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Knowing God Part 1 – Finding God, Knowing Him, and Doing His Works
This message was preached in Nyagatare, north eastern Rwanda on May 3rd, 2005.
Thank you for your very warm welcome. In the evening of last night Bishop Bernard Munanira and his wife and others were sitting around the table talking about what we might do today? The bishop recommended that I do some teaching on how to walk with Jesus Christ; how to walk in the kingdom of heaven; how to walk ready for the Lord to come back to the world.
I think one of the best things to remember is that if we can live in heaven here on earth, then we will live our best both now and forever. Sometimes when we are very lonely and we are quite depressed in ourselves, we bow our heads. Sometimes when the pain is too much on us, we hide ourselves away completely and we just roll up into a little ball and we don’t want anybody to find us.
But Jesus wants us to be a whole person and Jesus wants to make us grow. Amen? And Jesus puts his Spirit into us. Amen? And when he puts his Spirit into us and we start to come to church and we listen to the pastor’s instruction and some of the instruction is a little bit hard on us, but the pastor says, “There is one inside of you who is greater than the world and he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)!” And you believe him; and make a little streeeetch to that idea.
You can stretch a little bit. Not a lot. But you can grow just a little bit. For example, you keep coming to church, and you adjust yourself with a little discipline, and after a while you think to yourself, “Yes, I have grown a little bit, just like the pastor said, but that’s enough for me. I don’t need to stretch any more than this that I have already done.”
We think, “I am a Christian now, and I can look at all of those people who are not stretched and they are different from me. I am so wonderful and so good, I have stretched a little bit.”
But then the Lord says to you, “You must achieve even more. You must become a new person. You must not merely be the old person who has stretched in his or her attitude a little bit. The old person must actually pass away and a whole new person must be born.”
But you think, “Yes, but I have already stretched enough!”
He says, “No, no, no. I am going to stretch you even more.”
And God brings you into situations that challenge you and you start to stretch, like all your world is being stretched and strained just to accommodate the new things and the new ways of thinking.
You think to yourself, “Oh, don’t do that to me God. Don’t stretch me, Lord! It’s better like I was before. Before you ever came into my life. I was happy how I was…well, more or less happy. You know God, sin is not so bad. It’s better than this stretching you’re doing to me!
But the Lord says, “No, no. Listen to your heart. Come and stretch out here with Me, where I am.”
After a little you yield and you do stretch a little bit. You start to trust God. Then after a little while you think to yourself, “This is actually quite good! Life is actually better out here than before. Even though the stretch was pretty strange and painful even, it was all worth it.”
Then one day the pastor comes to you and says, “You need to be filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and talking in tongues.” One day in a service, the Holy Spirit was really powerful and he did that and all of a sudden…. arghh!…a big stretch! And you even stretch in your head just trying to get all your ideas together about this amazing new experience in God…arghh!
But when it’s all over you think to yourself, “Ah, now I have found Jesus Christ! Now I am really a Christian. Now I can relax and just live my life in peace and quiet.” But then one day your pastor comes along and says, “I need people to come with me into Tanzania to do mission.”
You put your hand up, “Hey! Take me! Take me!” So you go on the mission team and the mission stretches you even more! You come back and tell everybody, “This is how it was in Tanzania! We walked everywhere! And we did things in the Holy Spirit that stretched us everywhere! Yeah! It was so way cool. And people got saved, and healed, and the pastor did this amazing deliverance on one guy out in the bush. Oh, God is awesome guys! Really!”
But then later on, the Lord comes and whispers in your heart saying, “Now, I am calling you to become like a pastor.” And you think to yourself, “Ah, no, not me! No, I am nobody!”
But the Lord says, “I can do this in you. You can’t do this in your own strength, but I can do it in you if you will stretch even more.”
You count the cost in yourself, weighing up all your skills and experience and knowledge and trying hard to overlook all your shortcomings and you say, “But Lord, this is as much stretch as I have got!”
And the Lord says, “Oh, no, no, no. I am the one who is stretching now. If you will just stay with Me, I will stretch and you will stretch with me.”
You say, “Okay God. I accept, Lord. I am now going to be a shepherd. OK, so change me so that I can look after my sheep. Bring these sheep to me, Lord. Bring it on.”
