Knowing God Intimately – #life24seven

life24seven-1At Gateway South in Austin, we are at a defining moment. To move forward into what God has for us will require each of us trusting God more than we ever have before.

We can experience the life and freedom God intends for our lives and bring that life and freedom to others. We can experience God’s loving presence and guidance all day and every day.

Life 24 seven means knowing God intimately and bringing hope to humanity wherever we may be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.`

#LIFE24/7 2 8 15 from Gateway Leaders on Vimeo.

Notes from the message here:

Too often we give into the lies we hear all around us. We don’t believe we have a purpose or can have hope or that there is a God who knows us and loves us.

The truth is this: we can know God intimately and bring hope to humanity.

Life 24 Seven means experiencing the peace of Jesus wherever we go and bringing His love to others in our lives.

Here’s the amazing thing: As we invest in others and as they bring life and freedom on to their neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends, we will see life giving life 24/7.

After 7 years, we have found a place that will help us do more of what we do well, and give us the freedom to create new ways to love, serve, and influence our city.

Life 24 Seven means creating a space where we can better serve our city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Life 24 Seven means creating a space where the broken find God’s healing.

  • a space where children and teenagers are excited to come and learn about God.
  • a space where college students and young adults discover their calling.
  • a space where singles and couples discover meaningful friendships and a community with whom they can do life together.
  • a space where marriages are maximized.

Life 24 Seven means creating a space where we live connected, experience transformation, and we are sent out to change our world.

So here’s the catch: this defining moment is not really about a building. It’s not about a move. It’s not about Sunday mornings. This defining moment is about each of us diving deeper into our relationship with God. It’s about trusting Him more in every of our lives – with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength – with all of our relationships, with our job, with our spouse or future spouse, with all of our finances, with all of our hopes and dreams, with all of our regrets and pain.

A new space will not change people’s lives. A new space will not help people grow. The building doesn’t change people – only God can change people. We can be a part of God’s work in the lives of others – helping them find life and freedom.

Today we start this series with this thought: you and I can know God intimately. I want you to imagine a walk with God so intimate that all of your deepest needs are met! As a result, then you go into every relationship with something to give and not needing anything in return.

We decided to look at passages with 24:7 (and sometimes 2:47), and we found some remarkable passages!

Jeremiah 24:7
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

What a promise!! We can know God! We can be His people!

Let’s pan out a little bit to see the bigger picture of how this can happen in our lives. Let’s look at who wrote this and why he wrote it to help us understand how to apply this to our lives.

Jeremiah was a prophet in a time when all was going badly for His people. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had rebelled against God and fallen to the Assyrians, an evil empire. Now, the Southern Kingdom (also known as Judah) had also rebelled against God and fell to the Babylonians.

The king and the people ignored Jeremiah even though he spoke on behalf of God. So let’s look at more of the passage:

Jeremiah 24:1-9
“After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten. Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. “ ‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt.”

In this passage, there are 5 key truths that will help us battle the lies we hear.

1.Good people can experience bad things.

In this vision Jeremiah had, the good figs represented really good people who had been exiled. Their home was destroyed. They were taken hostage. Some of the people they loved had been killed. Yet God was with them.

Our faith does not have to be determined by our circumstances. Our faith helps us experience peace and God’s presence regardless of our circumstances.

Our faith can be bigger than our circumstances.

At the same time, God’s love is not bound by our circumstances. Some us slip into a lie: “If God really loved me then all will be going well in my life.”

Here’s the truth: God loves you and is with you when circumstances are great and when circumstances are terrible or anywhere in between.

God can certainly change our circumstances, but sometimes He doesn’t. We may not understand why now, but we can trust Him.

God can definitely change us in the midst of our circumstances so we can handle whatever we may face.

2. Intimacy with God means you know God is watching over you.

There is another 24:7 passage that helps illustrate this truth. Balaam had an intimate relationship with God, and he was known for being able to hear from God. A king named Balak hired Balaam in order to receive a blessing from God and even permission from God to defeat the people of Israel.

Now Balaam was in a precarious situation. The king is paying you to tell him what he wants to hear. Evil kings have a history of killing people who don’t tell them what they want to hear.

In spite of the danger, Balaam knew he had no reason to fear people or circumstances or even death. God was watching over him.

Balaam could see what God revealed to him, and because he knew God and trusted God, he only said what God wanted him to say.

Here’s the passage:

Numbers 24: 7, 13

Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. “Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted….

‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord —and I must say only what the Lord says’? 

When you and I choose to trust God…. When you and I realize God is watching over us… We can live with courage!

We can overcome the fear of people, fear of circumstances, fear of pain and suffering, and even fear of death!

3. Knowing God intimately means you know God has a plan for your future. 

There is another story in the Bible that can help us understand the truth that God has a plan for your future. A contemporary of Jeremiah was Daniel. As Jeremiah saw the leaders exiled to Babylon, one of the young men taken away was Daniel.

Daniel, like Jeremiah had an intimate and very real relationship with God. His wisdom became obvious to his captors, so they would consult with him from time to time.

