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In His Presence

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(1/19) This morning we find encouragement in the words of Isaiah: "For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:15).

Today I want to share with you a message I have entitled "In His Presence." And I want to flesh out our journey, my journey and yours, through the difficulties… through the wilderness… the trials… the doctor’s diagnosis... the whatever it is for you today, because God’s presence gives us strength. It is the presence of Christ that allows us to stand firm on His promises… it is the presence of Christ that enables us to live in freedom from the bondage of sin… It is the presence of Christ that allows us to rise victoriously over painful circumstances… and it’s the presence of Christ that satisfies our instinctive desire to have fellowship with God.

That is what I want to talk about this morning… In His Presence.

Let us read from Hosea together. Did you find the little book of Hosea? It is near the end of the Old Testament… Ezekiel, Daniel, and then Hosea… just about page 639 in my Bible. The prophet Hosea said this in chapter 6, looking at verses 1-3…

"Come let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:1-3)

Whether you realize it or not… even whether you acknowledge it or not… you are never out of God's sight. He sees you all the time... there are no hiding places. And if you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christ to carry you over the threshold of this life into the next then this promise is for you. Jesus said, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). So today, as a blood bought, born again, Spirit filled child of God… you and I are already in the presence of God. However, in order for us to walk confidently and victoriously in this fallen world we’ve got to get in the habit of living life in the presence of God.

Here's what we need to understand. If you have brought your sin under the blood of Jesus, your relationship with God has been restored, and He is with you at this very moment. If you haven’t confessed your sin and gotten right with God then you need to do that right away! But if you have, then day after day, when you wake up, he is there with you. As you go about your daily routine, he is there with you, and for some that may be shocking… to think of the presence of Christ… as they’re viewing pornography on their computer, as they’re sexting their friends, as they’re hanging out, as they are doing whatever… so this may be a great awakening… a call to repentance… because as the Church we are in His Presence, so this is a teaching to revive the hearts of God’s people.

The prophet Hosea said: "Come let us return to the Lord… he will revive us… he will restore us that we may live in his presence."

1. Where are you?

But here is the problem… we’ve often been guilty of hiding from God. And it began a long time ago, actually in the Garden of Eden with the first man and woman. They had disobeyed God's rules… they had stepped outside of the boundaries… just like you and I have. And even though God had provided everything they needed, they still went outside of the safety and security of those boundaries… just like you and I do. They knew the consequence of disobedience. God had told them that sin's penalty was death… spiritual death… separation from God… separation from the source of everything good in life. But again, just like you and me… suddenly they find themselves experiencing guilt and shame, because they had done wrong… they had crossed the line… and it was something that God never intended for us to experience.

And here is what happened, in Genesis chapter 3 at verse 7 it tells us: "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" (NIV).

Now I imagine we all remember playing hide and seek when we were younger. For some of us that seems like eon ago, but I still have fond memories of playing hide and seek. You know those summer evenings just before dark, the smell of fresh cut grass is in the air, and you are playing with brothers and sisters and maybe a neighbor or two. For myself, as the oldest of seven kids, I remember being significantly better than the others, and in particular better at hiding than I was at seeking. No one could ever find me… but after a while even the thrill of knowing that I had outwitted the others was overridden by my loneliness. And it was this loneliness that would always bring me out into the open.

And I think most of us are better at hiding than seeking… we’ve been well trained because we've been doing it since the beginning of time. When Adam and Eve got into trouble, the first thing they did was to run and hide. They hid from one another with fig leaves… they tried to hide their shame… their disobedience… and then they hid from the very presence of God.

Meanwhile God is walking through the garden in the cool of the evening. And I wonder if the Lord would say to some of us today, like he said to Adam: "Where are you? I have been looking for you. I wanted to walk and talk with you. I wanted to spend some time with you. I love you!"

Just imagine, if you would, the Creator of the Universe wanting to spend time with you. To think that God the Father came looking for the people who had purposefully disobeyed… people who had willingly alienated themselves from Him… and yet here we are thousands of years later… and God the Son, Jesus Christ, came looking for you and me… in spite of our sin… and in spite of our rebellion. Jesus came looking for you and I, even though we made the same mistake as Adam and Eve. Even though we thought we had it all covered… nobody would know… but those things we had hidden turned out to be exposed. As far as God was concerned… the fig leaves had withered… and were non-existent. Yet we hide… we hide our behavior, we hide our actions, and we hide the consequences of our choices. And still… we long for the presence of God. The loneliness draws us out of hiding… we hunger for the presence that we were created for… and that so often seems to be just beyond our grasp!

2. Will Anyone Know?

I am reminded of Moses. In Exodus chapter 33, at verse 12: "Moses said to the Lord, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' (Lord) If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

And the Lord said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name." NIV

The distinguishing characteristic between those who are God's people and those who aren't is God’s presence. It’s the Holy Spirit. If God is with you, you belong to him; if God is not with you, you don't. So, it's an important concept to understand isn’t it?

In the New Testament we discover that God's presence attaches to people and not places. God's presence is the Holy Spirit within us. The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth said, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God" (1 Corinthians 6:19). So God isn't hanging around in church hoping someone will show up on Sunday… he lives in our hearts.

To the church in Colosse Paul wrote, "God has chosen to make known… the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

I think sometimes we get confused and even complacent about the presence of Christ, because if God has given us His Spirit, then His ever present, all knowing, powerful presence is just as strong, when we are at home as when we are at church. It's just as powerful whether we are in the kitchen, the bathroom, the car, or the office. So today, if you are a Christian, wherever you go, you are in the presence of God. We can no more escape God's presence than to leave our own hearts behind.

