IBCD Cultural Sunday 2016
When I was a young university student I went for a weekend retreat with a Christian group I had become familiar with on campus. I was expecting a weekend of learning more about the Bible, growing in my young faith and enjoying time with my friends – all of which happened. However on the trip I also started talking to a pretty young lady who I knew, but not really well, and a friendship became more established. That friendship turned into love and I ended up marrying that pretty young lady! That weekend retreat which took place around twenty-nine years ago ended up changing my life and bringing into my life a wonderful gift far beyond my expectations!
On the day of Pentecost over two thousand years ago people from all over the known world gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the “Feast of Weeks”. This feast was to celebrate the completion of the grain harvest and took place fifty days after Passover. However in the book of Acts there is recorded an unexpected event which takes place that changed the world. A sound like a roaring wind came from heaven and filled the place where the disciples of Jesus were sitting. They began to praise the Lord and all the gathered nations at the celebration heard the Lord being praised in their own languages. Some people even thought that the disciples were drunk!
But then Peter stood and said that what the people were hearing was the fulfillment of prophecy spoken by the prophet Joel and went on to say this:
Acts 2:22-24, 32-33, 36-42 22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off– for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Today as we celebrate what our missions team has called “Cultural Sunday” I am reminded of this day of Pentecost all those years ago where people from many nations gather to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. When I came to this church five years ago I came with a certain expectation as to what a church is, but God has made the experience into something more by allowing me the privilege to experience the fact that even though we might come from different countries, languages, customs, and even expectations there truly is a unity that is found in Jesus Christ. It is a unity made possible by setting aside ourselves and allowing the Holy Spirit of God to knit us together as a body of Christ. It is a unity formed every times a person chooses to trust in the good intentions of others even though the actions of others might have been culturally insulting! For example, I had to learn how to properly shake hands in Germany when I first arrived! However, for the most part, people understand that while we might not understand all the customs of each other’s culture, we share in the hope, we share in the love, and we share in the life that is found in Jesus Christ.
The common truth around which we gather today is that found in the following verses all found in the book of Romans – which is why this is called “The Roman Road”.
Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.
Romans 3:23 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9-10 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:13 13 Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This is a simple truth yet profound truth. Some find it too simple to be true. Some think faith must be more complicated than this, and it is true that this is just the beginning of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but it is important to begin a journey on the right road if you want to reach the desired destination!
So if you are here today and you have never trusted in the grace of God through Jesus Christ, then in this simple prayer can be a beginning for you to start the journey of faith to life eternal. It is important to understand that these are not magic words that lead to salvation – they are just an example of how one might choose to approach God to express their heart’s desire for a new life in Christ. It is the motive of the heart, not the words, which affects the soul.
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 Savior. In Your Name.
Pastor Jeff Hinman