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Pathways to Intimacy with God - Getting Hugs from an Invisible God, Part 2

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
August 18, 2023 6:00 am

Pathways to Intimacy with God - Getting Hugs from an Invisible God, Part 2

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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August 18, 2023 6:00 am

Are you tired of superficial relationships? Do you long to deeply connect with other Christians? But you just don’t know how? Join Chip as he encourages us with the secret to establishing and developing lasting, godly relationships.

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Let me ask you, are you tired of superficial relationships? Do you long as a believer to be really deeply connected with other Christians? I mean, that inflames your heart and your soul, and there's authenticity in life, but you just don't know how?

Well then stick around. Thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. Chip's our Bible teacher for this international discipleship ministry focused on helping Christians live like Christians. And those genuine relationships Chip just described can be hard to find. So today, as we pick up in our series Pathways to Intimacy with God, we'll learn how to jumpstart our hearts to better connect with others and our Heavenly Father. And after the teaching, Chip will share some extra insight into what he's learned in this area. So be sure to stick around for that. Okay, let's get to the remainder of Chip's talk, Getting Hugs from an Invisible God, from Acts chapter two.

Two major themes emerge, and the two major themes are very, very simple. Number one, as you read this verse and as you read the book of Acts in church history, you understand we express our love for Christ by expressing our love for His people. You might write that down.

Nah, forget writing it down, just live it. We express our love for Christ by expressing our love for people, His people. They belong.

They matter. They're His sons, His daughters, they're our brothers and our sisters. The way I say to God, I love you, is I give my time and my energy and my resources and my emotions as directed by the Holy Spirit living in me to those of you that God has me rub up against so that the Christ in me could express His love to you. That's how I love you. And that's how I love Christ. We express our love for Jesus, not in some ethereal, I love God, I raise my hands when I sing, I write a check now and then. It's about real live relationships. All those things are fine.

But 1 John said, if I say I love God and have no love for my brother, I am a liar and the truth isn't in me. These notes, I left or I thought I left down at the office and it was like late afternoon Saturday and who wants to go anywhere by yourself on Saturday and so I kind of said, hey, would anyone ride with me? You know, please, please, pretty please and I'll buy dinner on the way home if you'll come.

You know, I just, I would go down that dark building by myself and yeah, you know, and so we got down there and it had been a pretty interesting day anyway. And when I pulled up, there's a lady sitting on the steps and I'm thinking, you know, you know, with the toboggan and kind of a funky looking long coat and I got out of the car and I'm thinking I need to get my notes and I said, excuse me. She goes, are you a manager here? Do you work here? And I said, well, I work here and she goes, well, you know, if it's okay, is it okay if I stay here tonight?

I said, well, I know in general they kind of frown on that and this is not exactly the safest neighborhood, but all I want is that little alcove. It's getting really, really cold and I believe in God and I've been talking to him. And I'm thinking to myself, you know, it's been a pretty wild day and what I need is a homeless lady right now. I mean, those are my honest to goodness from the heart thoughts.

Not proud of them, but those were the thoughts. And I said, well, I'll tell you what, could you just stay right here? I've got to pick some stuff up in the office and I'll get right with you when I get back. And so, you know, I open the key, set off the alarm, turn it off, find my office and of course I can't find my notes. And so I'm coming back and as I'm shuffling things around now, you know, I'm thinking to myself like you would, what am I going to do with this homeless lady? And I've memorized a few verses, but I don't think I even really memorized this one. And the thought came to my mind.

When you've done it to the least of these, you've done it unto me. And I said, Lord, what do you want me to do? Just love her.

I said, okay. So I'm thinking I'm not sure how I'm going to love her, but she's not going to sleep here. One, it's way, way cold and she's got a thin coat, number one. Number two, I'm afraid what might happen.

And number three, you know, the people that keep all the insurance in forms think there's big liability here, Chip. You better make sure if you knew about this or something, you know. And so I didn't know what to do and I came out and I kind of looked at Teresa, you know, hand signs like, hey, what do you think we ought to do? And so I said to her, I said, you know, you can't stay here, but you know, let me figure out a way to put you up in a hotel and we'll get something straightened out. What's your name?

