DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

The Sufficiency of God

  • once upon a time, a scorpion needed to cross a pond
  • wondering how he could get to the other side, he notice a frog nearby
  • "Mr. Frog," he said, "Will you please hop me across the pond?"

  • the kind, gentle frog said, "Certainly, Mr. Scorpion. I will be glad to do so"
  • so Mr. Scorpion jumped on to Mr. Frog's back as Mr. Frog hopped from pod to pod, bringing Mr. Scorpion to the other side of the pond
  • but just as the frog said, "Well, Mr. Scorpion, here we are," he felt an excruciating pain in his back
  • Mr. Scorpion had stung him

  • as Mr. Frog lay dying, he looked up at Mr. Scorpion and said, "How could you do this? I brought you from one side of the pond to the other and now you sting me so that I die"
  • Mr. Scorpion looked at Mr. Frog and said, "I can't help it. It's my nature"
  • (from Tony Evans, Our God is Awesome)

  • whenever you deal with someone, it's important to know their nature
  • you could believe you're dealing with one sort of person, but be mistaken and land in a whole lot of trouble
  • it's important also in dealing with God
  • there has been a lot of errant teaching on who God is
  • God has been redefined, misrepresented, and dismissed
  • and many people - even Christians - do not adequately understand his true nature

  • it's possible to live our entire lives based on misinformation about God
  • on the other hand, it's possible to come to know God as he reveals himself
  • when we know God we can avoid an entire life - in fact, an entire eternity - of confusion and misunderstanding

  • and so it is this morning that we begin to look at some of the attributes of God - aspects of his character that are intrinsic to him
  • we need to understand God's true nature if we are to walk with him and get to know him better
  • it's important at the outset to realize that we are finite creatures trying to understand an infinite God
  • John Calvin used the analogy of baby talk
  • he said that God speaks to us in a kind of lisping
  • as parents engage in baby talk with their infant children, so God, in order to communicate with us lowly mortals, must condescend to speak to us in lisps

  • no human being has the ability to understand God exhaustively
  • R.C. Sproul says, "In the simplest Christian truth there resides a profundity that can occupy the minds of the most brilliant people for a lifetime"
  • and he also says, "Even in learned theological sophistication, we can never really rise above a child's level of understanding the mysterious depths and riches of the character of God"

  • we approach the study of God, therefore, with a great deal of humility
  • (Psalms 145:3) Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
  • Job said:
  • (Job 26:14) And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"
  • Job said something so profound: as we look at the enormous power of God evident in nature - the vastness of the sky, the clouds that carry large volumes of water over miles, the brilliance of the horizon, and the fury of the sea - as we see these things, they're just a whisper of God's overwhelming strength
  • we can't even comprehend the little we know about God
  • how much more impossible it would be if we understood the full extent of his might!
  • we can never fully understand any single thing about God
  • his greatness, his understanding, his knowledge, his riches, wisdom, judgments and ways - all are beyond our ability to understand fully

  • even in the age to come, when we're completely freed from the presence of sin, we will never be fully able to understand God
  • because we're finite and God is infinite, we will never be able to fully understand even one doctrine about God
  • think about it: in heaven after one million years, we'll still be increasing in our knowledge of God and delighting ourselves more and more in him
  • when people say that heaven is boring, it's only because they don't understand that after a billion years there, we'll still be saying something like David did:
  • (Psalms 139:17) How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
  • (Psalms 139:18) Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

  • I like what one theologian, Wayne Grudem, wrote:
  • "Even though we spend time in Bible study and fellowship with God every day of our lives, there will always be more to learn about God and his relationships to us and the world, and thus there will always be more to be thankful for and for which we can give him praise."
  • there's always going to be an aspect of his nature and character that amazes us and gives us new cause for thanks
  • this is what's so enjoyable about Bible study and even theology - there's always something new to discover about God

  • this morning I'd like to focus on an aspect of God's character that is completely unique to him
  • to find this attribute, we're going to look at Paul's words to the philosophers of Athens, in Acts 17:22-25:
  • (Acts 17:22) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
  • (Acts 17:23) For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
  • (Acts 17:24) "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
  • (Acts 17:25) And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

  • in this great passage, God tells us three things
  • the first has to do with God
  • the second and third things Paul tells us have to do with us
  • so put on your seatbelts and let's find out about one of God's attributes, and what it means for us
  • THE ATTRIBUTE IS THE INDEPENDENCE, SUFFICIENCY, AND SELF-EXISTENCE OF GOD
  • think about what Paul said:
  • (Acts 17:25) And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
  • think of it: God does not need us or the rest of the creation for anything

