We are continuing our new sermon series this morning: “A wider view of God”. In this series, we are celebrating that all of us have a window or perspective into the character of God. None of us see God completely or fully. But all of us see and know some part of God. Thus, if we want to know God more, we need two things: (1) we need to pursue him ourselves. (2) We need to pursue him alongside people who are different from us: people from different ethnic groups, different genders, different generations, socio-economic groups, different abilities. And, of course, we need people with different perspectives.
As the world becomes more diverse (and as the church becomes more diverse), differences can feel like a threat. We are tempted to wonder, “why don’t other people behave as I do?” and “Why don’t other people care about the same things that I care about?” Over this series, Pastor Adrian and I are interviewing diverse members of our congregation, asking three questions:
- Which person of the Trinity do you feel closest to?
- What characteristics of God are most important to you?
- Can you share the story of the Gospel in a few sentences?
For those who are interviewed, we’re not even going to be able to share everything you say. There’s just too much good stuff even in those three questions. But to those of you who are listening—know that you may not see things the same way. But that is the point. So ask yourself, “what does this person see about God that I do not? How can I learn from her or him? How can I appreciate them?
Last month, I had a conversation with Joti Sunuwar to hear about her life story and her answers to the three questions. Joti was born in Nepal where more than 80% of the population are Hindu. She had lived in the country until she made a big decision to start a new journey for a better future. 23 years ago, she took the brave first step to pursue a new life by leaving her country. She worked in Kuwait for 7 years and moved to Israel where she met Jesus and accepted Him as her Lord and Savior. She finally arrived in Canada in 2014 after she had lived in Israel for about 7 years.
She visited our church and has been with us as a part of our church family since then. She is a church member who is faithful and sincere with a humble mindset. I have briefly shared her life journey with you because her answers are rooted in her life experiences after she left Nepal. Here is the summary of my conversation with Joti about the three questions.
[Joti Sunuwar Transcript]
- Which person of the Trinity do you feel closest to?
Holy Spirit. My life journey has been quite challenging since I left my family and friends in Nepal. I had to live by myself in different foreign countries for a long time. I didn’t know about Jesus and was not a Christian until I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior in Israel.
My life was so lonely. When I was in trouble, no one was with me. When I was sick, no one cared about me. When I needed wisdom or guidance, I didn’t know where to go or who to ask. I worked hard, but I still felt empty in my heart. When I was in the darkest time, there was no light. I wasn’t sure where I was heading to. I missed my family so much but couldn’t go back either because there was no hope in my country.
After I had moved to Israel, God gave me faith in Jesus through the Holy Spirit and touched my heart with this word. Jeremiah 33:3 says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to us. He has always been walking with me, encouraging me, and guiding me. He is my constant companion, and I am not alone anymore.
- What characteristics of God are most important to you?
Sacrificial love and intimacy. I am a sinner, but He still forgave me, sacrificed Himself for me and accepted me as His child. That’s not all. He continues to live with me and dwell in me through the Holy Spirit. He will be with me forever.
- Can you share the story of the Gospel in a few sentences?
Christ was born as a baby like us, was baptized by the Holy Spirit, taught us the good news, died on the cross, and was raised to life. We need to be united with Jesus to die as a sinner, born again and live with Him forever. Especially, I am so thankful for the Christ’s great commission in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus said, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This great commission is truly real to me. Because of this command, some Christians approached me in love and shared the good news with me. As I heard about the good news, the Holy Spirit moved and guided my heart, and I was born again. I am the first Christian in my family. It is my joy to hear that there are more Christians in Nepal today than before. As a recipient of His grace, I want to do all I can do to carry out His great commission in my daily life with the help from the Holy Spirit.
Our Life Journey
We travel often for various purposes: vacation, business, or visiting families or friends. We plan everything before we leave. We know our destination. We find all the possible paths to get there and determine the best route. We know where we need to stop at and how long it would take to get to the destination. We prepare what we need for the travel. We begin our journey on the day we have decided to leave and finish when we want. Sometimes, some things go wrong or may be different from what we had planned, but in general, we have control over our travel.
But our life journey is quite different. Now, we know our destination as Christians: our Lord and His kingdom. But, before we have faith in Jesus, we cannot know our destination and our true identity. People know nothing about their own lives.
