Summary: Some people miss the ultimate experience, in fact, any experience of God whatsoever--even those who claim to be born-again Christians. Why? It comes down to one little word that is pivotal, according to Jesus, in our experience of God.
Have you ever experienced God?
Sometimes it's an unsettling question, isn't it?
As born again Christians, we often bristle when people accuse us of being religious. At least I do. When they say something like that, I'm quick to explain to them that I don't think of myself so much as having a religion or being religious, but having a relationship, a personal relationship with God.
In fact, that's what we advertise, isn't it? That you can have a personal relationship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ.
But if I were really honest, I would have to admit that there have been times in my relationship with God when I wondered where He was. There were too many times when things seemed a little dry, or everything seemed academic, or scholastic. And maybe you have felt that way. Or maybe you're wondering whether you have ever had an experience with God at all.
On the other hand, there are times I Have Had an Experience of God! God has shown up in ways that absolutely blew my mind. After about 50 years of being a believer, I have absolutely no doubt that there is a living God who does the same things he did in Bible times now in this present time, and that He is working every day in our lives to bring us closer to Him, if we're interested.
So over the next several weeks we're going to talk about ways we often unintentionally sabotage our own relationship with God. I'm convinced that without even thinking about it, we set up roadblocks which prevent us from experiencing God as both He and we would like.
So before we go on, let me ask you something which I very honestly want you to answer, if only to yourself. Do you really ever experience God?
What I've discovered is that part of the problem is that we are interested in experiencing God, but often it's only on our terms. Now that's an issue in a relationship with God, because you can hardly be the captain of your own soul, the master of your own fate if you acknowledge who God really is. I mean, by definition, God is in charge!
And so this morning we're going to address an issue that I believe in a lot of people's lives causes them to miss God altogether—to never ever make a connection in the first place, even though they believe they have.
Now it's described by a word that I always hated when I was a non-Christian. I always thought it was associated with religious fanatics. I remember our family driving from Southern California up to the Mammoth Lakes area on vacation and as we would get just a little north of Bishop, there would be some rocks jutting out toward the road, and emblazoned on those rocks in big red messy letters was the word: "Repent!" I always thought whoever was responsible for that un-needed reminder just had to be a wild-eyed Bible-thumping religious nut, and I wanted nothing to do with it, or him whatsoever. I was afraid that if I actually repented I'd end up looking and acting something like him—which was absolutely the last thing I ever wanted to have happen to my life.
But when you really look at the underlying Greek for this term when it's found in the Bible, it actually has a much tamer meaning, at least on the surface. The Greek word metanoia simply means to change your mind about something or someone. Seems simple enough and tame enough. You don't have to become a fanatic, if that's all that's involved. And one Greek dictionary actually summed up the meaning of the word repentance very simply and aptly when it defined the word as "a change of mind which results in a change of life(style) "
Since we often change our minds, especially if we are women—that's a joke!—since we change our minds often in life, that doesn't seem too threatening.
But what is really surprising about this word is where it shows up in the New Testament. It shows up in the darndest of places, and it seems to be the pivotal action that someone must engage in to experience God, His forgiveness and eternal life.
One such place is Luke 24, in verses 44-49. Now in terms of important occasions, this passage records events that were perhaps among the most important of all time, the most important event to happen in all of the Bible. It deals with Christ's resurrection.
Now let me set the stage for you. The Lord Jesus Christ has been crucified, has died and was buried for parts of at least three days. During this entire course of events, His faithful disciples had been acting strangely—they had been anything but faithful. When Jesus asked them to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, instead they fell asleep. When they claimed they would never abandon Jesus, no matter what, that's exactly what every last one of them did when He was arrested. And when He repeatedly told them he was going to be killed, crucified, and raised again on the third day, they inconsistently believed the part about him being killed, but they most definitely did not begin to believe the part about him being raised from the dead on the third day!