And Moses understood that… he knew that the bottom line… the only thing that really matters… the only thing that makes God's people different from the rest of the world… is the presence of God.

It is for that reason, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Do not quench the Spirit" (NASU). "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thess. 5:19-22; NIV)

But it's too easy for us today… to natural… to try to live our Christian lives without the presence of God. We so easily become like the Israelites, heading for the Promised Land, enjoying God's promises, but never knowing the presence of God himself. And today we might try to do our best, to be good, and to come to church week after week, only to find that we’ve missed really knowing God. Or on the other hand, we can be so caught up in ministry, so busy serving the Lord, that we are totally burnt out, dazed, and confused.

3. What Are You Doing?

Kind of like one time when I was about 5 years old. I was across the street visiting my neighbors and for some reason was running out of their house. I don’t know why, but I remember this as plain as day. I was running at top speed through the kitchen and out through their sliding glass door into the backyard… only to discover that the glass door wasn’t open. Believe me as I lay on my back on their kitchen floor with a bloody nose, looking at the shattered glass door, I was feeling more than just a little confused and disoriented.

But you know the same thing happens to us when we get all focused on ourselves. The stress, the hurt, the burden of your responsibilities, or your relationships has got you focusing on yourself. And maybe without even realizing it you’re fluttering around emotionally, you’re feeling disoriented and discouraged, and maybe even crashing and bumping into things. So we need to be reoriented to our purpose by the presence of God!

You see when the Lord called out to Adam, it wasn't to rebuke him, but to reorient him. When he called "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). God knew! He knew where Adam was, just like he knew where Jonah was when he boarded a ship for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Just like he knew what Elijah was doing hiding in a cave at Mt. Horeb. God’s question to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" wasn’t stated in ignorance (1 Kings 19:9). He knew where Elijah was… His point was to redirect him.

And maybe today you’re hearing the voice of the Lord questioning what you are doing hiding from him, your call, or your role in your family or ministry?

Maybe today like Elijah, you need to go out and stand on the mountain. Maybe you need a fresh vision of the power and the glory of God’s Presence? But maybe like Elijah you’ve been looking in the wrong places… you’ve been looking for a dramatic display of God’s power. When the Bible says, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…" (Psalms 37:7).

David said this, "When I was silent and still... My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke…" (Psalms 39:2-3).

Maybe today, you’re looking at your life and asking, "How did I get here?" "Why am I in hiding?" Maybe life just hasn't turned out the way you planned or you're grieved by your past and you wonder, "What do I do now?"

The Lord said, "Be still, and know that I am God…" (Psalms 46:10).

When you find yourself in a difficult place, a situation that you never imagined, remember there was a still, small voice, as a gentle whisper. When you hear that voice... recognize the sound of the presence of God.

When you feel all alone know that God is with you and he has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). Go to that quiet place to refocus your eyes away from your troubles and back to God. Come out of hiding, acknowledge your sin, and return to the Lord. Turn from your rebellious ways and come back to Christ who gave his all for you.

Like the Apostle Paul. Join with him who said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

The Apostle wasn't talking about some time-travel experience he'd had. He was talking about his deep personal conviction… his feeling that when Jesus was dying on that cross, he was totally identifying with what Jesus was doing there. It was his own sin that Jesus was paying the price for on that cross.

You see once we come to understand what Jesus was really doing on that cross, His death becomes deeply personal and a totally transforming event. That's what the Apostle Paul was describing in Galatians. Yet today there are many people who wear a cross… who know all about the cross… but who have never been to the cross. In other words, they have never come to that place in their heart where they made their way to Jesus' cross and said, "That was for me. Jesus what you did there was to pay for every sin I've ever committed, for every wrong thing I've ever said or done."

It's at that point that you realize that Jesus is your only hope of being forgiven, of ever having a right relationship with God, and your only hope of going to heaven someday. And so the words of Hosea ring out again: "Come let us return to the Lord…" It’s a call to repent… to surrender yourself to the Son of God who gave His life for you.

I wonder if there's ever been a time like that for you; when you moved beyond the murder of Jesus as being just a historical event… a religious event… to the point where Jesus' sacrifice on that cross, becomes a deeply personal for me event. You see our churches in America are filled with people who know about the cross, who appreciate what Jesus did there, but who have missed the only thing that will change their eternal address… It’s the application of the blood of Christ… that personal transaction at the cross where you make the Savior "your Savior." Where you tell him… "Jesus that's for me."

If there's never been a time when you actually gave yourself completely to Jesus as your only hope, don't wait another day. Your eternity, your eternal destination is at stake. Right where you are, as we are preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, tell Jesus that you are putting your total trust in Him to forgive every sin, to change your life, and to take you to heaven someday. If you want to begin that relationship with Him, to know his presence today, just tell him. Tell him "Jesus, I'm yours because you died for me. I'm yours." Join with the angels in heaven singing his praise, "You are worthy… because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God" (Revelation 5:9).

Jesus made His move when He died on the cross for you. And the Bible makes this crystal clear, "You are not your own… you were bought at a price... Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Now, it's your move… tell Him you're putting all your trust in Him to be your Savior and to rescue you from sin.

Jesus is standing at the door… He's waiting... It's your move now. Respond personally… ask him to forgive you of your sins, determine in your mind and in your heart to change your ways, and head to the cross. Its your turn… take the next step.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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