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Second Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, June 6, 2021

The Manifest Presence of God

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13–18

For the past two months, Teresa and I have spent a great deal of time in prayer both individually and together on behalf of a dear friend in Roanoke who has stage 4 lung cancer and cancer of the esophagus. A little over a month ago we left church and went to Roanoke to see Brian, both to pray with him and his wife Karen, and to let them know how much we love them. We have a long history together with them both that has lasted over 50 years. We’ve been through a lot together, both good and bad, and whenever we’re together there are a lot of stories that begin with, “Hey, do remember the time…” and then ends with laughter.

Brian is on chemotherapy, both intravenous and in pill form. A couple of weeks ago the doctors began immunotherapy, and Brian has been very weak and nauseated since then. Being nauseated by itself is a terrible feeling. I’m sure most of you here this morning have had friends or family members go through this process, and maybe you have too. There is such a feeling of helplessness because you can’t do anything to make them feel better.

But you can pray. Have you ever thought, while in a situation like this, “I wish I could do more, but I’ll be in prayer?” Throughout this ordeal Brian and Karen have expressed deep gratitude that their friends are fervently praying because they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their greatest hope is in the love and mercy of the God they have served together throughout their adult life. The gift of prayer is no small thing and is actually the most important thing.

I’ve been thinking about how to pray for them most effectively, and of course, we are praying for the complete healing of Brian’s cancer and for strength and peace for Karen as she lives out this time in their lives together. It’s hard to watch someone you love decline and seem so sick. We are petitioning God to heal him for his own glory and as a living testimony that our God most certainly is able to just say the word and the cancer is gone. Of course to me that is the best-case scenario, but then again, I don’t know what God is planning for this season in their lives.

Thursday night we found out that Brian was very nauseated and was running a fever. Right now is a very bad time to get an infection because his body is too weak to fight. There’s a prayer chain of friends that Karen can notify via text message, and we all started praying for God to relieve the nausea and cause the fever to go back down. Praise God that the fever did go back down, and the nausea lessened somewhat. When we heard that we were careful to thank God for even that moment of relief, but how should I be praying for them? What did they need more than anything else?

So, I began to pray that God would manifest his presence in the midst of this crisis situation. In that prayer I was asking God to show up in such a way that both of them would feel his peace and experience in a tangible way that He was there both in his love and in the assurance that He had not abandoned them. Often God moves through His people to be his presence, but there are times when we need God to show up in a way that only he can.

Often, when we think about God’s presence, we likely remember that he is what theologians call “omnipresent” which means that he is everywhere, in every place, at every time. There is not any place in the universe where God is not. Last week I pointed out Psalm 139:2–5 from The Message:

I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—

However, it’s one thing to know the fact that God is present everywhere, and quite another to experience his manifest presence. We should not think it odd that God is willing to reveal himself to us in ways that we can know with our senses. We have a good friend in Roanoke who is very involved in healing prayer and intercessory prayer and has been for many years. She talks about times where she experienced the presence of Jesus through being able to smell him. She calls it the aroma of Christ and that has carried her through some times of great difficulty.

Jesus promised His disciples that he would never leave or forsake them and throughout the writings of the Apostles and the prophets there are many verses where God promises to be with his people, but in what way? Geoff Chapman in his book Growing into Jesus’ Life makes this observation,

It would be fair to say that though Jesus promised to “be with us always,” our experience of his presence is occasional, irregular, and perhaps even rare. Why is that so? Are we right to hope for a continual and conscious sense of his presence? This subject is central to Christian spiritual formation and central to our understanding of God’s greatness

If you start at Genesis chapter 1 and continue to read the Bible all the way through to the Book of Revelation you will continually see examples of God showing up in profound and miraculous ways, but we find immediately that God chose to be relational with those that he created. In the first chapter of Genesis (26–27), we find that the first thing that God said about us is that we were created in his image and likeness. This was not true of any other creatures that God created, only man (men/women) was created in God’s image. Our Old Testament reading this morning was from Genesis 3:1–13. It’s the familiar story of Adam and Eve being deceived by Satan to question the goodness and wisdom of God in prohibiting them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Instead of choosing to obey their creator, they felt they had the right to decide for themselves what was good, so they ate the forbidden fruit. In verse 8,

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.

