Craig's Message - FBC Universal City - 1.03.16

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So this morning my desire is that we would journey together to the heart of God. And I want to begin this journey by laying out three things that I hope will act as a sort of foundation of grace for us that we can build upon for the rest of our time together.

The first part of the foundation is freedom from condemnation. A lot of times when I’ve heard messages or teachings centered around spending time with God I feel an overwhelming, pervasive sense of condemnation. I think back on all the days I haven’t spent time with God at all, in the morning, or for long enough, and I begin to condemn myself. I want you to hear this morning that my heart is not at all to condemn you because God’s heart isn’t to condemn you. God looks at you this morning with eyes of love and his heart is excited at the notion of meeting with you right now. He’s not after perfection from you. He’s not leading us to guilt over our past. But rather his heart is to empower us to experience his love right now that we might focus on his grace rather than our shortcomings. So firstly, let’s cast aside condemnation this morning and receive God’s grace.

Second, I want you to know that God loves you just as you are. You don’t have to spend time with him to earn his affection or presence. God already sent his son for you as an eternal declaration of his steadfast, unshakable love. There’s nothing you could do to make him love you more. His love and presence is a free gift that’s fully available to you right now.

And the last thing I hope acts as a foundation for us this morning is the truth that you can encounter God. By God’s grace nothing is in the way of you and him. You have been made clean by the blood of Jesus. God tore the veil at the death of his son signifying that his presence was no longer contained to a room and only available to a select few. You have the Holy Spirit, God himself, dwelling inside of you and 2 Corinthians says that he searches the deep things of God. He is fully able to tell you right now how God feels, what he’s thinking, what his will is and he can shepherd you perfectly into the presence of your creator. By no merit of your own you can commune with God. 

So now that a foundation of grace is laid for us this morning, I want to begin by asking a question. What is the one thing the Bible tells us is necessary? When I first really sat down with the passage of Scripture we’re about to go through I was honestly shocked. If you had asked me that question prior to studying this passage I would have said something having to do with works. I would have thought it would have been evangelism, purity, reading the Bible, going to church, something external. My hope is that the passage for this morning will open our hearts to a new value system and give us the grace to center our lives around what God says is the most important thing. 

So open your Bibles or Bible apps to Luke 10:38-42 to read about the story of Jesus, Mary and Martha. I’ll read the passage for us slowly in hopes that the words really sink into our hearts. And my heart this morning is not to look simply for head knowledge, but to let the truth of God’s word really hit our hearts in a way that would produce abundant life and empower us to live differently. Scripture says: 

"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'”

Let the last verse really sink in for a moment. “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

As we dive in to what this wonderful passage has for us today, I want to break the rest of our time into three categories. First, what is Jesus saying? Second, can he really mean what he says? And third, what do we do about it? 

Point One: What is Jesus saying? 
That word necessary really means what it says. There’s one thing that’s needed— one thing that’s required, and that’s spending time at the feet of Jesus. Above all else God desires to simply meet with you. Above everything you could do for him he desires to simply spend time with you. 

This story depicts a y in the road. We can take the path of Martha, of worldly wisdom, a working your fingers to the bone mentality or we can take a path of grace and relationship. For most of my life I believed I was what I did. Every morning my feet hit the ground I was working to earn the affections of others. Whether it was my looks, my athleticism, my creativity and music, or something else that spur of the moment I thought would help my cause, I worked constantly to vy for the affections of others. Still today I feel a tug on my heart to fight for value in this world. When someone I know does something great I feel the nagging pull of competition. When someone makes more, seems to be loved more or just seems happier I feel a tug on my heart to work harder that I might feel worth something. 

But Jesus came that we might find freedom from the weights of the world. He came that we might understand that we’re valuable just as we are. That we’re loved beyond measure. That we don’t have to work for affirmation, love, affection and value, but instead we can simply sit at his feet and receive a revelation of his unconditional love for us. 

You see, our bent as humans is to spend our energy on whatever we believe gives us value. If we believe the love of others, success, money, whatever it is gives us value then we devote ourselves to that. The power of spending time with God is that every morning we can remind ourselves that we are already valuable to the King of kings, and live from a place of being valued rather than seeking value. We can live from a place of being loved rather than seeking love. 

So what do you value most this morning? What’s the thing your mind wanders to when you have a minute to yourself? What are you spending your energy working towards? Are you living a life fulfilled and satisfied in God, understanding that you are beyond valuable to your creator? Or are you working your fingers to the bone like Martha, “anxious and troubled about many things.” 

Point Two: Can he really mean what he says? 
The question you might be asking yourself right now is, how is that possible? Or in your heart you might be past asking the question and simply thinking, that’s not possible. There are so many other things that are necessary! What is Jesus thinking?!

So, how is it possible? Is Jesus just exaggerating or does he really mean what he says? 

I think another teaching of Jesus will provide clarity for why he meant what he said. 

In John 15:1-5 Jesus says:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

The reason spending time at the feet of Jesus is the one thing that’s necessary is because from that place of communion with God flows every other aspect of life with God. From the place of meeting with your Creator will you be empowered to accomplish every good work laid out for you before the foundation of the world. 

It’s only when you’ve experienced the love of God that you can truly love others. It’s only when you’ve received a revelation of what it is to be a child of God that you will love your children. It’s only when you’ve spent time with the bride groom that you’ll be the husband or wife you were created to be. From the place of meeting with God flows every other aspect of the abundant life available to us in God.
The most valuable time of our day is our time in the morning because it’s the foundation for everything else. If your desire is to experience fullness of life in God throughout your day you have to build it on the foundation of meeting with God in the morning. Heart-level connection with God established in the secret place is the lifeblood of the Christian life. Hearing his still, small voice in the quiet of the morning helps us learn what he sounds like when we enter into the busyness of the world. Rooting our emotions, actions and decisions in the study of his word help us build our day on the rock rather than the sinking sands of worldly wisdom. And spending time in solitude helps us remember that life is about far far more than what we accomplish.

Point Three: What do we do about it?
So, where do we go from here? "Alright Craig, I get that spending time with God is important. I even see how it’s necessary. What do I do about it though? If you saw how busy my life is you would understand how difficult it is to even get a second to myself let alone spend time with God." 

I’m here this morning because I believe fifteen minutes alone with your creator can change your life. In college I began to discover the wonders of encountering God in the secret place out of sheer necessity. I discovered that God could take fifteen minutes and multiply them like loaves and fish for my good and his glory. I discovered that spending time alone in his presence is absolutely the best thing and is a necessity to being his disciple. 

In response to these encounters God led me two years ago to create a devotional called First15. It’s simply a worship video, a short devotional thought written to stir up your affection for God, and a guided prayer time that helps you make room to encounter your Creator. Please understand my heart. There are a ton of amazing devotionals. I read all kinds of things all the time and I am profoundly blessed by how many amazing tools there are out there to spend time with God. I’m not here today to plug something I wrote. Find whatever works for you and go for it. I simply want to offer First15 as a tool to help you meet with God. Oftentimes it’s not knowing what we want to do in our time with God that keeps us from spending any time with him at all. If First15 can be a help to you at all, know that it’s completely free and available online or as an email subscription. Again my heart for you really is simply that you would meet with God, and I hope that First15 is something that enriches and blesses your time alone with God. 

Pastor David is going to come up and share a little bit more of how he wants you to engage in this challenge to meet with God. And as he does Rachel and I are going to end our time by singing a song we wrote called You Are My One Thing. As we sing it I hope that it can be a prayer for all of us and create space for God to empower us with his presence. Pastor David...