In the next seven weeks, we are going to give you seven practical handles on how to fully engage God. I cannot state to you enough the importance of what we are about to walk through. If you engage into the next several weeks, I promise you, you will be transformed.
And I want to restate that following Christ is a radical change in our lives. It’s not adding a few religious behaviors and subtracting a few sins. It’s a radical change. Here are the seven subjects we will be talking about and we want to invite you to engage into.
- You must be aware of your emotions.
- You must deal with previous hurt and family issues.
- You must know, you will hit a wall someday, a time when nothing makes sense.
- You must understand the limits in your life.
- Understanding how God works, we call it the rhythms of God.
- How I grow up into an emotional adult.
- The rule you must live by.
As I think back to the first time I was told that God love me, I had a hard time believing that. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that God loved me in my mind but I never really experienced it in my heart. It was almost like God was a stranger to me. I knew facts and stories about God, I could tell you information about God but I didn’t really have a relationship with Him. I grew up in church, I went to church, I served at church, I gave 10% to the church and I followed most of the rules of church, I just didn’t have a personal relationship with God.
At that time, if you would have met me, I was very success driven. I would have told you that I was happy and fulfilled and told you all the good things that were happening in my life. However, on the inside I was a torn up. I was caught in the corporate world of competition and success but I was filled with insecurities and I was so afraid of failing.
When my pastor told me that God loved me, it was hard to believe. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around: how could God like me, I didn’t even like me. When the pastor would tell me about slowing down to be with God, I thought that was so dumb. I was simply way too important and too busy to do that. Slowing down to be with God was so unnecessary. And if anyone talked to me about feelings, I thought it was pathetic. I felt like the goal was to have me hand in my man card, watch Hallmark romantic moves and make me cry. Truth was, I didn’t even know what I was feeling, I didn’t have time for it.
It took me years to slow down and begin to ask myself questions like, why am I so angry? Why am I so insecure? Why do I feel so out of control?
Today I going to continue what Sam started last week. Sam started with the words of Jesus.
I am the true vine… remain in me, and I will remain in you… If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. NIV John 15:1
Sam said that Jesus told us to stay connected with Him and that our culture is doing everything it can to separate us from Him. So today, I’m going to tell you two things. Both things I am about to share with you took me years to figure out.
First, God Loves you.
4 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) 6 He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. MSG Ephesians 1:3-6
He knew your name before you were born and He couldn’t wait to love you. He doesn’t just want you to know information about Him, He wants a personal relationship with you.
I told you that this took my years to understand. Why? How could God like me when I didn’t even like myself. I took me a long time to be able to accept myself, the good, the bad and the ugly. It took me a long time to believe that God wanted all of me, the good, the bad and the ugly.
The second thing I want to tell you today is this, the first step in building a relationship with Christ, is to be honest about your emotions. Your emotions, your heart condition, what God is saying to you is all wrapped together. So please hear me tell you, your emotions are real. They tell you what is going on in your heart. God is speaking to you through your emotions. To ignore your emotions or stuff them, is to ignore reality. It’s to ignore your spiritual heart condition. It’s to ignore what God might be saying to you.
Let me ask you, do you own a car? Have you ever had the engine light go on? I hate when that happens. What did you do? Did you put tape over the light to ignore it and hope it would go away? Your engine light is telling you that you need to pay attention to your engine. If you ignore it, you are ignoring reality and bigger problems are coming – right?! Your emotions are the exact same. They are God’s way of telling you that you need to check your heart.
Quick point about emotions. They are important because they tell us what is happening. However, they don’t have to control or define us. That means, if you have a quick emotion of rejection or loneliness, that doesn’t have to define us, God’s love is greater than any negative emotion.
The first step in building a relationship with Christ, is to be honest about your emotions. To ignore or stuff our emotions is to ignore reality. It will literally stunt our spiritual growth. Our Christianity will be about do’s and don’ts. We will want discipleship to gain knowledge. It won’t be about experiencing Christ as our Lord and Savior. Discipleship is great but it’s supposed to lead to action.
Three things can happen when we ignore or stuff our emotions, when we ignore our check engine light. We will talk about them briefly but here they are.
We believe our value is what we achieve.
We believe our value is in what we own.
We believe our value is based on what people think of us.
If we ignore the check engine light of our hearts, we can believe, “I am what I achieve.” I will have an unexplainable driveness to succeed. I must succeed and others must notice me. I must know the right people with the right titles and I must be validated by them. I must bang out my to do list. I don’t have time for my husband, wife or kids, I have so much to do.
My struggle is, my emotions are telling me that I am insecure and I fear failure. But I ignore it, press on, to accomplish and achieve. The longer you ignore it, the more painful it will be for you down the road.
Some people begin to believe, “I am what I own.” I must have the right house, ton-O-money, the right toys, the right body, the right clothes, the right vacations. And my kids must have the right house, toys, clothes and vacations. Can you imagine if they wore something from like… Sears! Ugh. I must have the position, the titles. I have to tell you about my busy schedule and how much I make. I must have the right education and all the awards.
My struggle is, my emotions are telling me that I worth nothing unless I have more. I don’t know why but I compare my life with others. Your check engine light is blinking. The longer you ignore it, the more painful it will be for you down the road.
Some people live in a prison called people pleasing. The driver of their day is, “What do others think of me?” It’s a self-made prison because you are a slave to the opinion of others. Where it is good to get along with everyone, it’s naïve to think everyone will like you.
A people pleaser can be desperate for compliments and devastated with criticism. Following God is great, until someone they are trying to get approval from rejects them for following God.
If your emotions are all over the place based on the opinion of others, your check engine light is blinking. The longer you ignore it, the more painful it will be for you down the road.
Please hear me, God is madly in love with you and wants a relationship with you. I’m not talking knowing a few facts about God, I’m talking about a relationship, a weekly experience with God. Something real.
The first step in building that relationship with Christ, is to be honest about your emotions. Your emotions are real. To ignore them is to ignore reality. Ignore your spiritual heart condition. Ignore what God might be saying to you.
In the book it has a great quote.
“The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are. We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least some else’s expectation for us. This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others.” Page 66
What is your Christian experience?
Do you feel close to Christ?
Do you feel like Christ is a stranger, you know information about Him but you don’t experience Him?
Do you struggle to believe that God likes you because if you were honest, you don’t even like you?
Do you believe, ‘my value comes from what I achieve.’ Or, ‘my value comes from what I own.’ Or, do you live in a prison of people pleasing?
My invitation you to you is this.
Please know how much God loves you. Our first step in loving God back is to slow down and be honest with your emotions.
This might be a radical life change for you, to slow down and meet God while you are being honest about your emotions.