HOW TO GET CLOSER TO GOD
50 Days of Transformation – Part 1 (Spiritual Health)
The more trouble that hits your life the greater the opportunity for Transformation!
The LOST Son & LOVING FATHER: Luke 15:11-24 Jesus told this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘Give me my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.’ So his father divided his wealth between his sons.
A few days later the younger son packed all his belongings and left home to live in a distant land. (He got as far away from his Father as he could.) There he squandered the gift he’d been given and wasted his life and money on wild parties and reckless living. About the time all his money ran out, a severe famine hit the land, and he began to starve because he was left with nothing.
The only job he could find was feeding swine on a farm. He became so desperate and hungry that he even desired the pig slop he was feeding the swine with and it began looked good to him. But no one would give him anything for his hunger.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘This is crazy! At my Father’s home even the lowest paid workers eat well, while I’m far away dying of hunger! I’m going to return home to my Father and humbly say: Father, I have sinned against both God and you, and I am not worthy to be a part of this family or called your son. But please just make me one of your servants who works for you.’ With that attitude, he headed back home to his Father.
But while the son was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with compassion, he ran out to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him! The son said ‘Father, I’ve sinned against both God and you, and I’m no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring me the best robe and put it on him. Then get a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet. Then kill the calf we have been feeding. We’re going to celebrate. For this child of mine was distant and dead but now he’s back and alive! He was lost, but now he’s found! So the party began!’”
HOW DO I GET CLOSER TO GOD?
50 Days of Transformation – Part 1 (Spiritual Health)
Hello Mercy Seat! Welcome to Fifty Days of Transformation. This weekend we begin part one as we start looking at seven key areas of life. Seven areas we need to receive change.
Memory verse –Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And where is that found? Romans 12:2. It’s our memory verse!
The way we think:
- Determines the way we feel.
- The way we feel determines the way we act.
- If we want to change, we don’t start with our actions,
- We don’t even start with our feelings.
- You start with your thoughts.
- The key to transformation DOES NOT START not in your actions,
- Not in your behavior, Not in your body.
- It doesn’t start with your will.
- WHERE DOES IT START?- with our thoughts
- And if you can change the way you think that’ll change the way you feel.
- And if you change the way you feel that will change the way you act.
We’re going to take that principle in, Romans 12:2, and apply it to all seven key areas of life –
- Our Relational
- Our Physical
- Our Mental
- Our Spiritual
- Our Emotional
- Our Financial
- OUr Vocational
What does God have to say about these areas of our life? I want to know don’t you?
Transformation changes us from emptiness to fullness.
- There are things in you that are full, that need emptying.
- There are also some things in you that are empty that need to be filled.
- Transformation changes us from defeat and failure to faith and victory.
- Transformation changes us from insecurity and inferiority to courage and to boldness.
- It helps us to become all that God wants us to be.
The more trouble you’re having in life means there an opportunity for transformation. The more trials, the more difficulties, the more stress, the more things are going wrong could be a sign you’re not cooperating with your Creator. You’re not following God’s plan for your life. And the Bible says- the way of the unrighteous is rough. It’s full of thorns. It’s difficult. It’s a rocky, & rough road.
On the other hand, the closer I get to God, the more my life is going to be transformed.
- Paul, when he finally met Jesus Christ face to face, he was radically transformed from literally a terrorist – into the apostle of love.
- Moses got so close to God, he was even transformed in his appearance. People had to even look away from him. He glowed with glory. He got so close to God that he got his light and in him is no darkness at all. He was literally physically transformed.
We all want to be close to God. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to be close to God.
But the Bible says “All we like sheep have gone astray. We each have turned into our own way.”In other words, like sheep we tend to wander.
- You don’t have to teach sheep to drift off. They just do it naturally. By their very nature they just kind of wander off and the shepherd has to bring them back in. Sheep tend to wander. The Bible says “All we [you and me] like sheep tend to go astray.” We don’t tend to stay close to God. We tend to wander off.
