Live obediently and love sacrificially.

Those were the two things I was urging The Belfrey’s 5pm and 7pm congregations to do, when I spoke on Sunday. This is how Jesus lived and Jesus says (in John 15:9-17) that doing these things show that we love him. They show that our faith in Christ is real and true. Not because we have to – like servants – but because we love to – like friends (v.15).

If you want to hear what I said, you can listen online by clicking here.

So how are you doing at living obediently and loving sacrificially? How will you express those things today? Because it’s as we do these things day by day, guided by the Scriptures, that God works with us and through us, bringing his transformation. First one person. And then another. And over time influencing many. Through very ordinary people like you and me. Isn’t that amazing?

I shared a true story at the weekend of how one particular community was changed as people lived like this. It’s the story of Shimbakuku.

When American troops captured the island of Okinawa towards the end of the Second World War they found it in a state of moral and social collapse. As they gradually advanced through the island they came to the village of Shimbakuku. There they were feted by two men, one of them carrying a Bible. The soldiers suspected a trap and entered the village cautiously, but to their amazement they found envy thing neat and tidy, the fields tilled and fertile, and the whole village a model of order and hygiene, in total contrast to the squalor and chaos which reigning everywhere else. One of the old men who had welcomed them examined the reason to them.

Some thirty years earlier, an American missionary had stopped off in Shimbakuku on his way to Japan. he didn’t stay long and just two people became followers of Jesus – the two old men. he taught them a few hymns and prayers, and left them a Japanese translation of the bible, urging them to model their lives on it. The two men had no other Christian teaching or fellowship, but by basing their lives on what they read in the bible they transformed their community, When the American soldiers arrived, they found no jail, no brothel, no drunkenness and no divorce. Shimbakuku was an oasis of live and purity in a swamp of degradation and despair.

The war correspondent who first brought the story to light, a man named Clarence Hall, quoted his dumbfounded driver: ‘So this is what comes out of only a Bile and a couple of old men who want to live like Jesus! Maybe we’re using the wrong kind of weapons to change the world.’

(Story taken from Simon Coupland, ‘A Dose of Salts’ [Crowborough: Monarch, 1997], p.49).