  • God is completely self-existent
  • every effect has a cause
  • but God has no beginning and God has no cause
  • he always was or is
  • God requires no assistance from outside sources to continue to exist
  • it's almost impossible to imagine anything that isn't dependent and creaturely
  • there is nothing in our frame of reference that is self-existent - besides God
  • (Psalms 90:2) Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
  • (Exodus 3:14) God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

  • think about this some more
  • all of us can explain who we are by virtue of the influences in our lives
  • you can tell me about your parents, your friends, the schools you attended, the brothers who beat you up and teased you, the food you ate as a child - all the things that made you who you are today
  • but God has no such explanation
  • no outside influences have ever made God who he is
  • as Tony Evans says, "All that God is he always was. All that God is and always was he will always be. You cannot offer anything that will enhance him, nor can you take anything away that will detract from him. All that God is he is because that's who he is"

  • as many people will tell you from personal experien ce, loneliness is one of the worst emotions you can experience
  • the staggering reality is that God does not need a relationship with anyone
  • as God is self-sufficient and independent, God didn't need to create humans for fellowship with him
  • God wasn't lonely
  • within the members of the Trinity itself there was perfect love and fellowship and communication throughout eternity
  • there was no loneliness or lack of personal fellowship there
  • God doesn't need to be noticed
  • God doesn't need recognition
  • God doesn't need you or me

  • you showed up to worship God this morning at church, and that's good
  • but if you didn't show up, that wouldn't have diminished God one iota
  • he wouldn't have been any worse off
  • I as your pastor might have been ticked off at you, but make no mistake about it: God doesn't need you!

  • God has no external needs
  • God doesn't need us, but we need him
  • Isaiah 40:15 tells us:
  • (Isaiah 40:15) Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
  • there is no one else like God

  • this is a good reminder for us
  • we need to remember that we cannot help God out or hold him back
  • we can't do God any favors
  • God doesn't need us to defend him
  • and God doesn't rely on us for worship and fellowship
  • God doesn't depend on us; we depend on God

  • but this passage in Acts reminds us of something about ourselves
  • look again at Acts 17:
  • (Acts 17:26) From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
  • (Acts 17:27) God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
  • (Acts 17:28) 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
  • (Acts 17:29) "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.
  • we don't just learn something about God; we learn a thing or two about ourselves
  • WE LEARN THAT WE ARE DEPENDENT ON GOD'S SUFFICIENCY
  • in God we live and move and exist
  • there is no such thing as and independent man or woman
  • every breath you take is contingent on God allowing you to exist
  • Paul says that we cannot know ourselves apart from God
  • we cannot understand ourselves - who we are, why we were created, where we are going - we cannot understand any of this apart from God
  • Paul goes so far as to say that in God, we live
  • in God, we move
  • in God, we exist
  • God appointed the day we were born, and God has appointed the day we will die
  • it's humbling to realize that the next breath you take, the next movement you make - it's all contingent upon God

  • you can refuse to believe in God, but he is still God
  • you and I can refuse to obey him, and we can curse him, but God will still be God, and we will still be creature
  • God is responsible for all we see around us, and yet he is completely independent of it
  • he can do whatever he wants
  • we are utterly dependent on him
  • all that we are is a result of what he is

  • the last point that I want to make from Acts 17 is this:
  • WE FIND OUR COMPLETENESS ONLY IN GOD
  • in a recent Hollywood movie, a woman's dream was to be able to say to a man, "You complete me"
  • in a sense, we're probably looking for other people to complete us: to meet our needs, to give us a sense of wholeness
  • but only God can do this
  • only God can complete us

  • once we are aware of our own existence, we begin to learn that we can't find meaning within ourselves
  • we can only understand ourselves as we begin to know and understand God
  • the meaning of our lives, our dignity are at stake
  • either we are alone and insignificant - cosmic accidents, if you will, who will one day disintegrate into the abyss of nothingness
  • or we are created by God, invested by him with dignity, and created to enjoy a relationship of love with him
  • once we understand who we are and how God completes us, we find that we were created with a purpose, we have a destiny with a purpose, and therefore we have a meaningful life
  • as David wrote:
  • (Psalms 8:3) When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
  • (Psalms 8:4) what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
  • (Psalms 8:5) You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

  • the miracle in all of this is that a God who is all-sufficient, chooses to fellowship with us, and that he chooses to complete us
  • God does not need us for anything, yet he chooses to delight in us and to allow us to bring joy to his heart
  • the God who is self-sufficient and who needs no-one has voluntarily chose us to make us significant in the most ultimate sense

  • thinking back to the scorpion, that's God's nature
  • two thousand years ago, Paul stood in front of some skeptics and philosophers and told them three things:
  • God is completely self-existing and self-sufficient
  • we aren't
  • and we can only find our completeness in God
  • this morning I invite you to bow your heads and come to God, worship him for his power and self-existence, and bow and ask him to complete your life as he has promised to do

