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We're turning to the little book of Philemon. Now, you say, where on earth is that? Well, if you can get the book of Hebrews, which is quite a large book in the Bible, it's just before it. Maybe you don't even have a Bible, well, that doesn't matter - you can share, perhaps, with someone who has one beside you, or just listen as we read the God's word together. Now it probably won't make much sense to you at this juncture, but later on when we expound it and preach upon it, hopefully it will make very clear sense. Beginning to read at verse 1, we'll read the whole book, and you'll be glad to know it's only 25 verses of one chapter.

This man who had a church in his house, he longed that everybody that met and was under the sound of the gospel was saved - the problem was, there was a 'black sheep' in the family

The epistle of Paul to Philemon - Paul is writing to this individual called Philemon: "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen".

Now it's wonderful to be here a year from the day, this date exactly, when we opened this church building. Now let me say in preface, before I go on any further, that I have had this message for three weeks before I even knew that we were going to have a night of praise and thanksgiving for the building. I didn't even realise this would be the year anniversary - so don't think that I've concocted this message especially for tonight as such, or especially for you, it was with me from the Lord three weeks ago.

There was a little church that met in this house of Philemon, but what I want to ask you tonight is: is there a church in your house?

But it's a privilege for us to have a house like this to meet in as the church of Jesus Christ - but that was not always the case, because away back in the first century, not long after the Lord Jesus died for our sins and rose again, Christians often met in their own houses. There was a little church that met in this house of Philemon, but what I want to ask you tonight is: is there a church in your house? What kind of a question is that? I remember as a little child, and many preachers can recollect doing the same, on a Sunday evening gathering all my great aunts and great uncles together, and grandparents and great-grandparents - I see some smiles, because I know some are doing it even in the day and age in which we speak, warn them that they might become a pastor in the days that lie ahead! I used to preach to them, used to get them to sing - and I wouldn't have been anything but four or five, six years of age. Dear help those old folks, whether they were walking wounded or not, with sticks and zimmers, they had to get up and walk past me, and shake my hand. I hadn't got to the stage of learning to take a collection in those days, I have done since! But nevertheless, that's not what I'm talking about this evening, I'm not even talking about house churches - because some people still worship in houses in parts of our world for fear of building a building like this. I'm not even talking about whether or not you're a church member, I'm asking you this question: are you a member of the church?

What's the difference? Well, being a member of the church is not the same as being a church member. Being a member of the church is being converted by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, having a personal experience of salvation, and you become a Christian - that's all you have to do to become a member of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ. You don't have to sign on a dotted line, or give a tenth of your money in - although those things, necessarily, are not bad - but you're just to come and believe the Gospel, and embrace Christ as the only Saviour of men. So what I'm asking you tonight is: are you converted? Are all the people in your house in the church of Jesus Christ? Can you say this evening: 'I am a member of the church in my house'?

You're a father, are you saved? You're a mother, are you saved? Son, daughter, whatever home you've come from tonight, grandmother, grandfather, husband, wife - are you a member of the church living in your home? I know that you might well excel in your particular family role, you could be the best father that there is, the best mother, the most attentive and caring that there has ever been. You could be the archetypal example of a son or a daughter, you could be a doting grandfather or grandmother, you could be a loving husband, even a romantic wife - if that's possible! - but the fact of the matter is: you could be a great member of your family in the home, but I'm asking you the question this evening, are you a member of the family of God? Is there, within your house, not just a human family, but a spiritual family?

I remember reading, studying some time ago about a woman in the Old Testament, she was called the Shunamite woman, she's not even given a name. She noticed a holy man of God, it was the prophet Elisha, passing by her door each day, and she decided that he could become her lodger, and she would be good to him. So she built an annex onto her house, and she gave him a table and a bed, and a stool and a candle - and he was able to drop in when he was on his travels and stay with her from time to time. Because of her goodness to the servant of God, God blessed her with a young boy. As the years rolled on that little boy was in the field one day, and he was struck with a piercing headache - and he fell just there in the middle of the field at his father's feet, and the boy died. This woman couldn't understand why God had struck down this boy whom He had given her previously, and she ran to the prophet. The prophet Elisha saw the woman running to him, and sent his servant Gehazi to meet her and ask her this question: 'Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?'.

