2015 Vision: Commit to Know God

Last week, Dave shared a message explaining a bit about why vision is so important.  It is for the purpose of sharing God’s vision for our church in the upcoming year that we’ve gathered this morning.  It is vision and revelation that God chooses to use to communicate to us.  God, having created us, knows how we learn and understand things.  God knows that if we can envision something and understand it, that we can work together to achieve it.  If it is God’s vision and we fully cooperate with Him, we’re ensured success.
Last year, our vision was to simply invite people to, “Come on in!”  We were called to pray, break barriers, and build bridges.  We were reminded that Jesus made a way where there was no way so that everyone can simply come to Him, just as they are.  We had high expectations for a year of physical growth and many salvations.
Please bear with me through this part…
I can’t say that looking back that we fulfilled God’s vision for us last year.  Overall, we seemed to be lacking the commitment, passion, and the willing spirit that it takes to fulfill such a vision.  God revealed that the foundation of this vision was prayer.  Although prayer services were held at least twice a week, they were attended by only a faithful few.
Although we opened up opportunities to build relationships with one another and with our community (breaking barriers and building bridges) six days a week in convenient locations across the county, home groups were attended by only a few.  In fact, a few home groups had in attendance only their host and their leader.
We had the lowest number of visitors in New Hope history.  Our core Sunday morning service attendance held steady, but physical growth did not occur.
In the midst of this dismal perspective of 2014, however, there is an encouraging and inspiring perspective of 2014!  The spiritual growth that occurred was incredible.  This growth is difficult to measure and quantify, but is just as significant and praiseworthy as any other growth!
God gave many new perspectives and set them free from various captivities.  Many were healed and saw others healed through their prayers.  God literally gave our church new songs of praise to Him.  25 people put their faith in Christ, 19 were water baptized as they proclaimed their faith, and 2 received the baptism in the Holy Spirit!Our children’s ministries, again this year, outnumbered all other ministries in leading people to Christ as well as in community outreach and service.  I praise God for the adults who sacrifice so much of their time to our seven children’s ministries and for the clear fruit that comes from them!This isn’t the only area of growth, however.  Although we don’t always see their faces within our doors to be counted as numbers, I’ve heard numerous testimonies of how each of you, the church, are reaching out to those who need Christ around you.
Within the church, my job is primarily to train and equip the saints to do the work of ministry.  Where the real ministry occurs is outside of the church walls by all of us individually.  I praise God for your faithfulness in taking the good news of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit with you wherever you go!  As we persistently sow into the lives of the people around us in our community, we will reap a harvest of physical growth in due time!
Perhaps in 2014, God revealed this vision to us so that we would begin the work of breaking up the hard ground, planting seeds, and watering them.  Perhaps it was a test to see how faithfully we would continue the work He called us to whether we saw with our natural eyes the results of our labor or not.  Perhaps He gave us this vision so that we could see what was coming in the long term as we each sacrificed our resources, put His kingdom first, and committed ourselves to the cause of Christ.  Perhaps it was a revealing test of our personal commitment to Him and His work here.
In any case, we remember the wisdom of the Apostle Paul at this point:
Philippians 3:13-16
One thing I do: Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
This year, the Lord is taking us forward to what is ahead and desires to do an awesome work!
This year’s vision is:
Commit: To Know God
At first, I honestly wasn’t too excited about this as a vision.  Theology, or the study of God, is important.  Our view of God radically changes everything about our lives.  Whenever I initially heard this vision, I had flashbacks to sitting in a classroom with a parallel Bible, lexicon, and commentaries in hand systematically dividing God’s word to best define religious words and perceptions of God and His Kingdom.  For some of us, that is thrilling.  I actually enjoy it quite a bit.  For most of us, however, it’s not all that exciting.
Then, vision came into play.  God didn’t want me to go in the wrong direction with this one and turn New Hope into a university of head knowledge learning.  Far from it!
I saw a person diving off of a huge, jagged rock into the ocean.  Now that is a thrilling adventure topped off with an adrenaline rush!  This year, God is calling us to experience and to live out that thrill!  Symbolically, God was revealing through this vision that we are the cliff diver, God is the ocean, and the cliff edge is everything that holds us back in life from knowing God in all of His fullness.
1. God is calling us to commit.
I can’t think of a greater picture of commitment than that cliff diver in mid-air!  That person is fully, 100% committed.  There is no going back, no slowing down, no help down, no plan B!  If things start to go wrong, they can’t bail and move to a less risky cliff.  There’s no room for excuses, only responsibility.  They are owning this dive!  That person is going to experience the thrill of a completely unhindered free-fall into the depths of the oceans one way or another.  Oh, it’s on and there’s nothing that can stop it from happening!
However, all of us have some area of our lives that we hold back from God.  We all have areas of our lives that walk up to the ledge of that cliff, look at the greatness of God, and hold back from Him.  These areas of our lives prevent us from fully committing ourselves to God because we’re scared to death of all of the things that could happen if we were to simply let go of them.  Fear, shame, condemnation, guilt, and all of the “what ifs” talk us into just fading in with the crowd on the sidelines instead of taking the plunge for ourselves.  After all, that’s the acceptable and comfortable place to be.
Some areas of our lives are fully surrendered and immersed into the Kingdom of God, but some areas of our lives still conform to the ways of this world.  The interesting thing about commitment is that a guaranteed way to get broken, hurt, offended, and confused is to partially commit.  Ask any married person who has been cheated on; partial commitment hurts!
Think about that cliff diver.  If they aren’t fully committed to that jump, if they hesitate in that moment as they leave the cliff, they are far more likely to smash their bodies off of the rocks of indecision or to hit the water flat than if they fully commit and dive with confidence.
