the JOY in the gospel.
In our story this morning, we’ll see a story of a man, who is faced with the reality of his own life and happiness. He comes face to face with the reality of a pursuit not of his own but of God. He is met by His eternal Maker and Creator to see that there is more than his norm, his day to day, 9 to 5 life. God intervenes to capture and set this man’s heart free to experience an everlasting joy. There is something that the God of the universe pursues and persuades us with that doesn’t compare to this world, because it is a joy that last forever. Why does God pursue us?
God pursues us to give us a joy beyond our circumstances. (vv.25-26) Paul and Silas are stuck in prison and put there by the Romans for advocating unlawful customs. Basically, because they heal a demon-possessed slave girl, which deeply bothers her slave owners. These owners saw Paul and Silas as a threat to their livelihood because they used this girl for fortune telling. So they had Paul and Silas arrested. Not only arrested, but they are dragged into the marketplace and beaten by a crowd of people. They were imprisoned for disrupting the peace. It’s ironic, because the people and the owners are the ones who disrupt the peace, not Paul and Silas. Yet, this didn’t seem like it for our faithful brothers. They aren’t phased by it. Instead, what are they doing? They are just singing praise songs. For Paul and Silas, their joy and their happiness wasn’t dictated by their circumstances. They saw their imprisonment not as a demise or downfall, but they saw it as a gospel opportunity. This was a moment to show and to share Jesus with everyone they came in contact with. They saw this prison as a place to set people free from sin and death. Their suffering and injustice was nothing because they were filled with God. They were completely satisfied with Jesus. Paul and Silas had a joy and perspective far beyond their circumstances into eternity and their love for Jesus superseded any imprisonment. For the Christian, joy in God is the greatest delight beyond any situation or circumstance because God is doing something bigger in and through us.
God pursues us to give us a joy beyond our fears. (vv.27-30) A crazy earthquake that is so violent it shakes open the chains attached to the ground and the doors of the prison are opened wide. The jailer fears for his own life because he fears what his superiors will do to him if the prisoners escape. That’s why in verse 27, he takes out his sword to kill himself. He might as well fall by the sword of his own hands than be tortured or killed by someone else. Paul understands this and cries out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” So, the jailer rushes in to see that nobody has escaped. This man comes to see what has happened…his fear of death turns into a healthy fear of God and of these men. He wonders why would they stay and he responds, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The jailer came to this point of salvation. He came face to face with God, in light of his own neediness, his own eternity, and his mortality. He came to see that there was something beyond his circumstances, beyond his fear. God did something miraculous in his life, that this earthquake didn’t happen necessarily to set Paul and Silas free, because they were already free in Christ. Their joyful music showed that. But rather this earth shattering moment was there to set this jailer free from his own fear of death and his fear of man. God pursued this man to give him a joy far beyond what he had ever imagined in that moment for him to say, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus said it Himself, “Those who come to faith in Christ are set free: free from death, free from worry, and free from anxiety.” God can redeem and save the heart of any man. We believe in a loving and just God who pursues anybody to give them a joy beyond any fear in life.
God pursues us to give us a joy beyond belief. (vv.31-34) Paul and Silas urge and plead with this man to come to faith in Jesus Christ. They share the good news of the gospel with him. They speak about how Jesus Christ is the Lord, there is no one like Him. It says that they spoke the word of the Lord to him and lead this man to come to faith and to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Master. They ask him to trust and to commit his life to God. And then, the most amazing thing takes place, not only the jailer comes to faith in Christ, but his whole household. There is something very sweet and special that takes place in this home. Together in the joy of the gospel they find God. Beyond that, this faith is not a passive acknowledge. This faith isn’t just a sinner’s prayer or an individual confession but their faith immediately responds with action. Because genuine faith is not just a belief about God or facts about Jesus and what He’s done. Even Satan knows these things. Faith is not only an acknowledgment of sin, and it’s not just a ticket to heaven. But faith is a repentance of sin and commitment to Christ. There is a new allegiance to the King. The fruit of faith becomes joy and happiness in God. That faith turns into action as well as this family responds in compassion to Paul and Silas, and they help heal their wounds. And they all get baptized at once. There is no waiting period with this family. God captures their hearts, and they are all-in. So much so they respond in proclaiming Jesus and getting baptized. And then in verse 34, they have a party! They celebrate their new life in Jesus Christ together. They eat and drink to the glory of God together. It’s a celebration.
Let us be deeply grateful this week as we prepare for Easter that God pursues us all the way to the cross and back in order that we might find our greatest joy in Him. We might experience and see God’s glorious and powerful joy today beyond our circumstances, beyond our fears, and beyond belief. That we might be together in the joy of the Lord.
Thank you Rosalie Yu for the Children’s Message from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, the God of All Comfort. We all have different emotions or feelings like being sad, mad, angry, or being happy. Who or what do we turn to when we have these feelings? The Bible tells us about the God of all comfort who we can turn to in times of troubles.
Thank you to all who stayed for the “Special Church Meeting” as updates on GROW SANLO were given, particularly on the submitting of a (non-binding) letter of intent to demonstrate our interest into the purchase of the Faith Fellowship property. There were 126 voting members of the English and Nichigo congregations present and 88% gave their support for the Elders to draft the Letter of Intent. Please continue to pray for God’s will to be clearly shown for the next steps determining our future, whatever that may be.
3/30 7:00pm Good Friday Service (English)
3/30 7:30pm Good Friday Service (Japanese)
4/1 8:45am & 10:45am Easter Worship Services
4/6 7:11pm B.A.M. - Pastor Kyle Shimazaki guest speaker
4/7 8:39am Mission Prayer
4/8 9:00am Deacons Meeting (room 8)
4/8 12:30pm NAOMI Team meeting (room 8-9-10)
4/15 12:30pm Mission Team meeting (room 8-9)
4/22 12:30pm Co-Ed Baby Shower for Alice Oshiro and Chris Palisoc (expecting a baby girl May 11)
4/29 12:30pm NAOMI Team meeting (room 8-9-10)