So what if you want to come back to God? What are some first steps you should take?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Before we get started this morning, I want to talk to you a little bit about next week.
Do you know why we started this church 5 years ago?
It was because, the city of Blaine was one of the least churched cities in the entire metro.
And yet, it’s always listed as the 3rd of 4th fastest growing suburb in MN.
There are a ton of people, right here, in our city, who are looking for answers to life’s biggest questions.
And as we’ve really grown over the last 5 years, we now have a lot of people, IN HERE, who have the answer.
And his name is Jesus Christ.
And our main task…as a church…is world-changing.
It’s to let people know about THE ANSWER.
And how much He loves them!
And you’ve got an amazing opportunity to do that…this week!
Next week is the most important Sunday of the year for Christians: Easter Sunday.
We will celebrate the event that our whole faith hinges on: The resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s an amazing Sunday!
But it’s also an amazing Sunday to bring people to hear Good News
As you may know by now, we are having THREE services next week
(put up Easter Services Slide)
They will be at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30
And after EACH service, there will be an enormous Easter Egg Hunt!
We’re going to have over 10,000 eggs!
People keep asking us, “is there anything in the eggs?”
Every egg has candy, or stickers, or bouncy balls. It’s gonna be awesome!
A HUGE thank you to the 30 volunteers who filled our 10,000 eggs on Friday night!
It’s going to be a day of a lot of celebration and fun!
But it’s also an incredible outreach opportunity.
If you know people who don’t know Jesus yet…and they DON’T have kids…invite them to the services.
It’s the easiest Sunday of the year to invite people to because, for many, it’s the only Sunday they ever think about going.
If you know people who don’t know Jesus yet…and they HAVE kids…bring them all with you!
I’ve found this, personally, to be such an easy invite!
I’ve been hearing stories…even from kids in our church…who are bringing a TON of friends!
We’re asking every single person here to FOCUS on FOUR.
Focus on Four people you can, not just invite, but BRING with you in a week.
Have you thought of FOUR people yet?
What if someone you bring stands up and meets Jesus Christ? Amazing!
We can’t make people fall in love with Jesus, but we can set up dates…
And we want to set up a lot of dates!
In fact, if you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to text your friend or family member about it right now.
Go ahead, get out your phone…
If you’re one of those people that you’d like to, but you’re not sure what you’d write, we gave you a sample text in the announcements section of our bulletin.
Go ahead and check that out right now, and then send off a text or two.
I’d love for you to do it, even right now, during the service.
We believe this is going to be our biggest Easter ever!
And we believe that God is going to do great things!
But hear me…this is OUR responsibility, Renovation Church.
This city…the people out there…that’s on us.
Listen, we’ve seen God move. We know He’s real.
But there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people around us who don’t know that.
And they are out there…right now…wondering what the point of life is.
They’re wondering if God is even real?
This is on us! This is our city…and our people…
Let’s do whatever it takes…to be bold this week…and reach them with the Good news!
Let’s be a people being changed by God to change the world!
Thing morning I want to talk about: What to do when you want to come back to God.
Maybe…you have one of those moments when you see that God is absolutely real.
Maybe it’s for the first time…maybe it’s for the first time in a long time.
And you know…you’ve got to come home.
Maybe it’s an absolutely joyous moment and God does something amazing in your life…and you just know…you’ve got to return to Him.
Or, maybe it’s not so joyous. Sometimes God gets our attention in not so joyous ways.
Think of Jonah…getting swallowed by a big fish for 3 days isn’t exactly fun
Think of Paul…going blind so God can get your attention isn’t my description of a good time. J
Maybe you’re were driving your car, and you got in a horrible accident…and yet you walked away unharmed…thinking, “Oh my, God is real, I need to come back to him”
Or maybe…it’s even felt like you’ve been absent from God.
You’ve walked away…
But you feel like you need to return to Him.
The question I want to answer today is: What do you when you want to come back?
Thankfully the book of 1 Samuel tells us what to do.
The people of Samuel’s day had decided that they wanted to come back to the Lord, and Samuel tells them what to do.
We are continuing today in our Monarchy series on the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament today.
And we’re going to be looking at the beginning of chapter 7…much of which is in reaction to what happened in chapter 6.
So let me just quickly bring you up to speed.
Back in chapter 4, God’s people, the Israelites, lost their most prized possession, the Ark of God, in a battle with the Philistines.
But in chapter 5, we saw that when the Philistines brought the Ark of God into their country, their idols fell prostrate to it, and their people were afflicted with tumors.
So in chapter 6, the Philistines decide to send it back to Israel.
And they decide to do one last test.
They put the ark on a cart, and hitch the cart to two cows that had never been yoked.
And they said, if this thing wanders in a random direction, the whole thing was just random, but if it heads over to Beth Shemesh (a nearby Israelite town), then we’ll know this is truly their God’s doing
And sure enough…the cows walk right to Beth Shemesh.
