The Church that Encounters God

Vision 20-20 Series Sermon 3
~Encounters~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church 
Psalm 51:10-13

20/20 Vision Review

Week one ~ HCC will continue to be a church that Enjoys Life ~ ZOE ~ John 10:10
I have hear from families who have opted for not leaving for Spring Break Vacation until after Sunday!

There was an elderly woman visiting with her family during what were her last weeks wanting to come to church because they saw the pastors doing something that was amazing!
[Show Picture of Ryan and I on the Tandem bike.]

Week two ~ HCC will continue to be a church that Empowers People ~ Holy Spirit ~ 1 Peter 2:9

You are the ministers of this church.  We want you to know that we believe a church that looks like the church of the Bible will have the entire Body involved in Ministry.

Last week, during the week I was encouraged by some of your dreams for how you can impact and serve this church, community, and even the world.    I will admit some of your dreams are huge, and bigger than you are, they are bigger than this church is ..., but they are not bigger than the power of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN?

Through the power of the Lord working in you, I want you to know that you can do anything for His glory.  Remember, Jesus said that even greater things are yet to come than He has done through you, the church, with the power the Holy Spirit.
~~~~ 

Today, I would like to share another piece of the vision God has given us for HCC that I believe has made us unique and very blessed.  Here it is.  We believe God desires for us to Encounter Him.

We want to be a church that doesn’t just ‘know about God’ we want to be a church that ‘Encounters Him and is changed through His presence’ and our relationship with Him.

Let me put it this way.  Many people know about God and yet are not changed by Him.  We want God to make this church be a church that not only knows about Him but has met Him face to face and is changed by Him in every way according to His word and His will.

Simply put, we don’t want to be a church that just has great worship music, marvelous media, tremendous programs, great food, phenomenal preaching, good people and all that other stuff.  We don’t want to be known for that, but we want to be a church that ... when we show up ... God shows up.

And when God shows up, this is what I know happens.   LIVES ARE CHANGED!

I want to celebrate that God is changing lives in our midst!   In the first 11 weeks of 2011, God has lead 14 people to be baptized, and has given them a brand new life!  PRAISE THE LORD!

That needs to be celebrated, but I also want you to know that we could have the best music, the best speakers, the best programs, the best food that money could buy, but if God is not in it, if people aren’t experiencing the Love and forgiveness of the Lord,  they will not be changed.

I hope you see this,  and pray you continue to see that, as a church, we are committed to developing an atmosphere and a church family that is seeking the presence of God.

The presence of God is powerful; it changes things. but if you have never been in His Power, I will admit, it is hard to explain.

If your life has been changed by God, you know what I am talking about.  I believe that, to a certain extent in our lives, we must actually have a moment where we encounter God’s presence and grace to be fully changed.  How does that happen?

I would say that most of you have heard or have said this phrase before:

 “Well I guess you just had to have been there!”

That phrase usually follows an attempt to explain an experience that you had but that they were not there for ..., but you just want them to get it.  Right?

How many of you have ever had one of those moments where you tried to explain an event, but when it was all said and done, at the end of your story you just had to say, “Well I guess you had to be there.”

That happened just this week at the Graber home.

[Story of Dieken at the dinner table telling us about his Twisted ankle.]
“I didn’t even cry!”, he said.  “That’s great Dieken, what did you do” He said, “I fell on the floor and rolled around on the ground and screamed until it stopped hurting.”   I said, “That sounds a lot like crying to me...”  He said, “Dad, you just had to be there!”

But, a lot of times when we end up saying those words its because we know the person we are talking to just doesn’t quite see the event the same way you do.  You just kinda give up because you know, unless they were there themselves,  they will never truly understand the beauty, power, greatness or miracle of an event.

To a great extent Christianity is that way.  For example, if all you ever do is hear or read about someone else’s relationship with God or their encounters with God but you never pursue God yourself, you likely will never really get it.  All you are going to do is hear their story, and then say, “Well, that sound ok, that’s nice.”

Then God will probably say, “I guess you’d had to have been there.”

The good news is that God wants you to have been there and He wants to show Himself to you in a way you can have a relationship with Him.

God doesn’t just want us to hear the stories about people encountering Him, He doesn’t want us to just hear about the Burning Bush and Moses.  (THAT’S NICE FOR MOSES)

