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January 5, 2021 12:01 am
We fear many things in life, from disease to natural disaster to political turmoil. But too often, we forget that God Himself should cause us to tremble. Today, R.C. Sproul describes what happens when we encounter the One who is holy.
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. If you encounter the God of Israel, the God who opens up the earth and swallows those who rebel against Moses, the God who sends a flood that to inundate the whole world of rebellious people.
The God who has the mountain at Sinai shaking and saying don't you come near this. If you touch this mountain you will die.
We won't have the opportunity to fear who the last few months. The world is a crazy place, but too often we forget that it's God himself is perfection and holiness that should really cause us to tremble. The Bible tells us there is nothing more terrifying than coming face-to-face with the holiness of God's Dr. RC Sproul's focus today with a message titled encountering God Bible tells us that the glory of God fills the entire not on how many times I've read that in the Scripture, but every time I read about the glory of God filling the earth.
I scratch my head a little bit and listen when I look outside. I don't see a whole lot of the glory of God. I see traffic jams.
I see bright lights. I see people hustling to and fro, caught up in all the activities of their daily lives. In fact, in my whole life I can, probably on one and maybe two.
The number of times that I've had an intense heavy profound sense of the presence of God. I don't mean to suggest that any experience of the presence of God is that rare in my life every time I pray every time I'm in church, just about. I have some sense of the nearness of God. I'm talking about those special moments, those waiting moments when you feel the almost palpable sense of the presence of God so overwhelming, so overbearing that you can ignore it and you become intensely aware of his glory, and of course one of the most intense moments like that that I've ever had was when I became a Christian.
The night I first met Christ aware I was alone in my college dormitory room and on my knees in front of my bed and of course that moment more than any other moment in my entire lifetime changed the direction of my life from then and thereafter. But a year after my conversion I had another experience which was almost as decisive in shaping the direction of my life and I want to take a minute or two to tell you about that when it happened in the same calling Charlie this time it was a little bit different. I had gone to bed for the evening, but I couldn't get to sleep and I tossed and I turned in my mind wouldn't shut down and finally I had this overwhelming sense that I had to get up out of bed and get out of that dormitory and I looked at the clock and it was 11:50 10 minutes before midnight. I got out of the bed.
I got into my close and I went outside there was a winter night of North snow on the ground full moon was in the sky and was one of those eerie quiet, still nights that I just had to walk. I wasn't exactly sure where I was headed, but I want to be by myself.
I wanted to think I wanted to reflect on some things that happened to me earlier that day and so I started toward town and tore the extreme north end of the college campus where I went to school and while I was walking along that sidewalk that night by myself and it was on earthly, quiet. It was so quiet that the main tower of the college had a bell tower and it rang chimes every hour on the hour and just before the chimes would go off the gears in the bell tower would start to shift the move and get ready to move these huge bells that would chime and it was so quiet that night that even though I was still quite a distance from the tower. I could hear the gears in the tower and then all of a sudden the power started the climb 12 and while it was gone.
I walked around the front of the power to the entrance of the college chapel which had been built in the 19th century and was built out of stone and the doors of the chapel where these very heavy oak, arched doors and I didn't know whether the chapel be open or close locked up for the night but I just pushed on the door and opened and I walked into the narthex of this chapel and when the door closed, he could just hear playing against the wall and the floor was stone and I walk then into the sanctuary. Now I was in that chapel.
Every day we would have chapel required chapel every morning. 1500 students would come into this big building with the stained-glass windows in the vaulted ceilings and so on for our chapel and it was all busy and noisy and the students walking back and forth, whispering to each other and so on. But this time when I walked in the chapel. I was the only person there and I walked down the center aisle of the sanctuary to the chancel stairs and I got on my face literally in front of the community and was overwhelmed by the presence of God. In my experience that night was not the same as my experience of my conversion to Christ. What happened to me that night that I'll never get over was that I had this overwhelming experience of the presence of God the father. We know that God is one in three.
One being three persons, but most of our attention in the Christian world focuses on Jesus on the incarnation of God and we sometimes forget that the purpose why Jesus came here was to reveal to us and restore for us.
Our relationship with the father while what drove me to the chapel that night was something that happened in the classroom during the day. I guess I said I was a sophomore in college I was a been a Christian for one year and I decided to be a Bible major because I want to give my life to Christian ministry.