It would be like if Canada stole something from MN (say our 1991 World Series trophy), and performed this test, and the cows walked right to International Falls.
And the Israelites of Beth Shemesh are out harvesting, and they look up, and “NO WAY…here comes the ark of God!”
“It’s all by itself on a cart with two cows!”
“It’s a miracle!!!”
And yet, they get overzealous.
They’re so excited to see the Ark of God in their town, that they devise a plan to open it up and look into it.
Not a good idea.
A) The Bible strictly forbids it
B) You can’t play around with the holy presence of God
And as some of them are looking in…they get struck dead.
You can’t stand in the holiness of God…unless you’ve been made Holy (which is why we need Jesus)
But what do you do when you see God move like that? In multiple different ways! What do you do?
Well, let’s take a look.
(1 Samuel 6:21 – 7:6) - NIV
21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
There’s actually a bit of a difficulty in the text here.
Let me explain:
The ark comes back to Beth Shemesh…and they’re really excited!
Until they look inside and get struck down.
Now they’re excited AND scared.
So they send it off to a different town.
And it’s there for 20 years.
And somewhere in the midst of those 20 years, this is the part that we don’t really know, the people of Israel decide that they want to come back to God…and Samuel assembles them.
Is it because of the miracle of the ark coming back?
Is it because they missed God and wanted to come back?
Is it because they feared his holiness? And knew they needed to submit to Him?
It’s a bit of all of those things wrapped up in one.
But what we do know is that eventually people all over Israel have heard about what God did, and they want to come back to God.
That’s the key point.
And maybe that’s you today.
You know that God is doing something in your life, and you know that you need to come back.
RID YOURSELF OF IDOLS
If we look back to our passage today, we actually see 3 steps for what to do when you’re ready to come back to God.
They can all be found in verse 3. Let’s take another look at that verse.
(1 Samuel 7:3) – NIV
3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
As all the people are assembling now, ready to turn themselves back to the Lord, Samuel tells them, rid yourselves of your idols.
He actually says of your “foreign gods” …like the Ashtoreths.
These were actual stone and wooden idols
But this is where we start:
1. Rid Yourself of Idols
The context of this passage is actually quite interesting if you think about it.
The people have heard what God is done (amazing thing of bringing the ark back)…they are assembling to hear Samuel talk about it…but they’re practically holding their man-made idols in their hands as they’re listening to him speak.
They want to come back to the Lord, but they haven’t put any feet to it yet.
I find this to be so true in our postmodern world of emotions.
People have an experience with God…and they decide they’re going to “come back to God” or “rededicate their life to Christ”
But then, the next week, or the next day even, they’re back to the same old same old.
This is why Samuel is giving practical steps to the Israelites about coming back to God.
Listen, if you’ve seen God move in your life lately, and you want to more fully come back to him, the first thing you need to do is drop your idols.
Drop ‘em and run.
If lust has a grip on you, and you’re struggling with your phone, get a dumb phone instead of your smart phone.
Drop the idol and run.
If there’s an old relationship that’s flaring up and might be getting in the way of your marriage, end it now.
Delete their contact info in your phone and computer and end it.
Drop the idol and run.
If all you do is work, and you don’t have time for your family or God, start looking for a different job.
Drop the idol and run.
When the prodigal son (in Luke 15) came to his senses about his sin, and knew he had to COME BACK to his father, he didn’t give his two-week notice.
He got up from eating with the pigs, and started running home.
If you give sin a 2-week notice, it’ll eat you alive.
If you’ve seen God move…if you’ve tasted of his goodness…if you’ve felt his love anew…THIS is the time to rid yourself of any idol that’s setting itself up as competition to Him….that’s setting itself up in opposition to Him…
I remember when I became a Christian, I loved rap music.
Like a lot. Like I was the high school kid rolling around Cambridge with my friend…windows down…blasting some 2Pac.
Except I was never driving since I usually drove cars that looked like cardboard boxes.
But there came a day…when I had to press the delete button on my computer and get rid of it (this was before Christian rap music was cool)
There comes a day…if I’m really going to return and live wholeheartedly for the Lord…that that just doesn’t reconcile with 35 swear words in just 1 song, and songs justifying all sorts of sex, drugs, you name it.
Cursing and praising God don’t come out of the same mouth (James says)
It’s a simple illustration…but the truth is…if you want to give your life to Christ…then you need to give your LIFE to Christ.
Not just your Sunday mornings.
If you decide you’re going to come back to your God, then you can’t carry your idol on the way back to meet with Him.
COMMIT YOURSELF TO THE LORD
So the passage tells us that you are to:
1. Rid Yourself of Idols
2. Commit Yourself to the Lord
So if God’s doing something in your life…and you’re on your way back to him…
Start getting rid of those idols…the things that set themselves up in His place
And secondly, “Commit yourself to the Lord”
The idea here is, and you can see it in some other translations, is that you are “fixing your heart” on God
This is where…if you’re coming back to him…you’re going to COMMIT to living like He is indeed Lord.
