Reality Two – Relationship

Is God real? A most important question for our consideration.

Linn Winters
Jan 29, 2017    37m
Is God real? God is chasing us in order to have a relationship with Him. We should stop running and let God catch us so we can have a meaningful relationship with Him. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Pastor Linn: 00:45 Hey Cornerstone how doin'? Super cool to see you today.

Pastor Linn: 00:52 We're in the third week of a series that we're calling Experiencing God. Just to keep it straight it's the third week of the series but it's the second reality in the workbook. And if you haven't had a chance to purchase one of the work books or to join one of the groups and be part of it I'm just telling you guys please, please it's not too late. You can still go outside, you can pick one of those. We've got more workbooks and the difference between how you're going to experience this if you, if you just kind of come on Sunday and listen through it versus if you get a work book and then maybe do this in community, do it with somebody else... it's just going to change this thing from night to day so please still consider that while there's still some time to be part of it but to keep it from being confusing. We're in the third week but we're in the second chapter of the workbook. The first week was more of an introduction week. Last week we talked about what the workbook would call reality number 1 which was simply, this that God is always at work. And we said God is always up to something around us, that he's always either calling people to himself or he's helping Christians move to greater levels of maturity. And he's doing this all the time, that the reason we can go for months sometimes and not even notice God at work is because we're looking for him to do the things we want him to do instead of looking for him to do the things he told us he was going to do and that when this reality begins to kind of sink in, it's like taking blinders off our eyes and all of a sudden you go, "Oh my goodness, there's God working at my neighbors life, there's in my…, there's God working in... " And all of a sudden it just becomes super, super apparent.

Pastor Linn: 02:28 This week we're talking about reality number two which is simply this, that God constantly pursues a love relationship with you and me, that God is constantly coming toward you and me, coming after you and me and saying, "Look, would you connect with me? Would you move into a deeper place of love and of communication with me?" And God is always desiring for you and I to come closer to him, he's always pursuing a love relationship with us. Now here's why I think this is an interesting conversation because the most intuitive thing for you and I when somebody is chasing after us is to turn and flee. It's that whole fight or flight type of thing. And so I guarantee you there are some of us that as we saw God coming toward us said, "Oh my goodness, if he caught me that would be disastrous." And we've been kind of running as best we could to keep God at a safe and respectable distance.

Pastor Linn: 03:24 I'm in third grade. One day I walk out of the class and I'm standing there on a sidewalk looking out at the recess field. You kids, you got to evaluate, you've got to make sure you spend your time well and so I looked over there -- some kids were playing kickball. I saw the monkey bars, just trying to figure out where I would go spend my time. Out of nowhere a little gal by the name of Stephanie who was in my class came over and began to talk with me. Now guys you get this, every self-respecting third grader knows it is third grade code - boys do not talk to girls and girls are not allowed to talk to boys. And so suddenly now she's having this conversation with me. And I just want to say out loud what happened next I did no way, I in no way provoked. I had, I had nothing to do with it. She leaned over and tried to kiss me. It was absolutely horrifying. And so I did what any third grade boy would do. I screamed as loud as I could and I began to run. To my horror she began to chase me. She chased me to the far end of the playground and then back again. She chased me the entire recess, she ruined my recess. If that were not bad enough for the next three weeks I would walk out the door to recess, I would look both ways, no Stephanie. I'd start walking along innocently and suddenly from behind a post, argh, and then we'd go running again. From behind a tree, argh, we go running again. For three weeks she ruined my life. How many of the men in the room would say I still have scars from a little girl chasing me? Okay. How many gals in the room would go, "I was the girl." Oh there you go. Okay. Blood of Jesus on you, that's all I'm saying, just blood of Jesus on you.

