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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pursuing God

John 7:37&38—On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

"Come on," Jesus said, "If you're thirsty for God, the water is flowing. And I am the source of it. Come on and drink. Pursue God in your life."

Well, what does it look like—the pursuit of God? I am 46 years old. I have been a follower of Christ for 34 years and as I thought about my pursuit of God, I thought it might be helpful to share with you where I am and challenge you to see where you are.

Stage 1—The desire to have God in my life.

When I was 12 years old, I realized that life would not be what it was meant to be without God. I invited Christ to come in to my life by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of my sins.

When you hit this point in your life—to know that God loves you unconditionally and wants to work in your life—it is pure joy. I experienced it and I have seen it on the faces of people after they accept Christ as their personal savior.

But you know what? Too many people think that is the end of the line instead of the beginning. And too many times, preachers are guilty of giving this impression to people.

Honestly, we're so excited about a person reaching stage one—because it's such a monumental decision—that we put a lot of emphasis on it. What we neglect to say sometimes is that Christianity is not a contractual arrangement with the God of the universe. It's a pursuit of which asking Jesus into your life is just the initial stage. For the springs of living water to flow in you, you have to continue pursuing God.

Stage 2—The desire to know more about God.

What kind of a God would go to the extreme of leaving Heaven to break into history, become a man, die on a cross, and rise from the dead—to pay for my sin...just because He loved me?

I wanted to know about this God. So I read the Bible—which was very hard at first. I bought books, I went to Sunday School, I went to seminars and retreats, and I learned about God. And it was good.

Stage 3—The desire to live God's way.

As I understood more about God, I learned that there were some attitudes and actions that God approved of and some that He did not approve of. I as I reached my early 20s and had to face some major moral issues in my life I wanted to know—what does God think about it?

But more than knowing; I had come to the understanding that much of God's blessing and much of my joy is conditional on my obedience. That was my goal and it was good. Still is, but eventually, I wanted more of God than just trying to stay in within the boundaries of His blessing area.

Stage 4—The desire to serve God.

The more I experienced the blessing of God in my own life and looked around I saw that so few other people even knew about it the more it began to bother me. That's when I began to realize that God had a plan for reaching those people and that I was a part of it. Not because I was a preacher, because that didn't happen until later, but, because every believer is called to ministry.

I began to take this call seriously, and I began to ask seriously—"How can I leverage my time, talents and treasure to advance God's kingdom?" and God began to show me how, and I found a new depth in my relationship with God. I had a purpose in my life beyond just making my family and me happy and it was good.

Stage 5—The desire to experience the power of God.

Here's what I have found: It's tough to serve God on your own. The longer I am in it the more I realize that attempting to live God's way and trying to serve God puts me smack in the middle of a tremendous spiritual battle. There is a real force of evil, a real kingdom of darkness that is well organized and, if possible, intends to destroy me and the work I do for God.

The only way I am going to have victory is to engage in some supernatural encounters. To be involved in, the kind of prayer that directly attacks the strongholds that Satan has in my life, prayer that tears down spiritual barriers that prevent his church from accomplishing its mission, the kind of prayer that you don't pray unless you are totally depending on God's power.

That's what the early Christians experienced. That's a different style than most of us are used to, but I understand that there to are some things that will never happen in my life personally and in his church unless God's power is brought directly to bear on the situation.

Stage 6—The desire to know God as a person.

Now, I am reaching a place where I understand what the writer of the 27th Psalm was feeling when he wrote: {Psalm 27:8—My heart says of you, "Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.} I am sensing a desire to seek God's face—not his blessing, not his service, not his power. I want to be able just to enjoy time in His presence.

The Bible speaks of several people who "walked with God" as a constant companion. I want that in my life. I'm not talking about some imaginary "buddy,” I am talking about the God of the ages, I have been pursuing all along. I want to be able to hear God speak in my spirit, as easily as I hear you speak with my ears. I want to know Him as a person.

Well those are the stages in the pursuit of God that I have and am experiencing. I want you to understand that you never really leave stages two-six in your pursuit of God; because you can never know all there is to know about God, never stop serving Him, never experience enough of His power, and never know Him completely personally.

Pursing God requires that you go deeper—where are you in your pursuit?


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