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The Big Question 大きな質問

Most of you know that earlier this year I was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent all summer in hospital having chemo. I’m thankful for all the love and support of my family and of the church. But I can tell you, it was no fun.

While I was having treatment, people asked me lots of questions:
Are you feeling okay?
Is your family okay?
Are you financially okay?
Would you like something to read?
Can I bring you some chocolate?

But there was one big question that only one person asked me. It was a student of mine and she was very reluctant to ask. But we had a long teacher-student relationship and she really wanted to know. So she asked me:
Are you afraid of death? 死ぬのが怖いですか?

What a question! What a great question!
It gave me the opportunity to not only answer the question but to explain my answer.

My answer is no. I am not afraid of death. 私は死を恐れていません。
I’m not looking forward to the process of dying. But I am not afraid of death. I don’t say this as a ‘correct answer for Christians’ but as someone who has faced the reality of death and thought long and hard about it.

I understand for many people this is a distasteful topic. But that’s a curious thing, really. Because death has a 100% success rate. We are all going to die. Death should be something that we talk about at appropriate times and we prepare for.

In fact the whole Christian gospel is a message of life conquering death.
The focus of the gospel is the resurrection of Christ from death.
The great promise of the gospel for all people is victory over death.

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him shall never die, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Speaking of baptism into this faith, Paul wrote.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:5

And to the Corinthians he wrote:
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
This is the ultimate good news of the Christian faith. In Christ, we have no fear of death.
Now, that was the big question that my student asked me.
Here’s the big question that I want to ask you:

Are you afraid of life?生きるのが怖いですか?
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Are you afraid of living the full life that God has for you? 神があなたのために備えてくださっている満たされた人生を生きるのが怖いですか?
Many people are.
Three reasons why people fear giving their life to God.

1. Fear of change 変わることへの恐れ
For many people there is a fear that if they give their life to God, then this “full life” that is promised will involve being sent to Africa as a missionary.
It will mean they’ve got to go to church every Sunday morning.
They’ve got to read the Bible everyday.
They’ve got to stop drinking.
They’ve got to be friendly with people they don’t like.

I don’t know about going to Africa but the truth is if you give your life to God then
you get to go to into God’s house every Sunday morning
you get to read God’s Word every day
you get to stay sober
you get to make friends with those you would never have made friends with before.

Any changes you make when you give your life to God are good changes. Changes that beforehand might look uncomfortable but afterwards are a source of joy and delight. I hear the testimonies of those in this church and beyond who look back and are so grateful for the changes they made in their life since coming to Christ, and how they would never want to go back to the life they used to lead. 神に人生をゆだねるときに起こる変化は良い変化なのです。

2. Fear of loss of control コントロールを失うことへの恐れ
We want to have control of our lives and giving our lives to God means giving Christ control of our lives. And that can seem scary.
Let me tell you something: you can’t control your life. You can try. But control is an illusion. You can make plans but you could wake up tomorrow morning to find you’ve lost your job, your stocks have tanked, your husband has walked out, your kids are drug addicts, you have cancer. Who knows? Most of life is beyond your control.
The only way to ensure control of your life is to let God control it.

3. Fear of ‘no fun’ ’つまらないこと’への恐れ
Christianity can seem so boring. Going to Bible studies, avoiding wild parties and living humbly.

I don’t mean to be insensitive in any way but when I look at the people of the world who know how to have fun, it’s not a pretty picture.

Robbin Williams – funniest man in the world. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
Marilyn Monroe – sexiest woman in the world. Fame and fortune. Took her own life.
Brian Epstein – manager of the Beatles. Wild parties. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
Janis Joplin – iconic singer and hard partier. Fame and fortune. Took her own life.
Lenny Bruce – comedian. Admired by many. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
Ahn Jae-hwan – Korean actor. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
Kurt Cobain – iconic singer. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
Michael Hutchence – Australian rocker. Fame and fortune. Took his own life.
It’s not just the famous.
Ryan – my friend.
(Not a criticism of these people. My heart goes out to them and their families. My point is that there is often no correlation between ‘fun’ and true joy.)
And no problem with fun! I love fun! I’m a fun guy!
These people knew how to have fun. They had the ‘success’ that many people aspire to have. Yet they were deeply dissatisfied. They were empty.
Often ‘having fun’ is just a mask for pain. ’楽しんでいる’のは辛さを隠しているにすぎない。

Let me share something with you. When I was in hospital at night. I had cancer. My body was filled with chemo. I was alone.
My heart was so full of joy. Not because of my circumstances of course. My circumstances were rotten. But I can’t overstate this: my heart was full of joy because I knew my life was in God’s hands. I had the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, within me and I’d sit on my bed at night and sing songs of praise and my heart was full of joy. 私の心は喜びでいっぱいでした。

How is this possible?
It’s possible because “Perfect love drives out all fear”. 1 John 4:18 Key verse.

In Christ, there is no fear of change, no fear of loss of control, no fear of boredom.
No fear of death.
Because these fears have been driven out by the perfect love of God which is “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”. The perfect love of God that fills our hearts comes with the full life that Jesus promised. 私たちの心を満たす完全な神の愛はイエスが約束された満たされた人生といっしょになっています。

Tonight I’d like to give you an invitation to receive the full life that God has for you in Christ.
This is an invitation for Christians and for non-Christians alike. Some Christians give their lives to Christ, but not fully. They hold on to parts of their old life because of fear.

Perfect love drives out all fear.

If you’d like to receive Jesus Christ tonight and the full life that he offers, there are three things for you to do:
1. Repent of your sins (turn from your current way of living)
2. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God (make Him the Lord of your life)
3. Receive the Holy Spirit (not a philosophy to adhere to but a living Spirit to receive)
You can do all three in one simple prayer if that’s the desire of your heart.
I’m going to pray it now. Pray this with me in your heart.

Sinner’s Prayer
Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Amen.

In a minute I will ask you all to come forward and receive the elements of communion. The bread and the wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ and taking them marks a person’s entrance into and belonging to the body of Christ and the life of His church. If you have never taken communion before but have just prayed that prayer for the first time and given your life to Christ, I invite you to come forward with the others and receive prayer and the elements. このあとすぐに聖餐式にあずかるよう前に出てきてもらいます。パンとぶどう酒はイエス・キリストの体と血の象徴で、それらを受けることによりキリストの体とキリストの教会生活に属します。今までに聖餐式を受けたことがないけれども、今初めてこの祈りを祈り、キリストに人生をゆだねた方は、いっしょに前に出てきて祈ってもらい聖餐にあずかってください。
Take a moment to examine your lives and when you are ready, please come forward.