What I'm asking you tonight is: are you converted? Are all the people in your house in the church of Jesus Christ? Can you say this evening: 'I am a member of the church in my house'?

I wonder if I was to ask you that question tonight - I've asked you are you a member of the church living in your house - but if I was to ask you: is it well with you husband? Is it well with you wife? Is it well with you child? How would you answer? She was able to answer, even though her child was dead: 'It is well'. It was well with her soul, she still believed in God even though this terrible thing had transpired. Now I haven't got time to go into that story, but I want to ask you: how are things in your household? Are things bad? Maybe you have known what it is for a child to be struck down with a serious illness, or even killed. Are things bad financially? You can't make ends meet, you don't know what you're going to do, you owe so much money, and what's going out doesn't equate to what's coming in. Are things bad educationally? You're trying to climb the ladder and trying to learn, but it's just not happening. Maybe it's professionally, you're looking for that promotion, you're trying to be satisfied in your career, but you just don't seem to get the opportunities, you haven't got the privileges that other people have.

Are things bad in your home relationally? There's a problem between you and your partner, your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, girlfriend. Maybe you have problems emotionally, things are bad in the home, you've been scarred mentally, physically, because of an emotional torment or abuse in the past. Maybe things are bad physically, maybe you're sitting here tonight and you're only months away from death - maybe you don't know that, but you feel that. Maybe you've heard bad news in recent days, maybe you're suffering from an ailment that - although it's not going to kill you soon, it's something that you're carrying as a burden on your back and it's destroying your life. Maybe you've been abused physically - how is it in your house tonight? How is it spiritually? Are you searching? Are you longing? Do you not have that satisfaction in your heart? Can you say: 'It's well with my soul'? How is your soul this evening?

Oh, if you were to answer 'Yes', 'Yes! I'm a member of the church, I'm a church member, I've believed in Christ and I'm a member of His body, I'm washed in His blood, I'm forgiven, I'm converted, I'm born-again' - I'll tell you, some of your fathers would have joyous hearts tonight, for they have been praying for you for many a year. Some of you, your mother's eyes would well up with tears at the thought that you've become a member of Christ's church. From the youngest in their family to the oldest, many a praying couple are longing for the day when they'll know household salvation - what is that? Everybody in their family, under their roof or in their family circle, saved! But you can't say 'Yes' tonight.

This, probably, was Philemon's greatest desire. This man who had a church in his house, he longed that everybody that met and was under the sound of the gospel was saved - the problem was, there was a black sheep in the family. There was a black sheep in the home, his name was Onesimus. He wasn't a member of the family as such, he was Philemon's servant - but the story is very simple, though it is hard to read at times. He, as Philemon's servant, wronged Philemon, and after wronging him - probably the sin was theft - he then ran away. He became a black sheep, he became a prodigal.

It could be that there's someone here this evening and you have wronged your father, you have wronged your mother as a son or as a daughter, and maybe you've even run away from home just like Onesimus

Now I don't have a clue who I'm speaking to tonight, I only know that God has laid this message on my heart for weeks now, and it could be that there's someone here this evening and you have wronged your father, you have wronged your mother as a son or as a daughter, and maybe you've even run away from home just like Onesimus. Maybe it's not a father or mother you've wronged, but a husband or wife - there's plenty of that goes on today. You've been unchaste and unfaithful. Maybe it's an employer you've wronged, and you've run away from work and taken a few pounds with you. Maybe it's an organisation that you've wronged, you've wronged the wrong man and now you're running away from him in fear for your life. Maybe it's even the law of the land you're running away from, or maybe you're just running away from God, from being in God's family!

Onesimus is so similar to the prodigal son that we read of in Luke 15. He went to his father before he was dead, obviously, but he asked for his inheritance, and that only came to you when your father died - so he was more or less saying to his father: 'I wish you were dead so that I could get my hands on your money'. His father gave it to him and he went into the far country, and he spent all of that finance on riotous living - wine, women and song - until he had nothing left. He ended up on a farm feeding the pigs and eating the very swill that the pigs were eating themselves, and into the bargain there was a famine in the land. He was at the end of his tether, and it was only then that he remembered what he had at home - he had forgotten about home. He remembered that there was bread in his father's house and to spare, and there he was living as a pig.

