This is a complete text of the Sunday morning message Connecting With God presented on August 16, 2009.
A Sunday morning in the life of Arnold…
Arnold wakes up to a beautiful song on the clock radio and a smile on his face because he is anticipating a great day at church. He is normally an early riser, but he wants to make sure that he gets up early enough where he doesn’t have to rush to get to Sunday school. Unlike many of his peers at work and those he has close relationships with, he genuinely anticipates his visit to church as it helps him to enhance his understanding of God’s Word and allows him to reconnect with his fellow churchgoers. He is a big believer in the body of Christ and in the value of true fellowship. He is ready to worship the Lord and give him praise.
A Sunday morning in the life of Betty…
Betty hears the music from the clock radio as she is abruptly awakened and slaps at the snooze bar. She does it again seven minutes later. After finally concluding that she cannot get back to sleep, she rolls out of bed and gets ready for church. She wonders aloud if it really is Sunday morning. Each time she hears in her head the voice of her mother who was telling her, over and over again, that “you had better get your behind to church or you won’t get into heaven!” speech. Perhaps it was guilt that kept compelling her to go to church, or perhaps it was because she did not feel that she could be a good enough person for the God that the preacher always talked about every week. She had already decided a long time ago that she was NOT going to Sunday school because she had to get up early enough already and that God was going to have to be satisfied with her getting to church, period. Betty has heard all of the talk about who God is, but she still sees church as just another thing that she has to do in order to find favor with God. Betty has often used as her prayer to God, “Lord, I hope you’re happy with my going to church every week. By the way, I sure could use a blessing or two in my paycheck once in a while. You know I would give you more if I had it.”
A Sunday morning in the life of Clint…
Clint is deeply into sleep and fails to hear the alarm clock go off because he had a late Saturday night into Sunday morning escapade. He had set the alarm to wake up early Sunday morning because he was going to try to make it to church because he had promised a friend that he was finally going to try to make it. Well, Clint actually overslept and he was also feeling a little rubbery from the late night partying. He decided that he would not risk being seen walking into church where everyone would be staring at him for coming in late and decided to call another friend to see if she would meet him for a late brunch. A quick hop in the shower and throwing on a designer leisure outfit would be the ticket! In about an hour, he grabs the remote control of the television to turn off the set before heading out the door. As he hits the switch, Dr. Charles Stanley can be heard declaring, “Jesus is the answer.”
Three different views of the importance of church…three different views of who God is, or is not. One of the most important questions that we should always be prepared to answer is why you, as a church attendee, go to church. Once you are able to answer the “why” question, the next question is a “who” question. Since you attend church, do you know who God is? These are far from elementary questions at all with obvious answers. The answers to these questions should be well thought out and consist of more than just a simple phrase and summation. If you really think about these questions and answer them with the care and proper meditation, you might surprise yourself with the level of depth that each of these questions requires. What you would also find is that the way you answer these questions will also be a window for you in evaluating who God is in your own church and worship experience. Let’s challenge ourselves now to examine the “why” and “who” questions and see if you can build upon your pre-existing answers. As we need to re-evaluate our life and career paths, we certainly need to be able to explain to anyone who asks you…”why do you go to church?” and “who do you think God is in your life?”
Let’s start with a little public service announcement. Whatever you think you were told about God and the church when you were very young–put it aside for the moment. Even as we get older, many of us have not “grown up” or matured in their understanding of who God is let alone why they attend church. To make matters worse, some of us have been exposed to inadequate, insufficient, or altogether incomplete teachings that are usually not biblical or are not applicable to developing a healthy view of God and the church. The best way to address this is to go back to the basics when it comes to our ability to begin to understand God’s Word. The first basic principle is that while we are to grow up from childhood to adulthood, we are to actually grow with a childlike faith in who God is in our lives. If you try to apply your own human understanding of who God is, you will not see the mysteriously wonderful ways in which God truly operates. While we live in the world as a natural man or woman, God operates in the supernatural. He does His work through our sincere faith and belief in Him as Lord and Savior. God knows that we often struggle with our lack of faith. Jesus Christ mentions it often when speaking to His disciples. As He knows our limitations, He only asks for a small measure of faith and He responds accordingly. Here is a group of miracles that Jesus performs because those who approached Him for help believed in Him:
As He was telling them these things, suddenly one of the leaders (a leader of a synagogue) came and knelt down before Him, saying, “My daughter is near death, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” So Jesus and His disciples got up and followed him. Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the • tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. When Jesus came to the leader’s house, He saw the flute players and a crowd lamenting loudly. “Leave,” He said, “because the girl isn’t dead, but sleeping.” And they started laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And this news spread throughout that whole area. As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When He entered the house, the blind men approached Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they answered Him. Then He touched their eyes, saying, “Let it be done for you according to your faith!” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus warned them sternly, “Be sure that no one finds out!” But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout that whole area.