Pastor Linn: 05:27 Because, right? Because our natural instinct is when somebody chases us then we're supposed to run. Which then brings up an interesting point. How are you and I supposed to respond when Jesus begins to chase into our lives. Which is exactly what Scripture says that he does. Matter of fact grab your bibles and go with me to the book of first John. Now here's what you need to know. This is not the Gospel of John. This is First John. There's actually three smaller books written by the same Apostle John that hang out at the end of our Bibles. So go to the very back of your Bible, start coming in just a little bit you'll get past the Book of Revelation you're going to find these three small books - first John, second John, third John. You and I are going to first John, first John chapter 4 starting in verse 9. Here's the interesting thing. First John Chapter 4 says to you and me, you realize God made the first move. That God started this chase. Here it is, it's first John Chapter 4 verse 9, it says, "This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him." This is love. Not that we love God but that he loved us and he sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. You know what that's saying, iT's saying, hey God made the first move. God's the one who leaned in for the kiss. He is the one who began the chase and the question is how did we respond in that moment? Did we do it, did we do what was so natural, so did you just go, "Wow!" I mean whoa, whoa, wait, wait, and turn and run?

Pastor Linn: 07:18 And what would happen? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to get caught by Jesus? To just say, "Hey look I'm, I'm going to stop the chase. I'm just, I'm just going to let you get a hold of me and I'm going to discover what it means to have a deep, unrestricted just love relationship with the God of the universe. Just catch me." Now here's what you need to know. This is not new. Matter of fact if you read your bibles you're going to find that over and over and over and over and over again. All through scripture, the scripture is the story of God and the chase. Matter of fact you go to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and God goes daily into the garden to meet with Adam and Eve. When you get to Abraham and he's there camped out in Haran starting his car business and in the midst of that God comes and says, "Hey no Abraham you're gonna get up from here. We're going to go to a new place," and God pursues Abraham. Moses is out sitting on the side of a mountain. He's tending sheep. He's pretty sure the rest of his life he is going to be a shepherd. And then God, God sticks a bush up on the side of a mountain. He lights it on fire and the bush isn't consumed, and in curiosity Moses goes to investigate the bush and God meets him there. Think about Paul on the road to Damascus and here he is just going along thinking he's doing a really good thing and maybe a highly religious life and God intrudes and says, "Paul what are you doing? You don't even know me yet." And you just need to know that the story of God is the story of the chase. He has always been coming after us to invite us into a love relationship with him.

Pastor Linn: 09:11 I'm 14 years old and a couple of times I've gone to the church down the street. They ended up hiring a new youth pastor. His name was Wayne Bauer. And when he got there he said to them, "Hey, how many kids are in the youth group?" They said there's two girls in the youth group. There is one boy who's come a couple of times. His name is Linn, he lives down the street. So lo and behold the next thing I know Wayne comes and knocks on my door inviting me to youth group. Now I'm just going to tell you I was completely unimpressed with Wayne when he got there. Wayne was about 6' 2" and looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. He had on patent leather shoes and a leisure suit. Anybody know? Think of the ugliest car that you've ever seen in your life and now make it into a suit. That's a leisure suit. Matter of fact I think we've got a picture of Wayne and his wife right here. There we go. So there was Wayne. And Wayne comes to my door and he says, "Hey I want to invite you to youth group." No I'm not interested in it. And he was relentless. He just wouldn't let me go. He just kept inviting me. And just to get him to go away. I said okay I'll, I'll come one time and I'll try it out. Which began a relationship in which Wayne began to absolutely invest in my life and he took, he took an angry 14 year old who had come to a place in his life that said hey if God could let my Christian parents divorce then I don't need any god like that in my life and so God you go do your thing I'll do my thing and suddenly because Wayne pursued me next thing I knew I was actually chasing after God. And guys I'm just going to tell you as sure as I am standing here today. God sent Wayne to pursue me. Wayne was God's instrument in God's chase for me. And I guarantee you, you've been chased. It is that, it's that quiet moment when, when life just seems to be a little bit broken and your heart is filled with frustration. And in angst as you drive alone in the car and there seems to be that small voice that says, "I'm here and when you're ready to talk we can talk."

Pastor Linn: 11:46 It is that moment your life when it just feels like the consequences and the discipline that's happened in your life is way, way out of line and you just go wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I know I blew it, I know I did something I shouldn't do but what I did was about this big. And now what's happening to me is like that big and how is that fair? How can that be happening and this is just wrong. And God says no, no I know what it is. But I had to get your attention. I had to do something to get in your way. I had to get you somehow to just pause for a minute and have a talk with me and so I did something drastic. So that you and I could meet. Guys I just promise you, I promise you that the Hound of Heaven has been chasing you and asking will you begin to have a deeper, more unfettered love relationship with me?

