Love is the fuel that ignites our fire for God. Message by Pastor Jon Mroos.
I’m always hesitant when people find out I’m from Seattle. I feel like we have unfinished business with the football thing. I just want to say, I love you guys. Are we cool? Okay. You got one of ours. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that but I’m with you. I’m being converted. It is really good to be with you guys. I mean that. I do want to thank Pastor Terry and Cheryl in a special way, just for their love. Also, the staff who I’ve been running around with and just really enjoying. It’s been a season of love. This has been a crazy season for us. There’s nothing like walking into somebody’s business. I’m going to throw it at you. It’ll be fun and I think it will be a huge help for you though. What I’ve experienced in the last, I don’t know, maybe three months, I guarantee you’re somewhere there. You’re close. The way that God has allowed me to be removed from it and find a new place, a new season of power and joy.
I want you to have that this morning. My word this morning is breakthrough. I want you to have a breakthrough with God. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 30 minutes because my heart is so full of God right now, like overloaded with joy. Do you know what I’m saying? I feel like I’ve been in the sun too long. Like I got this leg beating, but it’s the son of God. I just feel so good. I want to show you what God’s done in my life because wherever you’re at with God this morning if you’re not even a Christian, we are really glad you’re here. If you’re exploring this thing we call faith, I want you to see and hear something that hopefully will open your hearts to wrestling with the Christian faith.
If you’re here and a Christian and you’re not where you want to be, welcome to the party. I really believe you can get there. I really believe God is going to do something. We’re in this series called Spark. Go online if you have not heard the past messages. They’ve been fantastic. I’m just going to continue this rhythm that Pastor Lewis and Pastor Terry have created. The question I want to look at and answer for us today and it’s been my personal journey. I’ll be very real and transparent with my walk with God to help you this morning. But the questions that I want to look at and attempt to answer today are these. How can you turn your spark for God into a fire?
That’s not just sermon talk that I’m dumping off into you. How can you feel, God? How can you experience God in a whole new way? How can you walk down on an ocean and it’s no longer stuck in thought and not seeing the beauty around you but even in light of life’s chaotic messiness. You see and feel this God in all that He created for you. How can you experience love in new ways, whether it’s in a marriage or whatever? How can all of this intensify? How can God go from an idea to really a dramatic encounter? I don’t know about you but as a Christian, I don’t want just intellectual head knowledge of God. I want it to feel like a dance with God. I want to feel Him, know Him, fall in love with Him, and see Him in everything and have everything amplified like moving towards a fire.
I’ll talk probably too much about this but I’ve been living in Yosemite. Kind of weird. I think the last three out of five weeks, I’ve been in Yosemite. I’m not sure what’s going on. If you’re going to Yosemite, you may need a pastor to go with you. Pray over top ramen. You know, that type of thing. But Yosemite has been this really magical place for me in my walk with God as I’ve gone through some hard times lately that I’ll share with you. But I want you to envision the darkness of night and the coldness. Man, it was cold up there. Not being able to see much when you were away from the fire. The more I would move towards this fire, the more I would see everything around me. I would feel this warmth. I felt alive, loose, relaxed, and joyous. That’s what we want to do with God. We want to move towards Him.
I suppose I need to start with the question; why should you even want to move towards God? This may take some time. This may take some energy. No doubt, a lot of you are probably in school. You’ve come here from out of state and you’re probably crazy busy. Some of you have started small families and we all know what kids can do. They bless you but they do change things. Some of you are working in startups or on a career. Sometimes life is just chaotic. Sometimes you just kind of fall out of your passion for God in the redundancy of life. It kind of takes you away. Before you know it, you look back and it’s like, “How did I get this far away from God?” No matter where you’re at, we want to move together on this journey towards God. Why should we do it?
I believe we all know there’s something more. I think we all know there’s more to life. When you look at the ocean, someone you love, a child, or there’s tickle torture going on in the house and there’s this laughter of a child or you hear the sighing in the wind or you see the sunset. We all know there’s more. We all know there’s more that’s just out of reach. We’re experiencing echoes of something crazy beautiful. It’s my belief and I’ll show you from the scripture. I think it’s God’s belief if I can even say that, that there is more and we can tap into it. Our love lives and experiences and the way we look at vocations. Our passion for things like vocation can amplify and become beautiful. I think we need to carve out time to pursue this God and experience Him because it’s going to amplify all of life.
