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Knowing God: Life's Major Pursuit, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
January 17, 2023 7:05 am

Knowing God: Life's Major Pursuit, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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January 17, 2023 7:05 am

Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Returning to Our Roots

Insight for Living
Chuck Swindoll

Today from Chuck Swindoll. When life appears hopeless, and it feels like a dark cloud is hanging over your head, it's important to recalibrate your thinking. Introspection fogs our perspective.

Conversely, knowing God clarifies our perspective. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll invites us to look at several passages of Scripture, including this one from Jeremiah 9. The prophet wrote, Don't let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don't let heroes brag of their exploits. Don't let the rich brag of their riches.

If you brag, brag of this and this only, that you understand and know God. Some of God's best prophets came from prisons. Not all of them were spawned in seminaries. Some of them, in fact, have emerged from the political arena, and on occasion, after politics, prison. One such man was Chuck Colson, and we have come to appreciate his words and even admire his insights. Here was a man who was, for a number of years, the closest to the President of the United States.

And you know his story. As a result of cooperation in a plan that was certainly not righteous, the man confessed to guilt and became a part of the prisons of our United States. He has, in fact, brought to pass a marvelous ministry among prisoners, having been there. I think he received some of his best insights while behind bars, and some of the things he writes today that stir us into action, as only a prophet can write, found their origin while he was behind bars. While reading his works not long ago, I came across a few paragraphs that speak for themselves.

All you have to do is listen, and you can identify with what he says. For a generation, Western society has been obsessed with the search for self. We have turned the age-old philosophical question about the meaning and purpose of life into a modern growth industry.

Like Heinz, there are 57 varieties and then some. Biofeedback, yoga, creative consciousness, EST, awareness workshops, TA, each fad with an avid following until something new comes along. Popular literature rides the wave with best-selling titles that guarantee success with everything from making money to firming flabby thighs. This not-so-magnificent obsession to find ourselves has spawned a whole set of counterfeit values. We worship fame, success, materialism, and celebrity.

We want to live for success as we look out for number one, and we don't mind winning through intimidation. However, this self-conscious world is in desperate straits. Each new promise leads only to a frustrating paradox. The 1970s self-fulfillment fads led to self-absorption and isolation, rather than the fuller, liberated lives they predicted.

The technology created to lead humanity to this new promised land may instead obliterate us and our planet in a giant mushroom cloud. Three decades of seemingly limitless affluence have succeeded only in sucking our culture dry, leaving it spiritually empty and economically weakened. Our world is filled with self-absorbed, frightened, hollow people. And in the midst of all this, we have the Church, those who follow Christ. For the Church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The Church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people.

The Church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of truth. But the Church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the Church has bought into the same value system, fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best-known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices. Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the Church's message.

The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to the man's success, replied without hesitation, We give the people what they want. This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today, the what's in it for me gospel. Then he concludes, the victorious Christian life has become man's victorious life, not God's. A popular daily devotional quotes Psalm 65, 9, the streams of God are filled with water and paraphrases it, I filled my mind to overflowing with thoughts of prosperity and success. I affirm that God is my source and God is unlimited. This is not just a religious adaptation of the lookout for number one winner take all. God helps those who help themselves gospel of our culture. It is heresy. It is heresy. This message will hurt you if you're committed to self more than anyone else.

It's going to make you uncomfortable. This message is going to make you uneasy if you have bought into the system I've just described through the words of Chuck Colson. And how few, it seems, have not bought into it.

Shirley MacLaine, the award winning actress back in 1977, granted an interview with the Washington Post. And in that interview she said this, the most pleasurable journey you take is through yourself. The only sustaining love is with yourself. When you look back on your life and try to figure out where you've been and where you're going, when you look at your work, your love affairs, your marriages, your children, your pain, your happiness, when you examine all that closely, what you really find out is that the only person you really go to bed with is yourself. The only thing you have is working to the consummation of your own identity. And that's what I've been trying to do all my life. Oh really?

Really? And how about you? We suffer today from a terrible disease. For lack of a better title, the disease is me-ism.

I, me, mine, myself. We want to know ourselves more than anything on earth and we will do anything to discover ourselves. And if that is a journey that leaves God out, it is a dead-end street.

As a matter of fact, unless God is the major pursuit of our lives, all other pursuits are dead-end streets. They won't work. They won't satisfy. They won't result in fulfillment.

They won't do for us what we think they're going to do. The major pursuit in existence is knowing God. And I happen to be so old-fashioned as to believe that when I really begin to come to know God, then and only then am I equipped to know myself.

