This sermon is number 4 in a series of 5
The Presence Of God - Part 4
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let's bow together in a word of prayer once again: O Father, we thank You that we have a reason to sing, we thank You that we have a song in our mouth, even praise unto our God. We thank You that You are great, and greatly to be praised. Father, we thank You that the song we believe that we will sing for all eternity is the song of the Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us to God by His blood out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Lord we want to join that song now, we don't want to wait until the eternal state - we want to be in the Spirit, and praising in heaven itself with our spirits. We want, Lord, to know what it is to see Christ exalted high and lifted up, his train filling the Temple. Lord, we want to have a fresh vision of the glorified Lord, and we want to gain a new appreciation of who He is and all that He has done for us - Lord, that He would mean more to us, and we would reflect more of Him in our lives. O God, we just hunger for You tonight. Lord, we were meditating upon that Psalm today about how we hunger and thirst after the Lord. Lord, we believe the Lord is on our side, we believe that You are for us and nothing can be against us. We believe it is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in man. We believe the Lord is our strength and our song, and has become our salvation. We say to You, Lord, 'Open to me the gates of righteousness, and I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter'. Lord, let this be a Bethel tonight, let this be a ladder to heaven and a gate to look into eternity. O God, we want to see Jesus - but more than seeing Him, we want to experience His presence with us tonight. O God, we wait upon You now. We're going to speak from Your word about the Holy Spirit, and how He reveals Jesus to us - but Lord, we want to know the Holy Spirit's ministry tonight. O God, deliver us from the travesty and the sacrilege of speaking His name without knowing His power. Let us know His presence here tonight, in the name of the Lord Jesus we pray, Amen.
Now let me welcome you - and we do mean that, we're very glad to have you with us. If it's your first night - I know for some of you it may well be - we're especially glad to have you here. Do remember that these meetings continue on tomorrow evening, there is no meeting on Saturday of course, but on the Lord's Day - God willing - I'll be ministering God's word in the morning here in the Lifeboat at 11 o'clock, and then preaching the Gospel at 7 in the evening. We value your prayers for tomorrow night, and if you can join us we would love to see you, and if you can bring anyone else along I'm sure, and hope, that they would appreciate the meetings. These meetings are quite unconventional in some respects, in that at the end of the message on some nights we've been closing in a word of prayer, other nights we haven't - but what we have been doing is, we've been lingering on in the presence of God. The Lord has visited us, we believe, and some folk have been here very late into the evening, almost into the next day, as we've been waiting on God and as we've been bathing and basking in His presence. Now we want more of that, and we believe there is more of that - but let me say that some of you may have to go at the end of the meeting, and we understand that completely, and we're not putting pressure on anyone. If you have to go as soon as the message is over, please do go and don't feel inhibited in any way about doing that - no one will think the worse of you. But if you are at liberty to stay, please do - it's not a prayer meeting as such, it's not praise meeting, although there is praise and prayer - it's a time, really, to wait on God and to enjoy His presence, and to learn what it is to be still and know He is God, to wait in His presence. So please, if you can stay, do stay.
Now tonight we're looking at 'The Presence of God in Pentecost'. Now let me just give a couple of words of introduction to remind those who have been here - and for the sake of those who haven't - of what we've been doing these nights. We've been outlining the fact that there is more written in Scripture about God's desire to be with men, than there is about men's desire to be with God. God's great passion throughout the whole of human history is to dwell in the midst of His people. But we have seen that it's more than that, it's not just to dwell but to be seen to dwell, and to have a manifestation of His presence with His people - that they might know that He is there. Of course these nights, we looked on Monday night at how God met with man, the first man and woman, in the Garden of Eden - that idyllic paradise that was their trysting place, where God came to them in the cool of the day, the late afternoon, and met with them after a day's work, before the fall, and how they enjoyed fellowship - perhaps even an afternoon or early evening meal with the Lord. We believe the pre-incarnate form of the Lord Jesus Christ walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and met with Adam and Eve.
