Today Pastor Choi talks about the blessing of being in the presence of God: to see God face-to-face and to have fellowship with God. He further explains things that would break our fellowship with God: evil ways (sin) before the LORD. Later he introduces things that would restore us back to the same fellowship with God: repentance and humility. He concludes his sermon with 3-3-3 Challenge: 3 minutes a day-3 things-3 weeks in prayer to practice God’s presence daily.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
In the Presence of God
Psalm 41:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And You set me in Your presence forever.
Think of one wish for God to grant you (for you personally): what would it be? Don’t ask for a small stuff. Think big. Also, be careful not to choose one that matters only in this life. Choose one thing that will trump all other earthly wishes. Choose one wish that will last forever and benefit you eternally. What would be that wish of yours?
Here’s my wish: I want to be in the presence of God forever. As King David prayed, I would ask the Lord, “Please set me in Your presence forever” (Psalm 41:12).
Come to think of it, all the things we do as a believer in Christ boil down to one aim we have: to be in the presence of God for eternity. We do the following:
- We believe in Jesus’ name
- We repent and are baptized
- We receive the Holy Spirit
- We keep Jesus’ commandments
- We read the Bible/ pray/ go to church/ worship/ serve/ do good/ forgive/ stay away from evil
All that we may be in the presence of God.
Before I dig deeper, let me explain what I mean by “being in the presence of God.” The English phrase “in the presence of God” is a direct translation of Hebrew expression “before the face of God.” So, may I say, to be in the presence of God means to stand before God or to see God face-to-face?
In the Bible, to be in God’s presence simply means this: to be in fellowship with God. And, to be in fellowship with God means to be a friend of God. By the way, what do we do with our friends? We get together / dine together / talk and listen to each other / have fun together / cry together / laugh together / suffer together….So with our God. Being in fellowship with God, we do all these things above together with God. There are more benefits: we find rest, joy, peace, love, righteousness, wisdom, strength, and courage. All in the fellowship with God.
Folks, we are truly blessed to have fellowship with God because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Before we came to know Jesus, the Bible says, we all were enemies of God and outsiders of the fellowship with God. However, we became reconciled with God and became His friends when we confessed our sins and received forgiveness through Christ’s atonement. From then on, we have fellowship with God. We are in His presence. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
However, we must beware of dangers out there lurking on us to destroy our fellowship with God. I would call those things “Fellowship Breakers.” These fellowship breakers at first don’t look too harmful to our relationship with God. However, they will chip off our fellowship with God little by little. We will be drifted away from God day by day without even realizing. When left unchecked and not corrected periodically, they will eventually bring forth our removal from God’s presence. Look what happened to the people of Israel in 2 Kings 17:7-20: because of their evil ways before the LORD, they lost their fellowship with Him, and were removed from God’s presence. What caused them to get to that point? The evil things that they sold themselves to for centuries. The desire to obey God wasn’t there in their hearts (Philippians 2:13).
Here are some things that they did and grieved God: stubborn heart / rebellion against God / unbelief / idolatry / arrogance / rejection of God’s commands / divination / enchantments (magic). Basically, whatever grieves the Lord and whatever provokes God to anger (it is called sin) are detrimental to our fellowship with the Lord. Left unchecked and un-repented for a long time, they can cost us the presence of the Lord in our lives both in this life and in the life to come.
Think about the Israelites who lost their privilege of being in the presence of God. Don’t think that they didn’t have second or third chance to repent or the LORD has not been patient with them. In fact, the LORD has been long suffering with them since Exodus. Here’s the timeline for you to consider: Covenant made with Abraham (c. 2091 B.C.), Exodus (c. 1446 B.C.), Entering the Promised Land (c. 1406 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel (c. 1043 B.C.), Kingdom divides into two (931 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel falls (723 B.C.), Kingdom of Judah falls (586 B.C.). Between the first covenant with Abraham and the time Israel was removed from God’s presence, 1,500 years were there. During this time, God has been patient with His people. In fact, He repeatedly sent His prophets to bring them back to Him to no avail. So, in the end, the Lord was very angry with Israel and Israel was removed from His presence (2 Kings 17:18).
Here’s a lesson for us: some of us may think that our salvation in Jesus is secured no matter what we do even when we don’t repent our willful sin against God. Some of us may be falsely assured that once salvation is given, we never lose it even when we walk in darkness or remain in sin un-repented. For instance, let’s say I have not forgiven someone in my life for 30 years. I know I am to obey the Lord’s command by forgiving, yet I didn’t. That’s a willful sin (knowing what is right and not doing it). Let’s further say that the Holy Spirit convicted me repeatedly that I was disobeying the Lord by refusing to forgive someone in my life. If my willful sin is bad enough, the refusal to repent is far dangerous because it may cost me eternal life—the life in God’s presence for eternity.
Consider this: God invites us to be in His presence through Jesus. Jesus / angels of the Lord / apostles / saints are all in the presence of God and they are waiting for us to join them. It would be a grave mistake with eternal consequences if we neglect this great privilege by our unwillingness to repent. If we continue on stubborn heart and arrogance, we may end up joining the other side—Hell where the Devil and all his followers, both spirits and humans, are going to be. They have one thing in common: disobedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, they are already separated from God’s presence. Their fate is sealed and revealed in the Bible as follows: they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:9). May we never be separated from the presence of the Lord.
I don’t want to end my sermon on a down-tone. If there are “Fellowship Breakers” that derail us off our Heaven-bound journey, there are things that would restore us back to the fellowship with God, even after the fellowship is broken. I would call them “Fellowship Antidotes.” We have to use them as soon as we find ourselves infected with the symptoms of “Fellowship Breakers” in our lives. There are two: repentance and humility. E.g. King David (who committed adultery, murder, and cover up) repented his grave sin in humility and was pardoned by God. His fellowship with God was broken by his sins yet restored through his humble penitence (Psalm 51:10-12): “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (KJV).
One last thing: Most of us think that being in God’s presence is a remote future possibility. However, you don’t have to die to be in the presence of God. In fact, you can experience the presence of God here and now. Every day. Every moment. E.g. Brother Lawrence in the 17th Century: “The Practice of the Presence of God.” He practiced God’s presence daily through faith, love, prayer, and meditation of God’s Word.
Let me remind you once again of the meaning of being “in the presence of God.” It means to appear before God seeing Him face-to-face. It means to enter into God’s presence and look at His face without fear. It means having an audience with God one-on-one. You can do this while you are still living on earth. One way to do it is prayer (cf. Genesis 32:31—Jacob said that he saw God face-to-face).
I am about to offer a challenge for you this morning: 3-3-3. Three minutes a day – three weeks – three things. Starting today, for the next three weeks, spend at least three minutes each day in God’s presence in prayer. Let me suggest three things you do in your prayer: 1. Remember your covenant with God. God is your God and you’re His child. 2. Repent of any sin that has been detrimental to your fellowship with God. Do not leave any sin un-repented. 3. Renew your covenant with God by recommitting yourself to God. Offer your body as a living sacrifice and your members as instrument of righteousness to God (Romans 12:2).
Those who would like to accept this challenge, please arise to your feet. I invite you to say a prayer after me: “Lord, I am eternally grateful / for salvation through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I am also grateful / for the fellowship with You in Jesus. You are my Father / and I am Your child. I am Your friend. If I have been disobedient to you willfully, please forgive my stubbornness and arrogance. I repent of all my sins. I offer myself as a living sacrifice and instruments of righteousness. Use me for your glory and honor. Thanks for Jesus. Thanks for the forgiveness. Thanks for restored fellowship with you. Thanks for keeping me in Your presence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”