LOOK WHO’S HERE”
“My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).
If not careful, most of us, as believers, tend to gravitate toward form, ritual and religion when it comes to worship and personal devotions. We often forget that faith in God is grounded in a relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb.11: 6 NAS). Even though a literal translation may say, that God “exists,” I believe that it is enough to believe that He just is. He is real, He is available, and He reveals Himself by His presence. This is more than a theological or academic statement. God is so real that we experience Him! This thought may not set well with an intellectual mindset. Some get more than a little squeamish about things of the Spirit. We start labeling, “charismatic”, “religious freak”, or “holy rollers”. Some are afraid of the word experience. Others make experience their only model. In his classic book, God’s Empowering Presence, Gordon D. Fee makes two significant points in his preface:
First, by and large the crucial role of the Spirit in Paul’s life and thought – as the dynamic, experiential reality of Christian life – is often either overlooked or given mere lip service. This oversight has sometimes been corrected at the popular level by a variety of emphases in various sectors of the church – e.g. some mystics, the holiness movement, the deeper life movement, the Pentecostal movement – but in many instances these lack any sound exegetical base (experience tends to precede exegesis in most cases or betray inadequate theological reflection.)1
Fee renders a second point,
I am equally convinced that the Spirit in Paul’s experience and theology was always thought of in terms of the personal presence of God. The Spirit, God’s way of being present, powerfully present, in our lives and communities as we await the consummation of the kingdom of God…the Spirit was an experienced reality.2
A connection exists between salvation and worship! Salvation has everything to do with worship and worship has everything to do with salvation. This is true because, the Spirit of God presents Himself in regeneration and in exaltation of Jesus the Son whom we worship.
Fee later, in discussing the “Theology of the Spirit,” connects these ideas to the church. “The health of the contemporary church necessitates that its theology of the Spirit and its experience of the Spirit correspond more closely.”3
Church members, whatever the denomination, can attend Bible study and the worship service, talk “churchese” and call themselves believers, yet rarely if ever experience the presence of God.
Abraham experienced God’s presence and His commission. Moses did also! After some indecisive dialogue the Lord promised, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Genesis 12:14 NAS). Moses replied, “If thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Gen. 12: 14, NAS). Oh, that God’s people today had that same passion to experience God’s presence! David cried in Psalm 51:11, “Don’t banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me” NLT. This came along with David’s confession of his sin. In a more exalting worshipful time, David experienced the presence. “I can never escape from you! I can never get away from your presence” (Ps. 139:7, NLT). Oh, that we as God’s people would have such a walk with God that we enjoyed God’s presence daily.
Fee goes beyond the presence to God’s Empowering Presence. Who is that presence?
• The Holy Spirit as Person
• The Holy Spirit as God’s Presence
• The Holy Spirit as God’s Empowering Presence 4
The latter reference needs clarification. “We are not left on our own as far as our relationship with God is concerned; neither are we left on our own to ‘slug it out in the trenches’ as it were with regard to the Christian life. Life in the present is empowered by the God who dwells among us and in us”5
“Look Who’s Here!”
Turning from a more scholarly approach with Fee, I refer to a practical sermon that greatly impacted me some years ago by the late Vance Havner. He was noted for his humor and humility. His biblical messages always seemed pointed and relevant, at times bordering on controversy, in a spirit of love. I shall never forget hearing his sermon at a First Baptist Church Deeper Life Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He related the story of Moses as he faced the Red Sea with thousands of escaping people. What would they do, but wait “Look Who’s Here!” The Lord showed up and provided the way. Havner shared the situation in Daniel when Nebuchadnezzar threw tied up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace of blazing fire! “He said, ‘Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods’” (Dan. 3: 25)! “Look Who’s Here!” Havner, in numerous other biblical stories, kept repeating again and again, Look who’s here! The sermon made a great impression on me, reminding me that when we encounter seemingly impossible obstacles in serving God, we must remember that the Lord is present and involved in the matter at hand. In the case of the blazing furnace the three men “came out of the midst of the fire” (Dan. 3: 26). The life of believers will always need to trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible teaches that God is omnipresent, that is, He is always present everywhere. As far as His dynamic, manifest, empowering presence is concerned; He pulls back the curtains (revelation) showing up in life changing encounters. The manifest presence becomes real in experiencing God in salvation and worship.