Pastor Linn: 12:44 I wonder, I wonder how many times when he has reached out to us that we, acting on intuition. If you're chasing me it must be bad and if you're pursuing it must be for harm and we've held the God of heaven at arm's length and we've run to the farthest ends of the playground, and what would happen today? What would happen if we stopped and simply let him catch us? Which begs the question, where are we at in our relationship with God. I mean where do we even stand because you get that God's always going to meet us where we are to take us to where we need to be.

Pastor Linn: 13:33 And so some of us in the room if we were being really transparent and really honest we would say, "You know I, I come to the room primarily as a skeptic. I don't even know if I buy this stuff we're talking about. I'm not sure if God even has a real place in my life. I'm kind of trying to put the puzzle of life together and I'm trying to figure out how the pieces fit. But I'm pretty convinced that God is not part of that and I don't know how you got there." You may have gotten there because you looked at a moment of great unfairness and great wrongness and you just said look if there is a God then things that evil in that wrong should not happen in a world. If there's a God. Or maybe you sat in a class at college and some guy or some gal with a couple of letters behind their name went off on a tirade and just talked about how foolish and silly it would be to believe that there was a god. And you walked out of there changed and skeptical. But what you're left with is that as you try to put the pieces of life together there is this one. It's that little voice that comes in the quiet of moments as that little nudge that hits your heart that you just can't explain. Other than maybe it's God. And you know, you know that you can't put the rest of the puzzle together till you figure out whether that's real or whether that's false. But you're skeptical.

Pastor Linn: 15:03 Some of us, some of us come to the room undecided. You just say, "Hey look, here's the ... I've got questions. I, I've got real questions and I'm just trying to figure out if there's actually answers to my questions." And I would just say to you that if if you're here today and you're undecided ask away, ask away because here's the deal. If God is real and if you're simply inquiring then every single answer is going to lead you just that much closer to truth, that much closer to him. So ask away.

Pastor Linn: 15:35 Matter of fact years ago as I was youth pasturing I was taking a whole group of kids up to Hume Lake camp which was about 14 miles north in California from where our church was in southern California. And as we were riding along in the bus, old Bluebird bus, anybody you know Bluebird bus? Picture school bus flat face and whoever designed Bluebird buses had this great idea... let's put the engine on the inside. So if you ever been in a Bluebird bus there's a big bump right next to the driver that's actually a case covering the engine, it's sitting right there. So we're driving along and we had a brand new kid on the trip named Russ Niblak and Russ Niblak had questions. And as he sat there on the bus he really wasn't connecting with any of the other kids and so next thing you know he came up and he sat on the engine cover right next to the driver. Anybody want to guess who was driving? And so Russ began to ask his questions and here's the good part. He wasn't trying to argue. He wasn't trying to refute. He had honest questions.

Pastor Linn: 16:40 And so as we talked and as we processed together, we just worked him through and all of a sudden went ahh, wow. I mean if that's true well then... As we continued driving along in that 14 hour trip he'd be saying stuff like, "I mean if that's how it works, I mean if that's the case, I mean why would anybody not be a Christian?" And I said Russ you better be careful. You might accidentally become one. It was no surprise that when we got to Tuesday night and they made an altar call they said anybody who wants Jesus in their heart you come forward right now that Russ Niblak was the first kid to jump up and run to the front of the auditorium ahead of everybody else because he asked honest questions. And the questions took him closer to a relationship with God. Some of us in the room and you're highly religious and the reality is this may be the most dangerous of all because if you come from a highly religious background you think you have a relationship with God because you would say stuff like, "Well hey, I was baptized when I was a kid and I grew up in a Christian home. I mean of course of course I'm a Christian."

