January 20, 2020
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The Crisis of Faith in the West – Michael Ramsden


>>I have maybe just a few points to make.
Now although as a child I was raised in Saudi Arabia and much of my ministry is outside
of the West, I have been asked to make a comment on the crisis of truth that we seem to face
within the West, and speak to the issue that the Archbishop has raised as to why is it
that the West is exporting the highest quality cynicism when it comes to the Gospel you could
possibly imagine. I know it’s not uniformly true, and there are many people from the West
who are here at this conference who do not, who do not do that, are doing the absolute
opposite but at the same time we have to realize that we have a struggle. And so we’ll now take a step down both in
the quality of depth, quality of oratory, and also of experience as you now have to
listen to me. And Archbishop is a man who has achieved a higher ecclesiastical rank
in the church than even Jesus did and I am humbled to have to follow one. One of the challenges we face is that for
many people, faith has become a psychological condition. Professor Umberto Eco recently
voted one of the, the most influential thinker, intellectual in Europe, has written many,
many books and indeed many novels. If you have not been bothered to read his novels,
you may have seen some of the films that have been produced out of his novels, like “Name
of the Rose.” In “Name of the Rose” the story is told of
clerics, Christian clerics who have a mystery that needs to be solved. They go in pursuit
of truth and reality. They are able to obtain truth and reality, and the longer they delay
in finding truth and reality, more lives will be lost. In his most recent novel, “Baudolino,”
it tells the story of a man, African man in Alexandria after the burning of the library
there who has to flee the great city in order to make money. He invents maps and documents
and letters about the hidden location of the holy grail and he then sells these fake maps,
letters and documents to other people. The novel ends with him heading off on a quest
to find the holy grail using the map that he himself forged. He is now so persuaded
of his own lie that he is living in light of it. He has psychologically persuaded himself
it is true, such is the nature and depth of his deception. And for many people who have
been exposed to the system of philosophy, it has completely under minded their confidence
in the nature of faith and the nature of truth. Now Becky asked me to speak particularly about
truth, but I have two problems. Os Guinness spoke this morning on truth. It
is very unfair. If a tongue of fire came down and landed on his head it could not have been
more powerful. Secondly, I am doing a dialogue session on truth tomorrow with one of my colleagues,
Amy. Let me just simply say this in relationship to that. We must understand there is a strong
connection between the nature of faith and truth. Now, when I first came to the West having
been raised all of my life in the East and I, no one had told me I couldn’t share the
Gospel and see people converted and I went around sharing the Gospel and people were
converted I was inoculated by ignorance. I didn’t know the Gospel didn’t work. I just
assumed what the Bible said was true and found it did work. But I can remember many people
would sometimes say to me, ‘Michael, I’m so that happy you are a Christian, I wish
I could believe what you believe but I can’t.’ Have you ever heard that? I heard it so many times, I thought what do
these people mean? This is what they mean. Michael, there seems to be a joy, this passion
in your life we have heard about, a completeness that I find enviable. I wish I could have
it. But the reason you have it is because of Jesus. You believe in something that isn’t
there. What do you call people who believe in things that don’t exist? Mad people. They
are saying Michael, you are insane. But the main thing is that you are happy and insane.
I am happy, that you are happy. I’m so desperate to be happy myself, I, too, would embrace
insanity just to join you. I wish I could, I’ve thought about it but I can’t. This
is not biblical faith. There are only two words, or there are two
words for faith in the Greek New Testament, I don’t have time to go into all of this with
you but if you are reading a translation every time you see the noun faith, it is always
a translation of the word from Greek pistis, from the derivative of to be persuaded. It
means that you are sure something is true and more importantly, there is a moral depth
and certainty about it. You can completely entrust yourself to it. You cannot put your
faith in a God who you believe isn’t there. And so if we have a crisis of confidence in
the truth, this is what Os Guinness was saying this morning, it is impossible to have a true
biblical faith, because we are no longer trusting in the God who is there. We are trusting in
our ability to trust in the God who was there. Faith becomes psychological. It is idolatrous.
We have faith in faith as opposed to faith in God and so we find ourselves uncertain
and we will never discover the boldness nor the trust in the power and provision of God
through the cross to see people, come to know him, unless we understand that the Gospel
is true. It is not true because you believe it to be true, it is not true because you
want it to be true. It is not true because you wish it to be true, it is true. Even if
you didn’t want it to be true, tough. It is true. I was speaking in this city, I’ll use this
example since we are in Cape Town, a few years ago. The meeting was hosted by one of the
most senior members of the board of the organization for which I worked, Ravi Zacharias International
Ministries. He set up a dinner here in Cape Town. He’s a very successful businessman.
His father was a very successful businessman. They actually own part of Wall Street. Which
if you are familiar with that piece of retail estate, is valuable even after the crash.
And if there are any American brothers and sisters here, let me say as an English person
how disappointed we are to see, that a rebellious nation like yours is recovering faster out
of your broken economy than ours is. But that’s another issue. But I remember speaking in this town and the
man who was hosting it said, ‘Michael, I am going to invite my friends to dinner. These
men are some of the most highly placed men and women in industry and financial services
in this nation. I don’t mind what you say to them. So long as you explain the Gospel
