daily Broadcast

Seeking God, Part 2

From the series The Real God

What comes to your mind when you think about God? Your mental picture of Him is the most important thing about you. Chip reveals how our understanding of who God is affects every single aspect of our lives.

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Message Transcript

See, here’s what I want you to know is if we get a clearer view of the real God, some of the things that we have slowly, slowly, slowly become accustomed to and think is normal as Christians would shock us.

And one is the idol of happiness and self-fulfillment. The other idol I think is what I call the salad bar approach to Christianity. And the way it goes is something that we are seeing in Bible-oriented churches now and it’s like, God had a good day when He gave the Ten Commandments, just not a great day. Eight out of ten are good. Now you get to choose which two you don’t like.

In our day, this one about adultery or sexual purity – I think that was very old fashioned, it was probably for the community of that time. And in our more existential, wiser way, I don’t think that really applies today. Oh, this one, oh no. We don’t, oh just no. That thing about greed? Greed is good. He obviously hasn’t seen the movie. We will cut that one out.

And we have taken the Bible and we have decided, selectively, which parts are true, which parts are not true, instead of it being the authority. And we have created it around a lifestyle and an American dream vision and we have taken a book, removed the God of authority and the God that is holy and the God who loves us and the God who wants our best and we have basically said, “How again can this…?”

And so when you decide what is true and what is not true, there is a new god on the throne and it’s you. And it’s massive across America right now. We have tens of thousands of people flocking to services where part of the Bible is taught as though it is some sort of a positive thinking, self-help manual instead of the holy Creator of the universe sent His Son and that He has asked us to join Him in a mission to rescue people off this world called The Titanic that is sinking and we have the only hope and that needs to be our priority.

And, by the way, by the way, as that is your priority and He is Lord and as you serve Him, He is so kind and so generous that the byproduct is very, very often an amazingly deep, intimate marriage. The byproduct is a level of joy regardless of circumstances. The byproduct is that your kids will see that and catch the vision and probably follow in your steps. But it’s a byproduct.

And so what happens is when you make the means the end, it becomes an idol. It’s what happened, I believe, with Abraham. Why would God ask Abraham to give his son? You wait a hundred years for something, you think that by twelve, thirteen the kid kind of was an idol?

So any time we worship an idol, two things happen. The idol can’t deliver and we take God out of the equation in our life. So the whole point of Abraham giving Isaac was for his good to free his heart.

Isaac can’t deliver fulfillment, Isaac can’t fulfill my will, Isaac is a gift. It’s to steward. Children are a gift from the Lord.

And so that moment for him to take Isaac up was a moment of lordship to believe that he could trust – what? God’s Word. And Hebrews 11 says – what? “He went there believing that though he slay him, he would rise.”
And just, we might as well just start this time off together. Just ask yourself, before you hit the pillow, Do I have any Isaacs? And usually they are good things. It’s a good job, it can be a great marriage, it could be one of your kids. Heck, it can be ministry, believe me.

So what we want to do is we want to pause and say, Okay, Lord, I know that You are not like me. I know that I will reduce You to manageable terms.

And, third, God can only be known as He reveals Himself to us.

And He does that in three ways and these we will develop throughout the whole time, but let me give them to you. The first way God reveals Himself to us is through nature.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they reveal knowledge.”

One of the things I do, I just like to get up early. It has just worked for me. And so it’s always dark and often when I get up, that’s when I spend time with God and my warped personality, sometimes I think of all the things I have got to do and I start feeling pressure and so I usually list the things I am thankful for to get my perspective. And then I will write a little box in my journal and I will put a box and then I will write and I will turn the pressure into a prayer request.

And some of us, sometimes I have eight, ten, twelve going, Oh my gosh. And that’s just today. And then I often, I get that second cup of coffee and I will go outside and when I go outside and I just look at all these stars, and then I just look at my little box. It’s all those stars. And I will just think, Men have been looking at these for thousands of years. You hold, You know every name. This is just the Milky Way. There’s only a billion stars. Only a billion. And You know all their names. By the word of Your power You are holding them right now. Outside the Milky Way, there are between two hundred and three hundred billion galaxies.

