SPECIAL GUEST AT THE EASTER SERVICE, SHALOM CENTRE, SYDNEY
We have a special guest with us today and I will tell you a little bit about Him before I introduce you to Him personally. We are honoured to have Him with us.
He is a remarkable young man who had quite a year last year since our last Easter Service. It’s been an astonishingly turbulent year, but if anyone knows about the message of Easter, he does.
This young man has done a lot of world travel in the last year and has witnessed some amazing events all around the globe.
Do you remember Flight MH-370 that got lost and was never found? This young man happened to be in Malaysia Airport in March, seeing off some of His family members on flight MH-370 that day in Kuala Lumpur. He was one of the last to see that plane ease into the skies before it went missing. The world’s biggest aviation mystery.
We try to make sense of what happened. As the search efforts proved futile and the hopes of the families of the crew and passengers began to fade, he spoke to Danica Weeks, whose husband was on flight MH-370: She asked Him “How can life go on without him? How do you tell a small boy, who last waved his daddy off on a plane to go to work, that daddy will never come home again? …”
Our guest today was there, giving hope, when relatives were trying to make sense of the lost flight of MH-370. He cried with them and comforted them in their grief and He brought God’s grace.
In fact if anyone knows about the true meaning of Easter he does.
His secret to success is His love for people which I have personally had the opportunity to experience over the last year and He has always generously given me His time.
A MESSAGE OF GRACE
I had the privilege of interviewing our honourable guest before the service and He told me that Australians have been searching this year for answers. We have searched for love and life and hope and we have searched for God’s grace even in the midst of tough circumstances.
Australians have definitely had to explore some eternal issues and spiritual issues, issues of life and death in the last year.
As we spoke I realised that He is extremely well connected. We got to talking about famous people who died last year, … the people who have inspired us.
It turns out that he knew Malcolm Fraser personally. He spoke at the funeral of Gough Whitlam, who died at the age of 98 in October. He has sung with Joe Cocker with his raspy voice “You are so Beautiful”. He knew Rod Taylor the actor and encouraged Colleen McCullough with her creative skills to write “The Thorn Birds.” He played alongside Leonard Nimoy in the original “Star Trek” TV series. He knew Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall and laughed, sometimes, with Joan Rivers and Robin Williams who all died last year. Absolutely incredible. But His powerful spiritual connection and service is even more incredible.
After Robin Williams died He was saying that He noticed that people were searching for answers to dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. He was instrumental in giving many people the help they needed.
It seems more than co-incidental that this our guest this morning happened to be at the match and witnessed the tragic death of cricketer Phillip Hughes, who was killed when he was struck by a bouncer at the SCG. He helped Michael Clarke write his eulogy when he said “We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.” He spoke at the funeral and sought once again to bring God’s grace.
He told me that at funerals He often confronts people to think about death and dying because it’s too important to play games with eternal issues.
When he speaks at a funeral he often asks 2 questions “Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?” And the other question is…
“Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?”
These are good questions when we are faced with eternal issues. What would you say? “I’ve lived a pretty good life? Or She’ll be right mate?”
He told me about a gift that Philip Hughes had given to a friend of his – a signed cricket bat. It’s worth a lot of money now, I’m sure, but it was a gift. His friend didn’t pay for it or work for it or earn it in any way. It was given freely to him.
He says heaven is like that. You can’t earn your way to heaven by living a good life. Nobody can earn, work for or deserve heaven. It’s a free gift. And He’s right. That’s exactly what the Bible says about heaven. That’s exactly what the Easter Message proclaims. Heaven is a free gift. You can’t work for it, deserve it or earn it in any way.
The Bible says in Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 says – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Like any genuine gift, Eternal life is free. If anyone knows about the Easter message, it’s him.
AN UNDERSTANDING OF SIN
Days before an Isis terrorist beheaded the US journalist Steven Sotloff, my young friend was talking to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Mr Abbot said to him “I refuse to call this hideous movement Islamic State because it’s not a state; it is a death cult.” My friend said “Sin always instigates death.”
