Set a Fire: 3 Ways to Grow in your Relationship with God

Jan 04, 2022

As we welcome the new year, Eric Jones brings us a new series at VFC: Heart Ablaze. In the first message of the series, Eric challenges us with 3 ways to grow our relationship with God. We journey through two stories in the Bible, each of which highlight our need to passionately pursue Jesus as we develop and strengthen our union with Him. 

In Set a Fire, we first look at a story from the Gospel of Luke, following Jesus’s crucifixion, about two men whose hearts were ablaze in the presence of Jesus. Eric Jones sets the stage for the story, fills us in on the circumstances surrounding the scene, and highlights Luke 24:30-32

​​(30) Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. (31) Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sights. (32) And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

Like the two traveling men in the story from Luke, we cannot be with Jesus without our hearts being affected by it. Let’s consider this question: When was the last time your heart burned within you from simply being with Jesus? 

As we kickoff 2022, we believe that this is a year for us to take a deep dive into our personal relationship with Jesus and to experience a fresh sense of His goodness, His presence, His love, His majesty. Let’s commit to being people who are defined by our knowledge, our relationship, and our intimacy with Jesus. Let’s embrace a heart burning within us for the things of God! 

This is when religion stops being religion and turns into relationship. This is when coming to church stops being what we do as a practice on Sundays and becomes our connecting point with heaven. Throughout the month of January, we’re talking about how to develop a relationship with Jesus. Specifically, in Set a Fire, we’re exploring 3 ways to grow our relationship with God as we dive into the story of Paul. 

Pursue like Paul

Have you ever found something so valuable that it was worth giving up everything else to have? In Set a Fire, at timestamp 12:00, Eric Jones shares a hilarious story about his daughter, Olive, on Christmas morning that vividly portrays the attitude we should adopt in our pursuit of Jesus. This is the same attitude Paul embodied when he began following Jesus. We see Paul’s heart ablaze in his letter to the church of Philippi in the New Testament. The words Paul writes in Philippians 3:4-9 will inspire and challenge us as venture into 2022:

(4) though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (6) concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

(7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

Originally, Paul was a Christian persecutor, an enemy of the Christian faith. He was a Pharisee; very knowledgeable and highly educated. Paul was righteous and accomplished, born into providence. He did not like what Jesus was doing…until one day he had an encounter with Him. Like the two men from the first story in Luke 24, Paul’s eyes were opened, his heart gets set on fire, and his life changed forever.

Paul became so enamored with Jesus that he abandoned every element of the life he had before entering a relationship with Christ. All Paul’s accomplishments and points of pride he cast away, no longer concerning himself with the things that the world cares about. Paul realized the one and only thing worth caring about: knowing Jesus. 

If we don’t have a relationship with Jesus, we have nothing. Philippians 3:8 in The Passion Translation highlights the weight and importance of embracing Christ as Lord. Jesus is the only thing in life worth pursuing! This is radical Christianity, friends! This is the type of Christianity we’re called to live in. 

New Year’s Resolutions

There is one primary goal we should pursue in 2022: To know Jesus; to walk with Him, to hear His voice; to be transformed by Him; to look and talk and be like Christ. There’s a challenge we all face in this endeavor: it’s hard. We have a desire and a hunger to know Jesus, but life is busy!

Theologian David Guzik says this about Paul’s reflection in Philipians 3: “Paul put a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the very center of the Christian life. He joyfully accepted the loss of all other things for the greatness of this personal relationship.” 

We live busy lives. So how are we going to have an intimate, dynamic, growing personal relationship with Jesus when all of life is busily happening around us? Not to mention, we live in a world that couldn’t care less about our faith in Christ. We simultaneously experience outward pressures from the world and inward pressures from life’s demands. It’s hard! 

That’s exactly why we’re discovering practical ways to connect with God and find space, time, and creativity in our relationship with Jesus as we come to know Him more. In Set a Fire, the first message in our Heart Ablaze series, we focus on 3 ways to grow our relationship with God. Let’s commit to applying each of these 3 ways in our every-day-lives as we start 2022 and passionately pursue Jesus. 

#1 – Break the Soil to Grow Our Relationship with God

Hosea 10:12Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

Just as the minor prophet Hosea called the Israelites to do, we are called to kill up hardened soil. 2021 was hard, there’s no denying it! When life is hard, sometimes that hardness seeps into our relationship with God and our hearts become hardened toward Him. As we enter a new year, it’s time to take a deep look inside ourselves and break up the fallow ground! 