In fact, the book seems to be full of such counsel. Let's move from a modern-day prophet 2,500 years ago to a weeping prophet. His name was Jeremiah. Dear Jeremiah.

If tears had been ink, I think Jeremiah would have written more than all the other prophets put together. Here is a man of God who spoke way ahead of his times. He found himself surrounded by a polluted stream of depravity among a people who knew better, who had been instructed for centuries to know and walk with their God, and they had deliberately, they had willfully turned away from the word of God, and they had gone into their own pursuits.

The result was predictable. They had begun to destroy themselves. They were a weak nation, soon to be destroyed by a greater power. He writes in chapter 9 of his journal, if you please, O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.

Now this scene he paints is not a pretty one, but it's realistic. Prophets paint not pretty pictures, but real pictures. He says, my people are slain. They're a pack of wimps. They were once known as strong for their God. Now they are weak, emaciated, and about to be destroyed.

They're slain people. If you want to know what he really would like to do, verse 2, O that I head in the desert, O wayfarer's lodging place. In today's terms, O that I could escape to a condo in Palm Springs, and get out of this mess, this filth in which I'm living.

O that I had a place where I could escape and get away from the people. Why? He names a few of the symptoms, not the disease yet, just the symptoms, because they are adulterers, because they are an assembly of treacherous men, because they bend their tongue like they bend their bow. Lies, not truth, prevail in the land, and because they're going from bad to worse in today's terms.

That's the way it would read. I'd like to just get away. I'd like to get out from the middle of this mess. Everywhere I turn, I seek for truth, and I hear lies. I look for faithfulness, and I find unfaithfulness. I look for people who are gentle and kind and encouraging, and I find treachery and murder and assault and rape. I look in vain to find the things that are to mark the people of God.

Now the disease. They do not know me, declares the Lord. Now that is a very simple answer, but it is profound.

It is profound. Look at verse 23. The same Lord speaking, Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom. Let not the mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches. Now wait right there. Just pause. You want to know what people pursue when their eyes are on themselves? You've got it. They leave God out, and they place instead in this counterfeit value system that Chuck Colson mentions in his book, they put in its place a pursuit for human wisdom, human might, and human riches. Verse 23, I ask you, is that relevant or what?

Does that sound like today's world? Stop on most any university campus and ask, What is your goal? What is your plan? Where are you going? Sometime you're surprised with the answer. I was on a university campus not long ago, and I asked a student, Where are you going?

He said, Lunch. I was expecting some great philosophical answer. But aside from a simple answer like lunch or supper, you're going to hear, I want to be resourceful. That's human wisdom. I want to be influential.

That's human might. I want to be powerful. And mostly you'll hear, I want to get rich.

That's human riches. I want to be, quote, successful. I want to wind up on top of my company. I want to run things. I want to control people. I want to be in charge.

I want to make a name. I want to have the bucks. And you won't find a thing in verse 23 about the living God. You get to verse 24, he still speaks as he says, Let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and he knows me.

Now there's the cure. What is it that will make an unfaithful man faithful? What is it that will make an influential man who's controlling people, a servant? What is it that will cause an individual who has turned to treachery to become gentle and gracious and giving a servant heart? It is understanding and knowing the living God.

Let me take those words apart. The first word, understand, in verse 24, means to have correct insight into the nature of the object. That's what the Hebrew word means, to have correct insight into the nature of an object. In this case, the object is the living God. It also includes the idea of conducting oneself wisely and dealing prudently. Harris, Archer, and Walke add, it means conforming one's life to the character of that object, in this case, God. To the one who would otherwise turn to might and wisdom and riches, I offer an alternative plan.

It isn't popular. You'll never be in the majority, but you will find the happiness you're pursuing. You'll discover what life is about if you have correct insight into the nature of and conform your life to the character of the living God. Second, the word to know. It's a knowledge gained by the senses, not one gained in a rational manner. It's not a knowledge that you can put your hand on or that you can put in a test tube or you can see with the naked eye. Not that kind of knowledge. It is a kind of knowledge that involves the inner faculties of the mind being focused on and motivated by the living God. It's hard to put that in practical terms. It's a faith kind of knowledge.

When you put the two terms together, they express all the powers and faculties of the mind being focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, or in this case, the living God himself. Now, how many people do that? I think a better question is, how many people want to do that? Do you? I often look into the faces of successful businessmen and women, and I wonder on occasion, does that person really pursue God, pursue a knowledge of God? I'm in touch with individuals who are at the top of their companies.

