David Jeremiah - Knowing an Ever-Present God
Can you imagine what it would be like to live with an awareness of the presence of Jesus as though he were always in the same room you? In all reality, you should because God is omnipresent, that means he is absolutely everywhere in the created universe. While we're amazed by the reality of God's universal presence in all areas of creation, what we need most is to sense his presence near us. We want a God who dwells with us, and understands us, and knows what it is to live like we live. The truth of God's ever-present nature is one of the most personal attributes and when we live each day recognizing this amazing quality of God, it means more to us than we can express so in today's message, Knowing An Ever-Present God, we'll discover three vital times when we must learn to recognize and ponder God's nearness to us. So, stay tuned for today's edition of "Turning point".
In this message I want to tell you today about the God who is there, who is here, and who is everywhere. His presence is unlimited. He's everywhere present at the same time. God is present in every part of space with his whole being. And yet God is uniquely present in different places. Sounds like a contradiction because we think of things in terms of space and time, but God is not bound by time or space. He is the Creator of time and space. He is everywhere at the same time and yet he shows up personally at special times and in special places. For instance, in the Old Testament, God was just as omnipresent as he always has been or always will be, yet there was an occasion where he came down and dwelt among his people in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle in a special way. He took up occupancy among his people and we need to know that God sometimes comes down to us today in a similar fashion.
And while we're awed by the reality of God's universal presence in all the quadrants of the world, what we most need in our lives is a God who dwells with us and understands us and what it's like to live as we live. And according to the Bible, that's just the kind of God we have. Here is Isaiah the prophet in one of the great statements about the omnipresence of God. "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'" Isaiah said God sits on the throne in heaven, but he dwells with humble and contrite on this earth. He's the high and holy God who fills the whole earth with his whole presence and yet the God who ministers to your heart and to mine. One of the most vivid stories about God's presence concerns King Solomon and King Solomon was one who built one of the great temples in Jerusalem.
The Solomonic temple is, well, still viewed as one of the wonders of the world. If you had seen it, you would have been awe struck with itself beauty. At the time that it was built, it was the most beautiful building on the face of God's earth. When he prepared to dedicate this temple, according to 1 Kings 8:27, he had second thoughts about dedicating a building to God and here's what he said, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built"! Lord God, I built this beautiful ornate temple, a temple unto God but it's kind of silly when I think about it, can God fit into my beautiful temple, the God who fills the heaven and the heavens? He understood something critical about God that no matter how magnificent is the temple, it was totally inadequate to contain the presence of a God who fills the heaven and the earth with himself. But when Solomon dedicated the temple, here's what the fire says, "Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house".
What a day that must have been. On the one hand, heaven and earth cannot contain God, yet his manifest glory came down and dwelt within the temple that Solomon built to bless his people. Like all of the other truths about God, this is mind boggling that someone, some person could be everywhere at the same time. How can one being be everywhere at the same time, and how can we feel that somehow God is more present with us at one moment than he is at another? Have you ever thought about that? I mean, we might have a great worship experience at church and we might leave that service and say, "Wow, the presence of God was really with us today". But was the presence of God with us that night more than he's always with us at every time? If he feels the whole earth with his full presence, then God can never be more present with us at one time than he is at another, and yet, here we have in the Scripture and in our own experience this radical thought that God was present with us in a special way?
Now, the Scripture teaches that when we worship God, something uniquely different happens. Psalm 22:3 says it this way, "God, you are holy, you, God, are enthroned in the praises of Israel". God, you inhabit the praises of your people. There is something that happens when we gather and we worship, and we kind of get lost in the worship of God. All of a sudden, we walk away and we think to ourselves, God was here today. This was a service where God was present. C.S. Lewis theologically captures it for us. He says, "It is in the presence of being worshiped that God communicates his presence to men". Even in Old Testament Judaism, the essence of the sacrifice was not really that man gave bulls and goats to God, but by their doing so, God gave himself to man". When we worship God, he draws near to us. Maybe you've experienced the wonderful presence of God during a special time of worship. As you were singing, or praying, or praising, or worshiping the Lord, you felt his presence closer to you than ever before. Or maybe you go through a crisis and afterwords when the crisis is over, you say to your friend, "That was a really hard place in my life, but I really felt the presence of God during that difficulty". Yet there are moments when God seems to manifest his presence to us more vividly than at other times. He's always present everywhere, but he's very present here.
