Craig Groeschel - Getting Closer to God
Do you ever feel disappointed about where you are in life? Do you ever wake up and think, by the time that I was this age, by this time in life, I thought I'd be doing something more, or maybe I thought it'd be doing something different. I thought I'd be doing something that's more significant. And so, you kind of have these maybe, secret or not so secret goals of, I'd like to accomplish this. I'd like to get that. I'd like to have this type of relationship. And then even when you find out you get what you thought you wanted, you still feel like life is a little bit empty. And then one day you're aware that life just seems to be passing you by. Do you ever wonder, is this all there is? Is there something more? Spoiler alert, there is, there is. And that's why the title of today's message is "Getting Closer to God".
Father, we pray, that by Your power and the truth of Your Word, that You would stir within us, the desire to know You intimately and serve You faithfully in all that we do. We pray this in Jesus name and everybody said, amen. You can type that in the comment section. Just type it in real big if you're with us today. Amen and amen and amen.
We are in a message series. And the message series is called "Pre-Decide". We're talking all about the power of our decisions, because the direction of our life is determined by the quality of our decisions. We make our decisions and our decisions make us. Our decisions are incredibly important. We know that, but the problem is, most of us are not great decision makers. And so, what we're doing over a period of a few weeks is we are pre deciding some important decisions.
In fact, on the screen, we have a statement that we've been looking at. And instead of waiting until we're in a certain situation to try to do the right thing then, we're saying this, whenever I'm faced with what? And you're putting some scenarios in the blank. Whenever I'm faced with what? I have pre-decided to take a very specific action. We're not waiting until the future to decide the moment, but with the wisdom of God, we're deciding ahead of time. And there are six specific areas that were pre-deciding that we're going to be, to reflect the goodness of God as followers of Jesus. If you've been here, we've covered a few of them. The first week we decided that we are ready. What are you? Would you say this aloud everybody? I am. Ready.
Last week, we looked at the idea of being consistent. What are you? Say it, I am consistent. Today we're gonna talk about being devoted. Everybody say, I am devoted. We're gonna talk about the gift of generosity. Everybody say, I am generous. I am generous. Then the next week we're gonna be faithful and faithful always. What are you? I am faithful. And in the final week, we're gonna talk about being a finisher. What are you? I am a finisher. Today, I wanna talk about devotion. With God's help, I will be devoted in all that I do. And we're not talking about just devoted to your workout regimen. As followers of Jesus, we are gonna be devoted to Jesus, fully devoted followers of Christ. And Jesus was the one who said this in Matthew 6:33. He said, "But seek first".
Somebody say, seek first. Seek first. He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek first His kingdom, seek first God. Seek first His righteousness, and then all these other things will be given to you as well". We seek first God. When we're devoted to God, when we're devoted His kingdom, then all those things you're searching for in your life, that matter, that bring fulfillment, that make a difference. When you seek first, then God brings fulfillment into your life. And that's why we're gonna say this. I will seek first, the one who matters most. I am devoted to Jesus. Would you say that with me? "I will seek first the one who matters most. I am devoted to Jesus. I will seek first, the one who matters most. I am devoted to Jesus. I will seek first, the one who matters most. I am devoted to Jesus. I have pre-decided before the next day comes, I will seek first, the one who matters most, because I am devoted to Jesus".
Now, that raises the question. What does it mean to be devoted to Jesus? What does it mean to be devoted to the Son of God? And I'll give you some context from the book of Acts. When you see, the first century believers, after Jesus had given His life on the cross and after He was raised from the dead, He was ascended to a seat at the right hand of God the Father. And when all the believers were together, God sent a wind, like a mighty storm and filled them with the Holy Spirit. And the question is, what did these first century followers of Jesus devote their lives to? What were they devoted to? And Acts 2:42 tells us, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer". They heard teaching about the Word of God, they fellowshipped with each other, they broke bread, kind of like life groups, and they were completely devoted to prayer.