Then you are praying and you are praying and the Lord is stretching you into a place where you never thought you had so much stretch. You are really becoming a person of God now … a responsible person in the kingdom of heaven here on earth. You have your own mission to do, and you’re beginning to do it.
You’re coming through the town and you’re seeing the people who have no stretch and the glory of God comes onto you and you can now say, “Listen hear people, the Lord Jesus Christ can make you greater than you are. He can help you to solve your problems and not make the same mistakes in the future. He can bring God’s glory into your life, and you can become a whole new person in him if you’re willing.”
Now you start to work with the bishop and you start to work in all of the churches, preaching and healing and then you get great breakthroughs and the Lord stretches you even more…even more…and even more…and just when you thought you had no stretch left in you, even more!
Then God takes you and he makes you into a heavenly citizen. You’ve been doing a pastor’s works in the world but just as a saved human being of the earth. Now he stretches you every which way. Amen?
Amen! Glory to God! And this is who we all are, stretched people of God, and heavenly citizens now. Jesus can stretch us to anywhere we want to be! He can take us anywhere. Amen? This is who we are becoming.
Now we are going to talk about finding God. Now that you know that you can be stretched to a place where you can find God. In the beginning seek God. We don’t know him, and we want to find him. Then we believe about God, we believe in God. But then we decide to make Jesus the Lord of our life and we come to a place where we actually find God; and God also finds us. We know God, and we know that he knows us personally. Finding God is a most wonderful thing that can happen to us. But then what follows after that is that we start to reveal God to other people, just as Jesus revealed the Father to us when he was on the earth among us. Revealing God is the most excellent thing to do. Of all the jobs we could choose from in the world, revealing God to people is the highest job there is.
You show people by God’s power that they can be more than what they think they are. God can turn us all into more and we can do more than what we already believe.
THE MAN WHO OVERCAME THE WORLD
When I first wanted to find God myself, God led me to one man. This man was a very unusual man. He said that he had found God. Not just God in the Word and not just loving God, but in himself he had been changed so that God and he in his person were able to be like the same person.
He would sit all day and he would sit all night. He was completely soaked in the world and yet he was not of it at all. If he didn’t eat, it didn’t matter to him. If he didn’t drink, it didn’t matter to him. If the mouse came and started to eat his toes, it didn’t matter to him. He was completely lost in God and was completely disinterested in his body and the world.
I thought to myself, “This is a wonderful thing. How does a human being experience so much closeness of God? This is just different from reading about God. This is being made into a Godly person by God himself.”
Sometimes in our dreams when we are sleeping at night, God comes into our mind and we feel that we are filled with God, don’t we? Then we wake up in the morning and we are just a little ordinary person again, but we know God has touched our minds somewhere.
When we become Christians, we start to understand that God can completely move into our self, and so I started to do what this man did. He told me what he did in order to know God like this.
He said, “I asked myself one question. When I was a young boy of fourteen, one of my uncles died and I went to the funeral. Here was my uncle laid out for the funeral and I was just a young boy, just watching. I asked myself the question, ‘What is it that dies? Where is the person that dies?’
“I went home to my house where I was staying and I really wanted to know the answer to this question. So I laid down on the floor and I held my breath until I could find the answer: ‘What was the thing that was going to die?’
“I held my breath for only about half a minute and then something from within me sprang forward and it seemed to fill the whole universe, and it was also filled with the presence of God.
“From that time onwards I have just been sitting in peace with this which I am in God. From that time on I just sat in peace and God who was in me, and I who was in God, overcame all the world quite effortlessly.”
When he was about the age of forty-five he developed stomach cancer and he died. Someone came to him and said, “You have cancer. Doesn’t it hurt you?”
He said, “No. Pain is just a pressure.”
“Does it matter to you that you are going to die?” they asked.
He said, “No. When God is so much in you, there is no difference between being alive and being dead. Death is just a word…a reflection…it’s not real.”
So I want to end that story now by saying that there is a way of knowing God intimately because God can fill us up completely in our self. We can sit in God and God can sit in us.
We can merge the one into the other, and it can make a difference in how we relate to everything, even the world itself.
But God doesn’t call many men and women to live like that man, so I want to show you the more common way that God calls people to know God. Yet, even then, in the common way, many people spend time being rapt in God, even if only for a few moments while they are worshiping.
A MORE COMMON WAY TO KNOW GOD
If we open up the Bible and we look for perfect men who have known God, we see that we find Enoch in Genesis 5:24. He was perfect and he pleased God, and God took him from the world.