 Or Paul on the road to Damascus where he meets Jesus and he is changed from “Executioner of Christians” to “Evangelist for Christ!”  He was blinded by God’s power and changed. (THAT’S NICE FOR PAUL)

God never intended for the church to be full of people that have only heard about other people’s encounters with Him.  He desires for each of us to Encounter His Presence ourselves.

Think about it this way.  God never intended to just be studied; He desires to be encountered.

The stories that we study from the Bible and the passages that we memorize ..., they are not just here  so we can know them, but so that we can be inspired to pursue God in our own personal way.

That is one of the Ryan’s, Dustin’s and my greatest goals on a weekly basis!  We pray that we put ourselves in a position to be exposed to His awesome presence in amazing ways so that our lives and our church would be changed by following God’s word and through seeking His will in prayer.

Some of you might be thinking, ‘All of this talk about being in the presence of God is different for me. I have never even thought about it.’

Let me share with you what the Bible says about this great opportunity that we have.

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 3:12-17

The veil for us today can be anything that’s in the way between you and God.
Those things that keep us from really having that pure relationship with God. . .
SIN, ATTITUDE, Lack of faith or “IT” could be some doctrinal untruth that you are holding onto or just that you say, “I am not changing!”  These are the barriers that limit our relationship with the one true God. 

I pray that those barriers are broken down in this church family.  I pray that there is more and more of a freedom to worship and experience all God has to offer us in our relationship with Him.

Where does it start?  By opening yourself up to the Holy Spirit.  When we turn towards Him, he will be there.  We will be exposed to Him, we will have an encounter, and we can begin to reflect His glory as the scripture says. 

WOW!!!

Will you turn to Him?  It will change you?  The Biblical word is “repent.”  To turn from where you are and seek the Lord to see what you can become, and that is ‘free from sin because of Christ.’

Being saved is about being changed by Jesus,  not about what you can know or what you can do.  Salvation and freedom in salvation comes from allowing Christ to take the veil of sin away and encountering and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I want to give you three blessings of a Godly Encounter.

1.  We need God’s power, not just a people’s words.

Why?  Because at some level we all have a problem that a person’s words can’t fix.  Some of you here today need something bigger than just a few wise words.  You are still in needing the power of God in your life.  The bottom line is that without the forgiveness of your sins through the power of Jesus you will forever suffer.

Here is why this is so important.  There are so many words and messages out there in the world today that will tell you, ‘they have all the answers for you to have what you are looking for’.

There are a lot of great messages, arguments, and religions in the world today that are captivating millions of people.   Some look a lot like Christianity, and even claim to be Christian, but they are not.  They are just words of men and Satan that will tryto make you feel better, but in the end will offer nothing of worth. 

We don’t need to just feel better, we need to be saved through a relationship with Jesus.  Our problem is sin that is taking us to HELL!

That is right! Without the power of Christ in your life, Hell is what the Bible and Jesus says is our final destination!

Much of the world will tell you differently.  For example: ROB BELL’S New Book “Love Wins” contends that hell may just be the consequense of a bad choice on earth, and is lived out on earth.  He questions the purpose or place for a literal hell ‘if God were really a good God,’ and if He really had Good News for us.  Rob would like, in his own fashion, to show us that ‘the new Good News from God is that there is really no such thing as hell as we once believed!’  Don’t believe  it!

The real good news is that even though we have made a mess with our lives, God loved us so much to save us from our sin by sending Jesus to die for us on the cross! 

Bell suggests that Jesus saved us from God!  Let it be clear, according to the Bible, Jesus saved us not from God but from our own sin that was leading us to a real place of eternal torment and torture called Hell.   But because of our ‘saved relationship’ with Jesus, we can live forever with Him in Heaven.

We don’t need any new, wise words from man, we need the power of the Christ working in our lives.

Rob Bell, in the world’s eyes, is asking all of the wise questions that need to be asked about God.  But, he suggesting some ‘new answers’  as wiser than any previous Christians have come to understand before!  Here is what the apostle Paul said about ‘wise words of men,’ and the power that our faith and salvation should rest on.

READ 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

2. We need an experience, not just an explanation.