Then we saw the Tabernacle and the Temple, how God's Shekinah glory dwelt in the Holy of Holies over the Ark of the Covenant, and how the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night led them. But we saw last evening, and this is really what we've been leading up to, what really is the crescendo and the pinnacle of Scripture: that the great demonstration and revelation of God's presence came in Christ. Every type and picture and rite and ritual has been pointing towards Him, the greatest ever visible manifestation of God's presence - Immanuel, God With Us.
Now we also noted each night that the signs of God's invisible presence, visible signs of His invisible presence, are called 'Shekinah' - the Shekinah glory of God. That word 'Shekinah' is derived from the Hebrew word 'to dwell', 'shakan'. Really all 'Shekinah' is, is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. We saw it at the gate of Eden whenever man was barred after the fall, cherubim often accompany Shekinah, and there the cherubim were there with a flaming sword - fire, Shekinah. We saw it in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the fire that was there, the pillar of fire, the pillar of cloud. In the Old Testament Shekinah took various forms: light, fire, cloud, and sometimes a combination of those. But last night we saw - and I hope it rejoiced your heart, and lifted your spirit high in the heavenlies to see that the greatest manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God is when we come into the New Testament, and the Shekinah glory of God comes in a new form: the incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel - the greatest demonstration of Shekinah glory.
We saw the greatest demonstration of this Divine glory in the life and person of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. We looked at several passages of Scripture, and we saw the glory of the Lord Jesus, that glory that was veiled by human flesh in a body shone through that day on the Mount to that intimate inner circle of Peter, James and John. We saw last evening that the Shekinah glory of God still shines forth through Jesus. As we've been going through these nights, you may have been asking the question: 'Where is the Shekinah glory of God today?'. We looked, and it wouldn't do any harm to turn to it, to 2 Corinthians chapter 4 - it is still only in the face of Jesus Christ that we see God's glory. Second Corinthians 4 verse 6: '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'. So the light, Shekinah, of the knowledge of the glory, Shekinah, of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ still to this day. So we need eyes of faith to see the glorified Christ if we're going to know His personal presence in our individual lives. This is what our desire has been. Surely if the gamut and weight of the emphasis of Scripture is God's glory and God's desire and passion to dwell in the midst of His people, surely that should be our greatest desire and our pre-eminent purpose in life: to know, experientially, the dwelling presence of God with us. How do we know that? We must look to Christ with the eyes of faith. We must look into His face, for there is the knowledge of the glory of God - in the face of Jesus Christ.
We're not only to know this with the eyes of faith, but we saw last evening that we are to reflect that glory and carry it, this abiding presence, with us wherever we go and whatever we do. Turn to the previous chapter, chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians, and here we see the source of the glorious presence of God is again the face of Jesus Christ. We see also in verse 16 that the means of beholding that face is faith: 'Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord', that is faith, 'the veil is taken away'. The veil that has hidden the glory of God is taken away when we turn to the Lord. 'Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty', verse 18, 'But we all' - here is the power that enables us to receive this glory in our lives - 'we all with unveiled face', through faith, 'beholding', the source of this glory, the face of the Lord Jesus, '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'.
Where is this Shekinah glory to be found today? In the face of Jesus Christ. How do we see the glorified face of Jesus Christ? By faith, and the veil is taken away - but how, what is the means and the power that enables us to experience from glory to glory a transformation into the image of Christ, into His glory? The answer is in verse 18: 'by the Spirit of the Lord' - Pentecost. Pentecost is the 'how' that Immanuel's presence can be realised now in our individual lives and in the church of Jesus Christ. The 'Who' was last night, the greatest demonstration of God's glory in the Gospels and right to today is the resurrected and ascended Lord in glory now, and we've got to get our eyes on Him if we're going to be taken up with this glory and know it personally - but if we're going to experience it in our lives, we're going to have to have the instrumentality of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Now tomorrow night we're going to look at the New Jerusalem, and how this presence of God will be eternally enjoyed. But we want to look now at how Immanuel's presence is realised now in your life, in this church, or whatever church you belong to. This is a vital night, I think it's probably the most important night - because when we receive ministry like we have over these nights, many people are left asking that very question: 'How? How?'. Well, what we need to do is: go to our Lord and His promise of Pentecost. So turn with me to John chapter 16 please, verse 7 - now try and put yourselves in the shoes of the disciples. They have been almost three and a half years with the Lord Jesus in His ministry, and now He's pronouncing to them that He's going away - and in verse 7 He says: 'Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is expedient', or it is to your advantage, 'that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper', Comforter, Encourager, Strengthener, 'will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you'.
