This sermon is number 3 in a series of 5
The Presence Of God - Part 3
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
You may be seated. Let's pray together, please, and ask the Lord's blessing on our time tonight. You're very welcome, and do remember the rest of the meetings throughout the week as we think of the presence of the Lord. We want to know that presence tonight again, and in the remainder of the evenings, so do remember these meetings in your prayers at home as well. But as we come to the Lord, do unite with me in heart and ask Him that He will again be pleased to meet with us.
Our Father, the song of our heart tonight is: 'O come, O come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel'. Father, we know that certainly Your people today, the church - Father, we, the church, need a fresh vision of Immanuel. We need, in the Spirit, to encounter again, with the eyes of faith, the beauty, the wonder, the splendour, the majesty, the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We come to You tonight in prayer through Him. We thank You that, as we have sung, it's within the veil that we enter. We thank You for the blood-sprinkled pathway that brings us into Your immediate presence. Lord, we so often take this for granted, we so often misuse and abuse the privileges that we have, or just neglect them. Lord, we come to You tonight and we want more than just the mundane and average experience that we've been used to. Lord, we want tonight that our capacity to conceive of the revelation of Christ will be increased. Lord, we want our vision to be broadened, we want our focus to be sharpened, we want our spirits to be opened - and, as it were, to ascend into heaven itself, and to behold the King in all His glory. We know Isaiah had that experience of seeing Christ uplifted in the Temple, high and lifted up, and the cherubim and the seraphim crying: 'Holy, Holy, Holy'. Lord, if Isaiah could have such a vision under the old covenant, O Lord we pray, O dear God give us eyes to see, give us hearts to receive such a vision of Christ. Lord, I don't know the circumstances of everyone gathered here tonight. I know my own, and I know that so many things in life can distract us from turning our eyes on Jesus. Lord, I pray tonight, by the power of the Spirit, the One who came upon the Lord Jesus in His baptism as a dove, Lord that He again will own the Christ of God and descend in mighty power. O Lord, we need the Holy Spirit, the One who would come to testify of Christ, to witness to Christ and conform us to His image. We need the Holy Spirit, Lord, we cannot operate without Him, we will not see Jesus without Him. So Lord, we ask now that the Holy Spirit will come. Lord, we are not here for numbers, we're not here for a meeting, we're here to encounter the Living God. O Lord, hear us, and meet with us tonight, Lord Jesus Christ, Master, Rabboni - come into our midst, Lord of the church. Come, we open the door to You, come and feed our hearts, our thirsty hearts, our parched souls. Come and feed us with the Hidden Manna, the Bread of God, Lord Jesus Christ who came down from heaven, feed us, feed us till we want no more. Amen.
Now, I think you could turn with me now to Hebrews chapter 1, though we will not read it immediately. Let me just say while you're turning to that portion of Scripture, maybe it's your first night here: you're very welcome, but you may not be familiar with the format of these meetings. Well, they're a bit different in this sense, that we don't end the meeting each night with a hymn, sometimes not even a prayer - but we just, as we are thinking about 'The Presence of God' and the Lord has, I believe, visited us with His presence in previous evenings, we have sought to linger in the presence. That's all we want to do, we just want to sit on in stillness, it's not essentially a prayer meeting although people have been praying, it's not a praise meeting although people have been praising, but it's just an opportunity to bathe and bask in the presence of God. People have been testifying that they have been learning, for the first time, to do that - and that is profound, because if we don't learn to linger in the presence of God, we will miss, constantly miss the presence of God in our own personal lives and in our church gatherings. So if you are at liberty tonight, don't feel under pressure, you can stay on - if you have to go, some people have to go, folk have commitments and things that they need to see to, and don't feel in anyway inhibited in having to get up and go at whatever time you have to, even at the end of my preaching. But if you're able to stay, there were folk stayed here last night until about 11:30 in the presence of God, and it was a mighty time.
