Jason Neil Soto

Christian Preacher and Writer

Secure in the Presence of God (Psalm 122)

Preached at the San Diego Rescue Mission on Wednesday morning, August 23, 2017.

Have you ever thought about where you go to for safety and security? There are a lot of options in the world for security. We might purchase a weapon to keep us secure, or move to a safer neighborhood. But where do we get our ultimate security? While many seek security, they unfortunately miss the security that they really need. There is only one security that is needed. We are only secure in the presence of God.

A psychologist named Abraham Maslow wrote a paper in 1943 called, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” He gave the results of research that he had conducted on many brilliant people. In the paper, he wrote down what he considered to be a person’s hierarchy of needs. He said that there are certain basic needs every person requires, which if not provided, stops a person from psychologically progressing to the next hierarchical need.

At the base of our hierarchy of needs is a person’s physiological needs. If you are hungry, if you haven’t eaten for a long time, then you are not interested in hearing about self-actualization. You are hungry! Your body will override your sense of psychologically being able think about your mental health. Nothing else matters until you take care of your physiological hunger needs.

Above the physiological needs is the internal human need for safety. If you do not feel safe, you are not able to think about love and belonging, or self-esteem, or self-actualization. You need to address your safety issue. If you do not feel safe, you will not be able to get better psychologically. You need to feel safe and secure.

This is the danger of homelessness. A homeless person is in a constant state of trauma, because his security is in danger. He does not feel safe. I have heard stories from homeless men of having their personal items stolen, and being beaten up in the streets. They are constantly on edge and uneasy. They are not able to mentally deal with the larger issues in life because of the active trauma of not being safe.

We cope with our psychological stresses by holding on to things that we think keep us safe. We put our faith in things that make us feel safe. But the question is, is what we are holding on to as our source of security, reality? Is that career that I have really a source of security? We could lose it tomorrow. Once the career is gone, you lose your sense of security. Or is that relationship that you are putting your hope in a good source of security? People hurt us, disappoint us, and leave us abandoned. People are not a good source of security.

So where do we get real security, something that has the real power to keep us safe? There is only one place of true security. There is only one hope that can keep us secure now, and forever. That is in putting your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are secure in the presence of God.

There is confidence in the security of God’s presence

We will be looking at our place of security from Psalm 122. The first thing David is telling us in Psalm 122 is that he has confidence in the security of God’s presence. God’s presence is a secure place. There is confidence in the security of God’s presence.

David and his army had captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. David brought the Ark of the Lord and the tabernacle to Jerusalem. The Bible says that he was filled with joy as he brought up the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. Because of the Ark of the Lord, God’s presence was now present in a special way in the city of Jerusalem. David was passionate about the presence of God. He writes in Psalm 122,

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem! Psalm 122:1–2

This is a song of ascents, or pilgrimage. The people of God are going up to God’s presence in the city of Jerusalem. There is a sense of passion, or excitement, as they come close to God. David talks about his feet, standing within the gates of Jerusalem. Because of God’s love for him, David has a sense of confidence as he comes close to God. There is a sense of God’s favor on the life of David, as he is filled with joy at the thought of God’s presence, and stands within the gates of Jerusalem. Like a baby smiling at the closeness of his mother’s voice, David is excited about getting close to the presence of God.

The joy of coming close to God reminds me of videos I have seen on television of military men coming home from a long deployment. A woman is sitting in her workplace, doing her normal job duties. A man walks in to her job. It is her husband in full military uniform, looking like he has come straight from his platoon to the worksite to surprise his wife. The wife comes running to the husband filled with joy. She leaps into his arms!

Or a young boy will be sitting in his classroom, having a normal day of school. By surprise, his dad in military uniform, having been away for a long time, comes walking into the classroom and surprises him. The boy, filled with tears, comes running to his father. He is thrilled at the presence of his dad. He is filled with joy as he comes close to his father.

In the same way, as we get close to God, as we feel His presence in our life, it is exciting. It fills our hearts with joy. There is an awesome wonder in the mighty arms of our Father. We were away from Him for so long, and it is exciting to come to Him now! As we get close to God, we are filled with joy.

We also see that as we get close to God, we are confident in His security.

I have a small Maltese named Monty, who is about 8 pounds soaking wet. He is a small, lovable dog. But when he gets on a leash, he is bold. I’ll walk him on the leash, and he will pull and bark at passing dogs. He starts pulling and yanking at the leash, as if he were a fifty-pound Pitbull. It doesn’t matter the size of the other dog. He feels bold when I am holding the leash. But I have found that once he starts pulling on the leash to bark at the dog, if I let go of the leash, he will instantly change. When he is on the leash, he acts like, “Hold me back, I’ll tear him up, hold me back.” He feels confident knowing that I am there to protect him. But when the leash is let go, he acts like, “Wait, wait, hold on a minute, why did you let go?” He loses his confidence, because he doesn’t have the security of me holding the leash. He needs me there to protect him from the other dog.