Now this is remarkable: the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they knew was their King, their Messiah, was now telling them 'I'm going away'. They are devastated, some of them have left everything - their family and their careers - behind them, and He's saying: 'I'm going to go, but it's going to be better for you, it's going to be advantageous for you that I go'. Now they couldn't, for the life of them, see how that could be possible - but He explains: 'If I don't go, the Helper cannot come to you'. The Greek word for 'Helper' there is 'Paracletos', and it simply means 'a person summoned to one's aid'. It was used, perhaps, of people like lawyers who gave legal defence, or a mediator that came in between two warring factions. The Lord Jesus was saying: 'I'm going, but I'm going to send someone else to come alongside you to aid you, to help you, to strengthen you, to give you a spiritual life infusion'.
In chapter 14 He told them something else about this Helper, if you turn back there, in verse 16 the Lord Jesus said: 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter', or another Helper, 'that He may abide with you forever'. Now that word 'another' means, in the Greek language, 'another of the same kind' - 'I will send you a Helper of the same kind'. That means not a different kind, and obviously the Holy Spirit is Divine in the sense that our Lord Jesus is Divine, but that is not everything that He meant when He said 'another Helper of the same kind'. He was meaning: 'Just as I have shown the nature of the Father to you' - and if you were to read verses 7 through to 11 you would see that He came to reveal the Father, 'He who has seen me has seen the Father' - 'Just as I have come to reveal the nature of the Father to you, the Holy Spirit will come and reveal My nature to you, will bring My', Christ's, 'nature to you in My absence'.
We see that that is clearly the meaning in verse 18: 'I will not leave you comfortless', or orphans, 'I will come to you'. So this is a Helper of the same kind. He's not just sending another person, but He's sending another person who will bring His very person and nature and presence to them - it's amazing. He says: 'I will come to you'. The Holy Spirit will bring Jesus to us. Do you have knowledge, personal knowledge, of the Holy Spirit bringing the presence and nature of Jesus to you? Can I tell you that if you don't - and most don't - you will feel like an orphan. It is not God's intention that we should be helpless, or comfortless, or orphans. It is God's divine intention, eternally so, that we should know this Paracletos coming alongside and actually bringing Jesus into our personal lives. What the Lord Jesus is saying when He says to the disciples, 'I will come to you', is 'You need not ever be devoid of the Divine presence'. You may have the Divine presence always with you!
In verse 17 He says: 'The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you'. This Spirit will not just reveal Christ to them, but will form Christ in them - changing them from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. Now at this time the Holy Spirit dwelt with the disciples, but at Pentecost He would come to indwell the disciples. This is why Jesus said in chapter 16: 'It's advantageous that I go'. Now we must understand that He meant what He said - it's better that Jesus went! Do you believe that? When you compare the ministry of Christ to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, you realise why this is the case: because Christ's ministry, generally speaking, generally speaking now, was external as He moved around Israel in His body. He didn't even leave the principality, His own country. Yet now that the Holy Spirit has come, bringing the presence of Jesus to His people, His ministry is internal! He comes to take up residence in the lives of His people! Aren't you glad He went?