I was on Bart’s, taking Bart down here maybe two weeks ago or so. This is not in judgment because I’m a part of this journey. We were in Bart. It was eight in the morning or something like that. How many guys take Bart? Okay. So, visualize this. The car’s packed. Everybody’s got headphones on it. Isn’t that weird looking? Including me. We’re all texting. Maybe we should text each other or something like that. I don’t know. But everyone’s got their phone out. I look over and I hate to admit this but I was eavesdropping. I need a sermon illustration. I was looking at this guy’s phone. No one’s going to hang out with me. I know. But I’m looking over this guy’s shoulder and he’s playing this really cool looking video game, honestly.
There’s all this adventure going on. Then I could see this girl over here. She’s on her way to work and she’s listening to something. You can see she’s doing the head bob. She’s looking for something. She’s going somewhere. Then I look over on one of the seats and there’s this young couple and they’re doing the staring in the eye thing that makes all married people and single people really uncomfortable. You’re like, “Dang, it’s cool but come on, guys. Like, stop it.” But it was so cool because as I looked around the train, including my own heart. The realization that we’re all seeking something more and we’re all discontent. But in a way, we can use that as a vehicle to say, “Well, let’s go after it.” We look in these different areas and these are not wrong areas but that’s what, largely video games and movies. I’ve seen Avengers about 400 times. We’re looking for adventure. We’re looking for something more.
How many of you have seen Dr. Strange? Come on, help me. Don’t leave me alone up here. All right. That’s a cool movie. There’s this piece in the movie that is so amazing that I literally started crying in the movie theater. Do not tell anybody I said that. It’s really embarrassing. I was crying in Dr. Strange. It’s when the ancient one, she’s the lady who is kind of this picture of the divine, says these words, I want you to hear them because when this starts popping up in our culture, our music, that there’s more, there’s more, there’s more. This isn’t even a religious thing anymore. She looks at Dr. Strange. You have to remember, he’s this medical doctor that’s very wealthy. He’s very arrogant. The guy’s a jerk, right? If you see the movie, all he wants is wealth. He wants attention, all these things, and he’s empty. He’s coming up empty. This kind of divine being takes him out on this ledge. It’s overlooking the city and she just has a heart-to-heart with him. She says, “You think you know how the world works, don’t you? You think that this material universe is all there is. What is real? What mysteries lie beyond the reach of your senses?” I thought, “Man, there’s a world out there that can be awakened for us.” Where love, children, vocation, trips, mountains, and waterfalls amplify to the place that we’re feeling alive. What’s so crazy, especially if you’re not a Christian, is this very ancient book. This very ancient belief is called Christianity. Here’s what it claims. Just wrestle with this.
First Corinthians 2:9. Christianly lays this out. But as it is written, “what no eye has seen.” Like you have never seen anything like this, “nor ear has heard.” You’ve heard beautiful things but you have never heard anything like this. Nor the heart of man imagined. That’s wild. As much as you have conjured up and imagined amazing experiences, what God has prepared for those who love Him. He’ll give it to you. Beyond your wildest imagination, God will turn all things into beautiful things. It’s almost like we live in a 2D world and he can make it 3D. It’s like He adds this extra piece to it that says, “Oh my soul, man, this stuff is so amazing.”
When you become a Christian and receive Christ as your savior, everything doesn’t get better but at least this piece opens up. As things slowly get better, as you take the journey with God. One of the pieces that emerges or open up as we move close to the fire, as we move close to God, is that God desires to make hidden things known. He desires to amplify these things in our lives and that’s what this series is all about. How can we together move towards God? No doubt, life makes this hard. This is not some switch that we’re going to flip. I’m going to give you three points. Everyone’s going to come down here. We’re going to walk out of here on fire and we’re going to look at squirrels and cars and go, “Yes.” No. This is a journey.
If I could just give you a piece, a seed to plant, germinate it, wrestle with. Some of you, maybe you’ve had a bad experience with God. I get it. Maybe there are things blocking you from taking that step towards God. Maybe for some, you don’t even know where you belong. “I know God has His life for me but is this my place? I’m different.” Maybe for some, it’s a vacation or school. Maybe it’s marriage. Whatever it is, whatever’s in the way, I want to show you how to take it and transform it so you can move towards God. But it’s not easy. I want to give you a personal testimony, then we’re going to jump into some scripture lay this out. Let’s let God speak today.
The last two years have been the height of my Christianity. I have experienced things that I never thought I would experience. I’ve felt God in a thousand different new ways. In the church where I was pastoring right here in the city, God was doing things that were so profound and powerful. Every time I preached a sermon, it had nothing to do with me. I was preaching the same stuff yet every time I opened my mouth, people were being changed around me. Literal healing and marriages we’re coming back together. Powerful things and this growth is happening. All the people around us were growing tremendously in the Lord. We were doing life. We were a community. It was so supernatural.