Adapted in part from Our God is Awesome by Tony Evans

The Flip Side of Knowing God

  • I still remember the first time I heard her name
  • I was a single young man, happily single, but yet knowing one day I wanted to find a wife and enjoy marriage
  • my love life was completely void of any love life
  • and then I heard a name, and although the name meant nothing to me at the time, I filed it away in case it came in handy later

  • and then came the actual person
  • let me say that the details of the actual person were also filed away because there was a good chance I might need them later
  • and then came the flirtations
  • when I saw her one day I squeezed her elbow - ever so subtly, but we knew what was going on
  • and then one day, in front of all of our peers, she flirted back
  • I was joking about trying one of her chicken wings, when she got up, marched all around the table, and deposited a chicken wing on my plate
  • it was the best chicken wing I've eaten in my entire life
  • it was true love

  • in this process, I was filing more and more information away about the woman I was one day going to marry
  • and I began to discover that she, as well, was accumulating information on me
  • as much as I wanted to get to know Charlene, I found out that she likewise wanted to find out more about me
  • this was not going to be a one-way proposition
  • which is a good thing, because I wasn't really interested in a one way proposition
  • the most satisfying relationships are always mutual, where as one grows deeper in their knowledge of the other, the other individual likewise moves deeper in their knowledge of you

  • there aren't many Christians who are uninterested in getting to know God better
  • ask any genuine believer whether they desire more intimacy with God - a deeper sense of the presence of God, a stronger belief and trust in his power, a deeper knowledge of his will - and you will receive some interest
  • I think that all of us realize that we desire to know God more fully

  • but any good relationship has got to be mutual
  • let me put it this way: if your interest in God is not reciprocated, you're wasting your time
  • you're an unwelcome suitor
  • however, if your desire to know God more fully is not only reciprocated but surpassed, you are on solid ground in your quest to know God better

  • what seems to matter most is this: not that you know God, but that God knows you
  • the wonderful truth is that God welcomes your quest to get to know him better, and what's more - God knows you already, in an intimate way
  • you, my friends, are graven on the palms of his hands
  • you are never out of his mind
  • there is no moment when his eye is off you, or his attention is distracted from you
  • there is no moment, in fact, when his care falters

  • this is wonderful news
  • it is the flip side of knowing God: the fact that God already knows you, and cares about you

  • this has some wonderful implications, which I'm going to spell out for you
  • IMPLICATION NUMBER ONE: GOD HAS SEEN YOU AT YOUR WORST, BUT HAS CHOSEN TO LOVE YOU ANYWAY
  • when getting to know Charlene, I would say that I faced a fair amount of anxiety in allowing myself to be known, at least fully
  • as a result, I was always on my best behavior around her
  • she bought the lie, and as a result, it was a shock for her when we were married and she found out the truth: I wasn't perfect
  • I could no longer hide those blemishes of character, those annoying habits, and other troubling characteristics from her

  • but God knows you - every detail of your life, every blemish
  • God has seen all the twisted things about you that non one else has seen
  • God has seen more corruption in your soul than even you're aware of
  • but here is the great truth: "His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst of me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me" (James Packer, Knowing God)
  • think of it: God knows you at your absolute worst, and having every reason to be disgusted with you, loves you with an irresistible and unchangeable love

  • Paul speaks about this truth in Romans 5:
  • (Romans 5:6) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
  • (Romans 5:7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
  • (Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • if you underline your Bible, you should underline those five words in verse 8: "while we were still sinners"
  • these are amazing words
  • God sent Jesus to die for us, not because we were good enough, but because he loved us
  • we all at times feel unworthy of God's love, but just remember this - God loved you before you ever turned to him
  • if God loved you when you were a rebel, he surely loves you know that you love him back!

  • for some unfathomable reason, God wants us as his friend, desires to be our friend, and has given us his Son in order to accomplish this purpose
  • as we approach God and desire to know him better, we don't have to worry that God will turn us away because we're not worthy
  • God desires a relationship with you - he desires to know and be known, even though we're so unworthy
  • and when, like the prodigal son, we wander far from God and are scared to return, not knowing how our Father will respond, we can be sure that when God sees us off in the distance, he will welcome us back and kill the fatted calf in celebration of our return
  • when we're scared to approach God because of our unworthiness, rest assured that God desires us to approach him and enter into communion with him