- So today if I said the closer you get to God the more you’re going to be transformed, we need to talk about how do you get close to God, how do you stay close to God, and if you’ve fallen away from God, how do you get back into that close relationship to God.
Some of you can point to a time in your life where you’d say, I remember when… I really felt God’s presence. I was really close to God. I could really sense his power at work in me. I remember when.. There was a joy in my life. But I’ve lost that.
- How do I get back to God if I’ve kind of wandered away? I’ve lost that spark.
- Because if I’m not close to God I don’t have the power to make any changes and I will never be transformed.
Luke 15:11-24. “Jesus told this story: ‘A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘Give me my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.’ So his father divided his wealth between his sons. A few days later the younger son packed all his belongings and left home to live in a distant land. [He’s already getting away from the father. He’s getting distant from the father] (He got as far away from his father as he could.) [He goes to a distant land] There he squandered the gift he’d been given [and we’ve all done that.] and wasted his life and money on wild parties and reckless living. About the time all his money ran out, a severe famine hit the land, and he began to starve because he was left with nothing. [Now he’s getting hungry] The only job he could find was feeding swine on a farm. He became so desperate and hungry that even the pig slop he was feeding the swine looked good to him. But no one would give him anything for his hunger. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘This is crazy! At my Father’s home even the lowest paid workers eat well, while I’m far away dying of hunger! [So he says, I know what I’m going to do…] I’m going to return home to my Father and humbly say: Father, I have sinned against both God and you, and I am not worthy to be a part of this family or called your son. But please just make me one of your servants who works for you.’ [I’m not even a family member. Just hire me out as a servant. Make me one of your servants…] who works for you. With that attitude, he headed back home to his Father. But while the son was still a long distance away [he hadn’t got all the way back home], his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran out to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him! The son said [he’s got his prepared speech.] ‘Father,I’ve sinned against both God and you, and I’m no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring me the finest robe in our house and put it on him. Then get my signet ring for his finger and shoes for his feet. Then roast the calf we have been fattening. We’re going to celebrate with a feast of eating and drinking. For this child of mine was distant and dead but now he’s back and alive! He was lost, but now he’s found! So the party began!’”
- This kid starts off saying, Dad, Father, God; I want you to give me what’s rightfully mine.
- It’s all about me. Give me my. It’s a very self-centered life.
- That’s where we usually start in life. Give me my, God. Give me my.
- I want mine now. And by the way I’m in a hurry.
- I want it and I want it now and if I can’t pay for it I’ll put it on credit.
- So we’re always in a hurry. Give me mine now.
- So he takes off. Far away from his father.
- There he wastes his fathers living, money and his time and his energy on wine, women and doing wrong – particularly women. Cause that’s what helps men get rid of money quick.
- And he really gets messed up and he hits the bottom.
- He becomes homeless.
- Then on top of that the nation goes into a national recession- there’s a famine in the land.
- Now nobody has anything to eat so nobody is going to give this panhandler, a street guy, anything to eat. Every man for himself.
- He can’t even find a job. Ain’t it funny how Things go from bad to worse.
- Finally he finds a farm where he has the worst job – slopping pigs.
- For a Jew that’s not a good thing. That’s not kosher
- Because you’re not even supposed to touch a pig. You’re not supposed to have anything to do with pork.-
- He gets the worst job a Jewish kid could get – slopping pigs.He gets so hungry and he gets so desperate he’s going “Man! This stuff looks good!”You’ve got serious, serious problems when you get so desperate if you think pig slop looks good. And it says, nobody gave him anything.
- Then it says he wise up and he came to his senses. “Shoot!
- The servants, the poorest paid people in my dad’s house, eat better than this.
- What in the world am I doing?”
- He knows he doesn’t deserve his father’s favor.
- He’s just wasted half of his fathers inheritance.
