Greg Cohoon (drmellow) wrote,
Greg Cohoon
drmellow

Sermon: Do You Want To Know God?

Sunday's sermon worked pretty well, I think. The parts where I asked a question, I waited for the congregation to answer before going forward. That was pretty different than what usually happens and the congregation didn't know what to think of it at first, I think. By the final time I asked the question, they were mostly right on board. I didn't think of it very much beforehand, but that's the aspect of the sermon that I got the most comments about. People seemed happy to "mix it up" a bit and have some back-and-forth during the message.

We had some technical difficulties with the laptop that is used to project the song lyrics and scripture on the wall. The youth running the laptop weren't able to get it working 'till just about the time I was ready to start my sermon. So we didn't have lyrics up for the songs except the reprise, and the scripture wasn't on the wall, either, until the very end. Once the laptop was working, and before I started preaching, I had a short back-and-forth with the youth running the laptop, which I think actually worked pretty well to help set a more laid-back, informal mood.

I decided to work from the lectionary scripture this time instead of choosing my own. I used Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, for the text. That's something that I'm usually hesitant to do, preferring to use a translation. But, occasionally, something really jumps out at me from The Message. This time, it was how he rendered Hosea 6:6 -- "I'm after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings."

I mostly stayed with the prepared text, but I did end up ad-libbing a bit here and there.

All in all, I think it went well.

Do You Want To Know God?
prepared by Greg Cohoon for delivery on June 8, 2008
Mount Pisgah UMC Praise & Worship Service

Scripture: Hosea 5:15-6:6

Do you want to know God?

He wants to know you.

The scripture we read today makes that fact plainly clear: "I'm after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings."

If we want to know God, one of the first questions we might ask ourselves is, "How do we get to know God?" It’s very tempting to list a handful of so-called easy answers to that question: we get to know God by coming to church, by participating in Bible studies, and so forth. But does that really get us to a point where we know God? Look at our scripture again – "I'm after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings." Yes, things like going to church and participating in Bible studies are important – but doing these things alone will not get us to a point where we know God. Instead, I think these are things that help us know about God. It’s close, but it’s not quite the same.

So we come back to the question: "How do we get to know God?" As we look for an answer to that question, let’s step back a minute and think about how we get to know anyone.

What's one of the first things we do when we start to get to know someone? We introduce ourselves to each other! Sometimes these introductions are quite formal, but usually the introductions are informal. It’s the same way with God. Sometimes our introduction to God is a formal introduction. Picture, for example, being introduced to God in a teaching or preaching situation. For some of us, our first real introduction may have been attending a worship service or a Sunday School class. Now think what an informal introduction might look like – your parents or grandparents tell you Bible stories, a coworker or a friend talks about what they believe about God, etc. Either way, formal or informal, the point is that there are many ways that we are introduced to God.

Now that's only half of the introduction, though. Just as God introduces himself to us, we need to introduce ourselves to him. Now how on earth do we do that? Introducing ourselves to another person – that’s easy. We just go up and shake hands, tell the other person a little about ourselves. How do we "shake hands" with God? Let's keep this question in the back of our mind as we think about the other things we do to get to know someone.

After we've introduced ourselves to each other, what's the next thing we do to get to know someone? We hang out with each other. How do you get to know people in your family? You spend time with them. Your friends? You spend time with them. Your coworkers? You spend time with them. It's the same with God. We’re faced with the same question we just had when talking about introductions – how do we "hang out" with God? The obvious answer is to come to church. The standard formula goes like this: the church is God’s house, God is in the sanctuary, when you come to church, you are in God's presence. While all of that is true, it's far from complete. As I mentioned before, all to often, church turns into a one-way process – you get to know about God, but you don’t get to know God. I think that’s what this morning’s scripture was alluding to when it says "I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings."

This isn't to say that going to more prayer meetings (or worship services, or Bible studies, etc.) is a bad thing. There is a lot of value to be had with these organized activities. But if you really want to know God, you've got to go beyond that.

Do you want to know God?

He wants to know you.

What can we do to take that next step – to step out and move beyond "more religion" and move toward "love that lasts"?

We need to rethink what it means to "hang out" with God.

We need to recognize that getting to know God is more, much more than the "religious" things that we do.

We need to think of our relationship with God in the same ways that we think of our relationships with our friends.

