Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
A little over 10 years ago, a good friend of mine and his family were out of town for Christmas.
They were having a great time on vacation, until they got a phone call from the police back home.
Apparently, while everyone was up north on vacation, their house had burned down…on Christmas morning…no less.
Hard to imagine, right?
But one of the things that really stuck out to me as I watched their family in the months afterwards…is that, in the end…it truly is just your relationships that count.
You could see that they were so thankful just to have each other still.
All of those other “things” could be replaced.
In the end… what really matters…is relationships.
And this morning, I want to talk to you about the most important relationship in our lives.
We are continuing this morning in our “I Promise” series where we are looking at just a few of the great promises that God makes to us.
Last week we looked at God’s promise that he will never leave us…that he will always be with us.
And this week, we’re ramping it up a notch by looking at His next step of that promise: That he wants a relationship with us.
Philosophically, and theologically, this is where Christianity really starts to distance itself from other religions.
God isn’t just some God who’s out there…some God in the sky who demands a certain level of obedience.
He actually wants to have a relationship with you.
He wants to be your friend…and talk with you…and help you…and hear from you…and be in love with you.
At one point in time…humanity had a perfect relationship with God.
That’s how the Bible starts.
In the opening chapters of the book of Genesis…at the very beginning of the Bible…we see God’s ideal relationship with us.
He’s in the garden of Eden…enjoying an intimate friendship with Adam and Eve.
They walked w/ God in the garden and talked directly to Him.
There were no rituals, ceremonies, or religion.
Just humans and the one true God.
Yet… even from the very beginning…we’ve still had free will.
And mankind sinned.
They ate from the one tree…the tree of knowledge of good and evil…the 1 tree they weren’t supposed to.
And in an instant…everything changes.
Separation begins. The relationship is different now.
It’s marred by guilt.
And humanity begins to experience this separation from God.
They can still talk to him. But it’s not the same.
Our sin clouds our image of him.
And just like Adam and Eve…our sin foolishly makes us want to hide from God…instead of innocently embrace Him.
And Humanity continues this way for 1,000s of years.
Sure there are those…like Abraham…like David…that have a close relationship with God…with the Spirit…but for most…God still seems far off.
But the prophecies always say that one day…things will be different.
One day…a messiah will come….God will come.
And he will reconcile humanity back to himself.
Back to a relationship.
And 2,000 years ago…that happened.
God comes to earth in the form of Jesus Christ.
See God doesn’t just yell down some instructions from heaven.
He comes…Himself…to teach…to LOVE…to show us a true relationship…and then ultimately…to make things right again.
To buy us back to Him.
To rescue us from our sin & separation.
WHAT A RELATIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE
And what I really want to focus on this morning is the fact that Jesus came to offer you a relationship with Him.
And I believe it’s one of the most unique and amazing promises of God.
He promises a relationship with you.
That He will love you.
That He will speak to you.
That He will influence you and change you.
Always be there when you need Him…someone to lift your Spirits when you’re down…a shoulder to cry on when you feel like this is the worst week ever.
He’s a God who promised a relationship to you.
And that’s how God interacts with us.
I was pretty struck by God’s heart for a relationship when I first started reading the Bible.
See I grew up…like actually the majority of Americans do now…a Christian in name only.
I wasn’t really a Christian…for a Christian…literally means a “follower of Christ.”
I wasn’t following Christ anywhere.
But growing up in Cambridge, MN you could occasionally find me inside the walls of a church on a Sunday morning from 9-10am.
Yet, if you would have asked me about my faith, I would have told you that I thought it was highly inappropriate to talk to anyone about God or religion…
(not really the definition of a Christ follower)
SO much so that at the age of only 12…when one of my friends asked me if I knew for a fact I was going to heaven…I told him he had 10 seconds to get out of my house
But I suppose…again…like the majority of Americans…if you would have really pressed me on it…I did believe in God
I even believed in Jesus.
Not to the point that I understood what he did on the cross for me.
Not to the point that I had a RELATIONSHIP w/ him.
But…sure I believe He existed.
I even prayed:
Like…God…please help this really, really pretty girl named Lindsey say yes when I ask her to a movie.
If I ask her to a Nicholas Sparks movie..how can she say no God?
Try and stop that one God!
And for me…God was up there…somewhere…but there was no relationship.