Being close to God is having confidence in His security. As a child of God, we know that our Father has our best interest in mind, and He is there with us. We are confident in the security of His mercy. We are confident in the security of His perfect love for us. We are confident in the security of His presence.

We become confident Christians when we spend time in His presence. We need to be passionate about being in the presence of God. Passion comes from daily spending time with our Father in prayer, seeking to speak with Him from our souls. We need to get to know our Father through His word. We need to meditate on the word of God daily, as we prepare to live our lives for Him.

We also grow in confidence as we spend time with the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters, encouraging and supporting them to live for God. We need personal time in the presence of God, in daily prayer and meditation on His word, and we need corporate time in the presence of God, meeting together with His church. We become confident Christians as we spend time in His presence.

We know that there is confidence in the security of God’s presence. We are secure in the presence of God. There is a second point in this Psalm.

There is praise in the security of God’s presence

Second, David tells us that there is praise in the security of God’s presence. The glory of God’s presence brings praise out from our souls. There is praise in the security of God’s presence. David writes in Psalm 122:3-5:
Jerusalem is built

As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the LORD,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David. Psalm 122:3–5

David talks about this city of believers that are joined together in their praise to God. As we get close to God, we are unified with other believers. The love of God brings His people together. Christianity is not a religion of isolation. Christianity is a religion of community. As we get close to God, we love to praise Him with other believers. We are encouraged and strengthened by His people.

A bird flying by himself in the air expends a lot of energy, and needs to stop and rest to recover from the energy that he has spent on his flight. But when a bird fulfills his God-given purpose of migrating south for the winter, he does so with other birds. Scientists have found that when birds fly in a V formation, their unity as a group minimizes their energy use. They can go longer because of the flight of the other birds around them. They are stronger together.

In the same way, God’s people are stronger together as we are unified in Christ. The Bible says that “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). The encouragement and strength that we get as we praise God together is invaluable. Unified believers support and encourage each other to praise the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we get close to God, we are also filled with thankfulness. We see how far we were from God. We see how our distance from God destroyed our lives, and we are thankful for the good He is now doing in our lives. We are thankful for being in His presence, and experiencing the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In everything, whether we are rich or poor, in sickness or in health, in every situation, we must find a way to thank God for His goodness. Thank God for His power. Thank God that He brings us through any situation.

In the Anger Management class that I teach at the San Diego Rescue Mission, I have the men complete a Gratitude Journal. Over six weeks, the men are to write ten things a week that they are thankful for. The concept is based from Romans 12:2. I am hoping that they will let go of negative thinking, and instead let God renew their mind. I tell them that it can be as simple as thanking God for your eyes, your fingers, or your hair. Men report that the practice helps them in their thinking. One man said that it is hard to be negative when you are thinking of things that you are thankful for.

A hymn writer wrote,

How good it is to thank the Lord,
And praise to Thee, Most High, accord,
To show Thy love with morning light,
And tell Thy faithfulness each night;
Yea, good it is Thy praise to sing,
And all our sweetest music bring.

We must be thankful to God for all that He is, and all that He has done for us. When we get close to God, we are filled with thankfulness.

As we get close to God, we are secure in His justice. His justice is a fearful thing for the unbeliever. The person who does not know Christ is lost in their sin. None of us have hope before God apart from Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is our hope, and our salvation! He is our security, the One on whom all our sins were cast upon. He took on our sins on the cross, that we may have life. In Him, we are forgiven. As we get close to God, we are secure in His justice.

Because of His justice, we are moved to forgive others. Since Christ forgave us, and we are secure in Him, we need to forgive others when we are wronged. Paul writes,

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Romans 12:19–20

An unforgiving man is like a man filled with hatred in his heart. He lives his days angry at his parents, angry at his wife, and angry at everyone who hurts him. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way, he thinks. Yet, he finds that the angrier he gets, the more problems he has in life. His anger consumes him, and drains him of his energy and enthusiasm for life. Ultimately, he is angry at God, for creating him and giving him such a miserable life.

Yet, somehow, by God’s divine power, God gets a hold of him. The man realizes that he is a sinner. He realizes that he has been disobedient before God, and that he is the one who has caused pain. He takes ownership of his responsibility before God. He repents of his sins, and puts his faith in Jesus. God changes his heart. As he spends time in God’s presence, the anger that was in his heart breaks. Now, a love he has never known comes into his life. His heart is changed. He begins to forgive. That is the life of a Christian.

As Christians, we know where ultimate judgement lies. We are overwhelmed by the mercy God has for us in Christ. We cannot hold on to hate. We must forgive others, because that is what God did for us in Christ. He did not hold our sins against us, but took them on for us on the cross. If we are secure in the justice of God, we should forgive others.

