LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOL. II SERMON SERIES
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE
SEPTEMBER 19, 1999
What if I told you that throughout the last week you have been under constant surveillance? That would be a pretty sobering thought, wouldn’t it, to know that every thought process, every word spoken, every action taken was burned into the memory of film? And then what if I told you that our Media Department had a collection of all of the tapes and that today we would randomly show several of the tapes. I am referring to the highlights and the lowlights of some lives represented here. Would anyone want to sign up for that? Any volunteers?
If you are like me you are saying that you would not even entertain that thought. Well, think again, because every breath we take, every move we make, every bond we break, God is watching. The Bible says that God is everywhere. He is not limited by time or space. There is nowhere in the universe we can go where He is not. This is known as the omnipresence of God, omni meaning all and presence referring to locality. As you begin to get this picture, that God knows everything, sees everything and is in every location you may be getting a little uncomfortable. Whoa. God is everywhere.
A lot of people don’t like a God who is like that. They like a creator that they can cap, a deity they can confine to a certain location or venue. They are more comfortable that way because a God like that who is confined and defined does not invade their lifestyle. He wouldn’t want to tweak their behavior. So throughout the ages people have come up with a lot of biblical offshoots, things that are not really from the scripture. Now some people have taken this ball and run and they have left the Bible behind.
Pantheism is very popular these days. Pantheism, in its simplest form, says everything is a part of God. This plant is a part of God. The trunk is a part of God. This dirt is a part of God. Thus, pantheists say, I am a part of God. Since I am a part of God, I can’t sin and be separate from Him. God is comfortable that way, defined to nature. And whenever you hear someone overly emphasize nature in relation to God: warning, warning, warning, alien approaching. Now if you are under 30, you did not get that reference. It is just a joke for those of us who are over 30. After the service you can question someone who you saw laughing and they could explain it to you.
Someone who is into pantheism is Ophrah Winphrey. Also, Anthony Robbins. Those are two popular personalities these days. God is comfortable when confined and defined by nature. Pantheism.
We talked about pantheism, let’s talk about another offshoot, deism. Deism says that we have a detached deity. It says that God is powerful and we have seen His power. He got the universe going. He got the earth spinning in its axis. But now He doesn’t really concern Himself in the day to day activities in your life and mine. He is off doing other things. That is deism. God doesn’t care about my marriage or my life.
Deism is sort of like the coach who rolls the ball on the court, and says, “OK, guys or girls, just go out there and play. I don’t care about any offense or defense, I am going to eat popcorn and drink soda in the stands. Go ahead and just play. That is deism.
Well the Bible comes along and the Bible says that God is sovereign. God is everywhere. We have an every breath we take, every move we make, every vow we break kind of God. We have a God who is watching, a God who is involved, a God who is omnipresent. This is a towering topic for several groups that are represented here. First of all, it is huge for those of us who have a personal relationship with Christ. If you are a believer, if you are a part of God’s family, you have to understand this attribute of God, this facet of Him. It is crucial in your development and maturity as you grow and walk and think with the Savior.
This topic is towering for another group. We have three services every weekend and we have a number of people here who are questioning Christianity. You are probing, investigating, seeking, kicking tires and wondering about the whole deal. You must understand who is it you are seeking and probing for, who it is you are rebelling against. It is the omnipresent God.
Psalm 139. “Oh, Lord you have searched me and know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, Oh, Lord. Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. Even the darkness will not be dark to you. The night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.”
What a powerful statement about the omnipresence of God. Because I have seminary training and done some graduate work, it is sort of tempting to go through the entire Bible and give you verse, after verse and arm you with this information. It is tempting to download all of this stuff into your brain so you can leave this place saying that you know Psalm 139, Jeremiah 24, etc. etc. The Bible, though, was not written for us just to download data. The Bible was written to help us change our direction, to help with the transformation thing, to affect our daily living. We are not to worship the Bible, we are to let its words infiltrate our lives and change us, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
What I want to do is spend a hunk of this time answering one basic question. How can the omnipresence of God affect me in the present day? How? How? How? First of all, when I understand and own the fact that God is an omnipresent God, it will help in my accountability. You hear this word, accountability, being tossed back and forth these days. To know that God is watching, to know that you can’t elude Him or fake Him out or pull one over on Him, is incredible. We have built in accountability, if we know Christ personally.
