I don’t know about you, but when I need to assemble something (a model of something or furniture or appliance), I need 2 things: an instruction and a picture. Usually, I pull out the instructions, and where everything is written in steps, how to do what. And somewhere after a few steps I already start to get confused, and I can’t stand it, I take the box and look at the picture of what should turn out. On the box is a picture of what I’m aiming for, a big picture of what I’m going to achieve in the long run. This picture gives me hope that when I finally, in 5 or 6 years, finish folding what I now have in a very disassembled state, I can succeed and can even earn what this picture promises! The picture gives a complete picture of what is now lying in small details and it gives you the strength and desire to continue what you started.
On the other hand, if we only have a picture of the final result, we would open the box, look at all these details, and probably would not be able to finish the design without instructions. For the desired result, you need both.
There is a lot of talk about the spiritual now. I read in the Wall Street Journal that if you add the word “soul” or “spirit” to the title of a book, its sales will increase by 15%. Now it is interesting for everyone to talk about the soul, about the spiritual, about experiences of the inexplicable. A lot of people think about it. Over the past 25 years, interest in everything spiritual has grown: in every religion that talks about experiencing God, where it is promised to meet Him, there are more fans. But precisely because of this, the question arises, how do I know for sure that what I am experiencing is a meeting with God? And that the God I’m meeting is the real God?
There may even be people among you who have been going to Church for years but have never experienced the presence of God in a deep, spiritual way. Perhaps for you, faith has all along been a list of rules and laws that you try to adhere to with varying success. And, on the other hand, you go into a bookstore that is filled with literature with spiritual experiences of Christians, and it seems that they experience spiritual miracles right every day! Such people, it seems to us, are always blessed in a special way, and they always do well, they always have a lot of revelations from God, just when they need to. And you start asking yourself, “Is this how I should live or not?”
It seems to me that many people confuse the concepts, and we all need to understand this. This is especially necessary for those who have just come to Christ, as beginners feel lost in any business. This reminds me of a favorite joke of my mother’s, who says that she needs to write a book called: “How to raise your first child as if it’s your fifth.” The first child — parents always worry about everything and fuss, the fifth-is not so bad, the child cries, well, let him cry. When you have your first child, whatever happens, you wonder with a question: “Is that normal?” Similarly in faith, when you are just beginning your life in Christ, do you want to know what the norm is? And this is absolutely natural!
In the Bible, we see many examples of a meeting with God: Isaiah, Moses and the burning Bush, Mary and the angel. But it’s all like a colorful wrapper — a General idea, and life is just little details that you need to know how to put together. To do this, we all need instructions and not just that! We need someone to tell us about the upcoming obstacles, difficulties, and how to get around them, how to learn to distinguish the real from the imaginary. We need step-by-step instructions as well as a general view.
The book of Psalms is a perfect example of how a person experiences and experiences God from the inside out! This is a diary of experiences, not just the facts of what is happening, but the experience of what is happening! Psalm 62 is a great example of how you can experience God, but not just learn about him, but get to know him! Today I want to talk about the characteristics of an authentic encounter with God. And each character is not just a test to check whether we are moving in the right direction, but a kind of discipline for us to grow. We will talk about the experience of meeting God.
King David begins with these words: “My God! You are my God, I have been seeking You since the early dawn; my soul is thirsty for You, my flesh longs for You in an empty, parched and waterless land, so that I may see Your power and your glory, as I saw You in the Holy place: for your mercy (love in other translations) is better than life. My mouth will praise You.”
And here is the first characteristic by which you can test yourself whether you have really found the real God. You have met It if you are spiritually hungry (or spiritually hungry). You can know that you are getting closer to God when you start to feel that you are far away from Him. The Bible never says that the result of searching for God is when you find him. But the Bible always says that you only seek God when you have already found him. You don’t seek God until He has met you.
The Bible also says that while people may be spiritually hungry, it is mostly the natural tendency to bypass the real God that works. People need spiritual things, but they don’t always look in the right place. In acts 17:22, Paul in Athens, when he saw the multitude of idols, spoke these words: “Athenians! I can see from everything that you seem to be particularly devout… and I found an altar with the inscription “to an unknown god” and I want to tell you about it.” Basically, people want to know God, we all have a craving for the spiritual. But because of sin, we want God in General, but in particular — we do not want him! Search for the real God and his real one’s revelations — we are not capable of such things ourselves.
David calls God his own Creator. This proves and shows their relationship. Which and how many people in your life can you call your own? If you don’t know me and hear my words: «My Katya, my David, my Michael, my Jonathan”, you will think that this is my family. You don’t use the word “mine” in relation to people with whom you don’t have a close relationship.
