Last week we discussed the life-changing core of living a Christian life which comes down to truly understanding the old saying that , "Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship" and making our entire life as a Christian become first about knowing God more intimately. Just simply, passionately pursuing more of Him, His Presence, His love, His thoughts, His purpose, and no longer having Him as a blessing conjuring, emergency hotline that we have to keep appeased in case we need Him. No longer thinking the joy of a forgiven life with Christ amounts to clean living and a ticket to Heaven one day, but realizing the greatest part can start here and now—by accepting what He died to give us—more of Himself.
I hope last week opened your eyes and changed your heart to how you want to live for Christ. If it did, we’re ready for the next step: "How do I make this intimacy a reality?" "How do I find Him?" "How do I know Him more deeply?" If you are serious, there are just a couple of things that we need to alter in our lives, to change everything.
The First Step is not even our main focus, but is absolutely necessary and life-changing: It is very obvious that Jesus is literally called the Word of God: John 1:1-2; John 1:14; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13. The Scriptures give no direct explanation for this, probably because the meaning should be so clear. The Word describes everything we need to know about God's purpose, character, love, power, desire and Salvation—Jesus came as a Man on earth, to literally live those Words before our eyes—to illustrate the Word to us in life, as a living breathing Example. And the Holy Spirit pointed them towards Him; helped them see and understand Him. Today, the Spirit literally lives in us, and today the Spirit is pointing us towards the Word still, helping us see and understand Him as well in a way like never before. God says that the Word and Jesus, are synonymous in showing the true Goodness and Character of God. So, if you want to know God intimately, you must hunger after, and know the Word. Stop reading the Word simply for knowledge, answers, or proof, and begin to read every story, every word with the goal of seeing God—His personality, His purpose, His likes, dislikes, His love, His incredibly mysterious ways of working. Then the Scriptures will come alive in excitement. Then the Holy Spirit can reveal Truths to you that are often missed. This alone will do so much for your relationship with Christ because you search for Him in passion on every page. But the Word alone will not bring you into the intimacy and fellowship that God longs for—that He died for—because there are many learned apostates, right? There are many educated people who have never tasted Jesus' Presence in their lives.
How many here like chocolate? What it is about chocolate that makes it so awesome to you? [creamy, rich, comforting, etc.]. These words are great, but would I ever know whether I truly loved chocolate without tasting it? Would I ever truly know the real taste, texture and awesomeness of chocolate, without breaking off a piece and just experiencing it for myself? The Second Step—the most powerful way to know and draw close to God is by experiencing Him for yourself—literally tasting His Presence for yourself, which is only possible with prayer! Many will say, "Not so, I've been praying for years and it hasn't helped me draw closer one bit!" Well, let me ask you an important question: "What is Prayer?" Most would logically answer that prayer is a way of asking God for His Hand in things—a way of petitioning Him for help, guidance, healing, and strength. All true, all good, but none being the primary reason for prayer. Prayer is primarily the restoration of fellowship lost with god in our rebellion and fall. All of these other reasons for prayer are valid and true, and just as much a part of our conversation with God as they would be with anyone else of intimacy in our lives—we ask spouses, parents and friends for help, council and guidance—but is that the only time we talk to these other intimate people in our lives? Is it usually the primary reason? Absolutely not. And it absolutely should not be the only time we talk with God, or the only reason we talk with God. We are seeing prayer as a necessity, a chore, a tool to living the successful Christian life. What if our spouses saw talking with us as simply, "Necessary?" What if they felt talking to us was a duty and a chore? What if these were the only times you heard from them? And the only reasons? Would you be able to express yourself, reveal yourself, share intimately with them? Would they have ever truly shared themselves with you, or trusted you intimately? Would the relationship grow in any way? Many of us work much, give much, even read much, but pray so little, with the wrong motive and expectation when we do. Even here in church we preach and sing much—we pray little. We pray as a side note; as a request to bless our actions—rarely as a way of seeking Him, worshiping Him, drawing close in His House.
We have discussed before, that some of the reason many do not pray more is they feel it does not change things. I understand, and we have addressed this issue, but there is another, even bigger reason many do not pray—because they have no burning desire for intimacy with God, and no burning desire to accomplish His will—life is just fine without God's fellowship, and lived their own way.
