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Vieraskieliset / In-english

Blog: Is this the flock?

Päivämies-verkkolehti
Vieraskieliset / In-english
23.5.2016 6.55

Juttua muokattu:

1.1. 23:32
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– God’s pe­a­ce! Did you hear me knock? the yo­ung wo­man says with a smile that re­ac­hes to her ey­es.

– God’s pe­a­ce! No, I didn’t, but do come in.

She sits down on our kitc­hen bench, watc­hing me put in­to a vase the bunch of tu­lips that she brought.

– So, how is life? I ask with a smile.

– Pret­ty tough. Doubts.

– Doubts be­long to the be­lie­ver’s life, I gu­ess. But what is it that ma­kes you doubt right now?

– I am won­de­ring if this re­al­ly is the right flock. At ser­vi­ces I felt that it is. But in dai­ly life I doubt: why would this re­al­ly be the right group?

– Well, there is ac­tu­al­ly no sen­se in it if we think about it with our ra­ti­o­nal mind, I ans­wer.

I sit down op­po­si­te to her and con­ti­nue:

– I re­mem­ber I was pon­de­ring over the same qu­es­ti­on when I had just re­cei­ved the grace of re­pen­tan­ce. I thought how in­comp­re­hen­sib­le it see­med that God’s cong­re­ga­ti­on could be found exact­ly here, in small Fin­land where I live. But then I came to think that it was just as inc­re­dib­le that Je­sus was born in the lit­t­le town of Beth­le­hem, let alo­ne in a stab­le. The pe­op­le who were see­king God at that time could not un­ders­tand that eit­her.

* * *

– Where in the Bib­le is it said that on­ly Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans are sa­ved? I as­ked my on­ly La­es­ta­di­an friend at this very same tab­le about ten ye­ars ago.

I had been awa­ke­ned and had star­ted to be­lie­ve in God again a few ye­ars ear­lier. I ac­ti­ve­ly went to church and did cha­ri­ty work in the pa­rish. But I felt rest­less. I was cons­tant­ly won­de­ring: Where are all the be­lie­vers? Where is that God’s cong­re­ga­ti­on which is seen as the body of Christ in the Bib­le? I al­most ex­haus­ted my friend with these qu­es­ti­ons.

It was ext­re­me­ly an­no­ying to feel that my La­es­ta­di­an friend did not con­si­der me a be­lie­ver though I thought I was. I be­lie­ved in God, I had wan­ted to give my whole life to Him. I pra­yed for His gui­dan­ce. I read the Bib­le. I did cha­ri­ty work. What was mis­sing then?

I thought I was li­ving in al­most the same way as my friend. Well, ma­y­be I used make-up and watc­hed the TV, but I felt that was pe­a­nuts. Or ac­tu­al­ly, when watc­hing the TV, it of­ten came to my mind that I did un­ders­tand why Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans did not watch it – the prog­rams cer­tain­ly did not draw one clo­ser to God.

Gra­du­al­ly, and more and more of­ten, I found my­self ad­mit­ting that they were te­ac­hing cor­rect­ly about faith. In my se­arch for the right kind of Chris­ti­a­ni­ty I at­ten­ded dif­fe­rent re­li­gi­ous mee­tings, but on­ly be­gan to dis­cern more cle­ar­ly the fruits of the spi­rit that I had seen among that group.

I did not find any re­fe­ren­ces to Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans in the Bib­le. How could they think that on­ly they are sa­ved? My friend told me that the Bib­le does not speak about Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans, and that they do not even call them­sel­ves by that name. They just call them­sel­ves be­lie­vers.

She al­so told me how Saul, who was la­ter cal­led Paul, met Je­sus on the road to Da­mas­cus and lost his sight. Af­ter that Je­sus brought Ana­ni­as to vi­sit Saul. On­ly af­ter he­a­ring the bles­sing pre­ac­hed by this be­lie­ver did Saul get back his ey­e­sight and re­cei­ve the Holy Spi­rit. Here was one examp­le of how, ac­cor­ding to the Bib­le, no-one can be re­con­ci­led with God di­rect­ly and be­co­me a be­lie­ver on his own. God le­ads the see­king per­son to be­lie­ving pe­op­le.

But still I did not un­ders­tand the con­nec­ti­on bet­ween that por­ti­on of the Bib­le and their cong­re­ga­ti­on. How could they know that this was the right faith? Did they mean that, by ha­ving ba­bies or obey­ing some spe­ci­fic ru­les, one could get to he­a­ven? But did not Lut­her te­ach that man will be sa­ved on­ly by faith, by grace, and by the me­rit of Christ.

