From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Just a little bit of humor as we start...
Over the last several weeks and months we have been dealing with the attitudes and perspectives that "people of faith" develop in order to truly enjoy the "new life" (Galatians 2:20-21) we have in Christ. I enjoy this kind of ministry, because, although we are saved by God's grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, it's really good and proper to examine those aspects of living that eventually give us ease (as well as elbow-room) to be able to live our lives extravagantly and thereby, make choices we need to, in accord with God's will. We always need to "work on" the faith aspect of our lives. As James Joyce would suggest, "Knock your 'sconce' (head) up against it, but go easy..."
Some folks have suggested these weekly messages should mainline "focus" upon some of the pressing American and international issues, such as:
We really enjoy the fellowship we have with those who have come to faith recently---those who have begun to live their lives in God. These folks try very hard to live a good life, free from addictive and negative attitudes. Yet, they struggle at times because as people of faith we live a faith-centered, alternative life-style. Being a genuine Christian makes us essentially different, and yet, nonetheless, attractive to others. Therein lies the rub. We need Often, it may not be noticed at first, but eventually, others are able to recognize that "soul" regenerated by Jesus.
We don't live or hope the way others do. In addition, we prefer to live in the presence of those who inspire us by their graciousness, their knowledge of the interpretation of Scripture, their ability to fellowship graciously, and their seemingly natural good habits in life. We envy them and choose freely to emulate them. Trust me, those who have these qualities have worked on them. These qualities are supernatural, and yet, we, as a fallen humanity, can attain to them. The people who know Jesus don't actively seek, per se, to become richer or better than others. They know they are living the most rewarding life a person can ever live. It has nothing to do with how much money you make, or where you live, or what you own.
It is interesting to me that some church fellowships these days offer alternative incentives for participation. They teach a "good news" foreign to genuine Christianity. Authentic followers in Christ Jesus surrender themselves to Him unconditionally. As Christ gave himself for us unconditionally on the cross, we surrender our lives to him, and accept the life (and fullness thereof) He has promises to give to us. I have learned that, in Jesus, things only get better. The genuine Christian has an understanding.
Saint Paul expresses it this way,
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength and God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:12-13, 19)
This is the understanding...
As we turn further into the text of the New Testament, Saint Paul makes a comment that is as shocking as it is life-giving. At least, it certainly changed my life:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me...the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20.
LIVE WITH DIVINE ASSURANCE
Finally, I got it...the life I could've been living...no matter how desirable by worldly standards...was not meant for me...I now have a higher calling for my life...
This is has become a theology for my life and yours that is named "a theology of the cross". Within that understanding, I live a normal life, but that life is sufficient for me. It isn't necessarily easier or more glamorous. It may at times seem downright miserable for others as they look upon me. (Here I am thinking about Job!). However, I know this is the life that God has ordained for me. It is satisfactory for me. I am who I should and need to be. I have put the former life I've lived...behind me...for the one I now cherish. I have died to the compulsion of those human impulses that would give me false hope, false security, and unhealthy, inappropriate standards in life. I agree with Saint Paul Romans 8:28 "..all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.."
Let's go back to Job to take a "Spiritual Barometer Reading" at this point. Are you simply a mere religious person impressed only by the way the church building looks, or by the way the choir sings, or by the way the pastor of the church preaches...or are you obviously a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ possessing a genuine mindset of faith. Can you say with Job (Job 13:15) "...even though He were to slay me, yet I will praise Him..."
This is the bottom line of faith...all else is fluff...[and it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen to you or me that way].
This past week I came across an article in a well-known magazine that listed fifty mega-church evangelists in the United States who, according to the article, preach what is called "a theology of glory". The suggestion is...if you give generously to the ministry of the mega-church...God will bless you with extraordinary "things" (items) in life you normally wouldn't have, if you didn't give. Among these well-known evangelists, one of the most wealthy earns a mere $150,000,000 a year...another is worth $760,000,000. You probably know who they are. None of these fifty preachers have earned less than (on the average) $20,000,000. [Charles Stanley and John MacArthur are not included in this list...Praise God!] Many members of these churches discover that even though they "give and give", they still don't see that Lexus on the horizon....and for that reason...figure that Christianity is not meant for them. I'm going to pass (reluctantly) on judging these fifty evangelists, but I want to emphasize what the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ is and what our commitment to Him must be. On the surface, for many, the true Gospel is not attractive, or attractive enough, but I'm going to be Calvinist enough to say, that Yahweh, our Lord God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a very jealous God and He will single out the person He wants for His Eternal Kingdom. That person is you. How much the Father loves and wants only the very best for you, because you are so dear to him.
God sees you as a person of extremely great value and He wants you to be completely forgiven of all your sins and to live forever. When He knocks on the door of your heart be sure to recognize Him and let Him come in---to bless you---and grant to you the great promises of Christ!
PRAY IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS PRAYER
God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, "Yes". Sometimes He says, "No". Sometimes He says, "Let's Do My Way".
If you happen to be "a person with a mindset of faith---who has been worrying about a loved one, or another who has been living a miserable life, sick or otherwise, or living a destructive life-style---and you have been feeling powerless to be able to intervene in a constructive way---Please stop worrying---Please stop being overly concerned. Do not be burdened, except for the light burden we've been given to do God's will by taking all concerns to God in prayer. Remember, the Lord loves it when we call upon his name. He is faithful. He is just. He is trustworthy.
Please seriously consider the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 14:12,14: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing...I will do whatever you ask in my name...you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
LEARN ANEW HOW TO PRAY
Pray for that person without ceasing. Pray with assurance---not "IF it be thy will"---rather, be certain that his will is going to be done...and yet...you are making the request in Jesus' name. Rest in that assurance. Trust that Jesus will be good for his word. Pray that that special person will be saved from discouragement and despair...and given new and abundant life...