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One Central Asian Missionary's Sermon: Ephesians 2:1-10

The most believers I’ve been with at a time is just a small number.  It’s overwhelming for me to be in a large group of believers.  We were here four years ago and we’ve been coming to visit with you for about ten years now.  This feels like a family to us.  I love Asheboro.  Yesterday I was out running and I got lost.  As I ran I was looking at the homes for sale dreaming of owning a house here.   We love Jeni, thank you for loving Jeni.  We experienced college and seminary together.  Thank you for letting her be a part of your lives here.  It’s incredible to see all the places you’re going out on mission and how God will use you.  I look forward to hearing from Jeni what God will do. 

We work in Central Asia.  This region begins in Turkey and includes all the “stan” countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan etc…  This region includes 365 million people.  It looks a lot like Europe but has a hyper conservative governments.  Christianity is clamped down on.  One people group in this region are the Kurds. Remember they were allies with the American army?  The Kurds are the largest people group in the world without their own country.  This region is where we call home.  We have raised up our children there.  Our colleagues have given their lives for the Gospel.  Our brothers and sisters have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  This region has experienced 35 years of civil war.  Everyone has horrible stories that happened in their lives. 

There’s a friend of ours that had a dream.  By the way, please pray for Muslims to have dreams and visions.  This is how God is speaking to remote peoples that we cannot even get to.  Almost all the believers we know have encountered God in a dream.  One man had a dream that said, “Find my son.”  Another man was wide awake and was asked, “Why are you waiting? Choose Christ!”  Another listens to the Bible and a lot of the Bible memorized.  This brother asked me to ask the Christians in the US to pray for us about the ID cards.  Leaders are meeting together to add a section on everyone’s ID card that states their religion.  What do we put on our card?  Do we leave it blank?  Do we put Muslim?  Do we put Christian?  The church is being born in this region.

Thank you for your mission offerings to our organization.  You’re a part of what we’re doing.  We’ll be in Ephesians 2 today.  We could study in this passage for weeks.  It gives us a picture of what lostness looks like around the world.  It also reminds us we were also lost and we still sin.  This passage gives me hope:

Ephesians 2:1-10:  1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This passage says we were dead.

I’m an optimist.  Is the glass half empty?  I say it’s half full.  If I step back and look I can see Satan at work in the world.  I see Muslims trying to gain merit on a scale to earn their way to Heaven.  In our markets in our part of the world we still use scales, the kind you put a weight on one side and weigh out what someone is buying on the other.  Muslims believe this is how salvation will be granted.  Can you imagine?  None of us can outweigh. 

Ramadan starts tomorrow.  Muslims do this to earn merit with God.  Pray for this.  Muslims are seeking God.  Pray for them to have dreams and visions.  They do not know salvation is a gift from God. 

There’s religious conflict in our world.  I think about the white nationalist in New Zealand who killed Muslims.  I then think about Christians being targeted in Sri Lanka as retaliation.  There’s a triumph of liberalism in the west.  “Things aren’t what they used to be,” we say to each other.  “Things have changed for the worst.”  We have gender battles.  We are called bigots.  It’s so easy for us to stand back and say, “Look at these children of wrath!” 

We have to remember we were dead too!  We all lived in the passions of our flesh.  Praise God for grace and forgiveness!  Without Christ we are hopeless and helpless. 

I recall thinking while in college, “God helps those who help themselves.”  I thought this was in the Bible.  My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, corrected me. That is not in the Bible.

Look at verse 4, “But God…”  Rich in Mercy!  Great love! Makes us alive together in Christ!  Does the text say we were saved because of we were good?  We are saved because we had the happy accident of being born here in the USA? 

I want you to remember you have the same story as all the people you encounter.  They can experience rich mercy and great love, not just us, but all the world. 

I have a male friend that is a nurse in a clinic who encountered German and American believers.  He was drawn to them.  He got a New Testament in his language and he came to our town to seek out who to talk to about Jesus.  “I want to know about Jesus,” he said.  Some people come to us as say things like, “I want to know about Jesus and I want a job.”  “I want to know about Jesus and I need money.”  I explained to him up front we didn’t a job or money to offer him.  He said he and his wife had jobs and don’t need money.  He explained he read the whole New Testament and believes Jesus is God’s son.  “What do I do now?” he asked.  We talked about how to live.  His wife is educated and was reading the Bible too.  She too came to faith and they both came to our home seeking to be baptized.  We gathered believers, filled a bathtub with water and prayed over this new brother.  We baptized him and then the men left the bathroom and the ladies entered.  His wife tensed up before her husband was about to baptize her and he plunged her far under the water.  I think he wanted to be sure she was entirely covered!  One year later they came back to us for training and encouragement.  The wife’s sister saw her Bible and asked about it.  Her sister was having dreams.  She led her sister to faith.  I see their story in this passage. These are your brothers and sisters now.

These stories are miracles of faith.  Your story is the same: faith, mercy and grace.  What’s this mean for us?  Have you responded?  Do you still have a vestige in you saying your good outweighs your bad?  Talk to any believer around you. 

How have you responded to the Great Commission?  Going out among the “dead,” the sons of wrath… are you in a relationship with these people?  

A church we attend west of here told us they don’t know anyone who’s not a believer.  Praise God if their entire city is made up of all believers!  I’m pretty sure this isn’t the case.  

You will encounter these people as you go out.  Hebrews 12 tells us we are a part of the one thing that cannot be shaken.  We have the pearl of great price.  It’s worth all you are.

Amir, who works for an organization was known as a hard man who lacked compassion.  He came to faith and had a most radical transformation.  Now he is a man full of love and hugs!  He runs a guest house.  He says, “You came all the way from the USA to reach the nations!  I open the guest house and the nations come to me!” 
  • Grace is what’s saved you.

  • God is rich in Mercy.
  • This Mercy extends to all you meet.

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