Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
That was the message Ralph Martin shared March 9 as the featured speaker for the annual Bishop Lucker lecture held at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Redwood Falls.
The annual event sponsored by the Diocese of New Ulm brings in nationally recognized speakers within the church who encourage those who attend as they grow in their faith.
Martin, who serves as president of Renewal Ministries, an organization dedicated to renewal and evangelization, challenged the audience to find their “Hunger for God.”
Jesus, said Martin, is ready to lead the faithful through the challenging times of the day, adding the spirit is leading people to rediscover the universal call to holiness. That holiness and the hunger of God is not for just a few of the faithful but for everyone.
It is in that hunger for God where people will find the answers they need to stand up against the growing hostility against the church and to resist the cultural pressures that deny the truths of the faith.
Difficult times are ahead for the church, said Martin, adding those times will challenge holiness.
People, he added, can’t be lukewarm if they want to stand up for what they believe.
“The more we are in harmony with God, the more impact we can have on other people,” said Martin.
Martin said for people to find true holiness they need to follow the greatest commandment of Jesus to love the Lord with all of their hear, soul and mind. If they want to have an impact on the world they need to love their neighbor as they love themselves. The faithful need to have a desire to have a relationship with God.
“Holiness is not a burden,” said Martin. “It is a blessing.”
God must be a priority in our life, explained Martin, adding the problem is that other things are taking up too much of our life. People need to seek God. That does not happen one time, but must be an active and continuous part of one’s faith journey.
There are promises in Scripture that come to the one who earnestly seeks after God, said Martin. He emphasized the fact that this does not equate to a prosperity gospel, but that it does mean blessings will come our way.
“God gives us what we need to fulfill the purpose for which we are created,” said Martin, adding we must bring our will into alignment with God’s will, because that is when we will be most effective.
The Christian faith is a spiritual journey, said Martin, but, he added, on our own we can’t make ourselves holy.
“We are totally dependent on the grace of God,” Martin said.
Yet, he added, we need to make the effort.
The journey can be painful, but it is all worth it in the end because of where it leads, he said.
“Every step in the process is valuable,” said Martin, adding the steps need to be continual and gradual, and at times the steps can be little. “We will not get there in one big step. It will take a lot of little steps.”
Yet, if we are paying attention we will see the improvement as we move forward one step at a time, but that will only happen if you open your arms to Jesus and get desperate enough to try God, to know him and trust him.
Yes, said Martin, we all have sinned, but God will forgive us if we repent, and he will still use us. Having a hunger for God is a radical decision that means total surrender.
“God wants all of you,” said Martin. “Seek him. In our humanity and weakness he will, little by little, bring transformation to us.”
That is where holiness begins.
Martin encouraged the faithful to turn away from whatever sin is in their life and to “be still” in a culture that is so busy. Make room to hear God, he said.
Personal prayer is a critical part of hungering for God.
“Build that into your life,” said Martin. “God is concerned with the little concerns of your life.”
Do not be deceived by the culture that tells you none of this matters, said Martin.
As one continues in that hunger for God that leads to a greater relationship with him the more one will hate sin and love virtue.
“Temptation is not sin. Giving into it is,” said Martin.
God is merciful, and he has revealed what it means to follow him. Hunger for God is all about pursuit of holiness.
“Holiness is a necessity, not an option,” said Martin, adding it is worth pursuing.