I always make it a policy to not tell lies from this pulpit, but today lying is exactly what I’m going to do. You’ll see why in a moment. I’m going to make you an offer, and it’s an offer I don’t mean. It isn’t real. It has no validity. You can’t cash in what I’m going to promise you. Please let me make that perfectly clear.
So . . . here’s my fake offer. I want you to sit up straight and look excited, but please remember that I’m lying as I say this. But next Sabbath morning, I’m going to give away, right out of our offering plate, a cash prize of ten thousand dollars to every single person who comes here to church and is able to perfectly recite the famous quadratic equation from high school algebra.
That’s it! Probably most of you know it already! It’s very easy. You just come in here next weekend, come up front to the pulpit, lean into the microphone and say to the rest of us:
“X equals negative B plus-or-minus the square root of B squared minus 4AC, all over 2A.” Just say those 18 words without a flub, and I hand you one hundred bills with a picture of Benjamin Franklin on them. But one more disclaimer—let me be clear—I AM LYING. There is no money, there is no cash, no winners, and you’re going to come here next Sabbath and leave with even less money than you came with.
But let me ask you a question. Suppose you heard this offer . . . and it WAS real? Ten thousand bucks! One little formula, and you score ten G’s. But you don’t remember the quadratic formula. Here’s the question: would you find a way to get that formula and then come here next Sabbath and claim your prize? Sure you would. You’d go hunt up a high school math textbook or you’d call an old teacher or go to the library or search for it on Wikipedia or, heaven forbid, even break down and ask your kid what it is. But you’d do something. One way or another, you’d get that formula. Nothing would stop you. And you’re probably especially unhappy with me because that quadratic formula is something you can find. It’s out there; it’s written down in books. If you really wanted to, you could get at it. This would have been a doable challenge.
Now, last Sabbath we shared that building a daily relationship with Jesus Christ is THE cornerstone experience for us. In fact, it’s all we can do. And as we’ve explored the five steps to salvation, we see how getting to know God is the key to the entire process.
Let’s review for just a moment. Step One is a desire for something better. Step Two, a knowledge of what it is that is better—God’s gift of salvation. Then Step Three, an admission that we’re sinners, that we need this plan. Step Four, the even harder admission that we’re helpless; we’ve come to the end of our own abilities. And finally, Step Five, surrender.
But we’ve already made this point. You’re not going to surrender and give your self to a God you don’t trust. And you’re not going to continue to have faith in—or trust—a God that you’re not acquainted with. Let’s remember again the Bible promise of Paul to that jailor in Philippi: “Believe in the Lord Jesus—place your trust in Jesus—and you . . . will . . . be . . . saved.”That’s Acts 16:31.
Let me share with you a great soundbite from Morris Venden’s classic Adventist book, To Know God: A Five-Day Plan. On page 46 he writes this. See what you think of it: “The relationship with God is the entire basis of the Christian life.”
You’ll remember that earlier in this sermon series I described how God pursues us, and that salvation is His doing. But that we can at least put ourselves in a place where we can discover that plan of salvation. Now this is similar, but even more focused. The one thing we can do is to actively pursue that relationship, that friendship. Just as we get to know a friend, we can get to know God.
Now, what’s the connection with my bogus, non-valid $10,000 offer about the quadratic formula. You’d do anything to get that ten grand, wouldn’t you? Well, I think you get my point, don’t you? Here’s an offer that’s much greater, and this offer is valid. It’s good. God promises eternal life to those who enter into a relationship with Him. He offers you a new life, eternal life, in heaven with Him, if we’ll enter into and stay in a trust relationship with Him. “Believe in Jesus Christ,” the Bible says, “and keep on believing in Jesus Christ, and you . . . will . . . be . . . saved.”
Will you let me add just one more observation? This is something we can do! Just like that algebraic quadratic formula is out there where we could get our hands on it, this friendship with God is something we can accomplish. We know where to go in order to get it.
Just one page over in Morris Venden’s book, To Know God, is a spiritual prescription for knowing God. Is it an impossible task? No, it isn’t. Not at all. Tens of millions of Christians around the globe are thriving and rejoicing in that relationship every single week. Listen to these 17 words. In fact, why not write down these 17 words and learn them. Here they are—this is our spiritual prescription:
EVERY DAY, TO SEEK JESUS THROUGH
BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER.
Shall I run through that again? I think it’s important enough that we should. Seventeen words coming up:
BEGINNING OF EVERY DAY . . . TO SEEK
JESUS THROUGH BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER.
Maybe you’re thinking, Well, Pastor, that’s `one reporter’s opinion.’“ That’s a fair criticism. So let me share with you a paragraph from the respected writer A. W. Tozer and his book, The Knowledge of the Holy. This is from his chapter, “The Open Secret,” and if you’re thinking that our 17-word prescription is too elementary, too simple, then consider what he has to say. “Is there a formula for personal revival,” Tozer asks, “we can apply to the present situation, to our own situation? The answer to these questions is yes. Yet the answer may disappoint some persons, for it is anything but profound. I bring no esoteric cryptogram, no mystic code to be painfully deciphered. I appeal to no hidden law of the unconscious, no occult knowledge meant only for the few. The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may read. It is simply the old and ever-new counsel: ACQUAINT THYSELF WITH GOD.”