I remember one time, one of the Christian leaders, a friend of mine in the city called me up and said, “Jon, you got to get over here. Our church is praying and God’s moving it. We’re experiencing new things with God.” I go over there. It was probably six o’clock at night. We left at one in the morning. When I lifted up my head, I could not believe it was one in the morning. Time went by like that. It’s like we’re in ecstasy. In a 24 hour period, I lost all of it. That’s a fire going down to a spark. The world was alive to me. The next thing I knew, I was struggling to move towards God. Here’s what I know. I knew He had the life that I was looking for. The pleasure, the joy. I want to show you what I did. I went up to Yosemite with a Bible, my wife and daughter, and a book on the Apostle Paul. We lived in the woods for a week. I know it’s kind of weird. If you see my wife, give her a hug. Just be like, “I love you. That guy’s weird but I love you.”
I know. It’s a strange thing being married to me. But here’s what I did. I knew that Paul went through the same thing. If you’re wondering, “Who’s Paul?” Let’s start there. He’s an early Christian leader in the Bible. He was like a pastor. He would go into cities like Pacifica, Daly City, San Francisco, not literally. He would start these churches. He would tell people about Jesus and start these communities of Jesus followers. Then he would nurture and teach them how to walk with God. How to enjoy God and live a life for God. He went through the same dark, dark place. He was on fire for God and he fell. He was busted. So, I went to the woods and I thought, “Well, let me tap into Paul and figure out how he came back because I need this life. I want my God. I just don’t know how to get there.”
Sure enough, I came down that mountain a week later. I have been to the mountain and I came down from that mountain resurrected. No matter where you’re at today, there’s hope. I want to ignite some stuff today. I’m going to lay this out. Just one simple thought that’s actually very profound if we can tap into it. Here’s what happened to me. Here’s the truth I learned. No matter where you’re at, that will ignite you back to God and open up this life again. I want everyone to write this in their handout or put it on your phone or whatever. Here is the key I want to focus on just for a few minutes. Love. Love is the fuel that ignites our fire for God. That’s why I went. Love. I was trying to pick myself up. I’m a sports guy. So, I was trying to fire myself up. It’s the fourth quarter, Jon. We got to win the game or something. Wasn’t working. I even used guilt, “Jon, you should be serving God.” It was like, that’s gone. It was when God revealed love to me. His love. Then something supernatural took place. Let me explain it to you. I want you to see Paul and we’re going to take a very quick journey here. I want you to see Paul in a house.
He’s in this house and you’re sitting across the street. Maybe there’s a road and you’re sitting across the street in another building or on a hill or something like that. Just put yourself there. So, the first century. There are people walking through the street and wagons and all that good stuff. There’s a man you see through the window. He’s an old man. He’s a little hunched over. This is Paul. Paul’s got scars. Paul’s got a limp. He’s been through a lot but this man knows God. He can take us somewhere. He can take us into the wardrobe. All of a sudden, as we’re watching Paul, pace himself, very patiently through this home. There’s a knock on the door. He answers the door. A young man comes in. He looks at Paul. We see a frantic look on his face.
The conversation is getting a little warmed up. It’s getting fired up. We see Paul drop his head. Maybe put his hands behind his back. He motions for this young man to leave. Paul begins to look at the ground as if the answers were found there. All that worry and anxiety that just hit him. As he walks and paces, we realize that this young man has brought him some bad news. You see there’s a church in another city that Paul loves. A group of believers that he loves. But this church has lost its fire for God. They’re embedded in a culture that’s very similar to San Francisco.
They are being pressed by family and vocation, identity and value. They’re being pulled in a thousand different directions. There’s conflict in their homes. One day as they were on fire for God, they’re down to a spark now. Paul being the lover of souls that he was, loved these people so much. He moves back in this little house to a desk and he rolls out a parchment that maybe hits the floor. He’s got a bottle of ink and a little pen and he begins to write. He can’t get there. So, if he could just get a letter together and get that letter moving, they can read the letter. It will unlock the way that they can fire up for God, again. Pursue God and enjoy life. Experience life new and fresh. The first thing Paul does is he begins to tell them, and I love this. He gets real. We gotta take these guys out of the stained glass that we read in the Bible and we got to bring them down, right where we’re at. Here’s what happened. The first thing Paul writes is, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I’ve been there.” The hero of our faith, Paul the Apostle, the guy that changed the Western world. He says, “I have been in the darkness.” Look in Corinthians 1:7. As he begins to write, “I need to get this to these guys. The first thing is, look, don’t quit. We all go through it. We all hit these moments of darkness. Our hope for you is unshaken.” He’s saying this to you this morning.