People say to me: 'I would love to have been around when Jesus was around'. Well, I understand what you mean, but I wouldn't. Robert Hall Glover said these remarkable words: 'By Christ's ascension and the Holy Spirit's descent, Christ exchanged His bodily presence with His then disciples in Jerusalem for His spiritual omnipresence with His disciples everywhere'. Can I repeat that? He exchanged his bodily presence with His then disciples in Jerusalem for His spiritual omnipresence with His disciples everywhere. Christ's ministry in Palestine was local, now His ministry through His Spirit is universal! Some have suggested, and I agree with them, that the Lord's post-resurrection appearances, if you study them, you will see that when He appears to His Apostles, He appears suddenly and then He disappears. He arrives and then He departs, and it has been suggested that this was His way of weaning them from depending upon His physical presence, and introducing them to the nature of His omnipresence, His spiritual presence everywhere that they could know He was with them always, even unto the end of the age. But in order for these disciples to appreciate it, they had to walk by faith and not by sight - this was the lesson. We've been hearing a lot about visible manifestations of the Divine presence, and I believe those may still happen at times, but generally speaking we are now into a spiritual realm where we can know even deeper and greater things in the Spirit when we, by faith, see Christ in all His glory even in His bodily absence.
Thomas had to learn that lesson, didn't he, in one of those post-resurrection appearances? Jesus said to him: 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed'. In John 14 verse 15 we see - and this is vital, and we will come back to this again and again tonight - that obedience is the environment for a clearer, fuller revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ. This is how He started out this whole discourse on the Holy Spirit. Verse 15: 'If you love Me, keep My commandments'. In verse 16 we see that, because He is now glorified and our Great High Priest, He petitions the Father that we should have this Helper, this Paracletos, to abide with us forever: 'I will pray the Father', that was future tense then, now it has been realised, 'and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever'. Now that is something that Christ could not do in His body, He could not abide with everyone forever. So it is expedient that He went, so that He may do that now. Now imagine this: we now know the eternal presence of God with us forever! At least we're meant to know it, and recognise it.
In verses 19 through to 24 He then speaks about this great mystery of the Triune Godhead, of the indwelling of the Father and the Son. He makes this remarkable statement in verse 19: 'A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also'. Now what He's saying in verse 19 is: no unbeliever saw the Lord after His burial. No unbeliever saw the Lord after His burial. He was dead, as far as they were concerned, finished. After He was raised in resurrection power, it was only those who loved Him who saw Him. But note this: after His ascension, when He went to glory, His disciples continued to see Him - not literally and physically, but spiritually by faith. This is doubtless the meaning of what John is saying here, quoting the Lord Jesus, verse 19: 'But you will see Me'. Now Christ is asking you tonight: 'Do you see Me now? Do you see Me now?'.
In verse 20 Jesus said: 'At that day' - what day? The day when the Holy Spirit would come to indwell them. What was that day? That was Pentecost. 'At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you' - you in Me, and I in you. Let that wash over you just for a moment: 'You in Me, and I in you', Jesus said. Someone has illustrated that like the poker that is in the fire, and the fire is in the poker: you in Me, and I in you. But I think it means more than that, it means 'you in Me', your standing. Now we're in Christ, and Christ is in God, and everything that is Christ's is ours. We are joint heirs with Him, our standing. So often we get taken up with our standing, but here is something else: 'You in Me, but I in you' - that's your strength. 'I in you', by the Holy Spirit, the Paracletos, the Helper, 'I am going to strengthen you'.
Now you may know you're in Christ tonight, but do you know Christ is in you? Or, at least, is Christ filling you so that you might know that He is in you - are you filled by the Holy Spirit? Are you filled with the fullness of Christ? How can you be? How can you know this strength? How can you know this power manifest in your life, this glory to be reflected? Well, one step, and we've already looked at it in verse 15, Jesus reiterates it in verse 21: 'He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him'. Loving obedience. Look at the verse: loving obedience will incur the special love of the Father and Jesus. Now I believe God loves everyone, but there is a special love to be lavished upon those who obey His commandments, and keep His word, and see His glory, and are filled with the Spirit.