And here's the result. The result was that everyone around them was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. They were devoted to the things that made them close to God. They were seeking first Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness. And then God added everything else, and they were effective in ministry. And even nonbelievers looked on 'em and went, wow, these people are so full of love, and they're doing so many miracles, that were born out of seeking first, the one who mattered most. They were devoted to the Word of God, to prayer, to fellowship and the breaking of bread.
Now, the Greek word is translated as devoted, is a really cool word that's actually in the imperfect tense. And what that means is, it means, it's ongoing. It's not a one-time devotion, but it's an ongoing, continual devotion. It could very accurately be translated that they were continually devoted. In other words, these disciples had a single minded, ongoing pursuit of Jesus. We seek first, the one who matters most, and we continue to seek first, the one who matters most. But pause for a moment, and imagine that that verse written about the first century Christians, would be written today describing modern day Christians. I would say maybe, even what you might call a cultural Christian or a casual Christian. You know the type.
Some of you are this type. You're the ones that kind of like, I kind of believe in God, you know, you won't see it in my life, you won't hear about it in my life. And I may go to church every now and then. And morally, I try to be a good person. I kinda believe in God, but you know, no one really knows that much about it. Imagine if that very verse were written about people today and talked about their devotion. I would say, Acts chapter 2:42, from the MCV version, the Modern Christian Version would go like this. "They devoted themselves to themselves. They continually and passionately pursued a self centered life of comfort and ease". And I don't mean to be rude, and I don't want to nitpick anybody, because these are good people. These are people that you'd like to be around, and they just have normal everyday desires. They just want to be liked. And they just want to be comfortable, or they want to be popular or they want to be TikTok famous, right?
Now, come on, let's talk about it, right? It's just normal stuff. Like, I want to finish school and have a job that I love, and I want to marry a hottie and have a nice house. And one day I want to travel the world and then I want to die and go to heaven. I'm modern day Christian. And many of you are listening right now, and you're probably saying, "Well, that's not me. That's not me". And truthfully, in many, many cases, that's not you, or at least, hopefully it's not you. But what I want to do, just in case it is you, is give you a little illustration for perspective. Do you want to see it? Do you want to see it? Okay. Let me, I'll show you this. This is a line. And according to the people that helped me make this line, if you measured it, this line is actually 168 inches across this line. Divided up into little segments if we can, 168 inches. Why 168 little inches? Because this represents one week of your life, and one week of your life has 168 hours.
Now, if you're devoted to some thing, you would probably agree that you tend to devote your time to that which you're devoted to. And so, what I want to do is just kind of ask you to think about, where do you spend your time during a normal 168 hours a week? And I can help you answer that, because I've done the research on it, and I know, that almost all of you, unless you have sleep apnea, you spend about one third of your time sleeping. How many of you like sleeping? Sleeping's a good thing. Oh my gosh, I'm thankful for a good night's sleep. Then, you spend another third of your time going to work or school, which leaves you exactly 56 flexible hours remaining.
Now, how many of you are on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, whatever, LinkedIn? How many of you got social media? Okay. If you're on social media, the average social media user spends 17 hours a week, taking up 17 of your 50 something hours, leaving you only 39 hours left for what I'm gonna call, other stuff, all the other stuff. And you all have the other stuff, is taking your kids to everywhere. Oh dear God, to everywhere. You take 'em to dance and piano and baton practice and you know, algebra lessons and helping them with school. And it's going and getting gas in your car and cleaning your car up once every seven years and you know, going to grocery store and buying groceries and cooking something and cleaning them up and paying your taxes and paying your bills and mowing the yard and doing this and doing yoga down thing and working out and being with your friends and binge watching the next whatever series you have. And yet, all this other stuff.