I am going to cast my care upon You because You care for me. You are an all-powerful God and yet You care about one, little guy in California named Chip and You know I feel those pressures and You are committed to giving me the grace to either say “yes,” to say “no,” or to do whatever You want me to do.  So I am going to go back inside and I am just going to remember who I am really talking to.

And sometimes it’s three minutes, sometimes it’s ten. And then I go back and I say, Okay, Lord, what do You want me to do? What do You not want me to do? What could someone else do? And then, okay, I know these. Okay, I have got to record this video and prepare me. I need to have a hard conversation.

And it just changes, it just changes. When was the last time you were out in nature and saw it? The theologians call it “general revelation.” In Romans 1, the apostle Paul would say we are all without excuse because from the stars and the balance of nature and the mystery and the harmony of nature alone, God’s invisible attributes, His eternal existence, and His very character is revealed.

What kind of a God has a bird that lays an egg here and flies thousands and thousands of miles way over to here and a year later, drops an egg twelve inches from the same spot? What kind of a God has GPS into whales that travel in crisscross? What kind of a God has six hundred different kinds of beetles? He’s a God of variety, a God of beauty, a God of power, a God of love, a God of design.

But you know what? He can just be the God of, Help me get through this. God, I need a parking spot. Help it to be on sale. Yeah, go to some of our prayer meetings. They are like anatomy meetings. Help Ethel’s toe, help Bob’s shoulder, help George’s ear! Help them clean out that valve in Bob. It’s his second time through. If you listen to us pray you would think, honestly, what we really feel like is I can only pray about things I think I can control and since God is obviously unaware of all this, what I am trying to do is take this awesome, powerful God and bring Him into my little world to get Him to do what I think He ought to do.

Then listen to how the apostle Paul prays. “I pray that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened. I pray that you might grasp the height and depth and length and breadth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I pray that God would give you insight into His will, that you could discern good from evil in order that you might walk in a manner worthy of Him. I pray that you would understand the depth of His love for you. How precious of an inheritance you are to Him and the power that dwells within you. I pray that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will.”

Those prayers in Philippians 1 and Philippians 3 and Ephesians 3 and Philippians and Colossians. I am not the apostle Paul and you’re not the apostle Paul but, wow, it sure seems like he is asking, not so much about tactical things. And I don’t think it’s wrong. I pray for tactical things. But I think he actually believes that if people could see God for who He is, if people could be aligned, if God would reveal Himself and they would be open and they would follow His will, all those tactical things would probably get taken care of.

The second way He reveals Himself is through His Word. John chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through Him all things were made and without Him, nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life and the life was the light of the world.”

I love, you might just, in your notes, I think I put Hebrews 1. It’s one of my favorite passages. “In times past God has spoken to us through the prophets and the apostles but in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son who is the icon,” the exact image or representation, “of the Father.” It’s the picture of, if you have ever, if you took a piece of putty and you took a silver dollar or something like that and if you pressed it into the piece of putty and then pulled it out really carefully, you have the exact image, right? That’s the word.

Jesus is the exact image. Colossians 2. All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ. See, if you really want to know what God is like, it’s Jesus. The very last night, right? He wants the disciples to stay on track. And He is talking to them and He is preparing them and it’s really encouraging, because they are really slow, which gives me a lot of hope.

And He talks to them. “You know the way I go,” accept to Thomas. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know what, Lord?” This is the Ingram translation. “I think You’re talking in circles, candidly, Jesus. I really don’t know the way and I don’t really get it.” And Jesus said, “Thomas, I am the Way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.” And then Philip, frustrated, “Well, Lord, it will be enough. Just show us the Father and it will be enough.” “Philip! How long have I been with you? If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.”

If you want to know how does, your image of God, how does God respond when you really mess up? When you do something that is willful, malicious, sinful, shameful, you wish you hadn’t done it, and you feel terrible about it and you are coming to God. How will God treat you? Exactly the way He did the woman caught in adultery.

