July 31, 2016

Communion with God

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Series: Doing Church Biblically Scripture: Psalm 24:3–5

Communion with God

This evening, we’re going to continue our sermon series entitled “Doing Church Biblically.” This series is designed to help us understand some of the foundational things we need to understand in order to start the church well in October and make sure that the church is as healthy as possible even from day one. And if you’re here from another church this evening, hopefully this series can help you make your own church healthier. Because it’s not just about having a big church; it’s about having a healthy church. Just because a church grows big, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It’s kind of like our physical bodies. Just because we’re big, doesn’t mean we’re healthy. You’ve probably heard about people who are morbidly obese and weigh more than you think a human being could. I think I heard about one man who was supposedly the heaviest man in the world and weighed 1,400 pounds. I think I remember hearing that he would eat something like three turkeys a day, or maybe that was just for one meal—I don’t know. But I do know that he was not healthy. And just like it’s possible for a person to be big but not healthy, it’s also possible for a church to be big but not healthy. Size by itself isn’t necessarily an indicator that a church is doing what Jesus wants it to do. The church may just be really good at entertaining people rather than actually making disciples. 

But we want to be a healthy church. That’s why we’re going through this sermon series on “Doing Church Biblically,” and that’s why I’d like for us to examine three characteristics of a healthy church. And we’re going the spend this week and the next two weeks looking at these characteristics. So this is sort of a series within a series. Three characteristics of a healthy church. And those characteristics are: Communion with God, community with each other, and commission to the world. Those are the three areas we want to keep in mind as we think about what it means for a church to be healthy. Communion with God, community with each other, and commission to the world. 

And tonight, we’re going to talk about communion with God. And by “communion with God,” I simply mean personal closeness to God, intimate fellowship with God. Because, in order for the church as a whole to be healthy, each one of us individually has to be healthy. The church won’t be any healthier that the average health of its individual members. That’s why each of us individually has to be walking in close communion with God. 

So often, we become distant in our relationship with God. We look to the things of this world to satisfy us and get so wrapped up in earthly concerns and earthly pursuits that we don’t even think about God that much. But the more we walk in communion with God, the more we discover that God is more satisfying than anything else. Listen to these verses from the psalms. 

  • Psalm 27:4 – “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
  • Psalm 42:1-2 – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”
  • Psalm 63:1 – “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” 
  • Psalm 84:10 – “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Do you know why being close to God is so satisfying? It’s because that’s what we were created for. The Bible says that God created us in his image. We were created in the image of God. And part of what means, among other things, is that we were created with the unique capacity to know God and have a relationship with God. That’s the purpose for which we were designed. Just like an eagle was created to soar in the sky and just like a fish was created to swim in the ocean, we were created to enjoy closeness to God and live as continual worshippers of God. That’s the main point I’d like us to understand this evening. The Christian life is all about experiencing that communion with God. And we enjoy increasingly close communion with God as we grow in three areas: as we grow in our knowledge of God, as we grow in our love for God, and as we grow in our likeness to God. And I’d like to spend the rest of our time talking about those three things. Growing in our knowledge of God, growing in our love for God, growing in our likeness to God. Those three things are necessary in order to live in communion with God the way we were created to do. 

Growing in Our Knowledge of God

First, growing in our knowledge of God. In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter commands us, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And in Colossians 1:10, Paul prays that the Colossians would be continually “increasing in the knowledge of God.” So apparently, having a knowledge of God—a basic understanding of who God is—is pretty important for being a healthy Christian. 

After all, can you really be close to someone if you don’t know anything about them? Let’s say I told you, “Hey, me and my boy Brian over there, we’re close. We’re like this.” And you said to me, “Hey, that’s great, because I was thinking of getting him something for his birthday. What kind of stuff does he like?” And I told you, “I’m not really sure what he likes.” So you ask, “Well, what activities does he do for fun?”And I said, “You know, I really don’t know much about what he likes or what he does.” So you ask, “Can you tell me anything about him?” And I’m like, “I can tell you that his name’s Brian.” From that conversation, you’re probably going to conclude that Brian and I aren’t really as close to each other as I first claimed. I don’t really know him the way I said I did. I pretty much just knew his name. 

Is that how it is between you and God—where you know God’s name but that’s pretty much all you know? Hopefully not. As we’ve seen, both Peter and Paul tell us that we need to be growing in our knowledge of God—growing in our understanding of who God actually is. And the way we do that is by rolling up our sleeves and reading the Bible on our own on a regular basis. Because it’s in the pages of the Bible that God reveals himself. And sometimes, we’ll read in the Bible direct statements about who God is. It’ll say things like, “God is loving,” “God is holy,” “God is faithful,” “God is powerful.” So it’s good to take those to heart. But many times—actually the majority of the time—we learn about who God is by reading about what he does. 

You see, the Bible is really one big story. It’s a story that encompasses everything, from God creating the world to humanity rebelling against God, to God working progressively to redeem the world and rescue the world from its fallen and sinful state. That’s the plot. And as you can tell, the main character of the story is God. God is the main character; God is the hero of the biblical story. And so throughout the story, we can observe different truths about who God is as we see him acting and interacting with his creation. We see God’s power in speaking this world into existence out of nothing. We see his holiness as he expels Adam and Eve from the garden when they rebel against him. We see God’s sovereignty as he chooses to establish a special covenant relationship with Abraham. We see God’s mercy and patience with Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, even though they turn away from him again and again. 

But do you know where we see the beauty of who God is displayed most vividly? It’s when Jesus comes to rescue us from our brokenness and our sin. And that part of the story is called the gospel, which literally means “good news,”—the good news of Jesus and what he did to rescue us. Jesus was fully God and existed as God even before time began. But he left the glories of heaven and entered our broken world. What love! What mercy! And after living a sinless life, Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. And it’s at the cross where we see so many truths about God. We see the love and the grace of God in taking upon himself the penalty we deserved. And we also see the wrath and the justice and the holiness of God in punishing sin as it deserves to be punished. And then, God displays his power as he raises Jesus from God and calls him back up into heaven to rule and reign once again over the entire universe. And one day, Jesus will return to this earth to save his children and to destroy his enemies once and for all. 

This is the God that we worship and serve. And if you don’t yet worship and serve this God, you should—because he’s so worthy. And as a Christian, you should be opening up your Bible regularly and reading about this grand story of God in more detail so that every day you can grasp more and more of who God is. 

Growing in Our Love for God

But not only do we want to know a lot about God, we also want to go beyond that. Because intellectual knowledge by itself doesn’t do us any good. The Bible says that even Satan knows a lot about God, but he’s no better for it. So not only do we want to grow in our knowledge of God, we also want to grow in our love for God. That’s the second element of communing with God I’d like to discuss. Growing in our love for God. 

Take your Bible and turn with me to Revelation 2. Read with me what Jesus tells the church of Ephesus. Revelation 2:2-5: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 

So isn’t that interesting? The church of Ephesus had so much going for them. Jesus commends them in verse 2 for their works, their toil, and their patient endurance. So they were doing a lot for Jesus. Then Jesus commends them for not putting up with evil people who were coming into the church and teaching false things in order to lead people astray. So it seems like this church in Ephesus also had sound doctrine. So they were doing the right things and they were believing the right things, but that wasn’t enough. Because what does Jesus say to them? He calls them out in verse 4 for abandoning the love they had at first. They used to love Jesus passionately, but over time, they had apparently fizzled out so that now, they were just doing the right things and believing the right things but no longer loving the way they should have been loving. They were just going through the motions. 

You know, it’s amazing how easy it is to go through the motions and put things on autopilot. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll catch myself doing that. It usually happens when I’m talking on the phone. I’ll be talking on the phone—using Bluetooth of course—and I’ll be paying so much attention to my conversation that I’m not thinking as much about my driving. Of course, my eyes are on the road, but my mind is somewhere else. It’s sort of like I’m driving on autopilot. And you know what? It’s kind of scary sometimes just how far I can navigate without even remembering doing it. Like I’ll hang up the phone and discover that I’m 15 minutes further along in my journey, and I don’t even remember hardly any of it. I know that I must have turned onto this road and that road in order to get where I am not, but I really don’t remember doing it because I was on autopilot. By the way, if anyone needs a ride home tonight, I’ll be glad to do it. Just remind me that I have a few calls to make along the way. But it’s an open invitation. 