  • and be sure that nothing you could ever do will turn God away from you
  • (Hebrews 13:5) God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
  • in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, after chapters about God's judgment on Judah, a reminder of God's love appears as a breath of fresh air, and a reminder to us of God's unchanging love no matter what happens:
  • (Jeremiah 31:3) The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
  • you know friends, God has seen you at your worst, and God has chosen to love you anyway
  • as far as getting to know God better, listen - God desires that you get to know him better, even if your record has been spotty lately
  • you don't need to turn away from this quest, even though you've been inconsistent in your Christian walk
  • no matter where you are spiritually, God still desires that you enter into intimacy - he's seen you at your worst, and he still desires a relationship with you anyway

  • it's amazing to think that God knows you - parts of you that you've forgotten
  • God knows your faults
  • God knows the sins you will commit in the future
  • he knows the hidden thoughts of your heart that even your closest friends don't know
  • and God has chosen to love you anyway
  • God desires a relationship with you
  • (1 John 4:19) We love because he first loved us.

  • implication number two is equally wonderful
  • IMPLICATION NUMBER TWO: GOD KNOWS YOU PERSONALLY, AS A FRIEND KNOWS A FRIEND
  • to think that the God of this universe desires a relationship with us - not as a superior, although he is that
  • but God desires a relationship with us, as a Father desires a relationship; indeed, as a friend desires a relationship with a friend

  • I have some very close friends, and for the life of me I can't remember ever befriending them
  • I've come to the simple conclusion that I didn't initiate the friendship; they did
  • I don't value those friendships any less; in fact, it's kind of nice that someone saw me and pursued a relationship with me
  • Paul says of our friendship with God:
  • (Ephesians 1:11) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
  • (Ephesians 1:12) in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
  • the knowledge that we were chosen by God is revolutionary
  • our knowledge of God is the direct consequence of God's taking knowledge of us
  • we know God by faith because he first singled us out by grace
  • God, in his sovereign grace, loved us, chose us, redeemed us, called us, and is preserving us
  • God has chosen you to be his friend

  • when the Bible speaks of God's knowledge of us, that knowledge is personal
  • (Exodus 33:17) And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."
  • (Jeremiah 1:5) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."
  • (John 10:14) "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--
  • (John 10:27) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

  • God knew you, just as he knew Jeremiah, long before you were born or even conceived
  • God thought about us and planned for us
  • when Jesus talks about being the Good Shepherd, he contrasts that role with someone who just looks after sheep for money
  • whereas a hired hand tends sheep for money, the shepherd does it for love
  • Jesus is not merely doing a job; he loves us and cares for us, and ultimately gave his life for us

  • God's knowledge of us "implies personal affection, redeeming action, covenant faithfulness, and providential watchfulness, towards those whom God knows" (Packer, Knowing God)
  • I'm here this morning to tell you that God knows you by name
  • he desires a relationship of love with you
  • before the world was created; before you were born or even conceived; even when you rebelled against God, he has always loved you

  • God knows what you're going through in your life right now
  • (Matthew 10:29) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
  • (Matthew 10:30) And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
  • (Matthew 10:31) So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
  • Jesus said that God is aware of everything that happens to sparrows, but you're far more valuable to him than sparrows
  • God knows everything that happens to you; you need never fear trials and difficulties
  • God has intimate knowledge and infinite love for you

  • Twila Paris sings the beautiful song, "Every Heart that is Breaking"
        • For the young abandoned husband
          Left alone without a reason
          For the pilgrim in the city where there is no home
          For the son without a father
          For his solitary mother
          I have a message
          He sees you, He knows you
          He loves you, He loves you

          Every heart that is breaking tonight
          Is the heart of a child that he holds in his sight
          And oh how he longs to hold in his arms
          Every heart that is breaking tonight
          (Copyright 1988 Ariose Music/ASCAP and Mountain Spring Music/ASCAP)

  • God has always taken the initiative in his relationship with us
  • he came to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden
  • he came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets
  • he came to the disciples, and to Paul on the Damascus road
  • he has come to us as well

  • God has taken the initiative to pursue a love relationship with you - even though he knows all your faults
  • but your worst blemishes haven't deterred God from loving you
  • he loves you unconditionally
  • God desires a love relationship with you that is, as one author puts it, "real, personal, and practical"
  • and more than anything else that you might do, God wants you to love him in return with your entire being
  • in fact, he created you for that purpose

  • in a verse that was written for Christians - it's not an evangelistic verse as we often use it - Jesus says:
  • (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts
  • he wants to have fellowship with us, and he wants us to open up to him
  • by rights, lukewarm Christians should be standing at Christ's door, begging for forgiveness for their half-heartedness and their apathy
  • but look at the picture that is painted here
  • no other love is like Christ's love!
  • the nail-scarred hands of Jesus are knocking on the door of a callused Christian, whose heart should be warm with worship night and day
  • but it's not
  • so the disappointed but long-suffering Jesus patiently knocks on the door of a tepid Christian, saying, "I'm seeking you out"
  • "But I am extending myself to you. I'm knocking at your door. I'm taking the initiative."
  • and he says, "Open the door"

  • God knows you and is seeking out a relationship of love with you
  • I sense Jesus is knocking on the door of your hearts this morning - some of you sense it
  • he's inviting you to dine with him, to fellowship with him, to know him better
  • are you going to open that door?