Is that you tonight? You're running from someone, you're running from something, but ultimately all men who have not embraced the Gospel are running from Christ! Well, Philemon, Onesimus' master's prayers caught up with him. I'm warning you tonight - you maybe don't believe in any of this nonsense, as you think: 'Prayer? Ach, sure it only reaches the ceiling, it doesn't do any good at all'. My friend, the prayers of Philemon caught up with Onesimus, and those who are praying for you, their prayers will catch up with you. Isn't that an encouragement, mother? You keep on praying. Father, keep on praying. Son, daughter, keep on praying for your loved ones. What mother's prayers have done in this world we'll perhaps never know. You know what I'm talking about, young man, young woman. You come home late at night, and they won't go to bed until they hear the key in the door and hear it shut behind you and hear you mounting the stairs - even if it is almost dawn, you've seen their light on in their room, maybe you've even peeped through the door that is ajar, and you've seen them on their knees. Maybe you've heard them utter your name, a mother or a father crying for you! Some have even told me how, when their child is sleeping, maybe after a drunken night, they stand over them and weep and pray. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Wesley Gustafson experienced that very thing, and he heard one night his mother standing over him praying while he was asleep: 'Oh God, save my boy'. He was saved eventually, and do you know what he said? 'I myself am quite sure that the prayers of a good mother never die'. It doesn't matter whether it's a mother or a father, or a master like Philemon, these prayers of Philemon's didn't die. Am I speaking to someone tonight, and someone's prayers have caught up with you? You can see them catching up, and you're trying to run all the faster, you're trying to dull their effect, you're trying to plug your ears to God's voice that's getting louder. You're trying to erase these things that you clearly see from your sight! How God answered Philemon's prayer! Maybe God is answering someone's prayer for you tonight.

Onesimus crossed paths with a man of God. He was put in prison for his crimes, that's how bad things got - and lo and behold, who was in the prison? The apostle Paul!

How was this prayer answered? Let me show you it in six brief ways. Onesimus crossed paths with a man of God. He was put in prison for his crimes, that's how bad things got - and lo and behold, who was in the prison? The apostle Paul, in it for preaching the Gospel of Christ. Now that's often how it happens: someone is praying for you, and all of a sudden you have crossed paths with a man or woman of God. Maybe it's in your workplace, maybe it's someone in your family or a friend who has come to faith newly in Christ. Maybe it is an old friend that you knew was a wild man or woman, and they have been converted by the grace of God. Then we see that, obviously, Onesimus had fallen on hard times - that's how God's prayers catch up with us, people praying to God. Sometimes God can allow us to go into the far country, allow us to experience famine, He can allow us to be cast into prison like Onesimus so that we can get to the end of our tether, get to the bottom of the barrel and realise that there's nothing in this life for us apart from God.

This Onesimus was in prison - have you been in prison? But you know, you don't have to be behind iron bars to be in prison, you can be in prison in your mind or in your spirit. You can be in prison to sins and habits that are unimaginable and unspeakable tonight. The prodigal, when he was in the far country, spent all, and there arose a famine in the land, and he began to be in want - for the way of the transgressor is hard. Sin always takes more than its rightful cut: the wages of sin is death! You're experiencing that death working in your very life at this moment. You put the money in your pocket and there's holes in it, it all falls out. It seems that everything you gather as produce and materials, God comes along and He blows on it and it all disappears. You can't seem to get a foothold even in your very business - why? Because you're shutting God out, and God is trying to speak to you, people are praying for you and God's prayers are catching up with you!

