One of the most-visited tourist sites in London, England is the Churchill War Rooms. The rooms are in an underground bunker built just before World War II, right in the heart of the city, not far from Parliament or Buckingham Palace. It was reinforced by steel and concrete, and had its own ventilation and communication systems. When Churchill was appointed Prime Minister, he visited it in May 1940 and declared: “This is the room from which I will direct the war.” And he did. Today you can see the map they used to follow troop movements, where they held the meetings that directed the war effort, and the place where Churchill made at least 4 of his famous speeches. Millions have visited the Churchill War Rooms, as they wanted to see “the room where it all happened”!
I thought it was very significant here in Luke 1, the way that the angel Gabriel introduced himself to Zacharias. Verse 19 says that when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, he said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God.” What a way to describe himself!
I think it is revealing that THIS was the way he chose to identify himself; and not in some other way.
— He did NOT say “I am Gabriel, the greatest of the angels.”
— He did NOT say “I am Gabriel, whom God gives His most important messages to men.”
— He did NOT say, “I am Gabriel, who can call fire down from heaven to consume a whole city!”
Instead he described himself as he “who stands in the presence of God.” THAT is the great thing he wanted to be identified by: that he had access to the very presence of God.
I think this says a lot to us today, too, about what is really important, both in life, and in eternity. If there is really a God — and there is — then surely THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THERE IS! There is no greater privilege for us than to be able, like Gabriel, to stand in the presence of God, in “the room where it happens.”
I. The angels continually in worship in God’s presence.
We see this several places in scripture: the angels of heaven are continually in God’s presence, worshiping Him.
— Isaiah 6 opens with the famous vision of God in the Temple, where Isaiah says: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him, each having six wings: with two each covered his face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory.”
The “seraphim” in that passage are angels. And what are they doing? They are in the presence of God, worshiping Him!
— Revelation 4:8 gives us this same kind of picture. John says there: “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
So again here in the New Testament, we see that the angels are in the very presence of God, worshiping Him. In fact, it specifically says that “day and night, they do not CEASE to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty …’.” They NEVER stop worshiping Him. They are always in His presence, praising Him.
This is what Gabriel was talking about. This was HIS privilege and position. He said, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God.” The presence of God is “where it’s at.” The Presence of God is the “Throne Room” of the universe. It is “the room where it happens!”
The musical “Hamilton” has taken the nation by storm over the last couple of years; if you’re not familiar with it, it is kind of a “hip hop” musical version of the Founding Fathers. (Not my kind of music, really, but it is a very interesting take on history, and it does have some catchy tunes). One of most popular songs — and one of the catchy expressions — that has come out of “Hamilton” is the song “The room where it happens”: about the Compromise of 1790 between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that gave Hamilton what he wanted for the nation’s financial structure, and for Jefferson it gave the nation’s capital to the South, in what became Washington, D.C. No one knows “exactly” what was said and done in that room when they met, but nation- and world-changing things happened in that room — so the song goes: “I wanna be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens, the room where it happens.”
People who crave political power want to be “in the room where it happens.” Right now a lot of politicians are scrambling to try to be a part of Joe Biden’s cabinet, because they want to be in that cabinet room, or the oval office of the President, because they feel like that is “the room where it happens.” But I tell you the Oval Office of the President is nothing compared to the Throne Room of God! What God decrees in heaven, happens on earth — no discussion; no compromise. We have seen that in our Sunday School lessons in Isaiah:
— Isaiah showed us that God whistles for the nations of Assyria or Babylon to come, and they come!
— God decrees that a pagan king named Cyrus will allow Israel to go back to the Holy Land, and for some reason unknown to humans, Cyrus does it.
— God prophesies through Isaiah that a Suffering Servant will appear 700 years later to die for our sin, and He appears and does that very thing!
The throne room of heaven is truly “the room where it happens.” THAT is the room where you want to be. Many people have said, I only wish I could have been in “the room where it happened” that day with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton; or “I wish I could have been in the room where it happened when Eisenhower made the call on D-Day,” and so on. But those rooms are NOTHING compared to the throne room of heaven. THAT is the REAL “room where it happens” — in the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords; YHWH the Lord of Hosts!
And so Gabriel tells Zacharias: THAT is where I have the privilege to stand: in the presence of The Great I AM! He says THAT is who I am; THAT is what gives me my significance; that I stand in “the room where it happens” – in the presence of the Almighty King!
II. We were created and saved to worship in God’s presence
It was such a privilege for Gabriel to say, “I get to stand in ‘the room where it happens’, in the presence of the Throne of God. But here’s the thing: God’s presence is the place He designed for you & me to inhabit as well!
