(excerpt from the sermon)
The Year of Re
Direction, not intention, determines destination. It's important that somewhere along the line you really understand that. Because if you're going to get stronger this year, you're going to have to go to the gym or do other exercises. If you want to get leaner, you're going to have to eat less, maybe even do some cardio. If you want a better marriage, you're going to have to work on your marriage. Things don't automatically improve. Improving anything requires getting on the road that leads to the destination desired, right? It's called cause and effect. Direction, not intention, determines destination. There's so much about this coming year that you cannot determine or predict. That's just life. But that's not to say that you have no determining power. And the question I have for you this year is twofold, really. Number one, if you're going to chase after things in 2023, what is the loftiest goal? What should require your greatest passion and pursuit? And second, once you identify what that is, then what is the road? What is the direction? What decisions do you have to make in your life to get there?
Now, I would argue that the greatest pursuit of your life is indeed God and having a relationship with Him. Mortimer Adler was the editor of Encyclopedia Britannica and he reserved the longest article in the encyclopedia on the topic of God. And when he was asked why, he said “More consequences for thought and action, follow the affirmation or denial of God than any other basic question.” So what you believe about God is going to determine everything else in your life. Again, I would go a step further and say the greatest pursuit of your life, then, is God. The reason is because that everything else stems from your belief or disbelief, your pursuit or your apathy, toward God. Your mental, emotional, and physical health are all tied to your understanding of God. And even though historically, categorically, those who have lived life as atheists, those who have categorically denied the existence of God, if you read their stories (and it's not always the case, but primarily it's the case), they live lives and die in gibbering insanity and ultimately emotional disintegration. So just from a pragmatic view, atheism does not work when you become unhinged from the creator. You're going to tie your life to something else that can never deliver what it is you're looking for. Such as sustainability during the difficulties of life or for something to anchor you. We've said before that only God is big enough to fill your heart and soul and mind.
So think of all the possibilities here. This is a new year and the possibilities are numerous. You could renew your body, reshape your attitudes, resolve to forgive, and recommit to your marriage. This indeed can be the "year of re." But the ultimate journey whose destination brings all these other things into perspective and grants you a power to overcome in your life is the pursuit of God. Revival. To fill your faith, to hear the voice of God, to sense the presence of God, to know what it is, to feel His closeness, to know with human certainty that God is always there, always concerned, always working in your life no matter what it appears to look like, always loving you and always having your best interest in mind.
So to experience God, to experience the transcendent, to pursue God, to know God intimately in the way God seeks to be known, means that you're going to have emotional, psychological, mental, physical health, and vitality. So that's why your pursuit this year, we call it revival, is to revive your relationship with God to the manner in which God has always sought you to experience Him or to relate to Him. So you say, okay Jeff, but I don't feel these things. And you know what? I want to feel God like this, but I just don't. And it's not my fault. You know, it's not my fault that I don't feel or experience God the way you keep describing. I'll admit the answer isn't easy, but it is discoverable. But you have to go back to the beginning to understand the things that disconnect us from God because the Bible goes to great lengths to show us why it is that we feel alienated and disconnected and do not experience God the way we desire to experience God.
When you're out of sync with your Creator, your soul knows it very well and begins to weep. However, if you'll get back under the lordship of Jesus Christ, whereby the Holy Spirit of the Word of God becomes your master again; if you would declare your Dependence Day, this is the day, the first part of 2023 that I have decided to truly give myself to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, when you do that, you will from this moment begin to heal. That's the promise. Romans 8:19-21 tells us that one day the King will return and He's going to set everything right. Creation will be restored and renewed. It will be redeemed, it will totally cooperate with us again. It will no longer stand against us. Total enjoyment without fear. I like to meander through the possibilities. I think that's why Revelation talks about the lion laying down with the lamb.
We'll be walking with the lions and riding the giraffe and swimming with the whales because creation has been restored to its original order. No more let sins and sorrows grow or thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow. Far as the curse is found, one day the King returns and sets everything right. But even now, folks, even now, if you'll understand the moment you decide: No, I'm going to stop trying to determine for myself what is right and what is wrong. I'm going to look at the scripture, I'm going to investigate the word of God and I'm going to live under the lordship of Christ. When you do that, when you stop sitting on the throne of God, when you cease being alienated from God, the remedy of sin comes in and suddenly the healing begins.