Now, we have been saying these nights, and let me just reiterate for the benefit of anyone who hasn't been here before, that there is more written in Scripture, the revelation of God, the Bible, about God desiring to dwell with people than there is about people wanting to be with God. Indeed, we have noted, and will continue to note each night, that the great passion of God's heart is that He dwell with His people. He longs to manifest His presence - so it's not just a cerebral knowledge that He wants His people to have, that they know intellectually that God is around. We touched on this, we're not talking now primarily, when we speak of the presence of God in these contexts, of the omnipresence of God, that He's everywhere. We're not talking about the presence of Christ in the church, where two or three are gathered in His name. What we're talking about is a very definite, conscious manifest presence of God, where we become aware of His presence, and we learn to reverence His presence, we actually protect His presence, we conserve His presence in our lives and in our midst.
We looked at this in the Garden of Eden, we looked last night at the Tabernacle and the Temple, and we saw even then that all of these were pointing. In Eden we saw that Adam, it was his wont to meet with God in the cool of the day - that is, probably late afternoon after a hard day's work, before the fall - it seems to be his practice to have met with God late afternoon. This is indicated in how God approached him, after the fall of course, when it says they heard the voice, or the sound, of God walking in the garden. He was approaching them, and they always knew that when God approached them He wanted to meet with them. We believe that that was a pre-incarnate form of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so it is pointing towards our Saviour, the greatest manifestation of the presence of God ever.
Last night we looked at the Tabernacle and the Temple, and we're not going to enter into the typology of that that we didn't go into in detail - but we saw the wonderful picture that the Tabernacle and the Temple, particularly the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant, is of our Lord Jesus Christ. All of God's meeting places with men in the Old Testament are all pointing towards the greatest ever visible manifestation of God's presence, Immanuel, God with Us. Now tomorrow night, God willing, we will look at how His presence is revealed in Pentecost, or in the Holy Spirit, the ministry of the Holy Spirit - and I have to say to you, tomorrow night might be the most important night for some of you for obvious reasons, but particularly because the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is the 'how' to knowing Immanuel's presence realised presently in your own personal life. So we're going to set up and enshrine Him this evening as the pinnacle of God's manifestation, but if you want to know how to experience that conscious manifest presence in your life, you're going to have to come tomorrow night to find out about the ministry of Pentecost in our lives.
On Friday night we'll look at the New Jerusalem, and how this presence of Immanuel will be eternally enjoyed for aeons upon aeons - you see, it's the whole message of God really. So we're coming to the pinnacle of God's revelation of Himself, Hebrews chapter 1 verse 1: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" - He is the image of God's person, or you could render it like this: the exact expression of God's character.
Ultimately the reason why Jesus came into the world was to give us a complete revelation of God, and He said it many, many times. One very definite indication of that was when He said to the disciples: 'He who has seen Me has seen the Father'. So in other words - there is a great debate goes on in the religious world: 'What is God like?'. If you want to know what God is like, you just look at Jesus, because Jesus is the heart of God revealed to mankind. Jesus is the Father, in His divine nature, revealed in the person of His Son. Colossians chapter 1 and verse 19 also shows us the extent of this, if you care to turn to it, if not I'll just quote it to you. Colossians 1 and verse 19, Paul says: 'For it pleased the Father that in Him', in Christ, 'all the fullness should dwell'. So in Immanuel, God With Us, we have all the fullness of Deity dwelling - and in fact in chapter 2 of Colossians verse 9, the ESV puts it like this: 'For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily', the whole fullness of what it is to be God, all of God, divinity, dwelt in bodily form in Jesus Christ.
