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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - How to Know God

James Meehan - How to Know God

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    James Meehan - How to Know God

Well, welcome to the second week of Switch In Real Life, AKA, Switch IRL, AKA, SWIRL. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what we call these in-person gatherings. And if you're joining with us at Switch online or you're watching later on YouTube, we're so thankful that you are here with us. My name is James Meehan and I'm one of these Switch pastors here. And before we get any further let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am very nasally and congested. I'm not sick. I feel amazing, even though I sound awful. So hopefully now that we've addressed it, we can move past it and get into the meat of what this message is all about, because the reality is is that here at Switch, our hope and our desire for you is that you would become the person that God wants you to be. And that you would step into the calling to do the things that God wants you to do.

The goal is not for you to think I'm awesome or I'm cool or smart or anything like that. As a matter of fact, as we are going on this journey of discipleship together, this journey of becoming like Jesus for the sake of others, you might find yourself disagreeing with what I say and that's absolutely okay. Because this is a place that you can bring your questions. You can wrestle with your doubts. You can explore all the different things that Christianity has to offer and have real honest conversations about it. Because we believe that when we can be honest with our questions, when we can explore our doubts in the context of friendship, that God can work in really special ways to help us become more like Jesus for the sake of others.

So with all of that being said, the big idea for today's message, if you're taking notes, write it down is this, that God is The Creator and He Wants a Relationship With His Creation. This is the first week in a new message series titled, Who is God? Because that is really the most important question that anybody can ask and anybody can answer. Because the truth is, is that what we believe about God shapes what we believe about everything. If you believe that God is sort of this impersonal force, like the universe or karma, then that's gonna change the way that you live on a day to day basis. If you believe that there is no God, that all that there is, is the product of random cosmic chance, then that's gonna change the way you interact with other people and the way that you live your life.

But if you believe that what the Bible says is true, that God is the creator, and He wants a relationship with his creation, then that changes everything. Because that means that our lives have purpose and meaning beyond ourselves. That there is a creator, supernatural being, that wants us to know him and to be known by him. And that true life and fulfillment is found in a relationship with that creator. As over the course of this series, what we're gonna do is explore the different aspects of who God is as revealed in the scriptures. And we're gonna learn how we as human beings can connect personally and relationally with our divine creator. Like I said, today is all about exploring God as the creator, this creator who wants a relationship with his creation. And to do that, we're going to be reading through a passage in the Book of Acts. This is the sort of like the epilogue to the gospels. You've got the gospels, these four different accounts of Jesus' life, his death, his resurrection, his ministry.

And then the Book of Acts tells the story of the early Christians after Jesus has risen from the grave and ascended into heaven. And one of the main characters in the Book of Acts is a man named Paul. He was originally a Jewish Pharisee who was not at all a fan of Christians. He saw Christianity as an attack on his faith of Judaism until he had this encounter with Jesus that changed everything. Where instead of hunting and persecuting Christians, he began planting churches and preaching the gospel. And it's in the 17th chapter of the Book of Acts where we're told that Paul was waiting for some of his fellow travelers in Athens. And here he is in Athens greatly distressed to see that the city, Athens, was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks as well as in the marketplace, day by day, with those who happened to be there.

So why did this so distress Paul? Why is it that here he is in the city of Athens, seeing all of these idols everywhere and he is so distressed? He's worried, he's anxious, he's upset that these people are worshiping idols instead of the one true God. The reason is, is because Paul understands that what we worship shapes who we become. That what we worship, that the thing that we put in the most important place in our lives determines the kind of people we become. And that when we worship idols, false gods, things that are not the true God, then what it does is it bends us into people that are actually less than the full humanness that Jesus invites us into. And it directs our lives in directions that are not good or true or uplifting.

And so Paul is here in the city of Athens, seeing these people worshiping idols and he is broken-hearted because he knows that there is so much more in store for them, if they would simply turn to the one true God. And I think a really important question for us to wrestle with is if Paul were to show up in our city, in our neighborhood, our community, what would distress him? What idols would he see us worshiping? And how would that break his heart? Because we live in this modern world with incredible things like the internet. But things like the internet have made it so easy for so many of us to make idols out of celebrities and influencers. To spend all of our time, energy and attention following the latest stats of our favorite athletes and sports team. To shop and buy everything that we want at the tip of our fingers, to the point where access to these idols of money, fame, sex, and power is easier than it has ever been.

And I imagine that for many of us, Paul would look at our lives and be heartbroken because he knows that if he would return to God, to step into a relationship with our creator, that we would experience the kind of life that Jesus came to offer. Continuing on in this passage of Acts, we're told in verse 18 is that there was a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers that began to debate with Jesus. They were asking him questions like, what does this babbler trying to say? He seems to be advocating foreign gods.