See, this is what the whole story of salvation is all about: the creation and fall and restoration of mankind, relative to the presence of God.
God made us originally to dwell in His presence. He created Adam and Eve, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, where they would walk every day in the very presence of God. That is what He made them — and all of their descendants — for. We were made to be in God’s presence and to experience His glory. We were actually made to “feed” in a sense, off of the glory of God. C.S. Lewis has famously said:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
Stephen Head sheepishly shared the other day that he accidentally put Diesel Exhaust Fluid into his Diesel fuel tank. Diesel Exhaust Fluid is something that helps cut down on the diesel exhaust — it’s good for that — but it’s NOT good to put in your diesel fuel tank. They tell you: if you accidentally put it in there, DO NOT even start the engine — it will ruin everything. It was not made to run on that.
Well in the same way, the Bible says, you and I were designed to “run” off of the glory of the presence of God:
—Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
— Psalm 17:15 says: “I shall be satisfied by Your likeness when I awake.”
God created us to be in His presence; to “feed” off of His glory and be satisfied with Him. The problem is, like the person who tries to put the wrong fuel in their vehicle, we’ve tried to run our lives on something other than God.
— This happened for the first time in the Garden of Eden, when God had commanded His people that they could eat from any tree of the Garden except one — the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But when they were tempted by Satan, they choose to disobey God, and they ate that fruit anyway. They turned away from being satisfied with God, and sought their satisfaction in other things instead. And that disobedience against God was SIN. And SIN separates us from the presence and glory of God.
The effects of that sin were seen immediately in the Garden of Eden: when the Lord called out, “Adam, Adam, where are you?” It wasn’t because God didn’t know – “where can you go from His Spirit? Where can you flee from His presence?” No, it was because Man’s sin had separated him from the presence and glory of God.
— It is just as Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquity has made a separation between you and your God.”
— It is just like Romans 3:23 says; “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We quote that verse a lot, but what does it really mean, to “fall short of the glory”? — it means that the glory of God that we were made to feed on, was lost to us because of our sin!
So Mankind has been separated from God ever since. And ever since, we have tried to satisfy our lives with other things than the Presence and Glory of God. We try artificial stimulants and intoxicants, personal pleasures, and thrilling games and experiences — whatever we can find — but nothing ever ultimately works. Because as C.S. Lewis said “we were made to run on God.” Nothing else will do! And just like that truck’s engine was ruined by the wrong fuel, so our lives get ruined from trying all these things that don’t work! We weren’t designed to run on them!
— That’s why Jesus came. He knew we would never be right again, unless we could come back to the Presence of God and be satisfied with His glory. So Jesus came to earth, and died on the cross, and paid for our sins, so that we could have the opportunity to repent (turn back) from our sins, and be forgiven, and come BACK to God. But we need to make sure we understand that it is GOD whom He has brought us back to — not just “heaven;” not just “streets of gold;” Jesus gave us access back to GOD HIMSELF — to the Presence and glory of God that we were originally created to be happy in forever. We were created, and then saved, to worship God forever in “the room where it happens.”
III. (After we are saved) We should CONTINUE to seek God’s presence.
A. We should seek His presence in daily and corporate worship.
Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, the door is now open for us to come into the presence of God. Ephesians 3:12 says that through Jesus we now have “boldness and confident access through faith in Him” — “boldness and confident access” WHERE? To the throne of heaven! To “the room where it happens”! NOT just “one day” when we “get to heaven,” but right now, every day in our own personal worship times.
Now, we need to understand that this happens by FAITH. We don’t “see” Him, as I Peter 1 says, but we can experience His presence every day by faith. And as we worship Him in those times, we get a little “taste” of His glory; just a little foretaste of what we’ll experience in heaven in His Presence forever.
On Thanksgiving Day morning, Cheryl was making the stuffing for the Turkey. To me, the stuffing is pretty much the most important thing about Thanksgiving dinner. It is just not Thanksgiving without that old-fashioned, homemade stuffing like my mom used to make, and which Cheryl makes so well now. She knew it was so important to me, that as she was getting ready to put the turkey and stuffing in the oven, she called me in and said, “You had better taste this stuffing, and make sure that the seasoning tastes right to you before I put it in.” So I did. And it was great! That little “bite” I took of just one piece of stuffing was just a “little foretaste” of a whole big bowl of that stuffing that I was about to enjoy in a very short time.
Well, that’s the way it is with our daily worship times with God. Those times are not everything that heaven is going to be. They’re “just a little foretaste” of what we’ll have there. And it’s the same with our worship services here. You know, I think we have some pretty sweet, and intense, worship services here at First Baptist. I love it! It’s some of my favorite times here on earth. As Psalm 147 says, it is “pleasant” to worship the Lord here in these services! But as sweet as these services are, they are just a “little foretaste” — a very FAINT foretaste! — of the intense pleasure and joy that we will experience before God in heaven.