So I signed up to be a Bible major, but in my sophomore year I had to take a required course in introduction to philosophy and I thought that philosophy was the driest, most boring subject I've ever heard of. In fact ice to sit in the back of the lecture hall and I hid Billy Graham sermons underneath my notebook so that when the professor was start the lecture on this driest dust stuff about philosophy. I entertain myself or enrich myself by reading these sermons from Billy Graham and I did that every day and just ignored what was going on and then this one particular day the beginning of winter. The professor was lecturing on a Christian philosopher whose name was Augustine and he was speaking about Augustine's view of how the universe had been created initially and virtually against my will is him trying to read the sermon in the lectures going on. My attention was drawn to what was being said in the front of the room so I put the notebook aside and I started the listen and the professor started talking about what he described as Augustine's view of the divine impairment you know what an imperative for us it's a command it's an obligation, a requirement, and Augustine when he was thinking about how all of this universe came into being in the first place and reflecting on the first chapter of Genesis we read in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Augustine said the only description that Scripture gives as to the how of creation is that it speaks about the power of God's word in the beginning when the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. The Scripture say that what changed all of that was a command from the mouth of God were God said, let there be an instantly there was the lights came on. The darkness receded the planet the world the universe began to team with all sorts of energy, power, and life all by the sheer power of a command from God and I sat there in that classroom and I started to think about that and that's what kind of the is so powerful is so transcendent is so much greater than anything that I could ever conceive of that I've ever experienced in this world can bring universes into being by speaking a single word. And I remembered reading about Jesus in the New Testament where by the sound of his voice. He could call him the sea and stop at storm or raise a man from the tomb by calling him out of the grave. Thanks Lazarus, come forth the power that is unleashed when God speaks brings things out of nothing and life out of death and said that's that's the character of God the father.
Now that wasn't the first time I had thought about that because the previous year. The time of my conversion. I was so turned upside down, that I read the Bible through in two weeks and not because I was diligent or discipline, but was like I was reading a page turning novel I'd never read it before never been exposed to before. I was converted from paganism and I picked up the first page of the Bible and I read the first page.
Read the second page. I just kept going, second, third, read Genesis Exodus biggest number the whole way through. But I can remember then that the first two weeks of my Christian experience walking up and down the halls of the dormitory at 3 o'clock in the morning pacing like a caged line because of what I have been reading in the Old Testament because even though I grew up in United States of America and had frequent churches for social reasons and all the rest. I had never heard of this, God that I was reading about in the old read the Old Testament.
Much have you encountered the God of Israel and the God who opens up the earth and swallows those who rebel against Moses, the God who sends a flogged it to an end date the whole world of rebellious people. The God who has the mountain at Sinai, shaking with thunder and lightning and saying don't you come near this. If you touch this mountain you will die. I never heard about that God in the churches that I have frequented as a youngster, so this was my burgeon exposure to the God of Israel. These first two weeks and I was getting it all at once, so I would pace up and down like the cage lioness while if I'm to be a Christian.
I had to take this seriously because this God place for keeps.
I didn't understand the concept that I was wrestling with. At that time, but really what was blowing me away in my initial reading of the Old Testament and listening to this lecture about Augustine's view of creation was the holiness of God.
It wasn't the love of God or the mercy of God, all of which are wonderful things dealing with his sweetness and his Excellency, but it was his transcendent majesty that was coming across an essay when I don't know what this is about. I don't understand it. I've never encountered it but this is who God is and I want to know more about a God who is that majestic who was that transcendent.
My professor took me on a trip to Philadelphia to a seminary where there were a series of lectures again in my sophomore year that were very weighty, philosophical things and they were way over my head.
I didn't know what was going on in these lectures, but I sat still and listened politely and then after the morning series of lectures we broke to the cafeteria for lunch and I happen to be seated across the table from the head of the philosophy department of this particular institution and the first course of our lunch was soup. We all got a little bowls of soup and I had mobile soup in front of me in this professor sitting across from me, looked up and he said to me, young man, would you say that God is transcendent or imminent literally spit the soup out of my mouth because I didn't know what the word transcendent meant and I didn't know what the word imminent meant either. But what he was asking me was is God transcendent in the sense that he is a high above and beyond the normal sphere of human things that we encounter. Or is God nearby close at hand. Something that we can get our arms around being in and he explained the difference between those two things to me and then pointed out to me that the biblical God is both transcendent and immanent is what the one hand, above and beyond everything creaturely and yet, in his exalted position. He still visits his people. He makes himself present in the terms of his Holy Spirit in terms of Christ coming to pitch his tent among us and in terms of intruding into our lives right here.
I thought about the passage in the Old Testament that I want to take a couple moments to direct your attention to the took place in the book of Genesis in the life of Jacob. Jacob had left his family and was leaving on this journey to pursue a wife and he was traveling in the middle of the desert and we are told that at the end of the day when darkness fell. That's where he decided the camp they didn't have holiday ends on every corner that you would travel as far as you could until nightfall and after it became dark. It was too dangerous to travel after that because of marauders and robbers in and wild animals are so everywhere in the desert just lie down, go to bed so that's what Jacob that he took a rock and he used that as a pillow and went to sleep there in the middle of the desert and then the Scriptures tell us that this deep sleep came upon him and in his sleep God gave him this vision of a ladder that stretched from the earth up to let heaven and he saw angels ascending and descending on this latter in the vision we read this and behold, the Lord stood above.
