Drawing Near To God
CCCAG August 27th, 2017
Scripture- Exodus 20-18-21
Children and Santa Clause
Which of us men here have had the experience of going Christmas shopping at a mall with your family? As a father of young girls, I found out very early that the only reason I am there is to deal with the holiday traffic and to carry their bags while I sit outside the store with the other men and people watch.
On one of these outings to the mall, my ladies were in a store looking at clothes, and I was sitting on the bench outside watching the kids line up outside the area set aside for Santa’s village. Most of the kids were excited about seeing Santa. They are seeing all the flashy things about Christmas- the elves, the sleigh, the Christmas tree and as they get closer they are getting more and more excited about telling Santa all of wishes and desires for the best and most sought-after gifts that Christmas season.
The excitement and volume of the children got louder and louder as they got closer and closer to being able to sit in Santa’s lap. Their necks would be craning to catch a glimpse of him behind the curtain and wiggling in anticipation.
Then the moment came- the curtain was pulled aside, and they saw Santa sitting in his high-backed chair with his arms extended toward them and letting out a huge barrel laugh of “Ho Ho Ho!”.
For about 80% of those little kids, that moment turned from anticipation to absolute terror. Many ran behind their parents. If they were being held, they would try to crawl over the back of their parent’s shoulders to get away from this huge, strangely dressed man with the big booming voice.
I even saw a few kids pushing their parents forward saying, “You tell Santa what I want. I’m not going up there!”
When I started studying the scripture we are going to look at today it reminded me of kids in line to see Santa-
• They had an idea of what Santa was, but not who he was
• They understood the benefits of knowing him- he gave presents! But they wanted nothing to do with him on a personal level.
• Some of those children still wanted the gifts, but wanted someone else to ask for them.
That is the crux of the biblical account we will be reading today.
The background for today’s message is that God has just spoken the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments was God holding out His arms to His children and asking them to come up into His lap and get to know Him. The commandments are God saying, “This is who I am at the deepest level, now come to me and experience me in all of my fullness”
The Hebrews acted like the children in the mall in this encounter with God, and it’s with this thought in mind that I want to read Exodus 20:18-21.
Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV)
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
Today’s scripture summarizes the bible’s message- a humanity that continually resists the call of God to draw near, and eventually God providing the solution to that situation in the person of Jesus Christ.
This morning we are going to explore the reasons that we resist drawing near to God, and then a few of the things we do to avoid it, and finally God’s solution to this problem.
So let’s begin with the
I. Reasons we are afraid of intimacy with God
There are two kinds of fear- one that causes you to run away from something, and one that causes you to face or deal with something or someone carefully.
My grandfather discovered early on that I had a fear of heights, which is actually a fear of falling. So every chance he got when we were in the woods, or hiking to find a fishing spot, he would make me look over a cliff and stand there and deal with my fear. He told me that fear is not a bad thing, fear is fine as long as you face it and overcome it, and that is what being a man is all about.
I carried that idea with me when I got a job at Great America, they asked where I wanted to work.
I could have done the grounds keeping- they had the best after parties, which was very attractive to a 18 year old kid
I could have done games, they had a lot of the good looking girls, another thing attractive to a young man.
I could have done food- I loved to eat, so that was attractive also.
But I chose rides, and in fact asked for the tallest rides and coasters to work on.
The man interviewing me was surprised and said most people avoid working the tall rides because they are afraid of heights. I said, “I’m terrified of heights, that’s why I want to be there so I face my fear.”
That’s a young man’s bravado talking, but it was a continuation of my grandfather’s lesson about fear.
Most people can’t face their fears like that.
If I say the words spider, most people shudder.
If I say the word snakes, most people cringe.
If I say there is a mouse running between the chairs right now, some will jumped on their chairs.
This is how people, and even those who have surrendered to Jesus, treat God.
They see the lightening and cringe.
They hear the thunder and cower.
They feel the weight of HIS presence, and run.
The fear Moses is talking about here is not a fear that makes you run, it’s a fear that makes you be careful and prepare.
Part of firefighting training is learning ladders, and you learn ladders by raising an extension ladder and climbing up 3 ½ stories, while carrying another ladder to the roof, setting it on the roof, climbing up the roof ladder to the peak of the roof, and then taking everything back down. All of this is done with full gear, weight about 40-50 pounds.
My first time up that ladder, I was shaking. I got to the top by just focusing on grabbing the next rung. I very slowly and carefully transitioned from the extension ladder to the roof ladder. Then I was at the top of the roof, then the next team member comes up and passes you on the ladder, meaning you have to lean way over to let them get pass you, and then climb back down.
I got to the bottom of the roof ladder and then have to transition to the extension ladder for the 3 ½ story climb down and just froze. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to make the transition without loosing my grip and falling. The instructor at the peak of the roof talked me through it and I was able to complete the task, and never had another problem with the ladders because now I knew what to do and had confidence in the procedures I had to follow to be safe while respecting the potential danger of working at heights.
This is the kind of fear that Moses is referring to here in Exodus. It’s a moment of pause that makes you really think about what you are about to do. It’s a fear that makes you be careful so that you don’t get hurt or cause hurt to others.
But too many people have the other, spiritually unhealthy and wrong fear reaction when it comes to God, and usually it’s for two reasons.
B. Guilt- they know that they have sinned and fear God’s reaction.
So they avoid God or anything that has to do with God. I compare it to a child doing something wrong, and the mother saying, “Just wait until your father gets home!”
