We have been answering the question that all of us have, “What’s next for me in my spiritual journey?”
Sometimes we wonder if God even has a clearly defined plan for our lives. I have good news for you, He does. And it’s important that we all gain clarity on what that is. Let me show you why:
Proverbs 29:18 MSG – If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are trying to escape for your life, you are running from something that is going to kill you, but you keep tripping and falling down?
This is the picture I get when I read this verse. When we don’t know God’s plan for our lives, we stumble in our marriage, in our finances, in our work. Everything just seems chaotic and like it is falling apart.
So we spend all of this energy trying to fix what we think is the problem. But the problem isn’t the problem. You dig down into this and you find that your problems are created from the fact that you don’t know God’s plan for your life.
But those who know God’s plan for their life and follow it, they are the most blessed. They have all the peace, the joy, the contentment.
You, too, can get to a place where people look at your life and say, “Wow, they have the most blessed life I’ve ever seen.” This happens not because of your hustle and striving, but because you know God’s plan for you and you follow it.
This probably all makes sense to you. But the question is, how do you discover God’s plan for your life?
This plan has actually been revealed all throughout the Bible. There are four clearly defined steps that God wants us all to follow.
If you’ve been with us through this series, you’ve heard this already. But this time we are going to look at them in reverse order so you can begin with the end in mind. So, here’s the destination:
Make a difference.
We talked about this in the first week of this series. The ultimate purpose in life is to make a difference for eternity. And you’ll never be fulfilled, you’ll never be satisfied until you’re making a difference in the lives of others.
Our culture tricks us into thinking that more money, a bigger house, a bigger car, bigger lips, and stylish clothes are going to bring us happiness. And sure, you may get a day or two of happiness, but it never lasts.
Then comes the credit card payment, the house payment, the car payment, and all of a sudden you now have stress instead of happiness. So heads up, our culture doesn’t know what they are doing.
But God knows what He is doing. And it’s clear that the destination of our spiritual journey is to get to a place where we know we are making a difference in the lives of others, not just here on earth, but for eternity.
In order to get to this destination, you first have to discover the specifics behind what God has called you to do. Yes, we’re all here to make a difference. But we all make a difference in a way that is unique to us.
Remember, we are working these steps in reverse today. So in order to make a difference, you first need to:
God created you for something specific. He combines all of your gifts and experience and relationships to create a purpose that only you can fulfill.
You are the only one that can do what God has called you to do. And it is no more, it’s no less important than what He has called me to do or anyone else for that matter.
We are going to dive into how to discover purpose next week. But in order to discover purpose, your first need to:
It’s not that you don’t want to make a difference. It’s just you can’t make a difference until you first find freedom.
A lot of people are out there trying to discover God’s purpose for their lives while looking in the rearview mirror. It’s pretty tough to move forward when you are fixated on the past, the habits, the addictions. And that’s why you have to find freedom before you move towards your purpose.
We talked about this in detail last week. Jesus went to the cross to give you freedom in your body, freedom in your mind, freedom from your past and freedom in your heart.
Freedom belongs to you because Jesus already paid the price for you to be free. Isn’t it time to step into that freedom and say goodbye to the addictions, the shame, the bad decisions?
Jesus didn’t just forgive you, He forgot all about what you did. He couldn’t remember it even if you re-told Him the details. And not only that, but He cleansed your own conscience so you don’t have to deal with the shame.
If this is where you are right now, if you need to find freedom, dig in and do what it takes to find freedom. And the step you need to take towards freedom might actually be the first step of this entire journey:
We get this backwards. We think we have to get all of our stuff together before we can get closer to God. Wrong.
Finding freedom is only possible when we first build a relationship with God. He’s not looking for religion. He’s not looking for perfection. God wants a relationship with you: hangups and all.
He wants you to understand that He loves you no matter what. He knows you are going to mess up probably every day of your life and He still loves you.