Why was the Lord God walking in the garden looking for Adam and Eve? He was the gardener and had not abandoned the garden or those it was created for. It was likely God’s custom to come and walk with them in the cool or literally the “ruah”—the wind or spirit of the day. Wind or spirit is the symbol of God’s presence. He created them to enjoy him and the world he had created for them, but their consciences condemned them, and they hid from God. One of the first things we find out about sin is that it makes us want to separate ourselves from God, the very opposite of what he desires for us. So God removed them from the Garden of Eden, but that did not mean that he would stop entering into the lives of those who bore his image.

No, quite the contrary, we find throughout the Book of Genesis that God continued to appear to men and women even those like Abel the first murderer. We read the story of Noah and his sons and the Great Flood. In that story it was God who came to Noah and gave him specific instructions on building the Ark. It was God who came to them after the flood water abated. It was God who entered into a covenant with Noah, and we can still be reminded of it in the rainbow.

Later on in Genesis 12, it is God who appears to Abraham with the promise that he would be the Father of Nations. Was it because Abraham was such a righteous man that God was pleased with him? No, he was a pagan who likely worshipped the Moon-god. It was God who brought change into Abraham and his family's lives.

In Exodus 3 God first appeared to Moses as the Angel of the Lord appearing to him in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush that was not being consumed. God had a job for him that would result in the children of Israel being released from slavery and captivity in Egypt. Did God choose to use Moses because he was a righteous man and a successful leader of people? No, he was a murderer who had fled from Egypt and at 80 years old was a shepherd taking care of sheep belonging to his father-in-law Jethro. They weren’t even his sheep. God built a relationship with Moses and Exodus 33:11 says, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Why? Because God is very relational, and Moses longed to know him and lived in obedience to God’s will. It was through hanging out with God that caused Moses to ask God to show him his glory and God didn’t hesitate. The request pleased him because he knew that Moses longed to know him more deeply.

As the children of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years God gave the law to Israel through Moses. He wanted them to know how they should live before him and have fellowship and peace with God. In Leviticus 26:12 God shows that it was still his desire that he be in the presence of his people, “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

You know the story. God brings Israel into the promised land and eventually they turned away from him to worship other gods and again God threw them out of the garden, the Promised Land.

In 1 & 2 Samuel we can read the story of King David who began as a shepherd boy who God chose to raise up as the king of Judea and Israel. The prophet Samuel told Saul the first king of Israel that he was being replaced and said,

But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.

The Apostle Paul refers to Israel’s history in Acts 13:22,

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

Did that mean that David was a perfect servant? Go back and read 1 & 2 Samuel and you will find that many of David’s failures were huge and affected the well-being of his subjects, even causing some to die because of their king’s sin. Of course, his most famous failure was committing adultery with Bathsheba and upon finding out she was pregnant had her husband Uriah, a faithful warrior for the king, murdered. The son born to David and Bathsheba died in infancy and the kings’ sins were known.

Clearly, being a person after God’s own heart did not mean that he was perfect, or he would have been removed as Israel’s king, put to death for adultery, or murder, separated from God, and judged as an enemy of God for eternity.

Instead, when he repented of his sins, he found forgiveness, was restored to God’s favor, allowed to continue as king until his death, although because of his sins he never enjoyed a kingdom of peace or peace within his own family again. He was given an everlasting covenant, and from his line the Messiah, Jesus Christ was born.

Time won’t allow us to consider every story within the Old and New Testaments of all those who were blessed by God and found his love and favor even though they did not live perfect lives before him.

We read in Psalm 130 this morning a song of mourning and a plea for forgiveness of sins. The cry out of the depths of despair is for God to once again be present with his people Israel. The Psalmist remembers that God had shown himself to be willing to forgive, and the hope that he will do it again. Listen to the entreaty inviting the manifest presence of the Lord to return, and for Israel to once again find their hope in Him

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
        and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord 
        more than watchmen for the morning,
        more than watchmen for the morning.

7O Israel, hope in the Lord!
        For with the Lord there is steadfast love, 
        and with him is plentiful redemption.”

Within this song to the Lord there is the hope that God would once again be in the midst of his people and the reason there was hope is because of who God had shown himself to be in the past. Only someone who is spiritually blind could not see within God’s word that he desires intimate relationships with his people and has intentionally revealed himself to those who would never suspect that he would even notice them.