Are you ready for this? Gloria. And so we got in the car and she had a couple bags and she was proud inside. She had a new sleeping bag and we put them in the trunk and she sat in the back with Annie and it was very articulate, very articulate. And as we went down, I said, Gloria, are you hungry?

She goes, well, no, I couldn't accept anything and this and that. And along in the story, you know, we're sitting in a little Mexican restaurant, the four of us, and we had dinner with the homeless lady. And you know, I had one of those days where, you know, your emotions were all over the map. I got to tell you, dinner with the homeless lady and dropping her off at La Quinta and sharing our testament about what God was doing in our life. You know, you know that passage where it says now and then you entertain, you know, angels unaware?

I don't know if Gloria was an angel, but she was an angel from God for me. I think my attitude did the biggest 180 in a 24 hour period. And I thought, oh, Jesus, what a privilege to express my love to you by just being your hands, nothing big. Well, you know, I wasn't even motivated to do it. It's not like, you know, I was big, super Christian.

I mean, I just finally got to where I would obey. And that lady was a delight. And, you know, we figured out this place and the lady at La Quinta could figure out what's going on and, you know, gave her the special deal for two nights. And we went and took her stuff up to her room. And, you know, the three of us drove home. And you know what I learned? I learned we express our love for Christ by expressing our love for His people.

And you say, what do you mean His people? She said, I'm a Christian. And she said, you know, I know it's going to get real cold. And I called down to the shelters and they've just given me the runaround. She said, just before you came up, I just said, God, would you please take care of me today? It's going to be really cold tonight.

Would you help me? And I thought, you know what? This lady got a hug, didn't she? She got a hug.

She got a hug from an invisible God. And, you know, God orchestrates this stuff because I had looked through my briefcase about four times. Where's my notes? Where's my notes? Where's my notes to anxiety?

I'm going to preach tomorrow. I can't find my notes. Oh, I left them on the office. Well, I got news for you. Once we went through all this, I went back up and they were just right there in my briefcase.

You know, they were right there. So I guess God has a way of making you see what He wants you to see. The second observation out of this passage that is absolutely critical is not only do we express our love for Christ when we express our love for His people, we receive love from Christ when we receive love from God's people. You know, sometimes we think, God, do you love me? God, do you love me? God, do you love me? And someone comes up, says, can I give you a hand? Or how's everything?

Would you quit it? Don't bother me right now. God, do you love me? God, do you love me?

And then someone calls and says, you know, we're going to go do this. Do you want to? No, I'm too depressed.

You all go ahead. God, how come you don't love me? The way God loves you, He's not going to call you on the phone, probably.

Okay? The way God loves you is He's going to bring one of His children into your life, maybe in a way that you like and maybe in a way that you don't like, to express His love to you. And by the way, when we talk about love, you know, you can get real sentimental and real emotional. Love is not ooey gooey feelings, high-fiving, arm around one another and having warm emotions.

That's nice. I love that. Love is giving other people what they don't deserve, caring for them when they don't deserve it out of obedience to Christ. It's giving people what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost to yourself. That's love. Now, I like it when it's filled with good emotions and high-fives and the warm feelings and that sense of kumbaya, holding hands in the room.

I mean, I love that as much as the next guy. But let's not confuse sentimentality and emotions with love. We receive love from God when His children or believers do and act in ways that are consistent with the Spirit's leading. You know, I've been convinced now for many, many years that the way God teaches me to preach is that He usually takes me through the message before I get to give it. Someone asked me, you know, pastors say, hey, where do you get all those illustrations? And, you know, I got a book with 5,000 illustrations. I don't have any books with illustrations.

And I don't look at any books with illustrations. I found if I just keep my eyes open, God gives me more each week than I know what to do with. I got love this week. I didn't get ooey gooey loved. I got deeply loved.

I sat in one of our Starbucks with a guy in the church here who four different times admonished me about one area. Hey, hey, are you loving? Are you loving? Are you loving? You know, Chip, I want to, you know, you got that intensity, the balance between heat and light.

I sense there's a little more heat at times than there is light. You know, do you really understand? And, you know, like the fourth time I said, you know, I got it.

Okay? I mean, this message from God, unless he wants you to say that one more time, I got it. And I thought about it deeply.

