Our God Is Here
Here are my teaching notes from Sunday, June 24, at the Cornerstone Church.
OUR GOD IS HERE
Part 6 of CHAPTER ONE. Ezekiel 1
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. June 24, 2018.
Have you heard of "augmented reality?" All the big tech companies are working on it. There's the world we see with our eyes and then your smart phone adds another world on top of that. Say you're walking past a store, your augmented reality glasses will pop up an ad for 50% off dresses. Or you're a surgeon, and the glasses will show a diagram of the surgery. Augmented reality is another world behind our world.
There's another kind of augmented reality. There is the invisible world behind our visible world. That's where we see who God is and what he is doing. We need that kind of augmented reality if we want to stay in faith every day.
In 593 BC, Ezekiel was an exile in Babylon, far from Jerusalem and the temple where he had been a priest. And God gave him a glimpse of augmented reality:
(Ezekiel 1:1) "The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God."
Ezekiel saw God and he was about to get a revelation of what God was doing behind the scenes. That vision would encourage him and his fellow exiles to stay in faith. We need some of that augmented reality in our lives, right?
Look at your outline. First, what we can SEE WITH AUGMENTED REALITY.
SEEING WITH AUGMENTED REALITY
1. I SEE THAT GOD IS PRESENT
In Ezekiel's day, people believed in local gods. If you moved, you had to change gods. But this vision shows us that God is GLOCAL - here, there, everywhere. He is on the move throughout the earth. He is in Babylon with the exiles.
The four living creatures were moving. These are the cherubim - God's bodyguard - and they were carrying God's throne above them:
They have four faces so they can see in all directions - verse 6.
They move where the spirit moves - verses 12, 20. In Hebrew, the word for spirit is also translated wind or breath. Here, it seems simplest to say, the cherubim move like the wind - in all directions.
They speed back and forward on wheels within wheels so they can go anywhere - verses 14-17.
The world looks out of control, chaotic. But take a look through augmented reality glasses and get a revelation of God. He's present and active in the world:
(Isaiah 6:3) Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
In the invisible world, wherever you go, God is already present. He sees everything. He's knows what's happening. He's working his plan.
If you're a follower of Jesus, the presence of God is so encouraging. He is in you wherever you go. You're never alone.
(Matthew 28:20) "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19) Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
2. I SEE THAT GOD IS PURE
The cherubim are riding on God's chariot throne and he is there on the throne:
(Ezekiel 1:26-28) Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli (sapphire - deep blue), and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord...
Why is God blazing, fiery, light? Because he is pure, holy, beautiful, being. There is no hint of a flaw, no sin, no evil, no imperfection. This is the most important revelation of God we can ever receive: He is holy.
Seeing God like that changes everything:
(Ezekiel 1:28) This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown ...
Never, ever, ever, bow down to anyone or anything else. Ever. Look at augmented reality and you will see Pure God. And he captures you. He's all you see. His glorious, radiant, fiery holiness dominates everything else. Nothing else matters. No body, no crisis, no politics, no disaster, NOTHING. He is all in all.
3. I SEE THAT GOD IS PURIFYING FIRE
(Ezekiel 1:4) I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.
That is a revelation of God coming to purify his people. Really? Yes! When God appeared to Israel at Mount Sinai to make covenant (the covenant they have now broken), it was the same:
(Exodus 19:16, 18) There was thunder and lightning ... the Lord descended on the mountain in fire.
Our passage also says that God was coming out of the north. North was where Israel's enemies were:
(Jeremiah 1:14-15) The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem ... I will pronounce my judgments on my people."
The city gates were the law courts in ancient Israel. The northern kings are there to pass judgment on Israel's rulers. But look what it says: "I will pronounce judgment." God was using Israel's enemies to PURIFY his people. This is corrective discipline to get them back on track.
Augmented reality lets us see God as purifying fire. His goal is to bring all the prodigals home to the love and life he wants to pour on us. Life is hard so we'll be holy:
(1 Peter 4:16-17) If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment (corrective discipline) to begin with God's household
That's what we see when we look with augmented reality. But we must do more than see, now we should LIVE it.
LIVING WITH AUGMENTED REALITY
1. I LIVE BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT
God is present. So, I'm not going to react to circumstances, I'm going to rely on God.
(Ephesians 3:20) 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.
Don't put limits on God. He goes waaaaay beyond your expectations.
2. I LIVE IN PURITY, NOT IN AMBIGUITY
God is pure and he wants us to be a pure people - separate from sin. That's not a popular concept today. But God wants a people who reflect his holiness and are distinctly different from people who do not know God. No ambiguity - distinctly different.
(Matthew 5:16) Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
3. I LIVE IN GRACE, NOT GRIEF
It's true that God disciplines us. But he is motivated by mercy and grace:
(Ezekiel 1:28) Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
The rainbow represents God's promise to be gracious. He's so gracious that his throne in heaven is surrounded by a rainbow (Revelation 4:2-3) and it is called the "throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16).
Go to the throne of grace when you're in trouble (Hebrews 4:16). And when you've received grace to make it through, share that grace: reach out, help out and invite in.
Revival: A Purified Church
Excerpted from The Set of the Sail, pp. 154-156
Our most pressing obligation today is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, purified church. It is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them. Each generation of Christians is the seed of the next, and degenerate seed is sure to produce a degenerate harvest not a little better than but a little worse than the seed from which it sprang. Thus the direction will be down until vigorous, effective means are taken to improve the seed….
To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ. For a worldly, weak, decadent church to make converts is but to bring forth after her own kind and extend her weakness and decadence a bit further out….
So vitally important is spiritual quality that it is hardly too much to suggest that attempts to grow larger might well be suspended until we have become better.