What’s Better Than the Presence of God

Being near to God is what keeps us right and saves us from distortion. He is everywhere and wants to keep us from deception. (Psalm 73)

Speaker(s): Pastor Bob Colban, Pastor Justin Schaller
Sermon # 11338
6:30 PM on 9/24/2017

 
P. Colban

Ge 3:1-3, 5-6. We are all familiar with this portion of Scripture. I want to share a little testimony and get back to this that illustrates this. An encounter I had with a woman in France on evangelism. She was a believer. Unlike in Baltimore, to meet another believer in France is rare. We meet more unbelievers or more people that don’t believe in God at all. We talked ten or fifteen minutes and I was enjoying our conversation. I’m not sure how we got around to this point, but we talked about traditional marriage and how things changed in U.S. with gay marriage. She said that’s an interesting subject. She said my thinking has evolved on this topic. Up to that point we were having a great conversation. She said I used to believe in traditional marriage. She started to tell me about experiences she observed. She saw traditional marriage relationships that went sour and then gay marriages that seemed to be loving. She said the issue is love not what the Bible says.

She said my thinking has evolved. It reminded me of Ge 3. God gives us grace words like we heard in the message for our edification but also for our protection and direction. God has our best in mind as he gives us his Word. The devil tries to take the purity of the Word and get it to evolve in our minds. God had given them grace words in chapter 2 and one prohibition not to eat from this tree. You could say God is withholding something, and that is part of the attack of Satan. God doesn’t do arbitrary things to withhold from us but gave this definition for our protection. It was a tree of death and not life. Once we ate of it we would experience death. The devil is subtle. It says more subtle than any beast of the field. This woman didn’t go from thinking this way to this way in a moment of time but an evolution of thinking. Subtle means cunning, crafty, hard to notice. You don’t notice right away that your thinking is getting moved away from what God says to think another way. When the devil started this conversation with Eve, his attempt was to get her to do what she did, but he didn’t reveal his true purpose. He twisted it just a bit to get her thinking to evolve from what God said in Ge 2 to what he wanted her to think in Ge 3. Delicate, illusive, like a spider’s web. We’ve all seen spider’s webs. It’s intricate and beautiful in one sense. Why is he building the web? To trap other insects and kill and eat them. The purpose is for a totally other purpose to trap insects. We have to be very aware of our thinking. Where are we getting our thinking processes from? To get Eve to think God is withholding something from her. That there is more to life than what God is experiencing….She starts to mix these other thoughts with the pure Word of God. She’s totally over here with a totally different way of thinking. She has been deceived to think something different from what God told her. It’s so easy for this to happen to us.

This Christian lady took the purity of the Word of God and then over time she started mixing – Heb 4 we are to mix faith with the Word and it profits us. She started mixing observations with the Word, her experiences, her feelings with the Word. All of a sudden she had this conviction about marriage and then turned 180 degrees with a lack of conviction. We say how could that happen? Well, how did that happen to Eve? They have a perfect environment and every need fulfilled, daily fellowship with God, and in the mist of that this subtlety of speaking lets mix something else with what God is saying. There is more you can experience in life if you listen to what I am telling you and that tree is what he is withholding from you. They buy this lie and before you know it they are cast out of the garden. God gave the prohibition for protection. Satan twists it and they lost what they had. Doesn’t it happen to us? Don’t we mix what God says with our own feelings?

Ps 73 is an amazing psalm. In the first 15 or 16 verses, this man is distraught about what he observes. He knows what God says but this is his observation about the wicked prospering. He says I have cleansed my heart in vain. He is doubting everything and totally confused. He is mixing his observation and coming up with a distorted view of reality.

vs. 17. Then I went into the sanctuary of God and understood. He says, in a paraphrase version, I can’t believe the way I was thinking. How did I get so far off in my thinking where I was envious of the wicked? How did I get from here where these grace words are leading my life? It says his soul got sour. He had a sour soul towards everything. He took the purity of the Word and started to mix it with his observations. He had a meeting with God whether in the church or private devotional. His thinking process was totally changed. He realized now the wicked stand on a slippery slope. I need you and you alone Lord. Maybe I have cleansed my heart in vain. It’s you and you alone God. His thinking is totally different. What happened? Grace words. Now all that observation and feelings and experience has been removed from his thinking, and he is thinking with God again.

The devil wants to take us away from that purity the Word gives us for edification, 2 Tim 3:16. The Word has a purpose in our life. The devil wants to distort that purpose and make us think God is withholding something. To distort what God says and you question everything God says. All he had to do is hear grace words. All of a sudden he saw clearly. He realized who he was in Christ clearly, and he was a changed man. It’s a beautiful thing about a spider’s web. You take it right away. We don’t always think that way. We can be removed from this truth God has for us. We can be subject to his subtleties like Eve was. That’s why we come and hear messages. We open our Bibles and allow God to speak to us. When we hear these kinds of words, it sets us free and we see things differently.