I merely believed He existed and occasionally asked things FROM him.
But that’s not a relationship. You would never define a relationship like that.
And so…I was quite shocked when I actually started reading the Bible and saw how God really relates to His people.
Like…look at what it says about Abraham
(James 2:23) – NIV
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
You can be a FRIEND of God! Awesome!
I remember when I would lock myself in my room because I didn’t want anyone to catch me reading the Bible…and I started reading through the stories of Jesus
I was blown away by how he related to people
For instance, in the book of John, John tells the story of Jesus and his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, who are all adult siblings.
And as John tells the story in chapter 11, we read things like this:
(John 11:3) – NIV
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
(John 11:5 – NIV)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
And then later…it turns out his friend Lazarus dies.
After Lazarus’ death, Jesus arrives to greet Mary & Martha and sees them crying on the way to the tomb…John describes it this way (in what is the shortest verse in the Bible):
(John 11:35-36) – NIV
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
And if you read the story, he loved him so much, he raised him from the dead!
And the more and more you start to read the Bible…you see this God who is just passionate about loving people.
And this is a God who is passionate about loving you.
And promises to be in a relationship with you.
But it’s one of the trickier promises of God.
He promises to get it started…he promises to always be there…to love you.
But a relationship always takes TWO…not just one.
So I’ll ask again, what would it look like to have an amazing relationship with God?
To enter into that promise…that promise that sits on the table: “You can have amazing joy with me”
What would it look like?
Well…let’s look at it this way:
So often in Scripture…Christ’s relationship to his church (that’s you) is described as a marriage.
He’s the groom…we’re the Bride.
So…what’s a great marriage look like?
Well…let’s think through it:
For one…in a good marriage…the two people talk…a lot. And they talk consistently.
Not just…”Hey. Morning. Morning…What do you want for dinner? I dno’t know. You? I don’t know.
They spend significant time…each day…just catching up…talking about their days…diving into their joys and pains.
And God promises you a relationship like that.
(Psalm 145:18) – NIV
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
As we talked about last week, He’s always with us…ready to talk to you.
You can talk to Him right now.
You can talk to Him as we get back into worship.
You can talk to Him WHENVER YOU WANT.
He promises to be there for that kind of relationship
Well…in a good marriage…there’s always quality time.
It’s not just time…it’s quality time.
It’s not just…we spend every Monday through Thursday from 7-10pm watching TV together.
That’s 12 hours a week!
It’s quality time, right?
It’s dates…and great conversation over dinner…it’s time away from the kids sometimes…it’s connecting intimately…it’s quality time.
And God wants to meet you…and love you...and grow you…as you spend quality time together in a relationship with Him.
And I believe a good relationship with God is founded on consistency and quality…just like a good marriage
SO let me ask you a few questions. Let’s take a quiz.
In your relationship with God, how consistent is your conversation?
Would you describe it as:
Talk every day for 10-20 minutes of blocked time?
You throw up a few prayers while you drive or before meals or hear and there?
Or you pray at church once a week?
What about quality time?
Do you ever have extended times of worship?
Do you ever sit down and just really study the Bible for a while?
Do you ever just journal out how you feel about Him?
Have you ever gotten away with God?
Maybe on a really long walk?
Maybe on a prayer retreat at Wilderness Fellowship (which you can get a brochure in the hallway)
And if you’re a believer, here’s my tough challenge to you this morning:
I think many of us say we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ merely because that’s what we call it when we’re saved…but in reality, we don’t have anything that justifies as a thriving relationship.
It’s more like we’re in a “one sided marriage.”
Where Jesus is always there…always willing to hang out…and dive deeper.
And most of us are calling it a relationship…simply because we DO believe in Him…we do believe He died for us…we DO pray…once in a while…
And this is a really hard question, but I’m going to ask you to think of it anyway.
Let’s think of this in reverse.
What if…we all took our relationship with God…and pretended that’s how we would treat a marriage relationship?
Would you call THAT a relationship?
What if a married couple talked for 15-60 seconds at a time…3 times a day (which is what a lot of our prayer lives look like)
Would you call that a relationship?
I can’t tell you how many people tell me (I would dare label it the majority…) “I don’t really have a set time for prayer…but I just pray during the day
That’s like saying, “I don’t really talk to my spouse…but I text her four times a day”
It’s not a relationship
And I dare to wonder…and I DARE you to wonder with me…have you been calling something a relationship…that doesn’t look much like a relationship?