- All his dad earned in his life, he’s already blown before he died.
- He says, I know what I’m going to do.
- I’m not going to go home and ask the father to just accept me back in the family.
- I’m just going to go home and say, Hire me.
- I’d rather be a servant in your house than be back in the pig’s parlor.
And you know the rest of the story as we saw the father’s response.
From this story we see the four things you need to do to get back to God.
I don’t know where you are today.
You may be way, way, way, way far away. Maybe you haven’t been to church in years and years. Or maybe you’re a little closer. Or maybe you’ve just been distant for a week. You’ve had one of those weeks where you thought, I really don’t feel God’s presence in my life. And yet we all long to be close to God.
How do I get back to him? You do these four things.
This is the pathway back to spiritual transformation.
1. I MUST GET FED UP WITH MY LIFE
- I get fed up with my life.
- I’m fed up with my circumstance.
- I ‘m fed up with the way I’ve been living.
- I just get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
- I am not going to live this way anymore.
- I am too stressed out. I’m too lonely. I’m too depressed.
- I am overworked and to busy. And I don’t even like myself.
Why would anybody like me? I don’t even like me.
I don’t like the life I’m living right now.
- Nothing is going to happen in your life in the next seven weeks until first you get dissatisfied with the way you are.
- If you think, “It’s fine. I’m just fine. I don’t need any changes in my life.”
- Then you can sit out the next seven weeks because nothing’s going to happen in your life until you decide “I don’t like living like this.
- I’m tired of being stressed out all the time.
- I’m tired of being frustrated all the time.
- I’m tired of being overworked all the time.
- I’m tired of being so distant from God.”
You’ve got to get desperate. You’ve got to get hungry. You’ve got to get anxious for a change.
Nothing happens until you get fed up.
In that passage of Scripture it says this “He wasted it all… He had nothing left… He got desperate and hungry… And he finally came to his senses.” That’s where transformation starts.
- Are you there yet?
- If not that’s okay. God will just let you stay right there.
- And he’ll allow a little rain/pain in your life so that he can gain your life.
- And if that doesn’t work he’ll allow a little bit more in your life.
- If that doesn’t work he’ll send a storm.
Why? Because God loves you too much to let you stay that way.
He will not let you waste your life, because He paid to big of a price!
- When God wants to get our attention he comes and knocks on the door.
- If we ignore it he knocks on the door again.
- Then if we ignore it he knocks on the door again.
- And if we ignore it, he blows down the door.
- Some of you have had the door blown down in your life. You lost your job. Or you lost your marriage. You’ve lost your mind. You’ve lost your money. You’ve lost family members.
- Or you lost most of the people that were close to you. You lost something.
- Because your soul/your self is lost.
Why does all this happen? Because God does everything he does in your life out of love.
When you start saying, I’m just so unsatisfied with my life.
I just don’t like the way I’m living.
I don’t like this! Hello! That’s God knocking on your door.
- The first step in transformation is for you to get disgusted, to get discontent, to get fed up with the way you’re living.
Jeremiah 29:13 ways this GOD: “You’ll find me when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else.”
God is not going to reveal himself to you if I just casual want to come, just kind of, a part time hobby.
- I’ve got to get fed up with the way I’m living.
- “There’s got to be more to life than this.
- There’s got to be a better way to live than this.
There’s got to be a saner way to live than this.” Are You get fed up?
2. I MUST OWN UP TO MY SIN
- First I get fed up
- Second I own up.–I own up to my own sin.
That’s the second thing that this young man did.
- First he got fed up.
- THEN HE OWNS UP
17-18 it says “When he came to his senses [circle that. He goes, this is nuts, this is nonsense.
- This is crazy.
- When he came to his senses… That is you wake up.
- To live without God is insane.
- To live without the one who gave you life —does not make sense.
- To live without God is not rational.
- To live without the Creator who made you is not logical.
- It doesn’t make sense.