Proverbs 4:23Guard your heart above all else; for it determines the course of your life (NLT) 

As we begin 2022, let’s reflect and ask ourselves: How is my heart doing? Not our lives, our hearts. If there’s any bit of hardness in our hearts, we don’t need to be ashamed! But we do need to break it up. Let’s bring that hardness to God and ask for His help and grace. Let’s allow Him to create within us a heart that is fresh, soft, tender, and responsive to Him. 

This means committing to breaking the soil. 

This means forgiving those who have wronged us. 

This means refusing bitterness, anger, and rage over the things we cannot control (things God never asked us to control in the first place!) 

This means being vulnerable and honest before God and trusted friends. 

This means remaining vigilant about what we let into our hearts and what comes out of our hearts. 

This means watering our hearts with God’s word, tuning into worship, and taking time to connect with God. 

2021 is behind us. It’s time to move forward, break the soil of a hard heart, and tune back into God. 

Discussion: 

Where do you have fallow ground? 

In what areas of your life do you need to break the soil? 

How can you water your heart and pursue God in 2022?

#2 – Quiet the Noise to Grow Our Relationship with God

1 Kings 19:11-12 (11) Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; (12) and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

In a world that is all about being the loudest, God is the quiet, the still, the soft. God wants to speak to you; He is speaking to you. We have to turn out ears and hearts to the still, small voice of God. We have to be willing to shut down and turn off all the noise. Jesus himself did this all the time! 

Luke 5:16So He himself often withdrew to lonely places to pray. 

Like Jesus, we also need quiet moments. Together as a church, we’re participating in a 21-day fast (details at valleyfamilychurch.org/fast or in the VFC app!). The fast isn’t about us manipulating God’s will for our lives; it’s about making a committed decision to quiet ourselves so that we can tune into God. On the VFC app, there’s a 21-day Bible Reading Plan for us to engage with that will encourage us during the Fast.

As we practice quieting the noise so that we may grow in our relationship with God, what can we fast? Whether it’s fasting a meal, social media, or Netflix, we can sacrifice those vices for 21 days and use that time to pray and connect with God. 

Let’s commit to the 21-day fast together and watch what God will do with our decision of obedience! 

Discussion: 

What will you fast during our 21-day endeavor? 

During that time, what will pursuing God look like for you?

How can we pray for each other during the 21-day fast?

#3 – Fan the Flame to Grow Our Relationship with God 

2 Timothy 1:6This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

In this verse, Paul instructs Timothy, a young pastor, “Don’t forget to fan the flame of things inside you,” meaning: if you do nothing, your relationship with God won’t be on fire. The same is true for us. If we just come to church for a 30 minute message once a week, it might be enough to maintain a flame, but it definitely won’t be enough to grow our flame.

Check out timestamp 34:47 in Set a Fire; Eric Jones paints a vivid picture of fanned flames in Montana that showcase the power for expansion if we do the same in our relationship with God. We need a fire on the inside of us for the things of God; we need the freshness of the Holy Spirit. 

As we make decisions and take responsibility for our personal relationship with Christ, the wind of the Holy Spirit will take the little spark that is within us and turn it into a wildfire for Him. But we have to do something first. 

Jeremiah 29:13You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 

We seek the Lord because we trust God to set our hearts on fire for Him as we lean into the goodness of His presence. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we are going to be a church set on fire in 2022. Amen! 

Discussion: 

How can you seek God with all your heart during this season of your life? 

What steps do you need to take to fan the flames inside of you?

What commitments will you make to set your heart ablaze for Jesus?

The Challenge

Let’s come together and commit to pursuing Jesus like never before! With these 3 ways to grow our relationship with God, let’s take the plunge, accept the challenge, and commit to chasing fervently after Jesus as we’re Set on Fire for Him. As we continue to come together throughout the month of January, we’ll gain practical guidance to help us navigate growing closer to God. 

Let’s stand firm today in our commitment to making Jesus the most valuable part of our lives. Let’s experience His presence like never before. Let’s surrender 2022 to the Lord as we strive to pursue him in all that we do, think, and say. Lord have your way in us! 

Prayer: 

"Father, we love you. Thank You for Your goodness and love at work in our lives in every season! Thank You, Father, for what You’re doing in our church and in our city. We pray that You would set our hearts on fire as we start the new year. We want to know You, we want to walk with You, we want to be like You. May we live with hearts ablaze as we pursue You in 2022 like never before. In Jesus' Name, amen." 

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