My son, Nathanael, loves to plant seeds in cups of dirt and watch them sprout and then grow and then sometimes, produce something consumable. Last fall, we got some pumpkins at the house and we carved them, and when we were pulling out the seeds, he asked us, “so… if we plant this in the ground, then we’ll have another pumpkin next year?” And we told him, yes, but we can’t plant it until the spring.
He was ecstatic. He put his little seed in a zip lock bag and this spring, he planted his seed in a cup, watered it, and put it in the sun. Pretty quickly, it sprouted up and it grew into a small plant and we transplanted it into our garden. Over the next few months, it grew a long vine and then one day, we had something resembling a pumpkin. A few weeks later, Nathanael proudly came out of the garden with this bad boy.
But do you know what never happened? While Nathanael was trying to grow this pumpkin, not once did he ask if he could pull the plant out of the ground and keep it in the top drawer of his dresser, leaving the roots exposed. Not once did Nathanael ask me if he could just cut the plant off at the ground and let the vine grow apart from the roots that were connected to the soil. Not even once.
That’s because innately, he had this basic understanding that in order for something to grow it has to be connected to the source of nourishment, and in a pumpkin, nutrients are absorbed through the soil, and it absorbs them through the roots. So why would he ever want to detach the plant from the source of life…the only thing that’s going to cause it to grow.
We can look at that story and nod our heads… but we then have to ask ourselves, why do we… at times, think we can do life without being connected to our source of life… the source of our sustenance… the very being that created us and grows us and transforms us into the best version of ourselves?It probably goes without saying, that the sustenance for our life comes from our Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Last week, Andy showed us that in Jesus life, he had a relationship with God the Father, a relationship with the Church (the people of God), and an outstretched relationship with the World (the people who don’t know God yet). And today we’re going to look more closely at a relationship with God. And we start here because our relationship with God is like the roots connected to the soil of the pumpkin plant. It all starts here and out of our relationship with God flows our relationship with the church and our relationship with the world. So we’ve got to start with our relationship with God.
Now, if you’re in a three relationship small group, you read some passages of Scripture that show Jesus spending time with the Father. One of my favorite accounts showing Jesus’ relationship with God the Father is from Luke 4:40-43.
40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Jesus was doing all these great things and the people loved him and they wanted more of him… and the text tells us that the people were out looking for him… But in the middle of that time in his life, he went to a solitary place to spend time with God the Father…
When we’re busy and stressed… the first thing we’re tempted to cut out is spending time with God… but when Jesus was busy and stressed and firing on all cylinders… his gut reaction was to spend time with God the Father. And he did this because he knew that when he was connected to God the Father, he had everything he needed. And when we are connected to God, we have everything we need. God gives us what we need.
He gives us direction – At the end of the Luke 4 passage, when the people asked him to come back to town and heal more people and perform more miracles, Jesus had just been with his Father in prayer and Jesus responds by saying: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” In other words… no. I’ve been given direction from my Father, so I can’t do what you want me to do. I need to do something more important. In our relationship with God, he leads and guides us.
He gives us what we need to follow him – In Acts 18, Paul went to Corinth, and Jesus spoke to him in a vision. And leading up to this, Paul faced persecution, threat of death, harassment, and imprisonment. Here’s what Jesus said to Paul: Acts 18:9 – “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Following Jesus is difficult at times. Jesus said that if anyone wants to be his disciple, they should take up their cross daily and follow him. Following Jesus requires sacrifice. And setting aside our comfort and the familiar things in our lives to follow Jesus takes strength, courage, and boldness. In our relationship with God, we receive what we need to follow him.
He comforts us when we’re hurting–Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”We see this in Jesus’ life, too. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when his crucifixion was imminent, we see Jesus turn to the Father. Matthew 26:38 – “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed…”
The Bible doesn’t just tell us that God cares for us and will comfort us when we’re hurting, Jesus himself lived that out in his life. And we can have confidence, when we’re hurting… when we’re struggling… when we’re broken… when our anxiety is through the roof… when we’re wrestling with depression… God wants to give us comfort and he wants to be our refuge.
