Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
DO WE TRULY UNDERSTAND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
15 JULY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 51:10)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Last week we talked about the spiritual warfare that goes on within each and every one of us, and we looked at how the intent of the heart determines not only the outcome of that war, but whether or not we will have peace.
And in our approaching that state of peace, we must also be at a point in our lives when we desire to improve our relationship with God, for without God there can be no true and lasting peace.
We also strongly believe that an integral part of achieving this is to learn to honor and protect the whole of creation.
So now we must ask ourselves: Do We Truly Understand Our Relationship With God?
I pray that if some of us are having a problem understanding our own relationship with God, then this morning's sermon will help improve both our understanding and our relationship.
As most of you are probably aware, I do a considerable amount of ministry in the two local State correctional facilities, and I work with men who have committed all kinds of crimes, including murder.
So, this morning I would like to begin our look at our own relationship with God through the life of a Biblical personality who was also a murderer.
Let's turn in our Bibles to Exodus 2:11-22, and begin with 11-15.
11. Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13. And he went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, "Why are you striking your companion?"
14. But he said, "Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and said, "Surely the matter has become known."
15. When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
Moses grew up in the household of Pharaoh, and though he was a Hebrew, he did not receive Godly teachings, but pagan teachings; and it is obvious that life was not very important to the Egyptians, for Moses very easily took a life.
But Moses also knew that it was wrong to kill. Otherwise he would not have looked around to see if anyone could see what he was about to do.
Whether or not we know the Law of God, the Holy Spirit will prompt us to understand what God desires.
And we knowingly and willingly defy God by not listening to these promptings.
Every man I have ministered to in prison knew that what he did was wrong before he did it; and he also knew it was against God's will, just as each and every one of us knows.
The end does not justify the means; for if this were not so, Moses would not have been afraid, as he was.
Moses feared for his own life, and so did the Egyptian he killed, as well as the Hebrew who was fighting with his companion.
All life is precious in the sight of God, and He has given every one of us the ability to truly understand that.
It is not that we don't understand; it is that we don't want to understand.
And the same applies to the horrible suffering inflicted upon billions of animals every year, so that humans can wear, eat, and consume their tortured remains and secretions, all of which is totally unnecessary.
Moses knew what God desired of him, just as each and every one of us does – if we care to accept it.
And even more important for us to remember is that God knows and wants us to return to Him and improve our relationship with Him, so that we would not repeat what we did.
Note how David expresses this in Psalm 69:5-15, but first note verse 5:
5. O God, it is Thou who dost know my folly,
And my wrongs are not hidden from Thee.
David recognized his sins, as did Moses; but even more importantly, he recognized that God also knew.
In these words is the beginning of repentance, for he called his deeds “folly” and “wrongs.”
Listen carefully to his feelings as we continue with verse 6:
6. May those who wait for Thee not be ashamed through me, O Lord God of hosts;
May those who seek Thee not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel,
When we, who say we are Christians, do something wrong, we often find that what we have done affects others as well; for they say to themselves that if we do such things, so can they. Thus they dishonor God and themselves.
We should think about such things before we act.
And we also receive the same dishonor, as the psalmist says as we continue with verses 7-15:
7. Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach;
Dishonor has covered my face.
8. I have become estranged from my brothers,
And an alien to my mother's sons.
9. For zeal for Thy house has consumed me,
And the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me.
10. When I wept in my soul with fasting,
It became my reproach.
11. When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12. Those who sit in the gate talk about me,
And I am the song of the drunkards.
13. But as for me, my prayer is to Thee, O Lord, at an acceptable time;
O God, in the greatness of Thy lovingkindness,
Answer me with Thy saving truth.
14. Deliver me from the mire, and do not let me sink;
May I be delivered from my foes, and from the deep waters.
15. May the flood of water not overflow me,
And may the deep not swallow me up,
And may the pit not shut its mouth on me.
From these verses from Psalm 69, we can plainly see that David does truly understand his relationship with God, and he is seeking to improve it.
Moses, on the other hand, has not yet reached that time in his life when he will come to fully understand.
Last week we looked into the thoughts of Paul, and of the warring going on within him between the will of God and the sin in his flesh.
We also can see this warring in the thoughts of Moses and David; but Moses lost the battle, while David was on the path of recovery and victory.
Paul continues from where we left off last week, and explains more about our living in the freedom of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to his message as we read Romans 8:1-11, beginning with the first two verses:
1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
You may have heard people say, "The devil made me do it."
But these verses tell us that just isn't true.
That which is of the devil brings condemnation; but for those who have established their relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord, there is no condemnation.
And this change should be clearly seen in their lives, for they become loving peacemakers.
We have truly been set free, and we no longer have to follow what the devil tells us, or even what our own fleshly desires tell us.
So therefore we know that Moses, when he killed the Egyptian, as well as we, when we act in the flesh, have not truly established our relationship with God, or we have stepped away from it.
Listen as Paul continues with verses 3-8:
3. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
4. in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
5. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
7. because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so;
8. And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Most of us today consider ourselves Christians; and Moses and the two men who were fighting with each other considered themselves Hebrews, all of which refer to followers of God.
But here Paul takes the Word of God as a sharp two-edged sword and slices through the names Christian and Hebrew to reveal who is or is not a follower of God.
What God is saying through Paul can be very unsettling to a pew-sitter who has never truly established their relationship with God.
If our minds are set upon the things of the flesh, we will die without God, whether or not we go to church.
Let's continue with what Paul is telling us, beginning with verse 9:
9. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
10. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
So therefore we must ask ourselves, "Do I truly understand what my relationship with God should be like, and have I established it with Him?"
If our relationship is wrong, we can't run away from God, as Moses ran away from Egypt.
Sooner or later we will come face to face with God, as Moses also does.
If it is before our fleshly death, then we will have everlasting life with the Lord.
But if it is after our physical death, then we have only condemnation.
So what happened to Moses?
Let's return to Exodus 2:16, and see.
16. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.
17. Now the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
Moses is still helping the "underdog," but this time without the violence.
God has led him to seek refuge with a priest who knows God, a descendant of Abraham by his wife Keturah; a man who was also set apart, for his people did not follow God.
Let's continue and see what happens next.
18. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, "Why have you come back so soon today?"
19. So they said, "An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds; and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock."
20. And he said to his daughters, "Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat."
21. And Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.
22. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land."
Part of truly establishing our relationship with God, is to be in the fellowship of other believers.
If alone, they can be more easily oppressed, as were the priest and his daughters. Moses was likewise lonely and probably depressed, but together they strengthened each other.
As we know, Moses turned wholeheartedly back to God, and God used him mightily.
And what is happening with the Hebrews in Egypt? Let see, as we continue with verse 23:
23. Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.
24. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
25. And God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.
Part of God's relationship with us is to attract our attention so that we will come back and listen to Him. Sometimes He allows things to go wrong in our lives, so that we will cry out to Him and return to Him in a stronger and enduring way.
A perfect example of this is found in the lives of the people who eat animal products, for most of their chronic diseases and bacterial and viral infections come from the animals they eat.
God doesn't like doing this, any more than a normal parent likes punishing their children, but sometimes we need it.
We may desire to do good things and help those who are oppressed, just as Moses did; but unless we do it in the will of God, it really won't be effective.
The first thing each and every one of us must do is seek God – truly seek Him.
I'm not talking about making the mouth movements and noises we make here each Sunday, but to truly seek to be as Jesus Christ in everything we think and do and say, every moment of every day, throughout our entire life.
Then, and only then, will we truly establish a proper relationship with God and receive His bountiful blessings.
Your Comments are welcome
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