With a measure of faith, we can see how God operates in our life. If we fail, however, to believe what we see and hear, we begin to question if it really is true. Do we get so grown up in our own hearts and minds that we lose our child-like faith? When we lose our ability to believe in the power of Jesus Christ, we no longer rely upon Him and we, instead, rely upon our own strength and in our own accomplishments. In short, we rely upon our own common sense in our worldly dealings instead of what is uncommon, which is how God operates. To fail to connect with God is a dangerous state to be in. Let us remind ourselves why we have to work at truly having a valuable relationship with God.
To truly connect with God, we have to start with the basic premise that we need to stop looking at God from our own perspective…a human perspective. We must elevate our perspective of God to who He truly is, and see Him for who He is.
First, we must see God in His ultimate holiness:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of • Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth. The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. Then I said: Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, [and] because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
Isaiah’s vision was not of the God we refer to in the Old Testament, for John 1:18 states “no one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him.” (Also see Exodus 33:20, which states “no one can see Me [God, the Father] and live.”) Isaiah actually saw a glimpse of Jesus Christ on His throne of grace, in a place that was filled with His glory and honor. If you tried to use your imagination and visualize in your mind all of the splendor and majesty, you soon realize that there is nothing on earth that can begin to come close to Jesus Christ and His wonder. When you look back on the account of the life of Jesus Christ and see Him also in this vision where God has exalted Him as the “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), you can understand Isaiah’s response when he compares his human state to God’s holiness and righteousness.
We connect with God when are obedient to His Word. It all starts with Leviticus 11:44:
For I am the LORD your God, so you must consecrate (set apart) yourselves and be holy because I am holy.
Stop here for a moment—if you want to live according to the world’s standards, you will never fully connect with who God is. God calls us to the highest standard to live in holiness because He wants the best for us. He loves us more than we could ever realize or even begin to understand. His standards are indeed high but not to tie us down or bind us up—on the contrary—they are to release us from the bondage of sin and from Satan’s deception. When we settle for less, we lose touch with what God intends to be the best for us. A life of holiness is a life where we see the truth in how God truly feels about us…His beloved creation.
For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
Next, we have to conclude that our sinful nature is a sticking point and is incomparable to God’s holiness:
Romans 3:10, 23
As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one—for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Thankfully, we have Jesus Christ, who justifies us through faith in Him—that childlike faith we discussed earlier—who paid for our sin with His shed blood and became our righteousness—only because of our faith and not in anything we can do on our own:
Romans 3:21-22, 24-26
But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets—that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation (sacrifice, or as an offering of atonement) through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
In order to connect with God through Jesus Christ, we need to see Jesus Christ for who He really is—He is more than just a prophet, more than a great man, more that even a king—He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).
He is also the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and there is nothing that was ever created that He was not a part of (Colossians 1:16). Since He is the head of the church, we need to understand that the church we attend every Sunday is not just the building we enter but rather our fellowship within the body that is headed by none other than Jesus Christ. The best thing that we can do is to appreciate church for its place in our worship and praise and greater understanding of God as His Word is revealed to us. It is how we can connect with God through Jesus Christ.
When you see God for who He is, we should be all the more appreciative of who Jesus Christ is and how much He must truly love us for how He lived and died for us! We want to give Him the praise, to rejoice and celebrate His great name! How do you see God and the church? Are you doing everything that you can do to connect with Jesus Christ? He is always present and is ready and waiting to have a rich and satisfying relationship with you. Don’t miss out on the truth of God’s love in your life…He is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and our Coming King of kings. Read more about Him. Study His Word. Meditate on it. Make the connection with God, and see how good He truly is!
Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man (woman) who takes refuge in Him!
All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB® and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.