“God's Continual Presence”
Hello, and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Do you remember those times, while playing outside, you would watch your shadow? As you stood still, walked down the street or ran across the yard, the sun would project your image onto the ground, a building or some other surface. Well, there was one thing constant about your shadow. It went with you everywhere. You could not escape from it, as it was always present. Well, today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will consider, from the Bible, what a spiritual shadow looks like. It is something that comes from God, is ever present and provides His reassuring peace. As you can imagine, I am referring to God's Holy Spirit. As His children, we have the privilege of experiencing that presence everywhere we go. The Lord is always with us and He will never leave nor forsake us. The Spirit helps us in our prayer life. He guides us in our daily walk. He also strengthens us in our relationship with the Lord. Oh, there are many things we learn from the Bible about God's Spirit. However, we do not have enough time to study them all today. I do want to emphasize, however, the fact that the Spirit is God's gift, given to those who are His children, and He is our daily reminder of God's continual presence. Hopefully this lesson will bless you spiritually and even inspire you to learn more about the Holy Spirit. I invite you now to stay tuned to this station as we open up our Bibles and study the lesson entitled “God's Continual Presence.”
Almost 80 years ago, in the 1940s, a gospel song was written with the title “There's an All Seeing Eye Watching You;” and perhaps some of you remember singing that song. But the song highlights the fact, God is always watching us. He sees us and He knows what is going on. He sees where we go and what we do, and nothing escapes His notice. Yes, God sees all and knows all. Now, obviously there are two ways to interpret that. First of all, some live in fear of those words. They are afraid God is out to get them if they mess up or do something wrong. They feel as if they have no freedom to do what they really want to do because they can never escape God's presence. And when they mess up, they fear God will punish them because they did. But then on the other hand, others live by faith in those words. They feel God's hand of continual protection and guidance in their life, and they are comforted by that. There is a sense of security in knowing God will provide exactly what is needed. God's love and presence is a daily source of blessing and encouragement. Now, depending upon our view of God, we are either on one side or the other of that fence. In other words, do we see God as the ultimate eye-in-the-sky, who is trying to get us, trying to watch out for something that we do that is not quite right and then punish us for it, or do we see God as the One who faithfully loves us, whose continual presence is in our life and He watches over us in a good and loving fashion? Well, it really comes down to a matter of fear or a matter of faith. Oh, the Bible is filled with many statements and many examples of God's loving presence in people's lives. They remind one of a thoughtful father, who with kindness and compassion continually blesses and provides for his children. It is the view that we have in the Bible that that God loves us more than He wants to punish us. The Bible shows us a picture of God, who is filled with grace and with faithfulness. He is patient and understanding and He loves us in ways that we will never know, this side of eternity. Yes, the Lord wants us to know Him as our compassionate, kind and loving Father. For the next few minutes, in our lesson today, I want us to look at some of those passages that remind us of God's continual presence, and how that blesses us on a regular basis. I want us to notice how, through His presence, we are comforted and we are assured that God loves us in ways that we don't even know. We begin with a couple of passages in the Old Testament. The first one is Psalm number 139. Oh, we won't take time to read the entire passage, but I want us to notice verses 7 through 12. The Psalmist writes, < Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.> The Psalmist knew he could never escape God's presence, and that was okay with him. He felt safe in knowing that God was always with him. If he went up into the heavens, he knew God would be there. If he went to the deepest part of the sea, God's presence would meet him there. If he went to the far side of wherever it was, God was already there. Then he makes that statement, that even in the darkest of night it will be nothing but light to You. Yes, the psalmist was comforted in knowing God's presence was always with him. Here's another Psalm, number 121. This Psalm, along with about 14 others, are called the “Psalms of Ascent,” and they were written and sung by people traveling up to the city of Jerusalem to worship God. Let's read Psalm 121. <I lift up my eyes to the hills -from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip -He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you -the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm -He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and your going, both now and forevermore.> When the psalmist wrote these words, and as he and others sang them, they were traveling up to Jerusalem. And no doubt, they would have to on occasion spend the night along the road; but yet, God's hand was watching over them. His presence never left them, and His presence was never farther than their right hand. And God's shade was over them, and He protected them in the uncertainties of their travel. And when they would lay down to sleep, then God would not sleep. He would not slumber, but He continued to provide for them, in all of their going out and their coming in. Oftentimes, I consider how God watches over my life, and I think about the time when I lay down to sleep. And I go to sleep knowing that God is with me, and I wake up, some eight hours later, knowing that indeed God provided for me in every minute of every hour that I was asleep. God allowed me to breathe and to stay alive, and now I am able to embrace a new day. And even though I am asleep, God is not sleeping. He is taking care of me and He is watching over me, throughout the night. Yes, God's presence in our life is sometimes taken for granted, and