- When he came to his senses he said…] I have sinned against God and you.”
Nothing is going to happen until you come to stage two. Stage two is you’ve just got to own up.
- I need to face up to the fact that I have not been living God’s way.
- I’ve been living my way.
- I’ve been doing it my way.
- I’ve been doing it the way I think is best.
- I’ve been doing it in a way that protects me.
- I’ve been doing it in a way that tries to control everything around me
- And now I’m out of control.
- I’m getting tired of holding onto all of the controls.
- I’m about ready to resign as general manager of the universe.
So I own up. What do I own up to? I own up to my sin.
Verse 18 “When he came to his senses he said, ‘I have sinned.’”
Isaiah 59:2 “Your sins have separated you from your God, and have hidden his face from you…”
- Have you ever prayed and you felt like God was a million miles away?
- Have you ever prayed and felt like your prayers were bouncing off the ceiling?
- Have you ever prayed and felt like it’s like there was this veil between you an God.
- I can’t see God.
- I can’t hear God.
- I can’t feel God.
- I feel like I’m just talking to myself.
Where does that come from?
- Your sins have separated you from your God and he’s hidden his face from you.
That’s where it comes from.
- It comes from your sin.
- You moved away you gave your love to something else.
- You gave your attention to something else.
- You gave your devotion to something else.
- You gave your affection to something else.
When you give anything else your love there’s a word for that in the Bible. It’s called an idol.
An idol is not some piece of wood, stone, or metal trinket that you fall down before and worship. No, no, no!
- An idol looks like your car.
- An idol looks like your job.
- An idol can be a dress.
- An idol can be the way you look.
- Anything that you put as a priority before God becomes an idol.
The first and second commandments says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me… Thou shalt not make any false idols.”
- Money can be an idol.
- Success can be an idol.
- Golf can be an idol.
These are not bad things. They’re just not deserving of first place in your life.
- So I own up to my sins.
- Your sins have separated you from your God.
The fact is this:
- You’re as close to God as you choose to be.
- You can’t really blame anybody else.
- You can’t blame your husband.
- You can’t blame your wife.
- You can’t blame your mom, your dad, your brother.
- You can’t blame the pastor.
(That’s one thing you can’t blame the government for!)
- You can’t blame other people.
It’s being lame when you blame other people for your spiritual condition. (spell BE-LAME)
- If my husband were a more dedicated believer! Really? If my girlfriend was more on fire for Christ! Really?
NO–You are as close to God as you choose to be.
The fact is you haven’t been desperate.
- You haven’t been fed up enough to say, I am desperate to know God.
If I were to hold you under water, you would struggle.
But when you really started running out of breath, you would really struggle. Because you would be desperate for air.
- When you’re that desperate you don’t just get fed up, you own up.
- And you say, I’ve got to know God.
- You’re as close to God as you choose to be.
When I own up and I say God, I’ve blown it. I’ve been going my way. I haven’t been going your way. I’ve been doing what I want to do.
When I come and say, “God, you know what I’ve done & I’m really sorry.”
What does he do?
Psalm 51:1-4 David says this,“Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean! I recognize my faults and I am conscious that I’ve sinned against you.”
Circle the phrase in your bible “I recognize my faults.”
- That means to own up.
- I face up to my sins.
- I own up to my sins.
- I recognize my faults.
What is God’s response when I own up, when I face up?
Look at the next verse: “The Lord says, ‘No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.’” Isn’t that an awesome verse? He says no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’ve done it with, I can remove it.
- Doctors will tell you that every so often you need to go and get a checkup.
- You need to have your heart checked every so often.
- You need to have your colon checked every so often.
- That’s a fun one! Anybody want to give a testimony about that right now?
- But you have to get regular checkups. Why? Because if something’s growing wrong in your body you want to know sooner not later, right?
The same is true with your spiritual life.
- If sin starts growing in you it can become a cancer.