Ps 73 the psalmist’s condition wasn’t changed but he was changed. He was thinking differently.

In 2 Cor 12, Paul’s situation didn’t change, but he did. God spoke to him and gave him words of grace for his situation. We are always thinking God change the situation but many times God gives us words from the throne that give clarity and perspective and bring truth into our lives that delivers us.

 


P. Justin Schaller

That was an amazing word. I was going to preach on Ps 73 this morning. There we go.

Before I get started I want to say our church in Federal Hill, – P. Bob did the monies the other night, and the project will be done hopefully in 2017. P. Taggart has been the leader with getting the project done (he named others)…We are excited about it. Continue to pray.

We had service this morning and it was one of the best services. It was amazing. The group we have involved with the team (he’s naming people) so many have been a part of what we are doing down there. At times we say what are we doing? The most important thing is the presence of God. When you have a service and sense God’s presence, and have a conversation and sense the presence of God, you say I’m in the right spot. The presence of God in our life. I preached on it this morning.

(Ps 73:25-28). At the beginning of the Bible we see the presence of God. We use this word a lot. Someone’s presence or someone came into the room and they have a commanding presence.

My father-in-law retired from the military and we went down to his retirement ceremony. We are sitting in a room and it’s family and friends. A four-star general walks in the room. You wonder this guy walks in and his chest is full of medals and has his four stars. I’m thinking what do I do? It was just a family time, but I was nervous. Yes sir! Do I bow? The man commanded the room. It was amazing.

We see there are people that have that with us. It may be a boss or a pastor that comes in and has a presence when they come in. We could say the Father in the Garden and his presence was there with Adam and Eve. Scripture is all about God trying to hang out with us. He’s coming to our door and saying what’s going on? Would you like to be in my presence? Enoch walked with God and then was not. The Father was excited to bring him home. Abraham was a friend of God.

Even Jesus in Jn 8:56 says Abraham saw my day and was overjoyed.

Prov 3 God gives his secrets to the upright…..he was so close to the Father he was revealing these secrets to Abraham. Moses says I won’t go unless your presence goes with me. Moses goes up Mt. Sinai and received the commandments, but he saw the back side of God and his face was shining because he was in the presence of God. God is trying to show his presence to his people. He chose Israel to express and show himself. Christ’s name is Immanuel, God is with us. God has come to dwell among these people. Hey, Levi? Can I come and be in your presence? Matthew, can I sit with you with the tax collectors and sinners and be with you in your presence? God is inviting people into his presence. Talk about rejection over and over again. You and I would give up. I knocked on that door ten times and he denies me to be invited in. I’m done with it. God is relentless and says I’m looking to be in your presence. You see when Christ went up to the mount and brought the disciples up, we saw him with Moses and Elijah and have this conversation. The disciples were able to see the glory of Lord and then it was hidden again. Why Moses and Elijah? They were the friends of God. Christ was going into the exodus. He was going to the Cross from this normal life into death. Was he talking about the exodus he was going to encounter? Elijah ascended into heaven and so did Christ. He is talking to them like friends. Whatever the Father told me, I tell you also. I share this with you. I don’t want you to think I am some person that cannot commune with you. The idea of God can be so distorted. That he is fearful, revengeful and I can never come into his presence. He’s going to smite me. The devil has been trying to distort the character and nature of God. He is not stopping. We know what P. Bob was saying.

We can easily run away from the presence of God, but it’s impossible (Ps 139). If I go to the depths of the sea, you are there. There is a manifestation of God that he wants to have with each of us. He is inviting us into this relationship. If there is a knock on the door and it’s a friend. They say what do you have going on today? Oh, friend. Oh, friend. I am so busy. I have so much going on my plate. Do you have time? Can we spend a little time together? No, friend. I don’t want to invite him in because maybe there is something I don’t want him to see. Jesus is at the door. Can I come in? No, I’m too busy.

Prov. 22 a man says there is a lion in the street. I cannot go out. I’ll be eaten. Really? What does that mean? He’s covering up his own laziness. The mind is so amazing because the heart is deceptive. We don’t even know what is going on in the heart. The heart employs the mind to come up with excuses that cover an evil wicked heart that doesn’t want to be exposed. People say I want to go heaven because it’s like this or that. If you are unsaved, you don’t want to go to heaven. You will be exposed for the fraud and evil person you are. We don’t want to be exposed. Why did Jonah flee God’s presence? Chapter 4, he had anger and resentment about those people. He’d rather live in it than be in the presence of God. If it’s the fullness of joy why is it I don’t run to it every day? There is something in the back part of my house if I invite Jesus into, I will be exposed. I run from the presence of God. I talk about it. I know my doctrine. I know how to pray. When God comes and knocks, do I invite him in?

