by Johan du Preez
(Roodepoort, South Africa)
Welcome & notices
God our father, Creator and Provider, it is with joy that we thank You for being able to meet once again in Your house and in Your presence.
The New year has arrived and we are looking forward to spending it with You, Your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
We think of those who are unable to join us tonight.
Fill us anew with your spirit, so that we can experience Your joy, Your Love and Your Grace.
Lord God, as the Psalmist wrote, we can find JOY in You. You personally wipe away our tears and lift our spirits …. And we thank you for that.
Lord Jesus, we intercede tonight for all people who do not call on Your Name, your Holy name, as their Rock of Salvation and we ask You Holy Spirit, to work in their hearts, soften their hearts to hear Your calling…..
And also then to open the doors of their hearts, to invite You in and also experience Your joy. We ask for wisdom and health in 2012.
We pray all of this in the Almighty name of Jesus Christ.
A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day, when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet.
He couldn't hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something.
HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? "HELP!"
He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?"
"Yes, yes! I can hear you. I'm down here!"
"I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?"
"Yes, but who are you, and where are you?
"I am the Lord, Jack. I'm everywhere."
"The Lord? You mean, GOD?"
"God, please help me! I promise if, you'll get me down from here, I'll stop sinning. I'll be a really good person. I'll serve You for the rest of my life."
"Easy on the promises, Jack. Let's get you off from there; then we can talk."
"Now, here's what I want you to do. Listen carefully."
"I'll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do."
"Okay. Let go of the branch."
"What?" "I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go."
There was a long silence.
Finally Jack yelled, "HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?"
Although this looks at faith in a lighter way, it is quite serious and should not be taken lightly.
• We want to believe that Jesus is our Savior.
• We want to believe He was born in this world as the Son of our Father in Heaven.
• We want to believe He came to earth to teach us how to return to our Father in Heaven.
• We want to believe He loves us.
• We want to believe He suffered for our sins so we can repent and not have to be punished for them.
• We want to believe He died and was resurrected.
• We want to believe that His teachings are true.
• We want to believe that if we obey Jesus we can return to live with our Father in Heaven.
• We want to walk with God on water, we want to dance, but….
We preach a gospel of faith. The faith that God gives us power to live in radically new ways, loving ways. That Christian life is something more than just mere appearance. But for many people, their experience of Christians doesn't really reflect that kind of faith. It doesn't seem that our lives are really that different than the problem-laden, lie-infected culture around us.
So, what is Christian Faith?
Faith is trusting God. It is living in a relationship with God that is motivated and sustained by one’s conviction that God does keep his word. Faith is believing that God keeps his promises and then accepting his grace from Jesus, his Son.
Faith is living in this relationship of trust moment by moment in accord with God’s will. Both God’s grace and faith are His gifts to those who believe.
An example of faith
There is a common and familiar story about a group of spectators who watched a high-wire aerialist push a wheelbarrow full of bricks, back and forth, on a cable above Niagara Falls. When the aerialist asked if anyone in the crowd believed that he could do this with someone in the wheelbarrow, a man said, “yes, I believe that you could do that.” The aerialist then invited the man to, “Get in.”
Faith is accepting the invitation to get into the wheelbarrow.
Faith is trusting in the goodness of God
God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed, only requiring from them that they trust him with the exclusive authority and power, to determine in their existence what would be good and what would be evil.
Sin broke the relationship of faithful trust, but God in his love, didn’t leave humanity alone
The Bible (hold it up!) is the record of God’s ongoing efforts to restore this relationship that he intended with his human creatures. It relates over and over again His calls, His invitations, to human beings to trust Him, to have faith in His word, and to accept His good gift of grace and His good will.
The Bible includes the stories of Noah,
"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith."
The first result of Noah' s faith was that he "...prepared an ark...' This act involved tremendous faith on behalf of Noah.
Hebrews:11:8 "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going."
Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, John the Baptist,Mary and Joseph,The disciples, including Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Timothy and of course Jesus Christ Himself, – all had faith, trusting and believing in the goodness of God.
Throughout His Word, God demonstrates time and time again, His loving desire to bless and to care for those who will trust Him, who will live in a relationship of faithful submission to His good will and care.
Faith in Jesus brings one back into a good relationship with God
This relationship is restored when a person believes:
•that God offers him/her, even though he/she is a rebellious sinner, the gift of a blessed relationship with Him
•if he/she will have faith in His word and trust Him by acknowledging that his Son, Jesus, is Lord, God in human flesh, and in repentance from his/her sinful rebellion accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice when He was crucified on a cross.
Paul covers this topic of the connection between faith and repentance in Romans chapters 4–8.
God is saying to his sinful human creatures, if you want to live in a good relationship with me, have faith in me, trust me that I can and will bring you back into a joyous and providential relationship with me as you believe upon my Son, Jesus, and accept his sacrifice for your sins.
Like the aerialist on the cable above the chaos of Niagara Falls, God offers his challenging invitation for an amazing personal experience of his loving and good; care, by saying in effect, “If you really believe me and trust me or have faith in me, get into my wheelbarrow, and let me transport you above the chaos, and I’ll even give you the faith”. But there is a challenging rule that comes into play here. It is this: if you do not trust me enough to accept my invitation, then you will not be able to experience the benefits that you claim to believe that I am offering you. Belief has to be expressed in active faithful obedience or it will not bring you the experience.
Accepting God’s invitation in faith is extremely good. Not only will it deliver you from being separated from God by your sin and death, but it will also enable you to live as a forgiven sinner who has been cleansed by the righteousness of Jesus, God’s Son
Sharing such faith with others in daily demonstrations of trusting God, testifying to the goodness of his will and the dependability of his promises, can have extensive and everlasting blessings to you and to those with whom you share your faith.
The ride of “faith” in God’s “wheelbarrow” should not be a passive experience in which one just enjoys God’s thrilling blessings.
Jesus has work that he wants to accomplish through you as he transports you above and through the “chaos” that you encounter in life.
• There are hungry men, women, and children that need to be fed and clothed.
• There are the sick and broken that need to be healed and visited.
• There are those who are “lost”, perhaps members of your family and friends, engulfed by the chaos around them, that need to hear and to see your “witness” regarding what God and Jesus can do when one has “faith” in God's goodness and his victorious power.
• There are your “enemies” that need to be forgiven.
• God and Jesus need to be glorified by what others see happening in your life as Jesus transports you through the chaos of this “battlefield” in which we all live. And they will be glorified as you resist the temptation to be constantly “turning around” trying to tell “the aerialist” (the Lord) how to do what only he can do, or the more serious action of taking over the “handles” yourself.
This is what the Christian faith is all about. This is the fundamental Christian ministry, sharing the good news of Jesus’ redemption of sinful humanity. This is why Christianity is not a religion of rules and rituals, but rather a life of personal faith in God and a daily walk of surrender and trust in union with him and Jesus.