yet we know He is always there. In the New Testament we find several examples of the Lords abiding presence. Before Jesus’ earthly ministry came to an end, before He went back to His heavenly Father, He shared a very important message with His disciples, and that message is found in John chapter 14. No doubt, they were unsure what would happen, as Jesus went away. What would they do when they encountered some obstacles or problems they did not know how to deal with, or had been trained to experience or overcome? But Jesus reassured them that He would be with them and everything would be okay. In John 14, He told them God's Spirit would be with them, that God's Spirit would be God's representative in those uncertain times. God's Spirit would teach them and comfort them and guide them; and there would be nothing to fear, as everything would be fully prepared for their future. And then, through God's Spirit, Jesus would continually be with them, also; and perhaps, most of all, they would experience His peace. Jesus told them these words in John 14 verse 27. <”Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”> Yes, in the midst of their uncertainty or fear, in regards to what might happen in the future, Jesus said, “My peace will be with you.” It's not a temporary peace, that some people of the world might experience from time to time, but, “My peace will be with you.” My peace will watch over you. My peace will give you some kind of reassurance that you could not have otherwise. We read later on, in the New Testament, that it is a peace that passes all understanding. Jesus gave His disciples another word of reassurance in Matthew chapter 28. Perhaps you recall the, what we say is, the Great Commission, Jesus gave to His disciples. At the end of chapter 28, in verses 18 and 19, He tells them to go out and to teach and to baptize and make disciples of all nations. And that was the mission on which they were sent. Well, right after that, in verse 20, Jesus concludes with these words: <”And surely I am with you to the very end of the age.”> To the end of the age, to the end of time, to the end of the disciples life, to the end of their mission, Jesus said, “I will be with you.” And no doubt, they needed that reassurance. They needed the confidence to go out into the world and to continue their work, knowing full well God was with them through the presence of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Oh, those promises of God's presence continue in our lives today. When we become a child of God, we have the assurance that God's Holy Spirit lives in us. In fact, He blesses us in some of these very same ways, we have just noticed. But ultimately, God's Spirit is a reminder that God will never leave us and He will never forsake us. With those things in mind, I want us to ask three questions about God's Holy Spirit, and then obviously go to the Bible to find those answers. And while we will look at several passages of Scripture here, in the New Testament, there are many others which we would consider, and I hope that you can consider them on your own. Here is the first question. How do we receive God's loving presence into our lives? The story is recounted for us, in Acts chapter 2. On the day of Pentecost, when thousands of people had come to Jerusalem to worship God and to celebrate what is called the day of Pentecost, the apostles were there as well. One of them, by the name of Peter, stood up in front of all of those people and he began to tell what had happened in the past. He reminded the people how the prophets of old foretold about One coming by the name of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, and He would come and bring about change and offer a new way of life to everyone. And indeed, the Messiah did come, in the form of Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son. But then Peter pointed out the fact, these very ones to whom he was speaking rejected Jesus. They turned their back on Him and His message, and they were the very ones who cried out for Jesus to be put to death. And in fact, that is exactly what happened. He was crucified on a cross. After hearing those things, the people immediately recognized that they had messed up. They were guilty of rejecting God's one and only Son. And they very sincerely asked the question, “What shall we do?” In verse 37, of that 2nd chapter, they wanted to know, from Peter, where do we go from here? How do we make amends for what we have done in the past? And Peter gave them an answer; and that answer is found in the next verse, verse 38. He said, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins -and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter told them, turn away from your sin of the past. Don't, don't reject Jesus any longer; and then, be baptized so your sin can be forgiven and washed away. And then when that happens, you can receive the promise of the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. Obey the command to repent and be baptized and then receive the promise that God gives to you. And on that day, some 3000 people did just that. 3000 people repented and were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that is something that we are to consider and do today, if we want to receive God's Spirit into our life. Turn away from the past life, be baptized into Jesus, and then receive God's indwelling Spirit as His promise. The apostle Paul reminded a group of Christians, in the city of Corinth, of God's abiding presence. Notice these words, in 1st Corinthians chapter 3, verse 16. <Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst.> Prior to this, the people had to come into Jerusalem and make sacrifices for their sin. And there was a priest there, outside of the temple, who received those sacrifices on a daily basis; and he had to do that day after day. But the people could not have that direct access to God, it was only the priest who could go into the temple, and a place called the Holy of Holies, where he could experience God's presence. But now, because these Christians in Corinth were in Christ, because they were a part of God's family, because they had turned away from their sin and had been baptized into Jesus, then Paul reminded them that God's Spirit already dwelled in them. They had God's Spirit and they themselves were the temple where God could come and reside. Again, that is something important for us to know, that God's Spirit dwells in our midst. Well, here is a second question for us to consider. What are some ways in which God's Spirit blesses me? Oh, there are many passages of Scripture we could refer to, to find that answer, but there is one, in particular, I believe summarizes the whole thing about blessing us. It is the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 13 and 14. <You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession -to the praise of His glory.