There’s much more than God gives us our relationship with him, but I hope you can see from Jesus’ life that our invitation to grow and develop our relationship with God isn’t something we do just because the Bible tells us we should. It’s not an obligation. It’s an invitation to be connected to the source of life… the source of everything we need. God wants us to experience fullness and abundance of life. And that starts and is sustained in our relationship with him.
He is the source of what we need, even if we don’t know we need it.
Jesus says it like this in John 15:5 – 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
God is the source of everything we need… apart from him we can do nothing. And just like my son never once thought about cutting off his pumpkin plant from the roots, we would be foolish to neglect connecting with the ONLY one that has everything we need for life. We’re invited by God to connect ourselves to him and experience all that he has for us.
Now, at this point in a sermon about connecting yourself to God, you might think you know what’s coming next. You’ve heard this pitch a thousand times. To connect to God, you should read your bible… pray… blah blah blah.
Well, kind of.
But today we’re gonna shift our thinking away from checklists… and start thinking about rhythms in our life. A rhythm is a pattern of living. It’s not something you do, it’s the person you are becoming.
Let me give you an example. If I was taking advice from someone, and they said, “if you want to be a loving husband and have a close and connected relationship with your wife, just do these three things: tell her you love her, buy her flowers, and take her on hot dates.” Do those three things make a person a loving husband? Do they guarantee a close a connected relationship with a married couple? No. Of course not. Some of the women here are thinking, “well it would be a good start, Fred.” And that’s true. It might be part of what it looks like to be a loving husband… but checklist items are limiting because they are once and done. “Okay. I did the three things, I’m done. Now I’m gonna move on with my life and do other things.”
Relationships can’t be grown by checklists alone. They require rhythms… or patterns of living. If I want to be a person who is a loving husband and had a close and connected relationship with my wife… loving her needs to be a thing that pours over into every area of my life. It needs to become a rhythm, or a pattern of living. It should affect the way I do everything at home. It should affect the way I love my children. It should affect the way I spend our money. It should affect my relationships with other women in my life. It should affect my priorities and my free time.
It’s not three checklist items, it’s a relationship… and it’s lived out in many ways. I might text her… I might buy her flowers… I might take her out on dates… that might be part of it. And if I had a checklist with those things on it to remind me, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but the checklist is only valuable if it leads me to become the person I want to become… A loving husband.
A loving husband can’t be reduced to a check list, can it? A good friend can’t be reduced to a check list, can it? Having a strong relationship with God can’t be reduced to a check list, can it?
So I’m not going to give you a few check list items today, I’m going to share and begin to unpack 5 Rhythms that we can be developing that will help lead to a strong relationship with God. We won’t be able to dive into all of them fully today, but if you’re in 3 Relationship small group, you’ll be diving into them more this week.
Now, these Rhythms will sound familiar to you if you’ve taken the 3 Relationship Spiritual Health Assessment. And if you haven’t taken the assessment yet, we do encourage you to take a moment to do that. There’s information in the next steps about how to access it.
And whether you already took the assessment or if you’re planning to take it this week, I do want to remind you that the point of the assessment isn’t to give yourself a spiritual grade. I know sometimes doing an assessment like that might make us feel bad about the results. I have some good news, we’re not saved by good spiritual health assessment results. We’re saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.
We take the assessment to have an awareness about where we are in our faith… what’s a strength, what’s an area to grow… and we take the assessment to discern what next step we can take in our faith journey.
An assessment is kind of like looking in a mirror. If you’re going to the gym trying to build muscle and you look in the mirror and notice that your arms looks great but your legs are weak, it give you some direction on how to continue on your journey of being a beef cake.
After I took the assessment, I realized I had a lot of room to grow in my relationship with the world. There’s no reason for us to feel bad about that. Jesus doesn’t condemn you for the ways you need to grow, just like you wouldn’t scream at a child that’s trying to learn to read but is stumbling over some words…unless you’re a crazy person. We’re on a journey, and the assessment helps us to know what’s next for us.
