I’m thankful to God that I had enough energy and was not sick these past two weeks so that I could preach this past Sunday. It was my first time speaking in front of people since before I was diagnosed with Leukemia in December.
I had spent a couple weeks working on the sermon as I was able (hence why this blog space has been kind of quiet) but then I sensed that the sermon needed to go in a bit of a different direction on Friday afternoon so I wrote a new sermon (incorporating one previous section) on Friday/Saturday.
I have received feedback on the sermon (content/form) for which I’m thankful but I haven’t yet dialogued with anyone on the content.
My argument was that the Bible shows us that our greatest need is not money, pleasure, meaning in work, acceptance or love, etc., and in a certain sense not even in forgiveness of sins, but the presence of God.
I don’t mean to denigrate forgiveness of sins by any stretch of the imagination. It was sin that broke the relationship with God and so the sin issue has to be dealt with. And it was. Jesus paid for our sin on the cross. But, not just for sin’s sake. It was for the sake of bringing us back into relationship with God.
So, I started the sermon by raising the question of our greatest need and then went to the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32–34 to show God’s judgment, mercy and grace. The people deserved death for their wicked rebellion. God has mercy on them by forgiving them. But further, he has grace by giving them the gift of his presence. Moses knew that only this would sustain them (cf. Ex. 33 & 34).
I then took the entire Bible as my text to walk through a biblical theology of God’s dwelling with us to show how it occurs in the Bible. It began in the garden as a pure and whole relationship between God and his people. Sin broke that relationship. But God continued to act in history to provide us with what we most need, his presence. He did it through the tabernacle. This takes us from Sinai to Solomon. He then provides his presence on earth in the temple. This takes us from Solomon all the way to the 1st c. A.D. (with of course the proper noting of the 2nd Temple and all that). I noted along the way that there was still a sense that God had not fulfilled his promises to come back to dwell among his people at the temple, however. So there was a great expectation for its fulfillment.
Well, it comes. And it comes in the person of Jesus. He shows up at the Temple in John 2:19 and says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was talking about his body. And John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God dwelt with his people in the person of Jesus Christ. What grace!
Following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the body of Christ, the church, becomes God’s presence on earth. 1 Cor. 3:16-17 talks about us being the temple of God. God’s Spirit dwells within us and we now mediate God to a broken and lost world.
Finally, all of this is heading somewhere. It will end the way it began: in the garden. But this garden is a restored garden and we will never go astray again. We will dwell in the holy of holies. Revelation 21 paints a beautiful picture of our forever being in the presence of our God. He will dwell among us and we will be his people! Revelation 22 depicts the restored garden. There are bookends to our Bible. We start in the garden and we finish in a garden, made possible by the Lamb (Jesus) dying for our sins. And again, not for sin in itself, but to bring us into relationship with God. To give us what we most need: his presence.
I may post the audio at a later time but I’m also working to expand it in written form.