He still believes and God still believes it is possible for you to awaken into God and into new life. For you to burn for God. Paul says, “For we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comforts. I know what you’re going through. I feel you. I’ve been through it.” He begins to trace his journey and in his mind’s eye, he begins to remember all the hardships. The first thing you got to know about Paul, and I’m no Paul, but I was in the same boat. Paul was on a mountaintop. This guy was killing it. What do I mean by that? One day he was making tents just to meet people and tell them about Jesus. He takes his apron off and throws it in the corner. Maybe it lands on someone’s foot who has cancer or who can’t walk correctly or whatever it was. They were healed.
I’ve had some good days but I can’t touch that. I’m envisioning myself having dinner with Paul and being like, “Dude, I’ve preached to thousands.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I once threw my apron on someone’s foot and they got healed.” “Can I have some more potatoes, Paul?” When he would walk into cities, they would be revived. Amazing things were happening and he literally left the city called Ephesus. Don’t worry about remembering that. But he leaves that city and he’s just experienced this amazing thing. He walks into the city. Imagine this. Walking into Oakland or something. I don’t know. You just start telling people about Jesus. You say “Hey everybody, come here. I want to tell you about Jesus.” They all just burn the stuff that’s slowing them down that’s not right.
This huge fire goes up. They say, “We’re done with it all. We’re following Jesus.” Dang. That’s what I’m talking about. That was Paul’s ministry. He leaves that city and he’s a rockstar. He goes to this church, a church that he started, people that he loved and discipled. He knocks on the door and this is where it all starts going wrong. This is kind of how life works. Everything’s got this trajectory. It’s like this and then one day it all starts going boom. That’s when that fire starts getting messed up. He knocks on the door and they answer the door and he says, “It’s me. It’s Paul!” He walks in. You know that weird moment where everyone’s like, “Oh, Hey Paul.” You think, “Why does everyone know something I don’t right now?” Paul, he’s in the living room maybe, “It’s me guys.” Maybe one of the leaders pulls him over and says “Hey, Paul, Come here.” Everyone kind of awkwardly goes into the kitchen and he says, “Paul, we don’t really need you anymore. We’ve heard some things about you and it would probably be best if you just kind of moved on.”
Paul spent a year and a half with these guys, telling them about Jesus, helping them through life. He leaves that church and house like, “What just happened?” When he goes back to Ephesus where cool things happen, that’s his rhythm. Let me get back to Ephesus. He walks back and he does the thing again, where he starts preaching. He’s like, “Here it comes. Watch God fall. Watch this.” No one moves. The only movement that Paul sees is someone reaches down and grabs a large piece of cement and starts winding up to chuck it at him. Next thing he knows, a riot breaks out. He gets arrested. Most likely, he’ll be put in prison. The Great Apostle Paul stays there for a couple of years and has some very dark writings in the Bible. In Philippians, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We think, “Yeah! That’s high-level Christianity.” Here’s what he’s saying. “I stay here but I’d rather die and go to heaven.” You think, “Man.” So, Paul’s writing this to the Corinthians, these believers who are struggling, “I know where you’ve been. I know what you’re struggling with and I know your emotions are running. You’re probably confused. You’re probably frustrated. You’re probably beating yourself up. How do I get my fire back for God?” It’s as if Paul is trying to remember, “Where did I go? What happened to me that raised me up? Where did I go in that jail cell, many years ago, that began to lift that fire and ignite that fire again?”
All of a sudden, he runs back behind the desk. It hits him. “Here’s what I did. Here’s where I went. This was the moment that everything changed. This is the moment that things started turning and I started experiencing God again. Praying to God, reading my Bible, loving church again, seeing the world differently, and treating people differently. Here’s where I went.” Corinthians 5:14. He begins to write this out. “This is it! For the love of Christ. It was love. I collided with love again. I got somewhere in my mind and I saw the love of Christ again. That love controlled me.” Here’s what that means. “That love held me together. I was falling apart. Then when I got into my mind, like, Jesus Christ loves me so much. Jesus Christ died for me because He wants me that much. It was this power of love that held me together, so I didn’t fall apart but then it pushed me forward. Next thing you know, I was getting out. I was energized.”
Do you know what it feels like to be loved? We’re so hungry to be loved and to be loved by God. It raised him up. I’m sitting in Yosemite reading Paul and thinking, “Oh my soul, man. My fire goes down to a spark. I need to get to love. I need to get to love. I need to experience love. Paul, where did you go? What did this look like?” He says this in verse 15, “Here’s what love did. When I started remembering how much Christ loves me. Here’s what it did. He died for all. He died for me. It was purely because He wants me. It had this strange effect on me that those who live might no longer live for themselves. But for Him, for their sakes, died and was raised.”
