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Practical Atheist - Week 1

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Well welcome to the first week of a very important series called "Practical Atheist". I just want to say I am very thankful for every single one of you at all of our campuses and network churches that you are with us for this time. Let's dive right in and get to work. Let's look again at II Timothy chapter 3 verses 1 through 5, and as we do, what I want to do is ask ourselves, how many of these qualities do we actually see in the world that we live in today. So we'll look at them one by one. Here's what the Word of God says. The Bible says, But mark this, there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves. Is that true? I would say check. There'll be lovers of money. Check. Boastful. Check. Proud. Check. Abusive. Check. Disobedient to their parents. Yep. Ungrateful. Yes. Unholy. Check. Without love. Often, yes. Unforgiving. Check. Slanderous. Yes. Without self control. Check again. Brutal. Check. Not lovers of the good. Check. Treacherous. Check. Rash. Check. Conceited. Check, check. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Check. Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Check. People who go to church have a form of Christianity but don't really understand, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. In fact, a recent Gallup pole shows that some 94% of Americans believe in God or some universal spirit. 94% of Americans believe in God, but most don't fear Him. Right? I mean, kind of the way it looks in our world today is I believe in God but I don't fear Him. I believe in God, but I want to do whatever the heck I want to do. I want enough of God to keep me out of hell and enough of God to get me into heaven, but I don't want so much of God that it makes me change my lifestyle because at its root I believe in God, but I do not fear Him. Practical atheism. If you're taking notes, what is a practical atheist? It is someone who believes in God but lives as if He does not exist. Someone who believes in God, but lives as if He does not exist. What I want to say is if you will be a part of this series and if you have any openness to the Spirit of God, I promise you with every bit of integrity that I have I promise you God will do something significant in your life. I promise you. Next week, we will look at the challenge I believe in God but I don't want to go too far with it. I don't want to go overboard. Then we're going to look at the problem that I believe in God but my treasure is still really on this earth and then we are going to look at the problem that I believe in God but I don't really know Him. Today we are going to look at the reality that so many people believe in God but simply don't fear Him. It's kinda what I call a cafeteria Christianity. How many of you guys like cafeterias? Do you like cafeterias? Raise your hands, all of our campuses. Man, some of you guys are missing out. You are leaving it all to the old people and that's just not right because cafeterias should not be reserved just for old people. Now, don't go around 4:00 in the afternoon because that is rush hour when they are there but cafeterias are wonderful thing, especially when you can get all you can eat for one low price. The reason it is so great is because you walk in, you get to the little line, you get your little tray and you sit it down on the little thing and you get to walk by and choose whatever you want and you don't have to get things you don't want, which is a beautiful thing. Typically starts over here at this side, you put your little tray down and you start with the salads. I'd like some fruit salad please, but not pea salad. That shouldn't even be a salad. Anything with peas in shouldn't be right. Anyway, and so you get to choose what you want and then you go and you come to like the main course where you can get chicken friend steak, glory to God in heaven on high. You can get fish, fried fish, and they will always you, would you like a whole fish or a half of fish. Put your knife down baby. No sense in taking half a fish in this house. Give me the whole with tartar sauce put a lemon on that baby and give it to me now. You can get side foods. Any kind of things you want. You want vegetable medley, french fries, mashed potatoes, you know, whatever you want. You get to the desserts and if you're close to God you will get a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream on top of it because that's what you do when you are close to God. If you are sorta close to God you'll get vanilla pudding with bananas and little wafers in it. If you are not close to God you will order tapioca, which is just wrong in every since of the word or you'll get green Jell-O with rice in it, which is never supposed to happen. Whoever did that will answer to God in the worst sort of way. You get to go through and you get to pick and choose what you want, which is exactly what a lot of people are doing with God today. Right? I'll take a little bit of the grace of God please, put me one helping of the grace of