Then we see that he was reaping what he sowed - that's how, when people pray to God, it catches up with us. Galatians says: 'God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he reaps'. Hosea says that God's people on one occasion sowed to the wind, and they reaped a whirlwind. What have you been sowing in your sins? Little sins here and there, and you think they're insignificant and no one knows about them, you can hardly remember them all there's been so many, they've been so indiscriminate - but the fact of the matter is: you've reaped a whirlwind, and something is now taking place that you could never have imagined. It's just a simple fact, the law of the harvest: you've sown these things and now you're reaping them. You're just where Onesimus is, you've fallen on hard times, you're reaping what you've sown - could it be that all of this is because someone is praying to God for you, and God is answering their prayers, bringing you to an end of yourself?

Well, praise God, the fourth thing that happened in answer to Philemon's prayers was that Onesimus heard the Gospel through the apostle Paul. 'As God would have it', he was in that prison by divine appointment, God had him there to meet the apostle, and the apostle led him to Jesus. Now don't you think for one moment tonight that you are here just out of chance, or maybe you're thinking: 'I'm here by mistake, I didn't come to hear all this nonsense'. My friend, you're here by divine appointment, you're here because God - whether you think it, or like to think it or not - has directed your paths, even despite the obstacles. You know the obstacles that arose before you even came here tonight, trying to hinder you from getting to this meeting - but you're here! Why are you here? Because the Gospel is being preached, and God has brought you here perhaps in answer to your loved one's prayers to get you saved.

Praise God, Paul had a message for that jailer and Onesimus, and he has a message for you tonight, and that is: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved

He not only heard the Gospel from Paul's lips, he witnessed the Gospel in Paul's life. I don't know how Paul behaved in prison with Onesimus, but I know this: in Acts chapter 16, when Paul - he was a real jailbird - he was imprisoned in Philippi on this occasion, and here as he was, the Bible says that he and Silas, his prison mate, were in the stocks and they had been flogged for their faith - but they were singing and giving praise unto God and praying at midnight. The jailer heard it, and it affected him, it shook him to the core of his being, and God brought an earthquake to bring him to Christ. I'm sure Paul wasn't any different with Onesimus. Onesimus could see Christ and the Gospel in his life, and maybe Onesimus was just like the despairing jailer in Acts 16 in Philippi. When the earthquake came and he thought that the prisoners had fled, he was ready to kill himself, he was despairing - my dear friend, is that where you are tonight? You're despairing of life itself, and you could almost be done with it!

Praise God, Paul had a message for that jailer and Onesimus, and he has a message for you tonight, and that is: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. This man Onesimus, Philemon's prayers were answered finally when his heart was touched, his life was transformed - so much so that this man allowed the grace of Christ to enter his life, and he was willing to go back to his offended master and face whatever consequences there were. What does that tell me? He knew he was a guilty sinner, but he was no longer running away from his sin, he was facing it and whatever the consequences were he would take it. My friend, do you know tonight that you're a sinner, and do you know that you deserve hell as a sinner? I deserve hell! We deserve to be punished, for we are guilty, and God has told us that we need to repent of our sins, we need to turn from it - but what I want you to see now is not this black sheep that was in the family, I want you to see the Good Shepherd who brought him home.

I think there's a beautiful picture in this book, because the grace of God is seen in the apostle Paul who, in this story, reaches the sinner in prison. Then we see the grace of God in Philemon, the master, who receives Onesimus back into the home. What a beautiful picture this is of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ - that's who I want you to see tonight! This parable was told just before the prodigal son, Jesus said a shepherd had a hundred sheep, and he used to count them every night. One night he counted and there were only 99. He went into the wilderness, into the mountains wild and bare, to look for that one sheep. He found that little lamb, and he put it on his shoulders, and he came back and there was great rejoicing over the one sheep that was lost but was now found. Are you that lost sheep tonight? Oh, my friend, that you would see the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Christian faith is not about condemning you, my friend - no matter what any preacher has said, or any Christian has done. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who has come to seek and to save those that are lost!

'There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care

'Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?'
But the Shepherd made answer: 'This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep'.

What a beautiful picture this is of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ - that's who I want you to see tonight!

Are you the Lord's sheep tonight? Maybe you've never been saved, but you know that the Lord is seeking and searching for you, and He has caught up with you tonight. It's time you admitted it. Your father and mother and family's prayers have caught up with you and you've encountered the Good Shepherd. Maybe you're a backslider, and you're one of His sheep now, and you're away! Oh to God, that you would realise the Saviour is still seeking you. You say: 'How do I know?'. My friend, He died on Calvary for you, He bled and died, suffering, the Just for the unjust - that means He bore your sin, He bore the penalty for your guilt and the wrong that you've ever done.

