Pulpit Today Sermon
Robert D. Pace
Can You Walk With God?
Exodus 40:17‑19; 33–34
Years ago, cultural anthropologists understood that man’s basic desire is to worship whatever he perceives to be his “god.” But more recently, these anthropologists discovered another equally important fact. Their research has revealed that humans not only desire to worship their god but we have an innate desire to enter their presence and interact with him. That’s amazing, because I doubt that this discovery emerged from anthropologists that wanted to confirm the Bible. But incredibly enough, they stumbled upon this divine truth: Humans have a predisposition to both know God and fellowship with him.
And there is a reason for this: As creatures “created in God’s image,” it’s what brings wholeness. Waking with God and living in his presence bring fullness of being.
Let me show you what’s available for those that maintain a living relationship with God. They have access to God’s guidance, goodness, protection, and answers to prayer. And don’t overlook the inner blessings to the soul: God provides us with love, joy, peace, and soundness of mind. Do you see how important this is? The issues of life would overwhelm us without access to these benefits.
Here’s what God wants us to understand about walking with him and enjoying his presence: The presence of God upon a Christian is the chief blessing he has to offer! Nothing surpasses it! This is the ultimate reward of Heaven! Beyond the gold-paved streets and the resplendent beauty of that celestial city is the ever living, ever thrilling presence of God.
Since it’s this important, then how do we maintain God’s presence? Do you realize that this is among the first lessons God taught the Israelites as a nation? I want to show you how this unfolded as Moses delivered Israel from bondage and lead them through the desert for forty years.
(Emphasis) This is the most remarkable epoch of Hebrew history! God’s presence remained upon Israel from the Exodus until the end of their forty-year pilgrimage. All those miracles! The ten plagues of Egypt; the death of the firstborn; the parting of the Red Sea; and God’s power displayed among them for four decades! A lot happens when God’s presence abides upon his people! And that’s how Isaiah 63:11 portrays that era when he says, God “set his Holy Spirit among them.”
I don’t know about you, but this is how I want to live! I want to live in the presence of God and enjoy everything he offers! But more than that, this is what God wants for us! He wants you to walk with him, enjoy his presence, and experience his wonders. But again, how do we do this? How do Believers walk with God and maintain his presence?
As I mentioned, this is the lesson God taught the Israelites immediately after they escaped Egypt. It’s really remarkable! After 400 years of captivity, God opened the Red Sea so Israel could escape the attack of Pharaoh’s army. But once they passed through the Red Sea, they had another series of problems to surmount. They had to withstand the elements of the wilderness.
Here were hundreds of thousands of Jews facing a journey with no paved road system, no natural water supply, no supermarkets, no covering from the blazing sun, and no trained military to fight off attacking nations. Israel was doomed unless God traveled with them. And this brings us to the last chapter of Exodus where God prepares to teach Israel how to maintain his presence among them. And he would teach Israel this lesson by use of a divine process.
There are times when God transforms us by using one verse of Scripture. But there are other lessons that become life-changing experiences that require more than a single verse or passage of Scripture. Sometimes it takes a “process” to transform us. And that’s what we see here. Let me show you.
One More Month at Sinai
When Israel escaped Egypt and passed through the Red Sea they camped at Mount Sinai for one year. During that year, Moses received the Ten Commandments and the instructions for building the Tabernacle. That word Tabernacle means, “Dwelling-place of God”; and that’s what happened immediately after the Tabernacle was constructed. God’s glory instantly rushed into it, and the people saw his presence pulsating from that place. A visible cloud of glory hovered over the Tabernacle as proof that God had entered their camp and dwelt among them.
But Israel wasn’t the only nation to witness this manifested presence of God. The nations that drew near could see this phenomenon. And there was a two-fold purpose for this heavenly manifestation: First, it was a message to Israel saying, “Stay near me, because I am your God.” But secondly, it was a warning to the nations saying, “Beware! These are my chosen people. Do not touch them!”
But once God’s glory filled the Tabernacle, Israel needed one more vital piece of information before continuing their journey. God’s glory hovering over Israel’s encampment at Sinai wasn’t enough. Israel needed to know how to maintain God’s pronounced presence throughout their journey through the desert. And this is what the book of Leviticus reveals.
