We had a great time yesterday at the shootout. Great time shooting, great time eating. The men’s team rocked it with everything. We had a tie for the 50 and over and also the 16-29 age-bracket so they settled with throwing tomahawks. Very manly but not as easy as it looks. I think I would be remiss to not mention that I won the 30-49 division. Got a medal out of it. Brings new meaning to church discipline if you know what I mean. I know this for sure if we’re ever under attack by birds I’ll be on that security team. Several guys shared about what God had done in their life. Crazy stories of transformation and renewal. There is no greater rush than God moving.
Through the month of May we’re going to take some time to talk through the vision and purpose of Freshwater. Last week we talked about the vision of Freshwater out of Ezekiel 47 and the picture of God’s presence, like water, filling us up with life, renewal, healing, and transforming our lives and then flowing out of us, like a river, into this world to bring that same transformation. The next three weeks we’re going to talk about our purpose. Fortunately, God made it easy by pointing out the big stuff and saying, “Don’t miss these couple of things.” I want to read one of them found in Matthew 22:33-35. Some guy had approached Jesus and he was trying to trap Jesus with some trick question about the law and asked Jesus was what was the greatest commandment. Listen to Jesus’ answer.
“And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s interesting that the most important commands are about relationships.Our relationship with God and our relationship with people. Stop and think about that for a second. Relationships are the most important things to God. It’s not rules but relationships. If we kept reading through the New Testament we’d see there are two groups of people God would have us love. One group is those who are Christians, those who follow Christ. That relationship is called “IN”. The other group is everyone else who Christ still wants to reach that are outside of the church family. That relationship is called “Out”. As a church we very simply believe pleasing and honoring God comes with Living Up (being connected to God), IN (being connected to God’s family), and OUT (being connected to His mission to love this world). God is all about relationships. Even the way He describes the greatest command is in relational terms. Love God. Love people. When Christ described his mission he described it in terms of relationship, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”. It’s important to understand that this idea of relationship is a fluid thing. It’s not a sequential thing or can be put into nice categories. So we can be in relationship simultaneously with all three at once. For sure Living Up is the one constant but we can enter in and out of the others depending on the day.
So today we’re going to talk about our relationship to God. How is your relationship to God this morning? How are you and Him doing? Now as you think about this question I want you to ask God what He thinks. Ask Him, “God, how are you and I doing this morning?” So often we approach this doing self-evaluation rather than asking God to give us His thoughts on the matter. Ask Him, “How are you and I doing this morning?”
So what does it look like to connect to God? To have a relationship with someone you have to know them. So who is our God? He’s all powerful, all knowing, all present, eternal – meaning he never had a beginning and never had an ending. He is infinite in His perfection. He is immutable – unchanging. He’s the creator. With just His word He spoke this universe into being. He has this title Lord of Lord and High King of Heaven and Earth. Meaning everyone submits to Him and obeys Him or will one day be forced to. While He’s in a war right now with Satan, it should be said Satan isn’t His equal or like the yang to the yin. God has to just speak a word and Satan is finished. He is transcendent. He is Holy – completely other – His holiness implies complete purity but it’s also has to do with distinct and beyond anything and anyone else. He is glorious – brilliant, spectacular, awe-inspiring. These things are the essence of God. He does not share these things with anyone. Think about it – these words describe no one else. Not even one of them.
I came across this comparison between us and God by Mark Batterson in his book Circle Maker(pg 77). Light travels at 186,000 miles /second. In the time I have snapped my finger light would have circled our globe 6 times. Snap. About eight minutes ago, the light we are seeing was at the Sun, 92 million miles away. In one minute light travels 11 million miles. In one day, it travels 1.5 billion miles. In a year light travels nearly 6 trillion miles. Keep in mind the Sun is just 8 minutes away. To reach the end of the known universe we would have to travel 15 billion light years. And God says in Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
So what does it look like to be in relationship with God who’s ways and thoughts are 15 billion light years beyond us – and that’s just what we can measure? I’m assuming we have enough self-awareness to realize these words do not describe us. What describes us? Created, a subject, a follower, weak, finite, limited and normal. Given who we are and who He is, what are the words that come mind when talking about being in relationship with Him? Words like worship, glorify, praise, shout hallelujah, honor, fear the Lord, humble ourselves, or give thanks – like a lot of thanks come to mind. If God is God and you and I are…you and I. Who is at the center? Who’s life does our lives revolve around? Can you imagine any scenario where God isn’t at the center? And what does that mean? For instance? Are you coming here because it’s about what you can get? Or did you come here this morning because God deserved to be worshipped? And would that be enough? Did you come here today because you wanted to please God? Now God is economical enough to use our worship to meet our needs.
