“A Relationship with God”
Hello, and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. One of the most important, yet challenging, things we do is to maintain good relationships with the people we love. The most common ones are those between husbands and wives, parents and children. Perhaps you would agree when I say the most important of all relationships is the one we have with the Lord God Almighty. Yet there are times when problems arise and these relationships fall apart. That happens with God when sin enters our life. Our relationship with Him is broken. There is separation, pain and loss. Many of us have experienced what that is like. Many of us have also come back to God. Our sin has been forgiven and a reconnection with God, has taken place. That is called reconciliation. In fact, God desires everyone who has separated from Him, to be brought back to Him. He longs for us to be reconciled to Him and to experience His love and salvation. In our lesson today, on "Key to the Kingdom," we will study from a familiar passage in the writings of the apostle Paul. He knows the importance of being reconciled to God and having a good relationship with Him. He also knows the importance of sharing what God has done for us with others. That will be the focus of the message today, and I hope you will join us for it. Please stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we study a lesson entitled, "A Relationship with God."
The world in which we live is filled with all kinds of injustice. Many face unfair treatment every day. Some are falsely accused of doing wrong, while others escape the punishment for the wrong they do. Some lose their jobs and perhaps even their lives for no apparent reason. Others have their name ridiculed and abused because someone else is mean and ugly to them. And I could go on and on, but you understand and perhaps, can even relate. Oh, in many ways the world in which we live is unfriendly and unkind. And it is ruled by the prince of this air; and, Paul identifies him as the prince of this air in Ephesians 2, verse 2. His name is Satan. And yet all of that is nothing new, is it? The apostle Paul experienced unfair and unfriendly treatment; his name was ridiculed, his teachings were mocked, his influence was not appreciated. The letters he wrote were often times tossed aside and perhaps not even read. The work he did to teach people about Jesus went unappreciated. The churches he tried to build and establish and work with soon fell apart, if they were not careful. Yes, Paul knew what it was like to live in a world of injustice. He writes about how he experienced a shipwreck and he was alone, out in the deep. He was cold. He was hungry. He was beaten with rocks and left for dead. And yet, in spite of all of the false treatment and the false rumors that were spread about him, he continued his work. Paul never quit sharing God's love with other people. He never got tired of writing his letters. But he kept encouraging people to receive God's love and salvation for them. He longed for them to experience that free gift of salvation that he, himself had received. And there is no better place to see that than in the letter called 2nd Corinthians. False teachers were undermining his work. Some of the people whom he had taught and baptized were now living a sinful life style; and, that must have greatly disappointed Paul. He invested time and effort in those people and in those churches, and things were not working out in some cases, like he had hoped they would. And yet, Paul kept doing God's work. He kept focused on the mission that God had given to him. He was the spokesman to the Gentile world. And why was that? What motivated Paul to keep on doing what God wanted him to do? What inspired Paul to work through all those difficulties and challenges and to be God's representative? Well there's one statement here in 2nd Corinthians, chapter 5 that seems to answer that question. Listen to these words from Paul, himself, in verse 17. <If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.> Well that is a very simple and straightforward statement, isn't it? If you are in Christ Jesus, in other words, if you have a relationship with Christ, which puts you into God's family, then you are a new creation. The old life of sin is gone, it is past. It is washed away, forgiven and forgotten. And now, you can experience a brand new life in Jesus Christ. And that's exactly what happened to the apostle Paul. He saw things differently. His attitude changed from when he was not a believer. He reflected on how he would receive God's free gift of salvation and the difference that it made in his life. Yes, once again, we can say Paul was a new creation. He had a relationship with God through God's son, Jesus. And that relationship changed Paul's heart. It changed the way he related to people. It changed his priorities. It changed his perspective on life. In fact, it changed his entire life, as God basically just started over with Paul. You might remember his story. It's recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 8. Saul, as he was known at that time, was a very devote and religious man. He really believed that he was doing God a favor by persecuting those who belonged to the Way. So he went from place to place, and synagogue to synagogue, abusing people and persecuting them because they believed in the name of Jesus Christ. And he thought that was what God wanted him to do. One day, as he was traveling on the road to the place called Damascus, a great light from heaven shined down upon him. It knocked him to his knees and he was blinded. He could not see. And that voice from heaven spoke, and He said, "Why are you working against Me instead of for Me, Saul?" And Saul didn't know what was happening, and he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And God gave him that answer. Well he was then lifted up from the ground and he was led by the hand into the city of Damascus, where he met a man by the name of Ananias; and, Ananias taught him more clearly about the way of God. He instructed him about Jesus Christ, God's one and only son. And Saul recognized, yes, he had been going in the wrong direction, and now God had given him a new purpose. In fact, God told him, "I'm appointing