And that’s why our worship services, and our own daily worship times with God, are so important. They are not just some “religious” things we do; we are practicing the experience of the presence of God that Jesus bought for us forever with God. Through Him, the door is now open for us to fellowship with God! So we get to practice here in just a little way, what we will be reveling in forever in heaven. It is our privilege as the people of God to say with Gabriel, “I am he who stands in the presence of God” every day! What an amazing privilege we have! We should make it our #1 priority to experience the presence of God every day for ourselves in our own daily worship time, as we read His word, and pray, and sing to Him. Let us come boldly and daily into “the room where it happens”!
B. We should be aware His presence of God wherever we go.
One of God’s great promises to us as His people, is that He is always with us. Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your Presence?” We can’t! He is always with us. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Jesus Himself promised us: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
He promised to always be with us — and His presence wherever we are, makes all the difference. The worst “hell on earth” in which we can find ourselves, will be a heaven, if the Presence of the Lord is there.
C.S. Lewis had an amazing ministry of correspondence, as many people wrote to him, and Lewis spent hours every day taking the time to answer them. One woman name Mary Shelburne wrote to him, asking him what he thought about “nursing homes.” And Lewis wrote this:
“As for the bug-bear of Old People’s Homes, remember that our ignorance works both ways. Just as some of the things we have longed and hoped for turn out to be dust and ashes when we get them, so the things we have most dreaded sometimes turn out to be quite nice. If you ever do have to go to a Home, Christ will be there just as much as in any other place.” (C.S. Lewis, Yours, Jack, p. 337)
I thought that was a great word of consolation. Don’t worry, he said to her; “Christ will be there.” If you are a Christian, “Christ will be there,” wherever you are. THAT makes all the difference. But our challenge is to REALIZE His presence wherever we go; to turn to Him and to EXPERIENCE His presence. The fact is, He IS with us, wherever we go. But WE have to trust that He is there, and act by faith like He is there — and if we will, He WILL make all the difference for us in every situation.
C. Our CHURCH should seek the presence of God above all else!
I love this new building — and I can’t wait until we get our new chairs in as well; that’s going to be nice — but what we need more than any new chairs in this building is the manifest presence of God! THAT is what we need to praying for, that God’s presence would just be powerfully experienced in this place.
Paul said in I Corinthians 14:25, that when people walk into this place, they will “fall down on (their) face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”
THAT is the irreplaceable element … that is something we can’t buy for this church. We can buy a lot of things, can’t we? We can buy a new sound system; we can buy new lights; we can buy new chairs — but the one thing we need far more than any other, that will make all the difference for us as a church, is something we can never buy — and that is the presence of God. That’s what we need to be asking for in prayer. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door will be open to you.” And He said “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.”
So folks, let’s ASK! ASK God to move in this place; ASK God to work in this place; ASK God to do what only the Presence of the Spirit of God can do. His presence is the ONE thing this church needs more than anything, anything else! If we will pray and seek fervently for the manifest presence of God in this place, then THIS ROOM will become “the room where it happens”, because “the room where it happens” is where the Presence of GOD is! Let’s seek that, and pray for it, more than anything else.
D. And finally: We will rejoice in Presence of God forever.
Let us never forget: it is GOD’S PRESENCE that makes heaven, heaven.
After John sees death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire at the end of Revelation 20, he says in Revelation 21:3, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth”, and he said, “I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” THIS, the Bible says, is the great blessing of heaven and our eternal state: that GOD will be among us! It is the Presence of the Lord that will be the great blessing of eternity. Just as Psalm 16:11 says, in His presence will be fullness of joy; in His right hand there will pleasures forever. It is HIM; from HIS hand; from HIS presence.
People talk about what they think we will do in heaven, and they speculate about doing this or that. I think the Bible shows us what we will be doing in heaven: we will be worshiping in the very presence of God; just soaking in pleasures and joys from His right hand! And we will do that, forever. Think about it: for what else would we turn aside from worshiping God to do?! To what else would we turn aside our eyes to look! No, we will be exhilarated forever in the presence of the glory of God. His presence is what will make heaven, heaven.
Have you ever been on a vacation in a place you just loved so much, and enjoyed what you were doing there so much, that you never wanted to leave? Did you ever say, “I just wish this time would never end”? Folks, that is how it is going to be in Heaven.
We will be in the very presence of God. And we will never want to be anywhere else; we will never want to do anything else. We will never want to leave. And thank God, because of Jesus, we will never have to! We will forever and always be “in the room where it happens” — and like Gabriel, we will be able to say: “I stand in the Presence of God” — forever!