I want you to turn with me to Revelation chapter 1, and we're going to begin reading at verse 9. This is our final study in the 'Divine Encounters' series that was started, I think, back in September, around about then anyway. This is our seventh study, and tonight we're looking at the Divine encounter of 'John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos'. We're going to read verse 9 through to the end of the chapter.
"I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last', and, 'What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea'. Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches'".
Let's pray together, please. Do pray with me that the word of the Lord that He wants delivered will come forth tonight. Father, we humble ourselves in Your presence, and we confess to You that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He is the Head of the church, He is the Christ of God, He is the Anointed, the Chosen One. We confess that one day, as we sang tonight, soon - we believe it's so - every tongue will confess Him as Lord of things in heaven, things on earth, and things under the earth, and every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, to Your glory, Father. Now, Lord, we are inviting His Lordship, His rule, and His reign, and His kingdom in this place now. We are asking that there would be evidential signs that the kingdom of God has come into our midst. We remember that when He was on the earth, He said 'The kingdom of God is near you'. Lord, we pray that that would be our experience tonight. Your Word says 'The Lord is near, even at your elbow' - may we be conscious of that, Lord. Lord Jesus, come, come quickly, come into our midst now by Your Holy Spirit, we pray. May we all know Divine encounter tonight, in Jesus' name, Amen.
This series we have entitled 'Divine Encounters' has been all about what happens in a moment with God, close encounters of the Divine kind. We've been looking at well-known stories from the historic scriptural record of people who encountered the Lord, but we've been looking at it not from a Bible study capacity as such, or an exegesis of every thought in the Scripture, but rather from the perspective of their Divine encounter, things that we can learn and even principles that we can put into practice to position us to encounter the Lord ourselves. These people, in a moment, were surprised by God's presence. They had a brush with the Lord, sometimes a face-to-face encounter experiencing God. We have emphasised - and I know I have repeated this over and over again, but I think it is vital - we believe in a personal God, and therefore we must expect personal encounters with Him. It's intrinsic to relationship, all relationship, not least our relationship with our God.
So we began looking, I think it was with 'Moses at the Burning Bush', and then we moved on to 'Jacob at Jabbok' where he wrestled with the Lord in the form of the Angel of the Lord. Then we came to Gideon the fearful at the winepress, and there the Lord appeared to him and transformed him. Then Isaiah, in the year that the King Uzziah died, he was transported, as it were, into the Throne room of God. Elijah was on the mountain of course, very dejected and downcast, we would say depressed - and the Lord appeared to him there. Our last study, I think it was last month, was it? We looked at the three on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John; and how the Lord was transfigured in His glory before them, and how they were changed even, as we can be changed beholding the face of Jesus Christ.
Tonight we are looking at John the apostle's encounter on the Isle of Patmos. The book of Revelation, by the way, I'm sure you already know this, is not the revelation of John the Divine, but is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This whole book is not essentially about the end times. That is, most definitely, a lot of the subject matter, but the theme of this book is Jesus, the Son of God. It is an unveiling, that's what this apocalypse is, an unveiling, an uncovering of Jesus Christ - what He is really like now, what He thinks now. It's intriguing, isn't it? I mean, what does the Lord Jesus Christ think of what's going on in the world now? What does He think of what's happening in the church now? What does He think of what's going on with me now? Well, this is an unveiling to John of what the Lord Jesus was like at this moment, and what He wanted the church to know.
What we need more than anything, and more than ever, is a fresh revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ - a new disclosure, manifestation of the Son of God. I hope that this message, to some degree, will bring that closer to you. Let me share with you tonight just four principles. There are probably more, and I think I might even be getting some insight and inspiration as I was reading the passage there, but we will start with the four anyway.