That’s it! There’s no “Raiders of the Lost Ark” treasure map to figure out, no snake-filled rivers to cross. We don’t have to starve ourselves or go and get a Ph.D. in Greek at Andrews University. Instead, we do this one simple, doable thing: “Acquaint thyself with God.” Get to know God.
So how do we get to know God? How do you get to know any person? How’d you get to know the person you’re married to? Just one page over in his classic book, Tozer adds this line: “God is a Person and can be known in increasing degrees of intimate acquaintance.”
You see, we build this friendship like we’d build any other. Time spent together. Finding out about the other person. Sharing yourself with the other person. Exploring the other person’s desires and hopes and goals and life principles. Getting to know their cares and passions.
In his book, Venden goes through that 17-word spiritual prescription and shares some marvelous insights about each phrase. “Take time,” he says. A good friendship takes time. Well, how much time? Can we get to know God with two minutes a day? Can we immerse ourselves in the things of God using the proverbial reading of a Bible verse with our hand on the doorknob as we zoom out of the house for a long day at work? Well, you can build a friendship on two minutes a day . . . but not much of a friendship. If we’re serious about this new relationship, we’ll take time, real time.
We’ve all heard those statistics where a busy dad, always on the road, and with a Blackberry in one palm and an I-phone stapled to his ear, spends an average of something like 37 seconds a day with his lonely, emotionally fragile eight-year-old kid. Dad works a long day, then hibernates in a home office until it’s almost bedtime. He shows up for a perfunctory “How was your day, Jimmy,” a peck on the cheek, and he’s back to yahoo.com. What kind of a relationship is he building with his son? Not much. It’s the same here, folks. If we want to know God, it’s going to take some real and tangible time.
“Take time alone,” Venden writes next. Just you and God. The new Christian, the growing Christian, needs to spend time alone with God, just you and Him. And you know, it’s so easy to want other things to count for this. “I’m in church,” you say. “Doesn’t that count?” Praise God that you’re in church, but you also need time alone with God.
In my case, I’m constantly involved in worship-type experiences here at the church. Sharing devotionals with staff members or other groups. Preaching almost every weekend. Every now and then there’s a mission trip, and that involves getting sermons ready. Plus weddings and funerals. Doesn’t that count?
Listen, those things are a blessing and I praise God every day that he lets me work in such an environment. I’m thankful to Him and I’m thankful to you for permitting me to be your spiritual leader, so that part of my work involves Bible study and research. But none of those things make up for time alone with God, just me and my heavenly Father. There’s a difference between reading for my sermon and reading for my soul.
Here’s a bit more. “Take time alone at the beginning of every day.” This is a point that maybe you want to debate. But I’d encourage you to read this chapter by Morris Venden, because he makes a very good argument for spending time with God in the morning hour. After all, he says, that’s when we need the strength. That’s when we’re about to go out and do battle with the enemy. That’s when we need the guidance.
And you know, the Bible is full of verses that talk about the morning. In Psalm chapter five we find this grateful expression: “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.”
Here’s another found in Isaiah 50:4: “The Sovereign Lord wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”
And you know, here’s the best one of all. You and I have the example of Jesus. Here’s what the Bible tells us: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”
Now, it’s true that a Bible prescription like this isn’t absolutely one-size-fits-all. Maybe you work the midnight-to-eight a.m. shift at a hospital or a factory. Maybe it’s better for you to have your devotional time at noon while your baby’s taking a nap. Maybe you’re simply the kind of person who’s hard-wired so that two in the afternoon, just before the kids get home from school, is when you’re at a mental peak and ready to learn at Jesus’ feet. And that’s wonderful. But I will say that many, many Christians have found a great blessing, a new blessing, that really kicked into gear when they began seeking God in the morning.
Finally, we seek Jesus through Bible study and prayer. Our focus, our spotlight, is on Jesus. Whatever part of the Bible you’re studying, look for Jesus there. Whatever other good Christian books you read, make sure each page takes you into a deeper friendship with Jesus. Do you listen to Christian radio? Sometimes even our favorite programs might get too wrapped up in health issues or politics . . . and it’s hard to find Jesus there. Do you download sermons into your I-Pod? Wonderful! Make sure that each podcast segment has something in it that will deepen your love for Jesus. Demand of yourself and demand of this fellowship time . . . that it bring you to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Can you do it? Yes, you can. Is it worth more than ten thousand dollars? A lot more. Is thisoffer valid? Folks, it’s good for all time. Let’s pray.
Father, we sense today the centrality of this issue: coming to know You. We thank You for making it possible, for giving us many glorious avenues to come into Your presence. Help us to take seriously the importance and the rewards of falling in love with You and with Your Son. We pray in His name, Amen.
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2009. Click here for usage guidelines.