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About this series
Pathways to Intimacy with God
Do you need to restore your first love with Jesus, but the "world's system" has you stopped dead in your tracks? Do you yearn for that place where you and Jesus are so close that nothing can separate you; you're on the same wavelength and everything is clicking. This series will help you examine your direct line of communication with God.More from this series
The Gallup polls and the Barna polls show of all American Christians, ninety percent of them do not live differently, act differently, talk differently, divorce differently, marry differently, spend their money differently – they don’t do anything differently than the world.
And I want to ask you, “How could that be?” What tool, what powerful tool, what means could the enemy have to engraft this world system, in such a way, that we don’t even know it’s happening to us?
It’s a way that’s filled our minds, and our images, and it has deceived, and seduced, and the world system has been planted in the very core, in the back of our mind, so there is a way that seems right to us. We think we’re doing the right thing, we think we’re going down the right track, we think we’re doing it for the right reason, and the end thereof is death. And death means separation.
Are you ready? This is what he’s used. Is it evil in itself? Absolutely not. We’ve enthroned it in the center of our rooms so that we can all sit around and make it the object of our worship. And we bow down to it.
It tells us what we don’t have, and what we need, and what we need to drive, and how we need to look. It tells us what’s in and what’s not in. And in the average American household it runs six to seven hours a day. It’s become the new babysitter.
And I’m not talking about the violent, sexual, perverted, materialistic stuff that comes out of it. I’m talking about just even the good stuff. It has the power to numb your soul.
And the world system comes pumping through it, and we get deceived, and we get seduced. And if there’s any doubt in your mind just try, I used to say ten days and no one ever makes it. Just try turning it off. Go home and unplug it for three days.
And you’ll realize there is a, there’s some level of addiction. You need to turn it on. I mean you’ve got to know the news, right? Yeah, because the world won’t go on unless you know what’s happening. The names just change. It’s about the same every night.
Now is this a stick our head in the sand, never watch TV, never read the paper, and never watch a DVD? Is that the message? Absolutely not. But it is a message that says there is a world system: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
There is deception going on and it’s powerful, and it comes through there, so you better have your game face on when you turn that on. And you better decide in advance what you want to watch, what you will watch, what you won’t watch. And you better train your kids, and you better have a huge input of truth renewing your mind, to counteract what you know is happening to you day in and day out.
Okay, let’s get on the solution side. How in the world do we overcome the world’s barriers to intimacy with God? Okay? How? How in the world can we live Christlike lives in a polluted world?
Let me give you three very clear ways. Number one, it begins with a new attitude. It all starts with, here, you know it’s a decision, it’s a new attitude, and the new attitude is Philippians chapter 2 verses 5 through 9. “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
And goes on to say, “Who although existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. But He emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Now get this, “For this reason also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.”
Now, have this attitude in yourself, verse 5 is followed by verses 3 and 4. And verses 3 and 4 are a command, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but consider others as more important than yourself.” Don’t think merely on your own stuff and your own things but think of others as more important than yourself.
And the example is, have this attitude that Christ had. See, the world system says, “Get, get, get,” put down to push you up. The world system says, “I’ve got to be number one.” Jesus, who had all glory, says to us, “Consider others. Be a giver instead of a getter.”
And He says, “Here’s the example.” He was exalted in glory, He didn’t think it was wrong to have His deity veiled, some of His attributes veiled, so people would look at Him differently.
And then He came in the form actual as a man, He lived a perfect life, He was obedient to the Father’s plan even to the point of death on a cross. Counter-intuitive, it’s a paradox. And what did Jesus receive for His obedience? By being a humble servant, and being a giver and a lover, instead of a getter and a gainer.
Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess and God will highly exalt Him because there’s a different economy we’re going to learn about. And the different economy is God’s economy and it is counter, it is anti, it is against, it is the opposite of the world system.
Well, everything we learn from the world, if we do just the opposite will be right in the center of God’s will. And so, it starts with a new attitude.
The second is it requires a radical renunciation. This is, I think, some missing teaching in the Church right now. It requires a radical renunciation. And I, and you know, renunciation is like an old word and you’re bringing in one of those really old words but it’s such a powerful word and it’s packed with meaning.
Because to renounce something means I’ve been in step, and I’m doing this and I’m going this direction, and you realize, “Whoa, that is wrong. I renounce that relationship. I had no idea that that group secretly was funneling money that was causing slave trading to occur over in Sudan. I renounce my relationship with them. I am totally getting away from it.” That’s the idea.
And Jesus calls us to renounce our relationship with the world. There can’t be this, “I’m going to be a really good Christian and plus Jesus, plus the job I want, and everything working out. Jesus plus the socioeconomic standard that I have to have. Jesus plus,” no, no, no. Renunciation talks about, “God, I want Your way, Your agenda, first and foremost, and I trust You.”
Notice what Jesus said in Luke 9:23 to 25, “And He was saying to them all,” so this isn’t for superstars, this isn’t for pastors, this isn’t for missionaries. This is for all Christians.
Notice, “…if anyone, if anyone wishes to come after Me,” what’s this whole series about? Intimacy. Isn’t that what coming after Jesus is?