The man I am soon to introduce to you happened to be in Ukraine when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukrainian air space by Russian separatists and a battle ensued to recover the bodies. He had tried to stop them but they would not listen. All 298 people on board were killed, including 38 Australians, on July 17.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would “Shirt-front” President Putin over the murder of Australian citizens and “Shirt-fronting” became Australia’s word of the year. My friend believes in Care-fronting. You don’t avoid the issues but you do it without causing further harm. My friend had been in negotiations with Boko Haram when they kidnapped 273 Nigerian girls. Sin steals the precious things of life.
When Daniel Christie died from a coward punch he was there. Daniel Christie’s family said they wanted king-hit attacks to be referred to as “coward punches. We don’t agree with the popular term ‘king-hit’.” They said. SIN would be a better word still. Sin is often a very cowardly response to our circumstances.
My guest was in Sierra Leonne last year caring for those dying from Ebola. He says that “Sin, like the Ebola Virus is dangerous. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. We have all been infected to some degree by our sin and we cannot save ourselves. This is also an important part of the message of Easter.”
Sin is what drove Man Haron Monis to take 17 hostages at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, Sydney, with tragic results. Sin takes hostages of our lives and produces death. My friend was there with the Chaplains who were deployed, once again offering hope.
My friend says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
THE INEVITABILITY OF JUSTICE
We were talking about justice in the world just the other day. The young man I will introduce to you was a witness in the trial of Oscar Pistorius. The court case kept the world in suspense until October, with a “live trial”. He was eventually found guilty of culpable homicide.
Our honoured guest says that sin always catches up with us and that although God is merciful He does not leave the guilty go unpunished.
He should know. He was on the MV SEWOL in April, the ‘South Korean ferry’ where 304 passengers lost their lives, and the captain of the ship was sentenced to 36 years in prison. Sin does not go unpunished.
Entertainer Rolf Harris knows that sin catches up with you when he faced trial on child sex abuse charges. My friend was one of the witnesses.
My guest told Barry O’Farrel not to accept the bottle of wine. Sin can look innocent but it is always corrupt.
THE RESPONSE OF FAITH
Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan’s know what justice is all about. They are on death row in Indonesia for Drug trafficking. My friend knows Andrew Chan personally and led him to faith. Andrew started reading his Bible and after his sentence wrote these words in his diary.
“The Lord was showing me that all things are possible and that all I had to do was to believe in Him without wavering and that’s what I decided to do. Before the trial I began praying and telling the Lord, “If you get me out of this and set me free I will serve you forever.” Well, when the judge announced the death penalty I was in shock”. For quite some time he could not understand but then my friend told him “He did set you free! In your heart, He has set you free.” He then wrote “I then understood that I was free. I might be in prison, but in my heart I was free. I found a real salvation through Jesus Christ in prison, and the message of salvation in my life that I share with everyone can never be contained by the walls of the prison” (Andrew Chan, Death Row, Kerobokan Prison, Bali). What an amazing declaration!
My guest helped him to realise that we all deserve to be punished for our sin but Christ took our sin and paid the punishment price for us.
You have read His book. You have followed His life story. He is the most admired and influential man in the world. What I know for sure is that He will inspire all of us today.
Of course some of you already know who I am talking about. So let me introduce Him to you. The Lord Jesus Christ. Of Course. He is only a prayer away. He is there in all the events that we encounter through the year encouraging us towards faith. He will never leave us or forsake us no matter what the world throws at us. If anyone knows the true meaning of Easter, He does.
THE MESSAGE OF LOVE
He offers heaven as a free gift. It is not earned or deserved.
He offers forgiveness because we are all sinful people and we cannot save ourselves
He pays the price that the justice of God demands for our sin by dying on the Cross for us, so that we can have a personal relationship with God.
He offers those who have faith in Him and in what He has done for us a place in heaven.
2014 was a year of risk. Our guest would say that faith is spelled RISK. Faith in Christ is a risk worth taking. Faith gives us new perspective for the circumstances we face in life. Faith inspires us to take action.
To receive the gift of heaven we transfer our trust from ourselves to Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.
AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRIST
Because of Jesus, Easter has relevance not only for the past but for the present and future. The Cross is about Love. Easter is about Life. Let me introduce you to Jesus. He is only a prayer away from transforming your life.
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour. Thankyou for Loving me. Thankyou for giving me Life. In Your Name. ”