Now, if Immanuel is God's greatest revelation of Himself, surely He deserves all our attention as we seek to realise the Divine presence in our own personal lives? If He is the crescendo, the climax, the pinnacle of God's revelation of Himself, and we want to know God - and that is the heartbeat of humanity, even in its fallen depravity, that is why most of the world is not atheistic, they worship something because they have an innate impulse that is God-given to look for something outside of themselves. If this is the case, and it is, that Christ is the ultimate, and we want to know God, we've got to know Christ! John the intimate, the one who leaned on Jesus' breast, the one who spoke in his Gospel so much about 'abiding' - the abiding presence of God in our lives, John 15, that's what we're talking about - the one who talked in 1 John, we've highlighted it as well, of 'fellowship'. Jesus Himself said, quoted again by John, 'This is eternal life, that we may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent' - that is what eternal life is all about, fellowship. Well, here is where God meets men, and John the intimate hits it from the very beginning of his Gospel - turn with me to John chapter 1 then, verse 14: 'The Word', and 'The Word' is an expression of the mind and the heart, and the 'Logos', the Word of God, is the expression of the mind and heart of the Almighty, 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'.
Now, if you look at verse 14, you will see that it says 'He dwelt among us', and that could be translated 'He tabernacled among us'. We saw last night that the Tabernacle literally could be translated as 'the dwelling place of the Shekinah glory of God'. So what we are seeing here is that the dwelling place of the Shekinah glory of God was coming in human flesh as the Tabernacle of Immanuel, God with Us. Verse 18 bears this out again: 'No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him'.
Now we've been talking these nights about 'Shekinah', and maybe if it's your first night here you don't know what this is. Well, it's a word, a term that is derived from the Hebrew word 'to dwell', 'shakan'. It has come to be a term that refers to the dwelling place of God when He manifests Himself, His Divine presence. Or, to put it another way, it is a visible manifestation of the invisible God. John has just told us that no man has seen God at any time, so to show God is around He shows particular signs. In the Old Testament this often took the form of light, or fire, or a cloud of smoke, or a combination of any of those - signs that the invisible God was showing up. Now we saw that in Eden, we saw it in the Tabernacle and the Temple. In Eden it was, after the fall, the cherubim - who are always associated with the Shekinah and God's dwelling on the Earth - standing at the gate of Eden, and the fiery sword which again is Shekinah. In the Tabernacle it was the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day, it was the manifestation of God's glory over the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies underneath the cherubim.
But there is more than that, and I don't want you think that because we have jumped from Eden to the Tabernacle and then from the Tabernacle to Immanuel that those are the only times that Shekinah is found in the word of God - far from it. If you go to Genesis chapter 15, you have there the cutting of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham made an agreement with God, and he cut certain animals, which was the way they signed a deal in those days, and God made a covenant - God made it with Abraham, and signified it by moving down the two lanes, if you like, of blood and flesh of sacrifice. We read that there went a burning torch and a flame between the sacrificed animals, a smoking furnace and a flaming torch - that was Shekinah, God was showing Himself, that He was taking this covenant with Israel. Then of course Moses, in the backside of the Midianite Desert, he sees a bush that is burning and not consumed. Now, that is not natural fire, that is supernatural fire, that is Shekinah glory - and God revealed Himself in a new name to Moses in a way that He had never been known before.
We can go on with other examples: Sinai, when the Law was given, the Commandments, there was thunder, lightning, cloud, and the descending of fire that signified that God came down and met with Moses and gave His law. There were special manifestations that were given to Moses of the Shekinah glory, one of the most famous is in Exodus 33, where Moses pleaded with God: 'Show me Your glory' - and God said, 'I will make all My goodness pass before you'. But we read in that account that Moses did not see the face of God, for no man has seen the face of God and lived - and so God allowed him, the Bible says, to see His back parts, not His face. I'm led to believe that 'back parts' could be translated 'afterglow' - Moses saw God pass by in some shape or form, but he only saw the train of His Shekinah glory as He went away. In Exodus 34 we read of another encounter Moses had with God, and we read there that it left his face shining - when he came down from the Mount - with Shekinah glory, and he had to cover it up.
