Read this message transcript by Sr. Pastor Harold Bullock from the "My Story" message series
Harold Bullock: I'd like to talk with you today about what's really involved in knowing Christ, I mean really. We talk about following Jesus Christ, and if you are a Christ follower, you know that that's more than just believing a set of ideas, and joining a religious club, you know, joining a church. There are ideas that you believe, and you do become a part of God's people, but there's just a whole lot more to this. So, I'd like to talk about that for a bit, and then talk about how you start the relationship with him.
I began to learn how to walk with Christ in 1970, that was a long time ago. I was 23 years old, almost 24, and I met some people who showed me how you actually walked with Christ, and my life began to change. Over the years, there have been many, many experiences with the Lord, and I'm going to talk to you about some of those this morning, but I'd like to make a disclaimer at the outset, or give you a warning.
I've been walking with the Lord now for 48 years plus, and over that time there've been a lot of experiences with Christ. I'm going to talk about some of them, others I'm not going to talk about, but as I share about some of the experiences in walking with him, don't imitate what I did, that's a warning.
God is leading your life. You'll hit situations, maybe similar, maybe not. What I'd like you to do, Hebrews 13:7 says, 'Remember your leaders who spoke to you the word of God, consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith.'
I'm speaking to you the word of God. I've led here for a long time, and you can look at the outcome of my life. I'm not on TV, I'm known to you, but don't imitate what I did, imitate my faith. Your specific situation, you may to have to do something different, but imitate the faith, not their specific example.
I'll be sharing some things. When I decide to actually follow Jesus Christ, I enter a living relationship with God. You have a listening guide in your handout you may want to use as we go along. This is a living thing. This is not simply, I enter a belief society, or I join a kind of a Christian social club, it's a living relationship. I actually become God's child, I'm his adopted child.
John 1:12. 'Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God'. Children of God, this means that God is my father, he's my daddy. Our God actually delights in his children. There's a verse in Proverbs 3:12 that talks about how God delights in his kids like a father delights in his children, and one of the images that's used is of a father going down on one knee, and throwing his arms open for his child to run, and jump into his arms, a three year old maybe.
This is how God feels about us. He loves the world, but those who turn to him, there's a delight in, and sometimes you know, you go along a little further with him, and you wonder, 'Why does he delight in me, I mean really?', he just does. I'm his child. I have a relationship with him, yet as his child, my daddy not only gives me his love, he also gives me assignments, things to do, I'm also his servant.
This relationship is with my father, and also with my Lord. Jesus talked to his disciples at one point, they were pretty proud of themselves for having followed him, they had to make some difficult choices. At one point he told them, 'You know, if a man has a hired servant, and the servant works in the field all day, and then the servant comes in at dinner time, the man doesn't say, "Oh, you've worked so hard, sit down, I'll fix your dinner". He says, "Fix me my dinner", 'cause that's what he's being paid to do, and then after he eats, the servant will eat', and then Jesus applied it this way.
'So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, "We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty"'. Now, you don't get too proud of yourself. God gives us assignments, so we do them. He is my father, he knows me, he loves me, he gives me access to him, he also gives me assignments.
A lot of people want to dismiss one, or the other of these two. They want to get excited about being God's child, daddy, or they want to be God's servant, but they don't really want a relationship, it's really both. He is God, so I worship him, and I honor him, he's worthy. Now, worship means declaring his worthiness. I worship, and honor him, because he's honorable. He's my Lord. He's the managing director. I obey him, and he's my father, I love him.
As I listen to him. He's not telling me things, because he despises me, he's wanting me to make good decisions. I listen to him, he lives with me, and helps me. Actually, he lives within me. He comes into my life when I yield my life to Christ. I turn my life over to the Lord for him to lead, and then he's with me continually.
Matthew 28:19, 'I am with you always, Jesus says, to the close of the age, on, and on, and on.' As I begin to walk with the Lord, I sort of had the idea he was somewhere in the neighborhood. You know, he was hanging around, so if I had a problem, I'd run to find him.
'God, I got a problem, got a problem.' Well, I begin to realize that after a while according to the Bible, he is actually with me all the time. If I'm walking down the street, if I'm in the grocery store, if I'm driving on the freeway, he's always with me. I can always speak to him in the moment. He's always with me, and he wants to interact with me. He's a person, I'm a person, he would like interaction, especially with his child. So, I can speak to him, talk to him, and he talks to me, especially through the Bible.
I want to understand his mind, and his will, so I'll read the Bible. I may talk to him in a special time of prayer, or just as I'm moving through the day, you know, it took me a while to realize if I was getting discouraged, or really frustrated, I could actually just tell God, 'Father, I'm just really frustrated right now. Please give me an insight, give me help, I'm just really frustrated', or, 'I don't know what's going to happen, please, please help me.' I can talk to him about how I'm feeling, he's present. He's not just hanging out in the neighborhood, he's right here, and he prompts me to do things, or not to do things.