Let me tell you something from my own life that will help you understand how that works. When I got sick with cancer some years ago as I was getting better and preaching some more, I started getting letters from people all over the country saying, "Dr. Jeremiah, since you were sick, you are preaching much better". Now, that's kind of a mixed metaphor compliment. The first thing a guy like me thinks about is, I wonder how bad I was before I got sick, you know? But I got these letters from all over the country and I never thought much about them until one day it dawned on me, what they were listening to on the radio were sermons that I had preached before I got sick that were recorded and played after I got better. I wasn't preaching any different than I had before, unfortunately. What was going on? They were listening different. Isn't it true that when you know somebody's gone through something, you listen differently than you would if you didn't know that? And that's what happens to us when we're in the midst of worship and we're worshiping God. It's almost like God has come down to be with us.
When we go through a problem and we see God's supernatural help, it's like, God is more with us than he has ever been, but is that true theologically? It's not true. God cannot be more with us at one time than he is at another because he's always completely wholly present with us all the time, but boy when go through stuff, do we connect with God, don't we? We sense God's presence and that's why the Scripture speaks of it the way that it does. When God's presence is known in our hearts and in our lives, there's something unique happens at certain times. Now, I've been trying to be very strategic with this series and not theological. I've given you all the theological you're gonna get this morning, now we're gonna be strategic from the principles of the Word of God. How can I use this truth that God is always present with me to help me live my life more productively for God?
Here's the first thing, meditate on God's presence when you are tempted. Let me mention these differences, there's no greater way to combat sin and temptation in your life than by meditating on God's presence and reminding yourself of how close he is to you. Methodist Pastor Charles Allen, in one of his books that I read some years ago, had a golfing buddy who was, according to others who worked out with him and played golf with him, easily frustrated on the golf course and after bad shots, he would use very bad language. But Pastor Allen never heard this man utter a profane word in his whole life and he had known him for years. And one day Allen asked the man about it and the man simply said, "Well, when I'm with my preacher, I control myself".
And that reminded me of a story of something that happened to me when I first started in the ministry back in Indiana. I had a barber who I'd been going to for some time, and I wasn't his only client and some of his other clients were rather unsavory characters. And on more than one occasion, I would go in and sit down in the barber chair and he would forget that there's a mirror in front of you so you can see what's going on behind you. And one of his unsavory customers would come in and sit down in the next chair, and I would see the barber trying to tell him the man of God is in the house because this man would often get into stories that my friend the barber didn't think were appropriate for my ears to hear. Sometimes, he would hint and hint and the story would continue and finally out of frustration he would just say, "Well, Pastor Jeremiah, how was church on Sunday"? That pretty much shut it all down right there. Suppose you realized that whatever you're doing, the man of God is in the house, the God of man is in the house.
I don't want to be frivolous by this, but he's sitting in the next chair. Suppose you were in the process of doing something you should not do, something you knew was dead wrong. Suppose God suddenly appeared beside you, suppose you turned around and there stood Jesus watching you. Do you think the literal presence of the Lord would inhibit your sinful tendency? Well, he is here. He is just as near as he would be in if you could see him. Wouldn't it be interesting to train ourselves to meditate for a few moments when tempted on the nearness and presence of God? What a sanctifying exercise that would be. Hebrews says, "There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account".
Just remember, my friends, wherever you go, God is already there. Whatever you do, he is with you.So, if you're planning something that you know is taking you away from God's plan for your life, just sit down and think soberly about this. You're taking God with you into that and you don't really need to take him 'cause he's already there. He is everywhere and when we are tempted, we shouldn't flee from him, we should flee to him. So, meditate on God's presence when you're tempted, that's a little bit of a in-your-face lesson this morning but it let's file it in our mental notebooks and take it into this week with us.
