Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Personal Encounter

When electricity became available in remote rural areas, one woman went to great trouble and expense to have electricity installed in her home. A few months after the power was turned on; the power company noticed that the home didn’t use very much power. Fearing that there was a problem they sent a meter reader to check on the matter.

The meter reader saw that the power was indeed working properly and then asked thewoman, "Do you use your electricity?"

The woman replied, "Of course we do. We turn it on every night when it gets dark so we can see to light our lamps and then we turn it back off."

Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous? Having all of the power you need and the ability to tap into it any time you wish, but only using it to see how to light candles?

Would we ever do anything that made so little sense?

Yes, we do, when we apply that same reasoning to the power and presence of God in our lives. We go out of our way to go to church, but don’t let ourselves become devoted to God. We look forward to our time of worship, but don’t let ourselves get too close to God.And we go through all of our troubles, only to ask God for His help as a last resort.

Many of us are just like the woman who didn’t use her electricity the way it was meant to be used. She went through all the trouble to get it, but didn’t use it enough to understand it.

We need to experience the presence of God to experience His power. Just like electricity. When we remove the presence of God from our lives; we remove His power.

We remove the presence of God in our lives when we decide to do something else we enjoy, rather than go to His house to get closer to Him.

Today, I want to look at a very personal encounter Moses had with God. And I want us to concentrate on three things that happened in this encounter that can lead us to a real relationship with God.

And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.

Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Exodus 33:12-23
A real relationship with God is when we look forward to doing things for Him, where He wants us to do them.

Moses said to God, "If you don’t go with us then I don’t want to go."

Why did Moses say this? Look at verse 3: "I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people:"

Some of the people had built a God of gold to serve.

And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book Which thou hast written. Exodus 32:31-32

Living and Experiencing God

"Yet you have said ,"I know you by name." Exodus 33:12

There is one thing we need to do every single time we step into the house of God, and that is to bring the word of God with us. You can always tell who has and who does not have the Bible as one of their priorities by who brings it to church. I am glad to be able to say that I think most of you do bring your Bibles.

There is no reason to come to church just to hear somebody else tell you what the Bible says. You need to read it for yourself when you are at home.

You need to "read to discover" and not just skim over a couple of verses and think you are doing a good job as a Christian. Part of walking the walk is reading the book.

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.’ 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."

Exodus 33:12-14
God created us to have a personal relationship with Him. God literally walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in. He came down from heaven and walked with them every evening. Can you imagine the closeness they felt with Him, or passing the hours away in personal conversation with Him? How awesome would that be?

They experienced the closest of relationships with Him. We have to get serious and realize something that is the most important news you will ever hear: God is yearning to have that kind of relationship with you, too, if you will only let Him. He wants it so badly that He even sent His Son to be the blood sacrifice to offer us a way back to Him.

(Speaking of Adam and Eve, I have heard it said that they had the perfect marriage. Adam didn’t have to listen to her talk about all the men she could have married, and she didn’t have to hear about how good his mother cooked.)

In this passage, Moses reminds God of His promises. Now, it isn’t like God forgets what He says, so why did Moses do that? Moses did that because he had a sense of genuine concern. There was no longer a sense of the Divine within the nation of Israel because God had removed His presence from them.

How many times have we felt that way about our lives? We might feel like we are in the middle of our own wilderness and God is nowhere around us, but we don’t tell anyone and just try to ignore it, don’t we?

That even applies to our church at times. How many times do we come into the sanctuary and do not feel the absolute presence of God? We feel that way in our lives and in our church when we are not "experiencing" God on a one-to-one basis. What causes us to feel that way?

We feel that way because we are not purposely trying to seek more of God. We are creatures of habit and we settle for whatever we have without trying to get something better. The problem with that is when we do that, we aren’t growing in Him.

When Moses sought God, he did so through passionate prayer. He sought God by going to his knees. One of the biggest problems in the church today is that people want a deep relationship with God but don’t want to pay the price necessary to get that relationship. We want everything handed to us.

But developing an intimate relationship with God takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.

I want you to notice what Moses said to God in verse 13. He wanted three things from God if God found his life pleasing.
  1. He wanted God to teach him God’s ways. Moses knew that you can only follow God to where He wants you to go if you know what God wants. And He asked God to teach him what God wanted.
  2. He asked God to let him know God. There is nothing more precious in a Christian’s life than knowing God personally. Moses knew you cannot learn from God unless you also know Him. And it is only when we know God can we become one of His children.
  3. And finally, Moses asked for God’s favor (grace). What is God’s favor? It is when God favors us by giving us more of the things that bring our focus back to Him. Have you ever said a quick prayer that you get thru the light before it turns red? And what do you do when that happens? You thank the Lord, don’t you? Did you know that was God’s favor upon you? It was no less a miracle than the miracle that has healed some of you. All born out of God’s favor. Moses wants God to let him live in God’s favor.
Now, Moses’ attitude was much different than most of our attitudes today. We want God’s favor upon our lives for the wrong reason. We want God’s favor so our lives go easier and we can be more comfortable.

God wants to give us His favor so we can do more work for Him. And most of us will never realize God’s full favor because, although we might want to know Him and have a relationship with Him, we don’t want it badly enough to spend time on our knees talking personally with Him, or we don’t want to spend much time reading His Word so we can understand what He wants for us. But we still want all He can give us, don’t we?

Most of us will spend our lives just circling around the area of God, but not really living in His very presence. We do everything we are supposed to, except pursue Him all the time with hearts that will not rest until we get more of Him.

That is how you can live in the presence of God; by chasing after Him; by searching for more of Him. Now all of this takes time. And so often we give God what’s left of our time, which is very little if any.

