Search My Heart, O God
Radiant Church’s lead pastor, Keith Welton, has a special New Year’s Day message on assessing your spiritual growth. The questions he asks will not only help you see how you have grown closer to God in the past year, but provoke you to draw near to him in the year to come. Below, you can watch our whole service, or listen to the sermon audio, and access the written transcript.
Missed last week’s sermon entitled “Joy”? You can listen to the audio or watch the whole service here.
January 1, 2023 Worship Service
Search Me, O God
The New Year brings in extra vacation time and is also a natural point to reflect on the last year and make resolutions for the upcoming year. In anticipation of this, I wrote a blog post. After getting that done, I started working on a sermon on a different topic, but then realized I think I should teach on this. There is something very important about reflecting and examining. I want to give some biblical encouragement for pausing, reflecting, and resolving.
We are also coming up on our 28 Days of Prayer and fasting. We have a guest speaker next week so this is a time for me to talk a little bit about that.
- Examine Yourselves
People will examine others. They will examine things. But I am never wrong so why do I need to examine myself? Is there any doubt at all???
Great deal of examples of people who feel because their behavior went unchecked. Anaken,
The place of examining ourselves and doing some introspection comes about because we are not living for ourselves. We are living for God.
Many will compare themselves to their own standards, I had a five-year goal to be at… level. I need to push harder to get there. That can be appropriate, but as Christians our most enduring accomplishments and goals are being faithful to God. We are reminded that his word is the ultimate standard of our lives. It is good for us to consider our lives in light of his Word. His word guides, corrects, rebukes, encourages.
Scripture calls us to examine ourselves:
[Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1Co 11:28 ESV)
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2Co 13:5 ESV)
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
We can be so busy with stuff, not important stuff, but just stuff, and get distracted. God is trying to get our attention but our faces are glued to our phones, screens, personal goals. We need to stop and reflect more. Who are you? What are you doing? Why did you do that? What did you learn from that? Sit in silence. What is God doing in your life? Answer that?
Reflection is so important. Why it’s an important part of discovery Groups. If you just read God’s word, have you connected it to how you might live? Just keep on going without slowing down.
Little boy brain. They are running and jumping up and down with their friends, grabbing the curtains and swinging across the room. You stop them, look them in the eye and say don’t jump, don’t swing, don’t climb in the house. And you look at him and can tell he is looking at you but his mind is trying to catch up with his friends. Ask them, what did I just tell you? “I have no idea.”
We are like that. So caught up in the rush of life we miss what is going on. Terrible if you miss important information. It was there, but you didn’t hear it. Wouldn’t it be terrible if you missed what God was saying to you?? This morning you are hearing God’s word. Are you taking any of it to heart? Is it forming or informing you?
Jonathan Edwards: 1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
- Reflect and Give Thanks for Last Year’s Blessings
- What happened last year that you are most grateful for?
- Where have you seen God provide for and protect you?
- How has God pursued you and given you strength this year?
- In what ways have you grown this last year?
- What did you accomplish and who helped you?
[Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
It doesn’t say sometimes or occasionally. It says always. This is God’s will for you. So before you start out on your to do list, stop, reflect and give thanks!
Teach your kids this.
What did you accomplish? How did God provide? You are not dead, your worst fears did not materialize. You kids are still here. Praise God.
Reflecting on God’s past faithfulness builds faith for his future faithfulness.
Don’t let gratitude become what John Piper calls a “debtor’s ethic.” You have done this for me so I now need to do x,y,z for you. That is to miss the point. You don’t deserve what you have. God has been gracious to you. And our hope is that just as he has been gracious in the past, he will be gracious in the future.
A neighbor invites you over or lets you borrow a tool, then you feel obligated to them. You owe them. You are a debtor. Can’t give or receive grace. Must be tit for tat.
God’s grace in the past should stir us to believe we will experience more grace in the future.
- Reflect and Pray About Areas of Change
- What do you regret most about this last year?
- What have you done to bring change or address those areas?
- What things in your life have distracted you from your walk with God?
- What does God call you to do in these areas?
- What is the root sin of these areas that you need to put off, and what is the core truth you need to believe and put on (See Col. 3:9-10 for put-offs and put-ons)?
Scripture gives us a balance of examining ourselves, learning from mistakes, seeing God in it all and what he wants for us. Don’t hide from your failures. Don’t dwell on them either. Learn from them and move on.
[But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (Phi 3:13 ESV)
Many people will do yearly checkups with a doctor. I had a couple at one church every year that would want to meet with me. Share what is going on in life, talk about areas they have struggled with and want to grow, ask me to ask them questions. Their goal was to identify one or two key areas to focus on and to serve God more fully.
- Reflections on Spiritual Life:
Many people evaluate their diets and exercise. That is important. But people do that because our society is overly concerned with looks and outward appearances. Most people completely neglect their souls.
William Penn, Fruits of Solitude.
- 28 “We have become so addicted to pleasure that we won’t eat ordinary food, or drink weak or stale (drink); we must have the best food and drink for our bodies while our souls feed on empty and rotting things.”
