A message to my local church in rural Ontario given to the fellowship on May 5, 2019.

We have a problem in the church.  We have been settling for less than God’s best for us.  Why are we doing that?  What is the best that God has for us? And how do we get back on track?

salvationGod’s best for us is salvation, the  assurance of our salvation, relationship with and trust in Him, abundant life which includes peace, joy and healing, and the empowering as His disciples to continue His works – in even greater measure.  John 3:16, 17 proclaims; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”    That is Good News – we can be born again into eternal life by believing in Jesus.  Now, here comes the part that is surprising and sad. Many of us only hope we are saved and we live like it. If I asked you this morning, are you saved, would your answer be yes, no, or I hope so? [i]  Believing means trusting in our salvation and until we do – we’re an ‘almost Christian’ according to John Wesley who admitted this heart condition even as an ordained clergyman. [ii]

Only the Holy Spirit’s testimony in you can give you that assurance.  If you don’t have it how do you get it?  John Wesley says keep asking God until He assures you! [iii] The Bible says; “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”(Romans 8:16)  Without that belief and trust, we have no faith.  That leaves us in a serious religious predicament; “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)  If we can’t fully believe and aren’t assured for salvation then we aren’t even trusting in half of the Gospel – the salvation half!  And there’s more!

What is the more?  Abundant life here and now!  The devil tries to draw us away from abundant life with distractions, worries, aches and pains (real and imagined).  Jesus is clear; “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10)  It is God’s desire that we live in abundance of joy, health and relationship.  He promised!    How many of us struggle through life dying to go to heaven so we can at last experience Jesus’ promises?

Isaiah prophesied the full Gospel; “But He was wounded  for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5)  Salvation and healing – it’s a package deal!  Jesus declared Himself to be the One Isaiah was prophesying about (Luke 4:18, 21)  They didn’t believe Him then; they couldn’t see Jesus’ as the Son of God; “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)   Jesus is who He says He is!  If we don’t believe Him we won’t ever trust Him.  If we don’t trust Him – we don’t really believe His Word even if we can quote Him.  Our trust issues hamper the Holy Spirit’s witness us.

Are you experiencing the Holy Spirit’s assurance that you are His?  And if so, is trust flowing from this assurance into your daily  life and well-being?  Jesus saved and healed all who came to Him.  He sent His disciples out to heal and preach the Gospel.  (Luke 10:1,9,10)   What about us?  Aren’t we His disciples too?

What’s He promised us?  Jesus gave us a powerful promise; “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you  ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  (John 14:12-14)  That’s a promise!  Do we believe Him?  He said it but do we TRUST Him?

We have another, Who will help us trust Jesus.  Jesus sent Him to us; “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17)   Do you see Him? Do you know Him?  Is He in You?  If it’s yes to these questions, we can walk and live in trust, that will grow stronger day by day – building your working faith as your body and soul prospers (3 John 1:2) Every Christian is equipped to live an abundant life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Sadly, not every Christian walks in this Spirit.

So that’s the best Jesus has for us – a life of overcoming, full assurance and health.  Why the disconnect from our reality and Jesus’ promises? Belief, faith and motive often fall short. Many at their best are converted (saved by faith) but they aren’t disciples learning to  live by the power of that faith.  That’s why we are living with less.

How do we get back on track?  Most of us want the healings, want the miracles, want the gifts, and want the overcoming but how much of an investment into growing our faith are we willing to make?  Are we rooted in God’s Word on a daily basis.  Let’s take a look at the parable of the sower and apply it to ourselves as a congregation.  When God’s Word takes root into a person’s heart then it grows into  a crop. Jesus said; “But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”  (Mark 4:20)  We know these people by the abundance of joy, hope and peace in their lives- They prosper.

What happens if God’s Word falls on stony ground; “. . . they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”  (v. 16,17)  Do you depend on others for prayer because you just don’t know His Word.  Do you receive prayer and encouragement with gladness but then go home and begin to doubt never bothering to read God’s promises for yourself? This was me at the start of my Christian journey.  There were a lot of stones in the soil of my heart that had to be worked out and cast aside.

What about where the Word takes root but gets crowded out; “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (v.18,19)  How much time do you spend reading God’s Word and studying it for yourself? When was the last time you attended a midweek Bible study or got together with other believers to check out scripture or watch a teaching together on TV? For many years as a churchman, I looked good and played the part but my trust was in the world along with my concerns and anxieties as I built my career and life.  God was squeezed out and there was very little trust in Jesus.  I walked in the way of the world not with the Spirit.getotknow_ret

You can’t believe what you don’t know.  You can’t trust Jesus if you don’t have a relationship with Him (visiting Him once a week for an hour – doesn’t built relationship)  If you don’t trust Jesus you have no working faith.  If Jesus is only your ‘go to’ in times of trouble or frustration when things aren’t going your way your motives are selfish (James 4:3).

How do we get back on track to a victorious fruitful Christian life? In one word  – START.  Start reading His Word regularly.  Start building a relationship with Him every day.  Start seeking out Christian fellowship that strengthens your commitment to Jesus.  Start trusting Him even we don’t see or feel Him working. – Start

[i] Our great Rev. John Wesley, an ordained minister in the Anglican Church just prior to his missionary trip to America in 1735 didn’t think he was saved.  He confided in a letter; “My chief motive is the hope of saving my own soul.  I hope to learn the true sense of the gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen. . . “ John Wesley, Basil Miller, p.41 ?

ii John Wesley,  http://soundliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/The-Almost-Christian-Wesley-Whitefield.pdf

[iii] John Wesley tells us  plainly; “But  cry unto him day and night, who, ‘while we were without strength, died for the ungodly,’ until thou knowest in whom thou hast believed, and canst say, ‘My Lord, and my God!’ Remember, ‘always to pray, and not to faint,’ till thou also canst lift up thy hand unto heaven, and declare to him that liveth for ever and ever, ‘Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.’” John Wesley, http://soundliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/The-Almost-Christian-Wesley-Whitefield.pdf)