Those of you who know me and Leslie know that we don’t fight, right?? Those of you, who know us really well, know that I am kidding. We fight many times. Most of times, the fight is about one thing. That is I don’t spend enough time with her. I am basically a logical person, and I like my numbers and figures. So when Leslie complains that I don’t spend enough time with her, my immediate reaction is to collect statistics to prove her wrong. So I will pull out numbers and give her the amount of minutes and hours that I have actually spent with her. Then finally she will pull out the last arrow from Quiver, she will say, even when you are with me, your presence is not with me, you are not present with me. Of course, after that I have no arguments in my defense, I meekly submit and admit to that.
You see, the presence of a loved one, whether it is a spouse, a lover, a child a parent, a sibling, or even a pet, is something that all of us crave for. The presence of a loved one is something that we enjoy.
This morning, God’s message to us is simply that. The passage that was read to us said it clearly in few words. Jesus is telling his disciples, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NIV). Normally when this verse is preached, the focus is on the great commission. Well that message is strong and it is there, but for this morning, we will look at how the great commission ends. Let us focus on the last part of the verse. The other translations put it like this. Matthew 28:20 (MSG) Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT) Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NKJV) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. You get the message right? Jesus Christ is giving the promise, the promise that he is with us right till the end of ages.
Let us ponder for a moment who is giving this promise. We don’t have to go far to know this. Let us just go a couple of verses back and see what Jesus says. Matthew 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. So Jesus is making this promise not without authority, not without power, not without sanction. He is making this promise with full power and authority that is vested in him by being part of the triune God!
Did you notice that Jesus used the same term that God the Yahweh used with Moses? Jesus is not saying that I will be with you; Jesus is saying that I am with you. Do you see the emphasis on I am? Jesus was repeating an act. An act performed by God in the Old Testament. God sent Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery into the Promised Land. When Moses asked who should I say sent me, God asked him to say that the I am sent him. Exodus 3:14 (NKJV) And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “And after establishing His identity, He commands Moses: Exodus 4:12 (NKJV) Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
This is exactly what Jesus is doing here. He first establishes his identity, He is the past, present and generations to come as clearly brought out in Revelation 1:8 (NKJV) “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” After establishing that, He is asking his disciples to Go and make disciples of all nations, and He is promising them “I am with you, always, till the end of the age”.
Let us take a moment to savor this promise. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Almighty, is promising us “I am with you, to bear you up, to plead your cause; with you in all your services, in all your sufferings, to bring you through them with comfort and honour. When you go through the fire or water, I will be with you. In the pulpit, in the prison, lo, I am with you.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.). He is saying I am not away from you, I am the ever present help Psalm 46:1 (NKJV) God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. He is saying “Lo, I am with you, to make your ministry effectual for the discipling of the nations, for the pulling down of the strong holds of Satan, and the setting up of stronger for the Lord Jesus.” ….I will be with you on sabbath days and week days, fair days and foul days, winter days and summer days. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.)
So that is the truth. God is with us. He is ever present. As CS Lewis put it nicely: We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito.
Let us then move to the application question today? Do we really live as if God is always with us? Do we live as if God’s presence is there with us? His power is with us?
Talking of power, I am reminded of a story. When electricity became available in remote rural areas, one woman went to great trouble and expense to have electricity installed in her home. A few months after the wiring was installed and the power was turned on; the power company noticed that the home didn’t use very much power. Fearing that there was a problem they sent a meter reader to check on the matter. The meter reader saw that the power was indeed working properly and then asked the woman, “Do you use your electricity?” The woman replied, “Of course we do. We turn it on every night to see to light our lamps and then we turn it off.” (Adapted from SermonCentral.com). Are many of us not like that? Knowing that we have this great power with us, this great presence with us, don’t many of us merely use it to satisfy our Sunday desires? Do we really practice the presence of God on other days? Do we courageously tell others about what God has done in our lives on a day to day basis? Do we reveal the presence of God to others? Do we tell others about Jesus Christ and his message of salvation?
So, what must we do? The answer is simple. We must Practice the presence of God. We must live as if God is with us. Not just on Sundays when we attend the church service, not just when we pray, every moment of our living life, in everything we do, we must Practice the Presence of God. Last week Clifford who gave the sermon, mentioned Brother Lawrence, who is one of the greatest examples of someone practicing the presence of God. Brother Lawrence practiced and lived the presence of God even in the kitchen he worked. Brother Lawrence was born in eastern France. Having felt he had received a revelation of the providence and power of God at the age of 18, he joined the Discalced Carmelite Priory in Paris. Brother Lawrence entered the monastery as a lay brother, not having the education necessary to become a cleric. He spent almost all of the rest of his life within the walls of the priory, working in the kitchen for most of his life and as a repairer of sandals in his later years. Despite his lowly position in life and the priory, his character attracted many to him. He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris, compiled this work after Brother Lawrence died. This morning I would like to close with some quotations from this book, The Practice of the Presence of God.
That, when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in Him, “O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.”
As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.
When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged his duty; if he found well, he returned thanks to GOD; if otherwise, he asked pardon; and without being discouraged, he set his mind right again, and continued his exercise of the presence of GOD, as if he had never deviated from it. “Thus,” said he, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state, wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of GOD, as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”
“The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
There are two solemn farewell messages from Jesus Christ to the church. One is what we saw in the passage that we started with. Matthew 28:20. Some of you would have noted that this is the last verse of the Gospel of Matthew. This was the parting words of Jesus to his church as his bodily form went up. The second farewell message we see when he seals up this book, the book that we call bible. He seals up the book with the promise Revelation 22:20 (NKJV) He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
This morning shall we respond to His farewell messages by resolving ourselves to Practice the Presence of God in our day to day lives?
Let us Pray
Benediction: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen