Sunday, January 21, 2024

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ: Launching out toward the Heart of God

Today we’re going to set out on an adventure. We’re going to launch out into the depths of God and seek to discover a beautiful mystery, called “the depths of Jesus Christ.” We all long I think for a deeper more meaningful relationship with God. Yet I think for a lot of us it may seem out of reach. Too hard. Too far away. Well, no longer. 

We’re going to set out on our space ship, of a sort, into the depths. But not necessarily the depths of outer space, though God made those depths, instead we’re aiming our space ship toward the heart of God. We’re going on a journey, to seek God, and find God, in the depths of His heart. 

Our tool for this journey is of course the word of God, prayer as well, but also, a classic Christian book, penned in 1685, by a woman who lived in France long ago, named Jeanne Guyon. The title of the book is “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.

In this new series we’ll use Madam Guyon’s book as a guide to lead us toward deeper relationship with God. And I’m going to treat this like an odyssey, an adventure, a journey, because as great as the journey is to launch off into outer space, the adventure is much greater, to launch off into the heart of God. 

So here we find ourselves at the launch pad. The ship is fueled and ready for our journey into deep space. But you may be wondering, who am I to embark on such a journey? Am I really worthy of it? Could it really be true that I can know God deeply? 

The word of God is clear, that as long as you’re willing to approach God like a little child, with confidence and trust, God is willing to receive you. As long as you’re willing to set aside your sins and find Him, you will find Him. 

As Jeanne Guyon wrote, addressing the concerns of her readers, “Did the Lord not say, You shall seek me and shall not find me?” John 7:34. Ah, but your Lord, who cannot contradict Himself, also said to all, “Seek, and you shall find.” (Matthew 7:7). 

Yes, it is true, if you seek the Lord, and yet are unwilling to stop your sinning, you shall not find Him. Why? Because you are seeking Him in a place where He is not. There, it is said, “You shall die in your sins.” 

But if you will take the trouble to seek God in your own heart, and if you sincerely forsake your sins so that you may draw near to Him, you shall infallibly find Him.” -Jeanne Guyon (1685)

You see the simple requirements of the journey. You are willing to seek God. And you are willing to leave your sins behind. If you are there, you are ready to climb aboard the space ship. 

Yet you may still be concerned. It can seem scary to chase after God with such boldness. 

Madam Guyon wrote, “I realize that the prospect of living a life of piety is frightening to most Christians. And prayer is viewed as a very difficult attainment. Consequently, most believers are too discouraged at the very outset even to take the first step in this direction. It is true that if you consider the difficulty of some new undertaking, it can cause you to despair and make you reluctant to begin. On the other hand, the desirability of such an adventure – and the idea that it may easily be accomplished- can cause you to launch out with vigor.”

I recently began my next masters class at Olivet Nazarene University. Looking at everything in the class, all the books, the syllabus, I found myself overwhelmed and wishing I hadn’t decided to take another class right now. But, once I logged in, and began working on the first two assignments for week one, I found myself able to handle those assignments and get them done. Don’t try to do everything at once. Just be ready to take the next step forward when the time comes. 

Jesus told the crowds once, when I think he could sense many were concerned and afraid, and nervous about God’s holiness and perfection. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

God is not looking for ways to keep you out. His goal is to give you the kingdom. He just asks that you be willing to get to know Him, and turn away from your past sins. 

Jeanne Guyon in her introduction makes it clear several biblical truths that I find to be thoroughly correct:

1.We can be convinced of God’s goodness toward us His children.

2. God does in fact desire to reveal himself to us deeply. 

3. We only need a little courage and perseverance to begin.

God is a giver of good gifts. He has abundant gifts for his people. As it says in the scriptures, “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, with Him, also freely give us all things?” -Romans 8:32

God gave us his own son, his own son’s precious blood, poured out to cover our sins. Does he not also, after giving us his son, also want to give us to know Him deeply? Certainly he does. 

Can God really be found so easily? Yes. It's not hard. It is different, because it means coming to God with a child-like heart of confidence and humble trust. That is different. But not hard. 

If you entirely give yourself to God, whole heart, then the answer is yes, God can be found. Absolutely. 

As Guyon states, it takes “Humble confidence toward God.” A child confidently moving toward their parent knowing they will be safe in their loving arms. 

It’s like a door. If I turn the knob, the door will open. It has to. It will. It’s the same with seeking God. If we seek him with all our heart, the door will open. It must. It has to. It will. Period. It’s guaranteed. That’s the lever system God has set up. 