And, I mean, I went home and did three or four things in response to that. And you know what? When I walked out, I felt closer to that man than I felt to him any time I've ever been with him. Because you know what I've learned? Only the people that really love you tell you the truth. Only the people that really love you are willing to risk the relationship and put everything on the line to help you see something that God wants you to see. And they're humans and they're fallible, so maybe it's only 82% right or 67% right.

You know what? Even sometimes if people are down on you, it's maybe only 12% right. But that 12% is from the Lord.

You need to listen. God loves you and God loves me and he expresses it through his people to you and to me. And sometimes it's an arm around the shoulder that's a hug and sometimes it's a gentle caring from the heart rebuke that you need. And sometimes it's a meal and sometimes it's getting help to learn your spiritual gift and sometimes it's helping someone move and sometimes it's a dinner and sometimes it's a phone call and sometimes like this week I got a number of notes that I just read them and I just thought, affirmation. Dear Chip, thanks, dah, dah, dah, dah, and God used that.

I just thought, that's not just stuff. God leads people to write notes. God leads people to make calls. God leads people to take money that is his that is on loan to them to give it to love and to care for others. We express our love for Christ by loving each other and God expresses his love for us by using people in our lives.

Let me give you the meaning of biblical fellowship or koinonia and I alluded to it but those of you taking notes going, you know, he went too fast. It's to share. It's to have in common. It's to partner. It's an association. It's a communion. A togetherness and a bond of the heart that grows out of our bond with Christ.

In fact, by way of word picture, it is a group of people so filled and so in love with Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit that they with reckless abandon love one another out of every aspect of their lives. See, koinonia fellowship, it's not a good feeling with a nice pot of coffee in a small group. Koinonia can happen there, but there's a lot of small groups.

Koinonia doesn't happen. But that's a good environment. It's people who so filled with the love of God that it spills out into love for one another. So that the heart of God through the Spirit of God through the normal hands and arms and shoulders and feet and eyes and time and talent and treasure gets transmitted from one believer to another believer, not because the other person deserves it, but because we belong to one another. Because we belong to him. Koinonia or the fellowship is a union with Christ that goes so deep that we recognize our union with one another. So we begin imperfectly, of course, but to treat one another exactly the way Jesus would treat us if he happened to be living in our body.

And he happens to, doesn't he? That's koinonia. Three characteristics out of this passage of koinonia in terms of by way of application. First, it was for all believers. Verse 46, no distinctions were made, no race, no color, no socioeconomic differences, no different ethnic backgrounds, all the believers. I had the privilege of preaching at an all-black church.

It was a three-hour service. And after I get done preaching, usually I'm kind of tired and if I know I have another one that night, it's like, boy, I need to kind of rest. You know, I drove home, the worship was so rich, the fellowship was so rich, the time was so great with God, and I saw how different parts of the body of Christ and the differences in the way they did it and to be candid just with my background, I just really fit in. And it was a lot freer.

And no one was in a hurry. And the people just lined up for prayer and the deacons were anointing people with oil and I felt prompted. Man, I got down on my knees for about 20 minutes and had a great time with God. And it was just a time with God's people that come from a different culture that was so rich and I dream and long for this passage getting lived out. You know, all believers. It was for all of them. The second characteristic, it held the believers together. It promoted unity in the midst of extreme diversity and notice in this passage, the health of the group was more important than anyone's individual agenda. They had all things in common and everyone who had need, their needs were met. And then finally, it met the needs of the believers. It wasn't just a gathering.

Koinonia is not getting together either in small groups or large groups or medium sized groups or in a church. It's not just gathering together in the name of Christ. Real needs have to get met. There's been some place where if there's not needs met, there's not love given or love received. It's real. I mean, that's the Spirit of God working in your spirit and your life to move you to think outside yourself, to want to do something for someone else who doesn't have.

That's Koinonia. It's for all believers. It holds us together and it meets needs. Why is this so important? Is this just important because, you know, I have needs and you have needs and is this just important because, you know, Jesus is not here anymore and I need a hug and you need a hug and people need a hug? I'm going to suggest that the importance is far beyond my needs and your needs, as important as those are.