God but I don't want any judgement please, no thank you. I'll take this verse that says that God blesses me, a double portion of God's blessings please, but no discipline. Oh I like that verse that says God has plans to prosper me and to bless me and not to harm me and such, but I don't like that verse that tells me to be generous. You know I don't want to believe in a God who makes me do something I don't want to do. I want my God this way and so God created us in his image and many of us we return the favor. This is the kind of God I want to believe in. Pick and choose. Cafeteria Christianity. The problem is that people forget at the end of the line you have to pay. I believe in God but I don't fear Him. I believe in God but I'm still going to life however I want to live. There is a verse in the book of Psalms, Psalms 36 verse 1 and 2 that to me really captures the essence of this problem. Here's what scripture says. The Bible says that sin whispers to the wicked deep within their hearts. What does the Bible say, they have no what? Would you say it aloud? The Bible says they have no fear of God to restrain them. Think about that for a minute. They have no fear of God to hold them back, to restrain them. No fear of God to change anything about the way they live. In their blind conceit they cannot see what, help me out, in their blind conceit they cannot see how wicked they really are. Amazing verse. Sin, it whispers to the wicked deep within their hearts. Sin whispers to the wicked. What does sin say? I don't know, it might whisper hey go ahead and do it, you deserve it. Live a little. You're not as bad as every one else. Go ahead and do whatever you want. Hey, you know what? God he is going to forgive you anyway so you might as well. You know? Hey, hey. Don't let everyone else have all the fun; you don't have to take this God thing too seriously. Sin whispers to the heart of the wicked. I'm so glad I'm not one of the wicked. You're not either. I mean, we know some wicked people. They are the jerks down the street that we don't like. There are some wicked, but it's not us, right? What if, what if this verse is talking to us? Because we don't like to see ourselves as wicked do we? But, the Bible says there is no one who does good, not even one, that our heart is deceitful above all things. What if sin is whispering to us? What if in our blind conceit we can't see how wicked we really are? What if there is no fear of God to restrain us? What if, like many people, we believe in God but we don't really fear Him? So, some of you are probably thinking great, I came on hellfire and brimstone week. Couldn't we come on love a God week? This just stinks. I mean this guy is going to tell me how to fear God so God is some kind of cosmic cop up in the air waiting for me to speed or break some commandment and then he is going to arrest me, put me into jail and throw me to hell where the worm never dies and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. I've got to spend the rest of my life afraid of God. Or, some of you may have flashbacks to some adult saying young man, I'm going to put the fear of God in ya. I'm going to put the fear of God in ya. That's how I'm supposed to live, right, just terrified of God. Actually, the fear of God is something far greater and more powerful than that. The fear of God as you look at the words in the original language, it's more of a reverent awe. A-W-E. It's this holy sense of divine wow. God is so big and holy. It's the reality that the God who spoke and hung the stars in the heaven, that God, loves you. It's the God who was before we were, cares about the intimate details of your life. It's the Great I Am. The one who was and is and is to come. It's the God who is the consuming fire. The rock. The shelter. The one who is so holy that man cannot look upon Him and live. It's that God. It is the God who with the spoken word can change anything. The all powerful. The ever present. The all knowing. That God. The God who was so great in His love that He sent His one and only and Son, Jesus, to die for us. The good news of one who was perfect, who died in our place. It's that God. It's the sense of wow! That God loves me. Sometimes I think our kids get it better than we get it. Sam, one of my kids, he's 7, and we're driving the other day and Sam said, Daddy, how do the babies inside of the mommies belly eat?" I said that's a hard question, kid. Something like the mommy eats and then God breaks it down and it goes into this umbilical cord, you remember we cut that on your baby brother? Yeah. And it goes into the baby and some how that feeds the baby and he went, that's awesome. He said, you mean if the mommy eats pizza it goes into there and the baby gets to eat pizza. I'm like, yeah, that's right. And he said, Dad, God is so cool. Like, He is! When you look at it that way you just sit back and you go God is amazing. Then he said, so daddy how do they get the baby out of the belly of the mom? I said, ask your mom, I don't know. I always turn my head at that point. I'm like I never saw it happen. I'd throw up or pass out or