So all aboard the space ship, and we launch off into deep space. The adventure begins. We are seeking the heart of God. We are seeking to know God deeply. We are seeking real, authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ. 

We talk so much about theology, biblical texts, parables of Jesus, scientific evidence, the historical Jesus, and so on, these are all good things, but for this journey, we want to consider three things: one, your own heart. Two, God’s heart. And three, the union of your heart with God’s heart. 

We’ll talk briefly about these three things, then we’ll pray and that’ll be our start to this new series. 

First, your own heart, has of course been through much in this world. In ways our hearts are soft and attentive to God. Our hearts give and receive love. For some of you though, your hearts are hurt. You’ve become bitter. Some of your hearts have become hard. 

So the first step today, is to ask God for help. Now, if you haven’t become a born again Christian yet, this prayer will not have any effect. God cannot heal a heart that doesn’t belong to Him. A heart without Christ is hard as rock and must be given to God to be changed into flesh. 

But, if your heart does belong to Christ, pray this prayer, and ask Him to heal it, “Lord, we’ve given our hearts to you, but life still happens. Hurts happen. Pain happens. And we confess we’ve allowed bitterness. We’ve allowed some hardness to set in. So God, we pray that you would send your angels, send your healing power, to heal our hearts. We give them to you afresh, please make our hearts new and fresh and soft again, only then Father, can be experience you in all your goodness, in Jesus name, amen.”

Secondly, we consider the heart of God. God’s heart is pure love, so much so that the scriptures say “God is love.” Our hearts are limited, though we do receive and give love freely. But God’s heart is infinite, more massive and expansive than the universe itself... A heart of hearts, a heart beyond anything we could imagine. 

Yet we can know God, and the heart of God, as we reach out for Him. As he seek Him, we find Him. God’s heart is our target in all this. And it’s not beyond our reach. There is a spot just for us, in His heart, made just for us. And we fit just right there. 

Know this truth in your mind, but I pray and hope you can feel it in your heart: He honestly really does love you deeply, more than you could possibly imagine. God really does love you. He longs to be with you. He beckons you to come. 

Prayer: "Lord, as we consider your heart, help us to come boldly toward your heart. Help us to perceive your love for us, even those here who doubt your love, may they sense your love and be amazed, in Jesus name, amen."

Third is the dream, the hope, the proper end of this great controversy: The union of your heart with God’s heart. Divine union. Divine reconciliation. You can experience this union with God in this life, all thanks to Jesus Christ, and what Jesus did on the cross. He paid the way forward. He opened the door. But you must walk through it. 

The divine union of your heart with God’s heart is this: God expresses his love for you, and you express your love for Him. And in that you find a taste of the union of your heart with God’s heart.

Let’s reach out today, make a beginning toward that union. Prayer: "Heavenly Father, we love you. We receive your love for us. We draw near to you, knowing you accept us in Christ. We simply love you, rejoice in you, celebrate our union with you, and draw nearer to you today. We love you. We receive your love. In Jesus name, amen."

Your heart. God’s heart. Union of hearts. It all starts there. What does it mean? How do we understand it? There are examples everywhere in our lives: a friendship, a father-son relationship, a romance even, it begins with something as simple as two hearts loving one another, but of course that’s just the beginning of the adventure. It’s long talks at night, it’s sharing stories, it’s going on trips, it’s carrying your son on your shoulders, it’s playing football together, it’s having a tea party with dad, it’s a journey in any relationship. All of those relationships give us pictures of God's love for us. 

So we begin that journey to learn more about the ultimate love relationship, between God and you. 

Off we go, into the depths of space, seeking out the heart of God, and if we seek with all our hearts, we will truly find all this and more. What I can assure you of is this: As much as we’re launching out to find God’s heart, he’s already with us in Christ on the ship as we launch out. Isn’t that amazing? I think so. 

I’ll conclude with a portion of a prayer from Madam Guyon’s book:

“Oh Holy Jesus, it is You alone who love the simple and innocent. It is Your “delight to dwell with the children of men,” (Proverbs 8:3) with those who are willing to become “little children.” (Matthew 18:3) Beloved Lord, write it on the hearts of those who read it and lead them to seek You within themselves. It is there You rest, as in the manger, waiting to receive proofs of their love and to give them testimonies of Yours in return.” Amen.