In Revelation, his eyes are like flaming fire. Every part of me will be consumed. Nothing can be hidden. I’d rather go down dying in my sin than give it up to be in the presence of an Almighty God.

Eph 2 my whole life I was in this kingdom of darkness thinking in my intellect who God is and how R I am in his eyes. God comes along and knocks on the door and I say it’s a fearful thing to be in the presence of God like Job said. People are so light about the idea of being in God’s presence. No small thing because there had to be a cross applied to who I am so I can enter into his presence. Jonah had to be thrown overboard, swallowed by a whale, put in the darkest part of the sea, seaweed around his head and humble himself to agree with God and then to be in the presence of God. It takes a cross to be in his presence. I need to put everything before the Lord. It’s hard. We talk about the cross like it’s not something hard. It is hard. Paradise lost, – it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. There are people going to hell who would rather reign in hell holding on to their own idol than to give it up and be in the presence of God. You can’t be in the presence of God with your own idol. Ever have someone come into your house and you are embarrassed the way it looks? Jesus wants to dine with us and see the whole thing. The grace of God is an amazing thing. When Christ came, he knew who we were. If someone gave every penny to get on an airplane and cross the world to just be in your presence, do you think that would be amazing? If they sold their house, their car, quit their job and showed up to be in your presence, do you think that’s what God did? Why sinner, God died for the ungodly. He gave up every bit of what he had, his Son. Why did he come here? Is there something good about me, I’m redeemable or something amazing he sees? What did he say to Israel? You were like that little child that is so helpless. God is so loving and full of grace and mercy. He gave every last bit to be in my presence. Wow.

1 Jn 3:1-2, when Christ comes in and dines with me, it’s because he sees the nature of Christ in me. He sees the potential of what I could be with his nature inside of me. Look at that nature in that child. That is my son. I am so well pleased in that person. We get a distorted idea of who God is. I have to clean my house quick. God is coming over. God, I’m too busy. There is a lion in the street, God. I talk to the heart. Let’s get real. Jonah, what is going on? Is it good to be angry, Jonah? Are you happy in your sin? There is fullness of joy in my presence. There is satisfaction and wisdom and purpose. There is sanctification happening in our life.

Ps 73 it is so much better to be in the presence of God. The more I get to know what Christ has done for me, the more I realize he’s done such an amazing work to be in my presence. He knocks on the door in the morning. Hey, what’s going on? Jesus, I have a lot going on. Give me your heart. What is going on in your heart? What is bothering you? Why do you keep running from my presence? Lord, I’m not worthy. Or I love my sin too much. God keeps coming after us. You can’t stop him. He has paid for you, shed his blood and wants to be in your presence. Can I go with you today? Sure Lord. I’m kind of weak and tired. It’s ok. Your life is no longer yours. I’m living through you. I’m going to live your life for you. This is what it’s going to look like. You’re going to be in my presence even at work. All these disciplines we talk about. I’ve been thinking about it, spiritual disciplines. We can get it so distorted. What my Bible is, what prayer is, what church is. We get it so distorted. All of it is the grace of God. Every part is so I can enter into the presence of God. I come into church to enter into the presence of God. Lord, is your presence here? If not, maybe I’ll go home then. If I’m with a group of people and don’t sense the presence of God, maybe I can bring it in. I go into prayer because I’m looking for the presence of God in my prayer. I’m not say wings happening over my head or singing three part harmony. Lord, show up. I know you’re there.

Act 3 he is near to all of us. Isn’t that amazing! I want that. I want more of him. It tastes so good.

I told a story, a personal story when I was 22 and thinking, is God real? Is church mechanical? I learn a language and say it. I was good at it already. We can be good at it. I’m just being honest. We can be good at church. I said Lord if you are real, show yourself. I remember 3 a.m. waking in the morning. It’s like he slapped me over the head. The presence of God filled my room like I never experienced before. How is that possible? He was close and how did I miss it? Jacob had a dream and this place angels were going from heaven to earth. How did I miss it? I’m living in my sin. You just call on my name. I had no clue. I didn’t know anything. I said Lord could you show up. Guess what? He showed up. You knock and he will come. You build it and they will come. He is so gracious. He is just waiting to show up and be with you. That’s how much he loves you. That’s how much he loves me.

Let’s have the presence of God amongst us and let’s go out and bring the presence of God out there. The grace of God, my sin, but the Cross. Through the Cross and your love, I enter into the presence of God and I’m never the same. I’m going after it the rest of my life because it tastes too good.

 


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