First of all: we see that Divine encounters are often in the context of suffering for Christ. This is a theme that we've already seen in our other studies, that many of the people who encountered the Lord, the run up to that wonderful experience was not a mountaintop but a valley. They might have ended on the mountain top, but it was a valley that preceded it. Here we see John is on the Isle of Patmos, which was like the Alcatraz of the Roman Empire. It was a prison island where they banished people to manual labour. Now, remember who we're talking about here, we're talking about the last surviving disciple of Jesus, an apostle. He is described as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' - now, that doesn't mean Jesus didn't love the rest of them, but it meant that in His earthly ministry there was something special between the relationship of Jesus and John. I think it's got more to do with how John pushed in to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the other disciples. Of course, John was one of those three that had the privilege of seeing certain things that the rest of the twelve didn't experience: Jairus' daughter's house, the three were taken in; Gethsemane, the three were there with the Lord Jesus in His agony; and of course we mentioned the Mount of Transfiguration already, it was Peter, James, and John that were there. John is the apostle at the Last Supper who rested his head on the bosom of Christ. John is the apostle of love, you know that from reading his Gospel, from reading the first, second and third epistles of John. He is the one who lingers at the cross, when everybody else forsakes the Lord he is still there. He takes care of the Lord's mother from there on.
But I want you to note that his love - perhaps unrivalled love, at least among the disciples - for Jesus didn't immunise him against suffering. In fact, I would go further to say: it actually kind of qualified him to suffer for Jesus. Now I'm not talking about sickness here, and I'm not talking about all sorts of tragedy and things like that, I'm talking about suffering for Christ, for righteousness' sake. We ought not to be surprised at this. Of course, John again, the same guy, recorded this in his Gospel from the words of the Lord Jesus, John 15:18-20: 'If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master'. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also". Jesus did say: 'In the world', and I assume you're still there, 'you will have tribulation' - put that in your promise box and smoke it! 'In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world'.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12: 'Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution'. It's maybe times like this that we wished the Word of God wasn't as certain and sure! You see, if we want Divine encounters, we have to be prepared for dark encounters. Paul's desire was to know Christ - yes? Do you know where he said that? Philippians 3:10: 'that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection', that would be great, wouldn't it? But that comes, as Paul says, with 'the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death'. It's a package, you see - you can't have resurrection without crucifixion.
So Divine encounters, not always, but very often, are in the context of suffering for Christ, suffering with Christ. It was Samuel Rutherford, writing from prison in Aberdeen four centuries ago, who was persecuted for his faith and his expression of his faith, and he was writing his famous letters (which you can still buy today) to his parishioners. He ended one of those letters with this sentence, listen: 'Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby'. Isn't that wonderful? But it was the context of a cell, the context of suffering for Jesus. We want the encounter, don't we? We don't want the suffering.
The second principle here we see from John is the need for extraction from your normal environment. If you would like a Divine encounter, there is a need, a necessity to be extracted out of your normal environment. The Isle of Patmos was a rocky, desolate island about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. Of course - I'm not saying God couldn't have given this vision to John anywhere, of course He could have - but it's very interesting to me that it was in a desolate place of isolation that the Lord came to him. Now obviously this was forced, wasn't it? I mean, John didn't buy a ticket to Patmos for a vacation, he was banished there as a prisoner. We've been talking about Rutherford in his prison cell, but if we don't have forced extractions out of our normal environments, it is incumbent upon us that we choose to extricate ourselves out of our normalcy. Do you understand? If you want a Divine encounter, it's going to require you to bail out of your normal humdrum everyday life - and, by the way, that's part of what I'm seeking to do over the next while, if you read my prayer letter: to get engaged with God again.
We must seek to extract ourselves from the norm in order to seek God. No, I'm not going to go through all the series that we have traversed already, but you remember Jacob? It said 'Then Jacob was left alone', and then all of a sudden he was wrestling with God. He had to get away from everything else. Where was Moses? The backside of the desert, alone except for a few sheep - and God shows up. Where was Gideon? Alone.
I did share this with you, I think, when we looked at Jacob - but it's worthy of repetition. Ron Boyd-McMillan, a journalist for Open Doors, met Wang Mingdao who was the father of the persecuted church in China. He had spent years in solitary confinement - do you remember that story? I'll not repeat it all, just to say, Wang Mingdao said to him: 'When I was in prison all those years I had nothing to do except get to know God. For 20 years that was the greatest relationship I have ever known - but the cell was the means'. He was advising Ron Boyd-McMillan how we in the West are so busy, we're too busy. He says this: 'I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God, you need to build yourself a cell so that you can do for yourself what persecution did for me - simplify your life to know God!'.
