The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Presence Leads to Purpose’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/30/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click
Year In Review
We’ve had an amazing year in 2018 here at CityLight Church. On Sunday, September 2nd, 2018, we hosted our first service at our new venue in Astoria. We spent the summer raising $75,000 to move from our existing sanctuary into our new home. The move required countless hours of effort for our staff and volunteers, but it was well worth it! We now have space for more than 250 guests each service. We also have an entire floor for our growing CityKids ministry (children’s church), which used to be confined to a single room at our prior venue.
In Manhattan, we studied prayer for 10 weeks this summer. I’m currently refining the content from that series in to a book on prayer that will be released in mid-2019. We believe more than ever that prayer is the highest calling: the most powerful pursuit in which we can engage, and the absolute most productive use of our time available.
Looking ahead, we are going to have an awesome 2019. We are starting 21 days of prayer and fasting on January 1, 2019. We will meet every day for corporate prayer at 7pm at one of our church locations (full schedule here). We’re also inviting each of our members and attenders to seek the Lord as to how He would have them fast during (all or part of) those 21 days.
We’re getting ready for another in-depth study – this time on evangelism – to start the new year. I’m so excited to hear the Lord speak to us about engaging people who don’t know Jesus with this life-changing, eternity-saving truth that Jesus is Lord! The contents from this next series will be refined and released in book form in early 2020.
Everything Worth Doing
Here is how I would like to close 2018, and start 2019: with a reminder that everything worth doing starts in the presence of God.
I use the phrase “worth doing” very intentionally. You see, you can do stuff outside the presence of God. You can accomplish things without prayer! But if we are to live fruitful lives for Jesus, we must draw a line in the sand between things that are worth doing, and those that are not.
Scripture denotes that distinction as follows:
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. – 1 Cor 3:9-10
You are building something, whether you like it or not. You are establishing a legacy, whether it’s worthwhile or not. So shouldn’t we take the time to stop and consider: is what I’m building really worthwhile? Will your legacy be something that is going to stand the test of time? Will what you leave here on this earth be something you want other people to see? Is what you’re offering to Jesus on a daily basis something He would want to receive?
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. – 1 Cor 3:11-15
We should only spend our time doing things that are worth doing: things done in service to God, that will stand the test of time. We need this reminder from time to time if we are going to live lives of purpose.
So what if you’re reading this, but you’re not sure if what you’re doing is worth it? What if you want to have a divine purpose, but you’re just not sure what God put you here on this earth to do?
Everything worth doing starts in God’s presence. It is in that place, that you will receive the vision required to live the life of your dreams!
Moses on the Mountain with God
Before Moses could lead the people of Israel, He had to spend time in God’s presence. God first calls Moses up Mount Sinai to meet with Him in Exodus 19. From that point forward, Moses ascends and descends the mountain to meet with God multiple times (up to eight, depending on how you read the text). On each occasion, God communicates something new to Moses. What we see is that, without these tremendous encounters with God, Moses would never have had the 1) strength and 2) vision to lead God’s people into their destiny. He never would have had the strength and vision to do what God created him to do!
God communicated purpose to Moses in His presence. God communicated instruction in painstaking explicit detail to Moses in His presence. God reminded Moses that he had a calling on His life, and a destiny that could not be canceled, in His presence.
And here’s the best part. Not only did God call Moses – the leader of His people – into His presence; He called all the people in as well. God wanted to show His people the power they could experience in their lives when they experienced His presence! But the people backed away:
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. – Ex 20:18-21
The people were afraid of God; so they left it to Moses to hear from God on their behalf. God’s original intention was always to speak directly to His people! But our sin nature recoils at the seemingly impossible suggestion that the God of the universe wants to spend time with us.
The presence of God is not a private place for leaders only. The throne room of God is not reserved for full-time ministers only! God designed His presence for you.
When Moses spent time in God’s presence, he changed:
Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. – Ex 34:29-32
I love that even though Moses was changing, he didn’t even know it at first. The “skin of his face shone” (v 29) while he talked with God! But Moses didn’t feel any different. It took Aaron and “all the children of Israel” (v 30) to tell Moses that he was different before Moses fully recognized what God was doing.
When you spend time in God’s presence, you might not feel much different at first. But you have to know that God is changing you! He is refining you! He is doing something new in you, and filling you with purpose! His presence is changing you from the inside out!
Moses had powerful encounters with God that led to powerful leadership. If Moses hadn’t spent time in God’s presence, we wouldn’t be talking about him today. Are you making time in God’s presence a priority in your life?
Jesus: Our Perfect Example
Jesus did all things perfectly; so when He makes a habit of doing certain things in His life, we should pay attention!
This is how Jesus handled success:
However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. – Lk 5:15-16
His ministry was exploding! People came to Him from all over the known world to be healed of their infirmities and set free from bondage. But look at Jesus’ response! He didn’t set up a 501c3 and expand His staff to meet growing demand! He didn’t buy a huge building! He spent even more time with God.
Here is the key to Jesus’ ministry: He spent time with His Father. He was a Lover of God’s presence! If you want to move the way Jesus moved, speak the way Jesus spoke, and serve the way Jesus served, it all starts with time spent in the presence of God!
Now, look at how Jesus responded to adversity and criticism:
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” – Jn 5:18-21
Whether things were going well and everyone loved Him, or things were going terribly and everyone loathed Him, Jesus’ ministry formula was simple. 1) Talk to the Father, and 2) do what God shows you!
Think about this with me for a moment: if even Jesus, the very Son of God, refused to make His own agenda, how much more should you and I stick to the daily script God gives us?! Why do we step out of bounds and try to do things of our own invention, if even Jesus refused to do that?
Presence leads to purpose. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to spend time with His Father to get the vision He needed to walk out God’s call on His life. How much more do we!
Jesus taught His disciples the importance of spending time in God’s presence first-hand:
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons… – Mk 3:13-15
Two things stand out to me. First, they disciples had to come when Jesus called (v 13, “And they came to Him”). Jesus called; but they had to answer! Some of us are missing out on our purpose because we don’t come when God calls us into His presence.
Second, Jesus prioritized the disciples’ tasks: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…” (v 14). Priority one was to be with Him: to simply enjoy the presence of Jesus! Then, from a place of His presence, the next action item was to be“sent out:” to go out and do what Jesus was calling them to do!
How often do we get that backwards? We launch into the work without spending any time in the presence of God first! Jesus’ message to the disciples was always, God first, work second. If you try and do what God has called you to do without first spending time in His presence, you will fail! But if you make His presence a priority, the work will get done.
Several chapters later, we see the fruit of the disciples’ decision to spend time in God’s presence:
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. – Mk 6:7-9, 12-13
The disciples were able to do what God called them to do, because they spent time with Jesus first. Jesus taught them, and He showed them what He would ask them to do (He led by example). And from that place of intimate fellowship and firsthand learning with Jesus, the disciples lived out their destiny.
Power comes from the presence of God! If you try to walk in power without the presence, you will fall flat on your face; but if you enjoy the presence first, God’s power will lead you straight into your purpose. It was the disciples’ time with Jesus that gave them the power to walk their purpose out.
What Will Your Life Look Like?
What will the next year of your life look like? The next five years? Twenty years?
I’m sure God has some excellent plans for you. He’s made some amazing promises that He plans to keep! But will you try and walk out your purpose without first spending time in His presence?
God’s presence leads to purpose. When you spend time in His presence first, everything else will fall into place.
© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.