Wait a minute, there's one little, there's one little hour left. And, hang on a second. Give me a second. I don't have my notes with me. Let me hang on a second. There's one little hour left. Where is it that you spend? Oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I forgot. I forgot, we're Christians, and that hour goes to God. That hour goes to God because we are Christians. And obviously, a lot of you devote more than one hour to God, but some people don't even devote that, and call themselves Christians. And to state what's really obvious, if you invest one hour a week in anything, you're probably not gonna grow or improve significantly in that thing, right? If you only exercise one hour a week and eat whatever you want, you're probably not gonna be in peak health. If you only spend about an hour in the same room as your spouse, you're probably not gonna have a dream marriage. If you only study for one hour a week, you're probably not gonna graduate at the top of your class.
In fact, you'll be lucky to graduate. So, if we are only partially, partially devoted to God, if we only spend a little time with God, when it's easy, when it's convenient, when we don't have anything else to do, it's no wonder we fall back into the same old sin. It's no wonder we rarely share our faith. It's no wonder we're more concerned with what people think about us, than God thinks about us. It's no wonder we find ourselves lukewarm wondering, is there anything more in life? If we only give God what's left over, we have to ask ourself, are we really devoted to Him? If we want to live a life fully devoted to the things of Jesus, what I want you to know is, it's not gonna happen by accident, 'cause all that other stuff just seems to take over.
There's no one ever says, like, I just was just doing life and just going with the flow, and I accidentally became a spiritual powerhouse. Ho, I mean, I don't know what happened. I'm just like, I'm whoa, I'm close to God. Whoa, I know the Bible. Or I woke up and I've got a powerful ministry. I don't, I have no idea how it happened, but like, I'm so involved in the church right now, and oh my gosh, I'm a missionary. I'm a light when I go out. How did that happen? I just became morally pure, wow! I'm not tempted by anything anymore. It's not gonna happen. If you want to be fully devoted to Jesus, it's never gonna be accidental. You have to pre-decide. Decide ahead of time, I want to live with an ongoing, not a one-time decision, but an ongoing single-minded pursuit of Jesus. So, how do we do that? What does it mean to pre-decide to be devoted to Jesus, and how do we faithfully serve Him in that way?
Well, I'm gonna show you in John chapter 15, when Jesus was telling kind of this parable. He was likely near a vineyard and people were looking on, or at least they certainly understood what a vineyard was like, and Jesus said this to His disciples. He said, "I am the vine and you are the branches". He said, "If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from Me though," Jesus said, "without Me, you can do nothing". Let's illustrate this. Jesus says, "I am the vine". And what are you? You are the branch. Let's make sure we understand your role in this parable. Everybody say, Jesus is the vine. Jesus is the vine. Say it again, say "Jesus is the vine. And I am the branch".
So here's the key. When you, the branch, are connected to Jesus, the vine, what happens is, you bear spiritual fruit. And what is spiritual fruit? Well, according to Galatians five, spiritual fruit was things like love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. If you're displaying consistent love and joy and peace and gentleness and faithless of it. Do you think your life is empty? Do you think you're wondering, is there any more to life? No, you're living the highest calling of life. Your life used to be empty, but when you're the branch connected to the vine, your life starts to be full of what matters. It starts to be full of what lasts. In fact, let's play a little game.
There's one word that appears 11 times in this chapter, 11 times, it's probably a pretty important word. What we're gonna do is we're gonna try to find that word. And if you cannot find the word, there'll be a prayer time for you at the end of our service. I'm just telling you. So, tell me when you find the word. Okay, it's in John 15:4, and Jesus said, "Remain in Me, as I also remain in you". If you don't have it yet, stick with me. Jesus said, "No branch can bear fruit by itself, but it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit, unless you remain in Me". Do you have the word? What is it? The word remain, obviously. This comes from the Greek word, meno, M-E-N-O. And it means to abide, it means to dwell, it means to live in. This is not just a one hour weekly duty to God. I gotta do my Bible time. I gotta go to church to please God. No, this is a fully devoted, all in devotion to the one who matters most.