But we are so self-centered. We think God writes His story in our story. We reverse it all and really believe the most important story is my story. It’s me and what is happening to me. But when we bump up against God the one whose thoughts and ways are at least 15.5 billion light years higher than ours – it’s in this moment that we either cry out in desperation or whisper in awe who am I that you would pull me into your story. It’s when God becomes the center of everything in our lives that we begin to understand what UP really means.
God The Father: But that’s not all that God is. He has also revealed Himself as this Triune God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Three distinct beings, different in administration and roles, but equal in power and being. He is the father of prodigal children that longs for the return of his children. His father love is so intense He sacrificed His son for us. His love for us is so complete that Hebrews says he disciplines His children. He reached out to us as a Father and has adopted us as His sons and daughters. He has brought us into His family. How do you relate to the Father? Treasure His Son. Worship Christ! Maybe it’s wearing the mantle and title of a Son of God or a Daughter of God. No longer listening to the condemning voices of the past or the condemning voices of demons who say you’re nothing, who say you are not worth anything.
God the Son: As God the Son, Jesus died for us. This transcendent God became immanent – Immanuel – God with us. He loved us so much that he laid down his life for us. He lived the perfect life and through His death and resurrection He gives us the possibility of salvation from judgment and instead eternal life in us now. He no longer calls us servants but he calls us friends and brothers and sisters. How do you relate to Jesus, the Son of God? What does love look like? Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments. And this is my command, ‘Love each other.’” Obedience. True obedience. Obedience is our expression of love. These are Jesus’ words not mine. But obedience to Christ is so comprehensive. Obeying Christ could be sitting there today and receiving His grace. Some of you don’t believe you deserve it that you haven’t done enough and He’s saying, “Receive my grace.” Or it may be Christ’s command to abide in me. Remain in me. Like a branch remains in the vine. It also includes what Romans says, “That in light of all that Christ has done for us, let us lay down our lives as a sacrifice to Him.” The greatest act of love is laying down one’s life for someone else. The model of real gritty pure love is us seeing His example and laying down our lives for Him…because we love Him.
God The Spirit: As God the Spirit, we now have God Himself – the Spirit – living in us. Not an it but a person – He. He is in us guiding us, comforting us, convicting us of guilt regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is giving us spiritual gifts to minister to people in the family of God and OUT of the family of God. How do you love the Spirit? Paul talks about being filled with the Spirit. Letting His influence be over us very similar to the effects alcohol can make someone drunk and affect their entire being. Being in relationship to the Holy Spirit means we respond to His ministry of conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Being in relationship with the Spirit is calling out to Him to fill us with His love, His joy, His peace, with all the attributes of God of which we can’t produce any of them. It’s saying yes / obeying all of His promptings and leadings. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, then it’s growing in your ability to hear from Him and sense His leading. Start by asking Him everytime you think of it, “Spirit teach me how to hear from You. Teach me how to sense when you’re leading and obey you.” Don’t stop until you know. Trust me He’ll show you.
Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve haven’t talked about a church service. The main reason being is that living UP is not that simplistic. If we truly understand who God is and the rightful claim He has on our lives it’s in that moment that we realize, this never stops. This life of loving God and worshipping God never stops. It covers the sum total of our lives. It covers all time. It covers all contexts. It reaches into our fun our hobbies our families our school, our careers, our church…All of it is part of God’s story. His mission is now our mission. His family is now our family.
Living Up is loving God. Pure and simple. And what’s amazing is that He doesn’t force us. No He doesn’t force us, He restrains His right to and instead puts the decision in front of us. Love me. Love me with all your heart. Love me with all your mind. Love me with all your soul. Love me with all strength. Has your love grown cold? Has your love for God and His commands become choked out? Has your love for God stopped because you have conditions? Do you only love God as long as it’s not embarrassing to you? Has your love for God been weakened by sin and the lies of the enemy of not calling sin, sin and moving the line of true holiness?
At the end of the day we cannot increase our love on our own. We can however call out to God, “Increase my love! Deepen my love!” How is your UP? What is God telling you?