“All the things that were holding me back from you, Jesus. When I saw your love, when I saw the cross afresh, and I remembered how good you are and how much you love me. It was all the bitterness or all the distractions. They all started slowly falling off of me. It was like I just started reaching for you when I saw this love afresh with new eyes.” I’m sitting in this tent freezing and I’m a crier. I’m just crying, thinking of how Jesus saved me. Thinking about what He did for me on the cross. I literally felt this energy in my heart, raising me back up like, “Man, we’re not done. We are not done.”
I’m going to put a heavy statement up. It’s a little complicated but I want to make it very easy and just spend a few minutes with this. Here’s what love does to ignite our hearts’ fire. “Being joyfully reduced in the presence of something greater than the self draws you to that thing.” When I experienced the love of Jesus, afresh, by thinking about what He did for me on the cross. It reduced everything. It didn’t minimize my pain but it reduced my focus on all those distractions and lethargic feelings. It was all reduced at this massive, all-inspiring experience of seeing Jesus Christ crucified for me because He loves me.
I liken it to this. We went up to the falls in Yosemite. I remember walking up this trail, hiking up this trail, running after Pastor Terry on this trail. He can move up there. Seeing this waterfall, I just froze. I was in a state of awe. Literally stuck. Just going, “What in the world?” Campers and hikers were walking past. I didn’t care what they thought of me. I didn’t care what colors I was wearing or if I looked dirty or what was going on back home. I didn’t want to check out. I was locked into this thing that was so much greater than everything else around me in my life. That’s what Paul did with a cross. He saw Jesus afresh and it began to awaken this awe and wonder. All the things that were holding him back from pursuing God, all of a sudden were cut, severed, and began to fall away.
I truly believe that whatever is holding you back this morning will lose its power in the presence of Christ’s amazing love. That’s what Ephesians three is all about. Paul says, “If you could know one thing, I’m praying that you would know one thing. It’s the breadth and height and depth of this love that Jesus has for you because it will change everything. It will release you from everything and thrust you forward towards God.” So, I started this practice when I got down from that mountain. I got home. I started doing three things. I started doing three things in practice. I do this every morning now so I can encounter the love of Jesus Christ and He can keep my heart on fire for Him even after what I went through.
First, you have to give love time. You have to carve out time every morning. You’ve got to experience the love of Jesus. Every morning now, it’s a cup of coffee because I’m from Seattle. Repping San Francisco. It’s a cup of coffee. My Bible and the cross of Jesus Christ. I got to get there. The second thing I go to is I go to the cross in my mind and I make it personal. I see Jesus crucified and that’s not something to flinch at. I see Him looking at me. I see myself in the crowd on Calvary’s mount, looking up at Him with all these other people. He’s looking at me and I know this is a little weird but He’s looking at me saying, “Jon, I’m staying on this thing because I want you. I love you. You’re valuable to me.”
My head always drops. I always drop my head. When I look up, He’s always gone and the crowd is always gone. Every morning, this is my exercise. I always feel His hands behind me on my shoulder. He’s like, “Jon, get up. I came off that cross and I came after you because I want you and I love you.” That feels so powerful to me to be loved like that. Any other distraction, any other pain, anything else that’s getting between me and my fire for God begins to dissipate and go away. The third thing I do and I love this is I stopped listening to myself because I got some bad messages to myself. Such as, “You weren’t good enough today, Jon.” I stopped listening to myself and I started telling myself about Christ’s love. Whether you like it or not, buddy, He will never leave you nor forsake you.
He will never give up on you. Even in your wreckage, He’s coming after you. He’s the holy hound of heaven who’s hunting you down out of love. You’re His. As the Psalmist writes, “As I do that, as I mused, as I concentrate, as I go there, the fire burns.” That’s our quest. Now, we’re going to receive our offering in just a minute. We’re going to put up a video with some really cool things going on here at Cornerstone. We’re going to sing a closing song. I just want to pray over us and I want you to go there, guys. I want you to go there. Let’s pray.
Father, I pray that if there’s a weary heart, if there’s just a spark left in some precious, precious human being sitting here, bring them to the cross. In this last song, bring them to the cross. Monday morning, help them to go to the cross and see your love and awaken love. Awaken a fire and move them towards you so they can behold life in new ways. With the love of Christ, compel them. In Jesus’ name, amen.