As we go over these 5 Rhythms, I invite you to think about how each one of them are lived out in your life.
Passion – Jesus and his mission drive my everyday decisions.
Scripture – My Life is directed by the Bible.
Prayer – Conversations with God overflow to every area of my life.
Obedience – I listen to the Holy Spirit and Obey
Identity – I understand who I am in Christ and live accordingly.
Now we’re not going to cover all of these this morning, but I do want to briefly comment on a few of them.
The first rhythm is Passion – Jesus and his mission drive my everyday decisions.
Jesus and his mission drive my everyday decisions. That kind of undoes what I heard growing up… maybe you’re like me and you heard something like this in church or maybe you said something like this to someone… I remember at VBS one year as a kid, there were two boys who were bickering back and forth and by the end of the night they were in an all out fist fight… and a well-meaning woman at the church broke up the fight and she said to them, “that’s no way to behave in a church. This is God’s house.” And I remember thinking to myself… is there anywhere in life that this behavior is okay? Is that how it works?
In church we act a certain way and then when we leave church, it’s a free for all? Do what feels right?
Now, I know the well-meaning church lady didn’t mean that, but that’s kind of the impression I got from her.
Jesus and his mission driving our everyday decisions means that there’s not a single area of our lives that our relationship with God doesn’t impact.
It’s kind of like I mentioned earlier about love for a spouse doesn’t just impact the way you treat him or her. It impacts everything. It impacts how I spend money, how I treat other people, how I love my kids, what I do in my free time.
So if a rhythm of our relationship with God is that Jesus and his mission drives our everyday decisions, let’s take a look at what Jesus called the greatest commandment….
In Matthew 22:36-40, it says this: A pharisee asked him… “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
How many decisions in our lives are affected by these two commands? How does Jesus and his mission impact the everyday decisions of our lives?
Clearly, the way we interact with our family and neighbors and church family are impact by these commands. But what about the way we conduct ourselves at work?
A lot of people face a pressure at work to measure up to a certain performance level. Maybe it’s the number of sales we make… Maybe it’s the level of productivity we put out or productivity of the people under us… Maybe it’s pressure to look good so we get the next promotion.
I believe that loving God with all our heart soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself would impact the way we perform at work. First, we would do a good job and not be lazy or slack off at work because according to Colossians 3:23 we should do everything as if we’re doing it for the Lord… but secondly, we wouldn’t do anything to hurt someone else.
That means we wouldn’t lie or manipulate someone into buying something they don’t need or can’t afford. One of the best pictures of this was when Andy told us a few weeks ago that he didn’t sell cable tv door to door for very long because he would talk people out of it because they would want to not do medical procedures in order to buy cable TV from him. He would get money, but it would be bad for the person.
That means we wouldn’t make a co-worked look bad in order to get the promotion. There’s nothing wrong with getting a promotion at work because of our hard work, but if it means doing something to cut someone down in the process, then our everyday decisions aren’t being shaped by Jesus and his mission.
What about the way we spend our money?
Now, there’s an obvious application of this. Our decisions about spending our money aren’t being impact by Jesus and his mission if we’re buying unethical and immoral things, obviously… and I’ll let you fill in the blanks on that one…
But what about more subtle things. What if we know a company we buy from has a long track record of using unethical child labor to produce their products? Are we loving God with our hearts soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves if we continue to buy their product? Are we treating the children with love who are in those working conditions?
What if we intentionally went out of our way to buy products from companies that treat their employees with respect and honor? Or maybe using the money God has given us to support companies or businesses that are trying to make an impact on local economies and people’s lives around the world.
I think we’d be hard pressed to find a single area of our lives that Jesus and his mission wouldn’t influence in some way. This is one of the rhythms that we can be growing in as we grow closer to God.