Well, here’s the good news about God:
Often human relationships can be really hard to fix because often one party is interesting in reconciling, but the other is not.
But with God, he’s always interested in making it work!
I LOVE THAT!
God doesn’t care what you’ve done…or where you’ve been…he wants to be in a great relationship with you just as much as the first day you met Him!
How amazing is that?!?
And that’s what’s so awesome about his promise of a relationship.
You can go home…and tonight…sit down with God…and just start really talking to Him.
And He will be there. Listening. Speaking to your heart.
Loving on you.
Teaching you in His Word.
And that’s exactly what I encourage you to do…no matter what’s happened in the past
Pick a consistent time to talk to Him every day.
Just like you would in any good relationship.
Pick a time that works for you. Start w/ 5 minutes if you have to.
Get serious about getting in the Bible every day. It’s the best way to hear Him speak.
If you need a Bible…take the one under your chair.
If you need a Bible reading plan…maybe you don’t even know where to start…pick one up on your way out.
And the best thing you can do is commit to that plan today.
Don’t just respond and say…”Yeah, Pastor David…sweet idea…and then do nothing”
Come up with a plan that’ll work for you…before you leave here today.
And I gotta tell you…one of the best ways to ensure that your relationship with God grows is to be around other people who have a great relationship w/ Him
This is HUGE!
And you can do this through our very popular house groups at Renovation.
At house groups you see people’s relationship with God in action…you can hear from others how they relate to God…you can get encouragement, support…have God minister to you through other people.
Biblically, we know that being a part of a Christian community (not attending a Christian crowd event like this)…being a part of Christian community is foundational and essential to growing a relationship w/ God.
In fact, some of you need to sign-up for house groups not just for yourself…but because other people need YOU to be there…to model.
In the NT, there are 59 “one another” commands for Christians to carry out for each other
Like “love one another…encourage one another…comfort one another”
And you simply can not carry out those Biblical commands for being “the church” in isolation
Or in attending a “crowd event”
I‘m reading this book by Andy Stanley right now…rather…I’m listening to it as an audiobook on my phone while I drive.
Well, I should be honest…my car is so junky, I have to put my phone in a bowl to amplify and I drive around holding it up listening to this book…
Anyway…I thought he put it really nicely when I heard him say, “Nothing is as important as your personal relationship with Christ.”
Nothing. Everything else revolves around that.
We sometimes teach this here as the pyramid of priorities
(Show Relationship Pyramid on screen) – Leave up until I get to next section “The Gospel”
Your relationship with God…and growing it (so talking to God…being in the Bible…committing to a house group, etc.) comes first…above everything else.
You build the foundation of your life…on the solid rock that is God…and your relationship w/ Him.
Then…if you’re married, your marriage is next in priority…then…if you have kids…your kids.
Or if you have kids & you’re not married…it’s YOUR relationship w/ God…then kids
But the majority of Americans have this entirely turned upside down.
They pour their whole lives into their kids…give a few leftover minutes for each other…and once a month they think about God
Except…like an upside down pyramid, it doesn’t work.
If you really work on your relationship with God, you WILL have a stronger marriage, and if you have a strong relationship w/ God & a strong marriage, you will raise awesome kids.
But the pyramid does not work upside down
So do what it takes to put your relationship with God…and carving out time for growing in Him FIRST.
That might even mean a financial sacrifice at times…like perhaps paying for childcare so you can go to house groups.
But trust me, better yet, trust God…if you build your life with your first priority as growing your relationship with God…the better off all your other relationships (your marriages, your kids) will be in the long run. Always.
Perhaps though…you’re sitting here this morning and thinking… “It’s not that I need to come back to a relationship like that with God…it’s that I’ve never had one like that with Him”
That’s exactly where I was a number of years ago.
See, There’s a fundamental difference between believing in God and believing God.
One is where I was most of my life before I became a Christian. I believed in God. I wasn’t an atheist. I believe he existed.
But I didn’t believe God. Or his offer of relationship…partly because no one had told me.
Well, I’d love to tell you how to start a relationship this morning.
In fact, in order to start at the beginning, we have to once again glance at the beginning.