First, there is confidence in the security of God’s presence. Second, there is praise in the security of God’s presence. We are secure in the presence of God.

There is peace in the security of God’s presence

Third, there is peace in the security of God. We have a great peace in the security of God’s presence. David writes,

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the LORD our God
I will seek your good. Psalm 122:6–9

David begins verse six by calling God’s people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. As we get close to God, we become people of prayer. Prayer becomes a part of our life, because we long to speak to God, to talk with Him. Prayer is our communion moments with Him.

We might think our life is too busy to pray. Martin Luther was caught up with his busy life. He said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Prayer is not the last thing for a Christian in his priority list. It is the first thing. Being in God’s presence is the priority for a Christian. We must be in prayer and in God’s word. As a believer, I must pray to God. I must give Him all my requests, because He is a loving Father. He is our Provider, and the source of our help.

Paul wrote that we should “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” What is the result of this kind of persistent prayer? What is the result of seeking all things in prayer to God? Paul continues, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6). He makes a connection between prayer and peace. We have this promise, that as we pray, as we persist in prayer, bringing everything before our Father and Lord, the peace of God will be with us. God will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding, as we spend time with Him in prayer. No matter what our circumstances, no matter our health, no matter the situation in our career, no matter what is going on at home, as we present our prayers to God, the peace of God will comfort us. The peace of God comes through the prayer of God’s people.
We need to be a praying people. Pray for the people of God. Pray that others will seek Him. Pray that our hearts would be filled with His peace. There is peace in the security of God’s presence.

As we get close to God, we also receive His blessing. The blessing of God is His divine favor. There is favor on the child of God. Because of the work of Christ, we have found favor with God.

Jesus talks about the blessing of the Father on His children. In Matthew 7:11, He says,

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11

The Father loves His children. Jesus uses an illustration of us with our children. We love our children. We would do anything for them, anything within our power to provide what would help them. If my son asks me for a bowl of cereal, I’m not going to pull out some rat poison for him to eat. Or if my son asks me for a sandwich, I’m not going to give him a bowl of rocks. I’m going to provide him with good food to eat. I’m going to give him the best that I can offer.

If we know how to do good for our children, our Father is better. He provides perfectly for His children. As we go to the Lord in prayer, our Father hears us. He is a loving Father who provides and cares for His children. We must pray and present all our requests before God. He is ready to bless us according to His loving kindness and mercy. We are secure in the presence of God.

As we get close to God, we look forward to an eternal security with Him. I follow Tim Keller on Twitter. While I was writing this sermon, he tweeted, “Your view about how the world will end affects your life today.” This is true. If you believe that your life will end in the dust, and that will be it, that affects how you will live your life. Unfortunately, you will have believed a lie. But as you get to know the truth of God, as you get close to Him, that affects your life today. You look forward to the eternal future that we have in Christ. We become a heavenly minded people. Paul in Philippians states that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Our identity is not in being citizens of our city, or of our country. We are citizens of heaven, children of God, under one King, with a focus on life in Christ, and our future home with him.
John saw a vision in Revelation of our future home with Christ.

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:2–4

We are excited for the holy city of God, the New Jerusalem, that awaits those who are believers in Christ. We are His people. We long for His triumphant return, the beauty of His glory, and the wonder of His presence. We are secure in the presence of God.

For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we have a new life now, and a perfect life for eternity. We now experience the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. But in heaven, we will be in the direct presence of God, in all His power and wonder, in such a way that it will take our breath away. God will wipe away every tear, every hurt, and every heartache. There will be no more death, and no more pain. The former things will have passed away, all the awful things we experienced will be no more. We will be in the amazing presence of God, and it will be wonderful. We look forward to eternal security with the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is confidence in the security of God’s presence. There is praise in the security of God’s presence. There is peace in the security of God’s presence. We are secure in the presence of God.

We have spoken about the certain security that we have in the presence of God. But perhaps you are not so certain? Perhaps you are not sure if you have security in God, because you have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We need a Savior. Jesus Christ is our salvation, and our Redeemer. He is our eternal security. We cannot get to heaven apart from faith in the Lord Jesus. We need to believe in Him, and trust Him with our whole life. That is a decision you can make today, in your heart, before God. Repent of your sins, and believe in Christ.

We were created to be in the presence of God. It is in His presence that we are filled with joy, and have confidence to live life. It is in His presence that we are filled with praise because of His goodness, and are filled with thankfulness. It is in His presence that we are secure in His justice. It is in His presence that we are secure in His peace, and in His blessings. As we get close to God, we yearn to know more of Him.

Avoid lacking prayer and praise, because we lose His peace when we stay away from Him presence. Stay in constant prayer. Know more about the Lord through His word. As His goodness begins to fill your heart, praise His name. The Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever. Remember, there is security in the presence of God. Be in His presence now, and always. It is good to be in the presence of the Lord.

Categories: Sermons

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