I talked about Moses last weekend. Let me tell you some more about him. Moses grew up in a special set of circumstances. As an Israeli infant he was adopted into Egyptian royalty. While he was in Egyptian royalty attending the best private schools, eating the best foods, playing on the best soccer teams, his people, the Israelites, were in bondage. Note, that statement regarding the best soccer teams was a joke! The Egyptians were dominant over them. As a young man, Moses decided to walk outside and see how his people were being treated. The Bible says that he saw an Egyptian taking advantage of one of his brethren and I will let Exodus 2:12 explain the rest. “Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Moses forgot about the omnipresence of God.
Another Old Testament figure is Jonah. He was tapped on the shoulder by God and asked to make a 500-mile trek to the city of Nineveh. He was told to hold a crusade there and preach and communicate repentance. God told Jonah that He was going to destroy the city of Nineveh but He wanted to give them a change to change. What do you think God’s man did? What do you think Jonah did? He glanced this way and that, did a Biblical 180 and took, instead, a Mediterranean cruise. That’s right. On the cruise ship he was catching rays of rebellion against the Lord that he supposedly loved. Well, even back then they were having problems on cruise ships. A big storm came up. The ship owners tossed Jonah into the water and he eventually ended up in the belly of a fish. While in the fish and as those digestive juices were eating away at his skin, he had an intense prayer session with God. Jonah learned something and I have learned it too. When you try to run away from God, you run right into Him, don’t you? Jonah forgot about the omnipresence of God. He thought that God had a geographical location but then He ran right into the omnipresence of God.
I think about David, the man who penned Psalm 139, the text I read earlier. He is referred to in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart. At the peak and pinnacle of David’s career, rather than being in the battlefield where he should have been, he was in the palace. He saw the first Biblical bathing beauty, Bathsheba. He looked at her. He lusted after her. He called for her, closed the palace door and his bedroom door and committed adultery. David forgot about the omnipresence of God.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no such thing as a clandestine meeting. There is no such thing as secured phone lines or private conversations. God knows it all. God hears it all. God is everywhere. There is no such thing as a closed car door, office door, locker room door, hotel room door or bedroom door. God is everywhere and He is watching.
There is a positive aspect to this, a real positive aspect. As I am walking with the Lord, as I realize His omnipresence, it should motivate me to worship Him in everything I do. There is no such thing as me sloughing off when the boss is not watching. God is there, so if I have that temptation, I should think whoa, I am working in front of Jesus. I am going to work like I am working for Him because, ultimately, I am. I can rip this person apart. No one will know. No one will hear this gossip. Whoa. The omnipresence of God. And that should motivate us to encourage others, to build others up. So when I discover who is watching, man, talk about worship, man, talk about a different lifestyle!
This past Monday night we invited the first grade teacher of my seven year old over for dinner. She is a great lady and a part of this church. After dinner, EJ, my son, dragged me out of the house onto the driveway with a basketball under his arm. He said, “Hey, let’s play basketball.” Then he called for his teacher. And every single dribble, every single shot he would say, “Did you see that? Did you see that? Did you see that?” His teacher would respond, “Yes, EJ, that is great.” He ran to the garage, dragged out the baseball and baseball bat. He gave the baseball to me. Again, in front of the teacher, “Did you see that? Did you see that?” The sun began to set. It was getting dark and he was strapping on the roller blades. I had to tell him that the X Games were over.
What was going on here? EJ was performing like he had never performed before because someone who mattered to him was watching. Think who is watching. Think who is checking you out and me out, 24 – 7. Think. This omnipresence helps in accountability, doesn’t it?
It also helps in my vulnerability. That is the second area that I want to talk about. We are all vulnerable to certain things. We are all tempted in certain areas. I have weaknesses that you don’t have. You have weaknesses that I don’t have. God is omnipresent. He is there even when we are vulnerable, even when we are tempted. I want to read a text that I talked about several weeks ago. I Corinthians 10:13. “And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…” Isn’t that a comforting verse? Isn’t that a word of confidence and assurance? Isn’t that cool? God is faithful. He is not going to let you or me be tempted beyond what we can bear. We can never say, “I just couldn’t resist. I just had to partake. I just had to do it. I just had to fall.” No, no, no. God is faithful.
