Responding to the Presence of Jesus – Week 1

“The Manifest Presence of God!”

Key Verse:  Matthew 18:20


Jesus makes a promise that is so profound, but has it become common place to our modern church-going ears?


It’s the promise of His presence! This sermon series asks us, how are we, each of us, responding to the presence of Jesus?


Listen to Jesus’s promise in Matthew 18:20,
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
You can hear something similar and just as familiar at the end of Matthew 28:20,
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


Jesus has promised us His presence, when we gather as His people and when we go on mission in His name—He is with us! What exactly has Jesus promised us?


Listen to both these promises in the fullness of their contexts: Matthew 18:15-20 states,
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.


What is our responsibility in this passage? When does Jesus promise to be in our midst?


Matthew 28:16-20 narrates,
“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”


What is our responsibility in this passage? When does Jesus promise to be in our midst?


Today, I am not tackling the majestic doctrine of God’s attribute of omnipresence, which teaches us that God is everywhere and that God has been, is currently, and will always be present. Rather, I am tackling the more mysterious doctrine of God’s activity of manifesting His presence—the experiential reality of when God’s makes His presence known to those He chooses to reveal Himself in this way.


We see this in the Old Testament: God’s presence was the life source and the testimony of Israel! God’s presence marked both their gathering and their going! Without God’s Presence, there was neither a community of God nor a mission of God! All that God’s people are to be and are called to do depends on Him.


Listen to Moses lay this out very clearly in his discussion with God in Exodus 33:12-16,


Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”


Literally, it was God’s presence with them that made them His people. Apart from His presence, His people were the same as all other people. His presence means the favor of God and the rest of God. It is more than His omnipresence to all the world, there is something special about His promised presence.


God promised that His presence would actually reside with His people. Interestingly, God had previously met with them more directly, but in Exodus 20:19 the Israelites asked Moses to speak to them on behalf of God so that God would not directly manifest Himself to them. They equated God’s presence with death. God honored that wish and a mediator has been necessary ever sense.


We see this with the building of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25:8-9, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.”


Then the building of the Temple in 1 Kings 6:11-13,
“Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon saying, ‘Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.’”


God’s manifest presence is the heartbeat of all His promises. Listen to Zechariah 2:10-11,
“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.”


The gathering of God’s people is connected to the mission of God, both of which are dependent on God’s presence. We can neither gather nor go without God first gathering with us or going with us. Both are for His glory! When you dwell upon this for a long time you come to this question: Are there any promises any more important than the promises of God to either give or take way His presence? What else could possibly matter?


In fact, our continual awareness of God’s manifest presence is the culmination of His promises. It is synonymous with seeing His glory! When you say you want to see His glory or experience His glory, then what you are praying for is essentially an Isaiah 6:1-3 moment:


In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”


This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is so very important! It was for this very reason that Jesus Christ came and revealed to us the glory of the Father. So that we may experience His manifest presence as the one final mediator between a holy God and a fallen humanity. As Jesus Christ said Himself in John 17:4-11,


I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.


It is for the glory of God that God has made Himself known to us through the revelation of Jesus Christ.


John 1:14 reminds us of this, it is the heart of the incarnation, the mission of God:
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


It’s why Jesus promised us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-18,
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”


The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, but it is not enough to know that God is with you—His manifest presence is meant to be just that: manifest! Tangible, visible, expressible… God’s presence changes everything! We are transformed by His presence! Our gatherings and our goings are transformed by His presence! That is why we invite the Holy Spirit in our worship and pray invocations at the beginning of services.


Just as our fellowship with God is dependent on God’s manifest presence in us, so is our fellowship with one another. Listen to 1 John 1:1-3,


What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.


Our gathering and our going is 100% dependent on the promised presence of Jesus Christ manifesting in and through us. We have no life apart from His eternal life dwelling in us.


Are you struggling with the gathering or with the going? Is the gathering anything but alive? Is the going anything but joyful?


It is time to come alive in the Spirit and invite God’s presence to manifest in and through our church. Holy Spirit you are welcome here.