11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13 When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. GOD’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you. MSG Jeremiah 29:11-14
All over scripture, we see God reaching out to us saying, I love you, I want to care for you. Look for me. Seek after me. Focus on me. Put me in first place of your life. Trust me.
God said this through Isaiah,
29 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. 30 Even the youths shall be exhausted, and the young men will all give up. 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. TLB Isaiah 40:29-31
Again, God is saying, I love you, I want to take care of you. When you slow down and spend time with me, I will give you power and strength to walk in this world.
When Jesus was with the disciples, He taught:
33 Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV Matthew 6:33-34
Again, God is saying through Jesus, I love you, I want to take care of you. Put God and His kingdom in first place and God will then take care of the rest.
So, why don’t people go after God? Why are we comfortable jumping into our days to accomplish all we have to do, and not really take the time to think about God? Why do we allow the things of tomorrow to give us anxiety and stress today? Why do we look at God’s kingdom in the local church and think, ‘If I had more time or money, then I would take church more seriously’? With all the promises, why do we not go after God?
Today, I want to answer that question. The big point that I want to make at the end of today is, your heavenly Father, God, is deeply in love with you. Please hear me tell you that God is passionately in love with you. He is recklessly in love with you. And because we don’t go after to God and experience that love, it may steal our spiritual strength. It can be our kryptonite. The thing that makes us spiritually weak.
As I read this, think about how much 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.
7 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! 8 He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9 letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10 a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. 11 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. MSG Ephesians 1:4-11
My question to you today is, what stops you from going after God?
One reason people don’t go after God is because of modern day idols. What does that mean? We live life and experience a struggle. We can begin to believe God isn’t going to come through for us, so, we have to take matters into our own hands. We believe, because God is disappointing us, the things of this world will give us what we want. The last couple of weeks we talked about three modern day idols, three ways we take matters into our own hands. So, anything from this world that we think will give us spiritual strength, that is an idol.
Idol 1: Our affections. [Examples: pleasure, money, achievement, work, education, bigger house, social media, newer car, alcohol, fame, validation from others, status, position, controlling others, companionship, power, authority, lust.] Anything to make us feel, temporarily, good.
Idol 2: Our stubbornness. God says it and we fight it. We take control and don’t allow God to heal or love our hearts. We become indifferent about God because we do things just the way we want as we still go to church, sing the songs, read the words, we do not change.
Idol 3: Our entitlement. I expect others to give me whatever I want while I do whatever I want to do. This selfish way of living does enormous harm to us, our relationship with others and with God.
15 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. 16 Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. 17 The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG 1 John 2:15-17
Remember, when it comes to idols, we said that only God can put God in you. Nothing of this world can do for you what God can do for you. Specifically, that means, only God can give you grace. Only God can give you the righteousness of Jesus. Only God can give you the Holy Spirit. If you turn to the things of this world to fill you up spiritually, at first, they will feel so right but they will always leave you feeling very disappointed. The things of this world are like spiritual Twinkies, they will always leave us feeling spiritually empty.
The second reason people don’t go after God is because of religion.
People caught in religion always live in guilt and shame that says, ‘I’m not good enough.’ Truth is, God doesn’t love you because you are good enough, no, God loves you because God is love. Religion tells you, you have to perform, accomplish, do something to be good enough to earn God’s attention. It’s like a math formula, 1 + 2 = 3. If you do these things right, then God will like you and accept you. As we try to do all the right things to fit the formula, we end up exhausted because we have no ability to be good enough to meet God’s holy standards. Please slow down and read this so it hits your heart deeply. God doesn’t love you because you are good enough, God loves you because He is love. Does that bring your heart rest and peace and joy?
23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. MSG Romans 3:23-24
And, if we are caught in religion, when something bad happens in our lives, the person caught trying to earn God’s acceptance believes, I did something wrong. I messed up the formula. I failed so God is punishing me. I’m a bad person. It’s a very defeating way to live. I am never good enough when I go to church. I am never good enough when I do something right, because I could have always done more. And when something bad happens, it’s because of me. Where is the focus? Me. Where should our focus be? God.
