by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 18, 2005
Main Passage: John
We live in a very
spiritual time. Not necessarily Christian, not even necessarily
religious, but definitely spiritual. Turn on the TV, visit the
bookstore, surf the web, or pick up a magazine and you’ll see that
there is a high level of interest in anything and everything that can
be defined as spiritual. This morning I want to take just about ten
minutes to talk about what spirituality is, where people are looking
for it, and why it’s important.
When I mention a “spiritual person”, who do you think of? If I were to
ask you to give me an example of someone who is spiritual, who would
you say? Would you say the Pope? Billy Graham? The Dalai Lama? Oprah?
Tom Cruise? Angelina Jolie? Alanis Morissette? David Suzuki? Mahatma
Gandhi? Perhaps anybody who lived in the 60s? What is spirituality,
What is Spirituality?
being in touch with God, valuing His Word, and trying to live it out
day to day.
But in recent years, it
seems the term “Spiritual” has been co-opted to mean something much
broader. In fact, it’s gone from meaning someone who’s deeply committed
to one thing, to meaning someone who’s loosely committed to everything.
Let me read to you some disturbing words I found on the Internet. One
“I consider myself a spiritual person, one who sees the truth in all
religions… What is the difference? The Religious person acknowledges
only their own path; the Spiritual person sees that there are many
paths to the Divine and theirs is but one.”
“The goal of the spiritual person is self-realization, and his journey
is towards the depth of his own being, his God, his ideal.”
So today being spiritual doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with
God. You don’t have to be in touch with God; you just have to be in
touch with yourself. You don’t have to value His Word; you just have to
value nature. You don’t have to live it out day to day…. You just have
to live and let live.
So with that in mind, let me give you a definition of spirituality in
2005. It’s not a dictionary definition, it’s just my understanding of
what people are talking about today when they talk about being
spiritual and seeking spirituality. It’s this:
In 2005 – the
search for inner peace and purpose, sometimes involving a connection
with nature or a ‘higher power’.
… whatever that “higher
power” may be. So today, you can be a devoted follower of Christ and be
considered spiritual, or you could be an agnostic or an atheist and be
considered spiritual. As long as you’re searching for an inner peace
and purpose, you’re spiritual.
It’s interesting to me
that every culture has developed some form of spirituality, from
ancient civilizations to tribes in the deepest parts of the jungle to
us here today. Even if you look at science fiction, cultures on other
planets are presumed to have some form of spirituality. There’s just
something about us that craves the spiritual. The passage Betty read
described it as a “thirst”. Someone has even said if God didn’t exist
it would be necessary for us to create Him. There’s some kind of innate
spiritual desire in each of us that wants to find meaning in life, to
be at peace with ourselves, and to connect with God our Creator. And I
believe that desire is placed within us by God Himself. He created us
to be in a relationship with Him, a relationship that we as a species
have rejected by rebelling against God, but a relationship that we
still instinctively seek and desire.
Blaise Pascal was a great 17th-century mathematician who studies
vacuums and hydraulics and probability. (I would say there’s a good
chance his career had its ups and downs, and at times it would really
suck.) This is what he said about this craving for the spiritual…
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be
filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known
through Jesus Christ.”
~ Blaise Pascal
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 is the place in the Bible where the Byrds got
the lyrics for their famous song “For everything (turn, turn, turn)
there is a season…”, and in verse 11 of that chapter it says…
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
God has made everything beautiful for its
own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so,
people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
Take your pen and underline the words, “He has planted eternity in the
Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT)
I will give them hearts that will recognize
me as the LORD.
So what do those two verses show us? They show us that God has placed a
craving within us to seek after Him. But while this spiritual thirst…
this so called “God-shaped vacuum”… was created in us by God, people
try to satisfy this thirst with so many other things. Hiking, working,
community involvement, prayer, meditation, sailing, therapy…
You know, most of these things aren’t evil or dangerous. In fact, many
of them can be very good. But they become evil and dangerous for us
when they are misused and when they distract us from the One person who
can fill that vacuum and satisfy that thirst. Read this verse with me…
Matthew 5:6 (NCV)
Those who are hungry and thirsty to be right
with God are happy, because they will be filled.
Earlier when I defined spirituality in 2005 I said it “sometimes”
involves a connection with a higher power. I said “sometimes” because I
find that people today tend to leave God out of the equation. Usually
when you hear someone talk about something being spiritual today
they’re not referring to God at all.
“Now it’s becoming the in thing to be spiritual. It’s more cool,
modern, and progressive to be spiritual. But without God.”