- 29 In short, we are spending everything on an empty house with little or nothing inside to recommend it. This is like preferring a box over the jewel it holds, or choosing a seven-year lease over a permanent inheritance…
- What ways of serving God have brought you the most joy this year? I so look forward to my time in God’s word in the morning. Love having that time. I don’t rush it. I make my kids be quiet if they come down. I tell them to read their Bible. I need this time to get my heart and mind right.
- How diligently are you pursuing the Lord?
- What does the quality and consistency of your daily Bible reading and prayer time look like? We are doing 28 days of prayer and fasting. We want to get people into the Word.
- What does your commitment to gathering with other believers in prayer, Bible study, and service say about your walk with the Lord?
-Anemic. You are weak.
- What does your commitment to church say about your walk with the Lord?
- Whom have you made an effort to invest in spiritually? People who don’t invest in themselves usually are not investing in others. People who are not investing in others usually are not investing in themselves.
- What does your bank account and calendar say is of first importance in your life?
- What does your practice of resting (or not resting) on the Sabbath say about your trust in God?
These two go hand in hand. Often we do not rest because we are not disciplined in our finances. If you want to serve God. If you want to have peace. If you want to make sure your kids are not worn out and emotionally fragile, then rest. Being disciplined to tithe leads to discipline in the other 90%. Resting one day leads to a different attitude the other six days.
How we spend our time and money often reveals the desires driving what we do in life. Is God number 1 or are other things more important than him? Why aren’t you willing to slow down and rest?
Why did God have to command us to rest?
Rest makes us live differently the other six days.
Like tithing, makes you think differently about all of it. What is most important? I would also bet there is a connection between how you spend your money and how you rest. Restless hearts are undisciplined. They have no master, and so they pay the penalty. Live like nothing matters, and you will pay the penalty.
Discipline. With exercise, so many other things will follow.
- How might God call you to simplify life in order to make him most prominent?
These are key areas to pray through and give over to God.
What keeps you from serving God more, being at church, Bible study? It’s not business. What is at the heart of business? Business is a fruit of something else. Idol, desire for money, have to get to all the other stuff. Can’t tell people no. Can’t pay all the bills. Why are you living above your means? You are being driven into business because you desire more than you can afford.
Do you want a peaceful and quiet life? What clutter do you need to get rid of for that? Less stuff often leads to more peace. Can have all the stuff and all the anxiety around it. Have to have the bigger house, the newest kitchen, the best vacation. There is a price tag that comes with those that can be more than money. Your soul is burdened and hurried by all the stuff.
- Reflect on Hope
- What aspect of having salvation in Jesus gives you the most hope and encouragement?
- What do you most look forward to about heaven and the renewal of creation?
- What sins do you need to confess and thank God for the forgiveness of in Jesus?
- How does Jesus’s coming to be born on Earth bring you encouragement?
- How can you find peace in Jesus’s promise to return again?
What hope does Jesus offer to you? When life is falling apart, you should find comfort in him. When you feel distance between your expectations of life and your experience in life, know God is working something in you.
There is hope
Penn: Disappointments that aren’t a result of our own foolishness are a testing of our faith or a correction from heaven, and it is our own fault if these disappointments don’t work for our good. #32
Throwing football with Colt, and some people were walking by, and I struck up a conversation. Got into a conversation, told them about our church. I love telling the story of our church. Did some good things and it didn’t go the way we had hoped. It has been a hard road, but we are different because of it. God has used this to show me the place of patience and long suffering. Don’t serve God because it is easy. But because it is right. I’m not entitled to a fast-growing church, a multimillion dollar budget, a group of missionaries. We are just ordinary people trying to be faithful to God. Push aside distractions. We are taking the long slow road, because it is who we want to be in the end. What people need from church. Have hope that Jesus is working.
Paul reflected on his own inability, he did the things he didn’t want to do and he didn’t do the things he wanted. He felt discouraged and overwhelmed and dejected, until he remembered Jesus.
[Rom 7:24 … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 7:24-2 ESV)
The primary goal of our self reflection is not that we perceive our sins as more significant, though that is a goal. We need to see our sin and failures for what they are. Confess them for what they are. Not accidents, not “no big deal.” They are sin and they show the rottenness in our hearts and lives. Rot causes great trees to fall and it certainly makes us weak and vile. But it ultimately causes us to see the greatness of Jesus. He has redeemed us and saved us. We see him working. We see his grace.
[Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
We want more of God in our lives. I don’t want to be like the culture. It’s all around me. I am like it. I have routines that are too similar, attitudes like them. I want my life to reflect the life God calls me to live. I know it’s better for me now. I know it will be better for eternity. Let us seek the Lord. Let’s do this in our prayer and fasting. Let’s pray we experience this. Let’s pray our church experiences this. Let’s pray for him to work in us. Pray for him to move in others. Not just about dropping ten pounds or fifty. Not just about him telling you if you should remodel the den or not. Let’s ask him to search us, to show us his ways.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.