Sunday 24 June 2012

Not shy about God (Kids' version)

Let me ask the kids today: Who is the noisiest kid in your class? Who is the kid who is always standing up and saying, “Teacher, Teacher, I’m so bored!” and the Sunday School teachers go, “That boy is always causing trouble. That girl is always looking for attention.” Do you know anyone like that? Are you a troublemaker, a noise-maker like that?

Well today, we are going to meet someone who is speaking very loud, making a lot of noise in church and drawing a lot of attention from everyone in church. His name is Paul. No, not the Paul who played drums for us today - he’s a very quiet Paul. No, this is the apostle Paul from the bible. And If I had to describe Paul in one phrase, I would call him, “Not Shy”. That’s what I would call him: a “Not Shy” man.

And today, Paul is going to teach us that as Christians, there are three things we should be “not shy” about. He’s not saying that we should be noisy in class and always cause trouble for Miss Iris and Miss Helen, that’s a bad kind of not shy-ness. As Christians, we should be not shy about God.

We are going to see three things today. Paul was:

1. Not shy about God’s Son
2. Not shy about God’s people
3. Not shy about God’s gospel

1. Not shy about God’s Son

Why do I say that Paul was not shy about God’s Son. Well just look at the beginning of his letter. The first word he says is, “Paul”, but every word after that is, “Jesus”, “Jesus”, “Jesus”. It is like meeting a new friend for the very first time. You ask him, “Hello, what’s your name?” And he answers, “My name is Paul. But let me tell you about Jesus!” Or when your Dad is watching the news on the telly at home and some of you kids walk into the room, you take the remote and change the channel to CBBC. What are you doing? You want to watch your favourite show, “Sarah Jane Adventures” or “Horrible Histories”. You are always changing the channel!

Paul only watches one channel: Jesus is his favourite channel. Look at what he says.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God - the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who, through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1:1-4

Paul is saying, “I love talking about Jesus. Every time I open the bible, I see Jesus on every page. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament prophets kept looking forward to Jesus, ‘God promised us that he would send a king like David. When is he coming?’ - that’s Jesus.” And when Jesus did come and die on the cross, Paul says, “God raised Jesus from the dead to show us that Jesus really is the King and that Jesus really is God.” He is  (verse 4 says) Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now that’s very not shy! And you might be sitting there thinking, “It’s OK for Paul to be not shy about Jesus, but I’m not like that.” I’m quiet. I prefer to talk about other things, like badminton or football. Well, the question that Paul would ask you is: Do you know Jesus?

Through him and for his name’s sake we have received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:5-6

And what Paul says is, “Have you received a phone call from Jesus?” Now, if you’re a kid, you will say to me, “I don’t even have a phone.” Or, “Whenever I pick up the phone, the call is always from my Mummy or Daddy, or... bleagh, my sister!”

Whenever you open the bible, Paul is saying, you need to hear, Riiinngg! Riingg! (Or the Nokia ringtone - NannannaNaanaana Naanannaananaaaa!) Every time you open your bible, God is calling you. And the question is, have you ever picked up that call? Paul says in verse 6, “And you also are among those called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

Let me talk to the adults for a moment. We often use that word, “call” here in the church to mean something like, “God is calling me to be a pastor.” Or, “God is calling me to serve on the music ministry.” I think that’s a mistake because I don’t see that in the bible. Instead, God always calls us to respond to Jesus Christ. Some of us are so afraid of picking up that call because we think God is going to say to us, “Move to Afganistan!” or worse... “Serve in Sunday School!” Arrrrggghh!!!Nooooooooo!!!!!!! That is, we think that God is calling us to serve him or to do something extremely difficult for him.

When you pick up God’s call, the first thing you will hear is not, “Serve me!” but, “Have you been served?” Jesus Christ did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. God’s call is him saying to you, “Come home.” Have you answered that call?

Well, the first thing we see is that Paul is not shy about Jesus, God’s Son. But the next thing we see is that Paul is not shy about God’s people.

2. Not shy about God’s People

Paul loves the church. Whenever he meets his friends, he is the ultimate not shy guy. He will introduce himself. He will ask them how they are doing. But also, one thing that he will definitely not be shy about is prayer - even if he meets you for the first time, Paul will say, “Let me pray for you!” Look at what he says in verse 8.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times.
Romans 1:8-10

If you met Paul in church today, he would say to you, “I’ve been praying for your exams all week! I’ve been praying for God to speak you through your quiet times! Don’t believe me? God is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times!” I think if you met a guy like that, all of us would agree, he’s a not shy guy!

But let me show something that is even more not shy! Look at verse 10 again.

I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
Romans 1:10

He has never met them before! Did you see that? And he says, “God is my witness how I’m always praying for you.” What kind of person is Paul? Some of you might say, “He’s very friendly.” Others might say, “He’s a very strange person.”

A better answer would be: Paul is someone who loves God’s people. It isn’t because everyone is church is so nice, everyone in church is so loving and they all buy him presents every year on his birthday. Although, I hope that you kids are nice to one another. And when it’s someone’s birthday, at least wish him, “Happy Birthday!” and maybe get him something nice (or make a card). No, Paul loves meeting up with Christians because they are his brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus died for him and Jesus died for me. If I love Jesus, I will love my brothers and sisters whom Jesus died for.

Now a word to the adults. I want us to look at verse 14 and see who Paul is talking about when he says, “I am so looking forward to meeting you.”

