If God gave you everything you always wanted, but you lost Him, would you take that deal?
Title: “Not Without You”
Before we get into our message, I want to take a few minutes to inform you about something really important that we are doing next week
Just about every January, we take a Special Offering for our projects in Haiti.
Our team will be headed to Haiti January 30th to February 6th
And we want to support them in their work
This year, along w/ sharing their faith, our team of 11 people will be helping to build a public bathroom in the city we’ve been working in the past few years.
Now, that might not seem like a big deal to you.
Maybe you’re thinking, “A bathroom, really??”
But this is a HUGE deal…it’s a dignity of life thing.
In Haitian villages, there are VERY few bathrooms.
Only a couple of places have them…and they are essentially outhouses with a hole in the ground and a wood structure around them.
But the vast majority of people use the trees or anywhere outside their house to go to the bathroom
(Put up Special Offering SLIDE)
Our aim is to construct a Public Restroom Facility with 8 toilets and 4 showers.
Also in Haiti, people have to bathe either in the river (which makes it hard to maintain modesty) or with a bucket in their backyard.
We think this is a great way for our church to bring dignity to the community.
And also health as well.
On the screen behind me, you can see there are a number of specific ways you can help in this project…and my request is that you begin praying about this.
And talking with your spouse about it if you’re married.
We will be receiving the special offering for Haiti next week
The Goal ($12,800) is a decent amount higher than we’ve ever raised before for something like this.
But that’s what they need…so we need to pray!
And believe that we’ve clearly been blessed, and we want to bless others
I also know that we JUST finished pledging 1.3 million for our building.
ANd this is kind of “back-to-back”
We talked about… “should we not do this,” and we just felt, “No, we need to do this. Church isn’t about us…it’s about serving others”
So pray with me over these next 7 days.
GOD’S NOT COMING WITH
All right, let’s get into the Book of Exodus in the Bible.
If you’re visiting today (welcome!), we’ve been studying the Book of Exodus for the past year or so…
And where we are currently in the book, God has rescued the Israelites from Slavery in Egypt and they are encamped next to Mt Sinai in the desert.
If you want to follow along with today’s chapter, I encourage you to do so:
If you were here last week, we saw the Israelites get frustrated that God was taking so long with Moses, and they decided to “Revise God” and make a physical version of God by constructing a Golden Calf and worshipping it
Needless to say, God’s not happy about it.
We’re going to take a look at God’s response today in Chapter 33
(Exodus 33:1-2) – NIV
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
So, at first glance, this seems great.
Looks like they can finally get moving again and start heading towards the promised land.
Not to mention God is sending an angel to help them be victorious in battle.
And then, God drops this bomb on them:
(Exodus 33:3-6) – NIV
3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
God tells them that they can go to the Promised Land, their enemies will be vanquished, and they can thrive in the land of milk & honey, but as it stands right now, He’s not going with them.
Their sin is so great (their idolatry)…that if He went with them, He might consume them.
Unless some significant repentance and intercession happens, the Israelites aren’t going to have God with them in the Promised Land
Obviously, God is present everywhere, but God won’t be with them in any sort of personal way.
But thankfully, Moses begins to intercede for the Israelites.
We’re going to jump over verses 7-11, as we’ll most likely touch on them next week, and jump to verse 12
By the way, bring someone back with you next week, He needs to hear more about God’s presence
(Exodus 33:12-17) – NIV
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
There’s a lot in this passage.
One of the first things we notice is that Moses intercedes for the people..
And God hears Him.
It’s not that God is changing his mind here.
It’s not like God said, “I’m never going with you guys, Oh, wait, Good point Moses! I guess I’ll go!”
God has stated that because of their sin (without repentance and intercession), He’s not going
But through Moses prayer, He’s responding and saying He WILL go.
That might raise some theological questions for you, but this really isn’t any different from when you pray today.
Let’s say you’re praying for a co-worker to accept Christ and become a Christian, and it happens…
Well, what happened in the spiritual realm?
Did your prayer (and their prayer of repentance) CHANGE God’s mind?
Was he not going to save them, but then because you prayed, He changed his mind??
God just responding to our prayer…and our prayer is the method by which God’s will (and His already perfect plan) is put into effect…it’s not a “change of mind”
God knew all along what would happen.