Like He is the King. The Monarch. The one King.
“I’m committed to live like He is my Lord when I wake up and don’t feel like reading my Bible or praying.
“I’m committed to live like He is my Lord when I feel like ramming the slow car in front of me
I’m committed to live like He is my Lord when I feel like putting my hand through a wall after a decision at work…or watching your kids at home, and you’re looking at your walls…trying to ascertain which one would be the best to just bash your head through…
And one of the best ways you can commit to coming back to the Lord is to do that publically.
You can sit here today, and say in your head, “Yeah, I’m going to really start living for God again”
But that’s not much different than watching the Biggest Loser at home and saying in your head, “Yeah, I’m going to start eating better.”
As you scoop up another bite of triple-fudge cookie dough ice cream.
If you want to get serious about coming back to God again…tell a friend about that commitment.
Tell someone in your small group.
If you’re not in a small group, join a house group.
We need each other.
SERVE GOD ONLY
1. Rid Yourself of Idols
2. Commit Yourself to the Lord
3. Serve God Only
The third thing, after you’ve seen God move again in your life, is to make a commitment to serve God only.
You can see that they’re all quite related.
Get rid of the idols in your life…make a commitment to serve God as your Lord, and then SERVE him ONLY
Too many Christians just put on a façade of serving God.
Reminds me of a story.
You ever hear those stupid human stories on the radio or anything? Here’s one:
After selling his pickup truck, 22-year-old Westley French, decided he wanted it back.
So, Westley and a few friends mugged the new truck owner, beating him with a two-by-four.
Then Westley and his friends fled the scene in their getaway car—a green Nissan 240 SX.
The muggers thought they had a foolproof plan to avoid police—they covered the green Nissan with a fresh coat of black spray paint.
By changing their car's color they were able to outrun the Washington state police for a total of five hours.
Unfortunately, as Westley and his buddies headed north in Washington they never bothered to change the North Dakota license plates.
The police easily spotted their getaway car and Westley was sentenced to one year in jail.
According to one news story, "Now he’s most likely, and quite ironically, making license plates in jail."
I feel like this is what a lot of Christians do when they experience God moving, and say, they’re going to get serious about God again.
They put a little spray paint on the outside.
They make sure to join an extra volunteer team at church, or smile a little wider, but they haven’t really changed anything about their life.
They still treat their spouse the same way…they never went to counseling.
They’re still holding a grudge against their dad…never went and forgave him.
They just sprayed a little bit more spray paint on the outside.
But the Bible says, that if you’re going to come back to God, you need to be serious about it.
In Acts 26:20, Paul tells his listeners that they ought to “demonstrate their repentance by their deeds”
Or, look at the words of John the Baptist
(Luke 3:8) – NIV
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
In other words, if we as Christians, are going to come here on Sundays and sing with our lips, “God, I give you my life,” “God, I live for you!”
Then, there should be some fruit in our life that actually shows that we’re “serving him only” as Samuel says.
Otherwise, we’re just lying to a Holy God.
Otherwise, we’re just saying, “God, I’m not really going to do this, but I’ll put on some black spray paint, so it looks like I might do this.”
But God can see right through that.
If you’re gonna come back, then there ought to be visible signs that we’ve come back.
People ought to look at our lives…and say… “Wow, what happened?”
And we can say, “I came back to God!”
Because when you come back to God, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in your life.
More joy…more patience…more love.
And the challenging thing, is that shouldn’t just happen once.
We need to CONTINUE to produce fruit as we CONTINUE to keep repenting and letting God change us.
Because God didn’t move in your life just once.
He didn’t just move in your life when you first became a Christian.
He’s still moving.
And people should be able to look at our lives…year to year…and say, “You’re different from last year!”
“You’re different from the year before!”
“Yeah, because even though I wander, I keep coming back to God!”
So as God continues to move in your life, come back to him.
Drop your idols. Commit to Him. Serve Him only.
And don’t wait.
When we were doing evangelism on the streets in Haiti this year, people kept telling us the same thing.
They would say, “Yeah, I want to repent and live for God, but not yet. I’ll do it later”
“I’m just not ready to give up the partying lifestyle.”
“I’m just not ready to give up the pleasures of the world”
One guy even said to us, “There’s this girl I’m sleeping with that I’m not married to, and I’m just not ready to give that up yet”
But for us…when YOU’VE seen the God of the UNIVERSE move…to believe anything else will compare to Him…is insanity!
Trust in Him…turn your life over.
Nothing can compare.
And don’t worry about having to do it perfectly.
You won’t. We’re all messed up sinners. We’re not perfect.
We’re going to stumble all over the place.
But better to be stumbling on your way back to God than to be running from the truth.
And know that you’re not coming back to an angry God…
But one who loves you…one who never stops thinking about you…one who will accept you with open arms!
Let me close this morning, but reading you some encouraging words from the Prophet Joel about returning to God
(Joel 2:12-13) – NIV
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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