Approaching God

Approaching God

Last week, Dave shared an awesome message encouraging us to rise to the challenge. We were reminded that wherever we are, God wants to do incredible things through our simple testimonies and our simple lives. We simply need to learn to trust God more than we doubt ourselves. We need to ask and realize where we are now, who we know, and what we have.

This morning, I felt that God wanted to continue to build on this challenge to rise up as we now go beyond the burning bush experience that Moses had into the lives of the Israelites after their miraculous deliverance from their Egyptian captivity and bondage.

This morning, we’re going to be challenged to reconsider how we approach God as we rise to the challenge.

In some area of all of our lives, we are discontent. Some area of our lives is in that in-between state where we’ve been set free, but yet, we still have not fully experienced what we have been promised. We know what God has promised us, we know what our potential is, and yet, we’re left hoping for these things.

God gave us the promise and His word is always true. Jesus said many times that whatever we ask for in His name and in accordance with His will, we will receive. So, why is there a discrepancy? Why is it that we haven’t received what we’re left hoping for when we know that it is in agreement with His will?

To start searching out some of the reasons for these discrepancies from a Biblical perspective, let’s go back and take a look in Exodus 33 at a people who were on a path together from their freedom to their promises and gather some insight into this.

Exodus 33:7-11
7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

In this short portion of scripture, God reveals three different types of people that were present on this journey into the promises of God. What God wants to reveal this morning is the distinction between how each of these three people groups approached him and what the result of their approach was.

1. Moses

One of these people groups are represented by Moses. Moses would enter the tent of the meeting and enter into the very presence of God and speak with God face to face like good friends. The intention of Moses when he would enter the presence of God, however, was almost always work related. Moses was a task-oriented, Git-R-Done kind of guy. He wanted to meet with God so that he could receive direction and provision in order to lead Israel. When he would meet with God, it was almost always concerning Israel.

When Moses died, this was spoken of him:

Deuteronomy 34:10-12
10 no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

God enabled Moses to do what needed done and through his life, He was able to perform great and awesome marvels that most people thousands of years later, today, know full well.

However, Moses didn’t receive God’s promise. Often, people in this people group have good intentions. They want God to be made known and glorified. However, they are ones who care more about the ministry, more about the work that needs done, than they do about the people. The people, from their perspective, are hindrances and burdens holding back the work of God. They do sincerely care about the people, but their priorities are skewed. Those who lead areas of ministries are highly prone to have this same attitude and mindset.

God still worked in and through the life of Moses powerfully. However, it seemed more intentional than ironic, that because Moses was all about doing, doing, doing, that God denied Moses entry into the promise of God because he didn’t do what he was supposed to do in a single instance. God said it this way:

Deuteronomy 32:48-52
48 the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

What is the way in which Moses and Aaron broke faith with God and did not uphold His holiness? Numbers 20 reveals that in the desert of Zin, the people became very whiny wanting food and drink and began to oppose their leadership. Moses and Aaron, their leaders, inquired of God and He told them to speak to a rock and that it would pour out its water. However, Moses, being a man of action and not just words, struck the rock twice with his staff instead of simply speaking to it. Moses had to do, do, do instead of simply trusting God and speaking.

Jesus encountered people like this such as the young, rich ruler who wanted to do, do, do to gain eternal life, most of the Pharisees, and even Peter at times were this same way.

There are those who are like Moses, all about being busy in the kingdom of God, but missing out on God’s promises because of that same fact.

2. The crowds

When Moses entered into the tent of the meeting and into God’s presence, the people would stand at the entrance of their tents and worship. They are the crowd who observes God’s presence from a distance and knows much about it, but never or rarely enters into a personal experience with it. These are the same ones whose fear crippled them, so they sent Moses into the dark glory cloud so that he could meet with God and tell them what they needed to do when it was God’s desire that they all enter into His presence.

Unfortunately, they are also the very first ones to complain, whine, and moan whenever they are doing what they are supposed to do and things aren’t going the way that they want them to. They are the first ones to accuse, blame, and gossip; especially about their leaders. They are the ones who are usually the first to invoke God’s anger and rage because of their hardened hearts and wrong attitudes.

These are ones who want the blessings and prospering of God’s promise without going through the necessary preparation and maturing process as well as paying the cost that God requires for that promise. These are ones who grow impatient waiting on God’s promises who then create golden calves, eat fresh quail, give birth to Ishmaels, or try to buy the promise of God.