And it was God’s plan all along to go w/ to the Promised Land, but He wanted the Israelites to feel the weight of their sin, and repent!
RESULTS WITHOUT THE RESCUER
Perhaps the most amazing thing in this passage is how the Israelites respond to God’s warning that He might not be coming with them.
It’s actually a rather surprising response given that just days ago, they were just worshipping a golden calf.
But when they get word that God might not be coming with to the Promised Land…they are truly devastated.
They mourn, they take off all of their gold jewelry (that they were using to make an idol), and Moses begs God to go with them.
Look again at what Moses says:
(Exodus 33:15) – NIV
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
We won’t go without you!
And God answers his prayer and says, “I’ll go with you”
Moses and the Israelites, for all of their shortcomings, had learned to value something about God, that most American Christians don’t value with the same intensity: The Presence of God.
The Presence of God went with the Israelites everywhere.
Cloud by Day, Fire by Night
Fed by Manna 6 days a week
Smoke on the mountain while He met with Moses
And thought of being on their own…terrifies them.
So much so, that they refuse to go to the Promised Land without God.
But think about this.
God told them that He would at least send an angel…conquer their enemies…and they could still live in the Promised Land…HE just wouldn’t be with them.
And they said no. No deal.
Would we answer in the same way?
I’m not so sure.
Let me ask you a question: If God said to you, “Friend, I’m prepared to give you everything you want. Make your dreams come true…
“…that job you’ve always wanted. I’ll give it to you.”
“…that person you want to marry…and those kids you’ve always wanted. No problem.”
“…your health problems, I can fix them…”
“…I can give you everything your heart desires…but, here’s the catch, you won’t get me.”
Would you take that deal?
My fear is that so many of us have already taken a deal like this…without knowing it.
Let’s look at this in reverse, and maybe we can see the evidence in our lives
So many of us, especially as Suburban Americans, have gotten what we wanted.
You wanted to graduate high school or go to college someday…and you did
You wanted a job in a certain field…and you got it
Wanted to get married, have kids, get a house.
And you got it!
Things, that so many all over the world, and even in America, long for, and never get
We have so many of the things we’ve longed for that sadly, so many of us aren’t even bothered by the fact that God is not really all that present in our lives anymore.
That our spiritual hearts have turned rather lukewarm
Do you see it…in reverse?
We got to the promised land, and God isn’t really with us, and we’re not even really that bothered by it!
We ought to, like the Israelites, weep over that.
For others of us, God’s presence in our life is no longer so important that we would, like Moses say, “If you’re not with me, I’m not moving…
For too many of us, God’s presence is like a nice add-on, but certainly not necessary
You can see this in the way Christians talk.
Too many of us love the word “I” when we talk of our future.
“In 2018, I’m going to accomplish this and that at work
“I’m saving up for this”
“I’m going to work on my marriage”
“I came up with a new strategy for parenting my kids, so I’m doing this..”
And yet, as I think of the spiritually mature Christians I know…because they’re taking time everyday seeking God’s presence…they tend to not start with “I,” but rather, with “God”
“God is leading me to go here, to do this”
“I’m begging God, to strengthen my marriage in 2018”
“God’s putting on my heart, that this is what I can do to help my struggling child”
For far too many Americans, God is a nice little bonus we can call on IF the “Promised Land of the American Dream” is getting us down and we need a pick-me-up
But friends, this isn’t what the Bible is saying!
It’s saying that the prayer of your heart, every day, ought to be, “Not without you”
That we (and this is oh-so-hard, and I’m not saying I’m there)….that we oughta to say:
“I’m not having this big conversation this week without you”
“God, I’m not ‘improving my life’ without you”
“I’m not taking another step, without you!”
“I want to seek and be guided by your presence every day!”
“I don’t want just the prizes of prosperity, I want the Prince of Peace”
So what is it that the Israelites knew that we don’t know? How did they get this right?
They know that to get everything they ever wanted, but without God, would be a complete disaster.
This is something, in America, we ought to have learned by now, but we haven’t.
We live in prosperity.
Listened to how we opened the message.
You’re not wondering where you’re going to bathe today…or go to the bathroom.
You’re not wondering if your house is going to be too hot or too cold.