If you want to know how God thinks of you and how He will relate to you, when you know some of those times where you feel like, Man, I’m reading the Bible, I’ve got the quiet time going. We gave a little extra money to missions. I think I’m feeling pretty holy.

Then the way He feels about you is Jesus with the Pharisees! If you know when your heart is hungry and you don’t know the direction and you wish you knew what to do and you are messing up but you are making progress and you say, Lord, would You just help me? It’s how Jesus related to the disciples. Did you realize He never got mad at them?

One only issue. All, in all the gospels, only one thing. “Oh you of little...[faith].” God’s agenda is so simple we make it so complicated. Here’s His agenda: Trust Me. Trust Me in the hard marriage. Trust Me with your kid. Trust Me with your money. Trust Me with the decision.

I’ve got a little question that I write down in hard situations. Question: What does it look like to trust God in this situation? Not: How do I fix it? Not: God, will You do this, this, this, and that? What does it look like to trust God in this marriage? In this decision? In this financial loss? In this hard conversation coming up?

Because here’s the thing. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. You can build a ministry, you can build a business, you can have a decent looking family without faith. You just can’t please God.

The heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus is to trust Him and you can’t trust someone you don’t know. You only trust people that this is their character, this is their track record. And over and over and over, all the lessons to the disciples were – what? You can trust My Word because when you see My Word it is always faithful.

So many of the miracles, why did He do them the way He did them? When He wanted to calm the sea, what did He do? He spoke. He could have done hand signs. When the little girl was dead, how did He, He didn’t touch her. “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” Bam! “Sea, calm! Demon, come out!”

If I am a disciple, what am I thinking? I’m not sure about this guy but whatever He says, you can trust it. And that’s for us. So He reveals Himself through nature, through His Word, and ultimately through Jesus.

“No man has seen God at any time,” John 1 tells us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we beheld His glory, glory as of the only One.” And then he says to us, “No man has seen God at any time but He has explained Him.” The word is exegeted.

Jesus explained the Father. You want to know what God is like? It’s Jesus. It’s why I think it’s no matter where we are reading in the Bible, don’t go too far away from the gospels.

I’ve got a buddy; he is a Bible-a-holic. He is my hero when it comes to the Bible. He just, I have never been around anyone, we went overseas together when I was young and he was the first guy who started memorizing small books of the Bible and every time I’m with Glen, and he goes, “Chip, I just learned something.” “What?” He says, “No matter where you’re reading, are you ready for this?” “What?” “If you just read, just three chapters, just three chapters from the gospel, can you imagine? Only three chapters. If you read three chapters every day in the gospels you can get through the gospels fifteen times in a year. Can you imagine? Fifteen times. You really see Jesus.” And I’m thinking, Glen, you are still blowing me away.

But what he is saying is no matter what we are doing, Jesus is the focus. Jesus is the focus. Get to know Jesus, you get to know God.

Okay, the big question. And this is the one we will unpack in our time together. What must I do to see the real God as He is? What must I do to see the real God as He is? The answer is: seek Him. Seek Him.

Jeremiah 29:11, follow along as I read. “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you.’” God’s not The Force. He is personal. “…plans to give you a hope and a future.” The God that you are talking to wants to give you hope deep in your soul and a future and He understands. “Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and you will find Me,” what’s the condition? “…when you seek for Me with all your heart.”

And then all I can say is, it’s almost mind boggling. God says, “I will be found of you.” I will be found of you. This isn’t for superstar Christians, this isn’t just for people who went to Bible school or seminary. This isn’t people who are smarter than the rest of us. Jesus would make the same statement, “Seek and you will find,” right? “Knock and the door will be opened.” Ask, seek, knock.

He wants to meet you but here’s the deal. How? How do you seek God where you really know Him? It’s not through external religiosity. It’s not through just intellectual, cognitive information about Him. There is a way to seek God and the wisest person who ever lived, Solomon, lines out for us.

Notice what he says in Proverbs 2, I put it in your notes. “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you,” put a little arrow and write: initiative in God’s Word. You will never find a man or woman who knows God deeply who isn’t a man or a woman of this book. Treasure His commandments. Receive His sayings.

