Episode 1. A New Mindset
Listen to the radio broadcast
Download audio file
One of the things that stops us from getting close to God – is how we see Him. What we think of Him. What we think He’s like. And that’s a real tragedy – because those blind …
One of the things that stops us from getting close to God – is how we see Him. What we think of Him. What we think He’s like. And that’s a real tragedy – because those blind spots just don’t belong in our thinking anymore.
It’s great to be with you at the start of a new week and this week on the program we’re going to take a look at the barriers between us and God – the things that stop us from having a close relationship with Him. It’s a kind of different take on last week’s series that was called How to Get Close to God. Today and over the next few days we’re just going to take a look together at some of the things that stop us from experiencing a real closeness to God.
It’s a bit like a marriage, when two people have been married for a good many years, often, there are barriers that have grown up between them. They’re still married, they still love each other but there can be behaviours and ways of thinking and hurts from the past that they just don’t talk about anymore and those barriers are barriers to intimacy, they’re barriers to a close relationship.
This week I want to invite you on a journey with me to look at some of the barriers that we put up in our lives that stop us from having an intimate relationship with God. What are they? What do we do about them? How do we tear them down?
Over the last 13 years since I gave my life to Jesus, God has been dealing with me on so many issues, cleaning me out, changing my perspective, softening my heart. I hope to live a long life ’cause He has so much more to do and I have such a long way to go, it’s a progressive thing. The theologians call it sanctification; I call it rehabilitation.
We’re made in God’s image, each one of us, marred by our own sin. And finally, when we come to our senses God restores us back to His original image, to be like Him. Now one of the things that’s really amazed me along that journey is how often I have blind spots. You know things from the past and you just don’t see how blind you can be.
You know when you’re driving a car and you’ve got your rear vision mirror and you might have mirrors off on each side but there is always a little gap somewhere in between and it’s called a blind spot. The whole point of a blind spot is you can’t see there, that’s why it’s called a blind spot and in our thinking we often have blind spots, old ways of thinking that we hang onto. God has a name for those, He calls them strongholds and it turns out that is particular stronghold, an old way of thinking, that we can have that acts as a barrier to intimacy with God.
The term stronghold is a much misunderstood term. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 4 talks about it, this is what he says. He says:
The weapons of our warfare are not merely human but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
So Paul’s talking about strongholds here, what exactly is a stronghold the way that Paul talks about it in the Bible? Well it’s a castle, a stronghold, a fortress but in this context, Paul means ‘anything on which we rely, an argument, a way of reasoning, a way in which we dispute who God is, a way in which we fortify our own opinions and defend those opinions against an opponent’ and Paul says here, a stronghold is one of those beliefs or arguments in our heads that stops us from the knowledge of God.
I’ve always thought of a stronghold like this; it’s something that I hang onto real strong and when I hang onto something real strong, I can’t let go of, of that and take hold of the blessing that God wants to pour into my life. That’s what a stronghold is and the thing that Paul says here is that it’s an “Obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God.”
It stops us from knowing God. Now what stronghold could it be that keeps us from the knowledge of God? What is it, in our heads that can act as a barrier to intimacy, a barrier to closeness with God?
Let’s go back to marriage for a moment. See, we understand things in terms of human relationships and when it drops that God is a person, not human but a person we can have a relationship with, it helps to take that human understanding and realise that there are many strong parallels between human relationships and our relationship with God.
My wife Jacqui; what if I had this picture in my head that she doesn’t want to be close to me. What if I believed I couldn’t possibly be good-looking enough or good enough or anything else enough for her to be attracted to me or to be interested in me? What if I had no expectation at all of closeness or intimacy with her? The answer is that, that would act as a barrier to intimacy. I want to give her a cuddle, I want to give her a kiss but I don’t know, she would never want that, so you don’t, there’s a barrier to intimacy, get it?
How many people carry that sort of picture around in their minds about God? See that’s a stronghold, that’s a blind spot. It’s a kind of way, ‘It’s always been, I’ve never really felt close to God so much. Oh maybe once or twice but not everyday therefore, oh well maybe God doesn’t want to be close to me’. Therefore there’s no intimacy between us and God. You see how a blind spot, how a stronghold like this can keep us from intimacy with God.
My prayer is that the Spirit of God might remove that barrier in a few people’s lives today, once and for all. What’s the heart of God? What does He want? What’s the cry of His heart? What’s His take on this, what is it? James, chapter 4, verse 5 says this:
God yearns jealously for the spirit that He has made to dwell in us. He gives grace to the humble.
You see the heart of God. God is a god who yearns jealously for us and throughout the Scriptures you see this phrase repeated over and over again. Here’s the phrase, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”
God created us in order to have a relationship with us and one of the biggest barriers to that, in fact the only real barrier, is our sin, our rejection of Him and He dealt with that through the death of His Son. And if we carry around this stronghold, this picture of God as a god of judgement and anger and wrath (and yes, He is, let’s make no bones about that, that’s His response to our sin as it should be) but if we forget that He’s also a God of grace, we miss the point because that is what Jesus Christ is all about. That’s why He died on that cross so that we could have forgiveness.
‘Oh Berni, I don’t deserve that. That’s why I think God would never want to be close to me’. NO! You don’t deserve it, I don’t either! That’s the point of grace, that’s the point of mercy. Mercy is only mercy when we don’t deserve it. Paul writes about this in Romans chapter 9, verse 15. He says or God says:
I will have mercy on those whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
It does not therefore depend on mans desire or effort but on God’s mercy.
See it’s time to ditch this stronghold of the mind that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Let God’s word echo in your heart.
“I will be your God and you will be my people. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”