Let me do a quick sidebar. Satan is not omnipresent. He is not. He can only be at one place at one time. Some may be asking about all the havoc around the world. Well, Satan has a realm of demonic forces who obey him and carry out his directives better than a lot of believers carry out God’s directives. Verse 13 continues. “…but when you are tempted….” When you are tempted, not if. When you are vulnerable, not if. “…He will also provide a way out.” He is going to block for you. OK, here is some running room. He will provide a way out “…so that you can stand up under it.” Man, I love that. He will always provide a way out. Here is a hole, go for it. I’ll get you out of here. God is going to do that. Most of us are stalled in the back field, though.
Well, how does God’s omnipresence play out in this temptation and vulnerability stuff? Let’s move over to I Corinthians 6:19, Paul writing. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…” Remember, to become a Christian there has to be infiltration. It is an internal thing. You make a choice and Christ penetrates your life. He places the person of the Holy Spirit there. “…whom you have received from God. You are not your own….” And Paul here is referring to sexual sin. Case in point, when David committed adultery with Bathsheba behind his closed bedroom doors, it was as if David was in the act of adultery in God’s throne room. He brought God in on the deal. When you mess up, when I mess up, God is right there.
Now you are not messing up God’s uniforms. You are not making His deity get dirty. Oh, no. But you are not your own. That is why we should come clean rapidly. That is why when we do miss the mark and fail, we should say, “OK, God, I want to do a 180, I want to repent, I want to turn from my sin. I want to confess what you already know.” And when we confess our sins to God, God won’t say, “Oh, I didn’t realize that. That is a new thing for me.” He knows. He knows.
Some of you might be thinking that I don’t know what you have done, what you are involved in right now. You may think that you are so far away, but you are not. You are not. God is omnipresent. He is equally present, don’t miss this now, but He is not equally resident. If He is not resident in your life, you can make that choice right now. All that you have got to do is a quick 180. And it is not like a big 18-wheeler type U-turn. It is wham, and God is there. He is ready to restore you and to come into your life. He is ready to pick you up and give you a new direction and a new dynamic for living.
I am amazed. God has seen all of my shams, all of my sins, all of my cover-ups, all of my rebellions. He has seen yours, too. He still loves me. He still loves you. We are still the apples of His eye.
So God’s omnipresence helps in my accountability and in my vulnerability. It also helps in my stability. A lot of people, especially in this culture, are tyrannized by fear, the fear of speaking in public, the fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of living alone. Fear. A lot of us are freaked out.
Elisha, God’s prophet, was asleep one morning. His assistant got up early and walked out on the porch and he saw something that really scared him. He saw the Syrian army surrounding Elisha’s residence and believed that they would be overpowered and killed. Elisha just bowed his head and said, “Lord, open his eyes that he can see they way You see.” And suddenly the scales fell off for a second and this assistant saw the power and the presence of God enveloping Elisha’s residence and the Syrian army did not come in.
I have a good friend who is the point man for the Houston Police Department SWAT team. He is 6’3” and weighs 215 pounds and bench presses 425 pounds. He knows all the martial arts. He is a trained marksman and so on. Years ago he asked me to go riding with him one night through the streets of Houston to serve warrants on some real wackos, some crazy people. I cannot tell you the places we went. I still have nightmares based on that experience. But in all the clubs that we frequented, all the places we went, I felt total confidence. “You want some of me, man? Don’t you look at me like that. Hey, Jim, Jim, Jim.” It felt good because he was with me. And if we knew who is at our side, we wouldn’t have the fear that we do. Stability also comes when we understand that God is present when we are broken, when we are messed up. Psalm 34:18. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God is close.
I talked to a lady several weeks ago who is definitely broken hearted. But as I looked into her eyes, I could see and feel that she was living and resting in the omnipresence of God. Have you seen all of the television reports, read all of the articles about the Wedgewood tragedy? Those who are Christ followers are talking about the power and the presence of God. Now I know some of you are asking, why. “Ed, you are talking about the omnipresence of God. Where was God Wednesday night at Wedgewood Baptist Church? Where was God at Columbine High School? Where was God in Conyers, Georgia? Where was God 2,000 years ago when his only Son was bruised, battered and tortured for my sins? Where was God?” God was in Wedgewood Baptist Church. God was in Columbine High School. God was in Conyers, Georgia. God was there when his only begotten child was abused and tortured for your shortcomings and mine. God is everywhere. He is ever present. We can’t get away from Him. He is not limited by time and space. There isn’t a place where He is not.