And just like we can sometimes put our driving on autopilot, we can also put our relationship with Jesus on autopilot. We can get to the point where we’re just going through the motions. Of course, we’re still believing the right things and doing the right things, but we don’t have that love for Jesus that we should have. And if we’ve missed love for Jesus, we’ve missed everything. Because Jesus said that the greatest commandment in the entire Bible is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Basically, love God with every molecule of your being.  

What a tragedy it would be if you filled your mind with accurate knowledge of who God is and read book after book after book, but you neglected to look to God as your prize and your treasure. What a tragedy! Like we’ve said, you haven’t just missed one part or one component of the Christian life. You’ve missed everything! What’s life all about except to love God and experience intimate communion with God? That’s the reason we acquire knowledge of God—it’s so we can love God and know him not just in our intellect but in our personal experience. Do you know and love this God?

Growing in Our Likeness to God

And then the third element of walking in communion with God is growing in our likeness to God. Not only do we need to grow in our knowledge of God and not only do we need to grow in our love for God, but we also need to grow in our likeness to God. Please turn with me to Psalm 24. Psalm 24:3-5: “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

So David asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?” Who’s able to be in the presence of one so holy? Imagine you lived a few hundred years ago in a country that was ruled by a king. And one day, you found out you were going to meet your king. Even though you were just an ordinary peasant, the king asked for you to come meet him. How would you prepare for that meeting? Well, assuming you valued your life, you would want to show the king honor by looking presentable before him. So you would wash all the dirt and the grime off of you that you had acquired while working in the fields. You would probably get a haircut and purchase new clothes. You may even give more attention to your personal appearance and cleanliness than you did on your wedding day. After all, your life may depend on it. 

Now, why would we think that anything less is required for entering the presence of God—ascending his hill and standing in his holy place? Of course, God isn’t all that concerned about our physical cleanliness, although some mothers may occasionally imply the opposite, but he’s very much concerned about our spiritual cleanliness. So often we’re tempted to believe the lie that we can remain close to God and have communion with God even while we continue holding onto a sin in our life. But that’s not true. That shows we don’t really understand the holiness of God; we don’t really understand who we’re dealing with here. God is holy. And he demands holiness to enter his presence. Of course, ultimately, we can’t be holy on our own. That’s why we need Jesus to cleanse us from our sins and save us. But there’s still a sense in which we need to be walking in practical holiness in order to experience the joy of communion with God. So whatever sin you’re holding onto, whatever deviant behavior you’ve grown rather comfortable with, just know that until you repent of that sin, God will hide his face from you and you won’t be able to enjoy communion with him. 

And repenting of sin isn’t just something you do one time. It’s a normal part of the Christian life. As you grow as a Christian, the Holy Spirit will regularly bring new sins to your attention, and you’ll have to choose between sin and God again and again. You can’t have both. And so in order to live in communion with God, you have to be living a lifestyle of regular repentance. And in that way, you’ll grow in your likeness to Jesus. 


So we enjoy communion with God as we grow in three areas: our knowledge of God, our love for God, and our likeness to God. And a key word there is to grow. We have to grow in our knowledge, love, and likeness. You know, a plant is either growing, or it’s dying. A tree is either growing or it’s dying. What about you? Are you growing spiritually, or are you dying spiritually? Let me encourage you never to allow yourself to become satisfied with where you are in these three areas. Don’t ever be satisfied your knowledge of God, your love for God, or your likeness to God. If you become satisfied, it won’t be long before you’ll start to die. And if we’re going to have a healthy church, we need members who are alive. Not just members who go through the motions but members who are alive. Each individual member has to be living and growing in their communion with God. 

other sermons in this series

Feb 28


Matthew 26: The Lords Supper

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Matthew 26:26–29 Series: Doing Church Biblically

Oct 16


Trusting in Man vs. Trusting in God

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: Jeremiah 17:5–10 Series: Doing Church Biblically

Oct 9