In the book of second Kings (2:11), we see Elijah-and Elijah was perfect; and God took him from the world.
Both of these men were perfect according to God’s idea of perfection-they pleased him because they perfectly did God’s will. But, as perfect as they were, both of these two men didn’t do as good a work as Jesus did when he was here.
Jesus came to save the world from its sin, but neither Enoch nor Elijah did that work. Amen?
We know that for Jesus to do the work of saving the world from sin, Jesus the man must have at least been as perfect as Enoch and Elijah. Amen? Otherwise either Enoch or Elijah could have saved the world from its sin. But they didn’t, and couldn’t. God didn’t give them that dominion and authority, even though they were spiritually perfect and walking in all of God’s perfect love that they could.
So now we ask ourselves, “Forgetting Enoch and Elijah for a moment, as spiritually perfect as they were, how did Jesus find God?”
Jesus was the Son of God but he was born a little baby. He didn’t go to school every day saying, “I am the Son of God!” He went to school saying, “I am Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, and I have brothers and sisters in this school also.” He didn’t really find out about being the Son of God until God fully revealed that to him at his baptism, when God said the words to him about how he also pleased him.
So we know that there is Jesus the human being. He is growing up into the perfection of God. Before he can become the “Son of God” who is saving the world from its sin, he must first become the “perfect man” because the ordinary man is not capable of doing the work of saving the world. He must at least become the same as, if not better than, Enoch and Elijah.
So we look at Jesus and we ask ourselves, “When did he become perfect? When he became perfect, he must have already completely found God. And if he has found God, how does he demonstrate that he has found God? Because he must be able to have found God first of all, if he is then going to do the work of God.”
If your pastor sends you to Tanzania to go on mission, you must at least have found your pastor and been in discussion with him. Amen?
So when we find Jesus, we look to him and say, “What is he doing with the heavenly Father? Because if we can do what he is doing with the heavenly Father, then we will be drawn into knowing God also-in just the same way as Jesus is knowing God.”
When God took Enoch, Enoch “pleased” God. The Bible uses the word “pleased” to mean “perfect in God’s eyes”. But Enoch is perfect and yet he is not given the job to save the world. As soon as he becomes perfect…whoosh! He is taken from the world.
At the same time that Elijah is taken from the world, we know that Elijah has reached perfection too. To be taken from the world in fiery chariots of God’s power is the same as saying they are spiritually perfect in God’s love.
Now, let’s come into the book of Matthew. Let’s have a read from Matthew 3:16 and 17. In English it says,
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
We see here that God is “pleased,” but this is a special pleasing. If Jesus was a man or woman like us, we would expect him then to be taken by God to heaven. But something different happens here.
Jesus comes up out of the water, and then while he is standing in the water the heavens open above him and the Spirit of God comes to him and this is the start of his new mission. For the first time in the world now, we see a perfect human being doing an extended mission of God.
We can also understand that when the Spirit of God comes on him, the Spirit of God gives His vision for that mission.
We are standing in a church and it has been built because somebody had the vision to build the church here. It comes into your imagination and God touches it and you believe God is going to help to make this happen.
So here is Jesus and he is receiving the vision from God to save the world, and with the vision comes the Holy Spirit’s power to do that. With that vision comes the full remembrance, “I am the Son of God.”
And now the human Jesus mind and the Son of God mind become the same mind. He is now Jesus on earth, but he extends right up into the heavens to the Father as well. Amen?
He knows God. He not only came from God, but as a human being he has grown up into the normal range of knowing God that we all can grow into. So, he is the perfect person to ask our question: “How do we find God?”
We look at Jesus and we find that he does only one or two things to tell us. Come with me into Romans chapter 1, verse 17. In English it says,
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So we have found here in Paul’s writings and experience that Jesus’ relationship with the Father, which is wholly righteous-right with the Father-is pure faith. Amen?
Now, if we come into Deuteronomy, in chapter 30 we see God making human beings choose. God puts a high value on us making a choice. In verse 19, God says,
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life.”
When Jesus ministers in the world he says the same thing, “Choose the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 13:44) In the beginning of his ministry he just says, “Choose me. Choose me. I came from heaven. I am the way to the Father. Choose me.”
After he sees that the Jews have a hard heart, he says, “If you can’t choose me, at least choose the Father because of my works.”