I meet people who are on their way up in a large company. I meet students on occasion who are making their plans and getting their education to get into the stream of that kind of pursuit, and I often think, does that person really want to know God? Do you really want to understand his ways? It's not the kind of understanding and knowledge that turns into sterile theology.

We don't need people like that. It's a matter of little help. It's a person who sees life through the eyes of God, who understands his circumstances through the lens of God's plan, who accepts the ways that he is facing or she is facing as given by God, permitted by God, and under God's surveillance. It's that kind of God understanding and God awareness I'm talking about. I've got to confess to you, when I thought about preparing a message on God the Father, I thought, what can I say?

It reminds me of the time I got a phone call from Goodwill Industries. They wanted me to speak to their group of people, and I said to the lady, what do you think would be good to speak on? She kind of yawned and said, oh, God and the universe and other subjects.

I thought, well, that boils it down to infinity, doesn't it? God and the universe. How can you talk about the living God in a brief period of time? So I decided I wouldn't take the normal tack on this. I don't think you need another repeating of God's attributes. You've heard them since you were knee high in Sunday school, and you've remembered a lot of them and you see them at work.

I thought, I'll go after this in a practical way. I want to talk about the importance of knowing him. And having done that, I'm going to trust the Spirit of God to motivate you to change your course in life if that isn't your direction. I want to talk for a few minutes about why it is important to know God, because I can assure you he hasn't hidden himself. It isn't a cat and mouse, hide and seek, kind of a you can't find me, I'm hiding from you type of thing.

It's not that at all. To begin with, God has given general knowledge in the heavens, so much so that Romans 1 says we're without excuse. He has written his handiwork in the heavens. Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament his handiwork. You look up into the starry skies and you realize if you make any kind of study of those stars, they didn't just fall into place.

And the finest piece of timing in the stars doesn't just happen to keep on course. The rising of the tide and the lowering of the tide, dropping of seed in the ground and the growing of plants, the climates, the wind, the weather, the torrential things that sweep over this earth, those things just don't happen. They are so obviously from the hand of the living God that you have to train yourself not to think that way. In fact, I personally believe you have to teach a child not to believe in God.

The most natural thing in the world in the heart of a child is to believe that someone outside himself arranged things. As soon as he's able to count his fingers, he realizes I've got five. Five fingers that didn't just happen to grow on the end of my arm. Why do I have five fingers? You have to instruct the child it wasn't God because normally the child will say that came from someone else.

My mom has five fingers and she got hers from the same one that I got mine. And my world, the plants, the flowers, the wind, the weather, you have to instruct an individual not to believe in a divine source. That's why Romans says we're without excuse. We have so instructed ourselves. The heavens announce and parade, display the glory of God.

All of God's creation speaks to the glory of God. That's one of the many lessons we're learning in our three-part presentation from Chuck Swindoll. He titled this message, Knowing God, Life's Major Pursuit. Please stay with us all this week if possible because Inside for Living will continue to feature this hallmark study from Chuck. It's a teaching series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life.

If you'd like to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at Several years ago Chuck said something in one of his messages that's become widely quoted. He was preaching about the virtue of developing a Godly perspective. In his message about attitudes Chuck said, I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. Chuck went on to say that all of us are in a quest but when it comes right down to it we're the only ones who can choose how we will react to what life throws at us. Chuck's new book will help you determine your choice and you can be among the first to own a copy by getting in touch with us today.

Chuck's book is called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React. To purchase a copy right now go to slash store. You can also purchase a copy by calling us. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. Please bear in mind that Insight for Living is a nonprofit ministry solely supported by the voluntary contributions of listeners and your gift no matter the size truly makes a difference in providing these daily visits with Chuck. And if you'd like to join the team of regular givers you can easily become a monthly companion right now. One of our ministry representatives will walk you through the process when you call us.

If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. Or you can become a monthly companion by following the simple instructions at slash monthly companion. Treat yourself to a vacation you'll never forget. On the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to the great frontier with Chuck Swindoll. Honestly I had no idea that a cruise to Alaska could be so much fun. And without a doubt the stunning views took my breath away. God's artistic genius is on full display in Alaska. In fact I guarantee this you'll come home refreshed and filled with awe for his majestic creation. At one point our ship was getting chased by dolphins.

They were playing and spinning in the waves. It was amazing. You'll have plenty of time for adventures on shore, lingering conversations around meal time, and strolling through the idyllic ports of call. You'll be a part of some of the best parts of our day laughing, singing, and celebrating our God. Plan to come with us won't you? The dates are July 1st through July 8th, 2023. To learn more call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or visit slash events.

The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us again next time when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life on Insight for Living. .
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