My friend no­ti­ced that the re­a­son be­hind my qu­es­ti­ons was that I was re­al­ly see­king God and suf­fe­ring from true dist­ress of the soul. She gave me the SRK ye­ar­book, whose theme was right and wrong. When I be­gan to read the book, I was ama­zed: it was exact­ly the kind of Lut­he­ra­nism that taught about faith ac­cor­ding to the Bib­le. That was what I had nee­ded to hear in church. I had thought none of it was left any more. Eve­ryt­hing was right, eve­ryt­hing matc­hed. Eve­ryt­hing was ba­sed on the word of the Bib­le. I was re­a­dy to go to ser­vi­ces.

* * *

At ser­vi­ces I ob­ser­ved pe­op­le. Did they seem dist­res­sed? Was there a sta­tus sys­tem? Du­ring the cof­fee break I as­ked one wo­man if it was dist­res­sing to be a mem­ber of this re­li­gi­ous com­mu­ni­ty.

– How could it be dist­res­sing to live in this king­dom of grace? she said as­to­nis­hed. She told me she had re­cei­ved the grace of re­pen­tan­ce in her yo­uth.

I did not un­ders­tand much of the ser­mon. But one thing struck me: the spe­a­ker said that there is on­ly one faith and one flock. He re­fer­red to the por­ti­on of the Bib­le where Je­sus says "and there shall be one fold, and one shep­herd." (John 10:16). The words of­fen­ded me, but they al­so touc­hed my he­art.

– I would like to be­co­me a La­es­ta­di­an, I told my be­lie­ving friend on the phone af­ter the ser­vi­ces. How can I do it? Should I pay a mem­bers­hip fee or what?

– No, you need not pay. I am not for­mal­ly a mem­ber of this cong­re­ga­ti­on eit­her. You on­ly need to be­lie­ve in yo­ur he­art the ab­so­lu­ti­on pre­ac­hed by the be­lie­vers. That is how one be­co­mes a be­lie­ver.

It was good that there was no mo­ney in­vol­ved. Wil­ling­ly I rai­sed my hand at the next ser­vi­ces when sins were pre­ac­hed for­gi­ven. But the mat­ter of faith did not open to me ful­ly. God did not open his door. He knew that I was not yet re­a­dy to le­a­ve my pre­vi­ous life. As Lot’s wife, I was still loo­king back. I was af­raid that I would lose eve­ryt­hing - even my fa­mi­ly.

I re­tur­ned to my old li­fes­ty­le. But two ye­ars la­ter God brought me to such a dead end that I was re­a­dy to give up eve­ryt­hing, my whole life, to find the re­dee­ming faith that the Bib­le spe­aks about. “Lord, I will go whe­re­ver you want me to go. Show me yo­ur flock”, my soul cried to God. “You will re­cog­ni­ze them by their fruits”, the ans­wer of the Bib­le rang in my mind.

The most outs­tan­ding fruit of the Holy Spi­rit that I be­gan to see was that Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans pla­ced their trust in God as the Lord of life and de­ath – they wan­ted to re­cei­ve all their child­ren as gifts of God. At le­ast they trust in God, they do not do that with their own po­wer, I be­gan to re­a­li­ze.

The gra­ci­ous God al­so ans­we­red me when I ope­ned the Bib­le at ran­dom and my ey­es caught the word Zion. This hap­pe­ned again some time la­ter. The on­ly place where I had ever he­ard that word was in the ser­vi­ces at rau­ha­nyh­dis­tys. Still, I had no idea what the word me­ant – that it me­ant God’s king­dom.

In Oc­to­ber 2008 I went to the new rau­ha­nyh­dis­tys in Tur­ku for the first time. It was a Wed­nes­day eve­ning and there were not many pe­op­le. “I have come home”, the words ec­ho­ed in my mind. It was a won­der­ful fee­ling, like ope­ning the door to my home as a child.

I lis­te­ned to the ser­vi­ces and wai­ted for the spe­a­ker to pre­ach all sins for­gi­ven, for now I knew that I could re­cei­ve the for­gi­ve­ness of sins and be­lie­ve it per­so­nal­ly. Now God would open His door for me. Af­ter the ser­vi­ces I wal­ked out smi­ling, wit­hout tal­king to any­o­ne. When I woke up the next mor­ning I felt like flo­a­ting in the air – I felt so light! The bur­den of my 36 ye­ars of life had been ta­ken off my shoul­ders, though I had not even known that such a bur­den exis­ted. I had cried be­cau­se of my sins and he­ard in church that Je­sus has ato­ned for them all, but now I felt that all my sins re­al­ly were gone.

For all of the fol­lo­wing week I felt like I was in pa­ra­di­se. Na­tu­re around me see­med ra­di­ant­ly be­au­ti­ful. I felt like all the wounds in­si­de me had he­a­led comp­le­te­ly. I had not been awa­re of those wounds eit­her. I had no doubt that I had found the pe­a­ce that on­ly Je­sus can give to his own.