The majority of Israel's history, of course, was that the Shekinah glory dwelt at the Tabernacle and the Temple until, of course, as we saw last night, in Ezekiel's day the Shekinah departed. You remember that God was reluctant in pulling out of Solomon's Temple in Ezekiel's day, and He had a four step departure - reluctant, waiting on God's people to repent. He even, the rabbis believe, hung over the Mount of Olives for three and a half years before He departed from Israelite history. Then we come to the New Testament, and there is a new form of the Shekinah glory of God, the incarnate Word - a fulfilment of Haggai 2 and verse 9 that we read last night. Do you remember what happened? Haggai was instructed to tell the people to build the second Temple after they came out of captivity in Babylon. Solomon's temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, and once they saw this edifice being erected those old men and women who remembered the former Temple wept, because it paled into insignificance. But the reason why they wept, primarily, was that this second Temple didn't have the glory of God, it didn't have the Shekinah - it had departed in Ezekiel's day. But there was a promise given in Haggai 2:9 that the glory of the latter house would be greater than that of the former, in other words the glory of the second Temple would be greater than the first. How could it be, when there was no Shekinah glory? The reason: Christ came to Zerubbabel's Temple.
We saw that He was brought in as a bundle of babe and put into Simeon's arms and dedicated. Of course, we know that He went in at times and He sat down as a Rabbi and taught in the Temple compound. We read those wonderful accounts of how He came in and cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers, and we know that He came to the Temple to celebrate the feasts of Passover and Tabernacle - there was a greater than the Temple in the Temple! The Shekinah glory of God revealed in flesh, Immanuel, this new form, this New Testament form, unique form, permanent form of God's manifest presence among men. That's what John was getting at when he said in verse 14 of chapter 1: 'The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. The fulfilment of another Old Testament prophecy, Isaiah 9 and verse 2: 'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined'.
But, you know, Shekinah wasn't just inside Jesus, in a sense. Even at His birth Shekinah manifest and declared who He was - have you ever considered that? The shepherds had the angelic annunciation, and in Luke chapter 2 we read that 'the glory of the Lord appeared', that was Shekinah, 'and shone round about them'. For the Magi there was a star, and it wasn't an ordinary star - which is evident from the behaviour - it appears and then disappears, and it travels in all sorts of different directions. The Greek word for 'star' simply means 'radiance' or 'brilliance' - and so Jesus had His own star, which was the Shekinah glory of God, to manifest His birth into this world to Gentile kings. But He Himself was the new, more permanent form of God's manifest presence among men - Messiah dwelling with His people, Israel, abiding with them; the visible manifestation of God's presence in a completely unique form, unsurpassed, and the greatest demonstration of Shekinah glory.
Now, what I want you to do tonight is to turn with me to Luke chapter 9, for here we have the greatest occurrence of the Shekinah glory manifest in the person of Christ, which is the Transfiguration. Now understand: the glory was veiled in Christ by human flesh, but it shone through His body on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now, understand before we read and study this account for a little while: if you are going to know the personal presence of God in your life, manifest, actually sensible, knowable, discernible, taste-able, you're going to have to get a fresh vision of the glory of Christ. There is no other way! You can run to meetings and look for this blessing and the other blessing, and I believe in many blessings - but let me tell you this: you cannot bypass Christ to get them, for Christ is the way to God, all that God has, all the promises of God, all the blessings are Yes and Amen in Him. I hope that through this study tonight you will get a fresh glimpse of Him.
Luke chapter 9 and verse 27, let's read down to verse 36: ''But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God'', and this was the Kingdom of God in embryo, a prophetic picture of what was going to happen in the Kingdom in a future day that is yet to be. 'Now it came to pass', verse 28, 'about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah'; not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!'. When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen'.