Now I'm not preaching to you, I'm preaching to myself, I need to do this because I want to encounter God. To encounter God, I need to extract myself from my normal environment. A third thing is the role of being 'in the Spirit'. Do you see what it says here? Not only was he persecuted, we see that in verse 9, but then in verse 10 it says 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day'. Now, this appears to mean more than just being in the Spirit as opposed to in the flesh. You know where Paul talks in Galatians 5 about 'walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh' - I don't think that's what's being talked of here. It seems more like John is speaking of a spiritual experience that was unique to him. I say unique to him in this particular experience that we are reading of in Revelation, but others experienced it also - like a kind of out of body experience where he received the Divine revelation of the book that we have before us tonight.
The idea is that John, in the Holy Spirit, in his human spirit was carried beyond his normal state. This had a role to play in this Divine encounter. John is not the only one who underwent such a - I suppose you could call it 'spiritual transportation'. We read in 2 Corinthians 12 of Paul, speaking of himself although he's trying not to let the cat out of the bag, although it's pretty obvious, 'I know such a man; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter'. So he didn't even know whether he was still in his body or outside the body in some spiritual ethereal sense - all we know is that he was caught up, and he experienced something of the heavenly Paradise.
Now, we're not talking about Astral Projection or anything of Spiritism, we're talking about a biblical experience where someone is transferred into another dimension, perhaps even bodily. Now there certainly might be a visionary element to it as we see from Revelation - this is a vision, of course, an apocalyptic vision, but it appears to be more than that. If we look at chapter 4 and verse 2, we see that this happens to John again: 'Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne'. So he is in the Spirit, and then he is in heaven viewing the Throne room of God. If you go to chapter 17 verse 3, it says: 'So he carried me away in the Spirit', the angel carried him away in the Spirit, 'into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast' - so he was actually carried into the wilderness. If you go to chapter 21 and verse 10, 'And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God'. The Holy Spirit takes his spirit, it would seem, to the mountain of God to show him the New Jerusalem.
We know of other people, like Elijah, who God seemed to just carry away various places, and eventually carried him away to heaven. We read of Philip the evangelist on the road to Samaria, he has been taken from Samaritan arrival out to that road to speak to the Ethiopian eunuch. So this is a biblical experience, and it happens when God enables it. I'm not saying we should spend our life pursuing such experiences, and some experiences are unique to individuals, but I am saying that if you want Divine encounters you need to be open to anything and everything that God wants to do. I think I can say I am. Now, if He was to try something on I might challenge it, I might dig my heels in and lock my legs - that has happened before - but I want to be willing for anything and everything that God would do in order that I would encounter Him. I think I'm being honest in saying to you that I don't care what it looks like to you or anybody else, as long as it's God. Maybe I care a little bit, but I'm trying to get over it.
We should be open to whatever God wants to do to reveal Himself to us. We should be open in God's presence, because it was there at this moment - and I just want you to see this, I picked this up as I was reading in verse 10 - 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet'. It was there that the still small voice became a loud voice like a trumpet, it was when he was in the Spirit. You know the way you go through life and you're trying to tune in to the still small voice of God, I hope you're trying to do that, I hope you're starting to hear - and it is a little, gentle whisper, isn't it, in your heart? God has not got a megaphone, he doesn't sound like Charlton Heston, and very rarely does He ever speak with an audible voice like that, even in Scripture, it's quite a rare occasion. But all of a sudden, John is in the Spirit, and behind him there is a loud voice like a trumpet - that's what happens when you're in the Spirit. There is a heightened amplification and sensitivity of your spiritual senses and proclivities.
I want you to also note, a bit like Moses (and this is what I saw when I was reading earlier) 'I heard behind me a loud voice', and then it was when he turned and paid attention to the loud voice that he had a revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Isn't that what happened to Moses? He saw the burning bush, which wasn't anything special for a shepherd, in the wilderness, there were burning bushes all the time - but there was something different about this burning bush that intrigued him, and it says he turned aside to see this great sight, and then God spoke! You see, you've got to turn aside, you've got to stop in your tracks at the little signs and signals that God is giving, to pay attention to what He's doing - and then He will come in and speak and give direction.
