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WIC Weekly May 24th 2020

Warsaw International Church

Mobile +48 601 331 032
Worship every Sunday at ul. Miodowa 21 (near Old Town) at 11:00 AM
Entrance from Schillera Street
Email: pastor@wic.org.pl
Website: http://www.wic.org.pl

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Our news

At last Sunday’s service, we were joined online for the first time by Naoko from Japan (though in Poland) and Vahid from Iran. The fellowship on Sunday mornings is wonderful, considering we are all sitting by our computers.

Another online Bible study was held on Thursday, albeit with some connection problems. However – as the message of the Bible text emphasized – the battle belongs to the Lord!

This Sunday, our ladies will be organizing a special service. Join us for this Sunday’s live online service on Zoom at 11 am CET by clicking

Join us for this Sunday’s live online service on Zoom at 11 am CET by clicking: Warsaw International Church - Weekly Zoom Service (Sundays @11:00 am) Time: Sundays @ 11:00 AM Warsaw Meeting ID: 375 882 822

Recordings of our Sunday services are available on our wic.org.pl website.

Prayer requests

On Tuesday 19 May, Muslims all over the world are having their “night of power” – Laylat al-Qadr – when they hope that Allah will reveal himself in a special way through his “angels”. Many Muslims will read the Koran and stay awake praying to their god all night from Tuesday to Wednesday. This is a really special opportunity for us to pray for them, that Jesus will reveal Himself to them instead of Allah’s spirits. Many Muslims have found Christ in this way in previous years. Our prayer for them – particularly for Muslims we know personally - is essential.

In Poland, as in many countries, the lockdown is being eased, although the virus has not at all been eliminated. There is much concern that this loosening of restrictions could lead to an even worse situation in the future. Let us all pray for the peace and health of the people of our particular nations.

Above all, let us pray for all people everywhere to turn away from their sins and unbelief, and to trust and obey the LORD.

Your prayers are greatly requested for WIC. Fortunately we are staying together as a church, by our live online worship. Sooner or later we will move back to our church building. Let us already pray for a smooth transition, for safety, and above all for a harvest of conversions when we return. Poland’s borders may reopen in June, which means we will again be able to welcome visiting worshippers from abroad, though presumably in reduced numbers initially.

Pray for yourself to be revived and drawn closer to Christ!

Last Sunday’s sermon

Readings: Acts 17, 22-31; Luke 15, 11-24; John 14, 15-21.

In His message to His disciples, Jesus prepares them for the time when He will no longer be with them. The things He tells them must be very confusing for them. But we now know that Jesus is referring to His death and resurrection, and then, later, to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – which we’ll be celebrating in two weeks’ time. We also know that, ever since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is given to people all over the world. When they have the Spirit, they also have and love Jesus and God the Father. The Holy Spirit gives us the full revelation of God, which other believers in God – like Muslims or Jews – simply do not have.

This need for the full revelation of God is what Paul, in today’s reading from Acts, tells the men in Athens who have gathered to listen to him in the Areopagus. I had to look up what the Areopagus was, as I’ve never been to Athens. It was on a small hill just behind the marketplace – the centre of Athens in those days – and it was the court or government of the city of Athens. So Paul was speaking to the most important men in the city – pagans who worshipped many different gods, including even an “unknown” god. Paul explains to them who the real God is, whom they should be worshipping. And he tells them that “God now commands all people everywhere to repent”, because they are going to be judged “in righteousness” – in other words, justly, fairly.

Why must all people everywhere repent? Isn’t it because all are sinners? And isn’t it because Christ died for all? Isn’t it because He loves all, and cares for all, and wants the best for all? And if He died for us all, isn’t His grace going to come to us all, in one form or another? Because without that grace, we cannot be ultimately saved. If we just tell someone that Jesus died for their sins, it will make no impression on them, unless God’s grace helps them to understand that.

A person has to receive grace from God – and does receive it – not just to be led to repent, but also to be able to believe in Jesus and obey Him. Repenting, believing and obeying – those are the three crucial elements of the part that we have to play, if we want to secure our salvation which Jesus prepared for us on the Cross. Today I want to concentrate on repenting.

So the first thing I want to say is that repenting, like believing and obeying, is something we have to do ourselves. God isn’t going to repent for us – just like He’s not going to believe and obey for us. His grace will lead you to the point where you can make a decision yourself – to either receive or reject Him. But you have to do it yourself. No one’s going to do it for you.

Let me ask you this question: which do you think is easier – repenting, or believing? Think about it. Are there more people who repent but don’t believe? Or are there more people who believe but don’t repent? My feeling is that there are many more people who believe, but don’t repent. There are so many people who sincerely tell you they believe in the Christian faith – but their way of life is no different from a non-believer. Why not? Because they have never truly repented of their sins.

