Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me start by telling you a story.
There were once 3 people who were dropped off in the middle of large forest.
They were blindfolded on the way out, so they had no idea where they were going…and they had never been there before
Once they arrived, they each climbed out of the truck they had ridden in, and each of the 3 people was given a different envelope.
The first person opened their envelope and it said this:
“Please proceed to find your way out of the woods by finding the Forest Ranger’s station on the north end.
You are forbidden to ask for help, use a map, or use any sort of technology. Good luck.
The 2nd person opened their envelope and it said this:
Please proceed to find your way out of the woods by finding the Forest Ranger’s station on the north end.
You may use this included cell phone to call an experienced guide to ask for help.
However, we must warn you, he’s often busy with other callers in other forests, so you might not get through or he might not have time.
Plus, sometimes the service is pretty bad out here. Good luck.
The 3rd person opened their envelope and it gave similar instructions about getting out.
The only difference was right when they opened their envelope, the driver of their truck (who up to this point had been silent), got of the truck, gave the competitor a firm handshake and said:
“Hey! I’m Gus! I’ll be your guide for today. I’ve been walking in these woods my whole life. I’ll be with you the whole time, and I can answer any questions you have about getting to the Ranger’s Station. Let’s get to it!”
Let’s come back to this story in a moment…
If we can be honest this morning, we live in a world of broken promises.
People still make just as many promises as they used to (it’s in our nature), but we really struggle to keep them.
We say, “I Promise to love you for better or worse…”
And yet the stats tells us that often those promises don’t work out
We say, “Yeah…sure…I PROMISE I’ll play with you in a minute, son.”
Except, 2 hours go by, and we forgot we even promised.
We say to our friends…”I Promise to always be there for you…Well…that is…except if I get busy…get a job…a family and kids…then I might not have time.”
And the thing about a broken promise is: it doesn’t sting all that bad if you’re the one breaking the promise.
Oh it hurts…but it’s usually not the most painful thing in the world.
It’s somewhere between going to the dentist and crying from someone cutting raw onions.
But when someone promised YOU something…and THEY didn’t deliver...it’s painful.
They promised they would be there. And they weren’t.
They promised to always love you…but they left.
It hurts just thinking about it.
And it causes us to doubt people. Sometimes even “people in general”
Sometimes it makes it hard to be in relationships.
Even develop friendships.
Because so many people promise so much…but then never follow through.
But there is one who always delivers on His promises.
When He says “I PROMISE,” He means it.
He’s not taking it back. He’s coming through on it…and you can bet on it.
And I don’t mean bet on it like the “Vikings are going to win the Super Bowl this year” bet on it
I mean “bet on it like the sky is blue bet on it,” like gravity exists bet on it, like the Packers are gonna have linebackers with girly long blonde hair this year bet on it”
When God says I promise…he means I promise.
And that’s what this series is all about in September.
He’s one that we can actually count on.
I WILL BE WITH YOU
God has a number of promises for you in the Bible.
And this morning I want to cover a really important one.
Here’s what God says to you in the Bible: “I PROMISE I will always be with you. That I will never leave you”
It comes from a number of places in the Bible…including Hebrews 13
(Hebrews 13:5) – NIV - Start at the second part
Because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Forsake is to renounce something…to leave altogether
And God’s saying…that’s not me: I will never leave you.
I’m not going anywhere.
Maybe others will leave you.
Maybe they’ll say they’re done with you.
But I’m not. I’m still here.
When God says, “I Promise…he means, I PROMISE!”
WE OFTEN OF GOD AS BUSY & DISTANT
But maybe you’re thinking…”Yeah, I guess I believe that...”
“I guess I believe that God is always there…I mean…He’s out there…and there for me”
But I think the problem is a lot of us don’t believe it to the degree that the Bible says it’s actually true.
Because His promise is actually more amazing than you might even be thinking!
I hear people say all the time, things like:
“Yeah, I don’t really want to bug God with my little problems. He’s got bigger fish to fry”
“I think God’s probably busy solving world hunger and dealing with the Syrian Civil war. I don’t think I should really be bugging him about my test on Monday…or the home we’re trying to buy…or my prayer that this person I like will text me back…and tell me they love me J
God’s got stuff to do!
It’s a lot like that opening parable.
For a lot of people God’s like the guide we can call on our cell phone if we need help.
I mean…He’s out there…willing to help….and He’s a GREAT guide who knows His stuff!
But…He might be busy helping other people in other forests.
He might be busy helping all those people saving drowning puppies or helping doctors in the ER or something.
But that’s not what the Bible tells us about God.
That sort of thinking actually makes God look fairly weak.
Like God can help 200 doctors at once, and 150 fireman, and 100 missionaries, and 50 pastors…but boy, if you’re asking for help to get your teenager back on track…sorry, He’s reached his limit.
No…the Bible says that God is all-powerful.
He can do ALL things. And do them at once.
It also says that God is omni-present.
Meaning…that God is present…everywhere at once.