Where do you do it, the check-up? You do it in your thought life.
It’s a checkup from the neck up. You’ve got to think about your thoughts.
I have a spiritual check list that I use to evaluate myself.
The Bible says that you can test yourself. Here are five areas that you can test yourself:
- Worship- how’s my worship? Am I just going through the motions?
- Fellowship- do I feel disconnected from the body of Christ?
- Discipleship, have I stopped following and growing?
- Ministry- am I doing real ministry or do I feel burned out?
- Evangelism- when is the last time I talked to someone outside the church about my God?
Evaluate you own self and see where you are spiritually. Now don’t blame others, it’s your faults that have separated you from your Father. Come on and OWN-UP!
You know how we’re talking about setting a spiritual goal each week?
Make a goal right now to evaluate yourself every week!
- You could write down what do I need to do?
- How am I going to get a partner to help me with it?
- Then, what progress have I made on it?
- That’s a good spiritual habit that you need to do.
- The habit of owning up.
- The habit of checking up.
- Just like you need a physical check up regularly, you need a spiritual check up regularly.
2 Corinthians 5:17. Read this out Loud. “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone. A new life has begun.”
That’s a positional statement. What that means is God says you are a new person.
- What’s that mean?
- It means you don’t have to stay the same any more.
- You don’t have to listen to those old impulses.
- You now have a new power in your life to make it through.
- You have a new power, the Holy Spirit in you.
A new ability. You have a new community, the church. You have a new identity. And you have a new destiny.
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, a new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, that’s the verse we’re going to work on this week.
This habit of a regular spiritual check up… here’s a couple of verses.
“Test yourself to make sure you’re solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourself regular checkups. If you fail the test, do something about it.”
That’s what we’re talking about here in owning up.
The Bible says that before you take the Lord’s Supper that you should do a spiritual checkup every time. That this is a time to pause and not just get fed up but to own up and says, Is there anything in my life?
Psalm 139 “Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.
1 Corinthians 11 “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
In other words we need to do these things.
- I get fed up
- Then I own up. -I face up to what I need to do.
Here’s the third step to getting back to God, to getting back in his love and his grace.
Here’s the third thing. I get fed up, I own up…
3. I MUST OFFER UP MYSELF
- I offer up my life.
- I offer up myself.
- I offer up my total being.
- This is the third thing that we find this young man did.
- He got fed up – he came to his senses.
- He owned up – he said I’ve sinned against God.
- Then he offered up.
Luke 15:12 “The son drifted away saying, “GIVE ME MY share…” Then Luke 15:19 he comes back, “He returned to the Father saying, ‘MAKE ME a servant.’”
How many notice the change in attitude there?
- He leaves saying, Give me.
- Give me, give me, give me.
- He comes back saying, Make me!
- That is transformation.
- That is true transformation.
- When your heart moves from self-centeredness to God centeredness. That is transformation.
How many are you there yet?
Or are you still saying give me, give me, give me, what can God do for me.
Give me my stuff now!
To transform you must say, Make me your servant. That is the transformation.
He returns saying Make me. That is a heart transformation.
- That is the greatest transformation of all –from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.
Are you letting God to do that in you?
- That transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
- God is still working on me on this one.
- It’s going to be your entire life he’s going to work on you.
- It’s never instant. But there is a decision that starts the process.
2 Corinthians 3:18 “We reflect the Lord’s glory and are being transformed [that means a continual process – We are being transformed. Not just once but an ongoing basis. It’s a process] into his likeness. With ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord.”
- That word “transformed.” The Bible, the New Testament was written in Greek.
- But you know what the word there in Greek – metamorphoo.
- Does that sound like anything you know? Metamorphosis.
- What is metamorphosis?
- It’s when a butterfly goes from a caterpillar to a pupa, a chrysalis and from a pupa or chrysalis into a butterfly. That’s metamorphosis.