We see this loud voice of a trumpet in verse 10, and then Christ reveals His nature and His message to him - isn't that the way it happens? Look at verse 11: 'saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last', and, 'What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches', etc. It's just like Moses, isn't it? What did Moses have revealed from the burning bush in the voice of God? Something of the nature of God that he had not previously known: 'I am the Lord' - do you remember? Divine encounters are not just for the thrill of it - and they are thrilling, but that's not what the objective is - the objective is: God is revealing something of Himself to you that you didn't know, or at least you didn't know it the way you needed to know it. Yes?
Here we see John is having Christ reveal Himself as Alpha and Omega - this is not a phrase that, as far as I'm aware, has been in the Bible before - and it's a new revelation of Jesus Christ to him, and there is much more being said here concerning the nature of Jesus. Remember that the whole book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, things that weren't known about Him until now, but also there is with it a message - you remember that with Moses as well, 'I am the Lord, Yahweh, but I'm hearing the cry of My people, their suffering under Egyptian bondage; and I'm going to come down, I'm going to rescue them, and I'm going to choose you to do it' et cetera. So it's not just something new to learn in a revelation of God to us in Divine encounters - I'm not talking about equivalent to canonical revelation, that's not what we're talking about - but there is something that you haven't learned about God that you need to learn about God, and you learn it through Divine encounter; but always there is a message accompanied with it that is intrinsic to the new chapter in your experience with Him.
First of all, it's often in the context of suffering for Christ that we have these Divine encounters. Secondly, there is the need for extraction from your normal environment. Thirdly, the role of being 'in the Spirit'. Fourthly and finally, the Spirit's objective in Divine encounters is always to reveal and glorify Christ, always. John again tells us in John 15:26, the words of our Lord: 'But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me'. 'He will take of My things, and show them and reveal them to your minds and to your hearts'. Here in verse 11 He is revealed as 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last'. Can I just paraphrase that for you? 'It's all about Me', that's what Jesus is saying, 'It's all about Me, from start to finish it's about Me'. Can I say that, if your pursuit of the Divine encounter, or mine, is not to know Christ better, it's a counterfeit pursuit - and it's probably selfish, or even sensual, just for the buzz - and, dare I say it, idolatrous; if it's not a heart-passion to know Him.
Now look at the vision that John gets, verse 12, here we see it: 'Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands'. Here is Christ in the midst of His churches - I want you to understand this, alright? Lampstands, you know the Jewish Menorah that you see in Israel, that was the candlestick that was in the Tabernacle in the Holy Place - and it is a symbol of the witness of God's people, the light that they were to be to the nations. Now in the New Testament it is a symbol of the witness of these assemblies of God's people in these seven Asia Minor cities, and Jesus is walking in the midst of them. Do you know what that is portraying? Jesus is in charge of the church, He's in charge! Whether we acknowledge Him, recognise Him, or whether He gets a word in edgeways, let alone gets through the door as we see in Laodicea in chapter 3 of Revelation, He's still in charge. He speaks to each of those churches, and to some of them He says 'This is what I'm going to do, if you don't repent, this is what I'm going to do'. It's in relation to their lampstand, their candlestick - and He even talks about taking them away, taking the candlestick away. That's not closing the church, taking their effective witness away if they don't listen to Him.
What's interesting to me here is: John, remember, is the most familiar, we would say the most familiar of the apostles with the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus of Nazareth better than anybody, but he's overwhelmed by this revelation. Look at verse 17, after the revelation: 'When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead'. Some people think he actually did die, I don't know, but he fell as if he were dead - because this is not how he remembered the Lord Jesus maybe 60 years ago. He's an old man now, this is not how he remembered Him, it's not how he would have described Him. You know, you meet John, and you say to the old man: 'You knew Jesus better than anybody, how do you remember Him?'. If you'd caught John before this event, you'd have heard a totally different story. It's not how he would have described Him to you. Listen, this is vital, it's not how he would have recognised Him. The most familiar with Him, but he would never have recognised Him here; and it's for this reason that he falls down as if he were dead, and he was obviously terrified!