Why, though, do things like this occur? Let me tell you something. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised safety in this life. You will not find it in the Bible. Contrary to the health and wealth TV evangelists, who are totally unbiblical and take scripture out of context in record numbers, we are not promised safety in this life. We are promised safety in eternity. In fact, the Bible says that it is God’s will that we suffer. We are to go through tough times. We are to have times when we feel the torture of life.
Think about history. There have been so many bad things which have happened to good people. We don’t understand everything. We are finite. God is infinite. Yet we think in our humanity that God owes us some kind of explanation. The creature has to have an explanation from the creator. “Oh, God, why?” Hey, God doesn’t owe me a thing. He doesn’t owe you a thing. Who am I, who are you to ask God why? He is sovereign. He is in control. And He is there.
Let me share a couple of powerful verses with you.
II Corinthians 1:3-5. “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” And then in I Corinthians 13:12, here is what Paul says regarding why. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” God does give us some information, some light. But at the end of the day, we have to trust Him. And I am here to tell you something, too. When the church has been persecuted, it has always experienced its finest hour. The church flourishes when people go after it. And for those people who graduated from this life into eternity Wednesday night, for those who busted through that tissue-like veil that separates this life from eternity, do you think they want to come back? We live in a sin-stained, rebellious planet and we are going to reap the consequences of our sinfulness and of our rebellion before God. But if God gave us the answers and all the information, we would blow a fuse. We couldn’t take it.
For example, how many of you have a toddler? OK, your toddler sees a fork, picks it up, sees an electrical socket and is going to stick the fork in the socket. What do you do? “Junior. Think about what you are going to do. Let me share with you all the subtle nuances concerning electricity. You see there are wires……” No. You would take the fork from junior and plug up the socket with a safety plug. One day, as he matures, he will understand the deal about electricity. Well, as we toddle before God and get ready to do something or don’t understand something, God might say “no” or “wait” or “here is a little bit of information.” God knows in his sovereignty that one day in eternity we will understand. We will see Him face to face. We will get the whole deal, the total package. But if He explained it all to us, like a little toddler, we couldn’t understand it. We couldn’t get it. So we have to trust Him.
God uses horrible things, hellish things, terrible things but also incredible things, phenomenal things and victorious things to all work together, to mesh together for good to all those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We still go through the grief, the pain and the questions. But we have got to trust. God is there. He helps my accountability, my vulnerability and my stability. That is the difference that Christ makes.
Does this mean that we don’t pray for safety, we don’t pray for security? No. We pray. And I think that one day when we get to heaven we will look back and see how many times God has saved us, spared us and we will be blown away by it.
But I have got to go back to what I said earlier. God is not equally resident but He is equally present. If you can agree with that statement, and I think pretty much everyone can, that is good. But some of you are agreeing with it but you know in the depth of your soul that God is not resident there. Well, today we can change that deal. I can lead you in a prayer. You can pray along with me and God will come into your life. All you have got to do is simply say, “Lord, I have been going my own way. I understand that you are omnipresent. I believe that you sent Christ to get bruised and battered, to die on the cross for all of my sins and shortcomings and rise again. At this point in time I make that quick turn and I receive Christ. I receive what He did for me.” Then Christ becomes resident, placing the Holy Spirit inside your life. Then you can understand the full implications of the accountability thing, the vulnerability thing and the stability thing. You see, God relates differently to those persons inside His family as opposed to those who are outside His family. And many here need to take and make that step. The reason that we can rejoice in one way over the deaths that occurred Wednesday is because those who died are with Jesus. But how about you? We will have many exits from this life, cancer, heart attacks, plane crashes, old age. Some may be murdered. But it is important that you know where you are going.
We began this message time with a song by the police called “Every Breath You Take”. During this series called LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOLUME II, we start the service with a secular song and end the session with a Christian contemporary song that puts the period and the exclamation point behind what these people who don’t know Christ were trying to get at. This next song is one of my favorites. In fact it is by my most favorite group, DC Talk. It is entitled, “Supernatural”. When you hear the wordS, I pray that they become words not only of information but also of transformation as we get into the omnipresence of God.