It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, there’s that stage when it’s sitting there in that chrysalis, it forms a little cocoon, it’s pretty ugly.
Have you ever seen one of those things? It doesn’t look very beautiful to me.
But when it breaks out that butterfly is stunning!
- The Prodigal Son says, Make me. That’s offer up. Make me. Transform me. Change me. God, I don’t want to live the rest of my life the way I am living right now. Change me.
Romans 12:1 “Because God is merciful to you, offer yourselves.” That’s it. I offer up myself. That’s step one. I get fed up. I own up and now I offer up. “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship and don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
No transformation until you do the offer up.
Here’s The Father’s Response
Luke 15:20, 22 “Filled with compassion, he ran out to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him!…Bring the best…” [Bring the best robe. Bring the best ring. Bring the best shoes. Bring the fatted calf.
The moment you just say, “God, I’m tired of living the way I’ve been living. I’m tired.” He will do more than halfway.
If you knew there was a better way to live than there is right now the way you’ve been living, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Yeah! That’s what transformation is all about.
- You say, but I’m living the good life. And you are.
- You live in America.
- You live the good life.
- You’re looking good,
- you’re feeling good,
- you’ve got the goods.
There’s only one problem with the good life.
It isn’t good enough.
Anymore than that caterpillar can imagine what it’s like to be a butterfly. You can’t even imagine it. You cannot even imagine it! It is so much better. And there are people who live next to you and they’ve got the car and they’ve got the cash and they’ve got the clothes and they’re going, I’m living it! I’m living the good life. And they’re missing the better life.
- How do I get back to God?
- I get fed up,
- I own up.
- I offer up.
- Then there’s one more thing I do….
In that celebration you now come home not to condemnation. You come back to God in celebration.
4. I MUST LIFT UP MY PRAISE
- I just say thank you God.
- Thank you for your grace.
- Thank you for your love.
- Thank you for your goodness.
- Thank you for your mercy.
- I lift up my praise.
Luke 15 here’s what the father says “We’re going to celebrate with a feast of eating and drinking…He was lost but now he’s found! So the party begins!”
Psalms 68:4 “Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him… his name is the Lord!”
- For your own transformation you need to start singing at church.
- Some of you, you say, “I’m just coming to hear Eric.No,NO, No!
- Or you say, but I couldn’t carry tune in a bucket.”
Some of you are prison singers. You’re always behind a few bars and you never have the right key.
- I’ve heard some of you! Some of you have a voice that could be cultivated. Plowed under.
But the Bible doesn’t say be pretty in your singing. It says make a joyful noise. You can do that. Anybody can make a joyful noise. You don’t have to be on key. You just have to make a joyful noise. For your own transformation you need to sing.
There’s A global study came out done by Swedish researchers. They’d done a scientific study and concluded that the habit of group singing – not singing by yourself, the habit of group singing is good for your health.
It is great therapy to sing with other people. It’s good for your mental health. It’s good for emotional health. It’s good or your social health. And it’s good for your physical health. All the different areas. They did an extensive study and they discovered that singing with other people lowers your blood pressure, releases endorphins, which makes you feel good, improves your mood, builds you confidence, relieves the loneliness, releases negative emotions and stress, and creates positive emotions.
- Another study showed that people who sing in worship each week live longer. I want you to live longer.
- I want you to intentionally start singing all the songs, even the ones you don’t know, even the ones you don’t like, even the ones you think are too loud, even the ones that aren’t your style.- remember we are not singing to your or for you.
- We are singing to God Who Is So Great!
- I want you to sing them because it will lower your blood pressure, release endorphins, improve mood, build confidence, relieve loneliness, relieve negative emotions and stress. That’s called transformation.
Pray to God, our father say, I’m FED-UP with myself, I OWN-UP to my sin, I OFFER-UP My Life to you, And I LIFT -Up my Praise to you.
Come on Lift Up a Praise !
Now you should be on your way back to God!