Accept His unconditional love. Step into relationship with Him. This is the first and most important step in your spiritual journey. You can’t complete any of the other steps until you first have a relationship with God.
And that opens up a whole new question that I am going to answer today:
What does a relationship with God look like?
I’m really excited about this message because, of all the things that I could talk about here at church, this is absolutely the most important.
We call this part of your spiritual journey “Know God” for a reason. When the Bible talks about a relationship with God, it often uses the word “know”. This really doesn’t seem significant until you dig into the original language.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek language is much more expressive than ours. It takes several English words to describe one Greek word. Yet, the translators often had to widdle it down to one word so the Bible wouldn’t weigh 100 pounds.
So we translate this to simply, “know”, but here’s what it means in the Greek:
Ginosko – To know intimately.
The Jewish people would actually use this word as a polite way to talk about intercourse between a man and a woman. Kind of like a more polite way to describe sex would be, “the intimate relations husband and wife have to conceive a child.”
In other words, they got close. They got REAL close. And when Jesus came along and talked about having a relationship with God, this is the word he used. Now you are wondering where this message is going to go.
As much as this weirds you out, I bet the Jewish people were even more surprised that Jesus would use this word. They thought that God was distant. He was far. He was up there and we are down here striving to make Him happy.
But Jesus came and said, “No, no, no. You have it all wrong. God wants an intimate relationship with you.”
He actually went so far as to say that knowing God is the indicator that you have received eternal life. Take a look:
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Okay… well, what is the will of the Father?
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV – Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
You could put any other church thing on this list, “I went to church in your name, I sang your songs, I read your book, I said your prayers.”
But in this scripture, Jesus is saying, “No, no, no. That’s not what I was looking for. You really thought that you could earn your way into heaven with your good deeds?”
What’s most sobering about this scripture is that it says “many”. This isn’t just a few people who are deceived into thinking their good behavior is going to earn their way to heaven. There are many!
And here’s what Jesus is going to say to them on judgement day:
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV – Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Whoa. I hope this hits you as hard as it hits me.
God is not looking for religion. He’s looking for relationship.
Maybe this causes a little bit of anxiety for you because all this time you thought that you had to earn your way to God. Go ahead and shift that anxiety to relief because now you know you’re off the hook.
This isn’t about how many good things you do. Your way to God is to simply get closer to Him. He’s been trying to get close to you all this time.
All you have to do is turn towards Him instead of being busy over here trying to do all these things to impress God hoping that it’s enough.
When the time comes, we will all face a time of judgment. I don’t know how this is going to go down, but basically, we’ll be asked, “Why should you spend eternity in heaven?”
Let me tell you, there’s no religious answer that is going to work. “I memorized most of the New Testament.” Nope. “I was good to a lot of people.” Nope. “I was faithful to NoLimits Church.” Ding, ding, ding – correct… nope. That won’t even work.
The correct answer is, “Because I know you. You know me. We’ve been enjoying relationship all this time and now it will continue in Heaven.”
Let me show it to you in two more places.
Matthew 15:1-3 NIV – Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
Now you know, there will always be a group of religious people that tell you you aren’t doing it right. “You didn’t give right. You didn’t sing right. You didn’t read your Bible enough. You didn’t pray long enough.”
This is probably the whole reason we even think this is the kind of stuff God is looking for. Because of all the religious people out there making a fuss out of nothing. Here’s what they were fussing about this time:
Matthew 15:1-3 NIV – They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Alright, this is sounding a little like kids tattling on each other. These religious people interrupted Jesus to complain about the disciples not washing their hands the right way. What did Jesus have to say about this?
Matthew 15:1-3 NIV – Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
What command of God is He talking about? The one He calls the greatest commandment: Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
They cared more about their religious activities than they cared about loving God. And that’s why a few verses down Jesus said this:
Matthew 15:7-9 NIV – You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They went to church. They said their prayers. They even sang every song during worship. But their hearts are far from God. He goes on to say:
Matthew 15:7-9 NIV – They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
I hope you are seeing that God is not looking for you to follow a set of rules. He is looking for a close relationship with you. Let me show it to you in one more place:
This is Jesus using a fictional story to teach us something. You think that we’re pretty smart these days because we entertain ourselves with fictional stories in books and movies? Well, Jesus is the one who got it all started.