Now they were saying this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. So an overly simplistic crash course on what Epicurean and Stoic philosophy is all about is this Epicurean philosophy says that the goal of life is happiness. Do whatever makes you happy, follow your heart, chase your dreams. Epicurean philosophy is basically the philosophy of every Disney movie that's come out for the last 20 years. Right now Stoic philosophy is a little bit different because Stoic philosophy says that the goal of life is self-improvement. That life is all about becoming the best version of yourself. Self-improvement, working, grinding, hustling, exercising, making the most of your life so that you can be successful.

That's what life is all about. But the message of Jesus is really different because Christianity says that the goal of life is knowing God. That the goal of life is knowing God and being known by God. Because it is in the context of a relationship with our creator, knowing God and being known by him, that we discovered true happiness and joy and fulfillment. And it's in this process of following Jesus that we engage in discipleship, this transformative journey, where we become more like Jesus for the sake of others, where the spirit of God works inside of us, transforming us from the inside out so that we can become, not just the best version of ourselves, but the version of God. The version of us that God wants us to be. That's what Christianity says life is all about. Not simply chasing happiness or self-improvement, but knowing your creator.

Now picking up in verse 19, what we're told is that this group of people took Paul and they brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you're presenting. You're bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we wanna know what they mean". And then in parentheses, so this is Luke, the author of Acts, making us aware of this, he says that all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time, pay attention, doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. I love this part because it makes it so obvious to me that the Areopagus was basically the ancient version of the internet. Like Reddit or TikTok or whatever the newest social media is that I'm too old to know anything about, but it's this place where people would go and spend countless hours talking about the latest ideas, debating their perspectives, but not actually doing anything.

Isn't it crazy how tempting it can be to just talk about making a difference without actually putting in the work to make a difference? And our hope is that for you, as you are going on this journey of life, trying to discover who God is, who you are, and the difference that you were created to make, that within this journey, that you would be able to discover, not just how to talk about good ideas, but to actually put those good ideas into practice so that you can become the kind of person who truly makes a difference. Now in verse 22, Paul stands up in the meeting of the Areopagus and he says, "People of Athens, I see that in every way, you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription to an unknown God. So you're ignorant of the very thing you worship, and this is what I'm going to proclaim to you".

Now, if you're a follower of Jesus, notice what Paul doesn't do. He doesn't condemn these people because they are ignorant of who God really is. Instead, what he does is he celebrates the fact that they're religious, they are devoted to the gods that they worship and believe in. And then what Paul does is he helps them understand that yes, that devotion to understanding who God is and worshiping him is a really, really big deal. You've just kind of missed the mark. And so what I wanna do is help you understand who God really is so that the God that you worship will not be some false idol that makes you less, but it will be the one true God who will make you everything that you have been created to be. I love that. I'm challenged by this. Because I think that it can be far too easy for us as followers of Jesus, to assume that we are better because we know God and we have a relationship with him.

And instead of offering compassion towards others, we sort of look down on them and think less of them. That is so far off from an approach that Jesus and that Paul would take. And I think it's an important lesson for all of us, as we're trying to invite other people into a life with Jesus. Now, in verse 24, here's what Paul says. He says that the God, who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn't live in temples built by human hands. He's not served by human hands as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man, he made all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth. And he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Paul wants the people of Athens to know that God, the Lord of heaven and earth, is the creator of everything. And it is through him that we were given life and breath and everything else. Now put a pin in that real quick, because I know that some of you right now are asking this question. If God created everything, then who created God? Now this is a really big question so we're gonna tackle this pretty quickly. But the simple answer is this, is that nobody, nothing created God. Because God is an eternal uncreated being. What does that mean? It means that God has always existed. He has no beginning and no ending because God has always been. He has always been into the infinite past and into the infinite future. But because before there was ever the universe, the world we occupy, space, time or matter, there was God. He exists outside of all of those things.

And so for us to ask the question, if God created everything, then who created God is to misunderstand the very nature of our creator, God. Because he is not some thing that has been created just like us. He's an infinite, eternal being that exists outside of even our human ability to comprehend. Now, it's important to acknowledge that even though this infinite God is impossible for us to fully understand as finite human beings, we can still understand him truly because God gave us access to knowing who he is and what he's like and living in relationship with him through the scriptures, through the person of Jesus and through the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us when we begin a relationship with him.

So who created God? Nobody. God is the creator of everything and he wants a relationship with his creation. Then in verse 27, the Apostle Paul continuing on says that God did this so that they would seek him. Who's they? Anybody. That people, human beings would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him because God is not far from any one of us. For in him, we live and we move and we have our being. As some of your own poets have said, we are his offspring. Why did God create the world? Because God wanted you and me to share in his endless and unconditional love. He is not far away. He is near to anyone who wants to reach out and know him because God is the creator and he wants a relationship with his creation.

