This sermon was delivered to North Korean refugees at a church in Busan.
Ephesians 2:1–10Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Brothers and sisters, I am so happy to see your faces this afternoon. And I want to thank the pastor for letting me talk with you today, and our sister for translating. My name is Simon and God has sent me from England with a message for you. God wants you to know that he hears you when you call to him. He hears you when you cry to him. He sees you when you are alone in the dark with the pain of today and the bad memories of yesterday. And he wants to set you free from all of the bad things in your life, but you have to come to him and trust him. So when I was in England he told me to come here and tell you that he is calling you to come to him and be healed. Perhaps you cannot hear him, but he is speaking to you. Perhaps you cannot see him, but I can see his tears as he looks at you.
So please listen to me as I bring you a message from God that he loves you and wants to make you completely free by making you his children.
This is a grape.
Here is a bunch of grapes. Don’t they look tasty? Sweet and juicy.
Here is a dried grape. Sweet but not juicy any more.
The thing about these grapes is that they are dead. They are not alive. They are not growing.
You know why they are dead don’t you. It is because they have been cut off from the source of life. They have been cut off from the grapevine and so they don’t get any life. They are dead grapes. They have stopped growing. They cannot grow any more.
The Bible says we are like these grapes. We are dead. We are cut off from life.
We are shrivelling up and will turn into spiritual raisins.
We aren’t dead because of what we have done. We aren’t dead because of where we were born. We are dead because of our sin.
And we all have sin. We have sin when we are born. It is this sin that cut us off from life.
God is life. We are cut of from God when we are born. We stay cut off from God until we come to Jesus and ask him to accept us back. We ask Jesus to give us a relationship with God. When we have that relationship we have life from God.
If a farmer grafts a branch onto a tree, it receives life from the roots. If the branch then rejects the tree, it no longer has life. A branch has life only while it has a relationship with the tree of life. If you ask Jesus for a relationship and then you don’t do anything to keep that relationship, you will lose it.
Look at this balloon. Some of you are like this balloon. It looks very nice doesn’t it? But something is wrong with this balloon. A balloon should float, or at least be as light as air, but this balloon is heavy and it is a strange shape.
What should a balloon be full of? It should be full of air, shouldn’t it. Or helium.
This is full of beans. It has some air too, so it doesn’t look too strange at first. But it isn’t a very good balloon for a party.
You are like this balloon. You are full of things that shouldn’t be in you.
The beans in this balloon take up space that should be filled with air, so not enough air can get inside and they make the balloon really heavy. You aren’t filled with beans, are you? Maybe a little rice and kimchi?
You should be full of the Holy Spirit, but instead you are full of sin. It isn’t your fault. You aren’t full of sin because you did bad things. Or because you had bad thoughts. You are full of sin because that is how you were born.
How do we have a relationship with Jesus? It is by Jesus filling us with the Holy Spirit.
But if you are already full of sin, then there isn’t much room for the Holy Spirit. You have to know that you are a sinner. You are full of sin. I am a sinner as well. We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. It isn’t your fault, but if you stay like this you will stay dead and you will stay full of sin. You will stay full of fear, doubt, worry, jealousy, envy, hatred, lies, deceit, treachery and other unpleasant things.
How does the balloon get rid of the beans? How can a balloon take out its own beans?
It can’t. Can a balloon grow hands and open itself up and take out the beans? No. That is a silly idea. It is just as silly for you to think you can take out your own sin. Or give yourself new life be grafting yourself into the tree of life.
You can take the beans out of the balloon, and you can pump it full of air so that it is a big beautiful balloon. Jesus can take away your sins and pump you full of Holy Spirit so that you are bright and beautiful.
We all need Jesus to give us life and take away our sins. We need to start a relationship with Jesus right now and keep it going for the rest of our lives.
This is what Jesus said in John chapter 6.
“Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”
“This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
“Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.”
Jesus said clearly that the only thing you have to do is believe in him. And to do that you have to eat the bread of heaven. That means you must have a close relationship with Jesus. It means you must be filled with the Holy Spirit – not beans.