Look at it again: then Christ will be manifest, will reveal Himself - 'I will love him and manifest', reveal, 'Myself to him'. Obedience is the way that we have Christ revealed to us. Now do you understand this? I'm trying to make it plain and clear, but do you know anything about this? This is what the eternal plan of God has been for from the very beginning. Now Judas, well, he didn't understand it. If you look at verse 22 - this isn't Judas Iscariot, that's clarified for us in verse 22: 'Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, 'Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?''. Now, no doubt Judas was thinking that He was talking about coming as conquering King, 'I will come to you'. He couldn't understand, 'How will You not reveal Yourself to the world, if You're coming as conquering King, because You're going to conquer the world, the Gentile nations?'. Jesus wasn't talking about coming as conquering King, He's talking about coming in the Holy Spirit. He's speaking about manifesting Himself spiritually. Can I say to you very tenderly but quite, well, let's say forcibly and candidly: there's a lot of people in our nation can tell you when exactly and where the Lord Jesus is going to come again, but they can't tell you how He comes now!
Many don't understand anything about this, like Judas. Do you understand this? How Jesus comes to you? Someone put it like this, and this is remarkable, please listen carefully to this statement: 'By the Spirit of God we can actually know Christ better today than the disciples knew Him when He was on the Earth'. Now some of you are struggling with that: by the Spirit of God we can actually know Christ better today than the disciples knew Him when He was on the Earth. He elaborates by saying: 'When He was here, those in the front of the crowd were closer to Him than those at the rear; but today, by faith, each of us can enjoy the closest fellowship with Him - everyone, everywhere, anywhere on this globe'. It's wonderful! Does this not bowl you over? I have felt, from last week starting to look at this, and again today meditating upon it once more, I'll be honest with you: I felt the very presence of Jesus in the study with me. There was one point at which I had to fall on my face, to think that Jesus will reveal Himself, if I am obedient, He will reveal Himself to me in a way that the disciples never knew.
In verse 23 we have it reiterated again, in case you think that we are reading something into these verses. Can I say that, as far as I'm concerned, this is the greatest verse in the Bible: 'Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come', We will come, 'to him and make Our abode', make Our home, 'with him''. Now listen, in verse 1 and verse 2 of chapter 14 Jesus was saying, 'Don't be troubled, I'm going to prepare a place'. He was going to the Father's house to prepare many dwelling places for those who believed in Him, but now in verse 23 He's saying that He simultaneously, in the Spirit, joins the Father - and that shows, implicitly, His equality with the Father. He now, with the Father, is coming spiritually and making many dwelling places with believers here on the Earth! Do you know anything about this? In the Spirit, both the Father and the Son, look at it: 'We will come to him and make Our home with him' - the Father and the Son will come to the one who loves Jesus, and the one who keeps His word.
Now let me tease this out for you, because it is remarkable. He says: 'We will come to him', that is the Greek word 'pros'. The Greek word 'pros' literally means 'face-to-face'. If you turn with me to chapter 1, please, and verse 1 to this famous verse, John 1 verse 1 - you read again of the Lord Jesus, the Logos: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God', and that literally is 'pros ton theon', 'the Word was face-to-face with God'. The pre-incarnate Christ was face-to-face with God, and what John is getting at is: that's the closest possible fellowship that anyone can have, because He was not just with Him, He was God. But see what He's saying now back in chapter 14 verse 23 - that this is the closest possible fellowship that we can have. We are now entering into the fellowship, eternally, of the Godhead, between Father and Son - we can know Him face-to-face. Jesus says: 'We', Father and Son, 'will come to him', face-to-face!