Verse 20 it shows us what I call 'the inner circle of intimacy', Peter, James and John. Now like every mountain, the Mount of Transfiguration hadn't got a crowd at the top of it, there were only three. Do you know something? If you're going to be intimate with Christ and know the presence of God in your life, you're going to have to take time - it's as simple as that. There is no substitute for time, and in verse 29 Luke is unique in the record of the Transfiguration, in that he tells us that as the Lord Jesus was transfigured He was in the act of praying, as He prayed He was transfigured. The place of communion is where we experience the presence of God. Not just banal saying of prayers, but communion with God, deep spiritual calling unto deep spiritual in the Divine. Oliver Holden said in the 1700s:
'Those who seek the Throne of Grace
Find that Throne in every place.
If we live a life of prayer,
God is present everywhere'.
To realise the presence of God, we need to have a life of communion with God - that is part of this abiding in Christ, part of this fellowship with the Divine, the Father and the Son. Is it any wonder, therefore, in Luke's Gospel incidentally, chapter 11 and verse 1, the disciples come to the Lord Jesus and say, 'Master, teach us to pray'? Look at what they saw happened when He prayed! He was transfigured, and they had a manifestation of the Divine presence in Shekinah glory! Now, let me say to you tonight that that is the fellowship I'm interested in. There are so many 'fellowships' around today, and I'm not talking about assemblies, I'm talking about organisations, 'the fellowship of this, that and the other'. They group together at times because of certain doctrinal niceties that they all agree with, maybe it's prophetic, maybe it's to do with your understanding of salvation - whatever, I don't care - the fellowship that I am interested in is the fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and this deep intimate communion and inner circle of intimacy with the Divine, that's all that matters! A.W. Tozer said this, I found this quote recently, he said: 'I refuse to fight over theories, but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I am looking for men and women who are lost in worship, those who love God until He is the sweetheart of the soul' - that is the fellowship that we need!
Now we see the Shekinah manifest as this fellowship is engaged in - verse 29: 'As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white', there's that light, 'and glistening'. Down to verse 34, we see Shekinah again: 'While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them', the cloud, 'and they were fearful as they entered the cloud' - the cloud encompassed them. God was manifesting His presence, He was owning Christ! Now in Matthew's account of this he adds to this by saying - Matthew 17 verse 2, I'll read it to you - that: 'His face shone like the sun'. Imagine that! 'His clothes became as white as light'. In verse 5 of Matthew 17 he also says, 'A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice', that's another manifestation of Shekinah glory, a voice, 'spoke out of it'. Now that is identical to what happened on Mount Sinai when the Law was given, the only difference is that when Moses came down from the Mount his face shone, like the moon shines, as a reflection of the Divine glory - but on the Mount of Transfiguration Christ's face shone like the sun! He was the source of it all! Jesus was the light.
What does Mark say about this manifestation? In Mark 9 verse 3 he again identifies Shekinah glory: 'His clothes became shining', exceedingly white like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. You see, these men, they were grasping at metaphors and similes and descriptions to try to convey this great brightness and glory that they saw - there was nothing they knew, conceivably, that could match it! Later in his life Peter contemplates this great moment on the Mount, turn with me to 2 Peter chapter 1. Remember he saw this with his own eyes, 2 Peter chapter 1 and verse 16, he says: 'For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have a more sure word of prophecy', better translated, 'And so we have the prophetic word confirmed' - it's not a cunningly devised fable, we have seen it, it was confirmed to us - 'which you do well to heed as a light', there it is again, 'a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts'.
Peter says: 'We saw His majestic glory burst forth!'. Now, let me ask you, believer: have you ever seen it? Have you ever seen the majestic excellence of the glory of God in Immanuel, Jesus Christ? Do you know what our problem is? There are so many distractions. This, incredibly, was the problem for the intimate circle of Peter, James and John on the Mount. If you look at chapter 9 of Luke again - now please grasp the import of this: they are in His presence, they are in His presence, and even in His presence there are distractions. Luke chapter 9 verse 32: 'But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep' - can you imagine this? It's almost beyond imagination: the greatest manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God that has ever been is appearing here, and Peter is dozing, and the others are dozing too! While Christ was glorified His inner circle were asleep! What a picture of the church today! Christ glorified, and the church slumbers! They don't realise what they have in Jesus, but look at verse 32: 'And when they were fully awake, they saw His glory' - and that's what we need to have happen! We need to get fully awakened to the glory of God in Christ!