something. I don't have a clue but there's this sense of wow God, You are so amazing and here's the deal. The better you get to know Him the more your wow increases. I'll give you an example. It's not a great example but it's the best I could come up with. In every field there's kinda the hero. There's the big player. There's the star. Take golf, you might say you know, the hero is maybe Tiger Woods. Take home decorating and foo-foo stuff, girly stuff, make stuff, Martha Stewart, she's the one. Take plumbers. You know the hero, there's Joe. Right? There's, you know, every field has the one. Right? And what I do as a pastor, unquestionably the guy for many of us is a guy named Bill Hibels. He's been called the most influential pastor of our country for years. Some would say the most influential pastor in the world in our time, and I've always been in awe of this guy. I mean he's been a legend and he's just incredible. Well one time he was in town speaking and I finagled my way into the group that got to take him back to the airport and so I was like going to get to shake his hand and so I was in the van waiting for him to come up and he kinda walks up and I opened up there and Bill looks at me and he says, thanks Craig, and he got in the van. I'm like, I knew it. He knew my name. He's been studying us. He's watching. He knew my ...and I was did he know my name? When he asked me questions in the van I was like...umm, blah, blah...and I couldn't say anything. I was just too in awe. I came back to the office, you guys aren't going to believe this. I got to take Bill Hibels back, he knew my name. My assistant said, "Well duh, you idiot, you're wearing a name tag. Of course he knew your name." Never donned on me, but I was so in awe I was afraid, I couldn't even speak. Well over the years we've actually became very good friends and his wife, Lynn, has become a true mentor to my wife and they have spoken into our lives, but what's interesting is the better that we've got to know them the more that our respect has grown because we don't admire them from a distance but we get to see up close their integrity and their humility and their generosity and so our admiration has grown as we know them better. But, here's the deal. I was talking to one of their staff ministers and was like, why do Bill and Lynn do so much for us and their staff minister said, "You guys are so stupid, they are crazy about you. They absolutely love you," and all of a sudden I went, you're right, they love us and so the closer we get to them the more our respect grows but it's not this whole I'm afraid I'm going to stumble over my words, it's a very relational love. It's very real. The same is true with God. You see, the more you get to know Him, the more you see His character and His power and His nature, and His goodness and His glory and His transcendence and the closer you get to Him the more in awe of Him you are and then when you realize that He loves you, you have this holy reverent fear of Him and you want to do what is important to Him, not because you have to to please Him but because of what He's done for you and there's this holy sense of fear, God I want to obey You. The problem is, if you do not fear God, and many of you don't, it's simply because you do not know Him very well, you see. I want you to hear that and let it land for a minute. If you don't fear Him, it's because you don't know Him, because when you get to know Him you are so blown away by who He is you have to fear Him and yet, in our society today, so many people claim belief in God, even the demons believe in God and they're smart enough to tremble, but we have a group of people, 94% in my country, who say I believe in God but I'm still going to do whatever the heck I want. Practical atheism, it's believing in God without fearing Him. It's because simply people just don't know Him. I'm going to spend a whole week on talking about knowing Him. I wish we could today but what I'm going to do is I'm going to show you very clearly what happens when you get to know Him better and your fear increases. Two things, the first thing is this, when you truly fear God, you will serve Him wholeheartedly without any conditions. You'll serve Him without conditions because the reality is today most people have conditions. Almost everybody does. I don't know what yours would be, I mean common ones. I'll serve God but I'm not going to stop sleeping with my girlfriend, no way Jose, it's too good. You're not going there. I'm going to serve God but there ain't no way you are getting me to tithe. I mean, 10 percent, screw that. I mean I've got too many things I'm going to ... No way am I going to do that. I'm going to serve God but I'm still going to look at whatever I want because you know. I'm going to serve God but hey I still may take His name in vain every now and then because I mean you know it's just, you know, sometimes you just got to say something, right? Yeah, I'm going to serve God but I'm not going to Africa. I mean don't you try to get me to do anything with it or serve Him in the church you know. I've got more important things to