Unwrapped: Presence

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Unwrapped” where we are unwrapping some of the greatest Christmas gifts that God freely offers us. All too often, we unwrap a part of God’s gift of salvation and see the “get out of hell” and “forgiveness of sin” features and are satisfied enough there. However, God’s desire is that we spend our lifetime unwrapping and fully exploring all of the benefits of this gift of salvation!

God encourages us to check out all of the many features of His gift of salvation, not just the obvious ones. He doesn’t want us to miss out on anything that He has given us!

Psalm 103:2
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits

So far, we unwrapped God’s gifts of peace, joy, and grace. This morning, we’re unwrapping God’s gift of His Presence. God’s desire from the very beginning of creation was that He would be with mankind. Before the consequences of their sin was put into effect, Adam and Eve had a friendship with God just like you or I do. In fact, even in their sin, God still pursued a relationship with them. God was found physically walking in the garden with Adam and Eve just hanging out and living life together. Because of sin, however, there became a separation in the relationship between God and man.

Sin simply had to be dealt with! God gave the law as a temporary way of dealing with it. The law reveals to us just how serious our sin is and just how high the cost of it truly is; death. However, God had a far better and more permanent plan for sin. The law was simply a foreshadowing of what was coming ahead. All of the feasts, festivals, and laws found in the Old Testament were a reminder of what God was going to do in the future. God had a plan to forge a way of atonement and forgiveness for sin and Christmas was the beginning of its unveiling.

This unveiling of God’s plan began long before Christmas morning. God sent prophets to proclaim this coming salvation. We turn now to Isaiah who prophesied much about God’s plan of salvation. Here in Isaiah chapter 7, God was speaking to Ahaz, the king of Judah, as well as the prophet Isaiah and reminded him that his kingdom would not be overcome by the enemies that he feared most; Aram and Ephraim.

Isaiah 7:9-14
9b If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’”
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Of course, God’s word never fails, it always comes to pass! About 700 years later, we find the fulfillment of this word as this sign from God happened.

Matthew 1:18-23
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

God with us – what an amazing gift and promise! What an amazing sign; a virgin birth! Of course, at Christmas, we remember and celebrate this reality. Jesus, fully man and fully God, dwelling with mankind. The very presence of God walking about His creation once again. Immanuel, God with us.

This prophetic word given to us by Isaiah is a promise of God which reaches far beyond that manger scene that we recall a few thousand years ago, though. We don’t often consider this amazing reality, but God still dwells among us. Jesus explained this a bit further when He was reminding His disciples about His upcoming death and resurrection:

John 14:15-20
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Jesus said that He would send those who believe in Him, evidenced by obeying His commands, the Holy Spirit. He explained that the Holy Spirit would live with us and in us. He explained how the Holy Spirit would enable us to realize that His very Presence dwells within us. How much more can this prophetic word of God with us be realized than to have God, Himself, dwelling within us? After His death and resurrection, Jesus reminded them again of this promise:

Acts 1:3-8
3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit, the very Presence of God living within us – Immanuel! Isaiah’s prophecy was not only fulfilled in the virgin birth of Jesus, but is continued from the day of Pentecost until the day that Jesus returns again! Paul reminds us of this powerful reality:

Romans 8:7-11
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

The same Spirit who rose Jesus from the dead is living in you! Immanuel, God with us! It is one thing to have God living with us in the flesh – Jesus. To be able to ask Him questions and have Him minister His healing and deliverance personally with you in the flesh is simply amazing. However, Jesus considered it better that He physically leave His disciples and instead fill them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus considered it better to have His Presence dwelling within each of us than to have Him with us in the flesh.

John 16:7
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Of course, we’re encouraged not only to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to continue to be filled with His Presence!

Ephesians 5:15-20
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to take full advantage of every opportunity, especially the opportunity to be filled with the Spirit! This awesome gift is something that we all too often take for granted. Jesus did not begin His ministry until the Holy Spirit filled Him while He was being water baptized by John (Matthew 3). After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he begged God not to take His Holy Spirit from him and not to take His Presence from him (Psalm 51). Moses refused to lead God’s people into His promised land without the Presence of God.

We should also be a people desperate for the gift of the Presence of God, made possible by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We, too, should demand that God’s Presence dwell within us and go with us wherever we go. After all, it is Him alone that makes us any different from anyone else. It is the Spirit alone at work in our lives, and nothing that we can do on our own, that makes us any different and sets us apart as His own. Listen to this conversation between God and Moses about this very concern.

Exodus 33:12-20
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Exodus 34:29-35
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

This morning, let’s unwrap the gift of God’s Presence. Let’s be ones like Moses and David who guard and maintain the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit within us; refusing to go on without it! Let’s be ones like Moses who shine bright the glory of God to those around us. If the glory of God shone that brightly after spending time in His Presence, then how much greater should we shine having that same Presence of God dwelling within us? Let your light shine bright for all the world to see the glory of God!