Pastor Linn: 17:55 You realize it's possible to be a fan of God and not actually know God. It's possible to pray to God and go to church every Sunday and be baptized, to go through all the traditions and not actually have a vital relationship. See it's kind of like that guy who goes down and buys the football jersey and it's got his favorite players name on the back and he goes to all the games and he holds up the poster and maybe even writes an e-mail... Hey Peyton Manning, you're like the best quarterback and no one appreciates you. And then he gets a letter back and he goes, "See I'm in a relationship with Peyton Manning." No you're not, you know who wrote you that e-mail back? His assistant.

Pastor Linn: 18:41 You know somebody who's relying on religion and not relationship when ask and say, "Hey when did you become a Christian?" And they go, "Oh no, I've always been a Christian. I was born a Christian. My family's Christian." You were not born a Christian. There's no such thing. Christianity is something you decide. It's when your faith of your parents becomes your faith because you decided it, it's not about a doctrine, it's not about a denomination. It's about a decision, it's a decision when you say, "Hey look I get it. I get that I've sinned I get I've done things that are wrong. And I am deciding to let Jesus be my savior. Being in the fan club doesn't make you a Christian. I don't care how many Sundays you made it to church. When you do decide. Some of us in the room, you've made it to the other side of the cross. You're a baby Christian. You're all about Gerber food and lots of googoo gahgah and dirty diapers. Matter of fact here's how you know you're a baby Christian. You know you're a baby Christian if you say to your friends, "Hey yeah, I'm a Christ follower and I go to that Cornerstone Church." And they go, "Really?" You know what they're reacting to right? They see an awful lot more of you in you than they do Jesus in you. Because you're a baby Christian. And, and, and here's a little... If you've only been a Christian for seven, eight, nine months you have every right to be a baby Christian. You have every right. Here's the problem. Some of us in the room have been a Christian for 20 years and we're still baby Christians. Our lives are still sloppy and there's still a whole lot more of us in us than there is Jesus in us.

Pastor Linn: 20:33 And here's what you need to know. You will never experience that love relationship, that deep abiding relationship with Jesus as long as you stay in the high chair. Some of you know just recently my son had a son. I have had this thrilling season in my life of becoming a grandfather. So my son Joshua had a son Jacob and so they bring him over and it is cool guys, I'm just telling you, it's cool because I get to play with my grandson. And then I get to hand him back when the diaper's dirty. It's just a good moment in life. But here's what you need to know. When it comes to my little grandson there is only so far I can go in that relationship. And you know. Googoo gahgah, and I can hand him a pacifier and that's about the end of the connection.

Pastor Linn: 21:27 You want to know the relationship that's really flourishing right now? The relationship with my son because I'm watching my son as he fully steps into manhood. I'm watching my son as he experiences this new thing of being a father and I'm just telling you the conversations that we're having right now, the depth of understanding we have, the honor that we're giving back and forth to one another comes only because of the maturity of my son. And if you're a baby Christian you are not experiencing the relationship with God like God built you to experience.

Pastor Linn: 22:07 There are some of us in this room that we would call selective believers. And what we mean by that is, is that you're living your Christian experience kind of in boxes. You've decided this Jesus thing can be compartmentalized. And so what I need to do is I decide which portions of my life I can trust God with. So you would say, "All right I know. I get it, I get it."

Pastor Linn: 22:34 When I came to Christ I had a habit, I had a habit in my life and I knew that habit wasn't Christ honoring. So one of the first things I did in my walk with the Lord I, I laid that habit at the cross. I just said, "God, I get it, that shouldn't be part of me anymore." But then I came to a relationship and I said look I'm still going to date her, I'm still going to date him because look, here's the deal. Jesus if you got into my relationship you could really screw it up. So I'm going to keep that one for myself. And then you came to your finances and you said, "OK I've already heard Linn's three sermons on tythe and not doing it. We're done." And you kept that one. But then you came out and you said, "You know, I know that some of my entertainment choices probably aren't the wisest choices and some of the premium channels that I've got on my TV probably are showing things that shouldn't be coming into Christian homes so okay I can, I can give that to the Lord. And I honestly, I know I've got some friendships in... I've discovered over time that most of the time when I'm with those friends, those friends are dragging me down and so I get that I probably need to lean into Christian friends more than some of those other friends, and so I surrender that to God.' And you realize what you've done is that you've chosen which parts of your life God is worthy of your trust in and which parts of your life he's not. And that as long as you do this, this is actually a false maturity. Because as long as you are the boss of the boxes anything you've given to God, the minute he doesn't perform or do what you want him to do. You can always take the box back. This is pretending. And if you're only giving your life to God one box at a time then you're only giving your heart to God one piece at a time.