Let's take a look at Jesus when He walked the earth, for a moment and see what we can learn from His prayer life. We so often don't pray because we feel that God sees our need, and He will work His will as He sees fit. Ever feel this way? Like, “Well, I'm His child, He sees me, He knows my need… He'll take care of it." Well, there is just one major problem with that –it’s not Scriptural: James 4:2; Matthew 7:7-8. Even Jesus Christ Himself, God in the flesh—Who came to do the Father's will—Who walked in perfect harmony with the Father—even He didn't just get what He needed automatically, because the Father knew His need. Why did He (and I) have to ask if the Father knows? Because it is not just about getting the provision—it’s about the fellowship, recognition, and perspective. So we will recognize the cost and the honor of asking and being provided for; so we understand the desire of God to be there with us, helping us, being involved with us; so we understand we are wanted there more than anyone else wants us in the world; so we understand that it is Him answering prayer when the provision comes; so we would see things from His perspective, and possibly ask for something completely different than what we think we need; so we would ask in the selfless love of Christ, for His benefit and for the love of others; o we wouldn't be spoiled brats who have everything handed to us as uncontrolled royalty, without having to humble ourselves enough to ask. In short—because God wants our fellowship and a chance to influence our hearts and minds in time with Him more than He cares about an answer anyway. We take on the mindset, habits, traits, and desires of those we spend time with. Our perspective on life, our goals, our love for others, our faith, our attitude, our self-esteem—all change when we spend time with God—not just ask for things. That is why Jesus said these words: John 15:7. There are so many things God is ready and willing to do, only if and when we spend enough time in prayer to know Him. Only when we become one with Him so intimately that we see His desired will and ask for it here on earth in shared passion. We are His change agents. He wants us to be part of the move, the love, the help. He will only do certain things when we recognize and join Him in the need. Jesus saw so many reasons around Him to stay in prayer with the Father constantly—to influence the chain of events in His life: when He needed wisdom (choosing the disciples); when even one of His disciples needed strength or protection; when He needed guidance and power in His ministry; when He, Himself needed strength and courage; when even His enemies were in the process of hurting Him—praying for them. He prayed in thanksgiving for all He was given, and for unity, glory, and fellowship with His Father. Jesus prayed for all of these areas to be influenced, and notice that He always prayed with boldness and confidence; with intimacy and in the security that He was loved and accepted. His many hours in communion with the Father allowed Him to feel and expect this closeness and confidence. And lastly, notice the Son of God, Who came to change and save the world, flocked by thousands, wanted by possibly millions, always had time to be with his Father in prayer: Mark 1:32-35; Luke 5:15-16. And look closely for yourself in Mark 6:30-56: Jesus beckoned the disciples to go away with Him to a deserted place for rest and food, because they were so pressed by the people they didn't even get to eat (Already tired, hungry, and stressed), so they got in a boat and headed for a deserted place. But the people knew where He was going and beat Him there. Jesus had compassion on them and taught them late into the evening, then performed a miracle to feed thousands, then, made His disciples get in a boat and leave while He sent away the thousands alone. Then, after all of this, He went up into the mountains alone, to pray until sometime into the fourth watch of the night (between 3 and 6am). He then walked on the water to join the boat in a storm, and as soon as they reached the other side at Gennesaret, people ran to Him wanting healing and He continued ministering to them that day. Jesus never found time to rest for two days solid, yet He took what little time he had prayed because the intimacy of His Father was too precious to do without for even a time. And because fellowship with His Father is what gave Him the power and strength to continue.
But, just like chocolate, we can talk about prayer, describe it, and get excited about it all day. Not until we taste it—really taste it as we should—will we know what it's like. So, I ask you to join with me in a powerful shift towards knowing God more intimately and bringing His power into our lives as a reality—starting today, starting now—will you join me in prayer here this morning and ask forgiveness for not seeking His Presence as the priority of our lives in the past, and ask Him to show you what is in your life right now, that will keep you from drawing closer to Him as you go further, and purpose to change it, no matter the actions needed. And then starting tomorrow, set aside a time (morning or evening) that will be His time from now on where you can meet with Him uninterrupted and meet whether you are in the mood or not. Whether you've sinned or not.; whether you have time or not. Just spend a bit of time each and every day for no one but Him. Spend some time telling Him why you love Him; telling Him of all the things in your life that are amazing and blessed and giving Him thanks; recognizing all of the ways He has been there for you (tell of your trust when it seems He hasn’t); recognizing all of the beauty He has made just for you and me in His incredible love and creativity; thank Him for paying such a cost just to get to spend these moments with no one but you. And ask Him to reveal more of Himself. Expect and seek to hear and know Him better, and don't give up. Show your true desire by continuing to come, to ask, to expect. Expect it based on His love, not your worthiness. Share all of your struggles—with sin, your disappointments, frustrations and doubts, your worries—in detail, knowing He is there, listening and caring. And then ask Him to give you His view of your life right now—why He has you where you are—what He has for you to do in love right here, right now. Ask him to show you everyone who is intimately involved in your life in His eyes (spouse, parents, children, dating, coworkers, enemies)—their needs, weaknesses, fears, desires, their worth to Him, and what you can do to show them His love where you are now. Write down what the Spirit impresses on your heart, no matter what it may involve, and truly act on what you hear. Worship Him in words and even song, in your time alone, and find a reading plan or interest that works for you and read some each day looking for Him in everything you read. Meet before service each Sunday at 10:15am just to pray for the service. (Just for 15 minutes) Use the prayer box, and use these altars to pray together. Don't give up until you have begun to know Him more intimately! He wants to know you mean it. This is a small change in your life, but it's a Scriptural change and it is everything. Do you think this is asking too much for the God that says, “Forsake all and follow Me!” “Hate your own life…” “Lose your life and find it (in Me)!” Do you want more of Him? Open the Chocolate!
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