One time, a person asked me, 'Well, how often does God speak to you?' Now, God has actually directed me very specifically, and that's one of the reasons why we're in Fort Worth, but this has happened infrequently over the years. However, there's another way God directs that's just over, and over again throughout the day. Usually, I told the person, I said, 'Oh, he speaks to me on a bunch of times every day.' They said, 'He does?' I said, 'Yes, mostly what he says is, "Don't do that"'. Oh yeah, 'Don't do that', or, 'You shouldn't have done that, you need to clear that up.'
Sometimes, he prompts to take certain actions. You can be prompted by the enemy too, so you want to learn about this, but he does. Years ago in 1974, I was painting a set of bookshelves on the back porch of our second story apartment out in the sun, wanting them to dry, and while I was painting, the thought came into my head, 'You need to forgive Ray his debt.'
Now, we had moved from Los Angeles to here, and I loaned my next door neighbor what today would be 2500 bucks. His mother was in a situation where she needed help, and he's a good man. He wasn't a Christ follower, but a good man, had a technical job, a good guy, we were friends, so Deborah, and I loaned it to him, and the Lord just said while I was painting these shelves, 'Forgive the debt, he owes you nothing.'
So, I thought, 'I'll do that', kept painting the shelves, because I didn't want to stop, because I didn't want lap marks on the paint drying out, and start painting again. The thought came again, 'You need to forgive Ray his debt.'
I said, 'I'll do that.' The thought came again, 'Forgive his debt now.' Okay, so I had water based paint, put the brush in the water. I walked inside to the phone, and called Ray, it was before cell phones, you had to call people the hard way. I called him, and got him, and I told him, I said, 'Ray, the Lord just spoke to me a few minutes ago, and said that your debt is forgiven, so you owe me no money'. He said, 'Well, Harold, I'll pay you. I promise I will'. He said, 'I haven't paid, because my mother had more problems.'
I said, 'I understand that Ray, I believe you will pay me, but it's forgiven. You don't owe me anything.' The Lord said, 'You don't owe me anything. It's forgiven.' He said, 'Well, but I'll pay it.' I said, 'I know, but you don't owe me anything.' He said, 'Well, I'll give it to your ministry.' I said, 'If you do, I'll tell your wife that you borrowed the money from me.'
I said the Lord just said, 'You're forgiven, you owe me nothing.' He said, 'I have to learn more about this.' I said, 'I encourage you to'. A few moments later, like three, or four minutes, Deborah went downstairs, my wife, to get mail. She came up with an envelope. In the envelope was a check for a little more than the $2500, it had come from a scholarship fund we had never heard of, we were in graduate school.
Now, realize what the Lord wanted me to do is, the Lord wanted me to trust him enough to obey him, so he could show me that he could take care of me. God does these things, he provides power to do what's right. I've been in situations where I didn't want to do what God says, and I did wrong.
Now, I grieved over it. I've been other situations where I didn't want to do what God said, and I just told God, 'God, please give me help, I don't want to obey you, but if you'll help me, I'll obey you,' and my heart changed. Now, I obeyed quickly, because I knew it would change back, this is a living thing. This is something that's going on. This is not just my mental states.
He corrects me when I do wrong. Thoughts come into my mind, 'That was wrong, clear it up.' One time, I was driving down the road, one of the men in the congregation, he, and I had an appointment, and we were talking in the car, and he was really struggling with lying, which is a pretty normal problem.
I was trying to help him with his lying, give him some thoughts, and ways to avoid it, and in the process, I said something that just was not true. It was a lie, and immediately in my mind, the Lord just said, 'That was a lie, clear it up', and so my mind from now, and I'm talking to him with one side, and the other side trying to talk to God.
I said, 'Well but, God if I say that I lied, I'm trying to help him with lying, he won't believe a thing I say', and the Lord said, I'm still talking to him, Lord said, 'That's his problem, your problem is you lied. Clear it up.' So, I stopped, and I said, 'A few minutes ago when I said such, and such, that was actually not true, it was a lie. Will you forgive me?' He laughed, he said, 'Sure,' then we went on, and I was able to help him with lying.
This is a living thing. It's not just ideas I have in my head. Sometimes, God corrects me by discipline. I was spanking one of my children years ago, we spanked them, not a whole lot, but sometimes they needed it, and I explained to one of them, I said, 'Darling, God spanks adults too.' She said, 'He does?' I said, 'Yeah, he spanked me several times.' She said, 'How does God spank adults?'
