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! Close Encounters Of The God Kind
Abraham’s First Encounter
The whole world seems to be mesmerized with close encounters with aliens.
Accounts of flying saucers and alien abductions have become as common place as air.
Whether you believe these accounts or *not*, they are becoming far too common place to simply ignore.
So, as I thought about the theme of “Encounters With God,” I began to notice some strong similarities between professed close encounters with aliens and close encounters with God.
Consequently, I felt impressed to use the subject of “Alien Encounters” as a launching pad for our biblical discussion of “Encounters with God.”
We are presently involved in a series of messages entitled: “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
This title is taken from one of the most spectacular UFO science fiction films of all times, entitled: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
In this series, we are studying close encounters with God, by likening them to close encounters with UFO’s.
Whether you believe in alien “Close Encounters” or not, you must admit that anyone who claims to have had one is changed forever!
Similarly, when a person has a close encounter with the Jehovah God, it is an experience that changes that person’s life forever.
In addition, when a person has a close encounter with a UFO, it cannot be totally explained.
Likewise, when a person truly encounters God, something happens that he~/she cannot totally explain or rationalize.
They cannot totally explain it, because it is a spiritual or metaphysical experience.
Therefore, he~/she is required to use his~/her spirit to leap beyond the natural and begin to entertain the supernatural, the miraculous, the ineffable, the transcendent, the eternal.
In first three sermons in this series, we worked hard to develop a definition for a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”
That definition is
A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and~/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.
This definition is very intellectually and spiritually deep and probably will require some tapes.
In the fourth message in this series, we explored one of the major barriers to experiencing a close encounter with God.
We called that barrier: “The Brain Barrier.”
“The Brain Barrier” *is the American, Greek influenced tendency to separate and exalt the intellect above the emotions.
*Likewise, this message will probably require a tape.
/(Now for the next twelve messages, I want to take the definition that we have developed and use it to evaluate twelve encounters with God, to see what we can learn.
The Bible is full of wonderful encounters with the true and living God, which facilitate a *legitimate* experience that engenders a response of worship!!!
And people in this postmodern world want to genuinely encounter and experience God!/
/Before we go on, we had better define the term “postmodern?”
In order to understand “postmodern,” we must understand “premodern” and “modern.”/
/ In the premodern or *traditional* phase of Western civilization, people believed in the supernatural, God, biblical values, absolute truth, etc./
/ The premodern era of America extended from our declaration as a nation to somewhere in the 1700’s./
In the modern phase of Western civilization, also called the age of Enlightenment and Secular Humanism, people believed in human rationality and reason, science, technology, etc. Science and technology were supposed to bring us into a great utopian society.
/ The modern era of America extended from somewhere in the 1700’s to somewhere in the mid-1900’s./
/In the present postmodern phase of Western civilization, people believe in nothing except their own perceptions.
They have rejected God, the Bible, absolute truth, reason, etc., and replaced them with confusion, meaninglessness, and virtual reality./
/ The postmodern era of America started somewhere in the mid-1900’s to the present.
Some scholars see 1968 as the beginning of postmodernism, because of the student unrest on campuses around the world!!!/
/So, I have chosen twelve encounters that are interesting to me and I think will be helpful to you.
Notice with me please Genesis 12:1-5.)/
In the passage of Scripture before us, we see Abraham’s first encounter with God.
Even though we are terming this “Abraham’s First Encounter,” it is *not* Abraham who is initiating the encounter, but God. *Much like UFO encounters, we generally do not initiate encounters with God.* *We can put ourselves in situations where encounters are more likely to happen, but generally it is God who decides and then initiates an encounter.*
Don’t let that bother you, because God is far more willing to initiate an encounter with us, than we are to receive and respond properly to that encounter.
Did you hear that? *God is far more willing to initiate an encounter with us, than we are to receive and respond properly to that encounter.*
It is important that we recognize the uniqueness of an encounter with God and be prepared to respond properly.
If we respond improperly to an encounter with God, it is possible to short-circuit or miss properly experiencing the encounter.
*This encounter before us is one that is easy to overlook.*
There are no spectacular words or manifestations to alert us to the fact that something very monumental is happening.
Yet, before us is an encounter with the true and living God.
That encounter is signified with these simple words,
“Now the Lord said to Abram...”