The next three Rhythms all have to do with communicating with God. We hear from God in the Bible, we talk to God in prayer, and we listen for the nudging’s of the Holy Spirit to give us direction in life and we obey. Notice that none of these say, “read one chapter of the Bible everyday.” It doesn’t even say, “read a little bit of the Bible everyday.” That’s part of living a rhythm of scripture, but let’s take a look at what the rhythm says: My life is directed by the Bible.
James 1:22 says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Here’s why the checklist falls short… you can read your Bible everyday and go to church every Sunday but never apply what you’ve heard to your life… and when we do that we’re missing the whole point. God’s word was given to us by God to be a lamp and a light to guide our lives.
I’ve been guilty of this in my own life. I’ve read a chapter of the Bible to check it off my list and feel like I’m doing what I “should” be doing, but I didn’t stop to think what I should do about what I just read.
I’ve heard a million sermons in my life and I’m ashamed of how many times I’ve heard a sermon and thought, wow, that was good… or that was a bad sermon… and then I went back to living life the way I always lived it.
When we read God’s word or when we hear God’s word preached on, we should always ask ourselves, “What would God want me to do about what I just read?”
Otherwise, as James said… we’re deceiving ourselves. We think we’re spiritual, but we’re not spiritual at all. We’ve turned a relationship into a checklist. The Rhythm that we’re invited to grow in is for our lives to be directed by what the Bible says. And as we do that, and as we listen to the holy spirit’s nudging’s, and as conversations with God overflow to every area of our lives… we’ll be growing closer to God.
And the last Rhythm that is part of our relationship with God is understanding who we are in Christ and living accordingly. We could do a whole sermon series on this, but the basic premise is that lots of people have tried to tell us lots of things about who we are. Sometimes we tell ourselves things about who we are… sometimes we hear that we’re not good enough… that we don’t measure up. Sometimes we look at the people around us and feel like we’re not funny enough or likable or worthy of love. Sometimes we’ve been treated in such a way that has reinforced these lies. And the problem isn’t hearing them, the problem is believing them.
But the beautiful thing is that our value doesn’t come from what other people say about us or what we say about ourselves. Our value comes from the creator of the universe. And here’s what he says about his people:
Genesis 1:27 – You are created in the image of God.
Ephesians 2:10 – You are Christ’s masterpiece
1 John 3:1 – You are a child of God.
John 15:15 – You are a friend of God.
Psalm 139:14 – You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
That’s who we are to God, no matter what anyone else says. We are enough. We are loved. We matter. And God wants us to live like that’s true, because it is.
Rhythms on Screen
Those are the 5 Rhythms that we’re invited to grow in to experience a close and connected relationship with God. I hope by now you’re able to see that our relationship with God can’t be summed up in a check list. It’s not just doing a certain number of things you “should do.” Sure, there are some things we could do to help us grow in the rhythms, but it’s not ultimately about what we do… it’s about who we are… and I want to continue to grow into a person with a strong relationship with God.
As we close, in the spirit of James 1:22, I want to encourage you to ask yourself this question: what is one thing God might want me to do in response to the message and the Scriptures I just heard?Maybe it’s connected to the 5 Rhythms of a relationship with God, or maybe it’s something else. But as we pray, let’s ask God give us direction as we seek to grow in relationship with him.
3 Relationships – Relationship with God
- Our relationship with God isn’t developed by a check list, but by rhythms (patterns of living) in our lives. Think about an important relationship to you. What things contributed to having a strong relationship with this person?
- What things in the past have you done that made you experience a close relationship with God?
- The 5 Rhythms of a strong relationship with God are
- Passion – Jesus and his mission drive my everyday decisions.
- Scripture – My life is directed by the Bible.
- Prayer – Conversations with God overflow to every area of my life.
- Obedience – I listen to the Holy Spirit and obey.
- Identity – I understand who I am in Christ and live accordingly.
- Which of these are a strength for you? Which of these are an area you can grow in? What’s one thing you want to do to grow in one of these areas in the next month?
If you haven’t done so, we invite you to take the 3 Relationships Self-Assessment. It is free and your results are confidential. This is a great way to discern what next step might be for you. You can find a link to the self-assessment at bellefontefaith.com/3r.