and you ask them to give their lives to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, it’s entirely up to you.’ I remember preparing that message, praying
over that message, I got to the venue early. We were praying for 60 people to come. 137
people came. The man hosting and I were talking about what would happen and a man came up
to me, he looked at me, he said, ‘Are you speaking?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This
meeting is a mistake.’ He said, ‘The people you are not talking to, these people are not
simple people. These are secularized, skeptical, men and women. They are white Afrikaners.
Many of them are of Jewish background. They are thoroughly secularized. They will not
hear the Gospel and give their lives to Jesus like that. It’s not the way it works. This
meeting is in more danger of doing harm than good.’ Exactly what you want to hear before
you preach. I looked at my host. He said, ‘I don’t care
what you say, so long as you ask people to give their lives to Jesus at the end.’ I
preached. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say it was possibly the worst message I have
ever preached. Now, some of you here are preachers. You know what it is to be in the flow of a
message and for it to almost carry you. You also know what it is to struggle in a message.
I don’t care how good you are. If you preach regularly, you would have experienced moments
in your life where it felt like it was a physical impossibility to continue. I remember I was
halfway through my message hoping Jesus would come back. It was terrible. We came to the end of the meeting. I remember
saying to myself well, I need to offer them to pray, to come to Jesus now. And I heard
a voice go off in my head that said ‘why bother?’ So, without any faith in my heart,
I wish I could say my faith rallied. I simply said, ‘I have explained the Christian Gospel
to you as clearly as I can. If it is possible that any of you have heard this and know you
need Christ, you understand that he is Lord, that he is Savior, that he died for you, that
he is alive, he’s paid the price for your sin, I would invite you to pray this prayer.’
I talked a little bit about repentance and faith and I bowed my head and I prayed. Now, I’m so glad about my Middle Eastern
origins, because my face was burning red but my color could hide it. I sat down at my table
and I felt like crying. My host stood up. He said, ‘On your table there are cards.
Please pick them up.’ He said, ‘There are also pens. Please take one.’ He said,
‘I would like you to write your name, your address, and your phone number on the card.’
He said, ‘Underneath you will see there are five boxes running horizontally across
the card. A to E. I would like you to grade the message you heard today, A, being excellent.
E, being terrible.’ He said, ‘Underneath that, there are five vertical boxes. Labeled
1 to 5. Number 1 says I gave my life to Jesus Christ for the first time today. Number 2,
I’m not ready to become a Christian, I would like to join a Bible study to find out more.’
I can’t remember what 3 and 4 were, the last one stuck in my mind. Option 5, never invite
me to an event like this again. He said, ‘I invited you here, you are my friends. I’m
glad to buy you dinner but if you are telling me that this is it, I really don’t want to
keep bothering you over and over.’ By the time I got home we were in a rented
house in Hout Bay, if any of you are from this area, you know where it is, and this
meeting was held in Constantia, actually not in Constantia, I think it’s Steenberg Golf
Estate, and I drove back. I finally got home. My wife woke up, she said, ‘How did it go?’
And I said, ‘Terrible.’ She said, ‘How bad?’ I said, ‘Terrible.’ I couldn’t sleep. 4:00 a.m. was the last time
I looked at my watch. Before I fell asleep I said to my wife, ‘When this guy rings
in the morning, I can’t speak to him. Will you take a message for me?’ Three hours
later she woke me up. He’s on the phone, he wants to speak to me, he will not give me
a message. I came to the phone, I remember, I felt like crying. He said ‘Michael, no doubt you want to know
what happened last night.’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and felt convicted for lying. He said, ‘Well,
you may be encouraged to know that 47 people ticked box one, I gave my life to Jesus Christ
today.’ He said ‘48 people ticked box 2. I would like to join a bible study group.’
There were 137 people there, Christians bringing their non-Christian friends. He said, ‘I
think most of the people in the room, we got them.’ Now, at this point I didn’t care
about the other boxes. Box 5, by the way, had 6 ticks in it. Never invite me to this
again. I learned an important lesson that day. The
Gospel is not about me. We are not asking people to accept us. With humility, with dependence
on God, with dependence on the Spirit, with a clarity from his word and a conviction in
our hearts, we preach Christ crucified. We ask people to accept him. The crisis we have
is that people are beginning to doubt whether it is possible to do this anymore. We must
recover our confidence in the truth of the Gospel, otherwise we will never proclaim it.
Just out of interest, eight weeks later, the man who organized the meeting rang me. Of
the six people who said ‘never speak to me again,’ four of them had become Christians.
May God bless you.

Jean Kelley

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Dzintars Strodāns Posted on March 11, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    🙂 Āmen.

    Reply
  2. cody thompson Posted on July 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Great stuff

    Reply
  3. Matt Garcia Posted on November 13, 2015 at 2:21 am

    I've seen a lot of M. Ramadan videos, but this story is fresh to me. I feel this way a lot. I want to tell people about the gospel, but I know if they look at my life, they would find some contradiction and feel they can turn away from the gospel. It's so true that proclaiming the gospel may be our charge, but convicting the heart is only done by the Holy Spirit. This story is awesome.

    Reply
  4. Shanna Sansom Posted on December 19, 2015 at 2:06 am

    How wonderful and encouraging! I needed to hear every word of this!

    Reply
  5. Karin Krutzen Posted on March 1, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Thank you sir I so much needed to hear your Message. May God bless you in Jesus name amen.

    Reply
  6. John Singh Posted on October 1, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Timely, powerful and encouraging.

    Reply
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