Message 1: Encountering God’s Person
SUGGESTED PASSAGE: EXODUS 3:1-14
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.
Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
The goal of this message is that you and your church, individually and collectively, will experience a life-transforming divine encounter as we meet God at our burning bush.
Far too many Christians have a relationship with God that is more like a flicker of a candle than the brilliance of the noonday sun. What we need is a fresh encounter, an experience with the Most High God.
One of the most famous encounters in Scripture is when Moses meets God at the burning bush. Moses is eighty years old at this time. He has spent forty years in the court of Egypt as the adopted son of Pharaoh and forty years in the wilderness as a lowly shepherd after killing an Egyptian slave master in a misguided attempt to liberate his people, the Israelites.
So, when we find Moses in Exodus 3, there is a forty-year gap between his misstep and his encounter with God. He has gone from the spotlight in Egypt to following sheep in a remote desert, a lowly profession in the biblical world. Life certainly had not worked out the way Moses must have thought it would.
Are you here today feeling like you are just leading sheep? That is, life is not working out like you had hoped it would. Something happened years ago, and now you are wondering around behind sheep. If you could go back and change whatever happened to put you there, you would do it. But you can’t, so you’re just leading sheep, doing the best you can with what you’ve got.
I have some good news for you today, particularly if you’re in a wilderness with sheep. Even though it had been forty years, God had not forgotten Moses. And He has not forgotten you, even though it may seem like it as you perform your routine day-to-day tasks and watch the clock and the calendar go by. But the good news is that there is still hope for a fresh encounter with God.
1. IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A DIVINE ENCOUNTER WITH
GOD, YOU NEED TO HANG OUT WHERE HE IS.
• A lot of people who say they want an experience with God don’t want to hang out with where He is located.
• If you want to pursue God’s Person, you must be willing to go into God’s presence.
• As long as we insist on a long-distance relationship with God, that is precisely what we will have, but it will be absent a true encounter with Him.
2. ONE WAY YOU KNOW YOU’RE ABOUT TO HAVE A DIVINE ENCOUNTER IS WHEN GOD PRESENTS YOU WITH A CONTRADICTORY SITUATION.
• Throughout the Bible, we see contradictions occurring when God shows up—things that are not operating according to their normal flow.
• Many of us have missed an encounter with God because we ignored His contradiction.
• If you are seeking God and something happens that doesn’t make sense, don’t ignore it—turn aside and investigate it further.
• The Bible says that when you respond to what God has done, He will give you more (Matthew 13:12).
• It’s easy to talk about wanting a fresh encounter with God, but He wants to see us turn aside and seek Him, not just talk about it.
• If you will call out to God in the midst of your contradiction, He will answer because He responds to His name being called.
3. YOU CANNOT HAVE A DIVINE ENCOUNTER WITH GOD IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DEAL WITH SIN.
• When you come into God’s presence, you are standing on holy ground.
• Moses’ shoes represented the collective dirt of sin that has to be put aside before you can go any further in an encounter with a holy God.
• Some people will never burn for God because they are wearing “evangelical asbestos suits.”
• People like this don’t want to get too close to God’s holy fire lest His spark catch them on fire.
• We have to deal with sin because many of us are too “Egyptianized.” We have too much of the world in us.
• God doesn’t want to tell us His plan for lifting us to a new level in our Christian lives until we have had an encounter with Him and dealt with the sin that is holding us back.
4. IF YOU WANT A DIVINE ENCOUNTER WITH GOD, YOU MUST COME TO HIM ON HIS TERMS.
• God is the personal, self-revealing God whose name is “I AM WHO I AM,” who sits outside of time in eternity.
• This means that no matter how long you have been leading sheep, I AM can deal with your situation and restore the years that have been lost if you will depend completely on Him.
• This is why there is no room in the Christian life for the pride that says, “I can do this myself.”
• Having an authentic encounter with God doesn’t mean your problems are over; you’ll still have to face your Pharaoh.
• But when you face your Pharaoh, I AM is going to be your power, your deliverer, your sustainer and your victory, because “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
REMOVING SHOES FOR WORSHIP
Perhaps you have seen pictures of the long lines of shoes outside of a Muslim mosque. A person has to take his shoes off before he can enter the mosque because it is considered a holy place and the people coming in have been walking all over town collecting dirt on their shoes. But they are not allowed to bring that dirt into their place of worship. How much more should we who worship Yahweh treat His presence as holy.
BACKGROUND BIBLICAL HISTORY AND CULTURE:
Exodus 3:1 says that Moses brought his flock “to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” “Horeb” is another name for Mount Sinai, the place where Moses would later be given the Ten Commandments. Horeb is the place where God’s presence was manifested in a miraculous way and terrifying way (Hebrews 12:18-21).
QUOTES BY DR. TONY EVANS:
“A rhema word is an utterance with your name on it. The question is, do you hear it as being for you? Do you hear God calling your name in the wilderness that has been an extended place for you? When God grabs your undivided attention, you’ll experience what we call in theology, God’s shekinah glory when He manifests Himself.”
“People put on asbestos suits so they don’t catch fire. Some of us will never burn for God because we really don’t want to get that close to the fire. We’re satisfied with services, seminars, programs and preaching, but we don’t want to catch fire. So, we put on our asbestos suits and our asbestos dresses, and we come to church with our shoes on, and we wonder why we are not encountering God.”