More distractions, verse 33: 'Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah'; not knowing what he said'. Peter: He will not share His glory with another. Peter: were you here last night? Did you hear what happened when the children of Israel brought other gods into the temple? Do you not remember what Ezekiel saw? Do you not remember how the presence of God departed from Israel because of it and became Ichabod? Let me ask you a question: why is it that men who have enjoyed God's presence for themselves always try to better it? Why can we not just enjoy Him for Himself? We ought to, and this was the message which God gave with great booming voice from the heavens in verse 35 - a voice came out, the Shekinah cloud came and took them into it, and they're terrified in verse 35. 'A voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!'' - hear Him! You know what the other Gospels record Him to have said: 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased', or in whom is all my delight or pleasure.
This is really what God was saying, and this came to me today so clearly: 'I don't need any more than Him!' - and neither do you, Peter! God, in His grace, is bringing us into this great fellowship of eternal love in the Godhead...and we need other things. He isn't enough for many of us, and it's not because we don't know about Him, it's not even because we don't know Him, it's because we have never seen His glory. Look what had to happen in verse 36: 'When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone'. God took all the other distractions away. My friend, I am very careful and cautious about what I'm about to say, because I don't want God to do it to me - but what if He should take your distractions away? Would it not be better that you took them away? The dearest idol you have known, what'er that idol be, tear it from His throne and worship only He. God took them away, and we read that when they lifted up their eyes - Matthew records it - when they lifted up their eyes they saw no one but Jesus only. The result of truly seeing His glory and having the Divine presence manifest to them in the face of the Son, and the shining brightness and whiteness of the light of the cloud that encompassed them, of the booming voice of thunder that spoke to them, was that all other distractions were taken away and they were completely encapsulated exclusively and entirely by Christ and His glory! One hymn writer put it like this:
'I've seen the face of Jesus,
He smiled in love on me;
It filled my heart with rapture,
My soul with ecstasy.
The scars of deepest anguish
Were lost in glory bright;
I've seen the face of Jesus,
It was a wondrous sight!'
She goes on:
'And since I've seen His beauty
All else I count but loss.
The world, its fame and pleasure
Is now to me but dross:
His light dispelled my darkness
His smile was Oh! so sweet.
I've seen the face of Jesus
I can but kiss His feet'.
Peter says: 'Let's make a tabernacle,a memorial to Elijah and to Moses' - and God is saying, 'Let them go! Let Elijah and Moses go, for My Son has fulfilled the law and the prophets, let them both go, Christ is all! Hear Him!'. I repeat myself: these distractions were in the Divine presence. Now let me ask you who your Moses and Elijah is. Holy men, the great lawgiver and the greatest prophet of the old covenant - who is your Moses and Elijah? Who is your distraction in the presence of God? Do you remember Monday night, Adam and Eve? It was the trees of the garden, in Eden, in that paradise, that idyllic trysting place with their God - it was in the gifts that God had given them, the trees, that they hid themselves from God's presence. We can use these things that God has given to us to hide us from His presence. Israel, we saw the Tabernacle and the Temple, they used holy objects, they used the Ark of God, and the Temple, and the ritual, and the sacrifice, and the services, and the priesthood - that was what hid them from the very presence of God! My dear friend: who is your Moses and your Elijah? For some it's their denomination, for some it's some Christian preacher or theologian, for some it's some practice, some ordinance, some way of doing things. Now my friend, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that those things are unimportant - but I know this much: that the tempter, the accuser of the brethren, Satan, knows that he cannot dupe and distract good men and women by immorality. So what he does is, he comes along their path and he distracts them with holy things - Moses and Elijahs! He gets them taken up with 'its' rather than Him - and God's voice has always said, and always will say: Jesus only!