I will seek first, the one who matters most. To state the obvious, the branch needs the vine. If you don't stay connected, you're just a dead limb. You lose your life source. And that's why we pre-decide. I'm not gonna let life happened to me. I pre determine, I will seek first, the one who matters most. 'Cause if I'm not connected to the vine, I don't get the spiritual nutrients, I don't bear fruit, and I break so much easier. Jesus is the vine, you are the branch. So your assignment is, ready? Be the branch! Be the branch! Be the one who needs, seeks and stays intentionally connected. I am pre-decided, I am staying connected to the life source. I will seek first, the one who matters most. Wow, that's good preaching. I'm gonna tell me if you don't say it. That's good preaching, so. I'm sorry, like, if you're gonna be quiet, I'm just gonna say amen to myself. Sometimes I preach a little better than you respond. I'm just saying, okay. What we're gonna do is pre-decided. What I wanna do is get really practical.
How do we live this out? And what I wanna do is talk about the first and then the all, because we're gonna seek first. And I'm gonna give you a game plan, but this game plan isn't just a specific time, this is a specific start. The time starts the full week devotion. And we're gonna pre-decide three times. Here's our game plan. The first thing, say with me, we're gonna pre-decide a time. The second thing is we're gonna pre-decide a place. The third thing is we're gonna pre-decide a plan. In order to seek God. Seeking God is not something that we hope to do, it's not some abstract idea. We actually are gonna start with a time. If I want to spend time with Amy, I'm not gonna wait until everything happens all week long, we're gonna predetermine a time to be together. I don't know when your time would be. It might be before the kids get up, you spend a little bit of time with Jesus. It might be when you drink your coffee. It might be before you go to the gym. It might be after you go to the gym. It might be after you get the kids to bed. Whatever it is, it's gonna be a predetermined time that I am intentionally seeking God through His Word, spending a little bit of time reconnecting, being completely committed to Him.
And then we're gonna decide on a place. And it doesn't have to always be the same place. But if you don't have a pretty regular place, you're probably not doing this, right? I mean, you gotta kind of probably a most of the time place. And for Amy, there's this, I called it her prayer chair, and she's always in her prayer chair. It might be, like you kneel down by your bed. It might be that you stay in bed. It might be you sit at your kitchen table. It might be that you're on your back porch. It might be if you've got little kids, in your bathroom, 'cause you only got time when the bathroom door's locked and you don't have long before there's fingers coming under the door. Mom, where are you? It might be, and this is not necessarily ideal, but in some seasons of life, it might be on your commute, and you're talking to God on your commute. But you're gonna pre-decide, this is the time, this is the place, and then I also have a plan. Meaning, if something's important to you, you plan it ahead of time. You're not gonna get up, well, what am I gonna do today? I got no plan.
Well, one of the great things you can do, is you can go through a You Version reading plan, and you, for several days, you go through a plan, you can do it with friends. Amy has a journal where she writes down what God is showing her. She has a journal where she writes down, here's the people that I'm praying for. You might have a podcast you listen to, you might have a worship song that you listen to. You might have any number of different things, but what we've done is we pre-decided, this is the place, this is the time, and this is the plan, because we have 168 hours during our week. And we're not going to give God what's left over, but we're gonna start and seek first, the one who matters most. And then what happens is, we just start walking with God. Our time with God is not limited to a 10 minute, 30 minute, one hour, whatever it is devotion, but we're just, throughout the day we're talking to God and we're listening to God, and we're aligning our hearts to God. And we have a posture, a mindset, a mood of seeking Jesus first.
What happens is, when we're seeking Jesus, weird spiritual things start to happen. He starts to like convict us and say, we shouldn't do those wrong things anymore. And He starts to make you weird things like, nice and loving and generous, and you start to have joy, and He starts to give you words to say. And what happens is, God doesn't just get what's left over in your life, because God is not a part of your life. Instead you say, God is your life. He is your life. He is all and all and all. He's not a little part, He's not a compartment, He's everything. It's a full devotion to the one who matters most. And so, all through the day, I'm seeking first, the one who matters most. And then you're talking to Jesus, you're listening to God and He starts to impact your work life. And He starts to give you wisdom. And He starts to give you words to say to people. And He starts to give you, be an encouragement to others. And He starts to correct you and guide your steps and lead your ways.