Adapted in part from Our God is Awesome by Tony Evans

Knowing God

  • one of the most important commandments in the Bible is found in Romans 12:2
  • (Romans 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
  • another translator puts it, "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit in without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God."

  • this morning I'm going to speak about something that will make little sense if you are conformed to the pattern of this world
  • I'm going to talk about knowing God as our most important priority in life
  • that sounds like just the thing you'd expect to hear from a preacher, doesn't it?

  • if you think back to the creation of man, we enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship with God
  • in Genesis 3:8 you have the beautiful picture of the footsteps of God walking through the garden
  • this appears to be a way of describing the very real sense of the presence of God in that time, in close fellowship with humans
  • but do you remember what happened in Genesis 3:8?
  • (Genesis 3:8) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
  • because of sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God
  • fellowship with God was no longer desirable for them
  • and we've been hiding from God ever since

  • Augustine said that we all have a God-shaped void in our lives
  • all of us long for this fellowship with God in our lives, but it's something that we also want to hide from because of our sin
  • where do we turn instead of to God?

  • some look for happiness by acquiring possessions
  • some look for happiness by experiencing pleasure
  • some look for happiness by gaining prestige and power
  • but if you remember the quest of Solomon in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, you know that these approaches to life fall short of bringing us satisfaction
  • you know that as well as I do
  • nothing can ever replace God in our lives

  • I think you'll find some surprising things in the Bible about knowing God
  • we're going to embark on a series on knowing God
  • we're going to talk about who God is - his character and attributes
  • we'll look at how we can know God in our lives, not just on an intellectual level but in an intimate way
  • my goal this morning is to lead you to realize that the knowledge of God is the most worthy pursuit of your entire life
  • there is not a more worthy goal
  • specifically, this morning I want to look at two "after pictures"
  • you know how people take "before" and "after" pictures?
  • this morning I'm going to show you two "after" pictures to demonstrate the benefits of knowing God

  • THE FIRST "AFTER" PICTURE IS THE APOSTLE PAUL
  • please turn with me to Philippians 3
  • the apostle Paul was one of scores of people in the Bible whose life was completely transformed by the knowledge of God
  • there were some in the church who believed that you come to know God through personal effort and obedience to the law
  • but Paul knew from personal experience that all his pre-conversion effort and zeal was not how to get to know God
  • so he lists all the things that he used to think impressed God: that he was born to a good family, followed religious law, and was a religious expert
  • you know why Paul thought he knew God so well before his conversion?
  • he was a Pharisee, and one of the requirements to be a Pharisee was that you had to learn the first five books of the Bible
  • you could say that Paul was a religious fanatic
  • as Tony Evans says:
  • To say that the Pharisees prided themselves on their righteousness is like saying the Atlantic Ocean has a fair amount of water in it. Paul was one of these guys. He was the best of the best, the cream. He was zealous for the law and traditions of the Jews.
  • here's a guy with all this in his favor, and yet look what he says in verses 7 and 8:
  • (Philippians 3:7) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
  • (Philippians 3:8) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

  • see what Paul did?
  • with one sentence, Paul swept all his credentials, credits, and successes off the table and into the trash can
  • he considered everything that he had accomplished in life, and said that it was all a loss compared with what? the greatness of knowing Christ
  • think of it - everything we accomplish in life - our credentials, credits, and successes - all of it is garbage compared to this one thing: knowing God

  • you know folks, knowing God is about more than religion
  • it's more than having a religious experience with God or saying that we feel him
  • you couldn't talk about a more religious guy than Paul, but what good did it do?
  • he regarded all his religiosity as garbage - literally, as dung

  • friends, you can go to church, have information about God, sing in the choir, and yet not know God
  • you can be a religious minister and still not know God
  • you can even have all the right theology and still not know God
  • look at Paul

  • you see, knowing God is more than awareness
  • it's more than information
  • and it's more than religion
  • it's a relationship

  • listen to what Paul says:
  • (Philippians 3:10) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
  • (Philippians 3:11) and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
  • (Philippians 3:12) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
  • (Philippians 3:13) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
  • (Philippians 3:14) I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

  • Paul gave up everything - his family, his friends, and his freedom - in order to know Christ
  • Paul says that his one goal is to know Christ
  • that goal absorbed all of Paul's energy