(Jeremiah 23:23-24) – NIV
23 “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
So, the Bible is saying that God is everywhere at the same time.
And NOT ONLY everywhere at the same time…but able to do anything…everywhere…all at the same time.
Now…that’s a better picture of a GOD!.
The picture is actually even better…believe it or not!
The Bible says that if you’re a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, that when you believe in Him, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within you.
(1 Corinthians 6:19) – NIV
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
God is 3 in 1. 3 Persons in One. The trinity. The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So if the Holy Spirit is in you, that means as a believer, that not only is God always nearby, that He’s actually dwelling WITHIN you.
Changing you, speaking to your heart, guiding you along.
How awesome is that?!?
See, in reality, God is so much more like the forest guide “Gus” in the opening story.
He’s right there walking with you. He knows the way. And He’s always there to help.
He’s a personal God you can have a relationship with…
Which were going to really flesh out next week, so definitely come back for that.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO HAVE GOD RIGHT THERE WITH YOU
Yet, I think even if you know that God is omni-present…that He’s everywhere…we still don’t necessarily live like He’s always RIGHT there.
Let me give you an example: I think a lot of us when we pray, we picture God up in heaven.
YES, Believing that, from his Throne, He can help us.
But How often do you see Him as this God that’s right there with you ready to help?
Not just a God that can “send out some orders” from up above to make things right.
Because the God of the bible is a personal God who loves you.
I think a lot of Christians picture God more like non-Christians do.
And I don’t mean atheists or agnostics. I just mean people who believe in God, but don’t have a relationship w/ Jesus…yet
They believe God is up there…can answer their prayers about their illnesses and job applications and finding that perfect spouse.
But God’s just up there…making sure “stuff gets done”
But what if you pictured God right next to you?
Because if God promised that He would never leave you…that He’s always with you…that means so much more than just a phone call away up in heaven and you can get a hold of Him if you need anything.
It means, “I am WITH you.”
I’m literally WITH YOU.
What if the next time you pray in the car on the way to work, instead of praying to God off in the sky, you pray like Jesus is sitting in the passenger seat?
How do you think that would change how you look at God?
What if tomorrow morning, when you get up to pray and open up the Bible (maybe for the first time…you can get a Bible reading plan on the way out…or take a Bible under your chair if you don’t have one…they’re free)
But what if you start praying at home, and you picture Jesus sitting across from you at the kitchen table?
How would that change how you talk to Him?
How would that change how much you trust Him?
How would that change your belief in His Promise that He is always with you…if that’s how you always pictured Him?
HE NEVER LEAVES
I think the crazy thing about God is…it’s not just that He’s always with you…it’s that He never leaves.
Wherever we go…God is with us.
Crazier yet…whatever we do…God is with us.
Still sitting right there.
Like that faithful guide…still willing to help…even if we wander in the wrong direction for a few too many years…or decades.
Maybe you came ready for a fresh start this morning.
He’s right there. Ready to give you one. It’s amazing.
That passage we read earlier from Hebrews about “God will never leave you or forsake you,” is actually a quotation from the Old Testament…the part of the Bible before Jesus.
It’s taken from an important time in Israel’s history (who the OT is mostly about)
See, Moses, who had helped lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert, had died.
And God had appointed Joshua to be their new leader.
After wandering in the desert for 40 years, it was now time for them to cross the Jordan river and enter into the promised land.
And before they cross, God tells Joshua this:
(Joshua 1:5) – NIV
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
(Joshua 1:9) – NIV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And why do you think God tells him this now?
Because God knew…It was going to be an unbelievably difficult task.
Wars would be fought. Lives would be lost. People would second-guess Joshua. He would have some pretty high highs, and some devastatingly low lows.
And in those lows, he was going to doubt.
“Am I in this all by myself God? Where are you?
Why did I lose my friend? Why did they die? Why is this happening? Why is everyone doubting me? Where are you?!?
And God tells him, “Listen Joshua…you’re going to need to know this now…before you start.
This is so important…I’m gonna say it a couple of times.
I will never leave you.
I will never forsake you.
I will be with you wherever you go.
And God says the same thing to you this morning.
Whether you’re in the midst of pain and suffering right now…
Or depressions or doubt…
He says this to you: “I promised to you…(and for me…a promise is a promise). I PROMISE:
I will NEVER leave you.
I will be with you wherever you go
I’m right here
Even if you drift away from Him…He will be there.
Even if you get mad and shout and tell Him to get out!
He will be there.
Even in our deepest, darkest sin…….He will be there.
He was there.
Ever think about that?
Ever tried going back in your mind to your 2-3 deepest, darkest sins?
And then repictured the scene with Jesus standing next to you?
Here’s the thing about Jesus: How scandalous is his love….that it’s not just merely that He was up in heaven and got a written memo on what you did…it’s that He was standing with you…watching.
Because remember…we have free will…he does not turn us into robots as his followers.
He was there pleading for you…pleading with you…with tears in his eyes…
But He was there.
And honestly I think the most amazing thing about God is not that He says He’ll be with us…but that He says He’ll never leave.