And you're a fully devoted follower of Jesus, aligning your heart to that which lasts. It's not just a moment in time, it is a devotion. I pre-decided, because of who Jesus is and because of what He's done, I will seek first. The one who matters most. I am devoted to Jesus. I'll tell you a brief story about one of the most emotional moments that I had in a long time. I got a text from an unknown number, so this is some number I don't have a name to it. And I'm not gonna tell you the real names, because I want to respect the people. But essentially, this text said, "Hello, this is so-and-so and I am Patrick's," not his real name, "but I'm Patrick's sister. And Patrick's in the hospital. He has a rare form of progressive cancer". And she said, "The doctor's not giving us much hope".
So, Patrick's a friend of mine, longtime friend, and I had no idea. And she got onto his phone, got my number. And so, I got the text and I, zoom, rushed to the hospital. If you knew Patrick, this guy, he is an athlete, big, strong. And when I walked in and he was so frail that it took me back. And I've been on million hospital visits, and I never get used to that first moment of shock. And so, I tried to hide my emotions and act like I didn't even notice, but on the inside I said, oh, this doesn't look good. And so, we did the guy thing. He could barely talk, but we told guy jokes and we laughed, told a few old stories, but the conversation, the tone turned serious really, really quickly. And Patrick looked at me. And if you can imagine, he's trying to speak between. It was hard for him to get, he couldn't get a full sentence out. And he's like, "Craig," he said, "when the doctors tell you to get your affairs in order," he said, "you look at your life and you think about the things you wish you had done". And it just hit me.
So we talked about, what are some of those things? We talked about memories. We talked about regrets, and then we joined hands, and we prayed one of the most passionate, faith filled prayers that I've prayed in a long time. And I said goodbye to my friend and left. And seeing someone who seemed invincible in such a state, it brought me once again, that sense of urgency, to just pause and look at my 168 and ask myself, what do I believe deep down in my heart? What really, really matters in life? What is it that will outlast our time on earth? Who is it that matters most? I want to devote my life to that. I want to devote my life, not to something that's self centered, and self seeking and easy and comfortable, but I want to stay so connected to the vine, that I'm sensitive to the voice of the Spirit to reach out and make a difference in a moment's notice.
I'm wanna seek first, the one who matters most, because you have to pre-decide. You will never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever accidentally live a fully devoted life to Jesus. So, what do we do? Well, we're gonna pre-decide, because of who He is, because He matters. He didn't get what's last. He didn't get what's leftover. He doesn't get what's easy. He doesn't get what's convenient. He doesn't get my attention when there's nothing else going on. No game this weekend, the weather's not beautiful, so we can go to church. Was that horrible, so we can go to church? I just happen to have a good book out. No, no, no, no, no, no. I have a time, a pre-decided. I have a place, this is where we meet. And I have a plan, because when it matters, you make a plan.
And let me tell you, the moment you start and you predetermine to seek first, the one who matters most, what I promise you is, there will be resistance. I promise you. You're gonna be distracted. There's gonna be reasons to quit. And you're gonna pre-decided, I am devoted to Jesus, because if it's not important, you'll find an excuse. But if it's important, you'll find a way. Come on somebody. Because Jesus is the vine and you are the branch, and so, your assignment's easy. Be the branch, be the branch! The branch needs the vine. The vine is not optional. The vine is not there for you at the last minute. It is all in, for I need You. I need every bit of You. I need You now. I need You later. I need to stay connected to the vine. You are the source of life.
And when we're connected, there's love, and there's joy unspeakable, and there's a peace that you can't find from this world, and there's patience. Oh dear God, give me some of that. And there's goodness and faithfulness and they're gentleness and their self control. And what I know right now, is that Jesus, isn't a part of my life, He is my life. And therefore, because of who He is, and because eternity is real, and because time is short. What is your life? It's a vapor. It's here today, it's gone tomorrow. It's a vapor. I want to invest my life in a place that matters. So, I pre-decided. Not gonna wait until tomorrow. I already know what's important tomorrow. I pre-decided to seek first, the one who matters most, because I am devoted to Jesus.