do than that. I'll serve God, but. When I was a brand new believer one time I went to church, I was 21ish or so and I saw this lady who obviously didn't have much and I felt like God just moved upon me to give her all the money I had in my wallet and I looked at my wallet and all I had was a $5.00 bill and I thought that's not going to do anything but oh well, if I'm supposed to I'm supposed to. So I went up and I said, ma'am, I know this sounds crazy and I hope you don't think I'm a weirdo and I'm not stalking you, but I thought that I was supposed to give this to you and I did and as soon as I handed this to her she just started worshiping God and she said....I'm like what's the deal, you have no idea, when I woke up I felt like I was supposed to go to church but I don't have hardly any money and I had enough gas in my car to get there but I knew I didn't have enough to get home and I felt like God just said go and worship Me and trust Me and we just both stepped back and had this wow God moment. The God of the universe cared enough about her to speak through a young guy like me to help get her to a place where she could worship God and we were just wow God! He's that big in that person. Then, I thought okay well good for you but that was my lunch money and so a guy came up to me after church and said, hey dude, do you want to go to lunch? I'm like, yeah, I wish I could but I really can't and he goes, nah, come on I'm buying so I went out and got something for $8.00 and not $5.00, which is just awesome. That's the best part of the story you know. Fast forward several years and I had that same sense that God wanted me to give what I had in my wallet, this time to a guy and I looked in my wallet and all I had was $100 bill. Not 5 but 100. So I'm thinking to myself, is this the devil, are you trying to get me to give this money? And so I argued back and forth kinda in my mind like, you know ehh, and so I didn't do it. I didn't do it. You could say that I had a $5.00 fear of God, but not a $100.00 fear of God. I've got my limits you see. I got my limits. I'll serve God but only up to here. To this day, I wonder, what was God going to do in that guy's life through my giving and what did I miss out by not being obedient to God. When you truly fear Him, you will obey Him without any conditions and yet we have an incredible, incredibly disobedient world, don't we. One of the most amazing stories to me in all of scripture is when God spoke to a father, Abraham, and said I want you to offer your son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to me. I want you to hear right know, believe when I tell ya, that ain't happening. You know, I mean, the people that I know, there ain't no way anybody I know, including me, we're not giving our son as a sacrifice. No way ever! And one of the most amazing acts of obedience, this father takes his son up to the top of a mountain, puts him on an altar, and raises up a knife to sacrifice his son and here's what God says, God in His goodness. Verse 12 in Genesis 22. God says, don't lay a hand on the boy, He said, don't do anything to him. Now I know that you, what, He said now I know that you. One more time say it again, now I know that you you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. Now I know you fear God because the greatest evidence of the fear of God is obedience to God. The greatest visible evidence of the fear of God is obedience to God and yet we've got a generation of cultural Christians, false converts, who believe in God but practice a cafeteria style of Christianity. I'll take this part of God but I don't want to have anything to do with that part of God. I want to do what I want to do. I believe in God but I don't really fear Him. This is what Jesus said, John 14:15. He said if you love me, you will obey what I command. The greatest evidence of the fear of God is obedience to God. You'll serve Him without any conditions. Let's unpack another thought for a minute. Here's basically what drives many people to God today. They come to God with this consumeristic mind set. Okay God, if you can fix my life, I'll give you this chance and if you prove yourself and my life is better than perhaps I'll serve You. How does it go? If you're marriage fine chances are you really don't need God, you don't need God, but if you're marriage is struggling then God help and if you do, God then I might be there for you, you know? If you're finances are fine, you don't need God. But when you lose your job, all of a sudden God's got your attention. God help fix my life. If you're making all A's you don't need God, but if you're struggling in your class, God help me pass this test. God help heal my grandma. God help my football team win, which to me is one of the funniest prayers you've ever prayed because here you got one team praying for one football team, another team praying for the other football team, and you're like, God which one do I like better today? You know, but anyway that's a whole other deal. So basically it's God, if you fix my life I may be benevolent enough to serve You. God fix my life, make it