I pulled out my wallet. I said, 'He hits this.' Yeah, and in other things, he corrects me. He wants good for me, that's why he does it. He speaks to me through the Bible. Now, 2 Timothy 3:16, 'All scripture is breathed out by God.' The thought is, it's point of origin is him, though it comes through human writers in a lot of different ways, but it's from him. We use it for our teaching, reproof, being told we're off track, for correction, training, and righteousness. He gives us his content in a variety of forms in the Bible.
Sometimes, there are histories in the Bible. There are sections of laws, there are wisdom sayings, there's worship poetry, they're prophecies, they're letters, and then they're visions. He uses these to inform us, and to inspire us, and to direct us, and to strengthen us. I really want to get to know what the scripture says. He changes how I see life, and how I see situations.
Whenever you get in situations where people frustrate you, you tend to respond in certain ways. I'd had 23 years practice before I really learned how to walk with the Lord, so you react, but there've been many, many situations where the frustration has occurred, and rather than reacting, God just opened my eyes to a person who just needed mercy right now.
I've been in situations where I looked at it, and I thought, 'Oh, this is terrible', and then God would show me a different angle on it. This comes from him. I mean, you do learn some things as you age, but these things come from him, because he changes how I see things, he changed my angle on my spouse, my kids, problem, people, situations. As a result, I don't rush into the situation with words, and actions that are just going to create problems.
He wants me to trust him further. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, 'We walk by faith', that as we progress, we move forward by trusting God over, and over again, I hit the difficult choices. If I obey him, I risk having real problems. If I don't obey him, it looks like life will not be so bad.
So, what I have to do is trust him to take care of me if I do what he says, and then take the risk to do it. Whether it's clearing up relationships, or you know, a clean business deal, no lies, or whatever. He keeps on taking me further in this. Yesterday's trust, yesterday's faith is almost never good enough for today's fight. There are always new levels to learn.
I keep growing in this. He grows me, amid what's on my plate. You know that's an expression, it means this stuff that I'm involved in now, the responsibilities I have, the challenges I have right now, my situation, your situation, the problem people that are in my life. They become situations where he meets me, and he teaches me how to make hard choices, trusting him, and then he shows me how his ways work out so much better, even though it doesn't look like it.
I keep learning this. He keeps his promises as I obey. I keep on seeing his promises come true, and then he guides me as I walk with him. Proverbs 3:5-6, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.' You know, you're smart, right? Yeah, but not smart enough. You want to do what he says. 'In all your ways, acknowledge him, he'll make your path straight.'
Stuff straightens out, things straighten out, you never saw how they could. You walk through things. He gave me a mind to use, so I want to use it, but more than that, he's my father. He's here beside me to guide me, and he will help me, and he might guide me in moments of crisis, and in major decisions, or in handling life during the day. He'll guide me. I was driving through town one time coming from the west, going east on I-30.
This was years ago before the interchange was reconfigured. It was a very dangerous interchange, narrow little road, and my car started to go out right as I was going toward the interchange coming on I-30, and I didn't know what to do. I mean, it's a very dangerous place to stop. So, I just cried out to the Lord, 'Lord, do I turn, or do I go straight?', and what came into my head in the moment was, 'Turn south.' I did, and this is a fraction of a second.
I took the ramp south. There was enough momentum coming down from the freeway to keep on rolling, and I rolled off to the side of the road, and up behind me pulled the city service truck. The guy got out, and fixed my car. Now, the Lord gave me a mind to use. Every time I hit an interchange, I don't say, 'God show me which way should I turn?' I've got a mind, I need to use it, but there's a crisis, and I didn't know what to do. If I'd gone straight ahead, I would have never seen the truck. If I'd turned north, I would have never seen the truck.
God cares, and he guides, and then major decisions, which again, is why we're here, and why we've been in Fort Worth. He brings me good as time goes on, I seek first his kingdom, and all these things will be given to me. You can check out this verse for yourself. I have to put his priorities first, but then good will come.
Deborah, and I have been involved in starting the church here, and then pastoring, and our lives over the years have involved a lot of sacrifice financially, and other ways, but I tell you friend, over the years we have been blessed materially. We've been blessed spiritually, and we've been blessed in relationships.
God does not rip you off. God does not steal from you. Hard things will happen, but he blesses. He wants me to know him by experience, he wants me to experience his reality. 2 Peter 3:17 is an important verse. This is from a translation called, 'The Wuest translation of the Bible'. Kenneth Wuest was a major Greek scholar. He finally did a translation of the Bible that would emphasize Greek verbs, and similar keywords, because Greek language tends to say a whole lot more than English does.
So, he translates this, 2 Peter, 3:17, 'Be constantly on your guard, lest you fall from your own steadfastness.' Now you've been doing good, been pressing forward, watch out. 'Be constantly growing in the sphere of grace', keep reminding yourself you're in God's grace, and, 'An experiential knowledge of our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ.' An experiential knowledge, there's a Greek word that means that.