We’ve been separated from God since the opening chapters of the Bible…like we said.
We sin in the presence of a holy and almighty God.
We all fall short….all the time
You’ll be reminded of just how sinful humanity is even on your drive home today.
And that sin separates us from God.
And we’re never going to do enough to earn our way into the presence of a holy God for all of eternity.
I’m not going to somehow amass enough good that I could walk into the very throne room of an all-powerful, all-knowing God, and kick my feet up and say…”Yeah, I earned my way here…I’m good enough to stand in your presence”
That’ll never happen.
Our sin separates us form God. It’s a problem.
But God sent a solution. And his name is Jesus Christ. God’s one and only son.
And Jesus came and died on a cross.
But why? Lots of people know that. But WHY did he do it?
The Bible says he did it to take our place.
Because we are guilty before God. So guilty.
What we deserve is judgment.
If you commit a crime you deserve judgment…not a free pass.
What we deserve is eternal separation…is hell…not heaven.
But God…who is just…is also a fierce lover of your soul.
He’s crazy about you…so he sent his son to die in your place.
To take your punishment
(2 Corinthians 5:21) – NIV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus…who was sinless…took our sin upon him on the cross…and in his death, took the punishment we deserved.
Because he loves you so much and wants to be in a relationship with you. He wants to make things right with you again.
In fact, the verse says that we might become the “righteousness” of God
That we…that you…could be made right with God again.
And that happens because our sin, which has separated us from having a relationship with God…can be forgiven…absolved…taken away by Jesus on the cross.
But how does that happen?
Did it just happen? Are you just forgiven?
How do you actually get this relationship started?
The Bible explains that this is through faith. And it does so in some of its most famous verses
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
So it’s like this: Forgiveness, being saved, starting a relationship with God is like a gift.
It’s not a reward…you’ll NEVER be good enough
But it’s like a gift that Jesus offers to you.
HE says…”I love you so much that I died in your place. I took your spot on death row…took the punishment for you”
But receiving that…starting a relationship with me….that’s a gift.
And like any gift, YOU have to choose if you want to open it.
You can always refuse a gift.
And sadly, many people refuse this gift.
They elect to try it on their own.
But this morning…that gift sits right in front of you.
And every relationship with God truly starts when you open this gift…through faith.
Maybe you’ve been pursuing God for a little bit now. Checking him out…talking to Him…coming to church…seeing what he’s really all about.
It’s kind of like when you first start showing interest in someone you like…
You kind of start talking…texting…hang out in a group together…but really just so you can hang out with them…
But eventually you START THE RELATIONSHIP by asking the person to enter into a relationship with you. You ask them out.
Knowing that…that means a level of commitment.
And I wonder…have you started a relationship with God?
Because a real relationship starts when you make a commitment.
It’s not just, “Hey I’ll take this get out of jail free card.”
It’s, “I’m so in awe of what you did for me Jesus…I COMMIT my life to you”
And the most beautiful thing in the world is…he’s already committed his life to YOU.
He’s already promised to always be there. To always love. To always forgive…when you enter this relationship.
In fact, he’s already gone so far as giving his life for you…before the relationship even got started.
WOW! That’s initiative. God is pursuing a relationship w/ you!
And it doesn’t matter what you’ve done…or where you’ve been…or you who are…this offer is for EVERYONE. He already died for you!
The love and forgiveness of God is THAT big.
And when you believe…when you believe that you have fallen short…but Jesus died for you…when you commit your life to Him…
The Bible says that God comes and makes his home with you.
That he starts moving in you and changing you…and renovating you anew
And then this truly AMAZING and life-changing relationship really begins.
And it’s SO awesome!
And if you’ve never made that commitment to believe in what Jesus did for you…if you’ve never started a relationship with Him by committing your life to Him…then let’s do that today.
All it takes is faith…you don’t have to be perfect.
You just need to believe.
So if want to do that today…then let’s do that!
In fact, let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to believe in what Jesus did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) to be completely forgiven! If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…in just a few moments, I’m going to ask to stand up.
We’ll all have our eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
But I believe today, it’s important for you to stand up today, as a symbol to say, “You died for me…for ME…I believe. I’ll follow now”
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, stand up wherever you are.
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do just 1 thing for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to the back of the room …for just a moment.
In the back, and in the hallway, there are signs that say “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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