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.
So, this is a picture of the church waiting for Jesus to come back. Half of us aren’t fully prepared (we didn’t pray enough, read the Bible enough, go to church enough) and the other half are the “good Christians.”
All my prepared people know who you are because you like to fuss about the people who aren’t prepared. Keep that in mind as we continue to read this story.
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’
Y’all, this is really going to happen. Jesus is going to come back when we least expect it. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. It could be years from now.
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’
Here it is. All the prepared people listening right now knew this was coming. And this would probably be your response too:
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’
You didn’t prepare, so you are on your own. Go memorize more scripture. Go to church more. Give more in the offering. I already did these things and you need to do them too.
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
Well, looky there. The ones with the oil got into the feast. And all you prepared people are nodding your head, “That’s right.”
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’ He answered…
What’s Jesus going to say? They may not have been prepared at first, but at least they went back and prayed more, gave more, and read their Bible more. Hopefully it is going to be enough.
But He didn’t let them in. And most of us think it’s because they didn’t do enough. But Jesus didn’t say anything about that. He didn’t even comment on the fact that they had fallen asleep. Here’s what He said:
Matthew 25:1-12 MSG – ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’
It didn’t matter how much oil they had, how prepared they were, how much religious activity they engaged in. Jesus wasn’t looking for any of that. He was looking for relationship. Closeness.
And you know when you’re missing this relationship with God because some things start to show up in your life.
Indicators that You Don’t Know God
A sense of powerlessness.
When you don’t know God, you don’t know His power. So you are trying to do everything on your own. And it may go well for a while, but at some point you will fall flat on your face and realize you don’t have what it takes on your own.
But when you know God, you rely on His power working through you. This is the power that enables you to overcome addiction, handle adversity with grace, and fulfill the purpose God had put on your life.
Frustration with trying to do good.
When you don’t know God, the good things you do are never enough. You are trying to follow all the guidelines in the Bible but it’s impossible! As soon as you get one down, you find ten others you need to do.
But, when you have a close relationship with God, doing good is no longer overwhelming. First of all, you no longer have shame and regret when you miss it. Secondly, you get to go to God directly for help.
Envying others who seem to be closer.
In fact, some people listening right now were once close to God but now you’re not. It’s time to return to your first love and get that closeness with God again.
By this point, you might all be thinking, “Kade, this is great. But what does it have to do with Easter? Did you forget that it’s Easter?”
Let me show you:
Philippians 3:10 NLT – I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.
Easter is all about celebrating Jesus being raised from the dead. And knowing Christ is how we experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.
Now you all are getting it, huh? Easter is more than a church service. It’s more than candy and family gatherings.
God doesn’t just want us to celebrate the resurrection. He wants us to have resurrection of our own.
Getting close to God, knowing God, is how we experience that resurrection. And by this point in the message, you probably get it. But now the question is,
How do I get close to God?
Let me give you three things. Go ahead and write these down.
1. Love Him because He loved me first.
We are not trying to earn His love. We don’t have to get our act together for God to love us. No, God loves us even when we’re a hot mess. He loves you even after what you did last night.
You could commit the worst of sins and God would still love you. There is nothing that can take away His love.
So, don’t see God as someone who might love you if you do right. Because if you think He doesn’t love you, then your love for Him won’t last very long.
If you hear nothing else today, hear this: God loves you. He will always love you. Even if you never love Him back, He will continue to love you.
But the first step to getting closer to God is to love Him not because you have to, but because He loved your first. Your love for God is simply a response of His love for you.
I John 4:19 NKJV – We love Him because He first loved us.