So we start to see here that the righteous, they live in faith but they must make decisions.
Now come with me into John 5 and let’s look at verse 19. In English it says,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”
That tells us that we are righteous and we live by faith, but faith is not just hoping that God is going to do something. Faith is making decisions. When we look at Jesus, we see that when Jesus makes decisions he only does what the Father shows him to do.
So we ask ourselves the question, “If we can do only what the Father shows us to do, can we find the Father? Can we find God in that way?”
We can’t look for God under the table, amen? We can’t look for the Father in our pockets, amen? We can’t go to some place in the whole earth and find the Father living there, amen? We can go to the moon and we will not find the Father there. We can go to the ends of the stars and we will not find the Father there either.
It might even be possible to go to heaven and not find the Father, because we find the Father in faith. The Father shows us Himself in the world, but we do not come to actually hold Him until we hold Him in faith, and that faith is in our heart, amen? We do not find the Father by sight or by sound or by touch. We find him by faith and in faith; and that faith which lives in our heart.
So there must be something that we can find in our heart that shows us the Father. Now if we come into the Book of Matthew and turn to chapter 13 and verse 3, we hear Jesus telling the parable about sowing seed. In English it reads,
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Scripture provides the explanation we are hungry to hear. It says that some of the seed falls into a place where the devil comes along and just takes away that seed.
You might come to wonderfully rich meetings like this and then you go away from here and somebody says to you something that causes argument and you feel that all the blessing has just been taken away from you.
A good example of that is in healing. You come to a meeting and you are prayed for, and then you receive healing and you are healed.
You tell your friends, “I have been healed.”
Somebody says to you, “You have not been healed. It will come back, you watch. I don’t believe those Christians. If healing was so easy, why did your father die? If healing was so easy for you, why did you lose your baby?” And the devil comes along and snatches away your seed-the hope that was in the promise of God concerning your situation.
Then Jesus also explains that sometimes the seed is put here and the weeds grow up around it. You know, you have a weed here in Rwanda that back home we think it is a very special flower-it’s the marigold flower. But outside the door of this church there I can see one plant that I think definitely is a weed both here and back home in Australia also. But either way, when the weed grows up around your seed, it is all of the cares of the world that come in and smother your potential to bloom.
For example, you say, “I want to go on mission with pastor into Tanzania, but I can’t do it because I’m too busy here with my family.
Never mind, maybe next time I will go.” The next time comes along and the pastor says, “We are going over to Congo. Will you come with us?” And you make up another excuse because of the cares of the world that are taking away your focus on God’s work and what God has for your life. You can see after a while that the cares of the world are taking you away from your blessing. The weeds are robbing you of what God has for you.
But there is one seed that when it is sown into good soil it produces very well. Let’s have a look at verse 31 in that chapter 13. In English it says,
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
What we can see here is Jesus saying to us that when we are living by faith we are producing. We are producing in our decisions, and we are producing in our decisions because God and ourselves are making a seed together. And whatever God makes as a seed, it will harvest God’s kind of fruit.
That is such a special thing that I just said.
Come back into heaven with me and listen to the conversation between the Father and the Son.
The Father says, “I need to plant a seed into the universe that has become corrupted by Satan.”
The Son of God says, “I will be that seed! Send me and plant me into that place!”
The Father says, “You must not do your will, you must only do my will.”
The Son of God agrees and together they work out the plan. When they have made the plan, then the Son of God makes the decision, “I am now going.”
The Son of God plans it and he comes and he is sown into the womb of Mary-she is a virgin in that she has never before had a baby. He has made the decision with the Father. He is the Father’s salvation seed and he is this little mustard seed that is going to grow into the kingdom of heaven in the earth itself.
So we can look in heaven and we can see that the Son of God is with the Father. The Son of God is in the presence of the Father and together they make their faith decision.
When Jesus grows up he teaches people, “I want you to make faith decisions with the Father. The Father will put his Spirit in you. You will be able to have fellowship with the Father.”
He says in Scripture, “The Father and I will both come to you. You will have fellowship with us both and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
When we receive into our heart’s love this Father, and this Son, and this Holy Spirit, and this Jesus the perfect man, we have this power that comes upon us and which Scripture calls the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). The power is that we have the power to enter into our faith believing and in this place we of believing we can meet God; we can find God himself.
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