Your Hearts Desire. Part 3: Truly, Madly, Deeply
On Sunday 20th January we continued our series 'Your Hearts Desire'.
In this blog you will find a summary of the talk.
To listen to the talk, please click here.
Some people find the idea of reading the bible dull and boring. I used to. Then one day a preacher shared the love of God by reading a passage from the bible and explaining what was going on behind the scenes. In this passage, we find Jesus praying to His Father – just a few hours before He would allow Himself to be taken and tortured and crucified.
Imagine you know you’re about to die a terrible death. You’re choosing to do so, because of something that’s overwhelmingly important to you. Imagine you’re going to sacrifice yourself for this thing that’s desperately important to you. You go away and pray. Maybe the last change you’ll have to spend time alone with God. What would you pray for? It’d be about the thing you’re going to die for, right? The thing you’re about to die for, or the people.
In an account of Jesus’s life written by his close friend John, we can read what Jesus prayed about the night before he died. It’s amazing! 2000 or so years later, we can still listen in on this intimate moment between Jesus and his Father in heaven. What’s even more amazing is that, having prayed for his disciples, Jesus went on to pray for all people who would ever believe in him. If you would call yourself a follower of Jesus, that means you! Yes, you!
You can read John’s account by clicking here.
This is the reason God pursues us, the reason Jesus stepped down from heaven and died for us! He loves us and wants us to be one with each other, united in love, and with Him in heaven!
When we read the bible, when we pray… we shouldn’t approach it as some chore but as a way to hear from and about Jesus, who loves us! Let’s move away from the idea of a dutiful trudge through the text or a formulaic prayer, and instead see it as a move into God’s presence. When we see it that way… as moving into a heightened awareness of God’s presence, a way to unite with Him, a way for Jesus to reveal the Father to us and reveal again His love for us and to reveal His will for our lives… well that’s more exciting than a dutiful trudge!
We build our awareness of God’s presence when we abide with Him. We can do that by reading the bible, by praying - just by doing the simple, regular exercises over a long time… And as our awareness of Him grows, so does our love for Him. Sometimes we just find it hard to pray or we don’t have the words. But persist – don’t give up! As with many exercises, we become stronger in prayer and bible reading over time. Don’t be surprised if you find your troubles ease as you talk with him or just spend time consciously in his presence. Don’t be surprised if he speaks to you in your mind or through something you see or hear!
My prayer is that we at some point just get it in our very marrow that God not only exists but that he loves us and so we respond not with mere reasoned decision-making and dutiful actions but with a passion that mirrors the passionate love that God feels for us, whom he made in his own image, and for whom he gave his one and only son, Jesus! He wants us to be united in love for each other and for Him!
What will you DO? In the light of God’s love for you, in the light of Jesus’s sacrifice… What will you DO? Will you let this book, the bible, gather dust? Will you treat it as a boring relic or a mere set of rules? Or will you read it as a love letter from God to humanity?
At EBC we want to be a church not merely of dutiful attenders, nor even a mutually encouraging bunch of do-gooding believers! We want to be a church of united, loving, baptised disciples, fired up for God and desperate to know more of our awesome, loving God who wants to welcome us as His children, who wants to embrace us in His love, now and forever!
So keep seeking those encounters with God not only here at EBC but wherever you are and at all times. Recently I talked about how the secret to progress in physical fitness is to do the basic, effective exercises and keep doing them for a very long time. And to do the things outside the gym really well. So don’t wait to be in the “spiritual gym” (the church building) but go for those 10 minute walks and talks with God. Go ahead and make a date for coffee and a chat with God over a chapter or even a verse of His holy word. See where He takes you and hear what He says!
Doing those basic effective things moves us into awareness of His presence. It grows our faith and our love for God as our thoughts and our hearts are directed to Him.
Don’t give up on yourself or write yourself off if you struggle with prayer. God doesn’t do that – He invites you and directs you to be with Him now and always. He wants to place your heart where it belongs, which is with Him. He wants you to be where you belong, which is in His loving arms. He wants us to be united with each other and with Him! So persevere! He doesn’t give up on you, even if you sometimes do.
He didn’t give up on the sinful King David or the frightened fisherman Peter or the Pharisee Saul who witnessed the stoning of Stephen. No no - He embraced them and by his Spirit changed them and placed them where they belonged. He set them about sharing His love – the love that united them – and bringing His great letter of love to you and to me, that we too might be united with Him.
So come to Him here, come to Him at work or at home, but come to him - and as you root yourself in Him and His word, watch how your awareness of His presence grows, see how your relationship will blossom and grow with the God who loves you truly, madly and deeply.
1. Would you accept that we become better at doing “exercises” with practice?
2. Do you think that prayer and reading the bible might also become easier with practice?
3. Can you – will you – make doing these things a priority in your day? If not now… when?
4. Is your spiritual growth important to you? What amount of time will you give to pursuing it today?