This is our first Service of the New Year, and my goodness, are we not anxious to leave 2020 behind? We, as Christians are often encouraged to make new resolutions for God in the upcoming year [put your sin behind you, spend more time in prayer or Bible Study, give more time or money for God’s work, etc.]. And all of these endeavors are good, but not best, because all of these endeavors miss the mark of the only thing God would truly have from us.
If we are ever to leave the world of religion and lukewarm Christianity behind, we have to streamline everything we are striving to do for God into one single objective—one that we seem to completely miss in all of our own physical efforts: Mark 12:29-30. This verse sounds so cliché and simple in our minds that we pass it on for more challenging verses—verses that let us remain distant from God—while accomplishing a list of tasks and goals which let us measure our progress and feel better about ourselves in our spiritual life, while often never touching on all that is important to God: Revelation 2:2-4.
In the past year we have all heard about people being put on ventilators due to Covid 19, until we are sick with dread of it. My own brother-in-law has been on a ventilator for three weeks, even as we hold this service. We are very hopeful that my brother-in-law still has a strong chance of coming off of the ventilator and recovering from this illness. But many who go onto a ventilator do not ever come back to a point of breathing on their own again. I have researched this a bit while our own family member has been on the ventilator, and one of the reasons some do not come off the ventilator again after a prolonged period is if the body stays connected for too long to something that allows it to relax and have the work done for it, it becomes dependent upon this assistance, and weakens to the point it cannot sustain itself anymore. This is exactly where many Christians are in their relationship with God right now—on ventilators. We rely on pastors, teachers, YouTube videos, and Bible Studies with friends to teach us who God is intimately. We rely on good music programs and mood setting to give us a moment of worship with God. We rely on our good conduct, giving, and serving to make us feel closer and more accepted by God. All good things, but not one of them can cultivate or sustain a real, personal relationship with Christ. And these things end up propping us up in our spiritual life, becoming the heart of our spiritual life until we reach a point that, if these things were removed—if we had to exist away from outside influence, teaching and exhortation, we would quickly die spiritually because we have become dependent upon these things as our source of spiritual life rather than seeking Christ Himself. Christ does not just want us to seek more knowledge about Him, He wants us to desperately seek Him alone to want to know Him personally. He doesn't just want us to have an emotional moment of worship brought on by circumstances, He wants us to know and understand Him so intimately that we are brought to emotional worship because we are overwhelmed by the reality of His Presence and Love. He doesn't want more service and giving out of legalism or self-justification, He wants to walk with us in shared desires and goals, leading us where He wants us to go with Him together in love. Stop for a moment and let the Spirit of God help you absorb the truth of what you are about to hear. The incomprehensible, awesome, creative, complex universe you see when you look into the sky, or study astronomy, All of it was created to win your love, and have a close, eternal relationship with you. Every incredible creation around us—trees, animals, insects, beauty—was created for your attention, your enjoyment, your amazement; for your intimacy, your understanding of the heart and value He has for you. Every emotion you feel and all of the senses you possess were created and given to you so you could know Him, experience Him, understand Him better. And as if that weren't enough, He came here to be born into the same flesh, have the same experiences, desires, pains and joys as you, so He could share in this life and world with you forever. And if that weren't enough, He gave His last breath and all that He ruled over and created to win you back when He almost lost you. That is how badly He desires to just have you. He did not do all of this just so you could know more about Him, or just so you could act better, or just so you could do more for Him. But all of this was done just to have your heart; just to have your desire; just to have your attention; just to have your affection.
David was a simple shepherd—forgotten, sitting in a field alone with a herd of sheep—no church, no Bible Study, no worship bands, no internet, no ministry to excel in for God—just a real desire to know the real God intimately as expressed by his songs and poems in love for his Creator. And He won God's heart in a way no other man could. Jesus revealed something wonderful to the rejected, hated woman at the well in Samaria: John 4:23: God is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. In all this world of religion, legalism, emotion and busyness, God seeks people that simply want Him. That takes a far deeper commitment that touches the deepest part of who we are. There are many people you and I work diligently to please—whom we will only know at a superficial level—but there are those few who we let into our most intimate place that we strive to know and please at the deepest level of intimacy—that is the only thing Jesus wants from us. We have to get off of all of the things that are acting as our spiritual ventilators. Stop living superficial, propped up spiritual lives which have been our life-support and have life on our own with Him.
