ALWAYS BEING IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 APRIL 1992
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Do you consider yourself to be in the presence of God?
I pray so!
But what about when you leave here today – will you continue to be in the presence of God?
Again, I pray so!
Now, what about the rest of the week? Will you always be in the presence of God?
And once again, I pray that each of us would be.
But all too often, we let the cares of our everyday life distract us, and then we have a tendency to forget that God is with us.
We do this because He is not physically visible to us in bodily form.
If we could see God every minute of the day, do you think we would be as likely to do many of the things we do, or to say the things we say?
But the apostle Paul reminds us that God’s presence can indeed be seen.
Note Romans 1:18-21 –
18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19. because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
21. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
When we consider the way we live, even as church members, this sounds scary, doesn't it?
When we think of our own brain function, or for that matter, the way our whole body works, it is truly amazing, isn’t it?
But what about the stars in the sky, or the heat we get from the sun or the way everything works together; doesn't it really tell us that it didn't all happen by chance?
Of course it does.
If we forget about God directly, everything around us should remind us of His presence.
God’s presence is indeed all around us; but are we always spiritually in His presence?
We can be, if we truly set our heart and soul upon doing so.
In Acts 5:12 and following, we have a series of occurrences that speak of those who are in the presence of God and of those who are not.
We can learn much from what is presented to us:
12. And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico.
Note the last part of this verse: "…they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico."
The “one accord” that they had was in Jesus Christ.
They were in the presence of God.
And that one accord – that unity of spirit, that love and. compassion of the Lord – was shown to all the people in the court of the temple.
To put it in more modern terms, the people of the church gave the entire community a true sense of the spirit of unity in Christ. They did everything in the will of God. No one did anything for their own gain, or their own position.
Now, how did the people react?
13. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.
Because these apostles were in one accord with Christ, the presence of the Lord gave them authority, and that authority was a threat to the hierarchy of the Temple; thus none of them would associate with the apostles, lest they lose favor with their fellow leaders.
You cannot compromise the ways of God.
But the believing people knew the difference.
They knew who were hypocrites, and who were true believers.
That's why they had high esteem for the apostles, and didn't pay attention to the falseness of the Temple leaders.
And I know with absolute certainty that the more a church is in unity with God, the more we will see the miracles.
14. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number;
15. to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.
16. And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed.
Note that it doesn't say that “some” were being healed, or that “some said” they were healed, as we so often hear today from some circles of the church.
We are told that all were being healed.
And the multitudes that were coming to Christ were also being healed of their sins and becoming saved into everlasting life.
Also remember that a spiritual healing is even more of a miracle than a physical healing.
These things were happening because they were always in the presence of God.
And they will continue to happen, if we also are consistently in the presence of God.
So now what do you suppose the Temple leaders did when they saw all this happening?
They should have been rejoicing and praising God; but did they?
17. But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy;
18. and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail.
Unfortunately, all too much of this still goes on in the churches today.
They may not throw the true spiritually sensitive people in jail, but they sure rise up against them and try to hinder their ministry. And they do it out of jealousy, or because they want to show that they have power, too.
But know for certain, that whatever power these people think they have, it is not from God, but from Satan; and they will lose.
The people of God always win, even if we die.
Rejoice in that, and don't worry about the evil people in this world. Just remain in the presence of God.
Note what happened after the apostles were thrown in jail:
19. But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said,
20. "Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life."
The lesson for all of us is that we are not to let these little setbacks
discourage us; we are to continue to keep ourselves in the presence of the Lord
through our faith in Him.
And we are to go right back to doing what we know the Lord desires us to do, and not fear those who work against God – no matter what they threaten us with.
21. And upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates had come, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought.
22. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned, and reported back,
23. saying, "We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside."
God will always bless those of us who continually stand in His presence, and He will confound those who don't.
All we have to do is continue to trust in Him, for God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).
8. “And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”
So now what is happening to the temple leaders, and what are they going to do?
24. Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this.
25. But someone came and reported to them, "Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!"
26. Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, lest they should be stoned).
Do you see the way the Lord protects His own, and how He sets fear in the hearts of those who work against Him?
And know for certain that He continues to do the same with us today.
Not that we are always fully protected, for even these apostles got flogged for speaking the truth; but that our truth is always protected.
27. And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them,
28. saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
Don't you find it interesting how their own guilt convicts them? They know that Jesus' blood is already upon their hands.
They also seem to have forgotten that they put the apostles in jail and about how they got out; and they don't even try to put them back.
29. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, "We must obey God rather than men.
30. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.
31. "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
32. "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
When we are always in the presence of God, miracles happen.
If Peter and the other apostles had tried to make an appointment with the Council and the high priest, they most likely would not have been granted such an audience.
But here, God not only gives them an opportunity to witness of and for Him; He gives them the power and opportunity to rebuke them for what they have done.
Even when Jesus can no longer be seen, the power and authority of God can be plainly seen.
The closer we come to God, the more evident this becomes.
Christians, don't you think it’s time we begin to fully live up to the name the Lord has given us, and consider that always being in the presence of God is where we should be?
If we do this, we can and will make a positive difference in this world, now and forevermore.
Your Comments are welcome
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