“If anyone wants to follow Me, if anyone wants to be intimate with me, if anyone wants to taste and experience My love and My passion and My power, if anyone wants to come after Me,” then notice, “he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Circle the word “deny,” circle the word “take up,” and circle the word “follow.” That’s what renunciation of the world requires. You have to deny yourself.
The world says, “You deserve a break today!” The world says, “You ought to have this!” The world says, “You can’t afford it? Charge it!” The world says, “You’ve got to put others down to get you up.” The world says, “You’ve got to get the best, you’ve got to be first, you should never have to wait. You’re the most important person in the family, you’re the most important person in the work, you’re the most important of everything. Life revolves around you.”
And Jesus says just the opposite: “Deny yourself.” And then He says – well, how do you deny yourself? “You take up your cross.” In one big, emotional event? Is that what it says? “You take up your cross…” how often? “Daily.” Why? What was the cross? I mean, we make it like this big, religious symbol.
Hey, the cross wasn’t even used in Christianity, as a symbol, until three hundred years after Christ died. When He is using it in this text, the cross, He could have said, “Take up your electric chair.” He could have said, “Take up your lethal injection.” The cross was an instrument to kill someone.
What He’s saying is, deny yourself and then you put yourself under the spiritual knife daily and you die to you, your “me first” mindset. And you have the attitude of Christ and you say, “Lord, what would You have me to do today?” And then follow Me.
But then notice the reasoning here. Boy, I love this. The words of Jesus are so cutting and so hard, but His motivation is so loving and so compassionate. Because what He knows is, as you follow the world, and I follow the world, and I have and you have, the end thereof is death.
And so, He gives us the reason. This isn’t like He’s this super demanding. This is for, what’s He say? “For whoever wishes to save his life,” do it your way, “me first” mindset, “will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
And then He just, it’s logical, He says, “For what is profited of a man if he gains the whole world and loses, or forfeits, himself,” or literally it’s his psyche or his soul – the real you.
I mean, what’s the use if you end up with the great car, and the kids at the right schools, and all the money, and the 401k, and the right looks, and all the right surgeries, and you’re alone, and empty, and joyless, and have no peace, and you’re sitting in your big house with your big plasma TV, with no one that really loves you on Christmas Eve, with kids that are alienated, with a divorce or two in the rearview mirror, and no one gives a rip about you, but you sure look good on the outside.
And Jesus says, “The world system is a disastrous, deceptive, seductive plan to bring death and destruction to your life and I love you so much I don’t call you to some mild, little commitment. I call you to deny yourself, I call you to take up your cross on a daily basis and die to those desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and that need and that compulsion,” that you have and I have to be first, and to be the center, and to be arrogant, and to pride. In very, very sophisticated, Christian ways I might add. At least I’ve learned to do it in many of those ways.
And then He says, “Deny yourself.” I remember sitting next to a guy who did one of the dot com deals and sold His company and made ten, twelve million dollars and then decided to go into politics and that didn’t quite work out and as it happens with many dot coms the guy starts it and then they bring someone else in to run it and then he ends up with a whole lot of money and not a lot to do on his hands.
And we were at a banquet and I’d met him a couple, three different times. And he looked at me and he says, “You know I got a problem. I’ve got to discover what should I really do with my life?”
And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, I did this and I got all this money and I want to be a good steward of it, but I want to really serve God, and then I want to be, but I want to be rich.”
And he says, “So what should I do? Because I’m not sure exactly what direction to go. So you know?” I said, “So, let me get this right. You want to serve God but you really want to be rich?” He said, “Right.” I said, “So, you’re asking me: what should you do?” He said, “Right.” I said, “Repent.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Repent.” He said, “I don’t get, what do you mean?” I said, “Repent.” It is the desire to be rich; it is at the root of many of evil that causes a man to pierce his very soul.
If God would give you blessing and resources enjoy them, be a good steward, you know, every good thing enjoy, give generously, and use it for His glory. But if your desire is to be rich, that desire and being God’s man are antithetical.
And so, we got a whole, whole group of Christians that want to follow Jesus and be rich, follow Jesus and live a certain way, follow Jesus and only do their thing, this way, at these times.
And you know what? It’s what we call the “Evangelical-American-Both-And-Strategy.” I want all that Jesus can give me, on my terms, and I want my heaven here, and my heaven there, and I want to do it my way. And God says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.”
And if He’s given you capacity and ability for wealth, He will bless you with wealth and you will understand it’s His, but it can never be the desire of your heart. It can’t be what drives you. If it drives you, there’s a god in your life and it’s like the rich, young ruler, and it means death.
And so there has to be a renunciation, there has to be a point in time where you say, “Jesus matters more than that stuff. And God, all these other things,” in and of themselves are they evil? No. But they can have no place. It can’t be both-and.
A new attitude, a radical renunciation, and then here you have to embrace a new economy. A new economy. And an economy is just how things work. It’s a new paradigm, it’s a new kingdom, it’s a new system. There’s a new set of values, there’s new priorities.