Corinth was rife with disunity and sectarianism, we read that right away in chapter 1. Some said they were of Apollos, some of Paul, some of Cephas, and some of Christ - they were divided into at least four factions. Some followed Paul because probably they appreciated his forensic mind and his legal argument, he was a deep man of God. Others liked Apollos because he was more of a dynamic preacher, a gifted orator. Some liked Cephas, that's Peter, because he was a man of the people, a passionate man for the people. Some, the very spiritual crowd, 'the Lord's people', they followed Christ - they said: 'We don't follow men, we are followers of Christ', but they allowed that to divide them from other followers of Christ. Corinth was also rife with Greek philosophy and human wisdom, and Paul comes in and he tells them: 'Your sectarianism, and your human wisdom, and your pride, has caused you to take your eyes off Christ. You have fastened them upon men, men's reputations, men's intellect and human speculation'. Then when you come into second Corinthians, some of them were following false apostles and prophets, and Paul says: 'I have this great fear for you, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ'. Jesus only, Corinthians! 'This is My beloved Son in whom is all My delight! Hear Him!'. The NASB puts that statement in 2 Corinthians 11:3 like this, that he feared lest their: 'minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ'. The simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ!
What's your 'it'? What's your 'it'? It could be a form of doctrine. I have to be careful what I say here, but you can't really beat about the bush: it could be an understanding of the Lord's return - and I have mine. It could be a version of the Scriptures. It could be a mode of dress. I'm not saying what's right and what's wrong, that's not the point - you're missing the point. Elijah and Moses weren't wrong, they were men of God, God ordained to have them appear beside His Son - but they had to fade, and Christ had to be seen. He had to be the focus, He had to be the One that they were taken up with:
'All in all forever,
Jesus will I sing;
Everything in Jesus,
And Jesus everything'.
There was the distraction of self. Not long after seeing Jesus only, do you know what happened? The 'J-e-s' fell off and became 'us' only - that's right, the disciples. If you look at verse 46 down the chapter: 'Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest'. Can you believe this? Well, let me tell you a home truth: we wouldn't have been any different. You see, we will not know this presence of God in our lives, we will not have this manifestation of Christ in all His glory and appreciate it until we know the victory of the cross in our lives. In verse 31 we see that Elijah and Moses appeared in glory with Jesus 'and spoke of His decease', or His death, 'which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem'. Men talk about what they're interested in, and this revelation of Elijah and Moses with Christ - and they're talking about Calvary - was to show that this is the centre of God's plan to restore His fellowship with people. We know, John tells us in John 17, John 21, that Christ would be glorified in Calvary, and He would glorify the Father in Calvary - how? By revealing the love and the grace of Almighty God in restoring fellowship, that He might dwell with men again, and men might be His people.
If you are to see the glory of Christ, your self will have to undergo the death of crucifixion. Look at verse 23, before the Transfiguration: 'He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels''.
Almost finished, but I imagine some of you have been asking these nights - and you should be asking it even more tonight, tomorrow night, and Friday night - how is the Shekinah glory of God, the visible manifestation of the invisible presence of God, how is it seen today? It's alright talking about Eden, it's alright talking about the Tabernacle and Temple, it's alright me throwing out this remark that we can know God in an even more intimate way today - but you're crying out, and you're asking 'Well, how? I don't seem to! How?'.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 5 of 2 Corinthians chapter 4: 'For we do not preach ourselves' - hallelujah! Paul was a man delivered from self, delivered from reputation - 'but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. The knowledge of the glory of God is still outshining from the face of Jesus Christ, for He is alive, He has risen, He is exalted and ascended to glory! It's still Jesus only! But note something in chapter 3 please, that's not where it's to end, 2 Corinthians 3 verse 12: 'Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech; unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away', the old manifestation of God's glory there in Tabernacle and Temple and Law. 'But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ' - they are blind to this revelation of God in Jesus, in Immanuel. 'But even to this day', verse 15, 'when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart', the Jews. 'Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty', there is freedom. Now mark this, verse 18: 'But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord'.