We’ve invented 1,000 different ways to be comfortable and happy, and yet every major psychological study seems to show that we just keep getting more miserable.
We should have known this would happen.
For 50 years now, American celebrities have graced the covers of grocery store magazines…
…and despite getting everything they’ve ever wanted, they can’t stay married, they can’t stay in one place, and they can’t stay happy!
Because when you get all of creation without the Creator, you’ll be nothing but miserable.
Because that’s not where God created you to find life.
But how do the Israelites, of all people, know this truth??
My sense is that (at least some of their spiritual leaders), who had been walking with God, even through the dark times of Pharaoh’s genocidal rages and cruel slavery, they knew that God was SOOO good…even in the really hard times.
And thus, that they didn’t need prosperity, or results, or a change of circumstances, just to be happy…they JUST NEEDED GOD.
Perhaps our prosperity sometimes, unfortunately shields us from understanding this deeper truth.
To the point where even if God leads us to hard places, we still want to clutch the idols of prosperity and circumstances next to our chest…refusing to believe that we could be happy without the “right” circumstances.
The Israelites seemed to understand that true peace doesn’t come from getting all of the earthly results just right.
It doesn’t come from getting rid of your enemies in the promised land
It doesn’t come from finally having your own home instead of being desert wanderers
It comes from God.
And if God’s not going …it’s not worth going!
They look to Him and say, “Not without you”
I think we do often, at minimum, believe that God can help us…perhaps improve our situations
But even then, we use God just as someone who can get us to where we want, and after that, we don’t really care if He’s there or not…because we got the results we wanted!
Think about your prayer life.
Are you only ever praying that God would change or improve your situation OR are you praying that he would increase His presence IN your situation?
Moses doesn’t say, “God, Just fight off our enemies, get us to the Promised Land and then you can go.”
He says, “Lord, the Promised Land isn’t the Promised Land if you’re not in it”
Oh, may that be our heart!
That we would pray things like:
“God, I don’t want a new job…if it means I’ll start missing church, missing my house group, and losing You in the process”
“I don’t want results without the Redeemer”
“I don’t want it, if you’re not in it!”
“Not without you!”
If you’re single, may you pray, “God, I don’t want get married if it means marrying someone who doesn’t’ love you…and thus my heart might cool towards you in the process..”
“Not without you”
Nothing else matters if God isn’t moving in your life anymore…if you’re not growing in Him.
All the jobs, promotions (and these things can be great things…yes, pray for them even!)
But all the jobs, promotions, raises, and diplomas will eventually just feel like crumbs slipping through your fingers if God’s not in it with you.
“Not without you, Lord”
In Exodus, the promised Land was never the Goal.
God didn’t take them out of Egypt so they could get to the Promised Land
He took them out of Egypt so they could know HIM.
God didn’t rescue you and lead you to Christ so you could be more blessed, happy, and see more positive results.
He rescued you, so you could know HIM!
DON’T LIVE LIFE WITHOUT HIM
And so here’s my question for you:
Does the thought of getting what you want, but feeling God slip away, does that grieve you?
My prayer, actually, is that it does.
The Israelites were grieved.
They mourned when it looked like God might not come with them.
Friend, all the results in this world can never compare to God moving deeply in your life.
I just randomly read this week of a study done by David Lykken that concluded that even a really positive change in your external circumstances, ultimately only impacts a person’s happiness level by 3%!
“Not without you”
Friends, this week, I want you to take a deep look at your heart…and ask it some tough questions.
Ask: “Am I just focusing on the next thing? The next result? Hoping that the next change of circumstances is going to make me happy?”
“Or am I, first and foremost, seeking His presence”
If you’re here today, and God isn’t really in your life.
Let Him in.
It’s the only way you’ll find what you’re really looking for.
God sent his son Jesus to rescue you.
Just like God used Moses to rescue the Israelites out of Egypt, God sent Jesus to die on the cross in our place.
And if you believe He died for your sins, and give Him your life, You can be forgiven, and He can COME INTO YOUR LIFE…right here…right now…today.
So for all of us, as we get back into worship, let’s just tell God we Need Him today.
That you want Him back in your life…every day, meeting with Him.
That you want His presence back!
Would you do that?
Cry out to Him, “God, I’m coming back…and I’m not taking another step with out you”
Let me pray.
Copyright David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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