'But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost'.

The Lord Jesus, at the cross, had to go into that wilderness, He had to go out into the desert, He had to become sick as our sin was laid upon Him. He had become, as it were, guilty for us, that we might go free. He had to bear our stripes, He had to take our punishment - oh my friend, that you would see the love of God bleeding and dying - why? So that He might fetch you, and bring you on His shoulders back to the fold of God. If the Son braves the wilderness to seek the lost sheep, it is the Father who runs to receive the lost prodigal. That's what the prodigal son tells us. My friend, the message tonight is: wherever you are, whatever you've done, God would receive you in grace, and Jesus is your Saviour - that's what the name 'Jesus' means. That's why He was wounded: 'All we like sheep have gone astray', Isaiah says, 'We have turned every one to his own way, but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all' - do you see Him, high and lifted up? Do you see the nail prints in His hands and His feet? Do you see the scar in His side, and the crown of thorns? Do you see what man has done in his brutality to the Son of God? But see more than that, my friend, see that He's dying for your sin - He's there for you, He's in your place! He was wounded for your transgressions, He was bruised for your iniquity.

Oh my friend, He is the Good Shepherd, and He said: 'I am the Good Shepherd who giveth His life for the sheep'. Just as the apostle Paul met Onesimus in prison in all his need, and negotiated through this letter with Philemon a reconciliation with his master, Jesus can say tonight that He loves you. Just as Paul wrote to Philemon and said in verse 9: 'This is for love's sake', that's what the cross was about! For love of you, my friend! Paul says: 'I have begotten this slave in bonds in prison. I have been bound', my friend, Christ begot you in bonds as He was crucified - what do you think He was doing? Just dying for a cause, or as a martyr, or as a reformer, or as a founder of a religion? Do you know what He was doing? He was working out your salvation. Oh to God, that you would see it tonight, so that He could come and bring you to God, having cleansed all your sin in His precious blood, and say to God - just as Paul said to Philemon: 'Receive Onesimus as you would receive me'.

What do you think He was doing? Just dying for a cause, or as a martyr, or as a reformer, or as a founder of a religion? Do you know what He was doing? He was working out your salvation!

Do you know what God has done in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the sacrifice for your sins? He has made it possible for you to be cleansed, He has made it possible for you to be brought to God and received into heaven just like Jesus! Did you hear that? Though your sins be as scarlet, Jesus says: 'If you believe in me, you'll be received just like I am in heaven'. Do you want to get to heaven one day? That's wracked your mind and your brains, you can't even sleep for thought of where you'd be if you die - my friend, if you're in Christ, you're in Christ forever. In verse 15 Paul says you can receive Him forever - you'll be saved forever! Oh my friend, can you not grasp what the Shepherd can give you tonight? In verses 18 and 19 Paul says: 'If he has wronged you, put it on my account, I will repay it'. That's what the Lord Jesus did for you, my friend. We sang:

'He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone'.

He wrote a letter in the red ruby blood of His own veins, in order that it could go to God and God could read it and say: 'The sacrifice for sins has been made, the debt has been paid, paid in full by the blood of the Lamb'. Oh my friend, that you would grasp it tonight, there's no reason why you should die and go to hell, there's no reason why you should sit in sin's misery and the darkness of your natural mind and heart - you can be freed, you can be delivered and you can become one of the family of God!

In verse 16, sure isn't that what Paul says: 'Receive him as a brother in the Lord'. Are you one of God's family? Maybe I'm talking to somebody tonight, and to talk about a father is a negative thing. You have not had a good experience of a father. Maybe your father has beaten you. My friend, this Father, this Heavenly Father won't beat you, He'll bless you. Maybe you have had an absent father, you never knew him, and you resent it. My friend, this is an all-sufficient Father who'll never leave you or forsake you. Whether 'father' may conjure up bad things in your mind, don't superimpose those images onto God's personality - He is your Heavenly Father, He loves you, and He sent His Son to die for you that you might be cleansed, forgiven and saved. That is the grace of God, it's the story of grace - that's why grace is mentioned in verse 3 and in the last verse, 25 - it's all about grace! Though your sins be as scarlet, they can be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they can be as wool.