Now stay with me, whatever you do. We are to reflect the glory of God manifest in the face of Jesus Christ in the abiding presence of God with us every day in our lives. When we come under the lordship, the entire lordship, of Jesus Christ, when we surrender to the Holy Spirit and His lordship in our life through the administration of the Spirit, that is equal to seeing face-to-face Jesus Christ the Son of God. And I'll tell you this, a man prayed in the prayer meeting last night that he remembered a day when there was a shining light in his heart and he could feel it burning - well God has shone into our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ, and when we completely surrender to Him, I'll tell you: you'll feel it burning. It's more of a spiritual light. We'll talk about it more tomorrow night, but Paul said to the Ephesian believers that they were meant to be to the praise of God's glory, they were meant to reflect the glory of Christ in their lives - but if you're going to do that, you're going to have to see the glory of Christ first. It's when we behold, verse 18, His glory in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, we are then transformed into that same image from glory to glory. This is going to be consummated when we get to the eternal state and resurrected form, but it's a process that ought to be started now - but we need to see His glory first. Verse 16: we need to turn to the Lord that the veil would be taken away, and that happens by faith! You turn to Him by faith!
You say: 'David, how can I know this manifestation, a visible manifestation in my life of the invisible God? How can I shine forth the image of Christ and His glory in my life?'. Well, you've got to take it by faith, you've got to surrender yourself completely, your sin, your self, everything that you are. You've got to become a Temple, a Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost of God, you've got to give it all over to Him, and you've got to take it by faith! Some of you have surrendered, but you've never taken it by faith - and it's just by faith. But to do that, you're going to have to want it - and can I say something? You'll never want it until you see Him as He really is. You see, that's why believers today, generally, don't want to go through with God. It's not because they don't know about Him. It's not because they don't know Him personally. It's because they have never seen His glory.
Do you want to see His glory? Do you want to see what He's like now? Turn with me quickly to Revelation 1 - now listen, this is how your Lord is now: 'Then I turned', verse 12, 'to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead'. This was John, who once was familiar enough to put his head on the bosom of Jesus - but when he saw the glory of Christ, he fell as a dead man and the Lord put His hand on him.
Do you know what happened in Matthew's account of the Transfiguration? The Lord put His hand on them, the human touch of the Divine Saviour - but what I want you to see is: 'Lo, He sets in blood no more'. The outward appearance of Jesus is now comparable to the sun, that's what John says. His physical body no longer veils the shining brightness of this divine Shekinah glory, but just constantly emits it. This is the One who is your life, the glorified Immanuel in heaven! This is your Lord, the One who says 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age'. If you're going to live in the good of that, and you're going to experience His divine presence in your life, you're going to have to take that by faith and believe it!
Tozer said: 'The practice of the presence of God consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within your own mind, and then seeking to realise its presence. It is rather to recognise the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be already there' - this is a fact! He is glorified in heaven, see Him there by faith, and in your heart there will be an explosion of divine glory! You've got to take it by faith.
Let me finish by quoting to you from a hymn writer who had seen the glory, and when I finish this quotation we will linger on in the presence of Immanuel. Ray Palmer wrote:
'Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.
I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
Yet Thou art oft with me;
And earth hath ne'er so dear a spot
As where I meet with Thee.
Like some bright dream that comes unsought
When slumbers o'er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravished soul.
Yet though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone;
I love Thee, dearest Lord, and will,
Unseen, but not unknown.
When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall Thee reveal,
All glorious as Thou art'.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'The Presence Of God' series, entitled "In Immanuel" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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