> Oh, there are many things which deserve our attention in those two verses, but we notice Paul writes to those who are included in Christ. You are in Christ. You are a part of God's a family when you obey the gospel of your salvation. And when you did that, you are marked with a seal. God put His identification on you. And He says, “That is the promised Holy Spirit.” And the Holy Spirit lives within you as a deposit or as a down payment on something that will happen in the future. And that down payment, or that deposit, is a guarantee of something greater that will come; and that is an inheritance with God, Himself, as you belong to Him. What an amazing passage of Scripture, the blessing of being in Christ and have the Holy Spirit in us that promises us an even greater life in the future. Here is one final thing for us to consider. Is there really a need for the Holy Spirit to live within me? Those who have a strong relationship with the Lord and who are a part of His family would probably say, “Absolutely, yes!” They might even offer their own personal example and say something like, “I don't know how I could live without God's presence in my life.” Oh, oftentimes I wonder how I could make it in this world without God. With all of the problems and uncertainties and trials that come my way, how can I survive if God is not with me? It reminds me of the great blessing that God gives to us, of His abiding presence. Notice these words from Hebrews 13, verses 5 and 6: <God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; what can man do to me?”> Those words were spoken by God to Joshua, as he led the people into the Promised Land. But those words are still true for us today. God will never leave me. He will never forsake me. And the same is true with you, if you have the Holy Spirit living and dwelling within you. We receive that Holy Spirit when we become a part of God's family; and we noticed that in Acts chapter 2, a moment ago. When we trust and obey His commands, then we receive the promise of God's Holy Spirit; and that Holy Spirit is a constant and daily reminder of who we are and to Whom we belong. To those who have never received the Holy Spirit, I'm going to conclude by offering three questions for you to consider. How would my life be different if God's Spirit lived in me? How could God's presence guide me in a new and better direction? What would it mean for me to have His seal of approval? If you are not a part of God's family today, if you do not have God's Spirit living within you, consider very carefully how you would answer those questions; and receive the salvation of the Lord. And if you already have God's Spirit living within you, then praise God for that; and recognize how He continues to be with you. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you, and you can enjoy God's presence in your life each and every day.
**BONUS VIDEO CLIP
Does your life sometimes look like this? Oh, maybe your life is filled with all kinds of confusion and chaos. It seems that your life is going one way and you're trying to go another, and it's hard to keep up. We think about all of the traffic and all of the parking lots and all of the highways. And it seems that, oftentimes, those drivers don't know for sure where they are going and they miss parking places, or they miss exits or the turns here or the turns there. And then there are some drivers who, it seems, are always in a hurry. They are trying to get somewhere where they currently are not. And then on other occasions, some drivers may not even know for sure where they are going. Yes, sometimes that describes our life, a life filled with confusion and chaos. But yet, as God's children we know that He entrusts to us His Holy Spirit. His presence is always with us, and the Holy Spirit guides us and directs us in the way we need to go. The Holy Spirit reminds us that God will never leave us and He will never forsake us, that God is continually with us. And that's encouraging to know, isn't it! When we are overcome by the chaos and confusion this world presents, we know that God is there. The Holy Spirit guides us and directs us and therefore we can be at peace. Even though we might be in a hurry, even though we might be confused from time to time, God allows His Spirit to be that continual and abiding presence in our life. My prayer for you, today, is that you will be filled up with God's Spirit, and put your trust and reliance in Him, in the midst of all of the confusion in this world.
Thank you for spending the last few minutes with us. It truly is good to know God's presence is always with us through His Holy Spirit. If you are interested in viewing or listening to this message, again, you can do so through our website, keytothekingdom.com. There are many other lessons there, as well, and they are all accessible without any charge or obligation. While on the website, take a minute to look at some of the other things offered. Short inspiring videos, along with one minute messages, might provide a source of daily encouragement. Our basic beliefs, other teaching material and news about our efforts in India are also available. You might also consider sending me an email or calling the number on the screen to leave a message. If you have not downloaded “Key to the Kingdom” onto your smart-phone, I hope you will do so. It is free and provides direct access to our website. We also try to make good use of Facebook®. Find and “like” us there, and you will receive weekly devotional thoughts every Sunday night. We believe this is a good way to stay connected with you, and with many others, through social media. Each lesson presented here on television is designed to help strengthen you in your walk with the Lord. I trust this one has done just that. Thank you again for being our guest today. I am grateful you took time to watch this week's episode; and hopefully you will tune in again next time, as we continue to study the Bible, on “Key to the Kingdom.”