You know, people are terrified of new revelations of Jesus Christ, when He comes to you personally in a new way. It was such an otherworldly sight. I mean look at it, let's look at the specifics, verse 14: 'His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow'. This is an allusion to the figure of the image of the Ancient of Days that is in the book of Daniel - the Jews would have got this. 'His eyes like a flame of fire' - that is the purity, the laser insightfulness and incision of the x-ray vision of the Son of God who sees and knows everything. 'His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace', fine brass has been refined in the molten heat of the furnace, and He's coming now, walking to judge the house of God, the church. 'His voice as the sound of many waters', this is not the still small voice, this is a voice that is like a cataract of thundering waters, the roar, the deafening decibels of a Niagara-like flood, this is the authority of Christ. 'He had in His right hand seven stars', that's the seven churches, they are secure, He's in charge. 'Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword', that's the word of God as a two-edged sword, dividing spirit and soul, bone and marrow, the discerner of the thoughts and intents, of the heart of every man and woman. 'His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength', this is the glory of God - John would have recognised that from the Mount of Transfiguration, but now it was in an even greater glorified state. When John saw this, he dropped dead, almost.
I think I've said this to you before, maybe not, maybe it was somewhere else, but I believe the Lord Jesus Christ can appear differently to different people in different places. He was transfigured in His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, He appeared in glory there; but after He was resurrected He appeared in the Garden tomb to Mary as a gardener - well, she thought He was the gardener, she didn't recognise Him. The disciples, remember when He was walking on water, thought He was a ghost. So Peter, James, and John saw Him in glory; Mary saw Him as a gardener; and the disciples saw Him as a ghost - or rather different. What it says here in verse 13 is, John says: 'I saw One like unto the Son of Man'. This is apocalyptic language, it's a vision of course. Jesus, literally, is not like this, this is a vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, how he saw Him - and I believe the Lord Jesus can appear in different ways to different people. You might disagree with me on that, but note this much: he was petrified.
Here is the irony and the paradox of Divine encounters, particularly in the new covenant - verse 17: 'When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last''. How many times in Scripture do you read that somebody dropped like a dead person, or was terrified, and then an angel of the Lord, or the Lord, says to them: 'Don't be afraid'? 'Well, then don't terrify me, don't frighten the living daylights out of me if You don't want me to be afraid!', but you see, He can't help it because He's so other than we are, He's so beyond us that when we even get a glimpse of His glory, His greatness, His magnificence, we are bowled over, nearly snuffed out - but He doesn't want us to be afraid. Isn't that beautiful?
This is the paradox of Divine encounters as New Testament Christians, that you can have the exhilarating thrill of the close shave with God, who is an all-consuming fire, you can have the goosebumps, the hair standing on the back of your neck, and yet in that white-knuckle adrenaline ride, you're totally and utterly safe and secure. It's like Elijah in the cleft of the rock when there was the earthquake, the thunder, the fire - and wasn't that the same cleft of the rock that Moses was in, we saw that, didn't we? Whenever he said 'Show me Your glory', and the Lord said 'I can't show you everything, I can just show you My back parts as I pass by' - but he goes into the cleft of the rock, and he is secure and safe.
The Lord Jesus is dressed in this vision as a Judge-Priest, and I don't want to go into this, but we know this from the sash that He's wearing, and some of the other garments that He adorns. He is a Judge-Priest, He's walking in the midst of the lampstands, He's in charge of His church, He's in the centre of the lampstands, He's revealing Himself as He is, and He's just about to tell those churches what He thinks and what He feels about them. As I finish this message and finish this series, it might seem obvious to say it, but what we need more than anything is to encounter Jesus again. We need to see Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. We need to behold Him, and we need to hear what He is saying to us today. It's the answer for our lives; it's the answer for our marriages; it's the answer for our children and our grandchildren, our homes; it's the answer for churches, our fellowships, our groups; it's the answer for our communities; it's the answer for our divided country - Jesus, seeing Him as He really is. Not the children's storybook version, not the stained-glass window version, not the Protestant-Catholic version; the way He really is.
A father was trying to get peace to read his copy of the Daily Telegraph one day, and the problem was: every time he settled down his little girl kept asking him questions. So he came up with the bright idea that he would give her something to do while he read his paper. He leafed through one of the missionary magazines that was lying on the coffee table, and he found a map of the world. He cut it out into small pieces, and he said: 'Look, dear, here's a map of the world, see if you can put the jigsaw puzzle together'. He settled down again to read his paper, and in a few minutes she was back, and he couldn't believe it. He asked her: 'How did you do that so fast?'. Like a flash, she said: 'Well, Daddy, it was easy, I found a picture of Jesus on the other side of the page, and I knew when I had Him in the right place then the world would all be right'.
