Sermon Options: February 27, 2022

September 2nd, 2022

IN GOD'S PRESENCE

EXODUS 34:29-35

Moses had led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the desert at Mount Sinai. There he went up the mountain into the Presence of the Lord (v. 28). Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

After a long stay on Mount Sinai receiving the commandments from God, Moses came down to his people at the foot of the mountain. He was unaware that "his face shone because he had been talking with God" (v. 29).

Aaron and the people of Israel were afraid because Moses' face was strangely aglow (v. 30). Moses had to call them to himself and tell them what God had commanded through the Lawgiver. Afterward, Moses had to put a veil over his face whenever he spoke with the Lord.

We find a similar experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus' face shone in the presence of his disciples, Peter, James, and John (Luke 9:28-36). Both accounts tell of the mysterious and awesome experience of the Presence of God—the Shekinah Glory. Moses and Jesus were changed in appearance and their faces shone in the Presence. Note that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Moses encountered the Almighty at the burning bush, on Mount Sinai, and in the wilderness when the divine Presence led the children of Israel by a pillar of fire or cloud. We can experience the Presence of God in many ways.

• God is present in the world he created. "This is my Father's world: he shines in all that's fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere" ("This Is My Father's World," Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901).

• God is present in our worship. Jesus promised to be with us wherever two or more gather in his name. We may experience his focused presence in our observance of the Lord's Supper. The Reformers called this "the Realized Presence." Altar candles used in some church traditions are symbolic of the divine Presence in worship.

• God is present in believers. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit ("Christ in you, the hope of glory"). Before Jesus' ascension to the Father, he said to his disciples, "Be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time" (Matt. 28:20 NEB).

It is a transforming experience to be in the presence of God. We have sensed this in reading the Scriptures and in prayer time, in private or public worship. We may feel his presence in our conscience. Often we are aware of the Creator in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. God can become real to us in the lives of other persons. He speaks with many voices. "He speaks to me everywhere." (Alton H. McEachern)

REMOVING THE VEIL

2 CORINTHIANS 3:12–4:2

Have you ever tried to share your faith with someone, but they just didn't get it? Paul encountered that frustration every time he tried to witness to the Jews. All they understood was Moses and the Law. They did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah because they could not see beyond their preconceived notions of who the Messiah would be.

The same problem occurs today. As people are confronted with the person of Christ, they turn away because they are unwilling to see past the veil of their particular perspective. Unless they turn to Christ and allow him to remove that barrier, they will forever be trapped in disbelief.

I. Without Christ, Everyone Is Blinded by a Veil
The modern age of relativism teaches us to value personal opinion above objective truth. As we journey through life, our experiences either confirm or contradict our presuppositions about God and the world around us. The result is a multiplicity of contrasting worldviews, each forming a barrier to reality.

Just as the Jews stood condemned in their zeal for the old covenant of the law, so are those who continue to have their minds dulled by refusing to follow Christ. We remain steadfast in ignorance affirming the fallacies of subjective experience. The deceit of our own lies veils our eyes from the revelation of Truth, which is Jesus Christ.

II. Only Christ Can Remove the Veil
Imagine being blind your entire life and suddenly receiving the gift of sight. The insurmountable joy would be surpassed only by the fresh awareness of the world around you. Vivid colors, depth perception, a bird in flight—all would reveal a new understanding of reality.

Christ came to give sight to the blind! As we turn to the Lord, Jesus responds by lifting the veil. Instantly, we perceive the truth of Christ and our need for him. He delivers us from the enslavement of sin and releases us into the freedom of becoming all that we were created to be.

III. Freedom in Christ Means Boldness in Proclamation
Once Christ removes the veil and reality unfolds, the believer desires to share the news with those around him. Being freed from the shackles of deceit compels one to liberate others. Our hope intensifies our boldness to openly proclaim truth in Christ.

Paul confesses the simplicity of his rhetorical approach. He needs no special tactics or manipulative effects. Rather, he speaks the truth plainly and allows the impact of objective fact to leave its own impression.

As God's treasure chests, we must open ourselves and permit others to partake of the riches of the Savior. We need no formal training in the art of persuasion. Just tell the story of who Jesus is and what he has done for you and leave the rest to God. If the listener rejects the truth, it is through no fault of your own. Some people will never turn to the Lord. To them, the gospel remains veiled, even as they are perishing. (Craig C. Christina)

CHANGED!

LUKE 9:28-36 (37-43)

This event shows Jesus as he moved beyond the roles other people tried to give him. He had recently predicted his own death but the disciples did not want to hear it. They had their own plans for Jesus. Don't we all?

But Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going. The dramatic events on the mount of transfiguration speak about change—his and ours. Consider the development of the story.

I. Identity: Consider Jesus—This Is God's Son
A cluster of Old Testament images bubble to the surface in this story. "Light," "Moses," "cloud," and "Elijah" are all images from the Jewish past. They remind us what God has always been up to. Moses reminds us of the law. Elijah represents the prophets. The light and cloud picture the presence of God.

The experience of transfiguration was a time when the disciples were confronted with Jesus' identity in a new way. The voice from the cloud proclaimed him as God's son.

Who do you think he is? No one can make you believe in him, but once you do, no one can make you disbelieve. Jesus comes into our lives and we find ourselves following him out of love and loyalty.

Dr. Edward Benes was the Foreign Minister in the cabinet of Thomas Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia when it came into existence in 1918. Benes is buried in Lany, a town about twenty-five miles outside Prague. His grave, along with those of three Masaryks, is unmarked. Shortly before his death Benes told a friend why he wanted an unmarked grave: "If the people love me, I shall live in their hearts and they will never forget the place of my grave; hence an identification is unnecessary. If they do not love me, I shall be forgotten in their hearts; and the most elaborate tombstone will make no difference."

Loyalty to Christ is like that. We are confronted with his true identity and called to follow.

II. Discipleship: This Is God's Son—Listen to Him
The event on the mountain deeply disturbed the disciples. They did not know what to make of it at first. We learn that they did not even speak of it until much later. They were confronted with a new way of thinking about Jesus.

"Listen to him," the voice said. That is still the word that comes to disciples today. Listen to Jesus as he raises our ethical vision. His sacrifice was part of God's larger plan. Listen to Jesus as he calls us to join him. We are to take up our own cross and follow. Listen to Jesus as other voices call to us and try to get us to abandon the narrow path.

This is God's Son. Listen to him.

III. Transformation: Listen to Him—And You Will Be Changed
The word transfiguration is the word from which we get our word metamorphosis. It is a change from the inside out. That can be painful.

Simon Peter wanted to seize the moment of glory on the mountain and build booths to stay awhile. He wanted to stay on the mountain of high spiritual experience and eliminate struggle and doubt. But some experiences cannot be captured or held back.

The transfiguration showed that Jesus was different from what the disciples first believed. They had to learn to listen to him. Then they found out that they themselves were changed. We are like them in that we can participate in the transformation of men and women around us who see the light.

As a boy, Robert Louis Stevenson looked out of his window one evening. Those were the days before electric lights. Stevenson saw the town lamplighter coming along. As this lamplighter lit the street lamps in succession, Stevenson was impressed at the sight. He wrote about the lamplighter who went along "punching holes in the darkness." Jesus Christ came into this world as a light, and he punched holes in the darkness.

Consider Jesus. He is God's Son. That is his identity. He is God's Son. Listen to him. He calls us to discipleship. Listen to him. You will be changed. This is transformation. (Don M. Aycock)

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