Now pay attention to the word order: “You are mine God, that’s why I’m looking for You.” It doesn’t say I found You, so You are my God. You can know that you have met the real God by whether you are thirsty and hungry for Him. And if you feel this emptiness when you don’t feel It, it’s a sign that It has touched you. In other words, if you are able to feel Its absence in your life, then you are able to feel Its presence and have been there, and therefore you have met It. And if you know and understand what I am talking about now, this is also proof that you have met Him. And the more you crave Its presence, the more deeply you will feel it.
I started this sermon by saying that the search for God does not necessarily mean a real spiritual experience and that everyone is looking for something on a spiritual plane. How do we know that what we are looking for is real?
Jonathan Edwards, in his book, uses the example of Psalm 62 to illustrate the sign of a true thirst for the real God. Look at the words of David: “My soul longs for you, my flesh longs for You in an empty, parched and arid land, to see Your power and your glory, as I saw You in the Holy place: for mercy (in some translations, “love”). – Ed.) Yours is better than life. My mouth will praise You.”
When we first start on the path of faith, our first steps (decisions to attend Church, engage in Ministry) are almost always motivated by the belief that God, being loving, will look to our desires and give us what we want. We expect to get the impossible — He will give us. For some-confidence in the future, for others-peace in the soul, for many-the desire to find a solution to numerous everyday and life problems. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a sign that you have already met God. This is not yet the search that David writes about, this is not yet the thirst.
In the beginning, we come to God to receive something from Him, so that he can complete us. This is almost always our first motivation in the search for God. But when will we find Him… David at the beginning of his life also prayed in the same words: “If you love me, save me from my enemies, if you love me, save my son from death, if you love me, save my army…” And now he says: “Your grace, your love is greater, better than life!” In other words, David says that if he has God’s love and mercy, nothing more is needed in this life! If I have Your love and mercy — that is my life.
Jonathan Edwards says that the sign of a true deep experience of God is when you are satisfied only with who God is, and not with what he can give you. David says the same thing: if he has a God, nothing else is needed in this life. If I have God’s love, honor, wisdom, mercy, favor… whose favor do I still need? David begins to understand this and proclaims it.
To some extent, we all understand this. But if we only pray with a list of requests: “God give this and that” without studying the Bible, without listening to God’s answers, without looking For him, then we will just want spiritual satisfaction, but we will never really meet God. But when you just sit down and begin to read Holy Scripture on His Holiness, sovereignty or greatness, and will realize that understanding who It is there, it makes you wonder and gives you true peace and real confidence. After all just thinking about it: “This God is the Creator of everything, who holds everything in His hand, who has power over everything. He is my God”, you do not feel at peace, but you are still worried about your problems, so you have yet to meet the real God!
The sign of a real deep spiritual experience of God is a new kind of” appetite ” for God, a thirst to meet Him! You want It, not something of It! So how do you achieve this state? What can I do to truly experience God?
First, when we talk about the appetite of any kind, the most important thing is not to spoil it! When I was a little boy, my mother used to tell me that if you eat cookies and candy before dinner, you will spoil your appetite. And of course, she was right. When I ate one or two cookies before dinner, I lost the urge to eat. But the problem is that my body needs real food! Mothers know this and therefore get very angry when their children do not listen to them.
Sin destroys your appetite! The range of such things can be narrowed down to three: the desire for power, the desire for flesh, and money are the strongest substitutes for God. They take away the need to admire God, experience him, love him, and communicate with him. They give a pleasant experience but spoil your appetite. For most of us, this is the main reason why we do not experience God deeply and to the end in our lives: we spoil our appetite with very strong substitutes that temporarily fill our need for something, but do not quench our thirst! In that case, just start obeying It. Turn to Him, then you will begin to come to your senses and see that you do not need all these “substitutes” and God can fill any need you have.
For example, you may feel uncomfortable on a spiritual level, but the loved one will say that you are all right, you will calm down. This is an example of how your appetite has been ruined. If you want to regain your appetite for God, you need to stop using substitutes!
Second, if you want to develop your appetite for God, start studying God and who he is. Read and learn all its attributes, not just those that are useful to you. Yes, we know that He is loving, merciful, and forgiving, but at the same time, he Is also Holy, omnipotent, perfect, and praiseworthy! As David says, ” To see Your power and your glory, as I saw You in the Holy place.”
And third, when you recognize Him through the Bible, thank Him: “Thank you, God, for being forgiving, thank you for Your glory and love…” When we do this, we get closer to Him, to understanding who He is.
And even if after all this you feel a distance between where you are and where God is, remind yourself that this is a sign that God has touched you! You would never have felt that distance if you had never arrived in His presence.
Seek God, do not spoil your appetite with substitutes, read About him, glorify Him, and not just ask. And remember that when we feel its absence, we are getting closer to It! Your grace and love are better than life, my God!