We are much more familiar with Abram’s changed name, so I will use that one—which is Abraham.
*One of God’s most basic and important ways of encountering His servants, i.e. meeting them face-to-face, is through communicating to them through His Word.* *The phrase “The Word of The Lord” occurs repeatedly in the OT. *In* *the Old Testament, this communication could have been through His audible voice, through a dream, a vision, a prophet, etc.
*Likewise, one of the most basic and important ways that God uses to encounter us today is through His Word.*
The two primary ways that this occurs, in our dispensation, is through reading the Word of God and hearing the Word of God through a sermon.
/(Let’s deal briefly with these two different ways of dealing with the Word of God.)/
· Have you ever been reading the Word of God and come face-to-face with the true and living God?
If you have, it is an experience that you will never forget!
Unfortunately, most people have not had this experience often enough, and consequently, have quit reading the Word of God.
Now most of us ought to admit that we don’t get that much out of reading the Word of God.
This probably has to do with approaching the Word of God from an intellectual perspective, rather than a relational and experiential perspective.
The “paralysis of analysis” short-circuits an encounter with God.
Henry Blackaby, in his fresh new book and workbook /Experiencing God/, takes a good deal of time making this very point.
Blackaby points out that if we want to experience God, we need to realize the fact that encountering the truth of the Word of God is an encounter with God.
We don’t read the Word of God just because God commands it.
We don’t read the Word of God just to develop religious discipline.
We don’t read the Word of God just to be able to say that we do it, i.e. for religious pride.
We read the Word of God to encounter and experience the true and living God!
Morton Kelsey said in his book /Encounter with God/, “*The knowledge of this reality */(i.e.
spiritual reality/)*—like any other knowledge, scientific, mathematical, /or/ religious—is given through experience.*
...man’s reason, his logic and rational thought are essential in order to understand his experiences, ...but it is not our logic or rational thought that give us knowledge of any kind.
*If men are to know God, they must go back again and again to their experiences of the divine and find the knowledge that God gives to those who seek.”*
* *As a matter of fact, one of the major Greek words for “knowledge,” /ginosko/, means to come to know by experience.
* *Therefore, every reading of the Word of God can be an experiential encounter with Jesus Christ.
\\ *But this is little understood, because we have not been taught and don’t understand that encountering the truth of the Word of God is more than an intellectual exercise.*
Encountering the truth of the Word of God does not lead to an encounter with God, but is an encounter with God! Why?
Because God is truth, and Jesus Christ is the living incarnation of truth!
The Bible says in
John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.’”
· *Have you ever been experiencing a sermon and come face-to-face with the true and living God?*
I believe that most of us could say, “Yes!” and “Amen!”
But, alas, once again, this does not happen often enough and sermons are endured rather than experienced.
What is the problem?
It is the same as when we read the Word of God—the “paralysis of analysis.”
We should not listen to sermons just because God commands it.
We should not listen to sermons just because it is one of God’s primary ways of transmitting truth.
We should not listen to sermons just because it is a tradition of most churches.
We should listen to sermons because we want to encounter and experience Jesus Christ, /Ho Logos/, the living Word of Truth.
I deeply believe, and have struggled to transmit during this series, the belief that every sermon can and ought to be an encounter with Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
*God has seen fit to come and meet us face-to-face through the reading and proclamation of His Word.*
We can’t make an encounter with God happen.
It is His doing, but we can put ourselves in a more likely place to have an encounter with God by reverently and prayerfully reading His Word and by attending to a sermon with all of our faculties, while looking for God to speak to us.
*I open up my Bible every morning and I attend all services with my whole being and an expectation that God is going to speak to me—and He usually does!*
/(This brings up a very interesting question, “Why does God encounter us through His Word,” i.e. “for what reasons?”
The answer to this question may help us to put ourselves in the proper position to respond properly to an encounter with God.)/
*It seems that God’s main reason for encountering Abraham is to give him a God-sized assignment.*
God changes people forever and causes them to grow, so that He might give them a *God-sized assignment*.
This is not only true in Abraham’s case, but seems to be a biblical principle.
One of the main reasons that God encounters His children is to give them an assignment, commission, or ministry!
\\ This biblical principle is still true in our times.
*When God encounters us, through the truth of His Word, whether it is written or preached, it is because He wants to use us.*
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