Leviticus describes, in meticulous detail, how Israel was to worship God and what type of sacrifices he required. It issued instructions for the priests and Levites. It deals with dietary laws, social laws, and personal hygiene. While Leviticus was immensely important to the Jewish Priesthood, it’s not a book that’s primarily designed for one’s devotional reading.
Leviticus requires tenacious, investigative study to bring out the richness of its meaning. But the Holy Spirit does disclose a divine purpose for Moses writing this book, and it’s this: As the ancient Priests and Israelites complied with these stringent guidelines, God pledged that his pronounced presence would abide upon them. This is what makes Leviticus important!
Listen to God’s words in Leviticus 26:3 as he makes this promise to the Israelites:
“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my command … (11) I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you, (12) I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (NIV).
God’s presence upon the nation of Israel is what made it unique among the nations. It’s what protected them against invading empires. It’s what made Israel prosperous and kept it as the “head” and not the “tail” of nations.
I’m sure, that after camping for 365 days at Mount Sinai, Israel was eager to move on. The scenery stayed constant and they were tired of camping at that dusty desert spot. But while they were ready to proceed, God wouldn’t let the Israelites take one more step toward the Promised Land without showing them how to maintain his presence. And that’s why God ordained one more month at Sinai! The Lord held Israel in-check for thirty more days, so Moses could meet with God, secure his Word, and then disclose the secret of maintaining God’s presence.
In total, Israel’s waiting process after its Exodus, was one year and one month. But the waiting process—regardless of how long—can radically alter your life! One more day, or one more month, or one more year of learning and discerning from God can transform you forever. You may be eager to soar but God says, “Stay at Sinai and I’ll disclose a truth that will transform you.” If that’s the case, don’t move an inch until God imparts the instruction.
(Harbinger) It is not enough for you to accept Christ as your Savior and then merely exist. As the anthropologists discovered, your purpose is to experience God. There is more to life than having your bills paid, driving a nice vehicle, carrying a mobile device, and having 900 TV channels to entertain you. The greatest experience in life is walking and communing with God!
(Transition) So how do we live in a way that attracts God’s presence into the tabernacle of our lives? We’ll answer that but first, I want to assure you that it is possible to walk with God.
I. It is Possible to Walk with God!
We’ve heard the promise of Leviticus 26:3 that God would walk among his people, but I want you to understand that this is more than an OT promise! When you open the NT you see that Jesus gave Christians the same promise in John 14:23. He said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Can you imagine that? God tells OT Israel that, “I will walk among you”; and Jesus tells NT believers that he and the Father will, “make their home with you.” But what makes this possible? Is there something that God requires to make this happen? Yes! The Old and New Testaments are in agreement when they say, God “walks with us” and “makes his home with us” as we obey his Word.
You see, we cannot expect that God will share his secrets and let us lean on his chest like the Apostle John did at the Last Supper, if we ignore his commands and live as we please. We have to commit ourselves to his will and ways.
But this is the very issue that creates such problems. Many people lament that the Bible calls for a standard of living that is too difficult to obey. They don’t believe they can live the Christian life because the Bible requires resisting temptations that are irresistible. They believe the world’s pleasures are too difficult to surrender, but that’s not so!
(Example) I have a friend that faced this very dilemma. Bill lived in New Jersey and was a successful business owner. He wasn’t raised in church and wasn’t a Christian, but God had given Bill a desire to share his blessings with others. As he searched for a way to do so a friend told Bill about a Men of Action mission’s trip to South America. And without knowing anyone on the mission’s team he signed up! During the day the team built a Christian school and at night they held worship services. By the week’s end the Holy Spirit had deeply convicted Bill, but he still couldn’t make a profession of faith. As Bill shared his testimony with me, he related his primary stumbling block. his heart was ready to accept Christ, but his mind told him he couldn’t forsake his sins. He simply couldn’t envision himself overcoming a lifestyle to which he had grown accustomed. So on the final day of the mission’s trip Bill sat in a worship service telling himself he would not walk the isle, but when the minister gave the invitation, something happened. In his own words Bill said: “Against my will, I found myself stepping into the isle and walking toward the altar where I accepted Christ as my Savior.” But here is the rest of the story that comes several years after serving Christ. He said: “When I was wrestling with my decision to accept Christ, I never once considered that the power of the Holy Spirit would help me overcome temptation.”