Now the king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar. Like other kings he forced his people to worship him. Daniel and the other faithful exiles refused to do so.

One day, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him so much that he had his sorcerers, astrologers, magicians, and enchanters come to him. He threatened to “cut them to pieces” unless they told him what he had dreamed and then interpreted it.

Miraculously, Daniel was able to tell the dream to the King and interpret it because God revealed the mystery. Check out Daniel 2:47. (It isn’t quite a 24:7 verse, but it is close enough and incredibly encouraging and inspiring).

The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

As a result, the King promoted Daniel to a position of great power and influence. He also did not kill the other wise men.

You may be thinking, that could never happen for me! God doesn’t make Himself known like that any more!

Here’s the thing: He does.

I’ve had amazing moments when God spoke to me through the Scriptures, through music, through nature, through films, through a message on Sunday morning, through a conversation in a life group or with a friend, and through moments of prayer. I have had thoughts that came into my mind which were so obviously from Him because they would require me to be more courageous and selfless than I would ever consider. His thoughts are always consistent with what He has revealed about Himself in Jesus and in the Scriptures.

Others I know have had God speak to them through their dreams.

God will reveal Himself to you –
if you are willing to ask Him and seek after Him without giving up.

 There are sometimes days, weeks, months, or even years where I am not sure what God may be saying – where He feels distant. It is in those moments I keep pressing forward – remaining grateful for all the ways He has blessed me and all the ways He has spoken to me in the past.

Daniel’s circumstances were awful. Taken hostage. Friends and family killed. Exiled in a strange land. Life threatened. In this moment, God miraculously rescued Daniel along with others close to Daniel and others Daniel did not even know.

God is so amazing – he can bring great things out of the evil intended for us. In spite of his circumstances, Daniel went from the brink of death to a position of great responsibility and influence!

God has a plan for you. It may not always include what you want, but you can always trust Him. In this broken and messed up world, people will use their freedom to do evil – even evil against you and me. God grieves and mourns with us, and God can redeem us when we let Him. He can bring good out of the evil around us when we let Him – when we trust Him.

Before Daniel had influence and power, he was an exile, a hostage. I’m sure Daniel had moments when he wasn’t sure why God would allow him to suffer as he did. Regardless of his circumstances, Daniel knew the revealer of mysteries. Daniel knew God can be trusted.

4. Knowing God intimately means you can know God – truly know Him.

The Scriptures describe our relationship with God can be

  • “Like a friend”
  • “Closer than a brother”
  • “your Heavenly Father”

The Scriptures even say that marriage represents the closeness we can have with God.

The closer we get to God, the more He sends us out to bless others.

God blesses those who are most willing to pass on the blessing to others.

“Whoever has been given much will be responsible for much. Much more will be expected from the one who has been given more.” – Luke 12:48b ERV

“Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” – Luke 12:48b (The Message)

God gives to us so we can give to others.

Another way to say this: God gives through us.

Never allow God’s blessing to stop with you. Pay it forward rather than hoard what others have given to you. Much greater to give than to receive!

When we choose to surrender our lives and follow Jesus, wherever you go He is with us. Wherever we go, we represent Him. We are His people!

So how can we get there? 

5. To know God intimately requires we return to God with all our heart.

We have turned our back on God. When we do that we will experience the results  of life on our own – the good and the bad. He gives us what we want – even if it isn’t good for us. He does not force us to trust Him or do His will or follow His ways.

We see this in the rest of the passage with King Zedekiah who had ignored the prophet Jeremiah and rebelled against God which put the lives of his people in danger. He went against the ways of God as demonstrated by his father Josiah.

In Jerusalem, Jeremiah continued to warn the people that the city would be doomed unless there was a general movement for repentance, but his words fell on deaf ears and he ignored Jeremiah’s entreaties and warnings.

As a result, King Zedekiah reaped what he had sown.

We turn our back on Him. We stop looking for Him. We stop listening for Him.

God is so amazing and so forgiving. And so patient and so good, when we return to Him, He can bring good out of the bad we have done. He can redeem what we destroyed. He can heal what we have broken. Sometimes it may happen in an instant. Sometimes it may take time. Sometimes we still have circumstances that are not what we’d like (even the good were exiled), but He is with us in those places. We are not alone.

 “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8a

A phrase which describes God’s character that I have found in 7 different places including Joel 2:13 says: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” 

Maybe this has never been a part of your life. Today, you can get started.

Maybe you’ve had a glimpse of this in the past. Grew up going to church services, but it was your parents’ faith. Someone in Toronto said to me: “God doesn’t have any grandchildren.” In other words, each of us must choose If we are willing to be adopted by our Heavenly Father. We cannot live vicariously through our parents or our friends or our spouse or our pastor.

Life 24 seven is also about creating a space – a holy place where others discover their Heavenly Father, the revealer of mysteries, the One who can be trusted with all we have and with all we are.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. – Psalm 24:1-7 

NEXT STEPS:

  • In which ways have you struggled to trust God?
  • What do you need to surrender?
  • In what ways are you going against God’s ways?
  • How does God want you to seek Him?
  • In what ways is God stretching you to sacrifice?
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