Second, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding;” put a little arrow and write: teachable attitude. This isn’t like, Oh, I would like to understand the outline of the book of Philippians. Oh, I want to understand what are the major themes of the Pentateuch? Oh, this, oh, I have a reading program. I read three chapters a day to keep the devil away. No, no. This is God! I want You to speak to me! This is me! I’ve got questions, I’ve got issues, I’ve got struggles. I am going to open Your Word. I want You to speak to me in specific ways, because here’s the deal. If You’ll speak, I’ll obey. That’s when God speaks. I don’t want to become a smarter sinner. I want to become a more obedient son or daughter.

So I am going to read this and I don’t understand it all and I may not understand it all but, I want You to speak to me. I have a teachable spirit. “Incline your heart to understanding.” Third, “For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;” put a little arrow and write: passionate prayer. Passionate prayer. It’s the kind of prayer God answers.

This isn’t, Oh no. Uh, Lord, it’s good to pray. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come… [indiscernible praying]. I might have missed a couple. Now I lay me down to sleep, something about my soul to keep. Catch You later. I’m getting deep.

This is the kind of prayer when you’ve got a kid in ICU and the doctor says, “I don’t know if he is going to make it.” This is the kind of prayer when your wife or your husband, positive results. It’s cancer and it’s serious. How do you pray?

And no little form prayers. You bear your heart before God. God, I am asking You, would You intervene? Save my boy. God, I’m serious. God, search my heart. If there is something between us, let me know. But it’s passionate prayer. It’s: Cry out to God. God wants to hear from you. This isn’t religious people. This is people who long to know God.

Notice it says, “If you seek for her,” speaking of this wisdom, this knowledge of God, “as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure,” look at the result, “then,” purpose clause, “you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” Circle discover. You won’t get it from a preacher, you won’t get it from a book, you won’t get it from someone else. You will discover you want God to speak to you!

And He wants to speak through His Word and He wants to speak through His Spirit and, yes, He speaks through people. But Solomon is saying as you dig in, as you make it a priority, He will speak. He wants to speak.

Next to the one where it says, “Seek her as silver,” write: priority. Priority. Write: first priority. If I told you right now that, and if you have a really big backyard then just limit it to thirty feet out and across. If you have a small backyard, this illustration works.

If I told you that in your backyard, while you were here, ten million dollars was buried in your backyard. We have re-sodded everything, you have no idea where to look. It’s only six feet deep. You have three days to find it. From the moment you get home you have three days. If you don’t find it in three days, it will be returned to me.

Now, you get home. Your three days starts the moment you hit the driveway. I can’t quite imagine you going, “Well, that NFL season has started. I think I’ll look for it a little bit later. But it’s a big game. The Cowboys are playing.

Pittsburgh Steelers. Love them.” Or, “I think it is Sunday afternoon. Naps are really important on Sunday afternoon. I think I’ll take a nap.”

Or, “We could, I’ll start tomorrow. No, I can’t start tomorrow because the kids have a ballgame tomorrow. I have the ladies’ luncheon in the afternoon. Gosh, I just…”

Is that what you would do? Some of you, some of you would be buying shovels at Ace Hardware on the way home. And some of you are high tech. Shovels? Are you kidding me? The backhoe will be delivered at four thirty-five p.m.

And then this, you knock down the fence and this backhoe is digging up your whole backyard. Your neighbor says, “What are you doing, man? You’re messing up our yard! What are you doing?” “Hey, forget it, I’ll buy you a new backyard in about three days.” You wouldn’t care!

What if you had, if you would have that kind of passion for ten million dollars in your backyard, what if you had that kind of passion to know God? That you would receive His commands, that you would incline your heart to understanding, that you would cry out with passionate prayer, and that you would seek it as for silver and as for hidden treasure. Then here’s the promise: Then, not someone else, you will discern, first of all, the fear of God. You will learn He ain’t your buddy. He’s God.

And then in these great words of Tozer again, the great paradox of the faith is that you will be afraid and in awe and, yet, because of Jesus, fearful but not be afraid to come. And come to the heavenly Father who is eager to be your friend.