Are you an Onesimus tonight? You're all Onesimus' if you're without Christ, because we've all turned to our own way. Are you a prodigal son or daughter, or father or mother, or husband or wife? Are you a backslider? Oh, do you not see that God is speaking to you tonight? Maria - I've told this story before, it doesn't matter to me - Maria and her daughter Christina lived in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of a Brazilian village. Maria's husband had died when the wee girl, Christina, was an infant. She never ever remarried, and times were tough, and eventually Christina became old enough that she was able to get the job, and Maria hoped that it would help the household. But Christina used to go on and on about going into the city, and she dreamed of trading the dusty neighbourhood that she lived in for the exciting avenues of the city life. Just the thought of that used to horrify her mother, she knew exactly what Christina would have to do, the depths that she would have to go to to survive in the city. It broke her heart when one morning she went into the bedroom to waken her, and she was horrified to find that she wasn't there. Her daughter's bed was empty. She wanted to deny the thought, but she knew right away were she had headed. Quickly Maria threw a few clothes into a bag and she gathered all the money she had, and she ran out of the house, and on her way to the bus stop she stopped at the chemist for one last thing. She sat in the little photo booth and 'click, click, flash, flash', over again and again and again, she took as many little black and white pictures of herself as she could afford, and she shoved them all into her purse and got on that bus.

Are you a prodigal son or daughter, or father or mother, or husband or wife? Are you a backslider? Oh, do you not see that God is speaking to you tonight?

Maria knew that Christina had no way of earning money, and she knew that Christina was a stubborn girl, and therefore when pride meets hunger, a human being will do things that before were unthinkable - because of that, Maria began to search for her. She went to the bars, she went to the hotels, she went to the nightclubs and the brothels - any place of reputation for street walkers or prostitutes, she went to them all. In each place she left a little black and white photograph of herself. She taped them to bathroom mirrors, to hotel bulletin boards, she fastened it to the corner of telephone booths, and on the back of each photograph she wrote a little note. When the money had ran out and the pictures were all gone, she got back on that bus and she went home. A few weeks later the young Christina descended the stairs of a dingy hotel. Her young face was tired, her dreams had become a nightmare, but as she reached the bottom of the stairs her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked, and at the corner of the hotel lobby mirror, there was a small black-and-white picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned, and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. She turned it over, and written on the back was a compelling invitation: 'Whatever you've done, whatever you've become, it doesn't matter - please come home' - and she did. Will you?

Let us pray. If God has been speaking to your heart tonight, don't resist Him, don't harden. He has been catching up on you, I know, and people's prayers are being answered even in this place tonight in a way that you could never have imagined. But it's time for you to surrender, stop resisting, it's time to give up, you've found there is nothing in this world to satisfy you - what you're missing out on is Christ, and you'll never be satisfied until you have Him. The danger is that you'll run too long. If you hear His voice tonight, harden not your heart. Backslider, it's time you came back to Christ. People sometimes say: 'I don't know if it's the right time or not' - it's always the right time, for He's always seeking the sheep that is lost! That's a lie of the devil, you need to put that out of your head and come to Him tonight. Whatever your circumstances are, come to the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. Why not say: 'Lord', as your head is bowed, from your heart, 'Lord, I'm a sinner and I confess my sin, and I repent of it. I'm willing to turn from it if You give me the power to turn from it. I thank You that Jesus died for my sin, and because of that I ask You to save me, save me now, for Jesus' sake, Amen'.

Oh Father, we pray that prodigals, lost sheep will come into the fold this evening, to the glory of Christ we pray. Bless our time together in fellowship, and those who will remain behind for counselling, bring them through to the Saviour. We thank You for the blessing of this building, but we thank You more for the Gospel that we're privileged to preach in it - and may it be preached ever from this pulpit, to the glory of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

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Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
April 2006

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Philemon" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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