I'm going to suggest that the impact of Koinonia can't be underestimated. I've got two stories I want to read. I've put them in your notes, but you can open your Bible if you want and I have very little comment, but I want you to think. I want you to think of what's the power of the fellowship, the meeting of the needs, the caring, the belonging to one another. And right after this text, the Spirit of God places at the end of chapter four of Acts this positive story about a man named Barnabas that exemplifies the power of Koinonia and then immediately afterwards he gives another story that's negative about people who fake Koinonia and the huge implications that it has.

Listen as I read you a little story. All the believers were with one heart and one mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.

Can you imagine that place? But they shared everything that they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all.

There was no needy persons among them. From time to time, those who own lands or houses sold them and they brought the money from the sales and they put it at the apostles feet and it was distributed as anyone had need. Do you get the picture of what's going on here? I mean this is radical. This is radical, radical, radical. The Spirit of God is doing something in selfish hearts.

They've been transformed. And then in case you want a specific picture, Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, who the apostles called Barnabas, which means son of encouragement, sold a field that he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet. And when you do a little research on Barnabas, you learn that he was from Cyprus and Cyprus was like downtown Manhattan in terms of real estate. And so he sold a pretty sweet piece of real estate because he thought, you know what, I've got a lot of physical material resources and we're birthing this church and things are really happening.

And I think I'm going to exchange some of those financial resources to meet the needs of a lot of people and he did. Positive example of quininea. The text goes on, negative example, Ananias and Sapphira. Now the text says now, put a line through that. It's an okay translation, it's but. And that's important because the author wants us to know what you just heard is one thing, here's the contrast. But a man named Ananias was together with his wife Sapphira and they also sold a piece of property.

In other words, like exhibit A, here's exhibit B. With his wife full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but he brought the rest and put it at the apostles feet. Then Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land? And then notice where he's going here, he's saying, hey, it was yours. No one said you had to give it all. Didn't it belong to you before it was sold?

Answer, yes. And after it sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? In other words, you could give 8%, 32%, 85%, half of it, Ananias, it's your stuff.

No one says you gotta give this. But notice, and after it was sold, the money was at your disposal, what made you think of doing such a thing? You haven't lied to men, but to God.

You understand what he did? He said, I sold it for $10,000. He really sold it for $15,000, kept back $5,000 so that everyone would think he'd given all to Jesus. The sin is not about giving. The sin is not about money. The sin is about hypocrisy. The sin is about acting like you love people and making people think you care more than you really care. It's the first sin recorded in the New Testament church. And you're thinking to yourself, well, you know, everyone has a few downfalls, I mean hypocrisy, like how serious could that be?

We're all a little bit hypocrite, right? Read on. You haven't lied to men, but to God. When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward and they wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him. And about three hours later, you know, here we go, the scene changes, the camera changes, the zoom lens go back. Ananias, they watched the guys walking him out.

And you know, I mean, people were going, whoa, for just lying, for being a hypocrite. I mean, bang, heart attack. Three hours later, Sapphira comes in. Hey, has my hubby been by as a matter of fact? So notice the interrogation here. So here we go.

About three hours later, his wife came in not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, he gives her a chance. Tell me, is this the price that you and Ananias got for the land? Yes, we're so committed. We're so loving. We care so much. You know, Barnabas, all the strokes he got and how he became a real hero in the church. We would like to be just like him. Having people think that we're wonderful, loving, caring and sacrificial.

Yes, that's exactly the price. I think I'm reading into this just a shade. Peter asked her, how could you agree?

In other words, you're in cahoots. How could you agree to test the spirit of the Lord? And then it gets very sober. Look, the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out also. At that moment, she fell down at his feet and died. And the young men came in and finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

You ever wonder why the Spirit of God would place this in the annals of the early church as the first sin recorded? You see, koinonia and hypocrisy can't go together. We are all, we're human, we're fleshly. We spend probably more energy trying to convince ourselves some and other people a lot more that we're loving and caring than we're really loving and caring. Our image and what people think and how we come off in our flesh just becomes so paramount. And see, there can't be real koinonia if the real care doesn't come from a real heart that's really sincere. And so you notice the extent of our impact is directly proportional to the unity and the authenticity of our fellowship. See, real koinonia is about real unity, not phony unity, not we're all together, we all agree on everything, everything's peachy. Real unity is forged out of authentic conflict and real unity is forged out of a commitment to the truth.