Here’s the next thing. And this is actually something that most relationships require:
2. Pursue Him with all of my heart.
If you want somebody, you have to go after them. When I realized I wanted to marry Beth, she was pretty much the only thing that existed. I followed her around at school. I was with her every chance that I got.
I called her every chance I got. I text her. I kissed her until her lips were raw. I overwhelmed her with these incredibly good looks. By that time, she had no other choice but to marry me.
You may not know this about God, but He likes to be pursued. All throughout scripture you’ll see things like this:
Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV – And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
What do you think would happen if you went all in with God? No more flirting with the Christianity thing. What if you went after God with everything that you are?
I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I can tell you what you’ll find on the other side of this pursuit. You’ll find the most incredible life and wonder why you waited so long.
Let me make this really practical for you. Give us a year. Dive into the things we have going on here at NoLimits to help you know God, find freedom, discover purpose and make a difference.
And if it doesn’t lead you closer to God, if it doesn’t make your life better, I’ll change churches with you.
I know without a doubt that if you seek God with everything you are, your life will blow your mind. You are going to look back and say, “What the heck? Why haven’t I been doing this all this time?”
So, love God because He loved you first. Pursue Him with all of your heart. And then there’s one more.
Every healthy relationship requires commitment. You have to get to a point where you say, “I may not fully understand this. It may not even be perfect. But I commit to you through the good times and the bad.”
When I married Beth 13 years ago, I didn’t really know what this meant. But it all started to make sense when she started leaving her clothes on the floor. I realized that I was committed to her even if the Mount Everest pile of clothes next to her side of the bed never went away.
It’s really not that bad and it honestly doesn’t even bother me anymore. And trust me, she could get up here and tell you all some stories about the things I do that rub her the wrong way. She deserves an award for putting up with me.
To get closer to God, you have to give Him this same kind of commitment.
3. Give Him my life.
Even though you don’t fully understand, and probably never will, you commit your life to Him through the good times and the bad. Jesus said it this way:
Luke 9:24 NLT – If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
If you try to do this thing on your own, you’ll lose your life anyways. And some of you listening right now know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been striving and running after everything this world has to offer, yet you feel lost.
That’s because you are lost. Without God you will always be searching for fulfillment. But when you lay down your own pursuit and give your life to God, He will save you from the pain, the regret, the striving.
Now we all have a response to this message today. You are going to fall in one of four places.
1. I already know God personally.
And that’s awesome. What a great reminder you got today.
2. I want to begin a real relationship with God today.
This is for those today that realized that this whole church thing, this whole God thing wasn’t what you thought at all. You thought it was all about doing good and following the rules and being a good person.
But now you realize it’s all about relationship with God and that is what you’ve wanted all this time.
3. I want to consider what God wants to do in my life.
This is for those who are saying, “Not yet. I just need time to consider all of this a bit more.” You know, most would expect me to be bothered by this response, but I’m not. I’m not mad at you and neither is God.
You know, it’s my dream to have a church that isn’t just full of just church people. If you are a skeptic of Christianity or an atheist or someone who just isn’t quite sure yet, you are welcome here. We want you here. We’re not mad at you and we’re not going to put you down.
4. I don’t ever intend to make that decision.
This is for those who were drug into this online church thing and you can’t wait until it is over. If that’s where you are, okay. Apparently I couldn’t convince you today and I’m okay with that. I know I can’t make decisions for you anyway.
But whether you like it or not, we are going to continue to pray for you. We’re not going to bother you, but let me tell you this, God is not going to leave you alone. He is going to continue to speak to you and reach out to you.
I want to begin a real relationship with God today.
For everyone who had the second response today, you’re ready to begin a real relationship with God, I want to lead you in a prayer to solidify that decision. If you are ready to step into a relationship with God, say this prayer out loud:
God, I need you. I need a real relationship with you. Today I open up my life to knowing you personally. I ask you to forgive me for living life my own way. Today I invite you, Jesus, to be Lord of my life. I give you my life. I believe the same power that raised you from the dead is now working in me.
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.