C. Hindrances in getting closer to God a. Pursuing Him for what He can do


Key Verse: Matt 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

One of the greatest hindrances to getting closer to God is to pursue Him for the wrong reasons.  Only by being “poor in the spirit”, or in other words by being humble and depending on God, can we befriend God. We need to really hunger to develop that relationship with our Maker before we really can get to know Him.

David was constantly hungry for God.  He wrote in Ps 42:2-4 “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"  These things I remember as I pour out my soul…”

He may not have been the greatest example as a human being, but his passion for God made it possible to befriend His Heavenly Father. God said about him: Acts 13:22 “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” 

If we are too much filled with ourselves, being concerned only of our own pleasures,  cares and desires of the world, we will not hunger to have fellowship with God, we will tend to approach Him as children addressing Santa Clause: “Give me this, give me that and give me that as well.”  We are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Luke 23:8 "When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him.  From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle." 

Matt 27:42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself!  He's the King of Israel!  Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." 

In both of these instances people were trying to test Jesus' ability to perform miracles and they received nothing in return.  Their curiosity was not satisfied.  King Herod was always interested in miracles and was curious to see Jesus perform one.  The scribes and Pharisees wanted also to see Jesus perform a miracle as well, but they were not sincere either.

My friends God is not our slave, neither is He our miracle worker.  Too often we address God as children address Santa Clause.  "I want this and also I want that, and let's not forget that either!"  God will never satisfy this kind of curiosity.  People who are not sincere in their prayers and never intend to give their heart to God are merely playing mind games.

God does not need to prove Himself.  He is our Creator.  He is our Saviour.  He loves us!  What more do we want?

Heb 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." 

Without faith in God, we are fooling ourselves to receive what we want from God.  "Give me, give me, give me" isn't God's way.  God's way is: John 3:16-17 "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."   How different from our world's mentality.  The world constantly wants to receive.  God is the opposite, He gives.  But He gives only gifts that are good for us like eternal salvation, inner peace and friendship… Matt 7:11-12 "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" 

Only dependence on Jesus and true humility will make us one with Him.  Pursuing Him for His gifts will only lead to disappointment and discouragement.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Mark 8:11-13 “The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.” 

Question 1: What attitude should we have to pursue a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father?  Why?

Answer:

Question 2: Read the following couple of stories.  How should these individuals have approached God?

a. Lord I have Served You, so Why...?

When I was a pastor, a sharp, fourteen-year-old young man who was well respected by his friends and leaders was in the youth group. He was a good student and an accomplished athlete. Zealous for the things of God, the young man served faithfully and volunteered for every project. He took a missions trip with us, witnessing to almost everyone he met.

At one point in his life he spent four hours a day in prayer. He heard many things from the Lord and shared them with others. What he shared was always a blessing. He acknowledged his call to the ministry and wanted to be a pastor before the age of twenty. He seemed to be an unshakable rock.

I loved this young man, recognized the call of God on his life, and invested my time in him. I had only one concern: He seemed to have too much confidence in himself. I wanted to say something to him but did not have a release to do so. I knew a change would come. He weathered some tough storms and yet stayed strong. Sometimes I questioned my discernment as I saw him endure severe trials.

A few years passed. He moved, and I began to travel full-time. But I kept in touch with him. I knew he would go through a breaking process. Since it had to take place, I had no idea what would happen but realized it was necessary for him in order to fulfill his destiny. This would be a similar process to Simon Peter's sifting.

When this young man was eighteen, his father contracted incurable cancer. He and his mother fasted and prayed, believing that his dad would be healed. Others joined with them as well. Only months earlier his dad had committed his life to the lordship of Jesus.

The father's condition grew worse. I was ministering in another city in Alabama when my wife called, urging me to telephone this young man. I reached him and could see he needed someone to encourage him.

I drove all that night after my last service, arriving at his house at four in the morning. His father's condition was so severe that the doctors gave him only days to live. He could not even communicate.

The young man was confident that his dad would rise up healed. I ministered to the family and left several hours later. The next morning we had a call saying things had taken a turn for the worse.

Lisa and I prayed immediately. As we did, God gave my wife a vision of Jesus standing by this man's bedside ready to take him home. Thirty minutes later the young man called and told us his father had passed away. He seemed to be his same strong self. But that was only the beginning.