So Father, we pray today, that there would be some powerful, spiritual pre decisions made. Help us commit God, not to give You what's leftover, but to make You the driving force of our life, the ongoing single pursuit, the devotion of our hearts.
As you're reflecting in prayer today, you may be watching at a church location, maybe you're watching online, but you say, yes, I am a Christian. Those of you that say, yeah, I actually am a Christian, but when I look at my 168, there's probably some room for improvement. What I want is with God's help, with God's help because I need it. I want to pre-decide to be devoted to Jesus. What that might mean for you, is you choose the time and you choose a place and you get a little plan going and you start integrating and staying connected to the vine. And as you connect to the vine, suddenly it's not just a little bit of time in the morning or the evening or on your commute, but it becomes an ongoing pursuit of the one who matters most. Wherever you're watching from today, you would say, God help me be devoted to Jesus. Would you lift up your hands right now? Lift 'em up, lift 'em up, lift 'em up. You can type it in the comment section. God help me be devoted to Jesus. As you're in an attitude of prayer today.
God, we thank You that You hear the cries of our heart. And we ask God, that You would draw us by Your Spirit. Then ahead of time, we thank You that You'll meet us when we cry out to You. God, empower us to pre-decide to be intentional. Not to have an accidental, coincidental relationship with You, but to intentionally seek You first. Today, this is where we meet, this is when we meet, this is what we're gonna talk about. And God, then will talk to You and will listen to You, and will align our hearts to what lasts, so that You won't be a part of our life, God, but You'll be what You truly desire. You will be our life. Help us God to be devoted to You.
As you keep praying today at our different churches, some of you are gonna recognize like, oh man, I'm not even close to that. And I remember growing up in church and thinking, well, I must be a Christian, 'cause I'm in church. And I was kind of one of those, what you might call casual Christians or cultural Christians. I kinda believed in God, but I was not. I didn't know Him. I didn't know Him. And some of you, you're gonna recognize, that you right now. What do you do? First of all, I want you to understand that God is a relational God. That being a follower of Jesus, isn't just like joining a church or checking a box, it's an ongoing relationship. And God is love. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus, His Son to show you what the Father is like.
Jesus is love, He's perfect, He's sinless. And He hung out with people that were very far from God. People who were broken and had really messed up lives, and He loved them. And Jesus gave His life for them, He gave his life for us and God raised Him from the dead, so that anyone, and this includes you. It doesn't matter where you are, what you've done, how dark your life feels. Anyone who calls on His name, the name of Jesus, the name of Jesus. "Your sins will be forgiven," scripture says, "you'll be brand new". You'll be saved. You'll be different. You're not just better, you're different, you're new. Wherever you're watching from today. Those who say, I want that. I want that. All we're gonna do is very simply, we're just gonna step away from our old life, and we're gonna say, Jesus, I want to be Your follower. I just, I trust in You.
When you call on the name of Jesus, He hears your prayers. Listen, and He forgives your sins and He makes you brand new. Wherever you're watching from today. Those who say, yes, Jesus, I want Your forgiveness. Today, I give You my life. I surrender to You. Wherever you're watching from, those who say, yes, Jesus. I give you my life. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now and say, yes, Jesus, I surrender to you. Oh my gosh, as we've got hands up in all of our churches today. Those of you that are watching online, you can just type in the comment section. I'm giving my life to Jesus. And in a moment, we're gonna celebrate with you. Let's just talk to God right now. Let's seek first, the one who matters most, and let Him hear the desire of your heart. Just pray aloud:
Heavenly father. I seek you. Forgive my sins. Jesus save me. Be first in my life. I want to be Your disciple. I want to be Your follower. Completely devoted to You. You're not just gonna be a part of my life. Jesus be my life. I'm the branch. You're the vine. Help me stay connected to You. So I can show Your love. In all I do. Thank You for new life. I give You all of mine. In Jesus name, I pray.