There are so many words and songs to tell us about love. Marvin Gaye sings about "Your Precious Love". The Bee Gees ask, "How Deep Is Your Love". Elvin Bishop sings, "I Fooled Around And Fell In Love". The Judds proclaim that, "Love Can Build A Bridge". The Eagles promise that, "Love Will Keep Us Alive". The Beatles assure us that, "All You Need Is Love". Whitney Houston promised, "I Will Always Love You". Queen says love is, "A Crazy Little thing". Adele wants us to, "Feel Her Love". Air Supply says, "I'm All Out of Love". The Black-Eyed Peas ask, "Where's The Love?". And J. Geils band says, "Love Stinks!” So many people use words to say how much they love. So many other people wish they could feel and experience the love they are promised in those words, but they never do. Jesus Christ is probably at the top of that list for many of us. We sing to Him about the depth of our love. We Study to know more about loving Him. We give and serve in the Name of His Love. And yet we never passionately seek after Him alone when that is all He really wants. The one song that probably rings the closest to the love that Jesus Christ craves—the love He lived and died for is "More Than Words", by Extreme, because love is simply a word, an idea, a concept—until someone comes along and makes it real with everything they have to give. Loving and knowing Him intimately is all God truly wants, and if that could finally, truly be our deepest goal—all of the other things we try to force ourselves to do on the vent—would come naturally, joyfully. To love God is not to just to learn of Him and be obedient to Him in expectation of blessings or mercy in return. Cultivating true love is a daily journey not a destination. Real and deep love comes through knowing the worth and preciousness of the one you choose, and seeking their presence, their joy, their affection, their acceptance as your goal, your prize. It is not holding them accountable and on trial for every bad event in life, but rather it is sharing in the pain and struggles with them and learning they are there through it all. It is overcoming the doubts, anger, obstacles, and fears you have by clinging to them through it and showing them that as long as you have them you know all will be okay. It is by showing confidence that you know they are still there for you as well… No matter what comes, it is sharing your joys, sharing your time; it's sharing your pursuits and goals with someone because they mean so much to you—that their wants are truly your wants. It is spending time alone with them just because you want them, and nothing else will do. Doesn't He deserve to be chased and sought after more than anyone in your life? The one who created the Universe for you—who is willing to tear it all apart and start all over for you; the one who thought up all of these precious gifts and experiences on this earth just to razzle-dazzle you and please you: Genesis 1:28. The one who joined you in your pains and suffering because He wanted you to know He understands and shares in your hurt: Matthew 26:38-39. The one who died to save you from your own betrayal of Him: Galatians 3:13. The One who traded everything just to know your heart: Matthew 27:46. The one who is willing to become a part of your very soul and walk with you every mile of your life in the good and bad: John 14:16. The one who died horrifically to call you His beloved—doesn’t He deserve your undivided, single-focused attention and desire to be known intimately above all else?
There is not one other thing that you could resolve to do this year which is even remotely close to this goal: Exodus 33:18, Jeremiah 29:13, 1 Chronicles 22:19, 1 Chronicles 16:9-11. Not one trouble, fear, or obstacle to come in the year ahead is big enough to take this goal from your main focus and it is not a call to do more, give more, or be better; it is a call to erase everything you think it takes to be a better Christian for Jesus. Get off of the ventilators that are breathing spiritual breath into your dead life and work to know Him personally and intimately. When you read His words, ask Him to bring them alive to you. When you pray, pray with Him, don't pray at Him. When you serve, follow His lead and heart and love others with Him. Make time just to share, cry, complain, and celebrate with Him. Ask Him to share His heart and Mind with you about others so you can intimately love them as one. When you avoid sin, do it as a gift of love to Him. Nothing else we are doing amounts to anything in our walk with Him if we do not learn to passionately and expectantly seek Him, knowing there is so much more of Him to discover. The Father watches the whole earth for those seeking to really know Him. This is the only New Year's resolution that will count. Put everything else away and begin this journey now. This is what Zephaniah says is the Lord's reaction to those who return to Him in intimate seeking—and it sounds like one awesome New Year's party: Zephaniah 3:17. Seek Him, no matter the sacrifice—over health, wealth, love, or even family (have confidence He’ll take care of these things). Really seek Him personally with all your heart and you can rest assured, this will be the best year yet.
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