This is the year of revival. We are a church that wants to experience God in ways we never have before. And we're starting to see the first fruits of that. But I also know that some of you will not come along. Some will, but some won't because this is a hard, hard ask. What the Bible asks you to do is get off God's throne. He determines what is right and wrong. Live under His lordship. And if you will, you will know and experience and have fellowship and know intimately, you will feel the power of the presence of God in your life like you never have before. So my call on all of us is to repent now, today. Stop. Move out of the house. Stop sleeping with her or him. You're not married. Lean into your marriage and away from this affair that you're thinking about. Make worship a non-negotiable in your life. Flee consumerism and narcissism where you think the whole world's all about you. It's not. It's about God, His purposes in the world. Stop the addiction, put it down, let go of it. If you can't do it on your own, get help. Cast out the false idols. Stop trying to turn other things into pseudo-saviors. They will never save you. Cast all your anxieties, all your passions, all your pursuits unto God. Live under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Stop worshiping money and power and position. Stop lying and deceiving and manipulating everybody else around you to get what you think you can't live without. Break up with him or her. Stop binding yourself to something or someone that does not share your passion for Christ. Stop being unequally yoked. Stop watching things that are not appropriate for a child of God. Put the book down, turn off the television. Stop the sense of pride and covetousness and lust and anger and gluttony and envy and sloth. And stop telling God what He ought to accept and what He ought to reject on the basis of your understanding. And stop searching desperately for books and people who will tell you what you want to hear, who will justify what it is that you really want to do.
But, instead, make a commitment to search the scriptures and then conform. Let God be God and His enemies be scattered. Why? Because God really does have your best interest in mind. Notice something beautiful here in Genesis 3 verse 15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” That right there shows what God is really like and why He can be trusted with your life. Because even in the midst of God's judgment, all the way back here in Genesis 3, His judgment against the serpent, Satan, and anyone who follows Satan becomes what is called the proto-euangelion, the proto-gospel, the first preaching of the gospel all the way back to Genesis 3, that God is so eager to bless us even in the midst of judgment that He just has to tell us about what's coming. God says, this is what I'm going to do to remedy sin. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers.”
Now He's not saying from now on snakes and people will hate each other. And that's why the serpent lost his legs and why people and snakes can't get along. No. He's saying that the human race is going to only have two kinds of people. One type of people who follow Satan's advice in the garden. People who sit on God's throne and say, did God really say that? And say to listen to the voice. Come on, it looks good, it's attractive, it's appealing. I mean, I can't see anything wrong with that. It must be a mistake. They listen to the voice inside that says: You know, this is what you want. It's what your heart wants. So how could it be wrong? It's desirable. How could it be immoral? And then there's a second group of people. The first people eat dust all their lives. The second group follows and obeys the command of God. They let God be God and His enemies be scattered. When it says, I will put enmity between your seed (the seed of the snake) and hers (Eve’s offspring) it means this: The first step of salvation and redemption comes when God puts in your heart a hatred of sin, a hatred of Satan, his offspring, and all his ways. When your sin sickens you, when it makes you ill, when you stop being defensive, when you stop trying to figure out why you can do what it is you know you shouldn't do. When that happens, that is the first step of salvation and redemption. William Cowper wrote many great songs of faith and in one of his songs, 'Speaking to the Holy Spirit,' he writes these words, “Return old holy dove, return sweet messenger of rest. I hate the sins that make me mourn and drove thee from my breast. The dearest idol I have known, whatever that idol be, help me to cast it from thy throne and follow only thee.” That is the New Year's resolution. Repent.
If we want to see God, if you want to experience God, if you want to know Him in a way that you've never known Him, we've got to fight. We've got to resist this culture that tells us we determine what is right and wrong. We got to get off God's throne and go into His word and investigate what the Bible actually says about all these things. And once we discover it, we decide that we're going to make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives and we're going to place our lives, everything about us, under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Until we do that, we're playing a game. We may not be perfect and we may still have failures but when, in your will, you say, “I am going to submit to the Lordship of Christ” then the healing begins and revival can come.
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