  • we have to realize that knowing God is life's most meaningful pursuit
  • (Jeremiah 9:23) This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,
  • (Jeremiah 9:24) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
  • it's amazing what we brag about
  • but God says, about the only thing worth bragging about is that you know me
  • he says, "If you're going to brag, you can brag on the fact that I have rubbed off on you; that my thinking has become your thinking; that my way of living and walking and functioning has become your way"
  • as one Christian author says, "Our brains are too small, our knowledge too limited, ourselves too finite to live life the way it was meant to be lived apart from the knowledge of God"

  • let me give you the choices you have
  • you can hide from God, and try to fill the void in your life through possessions, pleasure, prestige, and power - but ultimately come up short
  • you can try to fill the void by be ing a religious person, even a religious fanatic, without really knowing God
  • or you can enter into an intimate, personal, and satisfying relationship with the God who made you and loves you
  • the choice is fairly simple, isn't it?

  • I would like to look at one more "after" picture
  • THE SECOND "AFTER" PICTURE IS DANIEL
  • Paul taught us that the knowledge of God is the most worthy pursuit of your entire life
  • Daniel teaches us that knowing God is the most practical project anyone can engage in
  • James Packer imagines taking an Amazonian tribesman and flying him to London, England, and putting him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square, leaving him, as someone who knows nothing of English or England, to fend for himself
  • he compares this to us:
  • So we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.
  • if you're going to live in this world, you had better get to know your purpose and about the one who created you

  • there's that old saying, "too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good"
  • behind this saying is the presupposition that a deepening knowledge of God is increasingly impractical
  • but let me tell you this morning, knowing God is the most practical thing you can do
  • why?

  • those who know God have great energy for God
  • in Daniel 11:32, in the King James Version, we read:
  • (Daniel 11:32) The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
  • in the context, this verse speaks of a reaction to the evil trends God's people see around them
  • in essence, it says that God's people can't rest while God's name is being dishonored
  • and look at Daniel's life for proof
  • from time to time he felt compelled to actively stand out against the conventions of the day and take a bold and defiant position
  • rather than violate dietary laws, Daniel insisted on a vegetarian diet, to the consternation of those whose opinion should have mattered
  • when Darius suspended the practice of prayer for a month, Daniel went on praying three times a day in front of an open window, so that everyone would know what he was doing
  • it got him thrown into the lion's den

  • I think we all admire people who have the courage of conviction to stand up for God, no matter how outnumbered they may be
  • do you have the gumption, the fortitude, the courage to stand up for your convictions?
  • you might have heard the old Sunday school song: "Dare to be a Daniel"
  • we can have Daniel's energy as we come to know God as Daniel did

  • those who know God have great contentment in God
  • Daniel's colleagues, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood their ground in the face of Nebuchadnezzar's threat that they were going to be thrown in the fiery furnace
  • I love what they said:
  • (Daniel 3:16) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. [no panic]
  • (Daniel 3:17) If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. [they're not worried!]
  • (Daniel 3:18) But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." [it doesn't matter - live or die, they're content]
  • when you know God, it doesn't matter what happens to you - you're content

  • these people had contentment and confidence
  • only the knowledge of God produces that kind of confidence in the circumstances of life

  • Psalm 46:1-3 says:
  • (Psalms 46:1) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
  • (Psalms 46:2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
  • (Psalms 46:3) though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
  • I don't know what circumstances you're facing, but I do know that no matter what happens in your life - though the mountains be removed - you don't have to fear if you know God!
  • (Romans 8:38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
  • (Romans 8:39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • the "after" pictures we've examined show us two people who were bold and alive
  • their past was forgotten - all their accomplishments meant nothing to them
  • no matter what happened to them, they had contentment and courage in Christ

  • do you want to know God?
  • (Deuteronomy 4:29) But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • as we begin our quest to know God, we're assured that if we make it our priority quest, we will be successful
  • the beginning point to knowing God is entering into relationship with him through the Lord Jesus Christ
  • if you've never trusted Christ as your Savior, or if you're unsure of your standing before God, you need to admit that you're a sinner, that you can't save yourself
  • acknowledge that Jesus paid for your sin on the cross, and put your faith in him alone to save you
  • receive him as your Savior, and then - welcome to the family!

  • if you are a believer, we're in for an adventure
  • as we grow deeper in our knowledge of God, our lives will be transformed
  • so stay tuned in the coming weeks - get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
  • in the end, it's something that you have to experience
  • Webster's Dictionary defines a kiss as "a caress with the lips; a gentle touch or contact"
  • but anyone who's kissed someone knows that a kiss is really more than that
  • you have to experience it!
  • we can define knowing God all we want - but anyone who really knows God knows that the experience is really much better than the description
  • so let's get ready for the experience, shall we?