I'm to know him by experience, not just have ideas about him, but I'm to have a living, walking experience of him in my life. God is not just true, God is real. Real life flows in line with him. I experience his reality as I learn what he says. By the way, there's one of the groups starting, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, if you need to learn what God says, that's a good group to be a part of, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, one of our groups this fall.
I need learn what he says, and then I trust him based on it, and then I act based on what he says, and I act intelligently, I don't do stupid things, I act intelligently, but I trust him, and then I worked through the consequences. There are always consequences, but then I see how he comes through, I know this by experience.
This is a living thing. If I never trust him enough to take action, I will never see his reality. As you step forward, he will meet you. As I keep trusting, and obeying God, I change, I actually change over time. 'When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear', the Bible says.
What follows after this verse, is a long list of all the troublesome things we do to each other, and to ourselves. If you read the list, you'll recognize them. You've lived most of them, but then verse a little bit later says, 'The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.'
Those things actually benefit other people, and they benefit us. I change, it doesn't happen overnight. I don't go to sleep one night, then wake up the next day as super Christian. No, this happens over time, but it really does happen. The change comes about as I use the resources God has provided, and as I step out to obey him, and one of his resources again, is being with God's people, discussing the word, praying together.
A group life offers that opportunity for you. I'd encourage you, I'd invite you if you have not been a part of a group to sign up for one this Fall, and get traction, and next week we're going to be talking about God's growth plan. We'll talk some more about the key things in growth.
Right now. I'd like to just answer the question, 'How can I begin the relationship with Christ?' Turn your handout over, on the back is a list of things. I provided it in a checklist form, so you can check the ones you've already done, and if there any that you have to do, just leave them blank.
You need to be, first of all, you need to be reasonably convinced of some things, and then you need to take some steps. First, you need to be reasonably convinced there is a god, and that the God of the Bible is the true God. He's not one of many gods, He is the true God. Now, for you to be reasonably convinced will vary from person, to person.
Some of you may want to do a lot of research in the philosophy realm, others you could care less about philosophy. This depends on you, but you need to be reasonably convinced, and that you are a rebel, the word in the Bible is, 'Sinner'. ‘Yes, God we've all done that’, and we're separated from him, and facing punishment. Without Him, our situation is not good, that Jesus really lived, and that he's God, that he died to pay the price for our rebellion, and to bring us to God as our father.
His death on the cross was not an accident. He came to die to pay the price for our rebellion against God, and that price has been paid if you will yield your life to him, it goes on your account, paid in full. God accepts you. Jesus rose again, and lives today to guide, and care for us, and we can't earn God's favor. A lot of people trying to do enough good to outweigh their bad. I'll tell you friend, the bad goes deeper than you know.
You can never do enough, and then though people worship different gods, there is no other path to be right with God, except through Jesus Christ, this is unique. These things are all in the Bible. I've given you some references, you can check them out yourself. If you have some things unchecked on the list, this is where you need to focus in the future, and pay attention to these, do your study, do your questioning in this realm.
You also need to take action. Again, you can check the ones you've done. We need to admit I rebelled against God, a little humbling, but I need to admit it. Accept Jesus' death as the only thing that can make me right with God. If you're trying to believe in his death, plus all the good you're doing, you don't understand, it's only his death. I need to repent, that word does not mean go crying down a church aisle. What it means is turn around.
I need to turn away from running my own life, and turn to follow Christ. Turn my life over to him, and then I trust Christ to make me right with God, and to take care of me as I obey him. So, if you have some of these things that are unchecked, this is where you need to focus in the future, ask God for help, ask questions of people to understand what's involved. When I become a Christ follower, I get baptized. I plug into a church, I learn to all obey all that Christ said.
You can check the verses there, and see this in the Bible. If you'd like more information, this is a DVD called, The Case for Christ. The book is about this thick, it's a really good book written by a legal journalist who became a Christian. The DVD I think is somewhere between 15, and $20 on Amazon. If you're here, and you don't know Christ, or you're not sure if you do, we have one of these available for you for free. It'll be at the New Hope Pavilion, and drop by, and pick it up.
If you're already a Christ follower, leave them for other people, or you can buy your own, but if you're trying to learn, this is extremely helpful, it's a very well done DVD. I'd like to lead us in prayer. Next week, we're going to talk about God's growth plan.
Father, thank you for loving the world before we come to know you, and for loving us like a father whenever we do. We admit that when you got us, you did not get a great deal. You are very kind in receiving us in Christ's death, paying the price for us. We thank you that you are involved in our lives, and that you lead us forward. We rejoice to be your children. We ask you, help us learn to trust you, and obey. In the name of Jesus. Amen.