I had thought that re­pen­tan­ce would be so­met­hing I should be ab­le to do my­self. That was why I had been af­raid be­fo­re­hand: what if I could not live like the La­es­ta­di­ans te­ach pe­op­le to live? But to re­pent, I on­ly nee­ded to be­lie­ve the for­gi­ve­ness of sins that these be­lie­vers pre­ac­hed. The li­fes­ty­le mat­ters were fruits of the Holy Spi­rit, they simp­ly be­gan to hap­pen. I no lon­ger wan­ted to wear make-up, lis­ten to a cer­tain type of mu­sic, which soun­ded mere noi­se to me, or switch on the TV… God took care of my li­fes­ty­le chan­ge. I did not need to do anyt­hing. I was free and hap­py. I had a life again – the kind of life that I had last en­jo­yed as a child.

I be­gan to un­ders­tand that these be­lie­vers do not ex­pect to be sa­ved by their own works, but on­ly by faith, by grace, and by the me­rit of Christ. They te­ach ac­cor­ding to the Bib­le that "God's righ­te­ous­ness is being re­ve­a­led from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17), in ot­her words, faith is trans­fer­red from one be­lie­ver to anot­her. The dis­cip­les were gi­ven the po­wer to for­gi­ve sins. Eve­ry­o­ne who has re­cei­ved the for­gi­ve­ness of sins from a be­lie­ver can him­self for­gi­ve ot­her pe­op­le their sins, he will be­co­me a sour­ce of li­ving wa­ter. Con­ser­va­ti­ve La­es­ta­di­ans think that li­ving faith has been trans­fer­red from one be­lie­ver to anot­her throug­hout his­to­ry, and God´s cong­re­ga­ti­on has been cal­led by dif­fe­rent na­mes at dif­fe­rent ti­mes while it has mo­ved to new are­as.

Mar­tin Lut­her is al­so con­si­de­red to have found this group of be­lie­vers, of which he tel­ls in the Great Ca­tec­hism: " I be­lie­ve that there is upon earth a lit­t­le holy group and cong­re­ga­ti­on of pure saints, un­der one head, even Christ, cal­led to­get­her by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and un­ders­tan­ding. - I am al­so a part and mem­ber of the same, a sha­rer and joint ow­ner of all the goods it pos­ses­ses."

No hu­man being can see with their own ey­es which group among all the spi­ri­tu­al groups is the cor­rect one, but Je­sus ur­ges us to seek "the king­dom of God and his righ­te­ous­ness" and al­so pro­mi­ses that one who seeks shall find. What is im­pos­sib­le for a hu­man being is pos­sib­le for God.

* * * *

I look at the yo­ung wo­man sit­ting at our kitc­hen tab­le and think how dif­fi­cult it is to tell anot­her per­son about what I have ex­pe­rien­ced my­self. To prove that eve­ryt­hing is exact­ly as it is said in the Bib­le.

“Be­cau­se strait is the gate…” “who­so­e­ver will lose his life for my sake shall find it. …”

“He that re­cei­ves you re­cei­ves me…”

“My pe­a­ce I give un­to you: not as the world gi­ves, give I un­to you.”

I was spi­ri­tu­al­ly dead, but now I live again. I was blind, and I re­cei­ved my ey­e­sight again. I was deaf to the word of God, and now I am ab­le to hear. I was hung­ry, and you gave me food - the pure bread of God´s word. I was a stran­ger, and you took me in - as a dwel­ler in God´s fa­mi­ly. I was na­ked, and you clot­hed me - gave me the wed­ding gar­ment was­hed with Je­sus’ blood.

Even John the Bap­tist had doubts while in pri­son. He sent his dis­cip­les to Je­sus to ask if He was the one that was to come. Je­sus ans­we­red, " Go and show John again those things which you hear and see: The blind re­cei­ve their sight and the lame walk, the le­pers are cle­an­sed and the deaf hear, the dead are rai­sed up and the poor have the gos­pel pre­ac­hed to them. … And bles­sed is he who shall not be of­fen­ded in me.” (Mat­t­hew 11: 4-5)

Yes, I do be­lie­ve that this is the flock.

Maa­rit Mur­to­maa

Trans­la­ti­on: K.H., R.P., T.S., A.V.

The blog post was pub­lis­hed in on­li­ne Päi­vä­mies on 22 Feb. 2016

11.7.2020

Tuo­mi­tes­sa­si toi­sen ju­lis­tat tuo­mi­on myös it­sel­le­si, kos­ka sinä, toi­sen tuo­mit­si­ja, teet it­se sa­mo­ja te­ko­ja. Room. 2:1

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