Saturday, June 06, 2009

His Presence...

Do you remember what it was like when you were young and foolish, and dating the person you wanted to marry? You could hardly wait for them to call you and if they did not, you called them, just to hear the sound of their voice...just to talk about the littlest things...just to be near them even when you were on the phone! Love does that to a person. You can’t wait to spend time with them. You sit together. You walk together. You hold hands. You plan all your activities with them in mind. You tend to consider them even before yourself. Your every waking moment, you find yourself thinking about them, wondering what they are thinking about. While some would call it romantic, others would label it pure love.
Just as lovers enjoy each other’s presence, we need to enjoy the awesome presence of the Lord. But so many today are confused as to what His presence is like. Some confuse it with a vibrant worship service with lots of rhythm and tempo. Others think that you can’t have His presence without dim lighting, or the quietness of a mausoleum. Today, many churches try to do ‘makeovers’ of their churches in an attempt to make it more conducive to a feeling of ‘holiness’….or a contemporary feeling. Yet it is not the atmosphere, the building, the surroundings, that brings the presence of God into our midst. We can paint the walls in the most popular colors, or decorate the entryway with flowers and plants. We can provide comfortable seating and beverages for guests. But none of that will attract a person to the house of God like the awesome presence of God.
I have been in churches where they had young girls dancing in flowing skirts, while other women waved shimmering flags, or shook tambourines with streamers. Yet none of that brought the presence of God. If anything, it distracted from Him. People paid more attention to the ‘entertainment around them, than to preparing their own sinful hearts for His presence in their midst. I have been in churches where people shouted until they were hoarse. Others quietly whispered. It is not the volume that makes Him come.
So the question remains, ‘How do we enter His presence?’

Recognize that God is real and desires to be with His people.
God has always enjoyed fellowship with His creation. He loved to walk with Adam in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day….until the day that Adam and Eve chose to sin. Even after man sinned, God still made a way via the system of sacrifices for man to come into His presence. He gave the plan to Moses and designed the tabernacle in the wilderness as the ‘tent of meeting’, where God could meet with man. Later Solomon built a permanent temple for God to dwell in the midst of His people, and on the day of dedication, the glory of God was so great that the priests could not stand in the holy place. Yes, God wants to be with us….but we must prepare our hearts to be in His presence.

Recognize it is the Presence of Sin that Separates us.
Just as sin separated Adam from God in Eden, so today, sin and our refusing to deal with it in an appropriate manner, separates us from Him. The moment man has always acknowledged his sin, God steps into man’s life. All too often we want God on our terms. We want God to bend to our will. We want God to overlook the little ‘mistakes’ the little ‘white lies’ the little compromises that we continually and consistently make a part of our everyday lives. We expect God to change. But we forget what the Bible has always taught us…  “I am the LORD, and I do not change. (Malachi 3:6) It is mankind that must change. It is mankind that must give in and yield those areas that are displeasing to a holy God. Just as the high priest could not enter into the holy of holies with sin in his life, we cannot cohabitate with a holy God today. Yet churches rarely deal with the topic of sin. In fact, in many churches today, you will find people who call themselves devout believers, yet they participate in adultery and fornication, (sex with another person to whom you are not married), they tell lies, they get drunk, they break the laws of the land, they steal from employers, they fight and abuse others, all the while pretending to be ‘good Christians.’ Sinfulness cannot enter the presence of a holy God.

It is repentance that brings us into His presence!
The one prayer God is waiting to hear from all mankind is “Lord, forgive me. I am a sinner in need of a Savior.” Every great revival than has been significant in history has been marked by a sweeping spirit of repentance. Have we conveniently forgotten what God required of sinners in the past? "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 Yes, revival always begins in a changed heart, a heart that humbly admits it’s sin and it’s desire to change. Repentance is changing direction...a full 180 degrees...and refusing to go back to the old ways. Just as God’s presence came to the tabernacle in the wilderness when the people obeyed God,...God will do the same today. But we must also remember that when sin remains, God also chooses to remove His presence as he did during the days of the prophets. What sin do we need to repent of personally…..corporately….as a church and as a nation? The list is long…… The early church in Ephesus was also warned about it’s need for repentance. "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; REPENT, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent." Revelation 2:4-5

Holiness is God’s Standard.
God is holy by his nature. He has always been holy. He never changes. His desire for man is that man also be holy. It is unfortunate that today we have such a ‘social gospel’ being preached. Christians tend to follow like sheep those who lead them and if the leadership is unholy, we can’t expect much more for the sheep. We read in the Bible, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' " (1 Peter 1:15-16) People today think it is impossible to be holy. But God would never have told us to be holy if it were not possible. When we rest in Him, when we obey Him, when we dwell in His Word, we can become holy. It is often said of couples who are wed for many years, that they begin to mirror each other. They develop the same habits, tastes, and even looks. It is due to the time spent together. When we spend time with God, we will develop his nature and reflect His image and likeness. When the enemy of your soul whispers in your ear….”You can’t do it….” you need to shout back in his ear… “Yes I can and I already did...I am a new creation in Christ...old things are gone and the new has come.” When we dwell daily in Christ, we develop those new habits, like praying at all hours of the day to our wonderful friend, and choosing and longing to be with Him, in the Word (His love letter to us) and in prayer (His intimate fellowship with us). Like young lovers, nothing should be able to draw us from His presence….not a sensual movie...not the smell of alcohol….not the enticement of carnal pleasure...nothing should take us away from our intimate relationship with Him. Jesus prayed for us in the garden in John 14. He prayed that we be one with the Father as He was one with the Father. This speaks of a beautiful unity, a harmony, a fellowship that man lost the moment sin entered the world. Jesus wanted to restore it. We can be restored. We can know what intimacy with God means. We can walk in holiness. We must repent. We must change direction. We must want to be different than the world around us.
This Sunday as you go to church, prepare your heart for His presence. Begin your day with repentance. Enter the house of God with expectancy in your heart. Look to God for the answers, not to the pastor. Don’t allow a bit of criticalness to rob you of His presence. Turn your heart heavenward. Get to church early and spend time in prayer. Surprise your pastor! Surprise God! A church that knows how to pray can turn a city upside down for God. Ask someone else to join you at church an hour early to pray. Let your pastor know you are coming early so the church will be open and waiting for praying saints. You will encourage your pastor more than you know. You will be encouraged yourself as you spend quality time with God. Get used to His presence….but never take it for granted.
God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can't take it all in! Psalm 139:1 (TMB)
Take a moment today to come before the Lord, and experience His presence. You will never be the same again!
J. Johnson

Prayer Request: Please keep the Johnson's in prayer as they move on to new challenges in ministry, and seek God's direction. Your continued support and prayer is needed more than ever. God bless you all.