Series: Gospel Truth
Sunday 8 January 2017 – Justus Swart
(Heb. 12:27-28); (Rev. 13:18); 1 John 3:16; Zeph. 3:17; (Rev. 3:16); Matt. 13:44-46; (Rom. 12:2); 1 Thess. 5: 16-18; Ps. 63:3
We spoke last year about changing seasons. The writer of Hebrews explains that everything that can be shaken will be shaken, so that only the unshakeable will remain (Heb. 12:27-28). All the changes are only to reveal that which is unshakeable, that which God wants to preserve for us as we move forward. God is after establishing that which is completely unshakeable. As we proceed in our transitional phase it is important to recognise that which will be shaken and that which will be utterly unshakeable, the things we cannot do without, the things that have to be a part of us, no matter where we are. What are our core values? What is it that makes us Christian and makes us have faith? What are these things that are utterly unshakeable in our lives?
The meaning of Selah: A musical interlude or pause for people to stop, pause and reflect. Sit down and actually think about God. Coming to church is not simply for receiving information but it is about having an encounter with God Almighty, the Divine Presence. If we lose that, we lose who we are.
- What is the gospel? How does it make me different? How does it bring transformation in my life? Does Christianity begin in Genesis with Adam and or does Christianity begin with the birth of Jesus? Does it begin when I am born or when I make my decision to follow Jesus? Where exactly is the inception of faith and salvation and Christianity? None of those are the answer otherwise we would be the reason for it being created. I am not very interested in worshipping a God that exists only because I made some mistakes. That is not what my faith is based on. The Bible clearly tells us that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:18). Before any of us came into being was the Word. Faith is not an answer to a crisis. It is not a quick fix to all of the issues in your life. Rather Christianity or faith at its origin and at its most quiet simplicity takes the form of a gift and it is just waiting to be unwrapped. The core of it is that it is a gift given to you before you had to do anything; before anything had to be done it was finished. Provision was made.
The gospel also being referred to as the good news, it is the meaning and core of your life, the very thing every human being longs and searches for. It is the fulfilment of all of your desires. It is purpose and it is grace and most of all, the gospel is life. It is not something you know, it is not something you read in your Bible, it is your very life, it is your soul rejoicing and existing for the full purpose of God. The most basic thing about the gospel is receiving what you do not deserve, because Jesus has made provision for you. Christianity is based on a Father’s love. It starts with love; it has love running throughout and it ends with God’s love fulfilling itself in us. This is how we know what love is when Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). I stand under His banner and His banner over me is love. It is easy to forget the wonders of Christ and all He has accomplished for us. Unless Jesus transforms you and is a part of your life, every teaching you hear will fall on deaf ears. Jesus Christ and He alone is your portion. Without a revelation of who Jesus is, you are just a moralist looking to do good deeds. Jesus is the “I am”, He is above all that. His love has made provision for everyone. I cannot close the door to anyone else. Many have fallen out of love with the Church because ministers have promised way too much. Many were promised prosperity, healing from all kinds of things, promised freedom from depression, freedom from anxiety, and those who deal with these problems day after day feel unwelcome and defective in some way. That is not the gospel. The gospel is seeking Jesus. There is no freedom outside of Jesus. You cannot ask for freedom outside of Jesus, you cannot ask for healing or money outside of Jesus. It does not work that way, that is not the gospel. If Jesus is not enough for you, you will never be satisfied with anything. An unhealthy hype was created around feelings and emotions. We are promised power and influence, we are promised a church that is going to take over the world. That is not the gospel. We have to remember where Jesus was born; having no room at the inn, He was born in a manger, where the animals stay. We lose track of the origin of the story, we think the Church is going to dominate the world with lights, cars or helicopters. The gospel in its simplicity is Jesus and nothing else. Could you be happy with Jesus and nothing else? The most amazing thing is God will never withhold anything from you. God loves you. If I am going to put my faith to work in anything I have to work to be at rest in His peace, I have to work to be at rest within this presence. When you look at this New Year and all it brings, can His presence be enough for you? The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17). You lack absolutely nothing. Thank about that.
- What does it mean to have a religious experience? Christians have had many religious experiences, whether it is in Church or worship, yet their lives lack the substance or evidence of a transformed life touched by Jesus. Many outside of Church are happy to call it a faceless divine; that is when you come into new age. New age people want to look at the world as being divine, creation as something to be respected and appreciated, but they will not recognise Jesus. There is danger in that. The concept of worship, honour, even the sacred is completely lost. Those who are agnostic or New Age are growing in number every day as their experience or ‘religious’ experience is one that allows them to get the perks without the sacrifice. This is known as cheap grace, which covers everything you have ever done. They never say, “Lord! Here I am send me”. Or as Samuel said, “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening”. Agnosticism is the vague awareness of the divine, avoiding any specific identification so as to include all religious experiences. Agnosticism is by far the most popular belief system as it is non-discriminatory against anyone else who says they had a religious experience. The term ‘religious experience’ has become so watered down and meaningless that people out there are saying they are having a religious experiences every second day. Each one is as valuable as the next. This is the tolerant approach and unfortunately it is the most intolerable approach in God’s eyes. Luke-warmness or standing in between is by far the most detestable thing in God’s eyes. That is the only thing God cannot be – luke-warm. God cannot associate with you, and God cannot connect with you in any way if you are lukewarm, because His presence does not recognise luke-warmness. “I will spew you from my mouth” (Rev 3:16). It is found in the Church very often.
When this happens the Church intervenes in the process of salvation. We freely distribute grace without the presence of God. There is only one true religious experience you can have and that is with a man named Jesus Christ. Anything else is but a cheap imitation. What does it look like for me to say that I had a religious experience with Jesus? Each one here will say something different. It speaks of God’s multiplicity and how intimately He deals with us. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field (Matt. 13:44). That in a nutshell is the definition of what it is like to have a religious experience with God. The only way one can truly respond to God and have a religious experience is to dedicate one’s self completely and wholly to God. There is no excuse on your lips or limitations waiting in the back of your mind. It is just complete and utter surrender to God, to hold nothing back from Him as He held nothing back from you. We are on this adventure in faith continuously seeking after God but there is more, it is not just a once off deal. The deal is this: His everything for your everything. Are you totally surrendered to God? Does God have all of you? Your attitude is that thing inside of you that filters and allows the whole world to come into your life. That is where the battle really is. Have you surrendered the voice in your heart to God? Have you given up your negative opinions about other people, about yourself, your country to God? Let go of all of these things and say, “God my attitude is based on how Your attitude was towards me.” Are you willing to re-think the way you feel about your neighbour? Are you willing to let go of all the excuses you have to be angry at someone, to be angry at God or be angry at life? Are you willing to release all the built up emotions you have because life is not looking the way you want it to? Does God have your total surrender within your life and in your attitude? Are you willing to re-think your outlook on how much money you earn? Are you willing to be happy with what you are given and what you have, whether it is a lot or a little, are you willing to be content with that? Have you surrendered your mind-set to God? (Rom 12:2). Are you living a life marked by gratefulness? Is that innermost attitude of your being?
(1 Thess. 5:16-18). The battle is won when God can say there is a grateful heart, somebody who dwells on the love of God for them, somebody who reflects continuously on the goodness of God and all He has done. Giving up material things is easy in comparison to surrendering your attitude to God; trusting Him in His timing to do what He needs to do is not easy. Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you (Ps. 63:3).