I don’t know about you…but I’m quite the sinner.
I piled up a lot of sin in my life before I became a Christian at 18
And then continued to pile it up…even as a follower of Him.
Sometimes I think the fact that He doesn’t leave us even more shocking than the fact that he offered forgiveness in the first place.
But he says to you, “I PROMISE…I will never leave”
God is telling YOU that right now.
I’m still here. I still love you.
He looks at you like a father looks at his children.
Right now…at 6 months old, my twins don’t sin a whole lot…
Except for when they break my 1 and only rule of no crying at the same time. J
But what about when they’re five…or 10…or 15?
Just because they mess up…maybe even majorly at times…am I going to walk away? Am I going to leave them?
No…that’s never the heart of a loving father.
And it’s not God’s heart for you.
He promises He will never leave you. Ever.
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ…there IS NO sin that can separate you from the love of Christ the Bible says.
Nothing that will cause Him to say, “Whoa…that crossed the line…I’m leaving now.”
“I’ll do anything for love…but I want do that” J
And God’s love shouldn’t cause us to say…”Well…I guess I can do whatever I want then!”
It should cause us to say…if that’s the heart of God for me….if His heart was to send His son to die in my place for my sin…than I want to live for Him even more!
I want to start talking to this God that that’s always there with me…even more!
And it’s my belief that the church, that Christian believers…oughta reflect this attitude of God for us…in our attitudes for each other…in our actions to each other.
We oughta be the ones that can say to each other: “Hey, no matter what happens…I’ll be there for you.
When things get real rough…I’ll be there for you to help you cry through it…
Or if you’re not a crier…I’ll just be there. We can just talk and play video games and shoot stuff…but I’ll be there.
When things go great…I’ll rejoice with you.
I’ll be the first to send you a congratulatory text…to stop by and say “Good job…”
When you post good news on facebook, and it asks me to “surprise you w/ a gift…” I’ll be your one friend who actually does.
When a family member passes away, I’ll be at the funeral…I’ll send flowers.
When kids are born, I’ll help make meals.
When you start walking away from God…from your spouse…I’ll be there…to talk it through with you…to provide support…encouragement…heck…maybe even a challenge.
And I wonder…do you have friends like that in your life?
Friends who mirror God to us?
A HUGE part of the heart of this church is we believe that the church should BE this kind of a community for people.
And we believe that can be found (over time of course) at our house groups.
And believe it or not…countless people at Renovation have found friends like that through house groups
You’ll hear more about them in announcements today, but our house groups are groups of 20-30 people that meet weekly to grow in your faith and meet friends that are seeking God
They are such a big deal and so successful at our church, that 80% of all of our adults are in one.
And this year…I want you to take that bold step forward.
To not only know that God is always with you…but that other believers are always there for you as well.
It’s an amazing step…and I can not encourage you enough to take that bold step this morning.
WHEN WE REALIZE GOD IS WITH US, IT CHANGES EVERYTHING
Because it’s powerful to know that people are “with you”…that God is “with you”
When we can actually realize that God is with us…and he’ll NEVER leave us…it changes everything.
Let me explain in an odd way…
When I was a little kid, I was incredibly terrified of the Boogeyman.
I saw a “Disney Sunday Movie” about him when I was a little kid, and it scared me to death. Haunted me. J
No joke, my sister got that movie for me for Christmas like 5 years ago…and I watched it…(so I was like 26 at the time) and it was STILL terrifying.
I turned to my parents and said, “WHY WERE YOU SHOWING THIS TO ME AS A KID?”
So anyway, I would have times when I was little, where I would get so scared that the boogeyman was in my closet or under my bed, that I’d just scream out for my parents
And in those moments as you wait for your mom or dad to come, you are still terrified. The situation is not good.
But when your parents come to your rescue, all of a sudden, everything is okay.
But think about it, they didn’t really do anything. You didn’t see them slay the monster, and even though they looked under your bed and in your closet, for all you know the thing is just waiting outside your window.
But after your parents come in, you can go right back to sleep.
Because all they had to say was, “I love you. It’s okay. I’m with you. I’ll protect you.”
And as a little kid, you trust their words so deeply, that you absolutely KNOW it WILL be okay.
My daddy loves me. I’ll be fine.
Because as the Bible says, LOVE drives out FEAR.
And the same illustration is true with God.
If you know that God is WITH YOU. He’s always with you…it oughta change everything.
We don’t have to fear what’s going to happen next…our God is with us. He’s right here!
We don’t have to wonder if He’s forgiven us…of course He has…He’s still here.
See, God does not promise you a perfect life…for often our greatest growth is in our trails.
And God does not promise you riches and riches…for often we learn to rely on him most in our poverty.
But what he does promise…is that he’ll always be there.
So if the monsters of your life are surrounding you, hear what God says so often to us in the Bible…because it’s just like your parents said to you in the middle of the night:
He says, “I love you. You are my child. I will never leave you. I’m right here. I’ll protect you. Trust me. I love you.
I will NEVER leave you. “
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.