you to be My spokesman to the kings of Israel and to the Gentile world." So with that, Saul believed in Jesus. He was baptized into Him. His eyes were opened, both physically and spiritually, and he took nourishment. And, from that time on, he began to represent God the way God wanted him to represent Him. In fact, Paul's conversion story meant so much to him that he told it at least two other times that are recorded here in the book of Acts. And he probably told it many more times, to numerous other people, on various occasions, that are not even recorded. Did you realize God even changed his name? He went from being Saul, to the apostle Paul, in chapter 13; and, that is when Paul began his missionary work, his missionary journeys, in that 13th chapter. Yes, Paul went from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming perhaps the greatest evangelist for Jesus Christ this world has ever known, outside of Jesus, Himself. And it all goes back to one statement that he wrote there in 2nd Corinthians, 5, verse 17: He was a new creation. Now before that, Saul, as he was called then, was separated from God. He was separated from God's son, Jesus Christ. And in the various letters that he wrote, to churches and individuals, he often times would reflect upon that and mention that in his writings. One such place is the letter called Ephesians, as he wrote to a group of believers who were meeting in the city of Ephesus that he wants them to reflect upon the salvation they have received and what their life was like now compared to then. He wrote this in chapter 2 and verse 12: <Remember that at that time you were without hope and without God in this world.> Can you imagine being without any hope and without God in this world? And not only that in verse 12, he also wrote that you are separated from Christ, you are aliens, you are strangers to the covenants of promise. Can you imagine that; being separated from Christ, being without God, being without any hope? What a tragic way to live. And yet, as Paul wrote those words, no doubt he reflected on the time when that applied to him, when he was outside of that relationship with God. And then he goes on to write, in verse 13 and following, how they have been reconciled back to God. They are now united to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ, His son. And now they can enjoy all the blessings and all of the promises that God gives to those who are His children. Yes, Paul went from being on the outside looking in to being an insider. He was a child of God, and he was now entitled to all of the promises and all of the blessings that God could give; not only to him, but to the Christians in Ephesus and to those who believe in Jesus Christ, still today. We go back to chapter 1 there in Ephesians and notice a number of those blessings and promises. Paul writes how that he was adopted into God's family. He was forgiven of the sin in his life. He was redeemed and set free from sin. And all of those other things that are listed over and over again, Paul lists them, even, for our consideration, today. There's one word in that passage, I believe its verse 15, where we are reconciled to God. We are brought back to God and that loving relationship with Him. And once again, it goes all the way back to what we said a moment ago, in 2nd Corinthians 5, verse 17, Paul was a new creation. And that is why he did not quit when people questioned his beliefs. That is why he did not retaliate when people laughed at his small stature or when they rejected his letters and his message. When people falsely accused him or did not believe in his message, he simply brushed it off and kept on doing God's work. Paul had been reconciled to God, he had a new relationship with Him through his faith in Jesus Christ. And now, he was focused on living to bring praise and glory to God throughout the rest of his days. You know, more than anything else, the apostle Paul wanted to share that message with people who had never before heard it, and that was his focus. That was the new direction he pursued, because of what God had done for him. He wanted other people to experience that very same salvation. I want to go back to that 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 passage. I want to read again verse 17 and then go all the way down to verse 21. He writes: <If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.> There are many things in that passage of scripture that impress me. But one is, five times in these four verses the word 'reconcile,' or a form of it, is used. Paul knows how important it is to be reconciled, or brought back together, to his loving God. And now he mentions; I am an ambassador of that love, I am a representative of what God has done for me, to go out and to share that love with other people. Yes, he wanted people to experience God's love and salvation. He wanted them to be reconciled to God through Christ, and a relationship with Him. That's what had happened to Paul and now it wants it to happen to others, also. You know, to this day, there has never been another message that is equal to that one; and, there never will be another message equal to that one. There is no other way to be reconciled to God than to experience what Paul experienced. And again, we go back to chapter 8 and we think about that conversion experience; when he recognized God and believed in Jesus and was immersed into Him. That changed his life, forever. And his message is; it will change your life, too. And he spent his time writing and visiting and teaching and sharing that message. And here is the reason why that is so important to us. In the letter called Romans, Paul writes in chapter 3 verse 23, that we all sin and fall short of God's glory. And indeed, that is true, we have sin in our life and we make mistakes and we displease God, we fall short of the glory of God. Then, in chapter 6 verse 23, he states that the wages of that sin is death; spiritual death, eternal separation from God. Oh, but there is good news in the second part of verse 23 in chapter 6: The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Isn't that great news! We are separated from God because of the sin in our life. But there is a solution, and we thank God for it; that, through His son, Jesus