We need today to be reminded that the Kingdom of God does not consist of rituals, works or any outward observances of any kind or manner. The Kingdom of God consists of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This kingdom, moreover, is a gift of God, not a human accomplishment. Its foundation is the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ on Calvary. It was carried forward by the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The disciples before Pentecost were only disciples. They tried to follow Jesus and His teachings as best they could, but they did not know true faith. It was only at Pentecost that they were truly made Apostles. At that time, each of them experienced the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that time, each of them was emboldened by the Holy Spirit to bear witness of Christ in public.
Whereas previously they were disciples of the One whom they saw as the Messiah of Israel, now they were ambassadors and heralds of the risen Christ. Instead of seeking faith that is a dead work of the law, they now had the faith that empowers and redeems. Previously they had the faith of servants, now they had the faith of sons of the Living God. Previously they were plagued by timidity and fearfulness, now they were ready to die for the sake of their Master and Savior.
Faith includes intellectual assent, but its essence is a personal relationship with the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. It consists, basically, in a living union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. True faith means being before doing – being in the favor of God before doing the will of God. It means being grasped by the Spirit of God. It is an opening of our inward eyes to the reality of God’s incomparable love poured out for sinners in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus
Yet, faith is not an almighty action of the Holy Spirit on the soul, it is also in our action in the power of the Spirit as we are sent forth into the world as witnesses and ambassadors of Christ. Faith entails both radical passivity and radical activity. Luther once observed: “Faith … is a living, busy, active, mighty thing … so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly.”
The deficiency found in many churches today is an empty formalism or barren biblicism, either of which degenerates into an oppressive legalism. Other churches that seem more vital are plagued by perfectionistic enthusiasm or frantic activism that borders on humanism. What is needed is a recovery – a revival – of the depth and breadth of Apostolic faith.
A revival must start in the heart of one individual – me. Each believer, with God, can work the miracle of revival – ‘Breaking up the fallow ground’ only in their own heart and life – then God can use that person to spread His revival to the world!
It is imperative that we bear in mind that Jesus Christ is not just a moral ideal or prophetic genius – He is a LIVING SAVIOR. He is not simply the human representative of God, but God Himself in human flesh. It is not enough to know the historical facts about the life of Christ, how He lived and died, each person must know that Jesus died for them personally!
True faith does not consist of imposing our views on others, but in sharing the light given to us. In our evangelistic task we must not approach others with any pretension to greater virtue or intellectual acumen. Instead, we present ourselves as fellow sinners whose eyes have been opened both to the gravity of the human predicament and to the reality of God’s unconditional grace and love. The word that we proclaim stands in judgement over our lives as well as the lives of our hearers. We are beggars telling others where they can get food. As “fishers of men” we are instrumental in advancing the Kingdom of God, but it is not through our cleverness that people are won to Jesus Christ; our task is simply to let down the net of the Gospel. As the vehicle of the Spirit, the Gospel itself brings in souls for the kingdom. (Luke 5:2-10)
This is not to imply that Christians should never use apologetic arguments in defense of the faith, but our purpose in doing so is not to induce a decision of faith. (Only the Spirit does that through the preaching of the Word.) Rather, our aim is to intensify the hunger for faith in the human soul and to help those who already believe to better understand their own faith. We can show the intellectual relevance of our faith by argumentation, but faith’s concrete relevance to the human condition can be grasped only by those whose minds have been touched by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Our witness is not to some “zapping” peak experiences of the sacred, but to the incursion of the sacred into the secular which we see in Jesus Christ.
Our appeal is not to external evidences for the faith but to evidences that faith itself provides:
o The empty tomb.
o The transformed lives of the disciples.
o The interior witness of the Holy Spirit.
In carrying out the evangelistic mandate, we must bear in mind that Holy Scripture is its own best interpreter, that is to say, Scripture illumined by the Spirit of God, its author. Holy Scripture in the hands of Spirit directed believers is sufficient to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
We should never confuse religion with techniques for cultivating spirituality or programs of church growth. It is God who gives the increase, though it is up to us to plant the seed. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) Our responsibility is to hear the Word and then share the Good News. We can serve the Kingdom of God, but we cannot build it. The kingdom is a gift from God that can only be received with thanksgiving and gratefulness.
There is a difference between believing that Christ is the Savior of humankind in general and coming to know Him as one’s own Savior. Faith, understood as an interior awakening to the glory and meaning of the cross, is a gift of God. It is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. If we do not have this kind of faith, let us seek it. Let us pray for it as the Apostles did. (Luke 17:5) The key to discipleship is given by our Lord:
“Ask, and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” (Mathew 7:7)
True faith is inseparable from the experience of divine holiness and divine love. Sometimes that experience will take dramatic form, such as when the apostle Paul was lifted up into the ‘third heaven.’ (2 Corinthians 12:2) Yet those who have such experiences do not dwell on them. People of faith are not spiritual exhibitionists, but heralds and ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Living on a ‘religious high’ is not serving the glory of God and advancing his kingdom. John the Baptist furnished the model of true spirituality and faith when he declared: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Humility such as this is an indispensable mark of authentic piety. No one can be confronted by the Holy God without having a poignant sense of one’s own creatureliness and sinfulness. (Isaiah 6:1-5) What shows us the depth of our sin and the magnitude of God’s grace is not just an awareness of God as the Holy One, (which all people have to some degree) but the knowledge of the Holy Love of God reflected in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Humility is the key to the love of other human beings for God and for one another. Proud people cannot love, because love means to be emptied of self and dedicated to the glory of God and the welfare of his creatures.
The cardinal evidence of true faith is works of self-giving love which are visible to the world as shown in Mathew 7:20, John 13:35 and other scriptures. Such works, however, are not visible to those who do them, for the focus of the faithful doer is never on their deeds (to which they are more likely oblivious) but on Christ and His great, completed work of Atonement.
The essence of true religion, the righteousness of faith, is known only to God. True faith will be manifested in fruits, but before we can bear fruit we must be rooted in Christ, engrafted into Him. We must be born again from above by the Holy Spirit. (John 1:12-13, 3:5-8, 1 Peter 1:3)
Let each and every one of us, today, make the commitment to be His servant and to seek the knowledge of His Grace and Mercy. Let us become the vessels of His workings in this world. Let us have the richness in our hearts. Let us have FAITH that will set us apart from the world and that will make the world want to know more about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
WOMAN CALLS EMERGENCY SERVICES TO SOLVE CROSSWORD
A woman from Grevenbroich, Germany, called the country’s emergency services in 2009 because she was stuck for the answer to a crossword clue. Petra Hirsch explained: “I had finished the crossword except for this one answer and I was totally stumped. I had looked all over the Internet and asked friends. It was really bothering me. The clue was for the full name of a police border protection unit, so I thought they would not mind helping and I called the hotline – but they were really rude. All I wanted was a bit of help and it would only have taken them a second to tell me the answer, but instead I got told to get off the line.” A police spokesman said: “It is called an emergency number for a reason – to deal with emergencies. Crossword solutions are not an emergency.”