Living and Experiencing God's Grace

And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
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."
Exodus 33:15-17

Moses again speaks with God and asks God to prove His faithfulness. God’s presence in our lives is directly related to the pleasure He has for our lives.

Let me say it this way: If we are living in a way that God does not approve, we will not see very much of Him in our lives. God proves His faithfulness to us by showing His presence in our lives. So how do we please God?

We start by loving Him with all of our hearts. Now that is different than what most people do today. Most people acknowledge God, but that is as far as their emotional feelings go. You can acknowledge the man behind the meat counter or at the drug store, but you don’t necessarily love him, right? God does not just want us to acknowledge Him. He wants us to love Him.

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:37-38

Notice Jesus doesn’t say this the greatest suggestion or greatest opinion. He says it is the greatest commandment. Our first priority is to love God with every fiber of our being. We are called to love God on purpose. He desires to have the first and foremost place in our lives, and He deserves it.

We also please God by believing in Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

I think this verse says it very well. Without faith it is impossible to please God. There is no way that we will ever be able to please God if we do not believe in Him.

The Greek word, says it much better than any word we have in our English language. It means to trust with all your might ... to rely upon with all your heart to depend upon with your very life and to receive fully everything that is offered.

Is that what you think of when you think of having faith in Christ?

Someone said: "We need to find out what God wants if we want to have what God has."

If we do not fully understand the words used to describe Christianity, how can we understand what a Christian’s walk should be like? We place our faith in God when we trust Him completely, even when life doesn’t make sense. When life seems the most senseless, that is when we need to trust God the most!

Can you place your full trust in someone who is not your friend? At best, it is a very hard thing to do, isn’t it?

Another way to please God is to trust Him enough to obey Him. Certainly, if we trust Him, we know that He would never let us down. Jesus even talked about this.

"You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:14

Our relationship with God depends most of all on our obedience. Our obedience determines the depth of our relationship with God. Our obedience to His will is how we show that we love Him.

We please God by praising Him in everything we do.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Psalm 150:1-2

What is the proper praise? It is just blessing God back for everything He does for you.

We please God by serving Him. God wants you to live your life serving Him. This means more than just showing up on Sunday.

True service is lived out in all you do, every day of your life. Look at your life and pick out those areas where God is doing things for you. And then appreciate it enough to ask Him what you can do for Him. Not just today, but every day.

Living in God's Fullness

Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."
Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." Exodus 33:18-23

Preeminence shows us that God has a never-ending glory. The glory of God is far beyond anything we are able to comprehend. Moses literally asked to see His majesty and power. We can tell that Moses had a deep yearning in his heart to know God and to have a deep personal relationship with Him. He wanted to see God without any of the barriers. He wanted to see God for all that He was and is.

Like the young boy on his birthday: The time had come to serve the cake. As the cake was brought in and placed on the table, the little boy just couldn’t contain himself and said, "I want the biggest piece!"

His mom quietly pulled him aside and said, "Son, it’s not polite to ask for the biggest piece."

With a puzzled expression, he replied, "Well, how else am I going to get it?"

How much of God do you want today? Are you satisfied with just a little bit, or do you want the whole enchilada? Do you want as much of God as you can possibly get? If you do, you will have to pursue Him for it, and you will have to ask Him for it.

The only part that Moses was not allowed to see was His face. God did not allow His face to be seen because there was still a need for separation between God and humanity. Even the most intimate relationship with God could not bridge the gap. This is why God sent Jesus, so He could be our Immanuel, God with us.

The presence of God is with us here today for no other reason than because Jesus lives! When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two. That veil was to separate humanity from the direct presence of God. Jesus torn that separation away and now we can fully experience the divine presence of God.

There are two things that we must do to see the glory of God displayed in our lives.
  1. We need to live in His presence every day, which means we must always be desiring a closer walk with Him.
  2. We need to try and please God with everything we say and do – all the time.
You say that sounds impossible, but I want you to remember how you felt when you were pursuing that lovely young lady who became your wife, or the man of your dreams who became your husband. During that time, you did everything you could to get to know them better, didn’t you? You had them in the front of your thoughts every second of every day. You literally could not wait to see them again. That is exactly how we are to feel towards our heavenly Father.

In the late 1800’s, there was a poor farm boy who had never seen a circus. He heard one was coming to town in a few weeks, so he decided to go stand on the sidewalk to see it as it passed by. From everything he had heard, he just knew it was going to be the best thing he had ever seen. He was so excited that those weeks flew by quickly, and he soon found himself, heart beating fast, on the sidewalk waiting for the great circus to pass him by.

Then he heard the music and everybody started cheering. His excitement grew stronger, and then he saw the marching band coming in front of him. He had never seen bright uniforms and shiny instruments like that before. And behind the band came the clowns. The crowd roared with excitement and laughter. The poor farm boy never imagined anything so wonderful could exist.

As the clowns passed, he quickly ran home and told his parents how wonderful the circus had been. In his excitement to see something wonderful, he missed the very best part, didn’t he?

As Christians, we should be awestruck at how much God loves us and how much He wants to bless us, but we end up acting like that young boy. We take a little bit, get very excited over it, and then we ignore the most wonderful part – the personal relationship.

Are you living in God’s abundant presence today, or are you feeling like you are on the outside of His glory waiting for the chance to go in?

Whether we experience all of God’s glory or not depends on one thing: How obedient we are willing to be to Him. But so many times we wonder why God does not bless but the truth is that we only want Him in our lives when we need Him.

He says be in church. Yet, we find other things to do instead of being in His house. He says read His word. We say we are too busy to do it today, but will listen to it on Sunday. And all the while, we stand up and shout to the world that we are good Christians and love God so much!

Maybe it is time to get serious about Him. Just maybe, it is time to start humbling our hearts, from what we want to what He wants for us. Just maybe it’s time we followed Him instead of expecting Him to follow us.

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