Christ, we experience that free gift of eternal life when we receive Jesus and His love and His sacrifice for us. Often times when people have problems getting along with one another, they go to a mediator or a counselor. And when they do, they go in hopes of solving those problems and perhaps coming back together as one. They go in hopes of being reconciled back to one another. That is exactly what Jesus does. He stands as our mediator, or representative, our counselor, between a loving God and our sinful nature. But through His death on the cross, He takes away the burden of our sin. He died for you and for me, so that as we receive that great gift we can be reconciled and brought back to our loving Heavenly Father, and we can be restored to that relationship. Yes, Jesus is the one who reconciles us to God. He was and still is the only One who can do that. He was and still is the only One who can reconcile a fallen and a broken world to a relationship with a loving and faithful God. And when that happens, several things begin to take place. I want to mention just three for our consideration, today. We are totally accepted by God as one of His children. Think about that for a minute. Think how special it is to say, "I am a child of God. I belong to Him and He belongs to me. I'm part of His family." In 1st John 3, verse 1, we find these words: <How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!> I love the idea of God's love being lavished upon us. It abundantly overflows into our life as we are identified as one of His children. God loves us more then we could possibly imagine. And through that love, we are identified as a child of God, and that's who we are. In this world we might be led to believe we are something less or somebody insignificant or unimportant, but yet, in the eyes of God, we are special. And He pours out His love on us because we are His children. Here's a second thing. Our security is in Jesus, and no one can take that from us. Oh, I like that. My salvation in Jesus Christ is secure, it is safe, as Paul writes these words in Ephesians 1, 13 and 14: <Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.> As we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given a seal by God that lets us know, on a regular and daily basis, we belong to Him; and, that seal is the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes as a gift from God to us, which is a daily reminder that God lives in us; and yes, that He belongs to us and we belong to Him. And yet, it is only a deposit, it is only a down payment of that final inheritance of that final glorious home that we will share with Him in glory, for all eternity. Here's one more thing I want us to think about, as we enter into a relationship with God. We have a future home in heaven. We know that from 2nd Corinthians 5, verse 1: <Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.> Oh the houses that we live in today are only temporary, aren't they? They might last 50, 60, 70 years, who knows, but that is not eternal compared to God's house in heaven, reserved for those who belong to Him. The earthly house we live in today might be blown away by a windstorm. It might be destroyed by a fire. Who knows what might happen to it. It's nothing but a tent that can be easily wiped off the face of this planet. And yet, God's eternal house in heaven is build not with human hands, but with God's own hands. It is build with His love. It is built with His security and His promise; that, this will be here for My children from this day forward, and it is for our taking. That is what we receive. We receive that eternal home in heaven as we become a child of God and are reconciled back to our loving Father through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. Oh, there are many other statements, many other passages of scripture in the Bible, that remind us of who we are as a child of God, in a relationship with Him. In 2nd Corinthians, 5, 17 through 21, Paul reminds us of two important things to him and also to us. Number one, we all need to be reconciled to God. And when we are reconciled to God our sin is removed and forgiven, and we become a part of God's family, not only now, but for all eternity. And once we receive that salvation and are reconciled to our loving Father, we then, like Paul, spend the rest of our days telling others about it, sharing that Good News message with those who have never heard and allowing them the opportunity to hear and to respond to the saving message of Jesus Christ, the One who reconciles us to our loving Father. My hope and my prayer for you is that you have received that salvation, and you are doing everything you can to share that message with other people.
Inside this building is a counseling office. In fact, my friend works in that counseling office. And in that office, often times people visit a counselor to guide them and help them in regards to some problems or situations in their life. And sometimes, we all need to go to a counselor. We need some insight or some advice on how to handle certain situations. One of the most common types of counseling that is done is marriage counseling. Sometimes a husband and wife fall out of love with one another, and in order to save their marriage they go to a counselor. They want some help. They want to be reconciled back together and to love each other once again. When I think about that image, I think about the role of Jesus Christ. He reconciles us back to God. And yes, there are times when we fall out of love with God. We drift away from Him and we are not as close to Him as we want to be, or as we have been in the past. And that is one of the roles that Jesus plays. He reconciles us back to our loving Father in heaven. He takes us right where we are, in the midst of our brokenness, and He brings us back to God. And that's a great thought, isn't it; that, Jesus loves us, our Father loves us, and He wants to connect us back together so that we can be right in our relationship with Him, and that our home in heaven can be secure, with the Lord God Almighty, forever. I would encourage you to know that when you struggle in your walk with God, go to Jesus Christ, who is the very best counselor of all time.
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