(Bible Example) That’s what the Holy Spirit does! He furnishes the power to resist sin, overcome it and obey God’s Word. The Bible couldn’t be clearer about this! Let me show you: Just before Moses died he assembled Israel before the Tabernacle so they could renew their pledge to keep the Covenant. Here was Israel standing before the Tabernacle where God’s presence was bursting forth in power. What a sight that must have been! Moses then says to Israel: “If you want this glorious, divine presence to remain in your midst, then devote yourself to God’s Word.”
I’m sure the Israelites were overwhelmed by this mandate! How could they possibly obey the requirements of Moses’ Law? However, Moses went out of his way to give them a great promise. Deuteronomy 30:11 records this pledge when it says: “What I am commanding you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.”
Did you hear that? Moses assures Israel that God would supply the necessary ability to obey any command he issues. Again, Moses wrote: “What I am commanding you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” It doesn’t matter whether that promise God comes from the Old or New Testament; it’s your promise to claim today!
It means, you don’t have to fail in the Christian life. The power of the Holy Spirit that brought you to Christ will also empower you to cling to Christ!
It means, “Where sin abounds grace does much more abound”!
It means, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world”!
I like what Ephesians 1:19 says. Paul said God furnishes “exceedingly . . . great . . . power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (20) which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
The Bible didn’t say that a trickle of power is available for overcoming temptation.” The Bibles says there is “exceedingly great power” available. And it’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!
Don’t believe Satan’s lie that insists sin is incontestable. God’s grace to resist sin is greater than sin’s power to lure you. His grace to overcome sin is greater than sin’s power to defeat you. “What God commands you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” When you follow God’s leading, you can walk with him.
(Example) Let me share with you my strategy when I am faced with temptations and challenges. I have a title I have ascribed to the Holy Spirit. I call him the Unfair Advantage. I call him the Unfair Advantage because, as the third person of the Godhead, he is omnipotent! No power in the universe is equivalent. So when I am challenged or tempted I sometimes pray, “Father, here’s the situation. I’m unequal to the task. But I ask for the Unfair Advantage—the Holy Spirit—to provide all that’s needed to deal with this situation and overcome it.
If God has freely offered us the Unfair Advantage of the Holy Spirit, we should claim Him!
In Luke 24:48 Jesus commanded believers to: “be endued [clothed] with power from above.”
In John 20:22 he said: “receive the Holy Spirit.”
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul said: “be filled with the Spirit.”
(Transition) Do you believe you can walk with God? Absolutely! Since that’s the case, let me show you how you can attract God’s presence. You will attract God’s presence as you identify with Him.
II. Walking with God Requires that you Identify with Him
Walking with God, at times, requires you to make tough decisions. The decision of Moses.
There is a spiritual principle that says God identifies with men to the degree that men identify with him. The Apostle James put it this way: “Draw near to God and he will draw near you.” What that means is, God will draw near us as we adopt a standard of living that matches the glory of his Name. You see, sometimes we hinder God’s presence because he cannot identify with our behavior. Think about this way:
(Illustration) When someone joins the military it comes with certain requirements. One of the chief requirements is for the recruit to fully identify with whichever branch of the military he/she joins. When a recruit joins the military, the officers immediately begin informing the recruit that they are no longer civilians. They are separated from the masses into a special organization. The military issues a handbook of regulations that describe codes of conduct and the attire that should be worn. And if the recruit wants the full support of the military he/she must be willing to fully identify with the military.
(Illustration) Awhile back a pro golfer signed a contract to advertise for Ford Motors. Do you think Ford Motors would appreciate that golfer driving a Honda to his sporting events? Do you think Coca-Cola would approve of its primary spokesperson of publicly drinking Pepsi? Companies paying celebrities millions of dollars to represent them want these celebrities to fully identify with their product!
And God, who became like us in Christ, wants us to become like him. The ultimate objective of the Christian life is to conform to the image of Jesus Christ! This is the destiny of every believer.