~ [Buddhist teacher Jagad Guru] Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa
Let’s try someone with an easier name. Edith Humphrey, a professor in
Ottawa, wrote in an article…
“Attitudes toward the spiritual have changed considerably in the past
few decades, away from a ‘scientific’ dismissal of the nonmaterial
toward an easy acceptance of all things mysterious.”
~ Edith Humphrey
So, many people today are very much aware of this spiritual thirst in
their lives… they desire God… but at the same time they reject Him.
A while ago I heard a celebrity talk about how making a movie was a
spiritual event for her. She didn’t really expand on it, but I didn’t
get the impression that she had an encounter with God. I think she was
just talking about finding some personal meaning in making the movie. I
don’t believe God was included in her concept of spirituality.
I think part of the reason for this is that in recent years the Church
has gained the reputation of being irrelevant and boring. And what
really bothers me about this is that there’s some truth to it. Now, let
me say there are some great churches that are exciting and are making a
tremendous difference in lives and in communities, but at the same time
there are some churches which have lost their relevance. And there are
some churches that really are boring.
But that is not God’s design for the Church. That’s not the way it’s
supposed to be and that’s not the way it always is. The Church is
supposed to be involved in society, not locked away in its own little
world. We are to represent God. And the Bible is completely relevant to
our lives today and has tremendous principles and lessons that can help
in our marriages and our friendships and our jobs and our everyday
life, but we have often failed to communicate it that way. And there
are great churches across this city and across this country and around
the world that realize this and are striving to communicate the Word of
God more effectively so it does make a difference in people’s lives.
You’re all aware of Gallup Polls. Well, George Gallup and now his son
George Gallup, Jr. have been surveying and polling people for decades
(sounds painful). And from their research, Jr. has listed the top six
spiritual needs of people today.
Six Spiritual Needs of People
(according to George Gallup, Jr., adapted from Emerging Trends)
To believe that life
is meaningful and has a purpose
To have a sense of
community and deeper relationships
To be appreciated
To be listened to
To feel they are
growing in faith
To get practical
help in developing a mature faith
Those are the top six
spiritual needs that people have, according to George Gallup, and
Sunrise exists to help meet all of those needs.
You see, there’s a spiritual thirst in Charlottetown, and in Stratford,
and in Winsloe, and in Cornwall, and in York, and in Stanhope, and in
Saint John, and anyplace else you may live… even in Lorne Valley. It’s
a thirst that was created by God and can only be satisfied in a
relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. In the passage Betty read
for us, Jesus told the woman…
John 4:13-14 (CEV)
“Everyone who drinks this water will get
thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be
thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives
John 6:35 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No
one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me
will never thirst.”
Isaiah 55:1-2 (NLT)
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink--even if
you have no money! … Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that
is good for the soul!”
So the answer to the spiritual thirst that permeates throughout society
is found in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s the message the Church
was created to deliver, and that’s the message Sunrise is here to
deliver. Nothing else we could ever do could be more important than
introducing people to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in that
A few weeks ago, the Rolling Stones were in Moncton. And for their
encore, Mick Jagger sang that he “can’t get no satisfaction…” Well, I
know where he can find satisfaction. There are already rumours that
they’re trying to get U2 in Moncton next year. They sing, “I still
haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I know where they can find it. I
know where you can find peace, where you can find hope, where you can
find love, where you can find forgiveness, where you can find
wholeness, where you can find acceptance, where you can find
satisfaction, where you can find meaning, where you can find purpose.
It’s all found in Jesus Christ.
Four weeks from now we
will be starting our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign. We’re going to talk
about how we can find true meaning and purpose in life. Remember, that
was the number one spiritual need, according to that Gallup Poll. We’re
going to talk about how God created us with purpose. We’re not
accidents. We really do have a reason for being here. In fact, we have
five, as we’ll discover over the course of the campaign.
And I want to encourage you right now to commit yourself to being here
for the campaign. If you’re in town, be here. And beyond that, you know
people who are experiencing this spiritual thirst in their lives. They
may be friends, family, coworkers… and they are searching for meaning
and purpose. I want you to do two things for them…
First, pray for them. Pray that they won’t be able to suppress that
thirst. Pray that God will prepare their hearts and make them receptive
to what He has for them. Pray that God will use you to reach them.
Second, invite them. You can invite them here anytime, but specifically
for this campaign, invite them to join you. Invite them to come to one
of the 40 Days Small Groups. This could be exactly what they need for
God to reach them and for them to discover who they are in His eyes.
Can we do that? I believe we can. To help you, there are some tools
available on the Grand Central table over to your right. For the next
several weeks, Bev is going to be available at that table to answer
your questions about the campaign and to provide you with resource to
invite your friends and family to take part in the campaign. Take
advantage of it, and be amazed at what God can do.