So many people think that repentance means saying sorry. It means a lot more than that! I remember someone in church some years ago. He was a convinced Christian. He knew the important prayers by heart. And it was no problem for him to say sorry. He was saying sorry to me all the time, in my dealings with him. And he probably meant it – for about five minutes. But that’s not repentance.

What is repentance? Think of that wonderful parable that Jesus told – about the Lost Son. The father had two sons. The older son was a good boy. He stayed at home to help his father. He believed in his father. He didn’t even have to say sorry for anything, he was such a good guy.

Not like the younger son. The younger son couldn’t wait to get away from his father. He wanted to spend all the money he’d inherited – to have a good time. You can imagine the older son, at home, shaking his head: “My brother has gone astray. He’s so far from my father – not just physically, but also mentally. He’s a hopeless case”.

When the younger son had spent all his money, he started to be in need. He had to feed a farmer’s pigs to stay alive. The pigs were getting better food than he was. And that’s when he repented – when he hit rock bottom. God could have stopped this evil at any time, but by His grace He allowed it to happen, to bring the younger son to repentance. But it was the son who had to do the repenting – not God.

So what is repentance? Saying sorry? No – it’s so much more than that. Repentance in the New Testament is a change of mind about God and Jesus, and a turning away from your sins and your unbelief, and turning towards God. That young man did not even dare to believe his father would forgive him. He just wanted to go back home and work as a servant on his father’s land. He went home, a changed man. He had turned away from his sins, and back to his father.

The father rushes out to embrace his son. He knows his son has repented. It’s not a question of saying sorry. It’s a question of changing your mind and changing your life. This was the insight that the younger son gained. His elder brother didn’t have it. He didn’t think he had anything to repent of. I’ll say that again: he didn’t think he had anything to repent of. Maybe some of us are like that elder brother?

Dear Friends, we need to do more than just believe. We need to repent of our sins – to change our minds. God commands all people everywhere to repent. He commands all of us taking part in this service, whether we’re Christians or not, to repent – to turn away from our sins and unbelief, and to recognise that we have sinned against God. The lost son said to his father: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. Not just against you, but against heaven”.

That hits the nail on the head. We are always saying sorry to people we think we have hurt. But how many of us say: “I have sinned against heaven? I have sinned against God?” We have all sinned against God thousands of times. God doesn’t want us to say sorry and carry on sinning! God wants us to change both our ways and our ideas. And repentance isn’t just a once-and-for-all event – it’s something we should be doing continually. We all have something to repent of – maybe some not so obvious sins – but sins nevertheless. We should continually examine ourselves, to find out what is displeasing to God.

Failure to repent – to change our ways – is a sin against the Lord. Jesus died for our sins. He paid the price for them – with His own life. He took our sins upon Himself. And His grace, in our daily life, makes it possible for us to be free of our sins, and to repent. The parable of the Lost Son shows us how this takes place. But we don’t have to wait for a disaster to happen to bring us to repentance – we can turn away from our sins and unbelief here and now.

But if God does mess up your life, as is happening to many people in this time of the coronavirus, don’t be surprised. He’s leading you closer to Himself, to give you a greater blessing. Don’t waste the opportunity – confess your sins, confess your unbelief, change your mind, change your ways, and turn back to God. Amen.

This Sunday’s readings

24 May is the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

Verse for the week: "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." (Deuteronomy 4, 9).

Psalm: 121.

Bible reading: Philippians 4, 6-7.

Food of the Spirit

Testimony by Kamesh Samkaran

In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to the Jewish leader Nicodemus, who was curious but also confused about the notion of being born again. In the course of explaining the difference between birth through ordinary means and birth through the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

These words capture something of my own experience of new birth. At the time I came to faith, I was a PhD student in aerospace engineering at Princeton—the sort of person, in other words, who ought to have known about things like the source and consequences of airflow. Even so, I was utterly perplexed by what had happened. Like Nicodemus, the source and consequences of being born again were beyond my comprehension.

Looking back at the events in my life—more than 20 years after my conversion—I can see with greater clarity how God was working behind the scenes. My struggle against Him, fuelled by ignorance and pride, was utterly futile.

I grew up in southern India in a small city. My brothers and I were first-generation high school graduates, so the fact that I ended up working toward a NASA-funded PhD in advanced space propulsion at Princeton is nothing less than a miracle. And, like many miracles recorded in Scripture, it had a deeper purpose: to draw me to Christ.

My hometown is prominent in Hinduism because of its historic temples and a renowned monastery. Hinduism is in the soil, water, and air. I grew up in a devout Hindu family that was inseparable from the highest echelons of religious leadership. My commitment to Hinduism grew deeper when I left home at age 11 to study at a boarding school run by a prominent religious leader, where I excelled beyond the expectations of my family and my teachers. Paul’s testimony, in Galatians 1, of “advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people” (v. 14), applied just as well to my progress in Hinduism. Many years later, I would become a leader in the Hindu Students Association at Princeton.

