Monday, December 21, 2015

Experiencing God's presence

Our experiencing the Spirit of God stirring our hearts and illuminating our minds (as well as other manifestations of his presence) is not a black-and-white experience i.e. It's not all or nothing; like a switch we turn off or on. It's more like a dimmer switch with a range of brightness and darkness.

Some may tend to think if we are not fully trusting God and walking with him, we are completely alienated from him. This is due to our thinking in terms of a performance-based approach to God. This approach says he loves us when we are faithful and doesn't when we are not i.e. we are naturally inclined to think if we are unfaithful he completely turns away from us.

In reality our closeness to God and experiencing his presence is totally based on our movement to or away from God, not Gods movement. God never moves, only we do. His love is fixed, constant and secured for us in and by Christ. 

And we move in varying degrees. The closer we draw near to him in trust, humility and love, the closer he draws near to us i.e. the more we experience a manifestation of his presence in our lives i.e. the extent to which we drawn near to him is the extent to which we will experience his manifest presence.

On the other hand, as his children, God's disposition and posture of infinite love toward us is fixed. He never moves or turns away from us ever again. He is always with us and always fully engaged with our progress; always focused on us in total love and commitment; always working in and on our behalf. His love is constant and his commitment is absolute, complete, solid and unchanging.

This is because his commitment to us is based on the efforts of Christ, not ours. Nothing will ever cause God to reject His adopted children or cause him to love us anymore than he already does in Christ. He is his own cause i.e. love within the community of Father, Son and Spirit is the only driving force in how he approaches his image bearers. Christ removing the consequences for our rebellious distrust and hostility toward God is the only reason He pours out this love on us without reservation. 

To say it another way, we must distinguish between God's love objectively and subjectively. God's love objectively never changes. It never stops, it is fixed and will never be greater or more than it is right now because of Christ. And that because it's based on Christ's performance/work, which is complete and not ours, which is always wavering.

On the other hand, because our faithfulness is always ebbing and flowing, our experience of his love subjectively is always changing, always ebbing and flowing, always going up and down, with hopefully an overall upward trajectory as we increasingly press into him in greater and fuller love and trust. 

The maturing process and new areas of awareness

As we mature our experiencing the presence of God requires an increasingly greater degree of faithfulness on our part (demonstrated by our obedience to his commands). Not because God loves us less or because we cause God to be nearer, but as we mature we become increasingly aware of previously unknown areas of distrust where we were not faithfully pursuing him in total love and trust. We are drawing nearer to him in trust as a result. 

As we mature God increasingly reveals to us new areas of our distrust. This is why, as we mature and become more aware, we don't sense his presence as easily as before (or sometimes as often). There are new areas of unfaithfulness we are now aware of. Once we are aware, but remain unfaithful in these new areas of awareness, we are now consciously and deliberately pulling away from God in distrust in these new areas we weren't previously aware of. This affects our sense/experience of his presence to the degree we consciously draw near or do not drawn near.

For example, in a relationship, if you unknowingly act in an unloving and untrusting manner it certainly hinders the relationship. But it's innocent, not deliberate and therefore more understandable. 

If, on the other hand, your partner has clearly pointed out areas of how you can more faithfully show your loyalty and love to them but you deliberately refuse to do so, you are consciously expressing your lack of love, thereby straining your relationship and alienating you from them.

Unlike a human couple however, God's love for us never ceases no matter how faithful or unfaithful we are. We simply pulled away from his love. But he never stopped (or ever stops) loving. We pulled away nevertheless which effects our experience of God's love, though not the actual love itself. 

We have heard it said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. But in Gods economy of grace vs law, ignorance actually does matter i.e. Unknown unfaithfulness and known unfaithfulness are treated differently by God and experienced differently by us. 

Rom 4:15  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law (hence no knowledge or awareness of violating it) there is no transgression...

You will get wet paint on you if you sit on a freshly painted bench. And you are responsible for this in the sense it wouldn't have occurred if you hadn't sat down. But if there is a sign saying wet paint and you sit down anyway, you not only get wet paint on you but you deliberately caused it to happen. You may argue you didn't believe the warning sign, but you were warned nevertheless and it was your choice to not believe. You consciously acted contrary to the warning and knowledge of possible consequences.  

As a parent of a toddler you will treat him or her differently for doing toddler like behavior because you know they are a toddler. For example talking in baby gibberish or dropping his sippy cup is understandable and even acceptable for a toddler, but not so much for a normally developed five-year-old and even less so for an adolescent.

God, as our heavenly Father, loves us equally in all stages of our development but if we knowingly distrust him in a given situation, we are consciously and deliberately alienating ourselves from him by disregarding his will for us. 

Whereas before we had matured we weren't as aware of all the areas of distrust and unfaithfulness often hidden from our awareness and buried deep within us. As we mature we acquire new and greater awareness of where we could be trusting God and faithfully pursuing him more but still choose not to. Whereas before we simply did not know.

So though our unfaithfulness never causes God to stop loving us it does result in our pulling away from God and following his loving directions for us. In essence it's is questioning his love for us. This means we are not trusting, loving or drawing near to him.

Don't forget mercy

It is also important to know that God is merciful. In other words how he deals with us is not rigid or in black-and-white terms. Often to further prove his love he will be merciful and work with us even in our unfaithfulness and not always directly according to our faithfulness. This often occurs when we truly see how offensive our distrust of God is and have genuine remorse. But this is entirely his prerogative. He alone knows how to best deal with his beloved and often wandering children.

Our experiencing a sense of closeness to God involves our faithfulness to God. The more areas of unfaithfulness we are aware of the more areas we recognize we must be faithful in.

Jas 4:8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
Heb 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Malachi 3:7  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?'
Psalms 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Joh 14:21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
Joh 14:23  Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Joh 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

#GodsPresence #GodIsWithUs #Emanuel #DrawingNear #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGod

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Grace to you
Jim Deal