Saleem was the son of a Muslim Mullah in Kashmir, India. He came to Mumbai to sell Kashmir carpets and shawls.  He had high hopes of making a huge profit however he ended up being cheated by locals and lost a lot of money.  He was dejected and lonesome; to find peace of mind and get away from the scorching heat of Mumbai city he went into a nearby park and sat in the shade of a tree.  A group of young people came up to him and began to
talk to him about Jesus and his gift of salvation.  Salem was very argumentative and upset about the claims of Christ.  That initial conversation led Salem to become a serious seeker who soon accepted Christ.  Upon hearing the news of Salem's conversion to Christianity his father sent one of his sons to kill Salem. Salem took shelter among Christian friends moving from one city to another to save his life.  Fast forward twenty years Salem is now happily married with two children, serving the Lord, and some of his family members including his father have come to Christ.

For many like Salem in Muslim countries becoming a Christian means a death sentence. But they would rather die than to abandon their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Ironically, the majority of young people who grew up in Christian homes, attended church have left Church and their faith by age 29. A Barna group's research poses a challenge to the church in America, which is "A rising generation whose commitment to Christ may not stand when shaken. And it doesn't take much to shake it before they abandon Christ for lesser loyalties." How are we to face this challenge? What do we have to do to get our young people excited about Christ? How can we brace ourselves against the "Culture War" which is so viciously attacking the core values of our Christian faith? In these challenging times how can we maintain our faith in Christ?

Larry King was once asked if he had one person to interview who it would be. Without pausing King answered, “It would be Jesus Christ”. The reporter then asked, “What question would you ask Him?” King replied, “I would ask Him if he were really virgin born, because the answer to that question would define all of life for me.”

Over the centuries many scientists, philosophers, historians, politicians, religious leaders, theologians and journalists like Larry King were fascinated by this person named Jesus. I am saddened when ever I hear the most precious and the sweetest name of all is used as a swear word in this country. I wonder whyy such hatred of and fascination with that name?  What is there in the name of Jesus? If the world has shown such keen interest in the “Life and the Ministry of Jesus” for whatever reason, how much more as believers at the Evangelical Congregational Church do we need to know the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ? Are you ready for an exploration?

PREPERATION FOR MINISTRY:

The gospel writers Matthew and Luke gave detailed description of the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Nothing much was said about the early childhood and the training for ministry in the Gospels however from the age twelve onwards Jesus made his intended ministry very clear to his parents. On one occasion Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. After the feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind.  After a days travel parents had noticed that Jesus was missing.

They searched for him three days and at last they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. To his anxious mother and father Jesus said, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2: 49).After he said that he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. (Lk 2:52)

 

Every one in the family of Jesus knew that he was a special child. The teachers of the law had noticed that he had incredible wisdom and insight into the deep things of God. Somehow Jesus himself knew that he was to be in His heavenly father’s business, yet he needed to grow in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and men. Here are a few lessons; for all of us especially for young people. Firstly, with all the awareness of God and the praises of people Jesus did not become arrogant. Secondly, he realized that he needed to grow physically, spiritually, intellectually and socially Thirdly, this is the hall mark of his life; Jesus learned to live in obedience to his parents.

 

Out of the Ten Commandments only one has a blessing attached to it. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”(Ex 20:12). Hebrew 5:8 says, “Although he was a son he learned obedience from what he suffered.” If Jesus being the Son of God needed to learn obedience, how about us?

 

GOD’S ACCEPTENCE IS NOT BASED ON PERFORMANCE:

After the encounter Jesus had in the temple with the teachers of law, we don’t hear much about the life of Jesus from the age twelve until thirty. In the meanwhile we hear great reports of John the Baptist’s ministry who was supposedly Jesus’ cousin. Many Pharisees, Sadducees, tax collectors were turning to God and were getting baptized. At the age of thirty Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that time something supernatural happened. The heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven spoke saying “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matt (3:17) “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”(LK 3:22)

 

Very early in the ministry infact, even before Jesus performed any miracles God had already put a stamp of acceptance on Jesus by saying “You are my beloved Son in you I am well pleased” In other words God was saying, I love you, and I am delighted in you because you are my son. Let me break this scripture for us: “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

In the English language we use the word “love” for almost any and everything, ex: I love my car, computer, dog, garden, (things we enjoy having) we say: I love gardening, dancing, preaching, singing, eating (activity we enjoy doing) in the same breath we also say: I love my wife, husband, children, my girl friend, my boy friend (persons we enjoy being with). Where as in Greek language there are different words used to express different kind of love. In Greek when they use “love” they often refer to people not for things or activities like we do in English.

 

When God said to Jesus “You are my son whom I love” the word used here was AGAPE. It is the Love, based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action. In other words God’s love of Jesus was based on choice, God chose to love him, not only that he took the first step in expressing. It was intentional but never conditional. God’s love is pure, selfless, giving and forgiving. The same intention is expressed in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We see this kind of expression of God’s love throughout the Bible.

 

The apostle John has much to say about this beautiful love relationship between the Father, the Son and us as his children both in the gospel of John as well as in the epistles of John.  In John 1:12, we read “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In other words when we believe in Jesus we will earn the right to become the sons and daughters of God then we too will become the recipients of God’s wonderful love.

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love. John shows how this Love was poured on those who believed God. “How great is the love, the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God. And that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”(John 3:1)

 

God called Jesus “my Son; with you I am well pleased” right after he was baptized the prophecy of Isaiah long ago, “For to us a child is born to us a son is given.” was fulfilled. The baptism of Jesus was a momentous time in History. The Jewish world at that time was waiting for the messiah, John was baptizing in Jordan to recognize the messiah, a crowd gathered to be baptized by John, God the father, and the Holy Spirit showed up to introduce and affirm Jesus in his mission of saving the world.

 

It was a statement of affirmation as well as a transfer of God’s power to save people. God’s affirmation was not done in secret but was loud and clear. “A voice came from heaven spoke.” In his affirmation God said that He was well pleased with Jesus. In New Living Translation it reads, Luke 3:22 "And the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” A father is delighted in a son who is obedient. A rebellious son does not bring delight rather brings distress. God saw the obedience in Jesus that is why He said, you are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy. Besides obedience what else brings delight to God’s heart?

 “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.” Pro 11:20

                                         

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth”. Pro 12:22

 

The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights. Pro 11:1

 

“The Lord's delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Ps 147:11

 

Studying the life and the ministry of Jesus is both challenging as well as liberating. It is challenging, because Jesus being the Son of God needed to learn how to obey the instructions of His father in heaven. When I claim myself to be a Christian or the follower of Christ I too need to learn obedience. It is liberating, because in order to gain acceptance from the father in heaven I don’t need to perform. Growing up as a child my father only affirmed me when I performed well either in studies, sports and other extra curricular activities. I felt rejected by my father.

In order to receive his acceptance I began to strive and became a highly competitive and performance oriented person. I am still learning to understand what it is to stop striving, pause and receive my heavenly father’s love and acceptance. While I was preparing this message at one point I had to stop and just enjoy his presence and listen to his assuring words of love and acceptance. May be you too find yourself striving to gain acceptance from your heavenly father. The good news is that you don’t have to perform in order to gain God’s acceptance and affirmation, because his acceptance of you does not depend on your performance.

 

All you need to do is to believe in His great love for you.  Jesus truly went out of the way to lay down his life for you so you can be his cherished child today.