Before arriving there, I had been exposed to Christianity through friends, the prominence of Catholic colleges in India, and Christian movies released in the US. I was also intellectually curious about various world religions. I remember seeing the icons and statues in Orthodox and Catholic churches and thinking them to be similar to the gods I worshipped. I did not consider Christianity to be fundamentally different from Hinduism, but merely an appropriate religion for a different society.

On the other hand, I harboured a deep disdain for Christian cultural and moral values, as they were represented by Western culture. Like most Hindus today, I thought they were a form of debauchery. Compared to the teachings of Hinduism, they seemed intolerably lax. In my mind, then, Jesus could qualify as one among many in the pantheon of gods, but nothing more. My commitment to Hinduism also included a strong nationalist element (and the worldview behind it), and this resulted in a deep mistrust and antipathy toward religious conversion—especially conversion to Christianity.

Despite this, God was crucially at work, preparing me to receive Christ through my friendship with a fellow PhD student. As I worked alongside him for more than 12 hours a day, I respected him as a colleague, and eventually I became close friends with him and his family. On a few occasions, the Cross of Christ came up in casual conversation. Sensing that I was missing something, my friend explained that Jesus Christ died bearing our sins to reconcile us to God.

This was something I had never heard before. And it offended me! I was a deeply religious person, someone diligently striving to be good. How could my friend think that anyone, much less someone like me, was a sinner in need of salvation? Yes, I had problems, but wasn’t I capable of fixing them myself? Why would I need Jesus to bear my sins?

Out of respect for a friend and fellow researcher, I asked him to provide evidence for his explanation of the Cross. He readily encouraged me to read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, an author I recognized from his other popular works. But I quickly realized that I needed to go directly to the primary source, so I asked my friend to buy me a Bible.

Over the next few months, other stories from the Bible came up in our conversations. The parable of the Prodigal Son did not sit right with me, in part because God was not supposed to be like the profligate father in that story. He was supposed to reward good moral conduct, not irresponsible rebellion. In reality, I identified more closely with the other son, who did not seem to need grace. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9–14) also blew the fuse of my understanding of God. How could a man who defrauded his own people by conspiring with foreign occupiers have a better outcome before God than a religious leader who followed all the rules? I had to get to the bottom of this Christian “thing.”

In tandem with my intellectual quest, God was showing me the futility of “kicking against the goads,” as he described Paul’s own pre-conversion resistance (Acts 26:14). In a brief but decisive period, God exposed my false sense of self-sufficiency, which I had based on financial prosperity, academic success, and a strong relationship with my family. In short order, I experienced unexpected and unexplainable failures in each of these areas—financial, academic, and relational. The blows came from different directions, but their cumulative effect was devastating. By removing the frail crutches on which my life was built, God exposed the reality of my profound weakness—especially my utter inability to fix relational brokenness. I was in more pain than I had imagined possible, and I was devoid of the props on which I was accustomed to resting.

Knowing no other way out, I decided to end my own life. In the midst of this darkness, a voice within me spoke: “This is why Jesus had to die for you.” It came from nowhere, but at that moment my brokenness pointed to a greater brokenness in my relationship with God. I had nothing to lose, so I decided to ask my friend if I could attend church with him. My call came on a Sunday morning, just as he and his family were leaving the house to attend worship. That morning I heard the gospel, and I responded with a broken and open heart.

My experience of becoming a Christian wasn’t like flipping a switch. Believing the gospel didn’t automatically lead me to conformity to Jesus Christ or produce the immediate fruit of righteousness in me. While I desperately desired the gift of forgiveness, I was reluctant to change anything else about my life or worldview. Given the enormous differences between Christianity and my earlier Hindu beliefs, my new life had to be nurtured before spiritual growth could occur.

Intellectually, I wrestled with three fundamental questions: Who is God? Who am I? What is my relationship with God? The more I pondered these questions, the clearer it became that the answers offered by Hinduism and Christianity are utterly incompatible. I had to reject the former to receive the latter. Functionally, I had to rethink all of life from a clean slate because I simply did not have a framework or vocabulary to make sense of my new identity.

Paul needed an Ananias to spark his conversion, but he also needed a Barnabas to accompany him in his new journey of faith. God similarly ordained the support I needed to grow as a disciple. While Hinduism ties one’s religious standing to one’s birth status, Christianity teaches that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. My new Christian community cared not about my first birth but about my new birth: my confession of faith, my commitment to fellowship, and my desire to live wholly for Christ.

Every genuine Christian conversion is a miracle—a transition from spiritual death to eternal life, from enmity with God to adoption into his family. Yet God seems to take special delight in seemingly impossible cases—like Paul, a former persecutor—so that the riches of His grace might shine all the brighter. When I consider the chasm between my old outlook on life and my new life in Christ, I can only marvel at God’s work of redemption—and fall down at His feet in praise.

Kamesh Sankaran teaches engineering and physics at Whitworth University. Testimony published in “Christianity Today”.

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