Who Are You? Thin Places

Who Are You?   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:56
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Week four
Looking at Identity and who we are in Christ
Who we are is determined not by the stuff of the world, but by God in Christ.
Week one - We looked at how our identities are found in beholding Christ
Spending time with God, acknowledging his grandeur and beauty, develops our familiarity with the one whom we are called to reflect.
Week Two - We looked at Peter and John and how their encounter with the risen Christ helped develop their identity
They were able to resist letting cultural pressure, politics, finances, popularity, sexuality, success, whatever be the center of their identity because of Jesus.
Couldn’t keep their mouth shut about who God was and what God had done.
Last week - When we behold God and root who we are in relationship to him, our view of other changes
Time with Jesus changes our perspective of others and we begin to see them the way that God sees them.
This week we are going back to the OT, the the story of the Exodus, to see how beholding God can embolden us to go into the world with his message.
Exodus 33:18–34:9 CSB
Then Moses said, “Please, let me see your glory.” He said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘the Lord’ before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But he added, “You cannot see my face, for humans cannot see me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place near me. You are to stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take my hand away, and you will see my back, but my face will not be seen.” The Lord said to Moses, “Cut two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be prepared by morning. Come up Mount Sinai in the morning and stand before me on the mountaintop. No one may go up with you; in fact, no one should be seen anywhere on the mountain. Even the flocks and herds are not to graze in front of that mountain.” Moses cut two stone tablets like the first ones. He got up early in the morning, and taking the two stone tablets in his hand, he climbed Mount Sinai, just as the Lord had commanded him. The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the Lord.” The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. Moses immediately knelt low on the ground and worshiped. Then he said, “My Lord, if I have indeed found favor with you, my Lord, please go with us (even though this is a stiff-necked people), forgive our iniquity and our sin, and accept us as your own possession.”


In Exodus 33:18–23, Moses has asked to see God’s glory, but God replied that people cannot see God and live.
However, God makes a way for Moses to experience his presence and to see his back by hiding Moses’s face in the cleft of a rock.
God did not entirely dismiss Moses’s request.
Instead, he found a way for Moses to see a bit of God and live to tell about it.
“The face, in man, is the seat of majesty, and men are known by their faces; in them we take a full view of men. That sight of God Moses might not have, but such a sight as we have of a man who has gone past us, so that we only see his back, and have (as we say) a blush of him. We cannot be said to look at God, but rather to look after him (Gen. 16:13); for we see through a glass darkly. When we see what God has done in his works, observe the goings of our God, our King, we see (as it were) his back-parts” (Matthew Henry, commentary on Exodus 33, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Exd/Exd_033.cfm?a=83018).
After Moses’s cleft-hiding experience, God commands him to prepare the two tablets for another meeting with him the next morning.
Ultimately, the tablets become the Ten Commandments which Moses brings back down from Mt. Sinai.
Moses beheld God and was then emboldened to go share the message with his people
(Exodus 34:29).
Exodus 34:29 CSB
As Moses descended from Mount Sinai—with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain—he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the Lord.
“God will grant Moses the privilege of seeing more of Him than he (or any other man to this point, I believe) has ever seen before. He will see part of God’s glory, but not all of it. He will see, in human terms, God’s back, but not His face” (Bob Deffinbaugh, “The ‘Backside’ of God (Exodus 33:18–34:9),” Exodus: The Birth of the Nation, May 17, 2004, https://bible.org/seriespage/29-backside-god-exodus-3318-349).
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, however, Paul writes to the church in Corinth that
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
2 Corinthians 3:18 CSB
We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This is vastly different from what the Israelites and Moses had to do when they experienced the visible presence of God.
“Now all true Christians see him more clearly with open face” (Matthew Henry, commentary on 2 Corinthians 3,
Paul uses the word metamorphoō when writing about transforming into the image of God.
Metamorphoō means “to change into another form, transform, transfigure” and is the same word used to describe Christ’s appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration
The change that takes place when we have beheld God compels us to tell other people what we have seen.
Further on in the Exodus passage, we read that Moses, with veiled face, told the people what the Lord had said to him on Mount Sinai
(Exodus 34:32).
Exodus 34:32 CSB
Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he commanded them to do everything the Lord had told him on Mount Sinai.
Moses beheld God and was emboldened to tell people what happened


There is this idea in Celtic areas of “thin places”
A physical place where this world and the other world come really close to each other, even maybe merge into one another.
We can have this experiance too, can’t we?
We stand on the peak of a mountain and experiance the absolute glory of God.
As I think about this there are a couple of places that come into my mind.
One is Ivestor Gap.
Hike in from Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Park Way, enter into Shining Rock Wilderness
Topsail Hill State Park in FL.
On the Gulf
Never Developed.
When I’m in this places I have been overwhelmed by the majesty of God and his glory.
The doctrine of Common Grace tells us that it is possible to encounter God in creation as all of Creation is His, his design, and to his Glory.
THe gospel fulfills the story,
And so, thin places are real.
The pagan understanding of it was simply misguided and incomplete.
St. Patrick himself had met the One True God on the Irish hillsides working for years as a slaving shepherd and had spoken with him daily, as if there were no separation between earth and heaven” (Balzer, Thin Places, 28).
Patrick’s experiences of meeting with God, and his understanding about special places where God had met him or others, sound similar to the sanctuary mentioned in Psalm 63:2, where the psalmist beheld God’s power and glory, or the experience of Moses seeing the back of the Lord.
Psalm 63:2
Psalm 63:2 CSB
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.
C. S. Lewis phrases the typical experience well:
“The real problem with the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists of shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, take that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York: Harper Collins, 2001], 198).
Lewis was verbalizing how we often march to our daily duties of work and scheduled events before spending time dwelling in the glory of God, securing our identity in him alone.
Living in the glory of God takes dedicated time and effort.
Developing our own thin places, spots set aside to meet with God for the purpose of beholding his power and glory, is a spiritual discipline necessary for believers today.
Our thin places could be a quiet corner in a coffee shop, the hidden nooks in the back of a closet, a quiet drive into work in the morning, the backyard on a starry night, a wandering bike ride on a trail, a walk around the neighborhood, or the digital journal on a device.
When we spend time beholding God’s glory, we will want to share it.
We have all experienced the opposite of thin places, which could be called “thick places.”
These are spots where we feel heavy, unable to move freely because we are entangled with all sorts of things that keep us from God
The Overview Effect refers to how seeing the Earth from space changes astronauts forever, and the desire “to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ becomes both obvious and imperative” (“Declaration of Vision and Principles,” The Overview Institute, accessed February 14, 2021, https://overviewinstitute.org/about-us/declaration-of-vision-and-principles/).
A small club of about five hundred astronauts share in this experience.
This is similar to the life-changing experience of beholding God, which can’t help but cause us to do something about what we have seen.
What is God calling you to do?
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