Now, that's a scary thought. I don't know about you, but I'm much more comfortable thinking of God as the holy creator of everything. I'm much more comfortable thinking of God as someone much to big to be concerned with the little things that I do. When I think of the God of today’s scripture passage – the God who wants me to know him – not just know about him – that's a scary proposition. But we can't escape it. The God who created the universe, the God who created each and every one of us – this same God wants us to know him. He wants us to "hang out" with him.

So, we come back to those unanswered questions: how do we introduce ourselves to God? How do we hang out with God?

I think both of those questions have the same answer.

Prayer.

It's almost too simple an answer, isn't it? That’s OK, it's not supposed to be hard!

I think that one of the things that keeps us from knowing God like he wants us to know him is that we try to make it too hard. It's easy to put up roadblocks. Maybe we don't think we're good enough to know God. Maybe we're scared that if we knew God too well, he'd make us change the way we’re living our lives. We can come up with excuse after excuse, but that’s all they are – excuses.

It's time we quit making excuses and started getting to know God.

If it's been a while since you've introduced yourself to God in prayer, take some time next time you're praying to reintroduce yourself to him. Let him know what you’ve been doing lately. Let him know what you've been thinking about lately. God wants you to tell him about the things that are going on in your life. Sharing these things with him is one way that you get to know him.

One of the great things about prayer is that you can pray anytime and anyplace. You can pray right here at church. You can pray when you’re in the car on the way to church. You can pray at home. You can pray at work or school. You can pray out loud. You can pray silently. The more you pray, the more you get to know God.

Here's another thing to keep in mind about prayer: you shouldn't be doing all the talking. Just like when you get to know someone else, there's a lot of back-and-forth. You talk about yourself for a bit, then you listen to the other person talk about themselves. It’s the same way with getting to know God: you need to listen to what God is saying to you.

There are lots of ways to listen to God. The obvious way is to see what he's revealed about himself in the Bible. Again, participating in worship services and Bible studies, etc. will get you part of the way there. But only part of the way. If you really want to listen to God, you need to take time as part of your prayer life and just be quiet.

I don't know about you, but that’s really hard for me. So often, when I'm praying, I just want to rush through whatever I have on my mind, say my “Amen”, and get back to whatever I was doing. In the fast-paced world that we live in, it can be hard to take the time to simply stop and listen to what God is saying to us. Sometimes, in prayerful meditation, you’ll be able to sense God's presence. That’s listening to God. That’s getting to know God.

Do you want to know God?

He wants to know you.

I've got a homework assignment for you, to help you know God. Sometime in the next few days, take some time to spend with God. Introduce or reintroduce yourself to him. Tell him about the things that are on your mind. Listen to what he has to say to you. Go outside and check out the things that he's doing. He is God, after all – even though he's available to spend a lot of time hanging out with each of us, he’s still got time to do all that stuff he does in nature. Look around at the flowers, the trees, the stars in the sky, all of nature. Do you want to know God? If so, pay attention to the things he is creating every day.

The more you hang out with God, the more you will get to know him. That is exactly what God wants from us. Yes, you can hang out with God here at church. But you’re only here a few hours a week. Are you hanging out with God when you’re not here?

As we hang out with God like this, our relationship with him will naturally become more personal. More like the relationships we have with each other. We'll spend less time thinking of God as some sort of abstract concept, and more time thinking of God as our friend. And when we see and treat God as our friend, we’ll start to develop that other thing that our scripture talks about – "love that lasts."

Think of how powerful that is. It's not a fleeting infatuation. It's not something temporary. It is love that lasts. The only way to maintain love that lasts is to work on it. We're not going to develop love that lasts if we're on fire for God on Sunday mornings, but don’t hang out with him at all during the week.

Sadly, that's what we tend to do. That's a common thread in the history of God’s people. It's recorded in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, we see the Hebrews gripe and complain as God is leading them out of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. In the New Testament, we see Peter deny that he even knew Jesus. If we're honest with ourselves and examine our own lives, we will find numerous examples where we have drifted away – or even run away – for whatever reason. We say that we love God, but do we show it?

God wants us to have love that lasts, not more religion. The only way to foster love that lasts is to spend time hanging out with God, and if the only time you're spending with God is the few hours a week that you’re at church, that's not nearly enough.

Remember that homework assignment I mentioned a few minutes ago. Make it a point in the next few days to spend some serious time hanging out with God.

Do you want to know God?

He wants to know you.

He's after love that lasts, not more religion.

Let’s give him what he's looking for.
Tags: church, p&w, preaching, sermons
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