better. The reality is though when you get to know God, rather than fixing your life, God will often instead ruin it, in the best sort of way. Oh he will and those of you who really know Him you know what I'm talking about. You really really do. Second thought is this, when you truly fear God, you will be forever ruined. You will never be the same again, ever, when you truly know Him. Some of you, you know what I'm talking about. Everything you thought was important is no longer important and there is a whole new mission that drives you. One of the great examples of this is in the Old Testament. You can read this whole chapter, it's really worth it. Isaiah chapter 6. I'll just kind of quote the story to you. The first verse starts out this way. It says, in the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord high and lifted up. Isaiah says this. When he says in the year that King Uzziah translated into our times, that was the year that the person that we did not want to get elected president got elected president. You know, that's kind of what its saying. The year that our world fell apart in our eyes and it was very real in his time. I saw the Lord high and lifted up, okay? And then he goes on to say, the train of the robe of the Lord filled the temple. So, the train of His robe filled this whole temple and then smoke was all over the place and there was these angelic beings called seraphs with six wings, two covering their eyes, two covering their feet and they were flying out and they were singing the most beautiful heavenly majestic song that I've ever heard in my life declare holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty and as they sang and as I saw the train of God and as the smoke filled this place, everything shook. It was if I was in the middle of this this earthquake and there I saw God. I saw Him. I saw Him. I saw Him and when I saw Him, at that moment everything changed. I would never ever be the same again, never be the same. I saw Him high and lifted up and then he cried out this, and He said, Woe to me. He said, I'm what? He said I am ruined. I'll never be the same. I am a man of unclean lips. My people are a people of unclean lips because I've seen the Lord God Almighty. I am totally ruined and I will never ever be the same. You see, I've seen Him and I believe in Him and all of a sudden since I've seen Him my life is different, different, different because I've seen Him. I can't go back to normal. I can't go back to normal. It's not normal. I've seen God and three verses later when God said who will go for us, who can I send what he didn't say was well first can we talk about the retirement plan? Are there good benefits? Are you going to ask me to go to someplace dangerous? No, what he said me, baby me. Me, me, me, me, me, pick me, here I am send me, send me, send me, send me, why? Because I've been ruined in the best sort of way and I'm so afraid that so many of you you haven't been ruined yet. You haven't been ruined yet, because you haven't really known Him. And what really keeps me awake at night in this season in my life is the reality at some level I'm going to answer to God for you. At some level, I don't know how much and I'm afraid and it makes me shake with fear that we have so many people who are practical atheists. You believe in God but you still do whatever you want, you don't fear Him. in the upcoming weeks I'm going to tell you what God is doing in my life with Amy and we're just, He's shaking us at our core and we're different because we're experiencing more of God and its, we're ruined in the best sort of way because, you cannot experience more of God without becoming more obedient and being ruined, and yet when I look around today, I see people becoming more disobedient and trying to fix their lives and using God to fix it. It's a consumeristic mentality and its not Biblical Christianity. It's I'll take what I want and I'll give back the rest. It's I believe in God but I do not fear Him. That scares me. God would you reveal yourself to us in such a profound way? God, everywhere from the person who appears to be far from you to the person who've grown up around you. May we know You and God would you rattle us to our core to see ourselves as ruined and undone and see You high and lifted up and not come to You for You to serve us and do what we want, but come to You in humble repentance for our filthiness and our wickedness and our sin and say, God, here we are to serve You without any reservation, without any hesitations with total commitment God. May we know You in such an intimate way that we fear You and at the same time we love You because You are so awesome and You love us. As you pray today, at all of our campuses without looking around, some of you are going to recognize the reality, you are going to call it what it is and that is you believe in God at some level or another but your life does not reflect a sincere fear for Him and what I would like you to do is you have to face it. I mean you have to face it. Because if you don't you're going to continue on with this half-hearted cultural Christianity