And real unity happens when you just flat out care for people when it costs. And the extent of our impact as a body will be directly proportional to the genuine unity and the authenticity of our fellowship. Jesus said it best, a new commandment he gave to his disciples that you love one another. By this all men will know that you're my disciples if you have love for one another. I think God wants to birth a group of people that say we want genuine koinonia and it begins with me. I want to express my love for God by loving you.

I want to receive love from God by having people not only tell me the truth but put their arm around me. And the extent of our impact will be the genuine unity that we have and the authenticity that we have both before God and before one another. You're listening to Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram and the message you just heard, Getting Hugs from an Invisible God, is from our series Pathways to Intimacy with God. Chip will join us in studio to share some insights from today's talk in just a minute. Most of us would consider ourselves faithful, church-going, Bible-reading, praying Christians. But let me ask you, are you close to God?

Do you really know him? Through this 10-part series, Chip challenges us to move beyond the rituals and customs of the Christian life and experience an authentic relationship with God. Stay with us to discover what it looks like to walk step-by-step with the Creator of the universe. If you missed any part of this series, catch up any time on the Chip Ingram app. Well, before we go any further, Chip's in studio now to share a quick word with all of you.

Chip? Thanks so much, Dave. I just want to pause and thank those of you who are our monthly partners. You know, there's a significant group of people that each and every month, all various sizes, give monthly to Living on the Edge. And it is such a joy to know that there's stability and income that we know that's coming in that allows us to plan in really significant ways.

And if you're one of those, I just want to say praise God and thank you very much. It's an indication of your heart. It means that you're aligning with our mission, and I pray that God richly blesses you. Thanks, Chip. Well, if you're already a financial partner, thank you, with your help Living on the Edge is ministering to more people than ever.

But if you're benefiting from Chip's teaching and haven't yet taken that step, now would be a great time to join the team. To send a gift or to become a monthly partner, go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or text donate to 7-4141. That's the word donate to 7-4141 or visit LivingOnTheEdge.org.

App listeners, tap donate. Well, here again is Chip. As we close today's program, I want to remind you that we, us ordinary people, are the physical expressions of the invisible God. Jesus lives in me. And if you're a follower of Christ, he lives in you. And God loves through ordinary people. I mean, Jesus changed the world through a small band of men and women that followed him and that who were willing to live in a different way. Who stopped living for themselves, who stopped living through some religious tradition. And when Jesus said to them a new commandment that I've given to you, that you love one another.

And then here was the caveat. In the same way that I love you, sacrificially, laying down your life for one another, in close proximity, being real and vulnerable and caring, whatever it takes. By this, the world will know that you're my disciples. You know, I remember I had the privilege of kind of doing what I would call a turnaround in a church in California. And one of the first things we did is talk about we're going to become Romans 12 Christians. And we're all going to do life in community and we're going to be in small groups.

And man, I got pushback. It was like, hey, I go to a Sunday school class, I read the Bible, I don't need any small groups. I mean, it was like, I won't go. And it was one of those times where I said, well, we're going to break every Sunday school class just for a season.

We're going to do everything in small groups in the next eight weeks. And I mean, they were furious and I'm going to leave the church and most of them didn't. But, you know, they were just mad.

And we did it. And I'll never forget a man coming to me and saying, you know something, I didn't think I needed this. But I've been in this Sunday school class for 35 years and I've weathered everything this church has been through. And when we got in these small groups, I learned things about people and hurts that they had that I didn't know after sitting in this class for 35 years. And we've connected at a deeper level. And I want you to know, I'm sorry.

I was really wrong. I guess I need small groups more than I ever thought. And just what I want to say to you is I need them and you need them too. So here's the question. What do you need to do to get connected into deep, authentic community?

Great challenge, Chip. And in fact, we here at Living on the Edge want to help you find and build that kind of community. Go to livingontheedge.org and check out our small group resources. And right now we've discounted all our study guides and tools for you. So whether you want to build a stronger marriage, better understand God's character, or biblically respond to our changing culture, we have something for you. Again, to learn more about any of our discounted small group resources, go to livingonttheedge.org. Well, until next time, this is Dave Druey saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-27 19:29:27 / 2023-08-27 19:41:45 / 12

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