Think about this way, as we study those in the Bible those who actually had a personal experience, or an encounter, with God.  They stay committed to Him in the future.  Here is the reality.  There are many in the coarse of history that have known God intellectually, but have never really known Him personally and they didn’t ever really get it...   But those who know Him both in their mind and in their heart are changed and become committed to Him.

Too often, we try to reduce God down to our understanding.  We like to make all things nice and neat about Him to where we think we have Him all figured out.  The Bible makes it clear that God is Bigger than us, and beyond our comprehension!  That actually makes me excited, because if we could figure Him completely out, then who’s to say He wouldn’t be limited by our understanding?   That is not very hopeful.

This is the awesome things about God!   HE IS AWESOME!  He is greater and Bigger than anything you can ever imagine.

This week on Wednesday night something great happened.  I saw what I believe was a God encounter with Camden Nelson.   Camden is a 2nd grader  in my small group, and as we were discussing God and his plan for us for salvation, he said,  “Now, wait a minute!   I don’t get it.  Tell me,  who created God?”

I said, “Great question!  No one, God has always been and will always be.  How is that possible?  I don’t know ...  and I love the fact that God is more amazing than I can understand!

Cool!    And that great God wants to know, love and guide your life. 

HE SAID NOTHING!  But I believe he had and encounter with actually how awesome God is, and I love it!  I believe Camden was forever changed.  Praise God.

Its not enough just to know the right questions and the right answers, there needs to be a point when you just seek God and allow Him to be Lord!  Just be comfortable with who He is.  When you experience God ..., it changes you.

Lets look at the story of the Blind Man

John 9:17- 25

“I was blind and now I can see!”

The man was convinced.  He had more than just an explanation, he believed because he had experienced God’s Power.

The greatest proof that Jesus is who He says He is in today’s world is you, lives that have been changed, people that were once blind that can now see!

When someone asks you about Jesus, you can tell them all the stories in the Bible, you can share with them all the details of theology.   That is all great, but don’t forget to tell them about Jesus who saved and changed you!

3.  We need His Presence, not just HCC’s practice

Unless God is with us, what a church does won’t matter.  We can have all the right programs, all of the attractive practices, but unless God is working in us, it is all done for nothing.

As your pastor I promise we will continue to pursue to make the things we do at HCC attractive, fun, and exciting.  I know Dustin and the praise team, Tiffani, Ryan, the elders ..., we are committed to doing what we do the very best we can, but that is not enough!  I will never be satisfied by just having a good practice of 'playing church.'

If we are not careful, we will just go through the motions.  It can’t just be a program we go through every week when we come to this place.  We must continue to be committed to seeking the Holy Presence of God in our lives, and in our time of worship.

When we really come into His presence as a church, one of the proofs that we are on the right path will be when we are filled with joy.

Acts 2:28 says this as the church met on the Day of Pentecost and was encountered by the Holy Spirit.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

God’s promise for us and my prayer for you is that as we meet as a body of Christ for worship that we come into His presence, that we are filled with joy from Him and have true peace as we leave.

When the church is in God’s presence, people’s lives are changed and we will be filled with joy that only God can provide.

So the question for each of us is this: What can we do to seek these encounters? 

What can you do to pursue His presence? It goes much deeper than just showing up and turning on the lights.  It is more involved than coming to church with your church clothes on and carrying a Bible.

Jesus told the story that He was spreading a lot of seed but often it did not grow because of the condition of the soil.  You see its a matter of the heart ... if we are going to hear and grow in His presence.

1. We must be Hungry

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”

2.  We must be Humble

Sometimes we get to the point where we feel we have it all figured out.  In our own minds some of us might say, “God I will do anything for you Lord in your presence ... except ... I will not sing, I will not clap, I will not pray, or I will not raise my hands.

At times, when I am asked why we do some of the things we do in worship, it is not always easy to explain, but recently I was asked why some of us sometimes lift our hands?  For that matter,  why did Dustin write a worship song about hands lifted to the sky?” 

That is easy, its because in both the old and new testament, the Bible says it is good.

In Psalm 134:2,   God says, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.”
Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8   “I want all men everywhere to lift up holy hands.”

Luke 22:42 “not my will but your will be done.”

3.  We must be Holy - Repent

Read Psalm 51:10-13