Jesus, be the centre of it all. Jesus is the centre of it all, and it's time we caught up and recognised it - and, like John, we heard this voice and turned aside, verse 12, to see the voice that spoke. When we turn aside to see what He's really like, and hear what He's really saying; like John we will be overwhelmed, and we will receive a deposit from the Lord of the church, the Judge-Priest of the church, that will transform the church if we heed Him. Let us pray.
Lord, we have prayed this before during this series, and even in the back room before we came out: that You would deliver us from talking about Divine encounters and not having them. We declare tonight in Your presence that You are not a God who is in a history book, You are the Living God, and You're the same tonight as You ever were. What You did before You can do again, and we say tonight: 'Why not here? Why not now? Why not me? Why not, Lord?'. Of course, we know, Lord, even when we ask that question that the 'whys' aren't really on Your side, they are on ours. Forgive us when we have restricted You, when we have confined You, when we have second-guessed You, when we have resisted You, when we have struggled with You, when we have tried to wrestle with You and didn't realise, like Jacob, that we were wrestling against ourselves. Like Moses, when we tried to engineer it our way with the arm of flesh; like Gideon, we have been too afraid to step into the battle, and we have listened more to what the enemy says about us than what You say and see us as. Forgive us, Lord, when we want to build tabernacles and memorials to Moses and Elijah, and don't behold the face in glory of Jesus Christ to be changed to His image, rather than to be fashioned like this man or woman. Lord, we want to know Jesus. Lord Jesus, we want to see You as You really are. I've quoted these verses, Lord Jesus, they are my favourite verses in all of Scripture, I've quoted them in this series; but Lord, I mean it tonight, that You have said to those who keep Your word and love You, You will manifest Yourself to them, and that the Father and the Son will come and make their habitation with that person. Lord, unless these are just empty platitudes, that's got to mean something, and You have to honour Your word. Forgive me for not keeping Your word, for not loving You; but, Lord, teach us to do this, so that we might be a people who are the temple of the living God, upon whom the Shekinah glory of Almighty God rests and indwells. God, You know we need You, we need something new, we need something fresh, and we need a touch. Lord, we're not going to become sensual junkies, just looking for thrills here, there and everywhere - but we know this much: in any relationship, Lord, there has to be those special, intimate times. Lord, we need You to lift us up in Your arms, to caress us, to hold us close, to kiss us. We need Your nearness, we need to encounter You, Lord. I pray for every person here - some have been with us throughout this journey - Lord, would You make real to them, make real to me what we have discovered through Your revelation. May we be different from having been exposed to this truth, for we pray these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
God bless you. Thank you for your fellowship for these last couple of years. Thank you for your encouragement. I know that God has great things ahead. God is good. Let me share this with you before I go - two for the price of one now, OK! I prayed this in the prayer meeting, I have been, over this last while, a couple of weeks, I haven't been reading my Bible much - because I've been taking small snippets of Scripture and meditating on them. I've taken about two weeks going through the 23rd Psalm, and today I was in the first phrase of the last verse: 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life'. But I'm trying to (and I'm not a Hebrew scholar by any means), but I'm trying to translate it freshly as I'm going through. Do you know what it actually literally means? It's 'goodness and the lovingkindness', or 'the unconditional limitless love', the 'hesed' in Hebrew, the covenant-keeping faithfulness of God - that's what the mercy means. 'Goodness and God's covenant-keeping faithfulness will follow', that word 'follow' literally means 'to chase, pursue, hunt down', and I translated it like this: 'Your goodness and unfailing love will chase me down in pursuit every day of my life' - now isn't that incredible? I want to speak that over you tonight, whatever the future holds, that God is good all the time, and His goodness and faithfulness are never-failing. Do you know what I wrote in my journal? Even when I'm bad, which is now and again, when I'm in badness His goodness chases me down in pursuit. So, here's a wee tip, and I'm trying to learn it: stop looking for the badness, and every day - from here in, OK? - every day, every day look for the goodness of God; because He promises that it will be there. God bless you.
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This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his Divine Encounters series, titled "John On The Isle Of Patmos" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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