The Present of “His Presence” (and Should We Practice “His Presence”?)

 Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest? – Larry DeBruyn

By Larry DeBruyn
Guarding His Flock Ministries and Herescope Blog

Among evangelicals there’s a lot of chatter and publicity about seeking “the manifest presence of God.” For example, some musicians, singers and worship leaders boldly claim that their music can escort listeners “through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God.”[1]  Christian worshippers are classified as “inner court, outer court, or holy of holies Christians, each one needing a certain period of time to come into the manifest presence of God.”[2]  So it becomes incumbent upon the worship team to lead congregants into the divine dimension.

Other evangelicals talk about “practicing the presence,” perhaps by employing mood music, cultivating solitude and silence, or practicing other spiritual disciplines to experience it. Often spelled with an upper case “P,” masses of evangelical Christians are desiring to experience a divine presence in which Jesus might speak to them in an exciting new way. In his newly published book, “Another Jesus” Calling: How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer,[3]  Warren B. Smith points out that, in her best-selling evangelical book Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson, 2004 ),[4]  Sarah Young uses “The word ‘Presence’… more than 365 times….” He notes further that, “the term [Presence] is also commonly used in New Age/New Spirituality.”[5]  In light of all the talk going on about contemplating or experiencing God’s presence, biblical Christians ought to know something of what Scripture teaches about God’s presence so that His Word can inform us regarding seeking after God’s presence, whether the experience(s) of it ought to be embraced or shunned, whether they are authentic or synthetic, or worse, demonic.

The Bible and the Presence 
The subject of the presence of God in heaven with people on earth is the storyline of the Bible from Genesis thru Revelation. The holy, transcendent and infinite God of the universe desires to become known by and to fellowship with finite and sinful people on earth. As recorded in Scripture, the first mention of His stated presence commences with Adam and Eve in the first book of the Bible, when after they had sinned and heard God walking in the garden, they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8), and consummates in the last book when a voice declares: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them” (Revelation 21:3). So in defining God’s presence, the Bible must be our guide.

God’s Presence—He’s Far and Near 
In knowing about God’s presence, both His transcendence and immanence must be understood with both of the divine attributes being held in tension with each other. The tension, like a rubber band, can be stretched but it must not break. By God’s transcendence it is meant that He is distant, “that God is separate from and independent of nature and humanity.”[6]  In other words, He is not present. By God’s immanence it is meant that He is near, that God is present and active “within nature, human nature, and history.”[7]  In other words, He is present.

In his dedicatory prayer for the Temple, Solomon exclaimed, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) In his prayer Solomon pleads with God from earth that He “would hear in heaven” (1 Kings 8:30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). In heaven, God is transcendent. Yet, upon that prayer’s completion, the cloud of the glory of the Lord’s presence came to fill the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3; Compare 1 Kings 8:11.). As the occasion of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer indicates, God’s farness and nearness were balanced. Yet some would break the band.

For example, exaggeration of God’s farness ends in deism, the view of God which distances Him so far from history that there arises the perception that He doesn’t care about what happens on earth, that He may not be good and loving. On earth, we’re left to go it alone. Amidst life’s trials, conflicts, pain and vicissitudes, we can expect no help from heaven. God is too far removed to care, let alone help. God is an outsider. He’s not a prayer away!  Click here for footnote material and to continue reading this article.

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