and I'm telling you it's not the real deal. It's not what Jesus intended. At all of our campuses, there are those of you who are going to say, I do, I believe in Him but it's pretty obvious and I don't want to admit it but I'm going to. I'm going to face the reality of my life and this is where I've been personally. This is where Craig Groeschel has been. I believe in Him but in these areas I'm not living in such a way that I fear Him. God have mercy on me, may I know you better. If that's you today, would you lift up your hands high? Just lift them up all of our campuses. Lift them up all around the room and I just want to say man, there are so many and I'm so thankful. God would you reveal Yourself to us in such a way that we are blown away by Your majesty and by Your glory and by Your holiness and by Your power and by Your love and by Your intimate and personal care for us and because of your goodness through Jesus, God, show us so much of You that we have no other response but to be obedient and no other response but to do what You call us to do and God, may we be so blown away by You that we cannot go back to life as it was, because we are different in Your presence. God ruin us, ruin us in the best sort of way. As you continue praying today, I know there are a lot of you that you grew up like I did. You grew up kind of close to the things of God. I did. We went to church all the time and we knew a lot about God but I'm going to tell you right now there was no evidence that we were following Jesus. I believed in God but I didn't fear him at all. I did not understand Him at all. There was no evidence in my life that I was following Christ and there are those of you like that, everyone else around you are going to say hey yeah, you know, yeah you're probably a Christian and yeah you kind of do the church thing and yeah you believe in God, even the demons believed in God and they are smart enough to tremble. You believe in God but you don't fear Him. I'm going to tell you right now its because you don't really know Him. You don't know Him. Call on Him today. Don't insult God by simply asking Jesus to save you from your sins. That's a self centered Christianity. What you want to do is say Jesus be everything to me. Don't just be my Savior, be the Lord of my life. Others of you, you look like you're real far from God and your friends are going to be like dude, he's far from God. She's far from God. But, you realize inside no you're not because there's some sense of a need for him and you're closer than anyone realizes and you're going to think well I need to clean up my life first. Let me just tell you right now, you can't do it, you're not good enough, and you'll never get there. You just step across the line today and say Jesus save me, change me, fill me with Your Spirit, be everything that I need. I don't want to be half hearted. I don't want to be lukewarm. I don't want to be sort of kind of in. I want to live my life in such a way to bring you glory. Jesus, would You take every bit of my life? Would You be my Savior, would You be my Lord? I surrender my whole life to you. Today's the day. I sense it. I'm ready. I'm stepping over the line of faith today, I'm giving it all to you. At all of our campuses, you're here, you sense it, you know it. This is your time. full blown, all out, no holding back. Radical, fanatical faith-filled commitment. Jesus I give it all to You. Would you lift your hands high right now? Just lift them up all of our campuses. Lift them up if you will and just leave them up. Leave them up and I want to meet you eye to eye. Right up here in this middle section, praise God for you. Both of you back here, sir, ma'am, and right there as well, God bless you. Way back there to the back, both of you saying that's my prayer today. Sir, right back there, welcome into the kingdom of God, his family. Right back here in this middle section both of you way back there, praise God for you. Others of you? Let me just see you right over here. Thank you. Others who would say that's my prayer. Right back over here to this side, right there sweetheart, God bless you as well. Others of you, call on His name. You're leaning into it. Step across the line of faith. Jesus, radical, faith filled commitment. Save me from my sins. Be the Lord of my life. Others of you, that's your prayer today. Take over everywhere and completely. There are so many more of you, I'm telling you right now, you go home you get on your face before God and you cry out to him. Save me. Take all of my life. Would you pray aloud. Pray heavenly father, take it all. Every bit of me. Save me from my wickedness, from my sins, forgive me. Make me new, totally brand new. Fill me with Your Spirit so I can obey you. Help me to know You, to fear You and to love You. Thank You for new life. Now take all of mine, in Jesus' name I pray. LifeChurch would you worship a good God. Welcome those today born into His family. .

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Posted by: lifechurchopen on Jul 6, 2010

Practical Atheist Week 1

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