That night he called some of his close friends to tell them his father had died. When they answered the phone, they were crying. He wondered how they had already heard the news. But they hadn't heard. The tears they were crying were for one of his best friends who had just been killed in an accident. In one day he had lost his father and a very good friend.

The shaking had begun. He was bewildered, frustrated, and numb. The presence of God seemed to have eluded him.

A month later, driving home, the young man came upon an accident which had just taken place. He had had emergency medical training and stopped. Everyone in both cars was a close friend of his. Two died in his arms while he was trying to help.

My young friend had reached his limit. He spent three hours in the woods praying and crying out to God. "Where are You? You said You would be my Comforter, and I have no comfort!"

It seemed as if God had turned His back on him. But this was, in fact, the first time his own strength had failed him.

He became angry with God. Why had He allowed this? He was not angry at his pastor, his family, or me. His offense was with God. He was consumed with frustration. God had failed him in his hour of greatest need.

"Lord, I've served You and laid many things down to follow You," he prayed. "Now You have abandoned me!" He believed God owed him something for all he had given up to serve Him.

Many people have experienced hurts and disappointments that are less extreme and some that are more. Many become offended with the Lord. They believe He should take into consideration all they have done for Him.

They are serving Him for the wrong reasons. We should not serve the Lord for what He can do but rather for who He is and what He has already done for us. Those who become offended do not fully realize how great a debt He has already paid for them to be free. They have forgotten from what manner of death they were delivered. They see through natural eyes rather than eternal.

This young man stopped going to church and started running around with the wrong crowd, frequenting bars and parties. In his frustration he wanted nothing to do with the things of the Lord. He wanted to avoid any contact with God.

He could not keep up this lifestyle for longer than two weeks, for his heart was deeply convicted. But he still refused to approach the Lord for six months. Even then the heavens seemed to be as brass. The presence of the Lord seemed nowhere to be found.

Over a year had gone by. Through several incidents he saw that God was still at work in his life. He approached God, but now it was different. He came humbly. After this time of trial was over, the Lord showed him how He had never left him. As his spiritual walk was restored, he learned to put his confidence in God's grace, not in his own strength.

I kept in touch with him. A year and a half later he told me things he had seen in himself that he never knew were there. "I was a man without character and shallow in all my relationships. I was raised by my dad to be strong outwardly, a self-made man. I could never have grown the way God wanted me to. I am thankful the Lord did not leave me in that condition.

"But what grieved my heart the most was not running around in bars and drinking. It was that I turned my back on the Holy Spirit. I love Him so much. My fellowship with Him has never been as sweet as it is now."

A lot of shaking occurred in his life. Self-confidence was eliminated. But this young man had the foundation that Simon Peter had, and it could not be taken away. Instead of building his life and ministry through pride, he is building by the grace of God.

Offenses will reveal the weakness and breaking points in our lives. Often the point where we think we are strong is our place of hidden weakness. It will remain hidden until a powerful storm blows away the cover. The apostle Paul wrote, "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3 italics added).

We can do nothing of eternal value in our own ability. It is easy to say this, but having this truth deeply rooted in our being is another matter.

Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan. Lake Mary, Florida, Charisma House, 1997, p. 95-98 www.charismahouse.com

 

b. The Mask

Revelation 21:9 "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 

It only took my first few days at the Michigan university I attended to realize that life in the United States was a just a little bit different then what I was used to in Europe!

One of my first shocks came just days after school started.  I entered my dorm room to find a crowd of guys, including my roommate, staring intently at something.  Their animated conversation went something like this: "Wow man!  Look at this chick!  She's gorgeous!"

Chick?  The only "chick" I knew was a baby chicken.  Surely they wouldn't all be sitting around, gawking over an ordinary chicken!

"Nah.  This one looks better!  Look at how thin she is!"

Thin chickens rather than fat one?  What on earth?

That's when someone shifted enough for me to see the object that was the obvious center of attraction: A magazine!  A "chicken" magazine?

"Euh…guys," I said, rather innocently.  "What are you doing?"

The response was unanimously incredulous.  "You don't know???  The Mask just came out!!!"

"Get your own copy, man!"  Added my roommate.

The "mask"???  The only mask I knew about was the one you wore to a costume party, or perhaps the one you wore at Mardi Gras.  And what did THAT have to do with chickens???