When we partially commit ourselves to God, we wonder why the rocks of the world that we try to cling to break us, scrape us, and bruise us.  When we partially commit ourselves to God, we misunderstand who He is and wonder why we feel slapped in the face by God instead of lovingly immersed and protected by Him.
God is calling us this year to pull out all of the stops, to act in faith, and to fully commit to Him.  In essence, this commitment is a total surrendering.  However, it’s sure to be the thrill of our lives as the freedom of that free fall begins!
2. God is calling us to know Him.
Commitment, through faith, is the first step of receiving anything from God.  It could be provision in some way such as salvation, comfort, peace, healing, or finances.  It could be deliverance from captivity in some are of our lives.  It could be protection from the storms of life or attacks of the enemy.  However, there is something specific that the Lord desires us to commit to this year; to know Him.
First and foremost, that means that we need to be a people who are hungry for the written word of God.  This is our greatest resource for getting to know God.
Praise be to God, there is no lack for us regarding access to God’s word.  Many ministries freely give Bibles and Bible study resources away.  Online devotionals and Bible reading and studying plans are freely available to any device.  We can literally carry an enormous library containing thousands of Bibles, commentaries, life application books, dictionaries, atlases, lexicons, concordances, and other resources in the palm of our hands and access them with a push of our finger at any time.  Many of these resources will even literally read themselves to us.
We are being called to commit ourselves to knowing God by reading, studying, understanding, and applying God’s word.
However, this is only a part of knowing God.  The reality which we are faced with is that it is completely possible to know the written word of God through and through and not know God at all.
There is a tremendous difference between committing to know ABOUT God and committing to KNOW God!
This year, God is not calling us to commit to know more about Him.  It’s not about dry theology, begin able to quote off His word, or being able to win arguments about Him and His Kingdom.
Jesus, the living Word of God in the flesh, stood before men who had the scriptures memorized and devoted their entire lives to serving God.  These were the Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, and teachers of God’s word.  Those same men not only did not recognize the Word of God, but said that He was a demon, a drunk, a liar, and a glutton.  Those same men committed themselves to stopping any who followed Jesus or preached the gospel by imprisonment or death.  These are the same men who knew God’s word and knew about God and were hopeful in expectation of their coming savior, yet they didn’t recognize Him when He stood in front of them.
Samuel lived in the house of God, served God, and knew the word of God from the very time that he was weaned from his mother.  Yet, he did not recognize the voice of God as He spoke directly to him.
Even Jesus’ disciples were confused.  Listen to this conversation:
John 14:1-14
Jesus said, 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Knowing about someone doesn’t mean that you know them.  Just because I can tell you all about someone and what they have done and what they are like does not in any way mean that I have a relationship with them!  Just because I know everything about them does not mean that I know them.  No, it is simply not enough to know ABOUT God.
This year, God is calling us to commit to knowing Him.  The way in which we get to know someone is by experiencing life with them.  God’s desire for us to commit to knowing Him personally through experience.
As a disclaimer, so that we are all united in this vision, I am not in any way belittling or disregarding God’s word. It is critically important for all of us to be in God’s word this year more than ever.  However, we’re being called to go a step beyond knowing God’s word and to apply God’s word; to personally experience it.  I can read that God says that He is my healer and I can read about how He healed people throughout scripture.  I can know ever single instance from memory word for word from scripture cover to cover and yet never be healed.
God isn’t calling us to learn about cliff diving.  Now that we know that God is a healer, God is calling us to take the dive and to allow Him to be our healer!  God is calling us to personally and intimately know Him as our healer.
Now which gives you more faith in God’s ability to heal your arthritis?  Which person knows God as their healer?
1. One who quotes Isaiah 53:3 to you saying, “by His stripes, you are healed”
2. One who tells you about how God healed their arthritis last year
God gave us His word as a revelation of who He is, but not just so that we could know about Him.  God gave us His word as a revelation of who He is so that we can personally know Him and experience His word.  His word is alive and active, it penetrates deeper than a double-edged sword, judging our thoughts and heart attitudes (Hebrews 4:12).  It is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
However, since there is such a fine line between knowing about God and knowing God, how do we know where we stand?  It is a very deceitful and slow fade to go from living in an active and healthy relationship with God to living out a religion about God, but absent of His power and presence.
The test is far simpler than we may think, though!  Think about knowing a friend.  How can you test whether you are as close as you used to be or whether you have drifted away from them?  Are you regularly having conversations with them and doing things together?  If not, you may be drifting from them.
If we are having regular and routine experiences with God, then our relationship is alive and well.  If we can say to someone, “Yesterday, Jesus did the most incredible thing when I was at work.”, or “I woke up this morning, and Jesus showed me that I really hurt that person last week.”  If the ACTIVE and LIVING word of God (Jesus) is actively teaching us, rebuking us, correcting us, and training us, then we have a relationship with Him.
If not, we may have fallen into that deceitful and slow fade from relationship into religion.  Ones like the Pharisees whom Jesus said:
Isaiah 29:13
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
This year, God’s word is going to transfer from mere words on paper to transform who we are so that we know God, not just about God.  We’re not going to just stand on that cliff edge gazing into the glorious ocean in awe at it.  We’re not going to slowly walk along the edge of the ocean ankle deep.  We’re not going to lay on the beach listening to the sound of the waves.
We’re going to make some waves!  It’s time to step to the ledge of that cliff and commit to dive into the deep, deep waters of who God is until we are consumed by Him and saturated with His presence and power in our lives!
This year, we are going to commit to know God!
Practical Application

Commit To:

1.Study God’s Word (Devotions)

2.Expect To Experience God’s Word

3.Expect To Bring Others Into An Experience With God

4.Worship (God Inhabits/Is Enthroned By Our Praise – Psalm 22:3)