In the kingdom you live differently. In other words, the whole world is like fish going this way and you’re the spiritual salmon going upstream, going upstream, and then you get tired and actually when you see all the other Christians going down this way you think you’re nuts.
But here’s the kingdom economy: The kingdom economy is threefold. The way to life is death. It doesn’t make any sense. It feels suicidal, doesn’t it? But what did the apostle Paul say in Galatians 2:20? “I’ve been crucified with Christ,” what’s crucify mean? I died! “…and it’s no longer I who live.”
Well what do you mean, Paul? Did you physically die? No. It’s “But Christ lives in me.” And the life I now live, in other words, the life I live in my present, physical body I live in the flesh, how do I live? I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
He’s saying by faith I live in this body, my old man died, my new agenda and new economy, the way to life is death. I’m going to die to my desires, die to my will, die to my agenda, die to my future, die to my demands and my selfishness, and I’m going to say each and every day, “God, what is Your will? I want to follow You, I want to put others first, by faith, since You love me and died for me, by Your grace You will not withhold any good thing from me so I’m going to walk with You.”
The way? Surrender leads to purpose, passion, and power, If we said it in our day, that’s how I would say it. The way to life is death and death really is surrender. When you surrender on a daily basis to God’s agenda it leads to purpose, it leads to passion, and it leads to the kind of power, and the love, and the joy that we’re all looking for.
But the way to get there, I’ll tell you, is different.
The second way in the new economy is the way up is, you can write the word, “down.” I mean it’s human. God created us. We want to be honored, we want to be exalted, we want to be in a position where we influence people for good and for right, and God says that ambition is not wrong. He says, “It’s how you get there.”
Notice what Jesus said in Luke 9:48, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For the one who is the,” circle the word, “least among all of you is the one who is greatest.” Circle “greatest.” Least, greatest. You see the paradox?
If you really want life to the fullest, die. If you really want to be exalted, if you really want to go up, the way to go up is down. Be a servant. Servanthood leads to exaltation and honor.
Surrender leads to purpose, passion, and power. Servanthood leads to exaltation and honor.
Can you imagine what would happen in your house if we started outdoing one another in servanthood? “Who gets to do the dishes tonight? Mom, can I help out with that? Hey, honey, I’ll take care of that. I’ll go out and take care of that!” What would happen? “No, you watch this program, I got to choose last night.”
What would happen if servanthood became the byword of your family, of this church, of how you went to work? You know, I’ll tell you, you will be exalted. You will be the best friend of many people. You’ll be the friend that everyone wants to be around.
Does this mean doormat? No. But it means a servant’s mindset. If you want to be great, be the least.
And the final aspect of the new economy is the way to gain is to give. Jesus would say in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given unto you. It will be poured into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. For by your standard of measure, or the size of cup, or the size of basket that you give to others it will be returned to you.”
Jesus says the whole world is about getting on top, being in the center, and gaining, gaining, gaining. And He says the way to get on top is be a servant, the way to gain is to give, and the way to discover life is to die.
Generosity is the gateway to genuine prosperity. True wealth. And, by the way, God does not mind giving financial wealth to Christians, and financial wealth is not evil or bad unless it has your heart. And you always know if it has your heart, is when He taps you on the shoulder and He wants to do something with it differently than you’ve planned.
And, by the way, the only antidote to greed is to be a giver. You need to systematically give and be generous with your time, and your talent, and your treasure. You need to give because me and you, and the rich, young rulers that are all sitting in this room, are so prone by all these ads, to get the next gadget and just the next big-sized house.
Have you ever noticed if you’re going to shop for a house, or shop for a car, that if you set a budget that the one you really want only costs about two thousand more? Right? I mean if you say, “We can afford a house like this,” I’m guaranteeing you, add about three percent and that’s the one you really want.
Why? It’s called the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. You are human. What’s the antidote? The antidote is to say, “God, it’s not mine,” and you give generously. And not just of your money. You give your heart away and the way you give your heart away is you give your time, and you care about people.
I love the prayer at the end and we’re going to close the series and my application is to encourage you to consider praying this for seven days. Slowly. Contemplatively.
But one of the greatest radicals of his day, Francis of Assisi, was an extraordinarily wealthy man whose father was extraordinarily wealthy. And as Church history tells it he had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ and took things extraordinarily, extraordinarily literally.
And as the story goes, I don’t know how much is mythology and how much is true Church history. He left all that he had. I mean he left his father’s wealth; he left His clothes. And as the story is told he literally went naked and left all that he had and started with a group of people who said, “Let’s just do what the New Testament says.”
And so, he says, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. And where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy.”
Do you see how outwardly focused it is? This is a kingdom prayer. “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled,” get, “but to console; to be understood,” “Why didn’t anybody come up and talk to me and why aren’t they asking me questions? And I don’t really feel a part.” “…not to be understood but to understand. To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we’re born to eternal life.”
This is the path of paradox, it will go against your grain, and your flesh, and the world system. And you will do it and you will discover the life that is really life.
And you will have joy like you can’t imagine, you will have intimacy and answers to prayers that you thought were only for “famous people” out there somewhere because God wants this for us. And He longs for you to get to experience His love at a deeper and greater level than any of us imagine.