We recently had revival with Pastor Eric Strutz. On the Saturday of that revival Pastor Strutz preached a powerful message. People were moved. Afterward, someone came and asked me if we had recorded that sermon. We hadn’t. If you weren’t there, you missed it. A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon on faith, and people got up after service and spontaneously testified about things that God as doing in their lives. If you weren’t there, you missed it.
This is the nature of how God moves. He doesn’t say, “Wake up; I’m going to speak to you in this service, go and hear a life-changing message from Me!” That’s not how He works. He speaks and moves, and He does it with the ones that are in place to hear it. He speaks to the ones who are crying out to hear from Him. He speaks to the ones that are in place when He speaks.
I’ve preached messages that I know would help specific people with the needs in their lives, and they weren’t there for that service. I know that some people don’t think that I could preach anything that would speak into their lives, but I’m only speaking what God has given me to speak. I’m not trying to move them, God is! I can tell you about specific sermons that I’ve preached where God has spoken into someone’s life on an issue that I knew nothing about. People have asked, “How did you know that I’ve been going through that?” I didn’t…but God did.
Today, I want to post a message about being in the place where God can reach you:
John 20:19-22 (NKJV)
20:19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
The Movement of God
This moment in our text is the moment when the resurrected Christ came to meet with His disciples. He came to commission them to His will. He came to send them to preach the Gospel, and in the process He breathes onto them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He is literally imparting His Spirit into them. This is a powerful move of God taking place at this moment. Look at the setting when this takes place: They are together on the first day of the week. God meets with us when we’re together.
Hebrews 10:21-25 (NKJV)
10:21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
What is this scripture saying? That it’s not enough just to have faith. It’s not enough to just have stopped sinning. It’s not enough just to be steadfast in our beliefs. It’s not enough just to encourage each other to live right. Those are all things we need to be doing to be living the Christian lifestyle. Those are necessary and helpful, but it says that there is one other thing we should be doing – gathering together.
I’m talking about fellowship here. I don’t mean fellowship in the sense that we’re hanging out and eating food. I’m talking about being of the same mind, and gathering together to worship God. That’s fellowship. Why gather? To exhort and encourage one another to live for Jesus. The word translated as exhort means to call nearer. How important is it for us to be able to call each other nearer to God? Your presence in church is encouraging to someone else. This scripture is telling us that it is vital to the Christian experience.
What do you want from God? Do you want more of Him in your life? Do you want to see Him move powerfully in your circumstances? Do you want to hear from God? If so, then the next question is: Are you putting yourself in the place where He can move?
Jesus appears to them when they are together. When He meets the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, there are two of them together. On the sea, when they were fishing, they were together. He came to them, not alone, but as a group. Jesus didn’t pull Peter aside and whisper to him, “Feed my sheep.” In our text, He didn’t come to them alone – He appeared to them all, together, and showed them His wounds. It’s when we’re together that we can feel Jesus’ presence.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name there I will be in the midst of them”
That’s not to say that we can’t feel a connection with God when we’re alone in prayer. It doesn’t mean that we don’t hear from God, individually, but it is primarily through His word that we hear from Him.
In our text there was something imparted to them as they were together. Look at this parallel scripture. This is another look at the same moment:
Luke 24:36-45 (NKJV)
24:36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
First, Jesus shows them He is the same man that was crucified, by showing them His wounds. Then, He demonstrates that He’s alive by eating food. Finally, He opens their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures. What is preaching? It is trying to open your understanding of the scriptures. Jesus has given them understanding. They didn’t have understanding before. They left that meeting with something they didn’t have before they entered. Isn’t that what we say happens in church, or should happen in church?
We sing that chorus:
You won’t leave here like you came in Jesus’ name
Bound, oppressed, tormented, sick or lame
For the Holy Ghost of Acts is still the same
You won’t leave here like you came in Jesus’ name
How many people believe that when they’re singing it? I would think that if you believe that, that you would want to be at every church service you could. You wouldn’t want to miss out on any of what Jesus has for you. That song speaks of expectancy; that anything could happen.
My wife got saved in our fellowship church in
Guam. She told me a story about
Pastor Cluck. He would preach and often
have words for people in the church. One
service he gave a word to every person that was there. If you were a part of the church and you
missed that service you missed out on a personal word from God.
God spoke to individual people, but it happened as they were assembled together. I hear people say they don’t need organized religion. They don’t need to gather together. What they’re really saying is, “I want to do my own thing when I want to do it!” Hebrews says don’t abandon coming together to church, because that’s where God has opportunity to reach you.
Missing the Movement of God
John 20:24-25 (NKJV)
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
Thomas wasn’t there. He missed this moment of visitation after Jesus rose from the dead. He missed the impartation of His spirit. When Jesus came He moved in the life of these men:
He brought encouragement, “They were Glad.”
He imparted something into them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
He brought comfort and blessing, “It is I, Myself.”
He gave them understanding, “…that they might comprehend the scriptures.”
Thomas missed it all. He wasn’t there; he wasn’t in place. He didn’t receive something that the others did. He didn’t have the revelation.
Do you ever wonder why some people just seem to have more of God than you do? A better understanding of what God is trying to do? A more powerful relationship with God than you? Maybe it’s because they place themselves in a place where God can move in their lives more often than you do. Maybe one of the reasons that Thomas is so filled with unbelief, is because he took himself out of the place of revelation. Do you wonder where Thomas was? What was so important that it was worth missing Jesus?
The problem was that Thomas didn’t know that this was the meeting where Jesus would show up. He didn’t know that the resurrected Jesus would come to them at that time. If he had known, I’m sure he’d have been there. If God had warned him saying, “This is it Thomas. This is the day you’ll be given revelation and gain understanding,” do you think he would have been there? He would have been there.
God works in God’s timing and He doesn’t check our calendar. He moves when it’s His timing and if we aren’t there we miss it. If we want to receive something from Him we need to make hearing from Him a priority, by being in our places at service.
That’s what happened to Thomas. He missed out on the moment that would have helped him the most. This is the one that would have showed him that Jesus was without a doubt the Christ. This was Jesus AFTER the grave. He would have known that all the struggle they’d gone through wasn’t in vain, because Jesus was still alive – He still is! This was confirmation that they had chosen to follow the true and living God.
There are a lot of people like Thomas. They’re missing the will of God…and they don’t even know it.
Thomas Caught up With the Movement
John 20:26-28 (NKJV)
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
Thomas was back with them when Jesus came the second time. Jesus made a special point to meet Thomas’ requirements to believe. “Look at my hands, put your finger there. Put your hand in my side. Believe, have faith.” Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” He got the revelation. We never read about another time when they were together that Thomas was missing. He went on to his destiny, reaching the world. (He died in
preaching to Hindus.) India
This moment when Jesus reached out to Thomas didn’t take place when Thomas was alone. It took place when they were together.
God shows up at a church service to reach you. God shows up at a church service to touch you. God has a plan and a desire for your life. Put yourself in the place where God can give you a revelation of Whom He is and what He has for you. If you want an impartation of God in your life, you must be in a place where He can reach you.