Michael Ramsden. Evangelists Conference.
He was converted as a child, while living in Cyprus. Knew he would have to give up everything for Christ. He loved the Bible immediately. They asked at the first Bibel study, ‘If God could give you one thing what would you want?’
His reply: “I would want to be an evangelist.” Always knew that’s what he was called and appointed to.
But there can be a performance mentality, and being judged by numbers. Retreated from that – a turning point came when he was preaching in South Africa, and at a golf club a business man had arranged an evening meal. Hoping for 60 people to come – 137 came. There were more non Christians than Christians. Afrikaans high class business types. Someone came up to him and told him the meeting was a mistake, they would not be receptive.
And that experience happened when there was complete silence to all his points, and his heart was sinking! Cold sweat! But then at the end he gave an invitation. Then cards were offered for a response.
A to E. Grade it – A = one of the best sermons you have ever heard
E = the worst. Uh-oh!
Then there were various responses. From ‘I became a Christian.’ To ‘Never invite me to an event again.’
Afterwards he was wrecked. Couldn’t sleep.
730am next day the organiser rang. He dreaded answering the phone!
46 people ticked box A – ‘I gave my life to Jesus.’
48 people ticked box B – ‘I want to go to the Bible study.’
4 ticked box E.
Weeks on, loads from box B became Christians. 2 from box E did too.
Resolved therefore… to always give people the opportunity, no matter how I feel. My feelings are not a strong basis to operate this ministry from!
It’s about trust. Trusting God.
But many Christians are not sure if they can morally trust God.
Non Christians like Dawkins would say our God is morally abhorrent. (The cross is abusive).
If you can’t know God is trustworthy – you can’t trust him.
Cf Jonah. The whole city was saved. Remarkable, you’d think that was encouraging? Mass salvation of an enemy nation. How does the preacher feel?
Chapter 4:1 – it displeased Jonah greatly – (literally gut wrenchingly exceedingly upset) and he was angry.
I sometimes get displeased that revival doesn’t come. Here it’s the other way round! Jonah hated the people he was preaching to, and he knew God was gracious and compassionate – the kind of God he was, is Jonah’s problem.
We can get angry and upset when we see people forgiven and restored. So, here’s the issue. We sometimes seem as if God’s schizophrenic: On one side loving and nice, or there’s fierce wrath.
We need to not set them in opposition to each other, but see them in the light of each other.
In Pride and Prejudice there is a scene where Mr Darcy says he loves her against his will, his better judgement and his character. (Unsurprisingly she rejects him!)
If there are some people who know you (everything- the real thing), YET they love you – those are the most valuable relationships. To be known warts and all – and loved.
True love does not exist in the absence of judgement – but in the presence of it – like in a marriage where as you get to know each other and in the face of flaws etc you healthily grow in depth, where there is love in the face of knowing you, when spoken by someone knows you.
God really knows you. Do you have emotional stability that comes from knowing that God loves you despite your flaws? (Doesn’t mean God is happy with them or that we should excuse them). He knows it.
God is not interested in covering things up. That’s not the path to true relationship.
Like when you say something stupid to a friend. Next day you go to them and apologise.
It’s great when they forgive you.
But if they say, “It’s nothing” – and walk away, and you know – it’s something! And now there is something between you. It’s not the same.
OR – we try to make up for it. We make a fuss. We serve in some way to earn the forgiveness rather than look at the problem. We no longer have real relationship. Covering up wrongdoing (in that sense) becomes a barrier to relationship.
The word Compassion – comes from ecclesiastical Latin. Means ‘With Passion.’ To make a moral judgement and be moved from the depth of your being to do something about it. You have compassion when you say, “That’s wrong – we have to DO something!”
God is a compassionate God, because he looks at the sin of the world and he is moved to step in, to go to a cross – not to cover our sins but to justify us by publicly dealing with it by God – who then seeks us out and offers us, as a gift, and then gives to us – salvation.
The message is nothing other than that while we were still sinners, he found us! He had already paid the price, he has moved! He knows exactly what we are like, and what was required. And he’s with us.
We hear the phrase, “God loves you” so much, it becomes meaningless.
God loves you because he knows who you are. He is not deluded.
I don’t have to pretend to be what I’m not, with God. He already knows! It’s not helpful for God for me to be transparent with him. It’s good for me.
It also gives me transparency with others. I know I have been forgiven – because he forgave me.
There is only one basis for me to be forgiven:
If I have done wrong to someone – I should not be able to say ‘I’m forgiven’ – except and unless the other party is willing to forgive, and offers it – and through repentance I have received that forgiveness.
If that’s the case, it is not arrogant for me to say, “I am forgiven.”
We are dependent on him, his promise. God has said it! It’s dealt with. So I can be secure, whatever other insecurities I might wrestle with.
Are you totally assured as to the character of God? Are you utterly sure of him?
Are you utterly sure he really means his words of love and assurance? That he has chosen, called and loved you? That’s the reality!
Are you prepared to fail on that basis?
The basis on which I know I can fail, is that I know it’s not about me. I do and can blow it. When preaching, it’s not about how many respond etc. I am okay of others reject me on the basis that God has accepted me.
We need confidence – to trust the God who transforms lives.
In all other worldviews God can be merciful, by passing over his justice. For us, it’s not at the expense of his justice, BOTH operate together.
He then gave a few examples from some difficult places and situations he has visited. Do you REALLY believe God can reach everyone? He’s still in that business. He can change anyone.
He shared a platform with Prof John Woodbridge. He was talking about the history of revival. Challenging seminars, kept on asking, “Do you believe God could do this today?” That in very secular and sceptical places, where there is no evidence that God’s moving right now – revival can happen!