Pastor Linn: 24:47 There is another type of Christian that Scripture calls a disciple. Matter of fact Jesus describes him as a disciple. So you don't need to go there right now just leave your fingers in First John because we're going to come back. But let me read to you Jesus' description of what a disciple is like. It's in Matthew Chapter 16. It's in Verse 24. Here's what it says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me for whoever wants to save their life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for me will find it." And a disciple, Scripture says, does three things. Number one they deny themselves which simply means this... They've already brought all the boxes because they've said look, I'm not in charge of me, I'm not the boss of me, He is. And so they laid it all. They've deny themselves. And then it says and they've picked up their cross, which simply means this... when Jesus came to Earth his assignment on earth was to go to a cross to die for your and my sins. That was his purpose for being here. And the Bible is saying a true disciple finds their God-given purpose, their cross, the reason they were born. Let me just give you a clue. The reason you were born was not so that Intel could have a middle manager. It just wasn't. God wasn't even thinking about that when he birthed you. Now you may find your purpose being a middle manager at Intel but that's not your purpose. And there's a reason, there's a reason that you take up space on this earth. There's a plan that God has for you and whatever that God-given purpose and plan is that's your cross. That's your reason. And then finally they follow me Jesus says, which simply means this... I don't know what your question is. I don't know what the sacrifice is. I don't I, don't know how hard it's going to get but my decision before you even ask is I will follow Jesus. So go ahead make it hard. Bring it on. Challenge my faith. Laugh at me if you will. Make it sacrificial. I will follow him because I'm a disciple.

Pastor Linn: 27:32 Okay, all right. So here comes the question though. Where, where do you fit in the continuum? Which one most accurately describes your journey to this point? Because here's the answer. Wherever that is God wants to meet you there. That's where he wants to begin in this love relationship with you. And then take you forward. To move you on because, you are ready for this? That if you allow yourself to have genuine heartfelt love he will move you. He loves you enough to come to where you are but he loves you too much to leave you where you are. And relationship always moves us. It changes us.

Pastor Linn: 28:30 When my dad left the home. I got angry at God and got angry at my dad and I already told you I just said hey, if God can let this happen I don't need God. But my second was I don't need dad and I'm going to, I'm going to spend the rest of my life proving I don't need that booger. That if he could walk out on us, if he could treat us this way, I don't need him. And I put up all sorts of walls and I put up all sorts of defenses and I just said I'm good without you. And yet, and yet there was something in a heart of a son that longed to have a relationship with my dad. And so despite all the pontificating and all the pretending of my life there were moments that I would reach out, there were moments I sent up like little flares saying, "Dad do you notice me? And I'm right over here and could we connect and could you just could you just see me?" And no matter how many times I reached out and no matter how much effort I made my dad absolutely ignored me. And I got to a point I said, "That's it, I'm done. I'm done. I'm not going to have my heart broken again. I'm not going to let him have that influence over me and I'm done." It's interesting because years later God must have gotten a hold of the heart of my dad. Because my dad began to reach toward me. And when he did, when he began to call us and say, "Hey Linn, can we go to lunch?" Or, "Hey Linn, when do you guys want to come up and spend time with the cabin?" My answer was No.

Pastor Linn: 30:16 See my thought in my heart was too little too late buddy. You had your chance and there's no way, there's no way, there's no way I'm going to expose my heart to you. There's no way I'm going to give you a chance to hurt me again. No you blew it. And then it's as if God spoke to my heart and said, "Linn, is there any chance that as you push your dad away that you're breaking his heart the same way that he broke the heart of a 10 year old boy, and what you would have never wanted done to you, you're doing to him." So I stopped running. And I said Dad OK let's do lunch. We'll come up and spend the weekend at the cabin. And can I tell you that something transformed because, are you are ready for this? Relationship transforms us, relationship changes us. And suddenly I began to experience all sorts of healing in my life with my dad and I began to hear parts of the story that I didn't understand and I got gaps filled in that I had never heard before. And look, look, look, none of it excused it. But I began to understand it a little bit better and so I get it, I get it. And can I just tell you that the change, the radical change in my life and in my father's life and just, just the healing that has happened out of that moment. Because, because, because being in a relationship changes us. It's why Jesus has been chasing us for a relationship.