Adapted in part from Our God is Awesome by Tony Evans

Clean Slate

  • we all know people who have experienced some sort of tragic failure in their lives
  • as a young Christian, one of my favorite authors was Gordon MacDonald, a pastor from Lexington, Massachusetts
  • his book, Ordering Your Private World, literally changed my life
  • as new books came out, I would purchase and read them
  • I remember the day that I was told that he had experienced a moral failure and was out of the ministry
  • I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my ribcage

  • but you know people as well who have gone through a similar crisis
  • we all know of former preachers who have seen their ministries come tumbling down
  • on a closer level, we probably all have friends or relatives whose lives have imploded through the abuse of alcohol, drugs, or some other vice
  • perhaps it's even been you

  • as this new year begins, I think it's only fitting to talk about starting out with a clean slate
  • a precious passage of Scripture says this:
  • (Psalms 103:11) For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
  • (Psalms 103:12) as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
  • the Bible tells us that we can experience God's forgiveness, so much that our sins are removed from us as far as it could be
  • it's as if God has taken all of our sins to the airport and flown them to the most remote part of the earth
  • so far has God removed his sins from us

  • I want to talk about our guilt and God's forgiveness this morning
  • much of what I'll talk about I learned from Gordon MacDonald and the years after his moral failure
  • to his credit, but ultimately to God's credit and by his grace, Gordon MacDonald rebuilt his broken world and continues to have a powerful ministry today
  • in fact, I would say that some of his best books have been written after his moral failure, and after a period of being on the sidelines

  • but here's what I've learned about our guilt and God's grace
  • BROKEN LIVES ARE UNIVERSAL
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to play a practical joke on twelve of his friends
  • he sent them each a telegram that said, "Flee at once...all is discovered"
  • within twenty-four hours, all twelve had left the country

  • we tend to think that lives that have been devastated and broken by sin are the exception and not the rule
  • we think that it's unusual when a life implodes from sin run wild
  • but listen to the truth: the Bible is chock-full of people who whose lives were destroyed by self-inflicted sin
  • I would argue from Scripture that it's the rule, and not the exception
  • I would go so far as to say that all God's servants are cracked pots
  • we're not just jars of clay, as the apostle Paul says, we're actually cracked pots
  • and our need for God's grace is universal

  • you already know the Biblical teaching that all of us have sinned
  • I'm not just talking about the fact all Biblical personalities, except Jesus, sinned
  • I'm talking about a serious moral failure in many of their lives that was so serious, it had a dramatic effect on their lives
  • think of Moses - 40 years old, and a murderer
  • for forty years, he lived with the consequences of a moment of heated passion
  • he went from a position of privilege to being a fugitive

  • think of David
  • there was never a greater king in Israel
  • but one day, he's out on the rooftop and ends up committing adultery and murder
  • David, called "a man after God's own heart," commits the age-old sin of adultery, and his reign is never quite the same

  • think also of Jonah
  • Jonah's a prophet, and he ends up deep in the sea, in a belly of a whale, because he makes a dramatic choice to disobey God

  • and what about Peter?
  • denying the Lord, and the Scripture says that when he heard the rooster crow for the third time, as Jesus had said it would, he went outside and wept bitterly

  • I used to think these men were personally admirable, and had extraordinary human qualities, and maybe they did
  • but I'll tell you what I think now: they're nothing more than trophies of God's grace
  • the beautiful thing is, God didn't write these men off
  • Moses began his life, in some ways, at age 80, well after his life blew apart from sin
  • David was still used by God after his reign, even though he made a disastrous choice in sinning with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah
  • after Jonah repented and was spit up from the belly of a whale, he went to Nineveh and the entire city repented
  • and Peter, after denying his Lord, went on to be a powerful apostle used by God to bring thousands of people into the church

  • the good news is, God doesn't write us off
  • if you've ever had the experience of crashing your car, you know that the insurance company looks at the damage to your car and the value of the car, and if the damage is greater than the value, they write the car off
  • they don't fix it; they trash it
  • praise God that when he looks at the damage we've done to our lives, he doesn't write us off, even though many times, the damage we've done looks greater to us than our value

  • Romans 5:20 says:
  • (Romans 5:20) But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
  • this verse could literally be translated, "Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded"
  • God's grace is greater than our sin, no matter how serious the sin

  • a characteristic of all God's servants who have been powerfully used is repentance, not sinlessness
  • none of God's servants have been sinless, except Jesus
  • but all of God's servants who sinned were also repentant, and God used the powerfully
  • this morning, on the first Sunday of 1998, you can start out with a clean slate
  • the fact that you've mucked up your life can become history today
  • you can come to God in repentance, and he can use you in 1998
  • as far as the east is from the west, that's how far God can remove your sin from you

