In all this talk about Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us,’ what have you concluded? Do you believe, ‘God is with me?’ Do you believe, ‘God lives inside of me?’ Do you believe, ‘God might be in other people, but God isn’t in me?’
Is it your experience in life that you try to surrender to God, but you fail so you conclude, God isn’t with me anymore? I don’t want to drink to find peace, but here I am again, drinking too much. I don’t want to be that person looking at pornography, but here I am again. I don’t want to be that controlling person, but here I am again. I try but I fail. I seem to loop in my sin.
Is it your experience in life that you wrestle with negative emotions, anxiety, fear, doubt and worry so you conclude, God isn’t with me anymore? Maybe you wake up at night but can’t go back to sleep because your mind loops in fear and worry of tomorrow. You think, if God was with me, if God was in me, that wouldn’t happen.
As I meet people and listen to them, as I reflect on my life, I believe people want to believe God is in them but because life is brutal, they have concluded, God isn’t in me. We want desperately to believe God is with us and in us. But we fail. We sin. We feel negative emotions. Our minds are filled with fear, doubt and worry. And when we are around other people, our parents, our kids, our spouses, our bosses, we are sent a message, “You aren’t enough. In fact, you’re kinda disappointing.”
Because life is brutal, people don’t live life with God courage. We struggle to believe God is with me and in me. We think, if God lived in me, my life would be better. Since we struggle to believe God isn’t in us, we don’t step into our spiritual authority. We don’t pray like God is in us. We don’t serve like God is with us. We don’t parent like God is in us. We don’t work like God is in us. We basically check out. We exist. We pay bills. We wait for someone to inspire us.
So, my big thought for you today is simply this; what if you are wrong? What if all the conclusions you have made about yourself spiritually, are wrong. What if Jesus was right and God does live in you? How would you live everyday if you believed God was in you?
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. 10 In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too. 12 For though we have never yet seen God, when we love each other God lives in us, and his love within us grows ever stronger.
13 And he has put his own Holy Spirit into our hearts as a proof to us that we are living with him and he with us. 14 And furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now tell all the world that God sent his Son to be their Savior. 15 Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is the Son of God has God living in him, and he is living with God. TLB 1 John 4:9-15
If you believe and say, “Jesus is the Son of God,” you have God living in you. What if every conclusion you have come to about your spiritual life is wrong? You thought God doesn’t love you? No, God does love you. You thought God doesn’t live in you? No, God does live in you when you say, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’ You thought you have badly sinned that God could never love you? You’re wrong, no matter how badly you have blown it, God still loves you. You thought, ‘This is just the way I am.’ No, God is in you, you can walk through the day with God courage.
I do not apologize when I say, and it brings me great joy to tell you, maybe you’re wrong. If you believe and say, “Jesus is the Son of God,” you have God living in you. You should live everyday with God courage.
Let’s agree, life is brutal. Instead of concluding, ‘God isn’t with me or in me,’ let’s conclude, based on scripture, ‘God is with me and God is in me.’ God lives in us as we walk through a life that can be messy.
Couple things you need to know. Things I want you to think about. Things that I don’t think you could ever hear enough. Things that even the most mature Christian can forget. And, I would add, when Christians feel messed up in life, it’s because they forgot these things.
First, God brings everything to you, you don’t have to earn it. And when you try to earn it, you ruin it.
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. MSG Romans 12:3
Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? NLT Galatians 3:3-4
God lives in you. God brings His grace to you. You have nothing to give to God. You can’t do enough good things to be perfect for God. That means, you can finally stop struggling to get God in you. Paul would say, if you believe you must be perfect for God through your human effort, you have lost your senses.
Do you know what happens to someone who thinks, ‘It’s up to my human effort to get God do something’? They are serious stressed. They always beat themselves up because they think they could have done more. They struggle to relax in God’s grace. They think they need to pray more, serve more, sacrifice more, etc. If something bad happens, they think, ‘It’s because of me and my failure to be a better person, if I was a better person, then God would have…’ No. it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.
Listen. God lives in you. Relax. You don’t have to be ‘gooder’ to get God in you.
Secondly, God fills you with His righteousness.
For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! TLB 2 Corinthians 5:21
We call this the unfair exchange. When we say that Jesus is the Son of God and ask Him to come into our lives, God pours our sins into Jesus and at the same time, God pours the righteousness of Jesus into us. When God sees you, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. To God, you are pure.
That means, every day, you live in freedom. You are no longer identified with sin. Every time you mess up and you ask God to forgive you again, He does, again.
Do you know what happens to a person who doesn’t believe this? They are tormented. They see their life and see their life resume of sin and failure. They believe, that is who I am. They believe, because I am a sinner, God wants nothing to do with me so I need to avoid God. No! Never! God forbid!
God is the very person you run to. He gives you a new identity. Sin no longer has a hold on you.
Listen. God lives in you. Relax. You can be free from being tormented with feelings like, I’ll never be good enough.
Third, you never have to be afraid or question God’s love for you.
13 And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God. NLT Ephesians 1:13-14
God gave you a guarantee that he loves now and forever. It’s the Holy Spirit in us. You are his and he is yours. If you have doubt about where you stand with God, this should forever end that doubt.
Listen. God loves you. Have courage.
Lastly, the great God Reality is this; Life is about God and what He is doing. Life is not about you and what you are doing. And until you figure this out, life won’t make sense – in fact – life will be very frustrating for you. You might find yourself striving and struggling to be a success.
Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels – got started in him and finds its purpose in him. MSG Colossians 1:26
Using a baseball analogy, it looks like this: first base is when we learn about character. We learn that we are dependent on God. Second base is when we learn about how to get along with others. That’s called community, we learn that maturity isn’t about success or what you build or what you buy, it’s how much you love others. Third base is about performance, what we accomplish.
Standing at home plate, where do most people run? Third base. Why? Because performance, success, what we build and buy, is more important to us. It is what people see and it is what is rewarded. Honestly, running to first base called character, doesn’t seem like it gets you ahead – does it?
What happens when Christians run to third base? Because we don’t run to first base, we aren’t God reliant. We want success, performance and influence so badly, we short cut God’s plan for us. We don’t work on character, the inside stuff. So later in life, when life crunches us, we implode.
When Christians run to third base and ignore second base, we don’t develop relationships, we don’t learn that life is about serving and loving others, helping them get ahead. Because we don’t love people, we view people as a tool to get what we want. I don’t see you as a person to love, I see you as someone who needs to get me something. If you give me what I want, I like you. If you don’t give me what I want, I grow tired of you, resent you and leave you.
Please hear me, life is about God and what He is doing. If we are going to join Him in what His is doing, we wake up every day and run to first base; character, dependence on God. Many Christians don’t do this. They run to performance, success, what we build, what we buy. That’s a life that is self-dependent, not God dependent. They strive and struggle looking to be somebody important.
Imagine how you will live next year if you believed, every day, God is in me?
God brings everything to you, you can relax in that. You don’t have to be stressed.
God pulls your sin out of you and gives you His righteousness. You don’t have to be tormented.
You have a new identity. And never have to doubt or be afraid of relationship with God. You can be at peace.
You don’t have to run to success and performance, you are free from striving and struggling.