We make plans for our life and try to follow them, but when we reflect on those plans in the future, we realize that many of them may have been wrong. We have no idea which path we should take, what we need to prepare or do, or how we could get through when we face trouble. We don’t know when our last moment will be. We don’t have control over our life. So, people feel fear and are wandering.
Matthew 9:36 shows us Christ’s heart for us. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The Holy Spirit Was Sent to Us as Our Constant Companion
When Jesus was here on earth, He had lived with His disciples, teaching them, protecting them, and guiding them to the right path. In John 14, Jesus is now preparing to leave His disciples.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of His physical presence. The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost as Jesus Promised. The same Holy Spirit who had been with the disciples is now the one who is and always will be with us.
Jesus also says, I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. There is not a moment that you are alone in your life whether or not you sense His presence. He won’t leave us helpless. Jesus will be with you through the Holy Spirit to the very end of time and will return to you Himself.
The Lord Is the Author of Your Life
In John 14, Jesus, after talking about the Holy Spirit, goes on to say in verse 27,
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
If you feel anxious because of the uncertainty of your future, if you are under stress by overwhelming burdens, if you are depressed because of failures or loneliness, if you have to spend a sleepless night again and again because of concerns, fears, or pain in your heart, you may need to check how you view your life because what you are experiencing is far from what Jesus said here.
We talked about Joshua’s faithfulness last Sunday. Let’s look at another part of His story for a moment. All the stories in the Old Testament are historical facts and also great spiritual metaphor or messages for our life journey.
When Israelites arrived at the Jordan River after 40 years in the wilderness, God commanded Joshua to take over the leadership from Moses and to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land with his new generation of Israelites. Imagine that you were in Joshua’s position. The responsibility of leading the entire nation into the new foreign land that you don’t know about at all would be a tremendous task. A long fierce war was waiting for Joshua and the Israelites.
Of course, the Hebrew people were fearful of what lied ahead, and Joshua was also experiencing overwhelming fears and felt inadequate to the big task.
In Joshua 1:9, God says,
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua was chosen by God. His life journey was planned by God, and the Lord was in charge of it. God was the author of his life. God continued to encourage and empower Joshua to trust Him and follow His lead. God also promised He would be with Joshua always.
If Joshua thought that he was the author of his life and everything was on his shoulder in terms of the responsibility of leading the entire nation into the land where a long fierce war was waiting for him, he would have collapsed even before the war because of overwhelming burdens, concerns, fears, stress, or uncertainty.
We are chosen by God. We are His children, and He is the author of our lives. Our life journey was also planned by God and the Lord is in charge of it. There is nothing He doesn’t know about our life. He continues to encourage us and empower us to trust Him and follow His lead. The same God, who was with Joshua, is with us now through the Holy Spirit.
When Joti met Jesus in Israel for the first time, it was the moment that she realized that the Lord was the owner of her life. It was the moment that she opened her eyes to see the owner of her life right beside her as her companion. She was not alone anymore. That began to change her perspective and everything in her life.
You won’t be able to experience the peace that Jesus gave us, if you are bigger than God in your life, if you live as you are the author of your life and try to have control, if your desire is more important than what God wants, or if you follow your thoughts rather than God’s lead.
Are you enjoying the peace that Jesus gave you? If not, I encourage you to have time to humbly examine your heart today. You may want to say, ‘I know the Lord is the owner of my life’. Yes, we know that, but what I am saying is ‘do we truly think and decide, respecting Him as the author of our life?’ There are various reasons that prevent us from living in His peace, but I can say that this is one of the major reasons for many of the cases.
Fix Our Eyes on the Lord
Every believer is on a loving and holy journey that the Lord has assigned to us and prepared for us. Our life journey is not a self-centered journey anymore. So, we want to live a godly life as a Christian. Our life journey is a series of choices and following actions, and we have to decide at almost every moment of our lives. We often feel vulnerable and become anxious as we try to sort out which way to go and what to do. My question is, ‘are we making a godly choice every time we need to make a decision?’
Apostle Paul was converted and became a sincere follower of Christ, but in Romans 7:15, he humbly confessed his spiritual struggles saying, ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’
We all fall short of the glory of God. We are influenced by our sinful nature. We are imperfect. We are saved for sure but are still on a journey of sanctification to become more like Jesus. We are in the realm of the Spirit, but we still live in the world that belongs to the realm of the flesh.