Over time, people raised in religion either live in guilt and shame as the attend church or they just leave church all together. They think, there must be something better. And they are right.
Religion is evil because it takes the focus off of what God did and on puts the focus on what we do.
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
Please hear me. If you grew up in religion, and you currently live in guilt, shame or that feeling like you will never be good enough, chances are, you are focused on you and you don’t fully understand grace. Your focus, every day, should be on who God is and what God does.
The third reason people don’t go after God is because of their dad or step dad. One the realities of life is that how you view your earthly father, many times, is how you view your heavenly father.
If your earthly father was angry, mean and you felt like you could never get his approval, chances are that is how you view God. To you God is someone who will never approve of you. It might explain why you don’t go after God.
If your earthly father was unemotional, distant, disconnected, not really into your school activities, dating or anything, chances are, you view your heavenly father as a God who doesn’t care about you. It might explain why you don’t go after God.
If your earthly father was missing or absent because of work or divorce, chances are, you view your heavenly father as a God who is absent and doesn’t really care about you. It might explain why you don’t go after God because to you, God might not be available to you.
If your earthly father was hard on you and demanded obedience, didn’t care much for your ideas or desires, chances are, you view your heavenly father as mean. It might explain why you want to rebel against God.
If your earthly father inflicted emotional or physical pain and destroyed your trust, chances are, you might view God as untrustworthy. It might explain why you have a difficult time giving your life to God and trusting Him.
What does all this mean? It means regardless of who your dad was, or step dad was, God is a God of love. God is good and God is deeply in love with you.
Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. MSG Ephesians 1:11-12
What stops you from going after God?
Are you caught up serving a modern-day idol? Maybe you think something of this world might give you what you are looking for. That stuff like a spiritual Twinkie.
Is it religion? Do you walk with guilt, shame and that feeling you will never be enough? Maybe you don’t fully understand grace and you need to be more focused on who God is and what God is doing.
Maybe your view of God isn’t accurate. Maybe you need to know that God is good. God is deeply in love with you. God wants nothing more than a meaningful relationship with you. On the back of your handouts today, we put these statements. We hope you walk through them. You can use them as a prayer. Please look up the scriptures and allow God’s truth to impact you.
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is distant and disinterested. The truth is, He is intimate and involved. Psalms 139:1-18
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is insensitive and uncaring. The truth is, He is kind and compassionate. Psalms 103:8-14
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is stern and demanding. The truth is, He is accepting and filled with joy and love. Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 15:7
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is passive and cold. The truth is, He is warm and affectionate. Isaiah 40:11; Hosea 11:3-4
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is absent or too busy for me. The truth is, He is always with me and eager to be with me. Jeremiah 31:20; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Hebrews 13:5
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is impatient, angry and rejecting. The truth is, He is patient and slow to anger. Exodus 34:6; 2 Peter 3:9
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is mean, cruel or abusive. The truth is, He is loving, gentle and protective. Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 42:3; Psalm 18:2
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is trying to take all the fun out of my life. The truth is, He is trustworthy and wants to give me a full life. His will is good, perfect and acceptable for me. Lamentations 3:22-23; John 10:10; Romans 12:1-2
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is controlling or manipulative. The truth is, He is full of grace and mercy, and He gives me freedom to fail. Luke 15:11-16; He brews 4:15-16
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is condemning for unforgiving. The truth is, He is tenderhearted and forgiving. His heart and arms are always open to me. Psalm 130:1-4; Luke 15:17-24
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He is a nit-picking, demanding perfectionist. The truth is, He is committed to my growth and proud of me as His beloved child. Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 12:5-11; 2 Corinthians 7:4
I renounce the lie about my Father in heaven that says He gets back at me for previous sins. The truth is, He removes our sin from us as far as the East is from the West. Psalm 103:12
What stops you from going after God? What stops you from getting serious about wanting God more than anything else? Not going after God, maybe, is your kryptonite. The thing that steals your spiritual strength. Go after God. He loves you and wants to care for you.