Number two, meditate on God's presence you're troubled. I find tremendous strength in recalling the Lord's promise, "I am with you". The Bible tells us God's presence is always available, but it is manifest at certain times. Listen to Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". God shows up in our trouble, then he shows off by showing us what to do. Notice each of these words, "A very present help in trouble". Nothing hard to get about that, not nebulous, it's not in generalities, it's in very specific language, God shows up in trouble. Have you ever gone through a time that's been devastating and you found yourself saying, "You know, this is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced, but I have to tell you something about this experience has made me feel God's nearness as I have never known it before"?
What is that? That's the manifest presence of God, the very present help in trouble. He is more present with you in trouble than at any other time. No, that's not true, but his manifest presence is there to help you, and comfort you, and guide you, and direct you, and when we come to the end our lives, his presence is even sweeter yet. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me". One last practical thought, meditate on the presence of God when you're facing temptation. Meditate on the presence of God when you're going through trouble. And meditate on God's presence when you're tasked with a hard assignment. This is one of the most important ones, and this is as much for me as it is for all of us so I'm gonna preach to myself for a little bit. Just, you can listen.
I don't know about you, but sometimes God asks me to do something I never thought of doing and I didn't really want to do it in the first place. And I'm like you, there are times when I know this is what God wants me do and I'm overwhelmed by it, and I try to wiggle out from under it. "I'm the wrong guy, God, you got the wrong person". And when I do that, I often meditate on the servants of God within the pages of the Bible, and I take great comfort in the fact that I'm not any different than they were back when they were dealing with God as I'm dealing with him now. I think of Moses who in the latter years of his life felt the entire nation of Israel fall on his shoulders like a bunch of barbells. And all of a sudden, he's standing before the burning bush and he learns of his new assignment, and he argues and tries to escape the burden. And the Lord say to him, "Moses," Exodus 3:12, "I will certainly be with you". He didn't say, "Moses, I'll be with you". He said, "Moses, I will certainly be with you".
God didn't intend to shove Moses into this role and walk away from him. He promises Moses of his certain, and constant, and abiding presence. Moses devoted the next 40 years to the task. And if you read the story, you know God kept his bargain. He was with Moses in every step, every mile, every minute and when it was time for Moses to check out and for the next leader to come on board, what advice to Moses give to Joshua? Listen to his words from Deuteronomy 31, "And the Lord, he is the one that goes before you. He will be with you". And after the death of Moses, the Lord himself told Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you".
When the Lord God sent us into all the world to preach the gospel and baptize those who believe, it was a tough assignment and the assignment ends with these words, "And lo, I am with you always, even till the end of the age". In every assignment and for every God-ordained task, God is with us. He is with you. If you're wresting right now with something God has asked you to do, remember the secret is not your capability but God's availability. God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. He doesn't go around looking for all the high and mighty people and say, "Oh, that guy looks like he's really got it together. I can use him". No, God goes and finds somebody who wants to serve him and after he calls him, then he equips him to do the service to which he's been called.
I want you to say this with me today so you won't forget it. I want you to say with me, "God is with me". Say it out loud, "God is with me". One more time like you really mean it. "God is with me". Whatever you got going on this week, whatever you're doing, whatever God's put you in the middle of, whatever problem you face, you do not face it alone. God is always present. He is always with you. You have to be aware of his presence and when you become aware of his presence, everything changes. This isn't just you alone, this is you and God, and you are always the majority when God is on your side.
I want you to take that truth with you this week and know God loves you so much, he's not gonna leave you to yourself. He wants to be with you and the Bible says he wants to live in you. You may be here today and you're hearing all this wonderful stuff about God, but you don't experience any of that. Listen, before God can be with you, he has to be in you. He has to come and live within your heart through his Son Jesus Christ and if you've never allowed him to do that, if you've never invited him to come and live within your heart, what a great day for you to do this.
Just open your heart and say, "Lord God, I don't want you to be on the outside. I want you to be on the inside. Come and live within my life. Forgive me of my sin. Give me your righteousness so that I can walk in fellowship with you". And God will do that. He's never, ever turned anybody away who's asked him simply for his presence in their life. I frankly don't know how you get through life these days without the presence God. I have no idea how it would be like. I don't have any desire to try and find out. What I do know is this, life is hard. It's not gonna get much easier, but nothing is impossible with God. And when you carry God with you in your heart and he's a part of your life, he makes everything different.