Then He says: 'We will make Our abode with him', with him, make Our home with him. That word 'with' in Greek is the word 'para', it means 'side-by-side'. So, Father and Son will come and be face-to-face with the one who loves Jesus and keeps His word, and the presence of God will make His home beside that one, will take up residence beside them. Now I don't know whether anyone last night had a problem with me saying that God's intention is that we ought to experience Him - but I think you have to agree with me that this verse teaches nothing if it does not teach that Jesus promises that the Christian will experience God, and it's not just the Christ of God, it's the Father, and it's the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We will experience this God, He will come and make His abode with us - and an 'abode' means an eternal dwelling place, He's going to make us His home! Now! 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, My Father will love him, and We will come to him face-to-face and make Our abode with, along beside, him'.
Do you know something? This is not just meant to be the individual Christian's experience, it's meant to be the experience of the church: 'with him'. Now we have made the distinction in the New Testament, in the sense that the disciples, the Holy Spirit was with them, but at Pentecost He would come to indwell them. But let's not lose the import of what it means even now to know Jesus saying that the Father and Son will come and be with us. One biblical commentator called Lang says: 'Not merely in him who loves Jesus and obeys His commands, but God, Father and Son, will be found in a community, a place where the Triune God manifests Himself, and which forms a contrast to the world. The Spirit is not only in the faithful, the Spirit is with them as well. He forms a fellowship of believers, the church, with them', and this is how he ends this comment, 'This is the real Shekinah'! That's it! How is the Shekinah glory declared today? It is declared in the face of Jesus Christ, but it is manifest to people as we reflect that glory in our lives, seeing Him glorified with the eyes of faith and allowing the Spirit to conform us to His image. As we collectively come together in that condition, the power and Shekinah of God, Father and Son, will be manifest by the Spirit.
What's the Shekinah glory of God today? It is the presence of Jesus in the Christian, it is the presence of Jesus in the church, it is the presence of Jesus in the Christian and in the church manifest by the ministry of the Holy Spirit - the Holy Spirit in His Person, the Holy Spirit in His character, spiritual character - that's how God manifests His glory. The spiritual character is found in Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering etc - that's how God manifests His glory. Spiritual gifts, gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to the church to manifest not just His character, but His power - and these came to abide eternally with us.
The evidence is found on the Day of Pentecost, for we have only been looking at the promise. So let's look at Acts chapter 2 please. Now you have been taught these nights how to recognise Shekinah glory - you read this now as if it was the first time, and look out for the signs: 'When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place', they were waiting. 'And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them cloven tongues', divided tongues, 'as of fire' - there's the motif of Shekinah, fire - 'and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance'.
So there was this sight - what must it have been like? - of cloven tongues of fire parting asunder, resting on their heads. 'Like fire', manifestations of the Shekinah glory of God. Now, why was that there? What is Shekinah? It is a visible manifestation of the invisible God in His presence, it's a sign to show that the God who you cannot see is around. What is this other than evidence and proof to herald that the presence of God is now to dwell with men in a new way, through the indwelling Holy Spirit? This presence was promised and sent, that the Lord Jesus Christ in His own presence should be among us. This presence was sent in the Holy Spirit so that the Lord of the church might rule among us.
That's evidenced, for if you were to turn to Revelation chapter 1, you remember we saw a great glorified picture of the Lord - how He is now - last night in Revelation chapter 1. But in the introduction to that Epistle we read: 'John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne'. There is only one Holy Spirit, but the seven speaks of the perfection of the Holy Spirit in His ministry - but where is the Holy Spirit situated? 'Before the throne', and anyone before the throne, a courtier, is one who administrates the rule of the sovereign. The One who administrates the rule of the Lord and Head of the church, Christ, is the Holy Spirit in the church, the Vicar of Christ on the Earth. All you have to do is read the Acts of the Apostles and you will see - you could call it the 'Acts of the Holy Spirit', as the Holy Spirit directs operations - but ultimately it is Christ on His throne, glorified and risen, directing operations in His church on the Earth via the Holy Spirit. You read Acts, and you'll see it.