Anyone ever experience that? Instead of a normal reaction of being happy to see Dad come home from work, you are filled with fear because you know you have done something wrong and now dad is the judge, and the judge’s job is to punish wrongdoing.
That’s part of what is happening hear in Exodus- The people are guilty of breaking these laws that God just thundered at them, perhaps even that very day, so their reaction is to run. Moses pleads with them to come close- that God wants to “test them”.
What test is God demanding?
God wants them to come close and let the fire of HIS presence to reveal in them the reason for their fear, and that is their-
C. Love of sin- the second reason people are afraid of God
Jesus HIMself boiled down the entire problem with all humanity like this-
Joh 3:19-20 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
We read the words of Jesus and think- Doesn’t this summarize what it means to be human? Think about all the evil, all the bad, all the hurt, all the pain, all the selfishness that we have within us, and it makes perfect sense when you consider it’s all because we love our pet sin or sins more than we love the truth or more than we love God.
WE avoid intimacy with our Father for intimacy with a thing. It’s like saying, “I want a McDonald’s Burger, and not a Lobster and Steak dinner.”
Let that sink in as now at the ways that people-
II. Ways we avoid intimacy with God
Sin is what prevents us from having true intimacy with God. In the Hebrew mindset at this point of their history they defined sin as man’s attempt to avoid intimacy with God through focusing on something created instead on the creator.
That definition still fits us today.
Sin is focusing on what this world has to offer you for pleasure, fulfillment, or security, instead of focusing on what God has already provided for you in HIS Kingdom.
WE focus in what the devil is peddling instead of what God has already purchased for us.
WE buy the lie that there is something that is found outside of an infinite God that will fulfill us more than anything HE has provided or offered to give us.
For us in the church, one of the ways we avoid true intimacy with God is that we chose religion over relationship.
Let me show that to you here in the scripture we read
Exo 20:18-21 …they stood far off (19) and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (20) Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (21) The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Religion is sending a Moses to meet with God for you.
Religions places a man or woman between you and God.
Religion places ritual before relationship
Religion puts the created before the creator
Religion puts dead works before living presence
Religion gives you a bunch of Dos and don’ts before what Jesus said is done.
Let me illustrate this with an uncomfortable truth-
Can I ask you a question? Why are we shocked when pastor sins?
I’ve been in the ministry since 1999. Since then, I have been around some of the biggest names in Christianity, particularly within our fellowship. People that many of us would travel hundreds of miles to sit under their teaching and experience God as they lead worship or preach the Word.
Do you know what I found in every single one of them when the lights were off, the stage was empty, and now they were sitting along with me and the other local church leaders?
I saw a sinner saved by grace.
I saw a man or a woman that needed Jesus even more today than they did yesterday.
I saw a man or a woman that as close as they were to God, and no matter how much of God’s presence and anointing flowed through them, they would tell you that they needed more and more of God’s grace to even draw breath much less preach to thousands.
I had one tell me the closer you get to the source of a light, the brighter it appears. Our Christian life is like driving on a dark highway toward a large city. You see lights in the distance that get brighter as you get closer, until everything is revealed as the light becomes almost blinding.
So I ask again, why are we surprised when we discover that anyone who holds a position of ministry in the Kingdom of God are human?
Religion would tell you to treat me or any other pastor like Israel is treating Moses- you go and spend time with God, you tell us what He has to say, You sacrifice for the Kingdom, and then come back and tell us what to do.
Dead Religion is why America is no longer the worldwide seat of Christianity. The revivals in the 90’s were probably God’s last attempt to get America on it’s knees in repentance and praying for revival.
The lampstand of Christianity has moved off of our shores and probably resides in Asia now among the Chinese and Koreans (ever wonder why there is so much threat of destruction all the sudden on South Korea). Let that sink in for minute. People are sending missionaries to us.
It’s because many who call themselves Christians have traded a vital relationship with Jesus Christ for a shallow Sunday experience that they forget about 30 seconds after they walk out the door.
I’m going to tell it to you straight- if you are depending on a Moses, or a man or a woman to gain God’s favor you are doomed.
That brings us to our last point- sinful man who loves his religion but shuns a relationship will ALWAYS run from a true encounter with God.
That is why Jesus is the only way
III. Jesus is the answer to all of this
Our fallen sinful nature says Run from God
Jesus says let me bring you to God
Our fallen sinful nature says take what you want in life if it makes you happy
Jesus says I give you all I have
Our fallen nature says run and hide
Jesus says come and see.
But you cannot do that in your own strength, that’s why God allows His very essence, the Holy Spirit to come and weigh heavy in your heart, so that you can use HIS power to turn from the insanity that you are currently experiencing.
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result. Jesus wants to take you out of that self destructive cycle that you have been in for years, throw it away, and have you be
A. Born again
Jesus said that flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, but that a person must be born again Spiritually. What HE was saying is
You can’t trust religion
You can’t trust a pastor, priest, Iman, or any other religious leader to save you.
All will appear at the judgement seat- and you will stand there alone. The bible says that God will bring every deed into judgment, whether good or evil. God’s fire will test your works, and anything done without the leading and empowering of God will burn up and unless you have surrendered to Jesus and turned your will, your soul, and your life over to HIM, you will be standing in an ash heap waiting for the Father to pronounce HIS judgement.
That is why Jesus emphatically says, “You must be born again”
If you surrender to Jesus, HE will give you a
B. New Heart- one that yearns after God and His will
C. New Spirit- one that hates sin and loves righteousness
D. New attitudes (beatitude series following 10 Commandments)