Which brings us to another really important question, which is, how is it that we, as human beings, are able to reach out to an infinite God who exists outside of space, time and matter? And the answer that has been passed down throughout generations of Christians is a spiritual discipline, a practice known as silence and solitude. What is silence and solitude? Silence and solitude is simply making space to experience the presence of God. It is making space in our lives to experience the presence of God. Because when we create space for God, he will fill it. St. John once said that the friend of silence draws near to God. And hearing Alan said that without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Silence and solitude are a big deal. So we're taking the wisdom of those people, putting them together, and it is this practice called silence and solitude. And this is what I wanna invite you to begin doing in your own life, creating space to experience the presence of God.

Now, for me, it's pretty simple. When I wake up in the morning, I first go to the bathroom 'cause I got to tinkle. Then I brushed my teeth because it just feels gunky if you doubt. And then I go sit on my couch in the living room. I open up my YouVersion Bible App. I read a chapter or two of scripture for the day. And then I just set, I usually five to 10 minute timer to just be still and ask God to speak to me. And it's nothing complicated. It's not always easy. Sometimes I get distracted because I'm a human being. Sometimes my almost one-year-old son gets up and is running around, looking for me and that interrupts the time that I create. But I still try every single day to practice silence and solitude, to create space to experience the presence of God. Because when I create this space to open myself up to the voice of God, sometimes God speaks. Sometimes he tells me exactly what I need to hear. Sometimes it's through His word. Sometimes it's the thought that pops into my brain. Sometimes it's through a text from a friend that comes at just the right time.

But what I've discovered is that by simply making that space, my relationship with God gets stronger and stronger. As I learn to trust him more, to better hear his voice and all the crazy busy-ness of life. And I want that same thing for you. A great way to begin this practice of silence and solitude is to simply begin the Bible plan that is going along with this message. It's simply called, who is God? You can download the YouVersion Bible App, search it in there, Who is God's Switch Youth, it'll pop up. If you're watching this online, you can look at the link in the description to get started on that Bible plan as a really simple way to begin this practice of creating space to experience the presence of God. And even better than doing it alone, would be doing it with your Switch Group, because we really do believe that life is so much better together.

And that when we are wrestling with God and studying the scriptures with other people around us, we aren't just getting our own glimpses of who God is, but we are hearing from other people about how God is moving in their lives. And all of that together just creates this really powerful environment for us to continually be transformed and become more like Jesus for the sake of others. It's been said that hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life. And so if we want to be in a right relationship with God, to know him and to be known by him, one of the most powerful things we can do is simply slow down and create space to experience his presence. Because the God of heaven and earth he created you and he wants a relationship with you.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the fact that we get to be a part of your family. That God you created us on purpose and for a purpose. And I pray right now for every single student that's listening to this message that they would open themselves up to whatever it is that you want to say to them. That maybe for them, they're in a phase of their life, in their faith, where they maybe feel far from you, but they want to draw closer to you.

And if that is you and you're at one of our life church campuses, would you just raise your hand and let us know so that we can pray for you? If you're online, type in the chat and just say, "Yeah, I wanna be closer to God".

As those students are making the decision, God I pray for them and I pray for us, all of us leaders, pastors, students, that every single one of us would intentionally create space to experience your presence. To know you deeply. To know you personally. To know you intimately so that we can understand who you are and what it is that you've asked us to do. We could be a part of your incredible plans for this beautiful world that you've created. And God, as we are going on this journey, I pray that you constantly remind us that you are near, even when you might feel far.

Now, maybe there's others of you that as you're hearing this message and this whole idea of having a relationship with God, the creator of everything, just seems a little bit hard to believe for you because maybe you're new to this whole faith thing. Maybe you grew up going to church and you believed it as a kid, but you're just not sure if you believe it anymore. What I wanna ask you to do is simply be open. Be open to the possibility that there's more to faith than maybe you've realized before. Open to the possibility that may be just maybe, there is a God who exists outside of space and time, but he wants a relationship with you.

This is what the story of the Bible is all about. This God, the creator of heaven and earth, who so long to be reunited with his creation, that he became a human being named Jesus. He entered history. He walked on earth as a man 2000 years ago, living a perfect life and dying a brutal death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, the things that we had done wrong that separated us from God. Because with Jesus's death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave, sin, death and the devil were all defeated so the pathway back to God could be open so that anybody who puts their trust in him and says, "God, I want a relationship with you. I'm turning from my sins. I'm turning from my old life. And I am coming back home to you", that they would be made new.

Maybe that's exactly why you're here today, to begin a relationship with Jesus, to turn from your sins and to turn towards him, to put your faith in Jesus, the Son of God who died for you and for me. And if that's you and you're saying, "Yeah, that's exactly what I want, a relationship with Jesus, forgiveness of sins". Simply lift your hand right now, all over the place. If that's you, you're saying Jesus, I want to know you and be known by you. Type it in the chat, leave a comment down below saying, "Jesus, today, I give you my life". And as people are making that decision all over the place, we're gonna pray together as a Switch family. Because even though you have to make the decision alone, you don't have to pray alone. So we're gonna pray with you altogether out loud. Repeat after me:

Dear Jesus, forgive me of my sins. I'm turning from my old life. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. Today, I give you my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

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