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What stops us entering into God's presence and why are we all at different places on the journey? Some of us may have got there, some are almost there, but hold back for one reason or another. Others may feel they are so far away it's impossible to get there, others may feel they are not worthy to be there.

We're going to look at what stops us from getting there and what we can do about removing the obstacles that are in the way, what it's like to be there, and maybe most important of all, how we stay there - resting in his presence.

What stops us from getting there?

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Are you weary and burdened? What are you carrying unnecessarily? What weighs you down? You've probably all heard that phrase, "She's carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders". Jesus is our burden-bearer - let's allow him to take the burdens from our shoulders. What are the burdens?

  • unconfessed sin
  • worry
  • anxiety
  • unbelief
  • unforgiveness
  • feeling unworthy
  • fear

All these things can be obstacles that prevent you from entering into God's presence. Isaiah 53:4, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried all our sorrows."

He dealt with everything on the cross and he invites us to believe it, to come to him, give him our burdens, and find rest for our souls. Have you ever spoken to someone when they've unburdened themselves to you and they've said, "Thank you, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders."? That's what Jesus wants us to do with him, to unburden ourselves to him - confess the sin, let him take the worries and the fears.

How do we remove the obstacles?

By recognising what they are and taking action. Unconfessed sin can be a huge weight. In Psalm 51 David acknowledged his sin before God - verse 7 says, "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our unrighteousness. Psalm 24:3-4 says, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart." He purifies us, washes us clean so that we can stand in his presence - justified, because of what Jesus has done, because he died on a cross and shed his blood, so that we can be reconciled to the Father. Confess your sin and remove the obstacle.

Feeling unworthy is an obstacle that can be put up and the enemy will reinforce it by whispering in your ear, "Of course you're unworthy - who do you think you are? You're not important - God hasn't got time for you." It's a lie! God wants to have communion with you - it's what he made you for - to enjoy fellowship with you. He loves you - you're his child. When our children make a mistake, we don't stop loving them. This obstacle is more of a problem for you - it's not a problem to him. It can be smashed in Jesus' name. Worries, anxieties, fears - all these things are obstacles we put in the way. We hold on to them instead of letting Jesus take them or allowing him to share them. Many times we carry things alone - they get heavier the longer you carry them - I know, I've done it! But my experience is that as soon as I ask Jesus into the situation, it changes - where before there's been nothing but striving - when I've unburdened myself to him in prayer, in place of the striving comes peace and calm, and rest. It's lovely to be resting instead of striving.

So if you are unable to enter into God's presence, unable to find that place of rest, allow the Holy Spirit to show you what the obstacles are that are stopping you from getting there and determine to remove them. Right now, where you are, you can do that, or you may want to share it with someone and have them pray for you. The bible encourages us to share one another's burdens in prayer.

To be in God's presence - what's it like to be there?
With all the obstacles removed, and with clean hands and a pure heart, we can enter God's presence. Expectant, ready to be refreshed - Psalm 131:2 "I have stilled and quieted my soul".

Psalm 91 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty". The King James version says, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

Psalm 84:1 "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty, my soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

The Lord's house, altogether lovely - when we gather for worship, we are refreshing ourselves and one another - isn't that a lovely thought? My soul yearns - a desire deep and insatiable - my very soul yearning for God - like a lovesickness - an absolute longing for that intimacy. Unless we experience the presence of God, we have done nothing. Merely gathering together is worth nothing, if we haven't drawn closer to him, we shall leave unsatisfied, our thirst unquenched. There are precious things to be found in the presence of God. Rest for the restless. Food for the hungry. Love, mercy, grace, comfort, strength, joy, peace. Drink for the thirsty. Psalm 42:1 says, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

How do we stay there?
Definition of rest from the Collins English Dictionary:

'relaxation from exertion or labour; repose; sleep; any relief or refreshment, as from worry or something troublesome; calm; tranquillity; cessation from motion; at rest - not moving; still; to reassure; settle; to depend or cause to depend; rely'.

We don't rest enough today. Everything in life goes at such a pace - everyone wants everything now, today. No escape - mobile phones, voicemails, everything shouts at us - don't stop - shops open on Sunday, some open 24 hours a day. Nothing stops - we keep going. It upsets the natural cycle of life - God intends us to rest - Elijah ran away, afraid, after an exhausting time of ministry on Mount Carmel. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He fell asleep. God fed him and gave him water - he lay down again and rested. Then he got up and ate and drank again - strengthened and refreshed he travelled 40 days and 40 nights. Then God spoke to him, not in the powerful wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in a gentle whisper.

What a lesson for us - when we get tired out, doubts and fears creep in. We need to rest - be refreshed, restored, we need an oasis. We need to stop sometimes - Jesus did. We can't wait till everything's done - it never will be. There'll always be more to do. I must do this, I should do that, I've got to go there, we wear ourselves out. My theory - we're so bad at resting that very often we get ill, then we have to rest - we have no choice. When we rest I believe it's easier to hear God.

Rest is to be found in God's presence and what better place to be - resting in him. There are blessings for those who live in close fellowship with God, who dwell in him.

Dwelling in the secret place

Having found the place of rest, we then need to dwell in that secret place, under the shadow of the Almighty. The secret place - an intimate unrestrained communion - a place where you can make known your heart, with its needs and wishes, its thoughts and feelings, its doubts and anxieties, its sorrows and its joys, to God as to a loving, perfect friend. A place of refuge from the storms of the world where we can cleave, cling to him. This almighty Friend has admitted me, you, his chosen ones, to his secret place. It's almost too wonderful to be true.

He desires it because he wants to commune with us, to reveal his mind to us, his plans, his ways and his thoughts. He wants us to know him. It's not his fault we don't know him - he's provided the way - we often don't take it.

This dwelling in God's secret place - we must make it our rest, not just coming as guests to a hotel, but as inhabitants to their own dwellings - like coming home. The Hebrew word for "shall abide" signifies "he shall pass the night" - denotes security and rest in times of darkness, temptations and crises.

We don't all dwell in the most holy place - we run to it at times and enjoy occasional approaches, but do we dwell? Do we habitually reside in his presence? If we dwell with him, we shall remain under his care - he shields us. We are safe with him - his outstretched wings of power and love cover us. This protection is ours if we abide constantly in him. The Almighty himself is where his shadow is - this suggests such a closeness - an inseparableness - you can't be closer.

He is our refuge - we can fly to him. He is our fortress - the Lord of Hosts stands between us and our enemies - we're secure, unafraid - the Lord is an impregnable fortress.

How do we do it - come to dwell in this secret place and rest there? We make it ours by faith, "I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress." I cast myself on him, throw myself on him, pitch myself, make him my dwelling place, my habitation. When we are dwelling in this way, no harm can befall us.

In times of trial and temptation, difficulties and problems, we're wise if we fly into the secret place of God - to rest in the shadow of the Almighty. My strength is to sit still there. When we're weak and struggling, striving against sin and sorrow, hurting from the attacks of man, he is our safe, quiet resting place.

If we can reach that place we are blessed indeed because having reached it, no harm will befall us. If you reach that place, the holy of holies, all you can do is worship Jesus - nothing else matters - everything else falls away - problems disappear. As we come into his presence, his radiance, everything else becomes unimportant, caught up with Jesus into a place where all we want to do is worship him. Very often we never get to that place - when we do, we don't want to leave it - it's a wrench to come away.

Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Where are you on the journey into God's presence? What obstacles do you still need to remove? With clean hands and a pure heart, you can dwell in his presence and find rest for your soul.

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