"What's 'The Mask?'" I ventured to ask.

"You don't know?"  Asked my roommate unbelievingly.  "Oh man, you don't know what you're missing.  Come look.  It has all the pictures of the students at the university with their names and phone numbers.  Look at all these gorgeous girls!"

Girls???  A book full of girls???  And they were using it like some kind of a catalogue to determine who they were interest in?

Reducing members of the opposite sex to the level of animals at an auction was most definitely NOT for me!  However, peer pressure is strong in a university residence, and I soon found myself calling someone from the Mask to ask her out to the campus movie the next Saturday.  I don't remember much of my conversation over the phone, except that I stammered a lot.  That poor girl must have thought I was some kind of an extra-terrestrial fool.  She seemed interested enough to talk to me, however.  Until she looked me up in her own copy of the Mask, that is!  "Oh!"  She exclaimed.  "I don't think I'm interested.  Thanks anyway."

A solemn click ended my first and last attempt at using the Mask to get a date.  My ego was completely deflated (though perhaps it needed it!), and I felt completely and utterly rejected.

My first encounter with my wife-to-be two years later was quite different.  I remember it distinctively.  I had accepted a position teaching French at a Washington State college, and my first contact with students was on registration day.  I was sitting in my booth in the Modern Language section of the gym, waiting for my potential future students to come and register for my classes, when I saw her.  Now, after my "Mask" experience, I had resigned myself to the fact that with a face like mine, I would be a bachelor forever, and I had given up looking for anyone.  But when this young lady approached, it was love at first sight.  I immediately had the feeling I had known her for years, but what attracted me the most to her was her personality.  She was the one meant to me and the Lord (although I didn't really know Him at that time) made sure I knew that.

Over the next few weeks, we became close friends.  At first we joined in activities with others, but soon time alone became more attractive, for this was when we could really talk and get to know one another.  It didn't take me long to realize that she was a treasure provided by my Heavenly Father, and though I still don't know what she saw in me, our friendship developed into romance.

I have never regretted my decision to marry her.  No one can ever fill her shoes.  She is my bright, shining star to be cherished till my last breath.  Although I sometimes foolishly neglect her, we have become accustomed to each other, and I cherish the moments we are together, even more now, after twenty years of marriage.  Oh how I long to spend time with her!

Reflecting on these moments from the past, I realize that often we approach God the same way as when I called that girl out of The Mask.  Having never met her, and having no idea what kind of a personality she had, I was setting myself up for disaster.  When we don't have an intimate relationship with our Maker but we call Him out of the blue for the sole purpose of fulfilling our own desires, we are setting ourselves for disaster as well.

Why do we tend to approach God only to obtain His blessings?  Is He a kind of Santa Claus?  Imagine approaching a young lady and saying to her: "Oh my dear!  You are so lovely!  Would you marry me so that I can inherit your parents' estate?"

Would she jump at that opportunity?

Or what about this?  "Excuse me.  Would you go out with me?  You see I just made a bet with my friends..."

Would she be flattered?

God isn't flattered either when we come to Him for selfish reasons.

However if we search for Him with the purpose of really getting to know Him, He will reveal Himself to us, and His blessings will be added to our lives!  Getting to know Him will develop our relationship with Him, and soon we will find ourselves so filled with His love that we can't even imagine leading a life without Him.  Even your relationship with your spouse will pale in comparison to the fellowship you are experiencing with your Heavenly Father.

The New Testament has a special Greek term for that kind of love: Agape.  Agape is the kind of love that can only be experienced by knowing God intimately.  It's a sort of love devoid of selfishness and filled with a readiness of self-sacrifice.  It's a love that says: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  (John 10:10); and "Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people--free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds.  And not just barely free, either.  Abundantly free!"  (Eph 1:7 The Message) Agape love cannot be replaced by any human kind of relationship.  It's unique to God Himself and worth striving for.

So what will it be, friends?  A catalogue approach to God, or a desire to really get to know Him?  One leads to hollowness, the other leads to an abundant life filled with a loving relationship beyond your dreams.

The Mask is out!  Do you have your copy?

Rob Chaffart

Answer:

 

Assignment: Meditate over Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart.”

What can you do to protect your heart from harm?  Identify some of your pursuits that open your heart to danger.  Is there some spiritual “junk food” in your diet that needs to be eliminated?

Remember John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." 

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