This latter I sit on the Lord God of Abraham, your father and the God of Isaac, the land on which you lie, I will give to you and to your descendents and also your descendents shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west to the east of the North and South and in you and in your C all the families of the earth shall be blessed… That's what he says.
God says to Jacob. Behold, I am with you and I will keep you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land and I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you. I don't know about you but there's lots of times in my life when I do not feel like God is with me just doesn't feel that way feels like he's far away. Sometimes I think he's abandoned me, or that there's something wrong with me.
I remember one time preaching in a church where the minister was in the hospital across the street from the church had been pastor of this church for 30 years and now he was on his deathbed across the street fighting for his life and the elders had called me and asked me if I would come to that church and fill the pulpit for his pastor. And they also said that this particular Sunday they were celebrating holy communion and would I administer the sacrament preach and I said yes. All week long I worked on my sermon because I realize that the people in the church were in a state of crisis. Their leader had fallen their leader was about to die. The person that they look to for their spiritual guidance was sick and death.
I wanted desperately to minister to give them an unforgettable sermon and to make the sacrament as meaningful as I could possibly make it. And so Sunday morning came and the people gathered there and I gave my sermon and I led them in the Lord's supper and I have to tell you I cannot remember a single time in my whole life were I was more acutely aware of the absence of God than that I know more felt like preaching than flying and everything was flat. To me it just wasn't cutting back when I was finished I want to find a hole in a brown rocket jump in it: and after me and I lastly I want to do with the other services go the back of the church and shake these people's hand because I had this overwhelming sense that I completely Linda and the weirdest thing I get back to the back of the church.
I'm shaking the hand and one person after another walks past me, looking like zombies. Their eyes were glazed. They had this strange look on their face and they would rip my hand and they would say thank you and one after another, told me how overwhelmed they had been that morning.
My sense of the presence of God.
I walked out of there and I thought while everybody else in this place felt the presence of God but me two things from that day forward I said I'm never in the rest of my life going to depend and rely upon my feelings to determine whether God was present. Rather, I'm going to trust that God says he will be with us. He says he will be with me. He promises he won't leave me. He promises he'll be there when I need him even if it's in the valley of the shadow of death, and it doesn't matter if I feel the words I said I'm not to be a sensuous Christian anymore, but I'm in a trust that the Lord God when he makes a promise like that, that he will not leave me or forsake me that he means what he says and that he will keep his word and the other thing I thought of exactly what happened here in this text with Jacob. Listen to what happens in verse 16. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and he said shortly.
The Lord was in this place and I knew it not.
Then he said how awesome is this place have you ever walked into a church, a cathedral, perhaps where as soon as you walked across the threshold walked through the door that you sensed what I sense that night and that chapel and that wintry night where you were making a transition from the common to the uncommon that you were walking over threshold from the secular to the holy from the profane to the sacred work and he walked inside he had the ceiling and in the stone and the stained glass windows and you have that eerie sense of transcendence. Have you ever experienced were nobody has to tell you to adopt an attitude of reverence. You know intuitively that reverence is the only appropriate response.
That's what Jacob said how awesome is this place and he named it Bethel Bethel the house of God. The place where he met a holy God and he said I was afraid this one thing for you to look at in our series here what it is about the majesty of God that provokes terror and fear and why it is that in our day. We seem to have lost her capacity to tremble before God. But if you look at the Scriptures. Every account of every person who ever meets the living God. That person before, trembling before God is valued in our culture today.
In fact it's scoffed at considered to be a weakness in his book the holiness of God. RC scroll said this how we understand the person and character of God the father affects every aspect of our lives. No part of the world is outside of his Lordship and his mercy just said, that explains much about the current state of our world is in it.
RC was passionate about awakening people to the holiness of God, 20, 21 marks 50 years of ministry for Lincoln here and that the sweeper reflecting on the teaching that that really launch this ministry. Today's message comes from Dr. scroll series fear and trembling the trauma of God's holiness would like to send you the complete six part series. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount you'll find is that Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us at 800-435-4343 just a reminder if the messages you hear on Renewing Your Mind or an encouragement to you. You'll find even more content like this, both online and on our free mobile app learn more when you go to Renewing Your Mind.org what tomorrow will look back on one of the most important events of the last five centuries the Protestant Reformation. We hope you'll join us Wednesday for RC's message titled the 95 theses