Unfortunately, this is the people group that most of us fall into most of the time. Although they sound pretty rough, most of them do have good intentions and motives. They want to honor and glorify God, but they usually misunderstand how God works and have a skewed perspective of God and therefore have skewed expectations of God. They want to know and do the will of God, but do not want to put forth the effort to build a relationship with God. Their attempts at entering into God’s promise is usually not malicious in intent, but is rather and attempt to cooperate with God with a lack of understanding of God’s ways and plans.

Within the crowds are not simply those who act prematurely and outside of God’s will because of impatience.
Within these crowds are also ones full of hope who simply stand on the sidelines thinking that if it is God’s will, that it will simply happen.

We know that Jesus healed all who came to Him. However, how many were in the crowds that watched Jesus pass by just a few yards away and remained unchanged while He passed them by? The ones healed, forgiven, and set free are the ones like the woman with the issue of blood that crawled through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment or the Roman centurion with great faith. The ones in the crowd standing on the sidelines hoping are not the ones who receive from God. However, it is where most people are, therefore, it is a comfortable and acceptable place to be.

Standing amidst the crowds, however, is not a place of faith. It may be a place of fullness of belief and hope, but it is only when those are put into action that faith exists! It’s only when we begin to step out of the crowds and run toward Jesus that we have true faith. It’s only when we become like Peter and step out of the boat and onto the stormy water that we experience the miracles.

The ones in the crowd are rarely the ones to receive God’s promises.

3. Joshua

Lastly, we have Joshua. Joshua was a young aide of Moses who would enter into the tent of meeting with Moses, but would stay in the presence of God long after Moses left. From a young age, he had a hunger and a thirst to know God and simply to be with God. Joshua was one that spied out the promises of God and said, “Let’s go and take it!” Joshua was the only one of his generation of Israelites who did not die before entering into God’s promises. In fact, Joshua was the one chosen and commissioned to take the place of Moses and to lead Israel into their promises to defeat the enemies who were possessing it until their arrival.

Joshua was one who was troubled when two of Israel’s elders received the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy despite their disobedience as they remained in camp instead of going to the tent of meeting like they were supposed to. Joshua knew that blessing comes from obedience and obedience comes with sacrifice. He knew that we needed to be grown and matured through process before we are able to possess God’s promises and have them be a blessing to us.

Joshua knew God personally. He knew how God worked, what His character was like, what He was capable of doing, and how to cooperate with Him to achieve victory! Joshua spent significant amounts of time with God personally throughout his entire life, he built a personal relationship with God.

Joshua not only received God’s promises, but he also lead others into them as well.

This morning, which people group do you identify with? Are you just a git-er-done person like Moses who goes to God just to receive what you need when you need it? Or are you perhaps one hanging out in the crowds on the sidelines with your fingers crossed just hoping that God will do something? Or perhaps are you a Joshua who personally experiences the presence of God and leads others into it as well? The difference is all in how we approach God!

Hebrews 11:1;6
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Just these two verses of scripture reveal quite a bit about how we are to approach God.

First of all, we must approach God with faith and certainty. If we are uncertain of God’s existence, or His willingness to uphold his word, or our ability to receive His promises, then we won’t receive a thing from God.

We also see that we must believe that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him. That means that we must be a people of persistence and perseverance. Just because we approach God and do not receive from Him right away doesn’t mean that we will never receive from Him. We must persevere and persist and continue to earnestly and sincerely seek Him.

Evidence that faith is so critical is also seen here:

Mark 6:1-6
6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Not only did they not approach Jesus correctly because of their lack of faith, but we also see that they were actually offended by Him. If there is something in our lives that has caused us to be offended by God, we must get rid of that offense before we can correctly approach God and receive anything from Him!

We also must approach God with confidence!

1 John 5:14-15
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Now one of the issues that Israel dealt with was the fact that they feared God because of their sin. They knew just how holy and perfect God was and just how sinful and unworthy they were. In fact, every person who entered into God’s presence experienced this fear. It is a good and healthy thing to possess.

However, if fear of God paralyzes us and keeps us distanced from Him as it did to Israel, then we fail to understand God. Whenever we enter God’s presence, God purifies and cleanses us so that we can stand in His presence and live. For us, it is because of Jesus that we can have confidence as we approach God. We do not need to be paralyzed by fear, but emboldened by His grace and mercy!

Hebrews 4:13-16
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This morning, I encourage you to bring to mind that area of your life where you are still waiting in hope for God’s promise to pass. This morning, let’s commit to be Joshua’s in our generation; to be ones who intentionally prioritize spending time building our relationship with God. Let us be ones who confidently and persistently approach God with fullness of faith until we enter into God’s promises and lead others to do the same!