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The Price of Faith - 2010-09-05

The Price of Faith - 2010-09-05

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Published by John Partridge
We are commanded to count the cost of following Jesus. We must give up all that we have, but how much will that be?
We are commanded to count the cost of following Jesus. We must give up all that we have, but how much will that be?

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Published by: John Partridge on Sep 05, 2010
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09/27/2010

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“The Price of Faith”
September 03, 2010
Jeremiah 18:1-11Philemon 1-21Luke 14:25-33
What are you willing to pay for your faith? I’m not asking for you to put money in the offering plate and I’mnot asking what it’s worth financially for you to belong to our church. What I’m asking you is this, if being aChristian wasn’t easy, what emotional cost would you be willing to bear, what suffering would you accept before giving up and proclaiming that you are
no longer
a follower of Jesus Christ? We are spoiled by living ina country that was founded on the principle of freedom of religion. Although we complain that our freedom of religion is being eroded, we are sheltered enough to forget just how expensive faith can be in other places in theworld. In Nina Shea’s “In the Lion’s Den” (Broadman and Holman publishers, Nashville, TN,1997) we arereminded that more Christians died in the twentieth century than in all of the nineteen centuries since JesusChrist combined. In much of the world where people are ruled by communist governments and where Islam isthe predominant religion, Christianity is often declared to be illegal or an enemy of the state.In Egypt, native ethnic Coptic Christians are often persecuted, their businesses looted and their churches burned. In Saudi Arabia, also an American ally, a bounty of $3000 is offered by the government for exposing ahome Bible study group. In Sudan, believers can be killed, raped, tortured or sold as slaves. In China believersare often arrested, sometimes beaten to death, or sometimes sentences to years of hard labor in reeducationcamps. In recent years, Chinese police were circulating an arrest warrant that bore the names of over threethousand evangelical pastors from the house church movement.The persecution of fellow Christians around the world serves as a reminder to all of us that choosing to followJesus Christ and claiming to be his followers is a decision that comes at a price. In
Jeremiah 18:1-11,
Godreminds us that he remains in control of the world and that
he
will choose what governments and which people will be blessed and which will be cursed. Even Israel, God’s own people, was not exempt from being raised up or torn down byhis hand. We are all warned that God is supreme and that evil will be punished.
1
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD :
2
"Go down to the potter's house, and there I will  give you my message." 
3
So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
4
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
If at anytime I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,
8
and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
9
And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,
10
and if it does evil in my sight and doesnot obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
11
"Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, 'This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of  you, and reform your ways and your actions.' 
1
 
Jeremiah reminds of that God is sovereign, nations are subject to God and for the nations there is a price for failing to be faithful. We are reminded that as individuals, we too have a price to pay for the decisions that wemake. We are reminded that God is shaping us into the people that he desires for us to become and we knowthat shaping is not always a painless process. Finally, as we have seen with nations, a choice to do evil or our failure to honor God has a price. What we often forget however, is that there is often a price to be paid for doing good and there is often a price to be paid for choosing to do what is right. In Paul’s letter to
Philemon(1-21),
we are drawn into a story that has been in progress for some time. Paul writes to Philemon, a friend andcoworker for the cause of Jesus Christ, to inform him that he, Paul, is in possession, if you will, of Onesimus, aslave belonging to Philemon. In the time that he has lived with Paul, he has become a follower of Jesus Christand has also become very useful to Paul…
 
1
 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,
2
to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and tothe church that meets in your home:
3
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4
 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
5
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesusand your love for all the saints.
 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement,because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Paul's Plea for Onesimus
8
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,
9
 yet I appeal to youon the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 
10
 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
11
 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he hasbecome useful both to you and to me.
12
 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.
13
 I would have liked to keep him with me so that hecould take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.
14
 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.
15
 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 
16 
no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as abrother in the Lord.
17 
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
18
 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.
19
 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not tomention that you owe me your very self.
20
 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord;refresh my heart in Christ.
21
Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even morethan I ask.
22
 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your  prayers.
2
 
 
23
 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.
24
 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demasand Luke, my fellow workers.
25
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
We do not know the circumstances that brought Onesimus to Paul but it is likely that Paul was, until recently,unaware that Onesimus was a slave or that he belonged to Philemon. Paul refers to “
23
 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner”
and so we know that Paul was at this time a prisoner himself, likely in Rome but perhaps in Ephesus.Paul tells Philemon that Onesimus was previously useless to him but has now become useful to both Philemonand Paul. Something has changed in the life of Onesimus. Formerly, he was useless but whatever changed hasmade him useful (This is a play on words because Onesimus, in Greek, means ‘useful’). Formerly, he musthave run away but now is willing to return to his owner in order to face whatever charges or punishments awaithim. I believe that living with Paul caused a change in Onesimus but I do not believe that he was changed byPaul’s personality or friendliness. What I believe is most likely is that Onesimus had an encounter with JesusChrist while living with Paul, he saw how Paul lived and heard Paul preach and teach and somewhere in the process had a life changing encounter with Jesus. I believe that as Onesimus witnesses Paul’s life and ministry,he too had become a believer in Jesus Christ but this is where we begin to have trouble.In these few verses, we find that having faith in Jesus Christ is expensive. Onesimus fled the house of hisowner and quite possible stole something from him as he fled. Under Roman law, for a slave to steal from hismaster was a crime that was punishable by death. And yet, despite the potential cost to himself, Onesimus iswilling to return to his master and face the consequences. Doing what was right would be expensive. Paul hascome to appreciate the company and the assistance of Onesimus and has grown so fond of him that he tellsPhilemon that sending him back is like sending his own heart. Doing what was right would be expensive.Philemon had become a follower of Jesus Christ, most probably through the ministry of Paul and he is asked toforgive Onesimus for what he has done, to set him free from his slavery, to accept him as a brother and possiblyeven send him back once again to be with Paul. Although Paul has offered to reimburse him, Philemon standsto lose the cost of a slave plus whatever else was stolen from him and whatever he might have spent in trying toget his slave returned to him. Doing what was right would be expensive.The transformative effects of choosing to follow Jesus have always come at a cost. Jesus was always an outcastand preached a gospel message that ran against the prevailing culture. As a result, Jesus himself preached thathis followers needed to anticipate the price that they would have to pay to follow him.
(Luke 14:25-33)
25
 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
26 
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot bemy disciple.
27 
 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he hasenough money to complete it?
29
 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,
30
 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 
31
"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
32
 If he isnot able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
33
 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Onesimus believed the message and put his faith in Jesus Christ, but in doing so became willing to surrender hislife in order to do what was right. Jesus tells us that as we come to faith in him we too, must anticipate what it
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