All that the saints had to do was to surrender. All they had to do was conform to the word. All they had to do was wait for direction - and, listen, we are light years away from this today. All you have to do is look at how decisions are made in most of our churches. I have experienced this. Overseers and elders will have meetings upon meetings upon meetings to drink tea and talk nonsense, but very few gatherings for prayer. What we need to be doing is praying and fasting, and being on our face before God and saying: 'Lord, what do we do? What do You want us to do? Where do You want us to go?'. This is how God moved in the early church, by their surrendering, conforming, and waiting upon Him. The conditions are still the same - but here's the thing: you have to know you need this. Most of conservative evangelicalism neither knows their need of this, nor wants it! They think this is for the wacky charismatics on the cable television. The devil has done such a number on Christians to be afraid of the Holy Spirit of God! Now I'm sure that you disagree with me on many a thing, and I'm sure I'll disagree with you on quite a few, but I'll tell you: let's not get bogged down with terms - baptism of the Spirit, fullness of the Spirit, sealing of the Spirit - whatever you want to call it! My friend, let's move away from this, and even the theology of the whole matter, and see that whatever we can argue about the Holy Spirit none of us could argue that His presence and His power, the power of Jesus, is presently being manifested in believers' lives, and in the actions and work of the churches! You cannot argue that with me! We need the Holy Spirit in all His power, in all His fullness, in all His fruit, in all His gifts - we need Him! We're in the state we're in because we haven't got Him.
The condition, again, to have His fullness - go back to chapter 14 of John please - the condition, again, is loving obedience: 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word'. Loving obedience to the word of God will result in the coming and abiding of the Father and the Son. Now it's not just what's said in verse 15, 'obey My commandments', but 'obey My word' - and that's a greater meaning. It means obeying the whole gamut and body of the teachings of Christ. If you could put it like this: it's not just obeying the letter of the law of what He said, isolated commandments, but it's obeying the spirit of everything that He is and everything He has taught. When we do that, Jesus will be manifested in our hearts and in our lives. Now listen carefully to this, my friend, for if you miss this you miss everything it is to be a Christian: Jesus will only be manifested to hearts that love Him, and hearts that obey Him! You will never have this if you know nothing of constant repentance. You will not have this if there are things in your life that are not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You will never have this if you do not empty yourself of sin and self, and just come to the cross broken, and by faith claim the fullness of the Holy Spirit. You will never know this.
This truth is illustrated in the experience of Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19. Jesus came to them, and I believe it was a pre-incarnate form of the Lord Jesus, and He brought two angels with Him. He visited Abraham's tent, and when He visited Abraham's tent He felt right at home there. So much so that He enjoyed a meal with Abraham, and the Lord Jesus even had a private talk with him - but He didn't go to Lot's house. When there was a message to be carried to Sodom, the Lord Jesus stayed at home and sent two angels because He didn't feel at home in Lot's home. He couldn't make His abode there, instead He sent two angels, but He didn't come.
Paul said to the Ephesians that 'Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith', that simply means 'make His home in your heart'. Does Christ feel at home in your heart tonight? What's in your heart? Some of you have got bitterness in your heart. Some of you have got jealousy in your heart. Some of you have got all-consuming lust in your heart. Some of you have got pride, covetousness, deception - O, the list is endless! What do you know of His abiding presence? A. W. Tozer said: 'When I was a young man, I happened to get into the company of an elderly woman. God bless her memory. She did not have too much theology. But she believed that the way to get filled by the Holy Spirit was to get down on your knees and die out and open your heart. Not having very much theology either, at the time, I thank God, I obeyed. The result was an old-fashioned mighty invasion of my nature by the Holy Spirit'.