Every day, we are consistently exposed to self-centered perspectives and actions in this broken world. Our daily experiences in the world are shaping our minds and thinking over time in a subtle way while we are not aware of it. As a result, we often see and treat others as this world does. We often find ourselves living similarly to other people who don’t have faith in Jesus.
We focus too much on attaining earthly things like pleasure, possessions, power, reputation, or wellbeing rather than eternal matters. I am not saying they are bad, or we do not need them at all. What I am saying is that they are not our main focus or priority over our eternal life and God’s kingdom. When they become our main focus, they begin to control us and become our counterfeit gods. We all know that those earthly things are temporary and will pass away. Then, why do we still put so much priority on them? That is because we are influenced by our sinful nature and this world every day. We need to be aware of that to change our course.
You may think you have the right priority and are not influenced that much by this world. People are pursuing what they think is the most important for their lives. We usually plan to focus our time and energy to pursue what we truly want. If you want to know what you truly value and pursue, you can check your schedule on your calendar. You can see where you are spending your time and energy. Your calendar will tell you what your real priorities are.
How are you dealing with your concerns or stress? Unfortunately, some Christians rely on alcohol or drugs to relieve them rather than approaching God and receiving His comfort. You know that alcohol or drugs don’t do anything to help with your concerns. It is just hurting your body, and you become numb temporarily while all the issues you have are still there. Of course, that is not what God wants people to do, but they still do.
Where are you looking for help, comfort, or strength? We may not be able to see tangible results for a while, but if we continue to be in a wrong place, it always results in serious consequences.
Paul’s struggle is ours. Our loving and holy journey can be complete only with the Lord. We need help from the Lord. God is not up there, looking down to judge how well we keep His commands. God sent us the Holy Spirit, and He is dwelling in us. He has always been with us as our companion.
God’s Command for Joshua: Keep Your Eyes on Me
Let’s go back to the story of Joshua for a moment.
In Joshua 3, God asked the Israelites to take the steps into the Jordan River. At that time, the Jordan was flooding, which means that it was wider and deeper with strong water currents.
In verse 3 and 4, Joshua said to the Israelites before they crossed the river.
‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before’
In other words, ‘keep your eyes fixed on the ark of the covenant and follow it, then you will know which way to go, because you have never been this way’ At that time, the ark of the covenant was the embodiment of the presence of God. So, when Joshua said, ‘keep your eyes on the ark’, he really meant ‘keep your eyes on the Lord.’
Live in Accordance with the Spirit
All of us are living one life here on earth. None of us live this life twice. We have never been in this life before. Every day, we face a new day. God is helping us and leading us to the right path as we are still influenced by worldly views, desires, values, practices, or fears.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
The Holy Spirit dwells in us to guide us into the truth, living word, Jesus Christ. That’s all we need. The Sprit helps us set our minds on what He desires and leads us to true life and peace. You need to take your focus off of yourself, your thoughts, fears, concerns, desires, or idols, and stay focused on the Lord and His presence, words, promise, power and wisdom. As God did to Joshua, He will show you a way and guide you every step you take throughout your whole life toward Himself and His kingdom.
Share the Love of Christ with Everyone
(Go and Make Disciples of All Nations)
Let’s me close with this.
Do you remember what Joti said in her answer to the third question? Let’s me read a part of it for you.
‘The great commission in Matthew 28 is truly real to me. Because of this command, some Christians approached me in love and shared the good news with me. As I heard about the good news, the Holy Spirit moved and guided my heart, and I was born again. I am the first Christian in my family. It is my joy to hear that there are more Christians in Nepal today than before. As a recipient of His grace, I want to do all I can do to carry out His great commission in my daily life with the help from the Holy Spirit.’
You believe in Jesus and are saved. That means that there was someone who told you about the good news. There was someone who prayed for you. If you grew up in a Christian family, that still means someone influenced your parents, or grandparents as disciples of Christ. All of us are recipients of His Grace.
You know, love requires others. You cannot truly understand it until others become more important than yourself to you, because that’s what love means. If you love others more than yourself, you cannot stay within your comfort zone and stay content with your own agenda. Mission is not about a ministry. It is being with others, doing life together, and serving them in love. That is what the Holy Spirit is doing for us now and is inviting us to join Him for the glory of Jesus.
Leave a Reply