I am bound both to Greeks and to non-Greeks, both to the wise and to the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
Romans 1:14

The older we grow, the harder it is to be friends with people who are different from us. We hang out with friends, but only the friends who like the things we like. Students mix with students. Working adults with their colleagues. Paul says, “I am obligated not just to the Greeks, but also to non-Greeks.” I would put that to us as, “I am obligated both to Chinese and to non-Chinese; both to the students and to the non-students.”

What this means is: when the kids join us for our Sunday meetings, we must be careful of thinking, “So mah fan! All these noisy, stinky, troublesome kids.” Paul is teaching us to say, “We owe it to them.” And what we owe them is the gospel. “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you.”

I wonder if you caught that last bit? Paul wants to preach the gospel, not to unbelievers, but to believers in the Roman Christian Church. One of the biggest mistakes is to think, “I’m already a Christian. I don’t need to hear the gospel. I don’t need to go for Rock. Rock is for new believers and non-Christians.” Here is the apostle Paul travelling all the way to Rome, not for a holiday, not for an evangelistic rally. He is doing what we are doing right now: Reminding Christians that Jesus Christ is Lord. And that’s what we need to do here in the Chinese Church - to keep preaching the gospel.

So, to recap Point Two: Paul is not shy about God’s people. And I hope you are not shy about our church. When someone asks you what you did on Sunday, will you say, “I watched football.” Or will you say, “I came to church and I heard a talk from the bible about Jesus.” Will you be not shy about God’s people?

But finally, Paul is not shy about the gospel

3. Not shy about God’s Gospel

Paul says in verse 16:

I am not ashamed (or, not shy) of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17
Paul is not shy about the gospel - that is, he is not shy about telling people about Jesus. Now I wonder, if I asked one of you kids to stand up, and to tell your friends about Jesus, how would you feel? If I asked one of the adults to come up front and to give a talk about Jesus, how would you feel?

I think many of us would say, “That’s scary. I would get very nervous.” You know, I get nervous every time I stand in front of you. I’m sure Yao and Andi felt nervous as well leading us in singing the songs just a few moments ago. That’s why it is good to encourage them after this meeting and thank them, together with the music team for serving us so well today.

But you know, some people are nervous for a different reason. They are scared of telling even one person - not a whole big group of people - but even just a good friend whom they know very well, about Jesus. And that’s because they are ashamed. Paul says we can be ashamed of the gospel.

You see, when we tell people about Jesus, we are admitting that we ourselves have let Jesus down. We are sinners. That means even though God loves us and provides for us, we keep telling God to go away. That is a very embarrassing thing to say to our friends, because we want them to think what a nice and wonderful person I am. But in reality, I know that in my heart, I have let Jesus done again and again. That’s hard to do.

But another thing that’s hard to do is to tell your friend, that he or she needs to come to Jesus for forgiveness. Because you are not just admitting that you are bad and need help from Jesus, you are telling your friend, “You also need Jesus to forgive you.”

Paul says, “I am not shy about the gospel.” Why? Because, and this is a very important reason, so please listen up, kids. Please listen up, grown-ups. Because, it is God’s power to save everyone who believes. When you tell someone about Jesus, you are not just telling them a story. God uses your words in telling the good news about Jesus to change people’s hearts, so that they will say sorry to him and that God will save them through Jesus’ death on the cross.

But Paul gives us a second reason. Verse 17: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” The second reason is: righteousness. What’s that? I want you to think of righteousness like this: It is a report card you get at the end of year in school, which you then hand back to your parents, and they go, “Hmmm, ‘B’ for Art, OK. ‘C’ for PE, oh well. ‘A’ for maths, you must be Chinese.” For grownups, your righteousness or your report card is your CV which you use to apply for a job. Or it’s your morality - all the good things you did today, separated the rubbish into recycle bins, mowed the lawn, came to church. And a lot of people think, that when they see God, they will produce a report card of all the good things they did in life, and God will go, “OK, come on into heaven.” And we are surprised when the bible says to us, “You’ve got it upside down.”

And what we’ve missed is Paul is not talking about our righteousness, but Gods. “For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed.” He is saying, “When you look at the bible, you should see what God has done, how good God is, what God’s greatest accomplishment is - and that is salvation through Jesus Christ.” Yet, again and again, people open up the bible, and they don’t see God’s righteousness, but they keep looking for their own. They want to know what they can do. What they need to do. What God wants them to do in order to get into heaven. They are trying to be self-righteous.

This is the biggest difference between Jesus and all the other religions in the world. Or for the kids, I would put it this way: Two-letters separate religion from Christianity. Religion says, D-O: Do! Do this. Do that. Go to that place. Do this number of prayers. Religion has two letters, and it’s D-O. The gospel has two extra letters, it spells D-O-N-E. The gospel tells us what God has done. What Jesus has done by dying on the cross. God has DONE everything for us in saving us and making us righteous in Jesus Christ.

Are you still trying to do, instead of trusting in what God has done? It’s a lot easier to trust in Jesus isn’t it? It’s not about what you need to do for God. Know what Jesus did for you on the cross, to forgive your sin and to bring you back into relationship with him and with God as your heavenly Father.

Not shy about God

Paul teaches us that we should be not shy about God’s Son, but always tells our friends about Jesus. Paul teaches us that we should be not shy about God’s people, but love them as our brothers and sisters. And lastly, Paul teaches us that we should be not shy about God’s gospel, because it saves. What we should do is to trust Jesus and give our lives to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father,
We confess there are times we have let you down again and again
We have lived our lives our own way and ignored you as our God
We are sorry
Please forgive us and change us
So that we can live with you as our Father
And no longer be ashamed of our sins
Or of you as our God
But to be “not shy” for the gospel
In living for Jesus
And telling others about his wonderful gift of eternal life
We ask this in Jesus name,

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