Has that ever happened to you? I'm not talking about bright lights. I'm not talking about the hairs on the back of your neck going up. It mightn't happen that way, for some it may, for others it doesn't - but you know when God takes up residence in your heart when you've no argument with the Almighty, when you and Jesus aren't fighting or quarrelling! Then when that happens, you've got to preserve and practice this abiding presence - do you know what that's about? Oh I read a wonderful story about an old lady called Jacqueline, let me share it with you. She knew what it was to have this abiding Shekinah presence in her life, she was an elderly woman. She lived to take care of her disabled daughter, and when her daughter died Jacqueline not only lost her purpose for living, she lost her living companion. She was all alone in her cottage in the country, and it seemed just like an empty eggshell to her. Occasionally a friend would call in, or throw a note through the door, but most of the time she spent in an oppressive, ongoing, solitude and silence. Her health didn't allow her to circulate much, and her best friends were all in heaven. One day Jacqueline was reading her Bible, she opened at Philippians 4 and verse 5, which reads - four words - 'The Lord is near'. 'The Lord is near? If so', she thought, 'I should be aware of it. Lord', she said, 'I'm going to pretend You're here all the time. No, forgive me for using that word 'pretend', there is no pretending to be done. Help me ever remind myself of the reality of Your nearness'.
That evening as she retired, she said: 'I'm going on to bed now, Lord, will You please watch over me as I sleep?'. The next morning on awakening she said: 'Good morning, Lord, this is the day that You have made'. Sitting down with her hot tea, she read through the book of Philippians again, underlining once more verse 5 of chapter 4. Then she prayed aloud for an unusually long time. At noon she said: 'Now, Lord, let's watch the news on television, so that You can show me the things in the world I can pray for' - and Jacqueline and the Lord watched the news together. Then she prayed for flood victims in the Delta, a newly installed president in an African country, and for a man sentenced to life imprisonment. At supper she bowed her head and thanked the Lord for her food, but she then realised that she didn't feel her prayers were travelling up to heaven. She felt, instead, that she was talking to someone sitting across the table from her. Gradually her attitude transformed, the loneliness lessened, the joy increased, the fears diminished, and she never afterwards felt as alone as she had done in her house previously - because Jacqueline was learning how to abide in the presence.
We don't know much about Alfred Lord Tennyson, and all that we know about his spiritual life we get from his niece. She tells us that this man had a very rich communion with the Lord. She tells us in one instance that they were walking one day together down the beautiful downs of the Isle of Wight, and the sea was sounding in their ears, and the beautiful pastures were round about them, and the bright skies of heaven were above. Tennyson said to his niece: 'God is with us now on this down, just as truly as Christ was with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We cannot see Him, but the Father, the Saviour, the Spirit are nearer, perhaps, now than then; and with all who yearn for Him. Surely the love of God takes away', he said, 'and makes us forget all our fears'. Tennyson went on to remark, listen to this: 'I should be sorely afraid to live my life without God's presence, but to feel that He is by my side now, just as much as you are, is the very joy of my heart'. His niece said that at that moment she looked at Tennyson's face, and the glory of God rested on his face. She said: 'I felt that the presence of God overshadowed him there'. Such presence can be known, and can be felt. Do you know it? Have you felt it?
Let us pray, and after this prayer we will go into our time of waiting on God - if you have to go don't be afraid to do so: O Father, we hardly know what to say when we think that Your eternal plan has always been to dwell with us, to be with us. How we run from You. How we hide from You. We even use Your gifts to do it, O God. Lord, we've got to believe this whole book or none of it. If You have said, Lord Jesus, that if anyone loves You and keeps Your word that the Father will love them, and You, Lord Jesus, and the Heavenly Father will come to them and make Your home with them - O Lord, if never before tonight, if never before tonight, if never anywhere here, if never anyone, me, Lord! Make Your abode with me, make Your home with me. O Lord, come and dwell with us, come this very evening, Lord Jesus. We saw You in Your glory, but Lord let us see You in this place, in the Spirit in our lives. Lord, may people be filled with the Holy Spirit tonight, may people know what it is to be fully, completely indwelt by the Spirit of God. May orphans, spiritual orphans, who have never known the companionship of the Divine, may they come face-to-face with the Godhead tonight and know that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have come to abide beside them.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'The Presence Of God' series, entitled "In Pentecost" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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