  • I want to pray, right now, and give you the opportunity to respond to this truth
  • maybe it's time to come to God in repentance, and to ask God to cleanse you from some sin that's been in your life
  • perhaps you've believed that your sin has been so great that God can't use you
  • you can echo the words of David:
  • (Psalms 51:1) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
  • (Psalms 51:2) Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
  • (Psalms 51:3) For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
  • (Psalms 51:4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
  • (Psalms 51:10) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
  • (Psalms 51:11) Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
  • (Psalms 51:12) Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
  • (Psalms 51:13) Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
  • would you pray with me?
  • [chorus: Create In Me a Clean Heart]
  • I've talked this morning about the first lesson I've learned, that broken lives are universal
  • there's another lesson I've learned
  • IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU; IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME
  • remember what happened to Peter?
  • (Matthew 26:33) Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
  • (Matthew 26:34) "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will di sown me three times."
  • (Matthew 26:35) But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
  • I've found that Satan attacks us often where we feel the most invulnerable
  • beware the words, "It couldn't happen to me!"

  • Gordon MacDonald tells the story of the young German pilot who rented a small, single-engine airplane from Denmark and flew into the most guarded airspace in the world
  • he entered what was then the Soviet Union, buzzed the Kremlin, and landed in Red Square
  • a city's most powerful defenses were thwarted
  • part of the reason was probably that those on guard that day saw only a small blip on the radar
  • they were perhaps relaxed and had a false sense of security
  • and all of a sudden, something that began as a harmless incident became a matter of world-shaking significance

  • I've learned never to say these words: "It couldn't happen to me"
  • when I hear of pastors who have to leave the ministry because of moral failures, I never say, "It couldn't happen to me"
  • I pray to God that it doesn't happen, but I've learned something
  • the moment we feel confident in our own strength in a certain area, we're vulnerable to Satan's attack(1 Corinthians 10:12) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!

  • Oswald Chambers wrote, "The Bible characters never fell on their weak points but on their strong ones; unguarded strength is double weakness"
  • Gordon MacDonald had a strong relationship with his wife, Gail
  • he said that if there is one place he wouldn't fail, it was his marriage
  • never say, "It won't happen to me"

  • there's another truth I firmly believe
  • THE CHURCH IS THE COMMUNITY OF THE FORGIVEN
  • we could call believers many things, including saints, but this morning I want to call believers the forgiven
  • I've learned this from no less than Augustine, someone we call a saint, who never forgot his broken past
  • he wrote in his Confessions:
    • For what am I without thee, but a guide to mine own downfall? Or what am I even at the best, but an infant seeking milk, and feeding upon thee, the Food incorruptible? But what kind of thing is any man, seeing that he is but a man? Let now the strong and the mighty laugh, but let us weak and needy souls ever confess unto thee.

  • did you hear that last part?
  • we're "weak and needy souls" who are ever confessing to God

  • C.S. Lewis said it well:
  • "Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice"
  • I like that
  • we're fellow-patients in the hospital
  • about the only difference between us is how long we've been admitted

  • Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
  • (1 Corinthians 6:9) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
  • (1 Corinthians 6:10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • (1 Corinthians 6:11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
  • did you read that?
  • "And that is what some of you were"
  • the church isn't a collection of people who have it all together
  • we're a collection of sinners who have been touched by God's grace

  • I love the hymn, "Only a sinner saved by grace"
  • what a difference there would be in the church if we all acted like this!
  • we would truly be a community of the redeemed, and our sign outside would say something like, "Sinners welcome here"
  • we'd be a hospital for the sin-sick
  • that's really what we are, isn't it?

  • a local newspaper once ran this classified ad:
  • "Son, I know you are in the city. Please call your father collect. I love you son"
  • you know what this was?
  • an offering of grace to a son who had strayed
  • but it didn't matter to the father; he just wanted his son back
  • that's the sort of grace that should characterize the church

  • there's a church in north Toronto that put out a sign on their front lawn saying something like this: "Welcome back to your church home - no questions asked"
  • they've had scores of phone calls from people, some of them in tears, asking, "Do you really mean that?"
  • what if our churches put out the welcome mat and said, "Sinners welcome here"
  • if we don't welcome sinners here, who are we going to welcome?
  • we will welcome sinners and preach repentance, and let them know that we are nothing more than sinners saved by grace

  • that's a good way to start 1998
  • we can start with a clean slate, believing God that no matter how much we've sinned, his grace is greater
  • we can come this morning in repentance and receive his gift of forgiveness
  • we can humble ourselves and realize our vulnerability
  • and we can let other sinners know that when they come to church, they won't be the only sinner there