1 John 3:2 says: “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Romans 8:29 says: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
One day, when we arrive in heaven, we will be glorified into Christ’s image. But the process of conforming to Christ’s image needs to start today.
Paul said in Philippians 1:20: “[it] is my earnest expectation and hope [that] . . . I will not be put to shame in anything, but with all boldness, Christ will even now be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
No wonder God’s grace and power flowed through Paul in an unparalleled manner. He wasn’t a bold witness just in church services or around fellow Christians. Paul always identified with Christ. Consequently, Christ’s presence was strong upon Paul’s life.
And if we want Christ’s strong presence upon us we have to draw near him and identify with him. We have to determine to be God’s representative wherever and whenever he needs us.
(Transition) I want to make one more point concerning how you can walk with God and enjoy his presence. You can walk with God as you create an environment where God can dwell.
III. Create an Environment Where God Can Dwell
Remember, this is what Leviticus teaches! Moses wrote Leviticus to show the Israelites how to create an environment that would sustain God’s presence. God wants us to adopt a lifestyle that attracts his presence.
That’s why the apostle James said: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
If we desire God’s pronounced presence we must pray with the passion of Psalm 42:1 that says, “As the deer pants after the water brook so my soul pants after you.”
The Bible encourages us to “seek Him” and “long” for him and “praise him” and devote yourself to him.
These principles attract God’s presence because they create an environment for him to occupy.
(Example) My favorite tree is the Palm tree. But unfortunately Palm trees cannot grow in any environment. They prosper in sunny, tropical climates. However, white spruce trees thrive in areas where temperatures plummet well below freezing. What is necessary for both the palm and the white spruce is that they are planted in an environment that supports their ability to flourish. When that happens, they will naturally prosper. Our ability to prosper in God’s presence depends upon our environment. The right environment will attract God’s presence and we will flourish.
I want to share a deeply personal testimony that helps illustrate this.
(Illustration) When I accepted the Call to Preach, I also accepted the Call to Pray. I can’t say that God spoke to me and said: “You are called to pray.” All I know is, the Call to Pray coincided with the Call to Preach. Consequently, I have always tried to give prayer a special place in my life. With that said . . . I remember a time when I accepted a ministry appointment. Immediately thereafter, I was dreadfully vexed. Although I enjoyed a healthy salary and some perks, I was miserable. About two months after accepting the appointment, and with no amelioration, the Holy Spirit spoke and said: “Can you walk with me?” In all honesty I wasn’t 100% certain this question came from the Holy Spirit, so I passed it off. But a couple of days later I heard the same voice repeat the question, “Can you walk with Me?” Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t answer; it was that I couldn’t answer! I thought I would grieve the Spirit by saying, “No!” so I ignored the question. But a month later, the Holy Spirit was still asking, “Can you walk with Me?” and I was still struggling for an answer that would dismiss the question. On one occasion I remember the Holy Spirit convicting me with that question and I said in frustration, “Well, Lord, I don’t know, but You know the answer.” But that wasn’t what he was looking for. So after at least two months of this divine interrogation I was finally exasperated and ready to tell God the brutal truth. But, I need to pause long enough to make a confession. From the day I accepted that ministry appointment, and for the next five months, I had not devoted one uninterrupted hour to prayer! Oh, I had prayed, but my spirit and soul were so vexed that I had not prayed for one, uninterrupted hour. And I felt terrible about it! But at this point, I was so exasperated that I was ready to answer the question, disappoint God, the angels, and the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounded me. So when I heard the Lord ask that question one last time, I was ready. I said: “No God, I can’t walk with You”! And in an instant, I felt a burden lift, and to my amazement I heard the Lord say, “That is the only answer I was willing to accept because you can’t walk with Me in the place where you are serving.” And the interrogation that “tried me like fire” for weeks was finally resolved and I instantly knew the course of action to take.
I want to ask you something. Can you walk with God where you are? If not, you should do whatever is necessary to walk with him because there is nothing that compares with his presence resting upon you. And remember, we aren’t out of the wilderness yet. We desperately need God’s glory and grace to help us conquer the elements around us.