Pastor Linn: 32:12 Did I mention that when we got to junior high Stephanie turned into a babe. I got to junior high and she was amazing. Unfortunately by the time we got to junior high I was gangly and gawky and covered with pimples but she was amazing. And I'm sitting there in junior high going, "Are you kidding me. She chased me. The best thing I could have done was let that girl catch me. I'm an idiot!"

Pastor Linn: 32:49 First John, First John chapter 4 and now just a little further on to Verse 19. Here's what it says. We love him because he first loved us. It just takes this whole conversation and puts it on its ear because here's, here's the question... Are you thinking like a third grader, are you thinking like a junior high'r? Because see if you're thinking like a third grader when God comes in and says, "Hey I want a relationship with you. And I love you and I'm going to chase you." Then you run to the far into the playground. But if you are as smart as a junior high'r you let yourself get caught.

Pastor Linn: 33:28 The idea that the God of the universe is chasing and pursuing you and saying, "I want to experience a love relationship with you." Why wouldn't we let ourselves get caught. Are you kidding? And I'm just here to tell you that if you're in the room right now and you came in as a skeptic and you say, "Man, I'm just trying to..." Can you just, can you just for a second realize the God of the universe is saying to you, "I love you. And if you would simply stop running for a moment and experience me there is a chance you would move from skeptic to undecided and suddenly we'd be asking questions, we'd be filling in blanks with one another." And for some of us in the room that came in and I just, I just need to know, I just need to have the ability to ask, because I'm just telling you when you ask, God's going to reveal himself. You're going to start moving cups from one side to the other and all of a sudden you're going to go I get it.

Pastor Linn: 34:30 And some of us that came into this room and you were religious and you just go you know I've got all the traditions and I've prayed and I've been baptized and I love God. But you know what? I think I'm wearing the jersey. I don't think I've ever been to dinner with the man and if you would just simply say, "No, no, no, no, no, no. I wasn't born a Christian. I'm going to decide to be a Christian." And some of us in the room that you, you've been a baby for forever. And if you would simply listen to what he's saying, he's saying, "How much longer? How much longer are we doing diapers? Because you're never, never, never going to experience me as a baby the way you will as an adult."

Pastor Linn: 35:10 And for some of us in this room who've been selective believers and we've been holding boxes back and saying, "God, you know when I get to the point that I can trust you we'll talk about the next box." I'm just telling you if you would let Jesus catch you my best guess is the boxes would start moving. Who knows, you might just bring them all if you let yourself get caught. So here's the thing. You and I have to leave here knowing that God of heaven is chasing you. You gonna run? You gonna stop and let yourself get caught?

Pastor Linn: 36:04 Let's pray. I just want to ask with heads bowed and eyes closed. Look, I'm not going to ask anyone to raise hands or stand or do anything. But if you're here and you would say, "Hey you know what? I think I've been running, I think I've been trying to keep my life at a safe distance from Jesus. I think I've kept this relationship distant because i've been worried what would happen if I actually let Jesus catch me." And you go, "You know what? I'm, I'm done running." Then I'm going to invite you quietly with all of our heads bowed to just pray this prayer quietly where you you're at: Hey dear Lord Jesus I'm a third grader. I'm that guy that when you leaned in and... I just ran, I ran in terror. I thought oh my goodness this has got to be bad and I've been running for a long time. I've kept you at a safe distance from me. And right now, right now I'm gonna stop. I'm just gonna to let the God of the universe who's been chasing me and asking me to have a love relationship with him catch me, catch me all over again. And dear Lord Jesus we, we have wasted so much time. And God we just simply come to this moment and we stop the running -- catch us. In Jesus name. Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
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Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286