You may be someone that has assumed that God wouldn’t manifest himself to you, so you haven’t asked him to. That’s where the gospel is so important.

The clearest example of the Manifest Presence of God is the incarnation of Jesus Christ—God coming to dwell with us and not merely to dwell with us but to make it possible that we could dwell with him for eternity. It was God’s solution to the sin problem that began with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Jesus revealed to everyone that God is relational and desires that we know him, love him, and benefit from his blessings.

In our Gospel reading from Mark 3:20–35, the Pharisees and scribes continued to try and turn away the crowds who followed Jesus faithfully and who stood in awe and wonder at the miracles that he worked and the authority that he had over the demonic spirits. So the Pharisees claimed that Jesus cast out demons because he was possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus knew the wickedness of their hearts, and that they knew better. They were jealous of the attention that Jesus was receiving but it was obvious that the authority that Jesus had was the power of the Holy Spirit. There was no other reasonable explanation of the exorcisms other than the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees' rejection of the Holy Spirit was not simply a mistake, or misunderstanding, Jesus knew it was intentional. They were speaking from the evil in their own hearts and intentionally blasphemed what they knew to be the power of the Holy Spirit. Why is this such an offense, that it would be the one sin that Jesus declared unforgivable? Because it is attributing the power and the work of the Holy Spirit as coming from Satan.

Through the Holy Spirit God has and continues to manifest himself in ways that are distinctly different from merely being omnipresent. He invites the followers of Jesus into the supernatural by indwelling them with his Spirit. The evil within those who tried to stop this from happening did so because they fully understood that when the Holy Spirit indwelt the followers of Jesus, they would lose their hold on them. Even today if those who follow after Christ do not realize what has been given them, they will never think to ask for the manifest presence of God, which is theirs for the asking.

We should not assume that God’s silence in our lives is because he has nothing to say to us. Certainly, a major way that he speaks to us is through his Word, and the Word tells us that his creation reveals to us his glory, majesty, and creative genius. What I am suggesting is that God is not only willing but desirous of a deeper, more intimate walk with those who love him. Our walk with him is happening in the here and now but is also within a spiritual realm all around us where God is, and the heavenly hosts are doing his bidding on behalf of those who are committed to following Jesus Christ by faith. Do you ever think about that?

Consider for a moment our Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 4:16–18,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Richard Pratt in his Commentary on 2 Corinthians writes, “

Persecution also increased Paul’s confidence for two reasons. First, his suffering proved that he was not equal in his own strength to the task he had been given; therefore, any success he had showed that God was in the work. Second, the fact that Paul was not destroyed by his sufferings encouraged him that his strength came from God. Christian weakness demonstrates God’s power. Suffering for the gospel honors Christ and advances the gospel and the kingdom of God.

When the Apostle Paul encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he walked away from his former life as a Pharisee. In doing so he encountered the living Lord, the Messiah, the very one that he had prayed and longed for as a Jewish scholar. I think it important to note that Paul was trying to destroy the early Christian church because he was blind to the true identity of the troublemaker that was crucified by the Romans at the request of the very ones with whom he served. It was Jesus who came for Saul, later called Paul, and revealed his true identity. It was because of his relationship with Jesus that he became an Apostle and could later write in 2 Corinthians 12:2–5,

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—

As a Pharisee, Paul could have ended up as High Priest and been considered a big success by the standards of his culture. Instead, he became an Apostle of Jesus Christ and was persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, betrayed, and eventually put to death by beheading. On the other hand, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote 13 out of the 27 books of the New Testament, encountered and was taught by the Holy Spirit for three years, got to go to the third heaven, whatever that is, and started the Christian church in the Gentile nations. But that’s not the best part. He now is in the presence of his Lord and Master forever.

Every example we have looked at today showed people who God pursued who were used to change the world for the glory of God. That doesn’t even count the unknown number of those who you and I will never know about in this life. So remember the question that Geoff Chapman poses in his book, “Are we right to hope for a continual and conscious sense of his presence?”

I say absolutely YES! If you are a Christian, one who has come to Christ by faith and committed your life to him as Savior and Lord then his manifest presence is yours for the asking. I’m persuaded of it. Does it come with a price? Of course, do you think it worth it?

If you have not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ and don’t want to then you will one day be in his presence as the righteous Judge. You do not want that. He invites you to come to Him by faith and in repentance for your sins. That’s where the journey begins.

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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